The Truth About “Closure”
Did you ever hear these words? “I need closure!!” This is an ex calling you, months or years after the relationship ended. At this point, you react with “AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!” and the “WHAT THE &#&%#%!!!!” in your head. Even though this request may be bothersome for many, there is a valid reason for it. In fact, I would venture to say this in support of the closure seekers – it is absolutely necessary. This closure allows a PROCESS to run its natural course to completion. When an issue is “shoved under a rug” and not allowed to run its course, it will complete itself wherever possible, which is what makes it unhealthy and sometimes dangerous.
The Risk Of An Incomplete Process
What we do with an incomplete process is that we hold on to things, either consciously or unconsciously and we go through life experiencing memories of this experience as if the event were still happening. Time and time again, we use this “emotional baggage” to ineffectively handle situations or irritate some other unsuspecting victim.
Therefore, those who consciously seek closure, have not gone through the process of calming down naturally. This does not simply go away – instead it remains as a “cold” reminder creating the potential for repeated negative reactions to familiar stimuli. The ones who don’t need to get the closure have already worked through it, for the most part, before ending the relationship. They were probably the ones who responded to your “You will never meet anyone like me!!” comment with a “That’s the point!!” Therefore, the physiological “chain of events” within the body only becomes distressing or traumatic because of an incomplete process.
In their book: “Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents’ Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience,” Peter A. Levine and Maggie Kline stated – “studies have shown that children who are able to cry and tremble after a traumatic experience have fewer problems recovering from it over time, especially if you, as the parent was able to convey to your child through word and touch that crying and trembling are normal, healthy reactions! A reassuring hand on the back, shoulder or arm, along with a few gently spoken words as simple as “That’s OK” or “That’s right, just let the scary stuff shake right out of you” will help immensely to carry them through a natural process of dealing with any trauma and decrease or eliminate any “body memory” later on.”
Think of a snow globe. Containers with a winter scene inside made to look like it’s snowing when you shake it. It takes a little time before all the flakes settle but only if the snow globe sits still. Eventually, the “snowing” stops. It is a process that needs to complete itself so that everything is calm again. Similarly, in order for us to settle after a distressing experience. It certainly doesn’t help to get “all shook up” again. Instead, it takes a moment of stillness and calm, just like with the snow scene, for the settling to occur.
Why Complete The Process?
The reason for closure with any type of distressing event is that we all want to feel “safe.” What I mean here is that we want to be in a place that is consistent with our needs and values. People will feel safe are when they have achieved the goal of having a certain amount of money, their children are in a good school or they have just completed their hard fought degree. They are completed processes.
However, this does not always involve a positive situation. For example, if one experienced a controlling relationship during their youth, it can become what is “familiar” to them. It may also have an association to safety in their unconscious mind. This is why they may end up in one controlling relationship after another.
The more we can control the immediate environment around us, the “safer” we feel. This will entail making others feel “safe” around you as well.If you have an argument with someone and they walk away, it is an incomplete process. The solution is a controlled conversation without the emotional hijack. This will complete the process.
How To Complete The Process
A) Forcing Positive Thinking Is Irrational
Telling someone to “calm down” is not a process. It is also ineffective. Try it: The next time someone loses control around you, tell them to “CALM DOWN” and see what happens. N.B. this is only for those of you who need to FEEL to learn. Also, telling people to “THINK POSITIVE” is just as ineffective. It is ineffective because, like “calm down,” it fails to make us really explore the present emotions as it pushes the negative feelings aside. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, these negative feelings and understanding why they exist are the keys to effective emotional management.
The following are excerpts from The Washington Post’s article “A Harvard psychologist explains why forcing positive thinking won’t make you happy” by Neda Semnani.
“In her new book, “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life,” Harvard Medical School professor and psychologist Susan David explains and then challenges this reflexive ways of handling emotion. David argues that we should instead pay close, yet detached attention to our internal experiences. When harnessed, she asserts, the steady stream of thoughts, feelings, and personal narrative that makes up our inner self can become our best teachers. Our emotions can reveal what we value most, and we can then act on those values to evolve into our best selves — resilient, stable, curious, courageous, compassionate and empathetic, David says.
