October 1, 2009 / 0 COMMENTS
Why I'm a Breakup Coach
I've been asked why I chose to specialize in helping people dealing with breakups. It started by accident, or according to fate, depending on how you see it. A few years ago while working as a clinical psychologist in private practice, I found myself with a full caseload in which 15 of the 17 clients I was seeing were women who were either going through a breakup or divorce, or on the verge of a breakup of divorce. Although I hadn't been seeking them out intentionally, they had come to me through one channel or another. I seemed to have knack for helping them, which was good. I noticed that the majority of them were smart, educated and generally psychologically healthy women who found themselves in a complete emotional tailspin over a broken or unravelling relationship. For most of them it was the first time they had ever been in counseling.
When I thought about it I realized that I'd just learned on a professional level something I had long known personally: that breakups are probably the one thing in life most likely to make otherwise basically healthy people feel and act pretty darn crazy. I had seen this play out not just with my clients, but with my friends. And, looking back, I have to say that a couple of my worst breakups have made me do some of the weirdest and most dangerous things in my own life. That's true even though they definitely are not the worst thing to ever happen. The death of my younger sister, my grandmother's suicide, even my father's departure in early childhood, were greater losses. But they didn't lead me to feel out of control the way my worst breakup did, nor did I react to them by doing things that I would now look back on and cringe. Suffice to say I could have used my own breakup coach back in the day. I think many women would say the same.
And it doesn't matter how smart you are, how successful, how beautiful, or cool--a bad breakup is likely to make you lose it on some level. Somewhere right now there is probably a multimillionaire former model with a book deal and a shelf full of humanitarian awards who's huddled on her couch in 2-day-old pajamas, crying over some guy who has broken her heart. She's just called him and hung up for the third time, and she hates herself for doing it but she's been logging into his account and reading his emails (he once revealed that he used his childhood dog's name as a password). Now she's feeling heartbroken AND ashamed of herself (two tastes that do NOT taste great together).
It's true that love (and therefore heartbreak) will likely always make us a little crazy sometimes. It's a price we pay for keeping our hearts open, and the expense is worth it. But I also believe we can minimize the damage and unnecessary suffering that often come along for the ride. Heartbreak may make us feel crazy, but that doesn't mean we always have to act crazy as a result, and end up doing things that just end up making us more unhappy. I can only imagine, if we could add them all up, the number of work days missed (never mind all the FUN days), pounds gained, friendships damaged, dogs left un-played with, adventures unexplored, opportunities unrecognized, all because of people not being able to get over their ex. The numbers would be staggering. And that's not even mentioning the really serious fallout that sometimes happens.
So I guess the answer to "why breakups" is that, aside from being kind of kind of good at it, I believe that it's a place where a lot of good can be done. If the legions of really wonderful, amazing women out there could experience love -- and heartbreak -- with a little less kookiness, slightly fewer drunk dials, gallons of ice cream mechanically eaten, and other things they'll wish later they hadn't done, what could they accomplish with all of that reclaimed energy? The sky's the limit. And that thought warms my heart, inspires creativity, and gives me a deep sense of purpose. As I've said before, if we have to go through breakups, we may as well do it in style, and its an honor to help so many amazing, inspiring women out there do just that.
The Breakup Coach