consequences depend on the outcome). As you can see, there are
many alternatives. In the past, you may not have seen all your
choices. You may have acted impulsively. You may still be inclined to
act on old habits. Yet, you could make choices.
Let's consider another example. Suppose you have just had an
argument with your boy/girlfriend. You are afraid that he/she might
stop going with you. The two of you have been going together two
years; you have been close; you have loved each other; you have
talked about getting married. It is crushing to think of breaking up,
you feel panicky. You consider your alternatives. You wonder what you
could say to smooth over the argument and how to get him/her to talk
about it some more. Let's suppose he/she doesn't want to talk. He/she
seems to want to break up. You wonder how you could ever stand
losing him/her; it is so painful to think of all your life plans crumbling.
What can you do to make it more bearable? Here are some self-
instructions that might replace the awful catastrophizing:
First stage--we might break up
"I hope it doesn't happen but I'm a survivor."
Second stage--it's definite, the relationship is over
"It hurts so bad, but I'll be over it in a month if I don't
drag it out."
"I'd like to beg him/her to come back, but that would
just prolong the agony."
"I'll do some things with friends to forget (not talk about
"I've been wanting to go traveling, now is a good time."
Third stage--this is the worst two or three weeks of my life
"I have really hurt, but I'm glad I can love so deeply. I'd
do it again."
"I'm proud I can do so many things alone. It feels good
not to be dependent and tied to a partner. It's important
I stay independent."
"I'll make plans to take another evening course; it keeps
me up-to-date and sharp."
"Just hang in there a couple more weeks and the pain
will go away."
Fourth stage--I've got to get out of the dumps
"I'm going to learn from the last relationship so I can
make the next one even better."
"Where and how am I going to find a good partner? I'll
make some plans."
"I'm really glad I can handle being alone but I'm going
to ask _____ for a date."
I'm only suggesting that breaking up can be made less stressful,
less depressing, less lonely, depending on how you view it (see
chapters 6 and 8). There is no way to avoid all the pain.