What is actually guaranteed in life is that it will not go well sometimes. You’re healthy, until you’re not healthy. You’re with the person you love, until you’re not with the person you love. You enjoy your job, until you don’t. We will find ourselves in situations where we will feel anger, sadness and grief and so on. Unless we can process, navigate and be comfortable with the full range of our emotions, we won’t learn to be resilient. We must have some practice dealing with those emotions or we will be caught off guard. I believe the strong cultural focus on happiness and thinking positively is actually making us less resilient.
…………If we push these emotions away, we are choosing not to learn about ourselves. We are choosing to ignore our values and what is important to us.”
B) The Solution Starts With Self -Awareness
Regardless of what happened in the past, there are two things that we must do. The first is to learn from it so that we don’t make the same mistake and secondly, we need to free ourselves from the “baggage” created by negative past experiences that still hold us back today. Every experience in the past fueled the decisions we made about ourselves. Some of these may include ”I am not important” or “I am not good enough” and each can create fear, despair and anger. These limiting beliefs continue to “show up” throughout our lives and they can exhaust us. We are, therefore, affected by not only what happened but how we experienced what happened. However, it is possible to go back into that experience to understand why you may have felt that way and how it affects you today. The problem is that many of us are not aware that there is a problem, that there are solutions or that the solutions lie within us.
Are you aware of yourself?
Whenever I come across behavioral problems in my business, the one thing that is almost always true is that leaders don’t want to hear that it is their fault when employees are not aligning their behaviors with the company’s goals. Similarly, parents don’t want to hear that it is their fault if their child is a bully at school. Awareness of YOU is key here. It is often the root cause of the problem?
For those of us who have reached a state of awareness, you could do a quick analysis today and ask yourself:
- Is there a limiting belief/behaviour I don’t feel good about?
- Where is it coming from? (was it the way your parents spoke to you? An experience with peers early in your life? or other experience?)
- What was the core/limiting behavioural decision I made based about the belief at the time that prevented me from expressing myself ? (process was cut short)
- How does it affect my behaviour today?
- What action can I take to make myself more authentic ? (who I really want to be)
This is an activity that builds on our ability to face our emotions, label them, understand them and then choose to move forward deliberately in a way that aligns with our goals. This process increases our capacity to engage our inner world.
Questioning ourselves creates a tremendous amount of power and can be utilized during our interaction with others as well.
“The more you know yourself, the more you forgive yourself “– Confucious
C) How It Works In Difficult Situations With People
Imagine that you tell a student that he/she should study harder for an upcoming exam. They are less likely to comply to this request than if you asked: “On a scale of 1-10, how ready are you for the exam?” Now they are more likely to analyze their readiness. There is more of a process here as well as a higher level of self awareness by the student. Suppose they had said 7 out of 10 and you followed up with a second question – “why didn’t you pick a lower number?” More analysis is needed by the student here and therefore more awareness.
Whenever we encounter difficult situations with others, we must pay attention to where they are now. Don’t worry about whether they are right or wrong. Focus on the emotion. They are angry or bothered and this needs to be acknowledged. There is a popular technique that I often use and this is called “Pacing and Leading.” This is all about connection. Pacing is the acknowledgment and understanding of how the person is feeling. This is the key to moving forward. When you pace, you can then lead them in the direction that you want them to go.
Therefore, an incomplete process can affect us in many ways. So we should compete the process in the right way, through careful thought, conversations and actions. Don’t be afraid of the negative emotions that will pop up, their part in all of this is significant. Positive thinking is important but avoidance of the negative have prevented us from growing. This will ensure that you will be better prepared for the unexpected setbacks and distresses as you navigate your own life.
“it’s never too late for you to have a happy childhood… no matter how old you are.”- Peter A. Levine and Maggie Kline.
Founder of V-Formation Training and Development
Professional Speaker and Trainer
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