How to Have a Breakdown (and Break-Through)

What comes to your mind when you hear the word breakdown? Emotional pain? Flat out on the bathroom floor weeping salty tears of the heartbreaking variety? A complete & utter emotional, physical and mental meltdown?

According to the interwebs, it’s:

  • an acute, time-limited phase of a specific disorder that presents primarily with features of depression or anxiety
  • the cessation of normal activity
  • the act of disrupting an established order so it fails to continue

This Monday I learned a new definition at a course I’m taking. One that took the edge off the meanings I used to give the word and made me realise how significant and important a role breakdowns play in our lives.

Simply put, a breakdown happens when an intention, desire or commitment we have, somehow gets stopped, frustrated or thwarted.

If you read the words carefully, you’ll realise that we all have multiple breakdowns daily and weekly, not just once every few months.

A breakdown occurs when you’re in position A and want to get to position B – the gap between the two is where it lives. Sometimes it’s really easy to cross that gap, a few words or actions and boom you’re on the other side.

And at other times it may feel like all the King’s horses couldn’t help drag you across.

If you’ve always dreaded being in this space and think of breakdowns as something sucky that you’d like to avoid, consider this: when there’s a break in ‘normality’ or your usual state of being, something is looking to be born.

Whether it’s a new idea. attitude. project. feeling. direction.. what’s waiting to be born is a breakthrough.

You know how when caterpillars turn into butterflies, they cocoon and turn into a total messy goop – literally, with none of the old structure left? That’s a breakdown. On the surface of it, it sounds horrifying doesn’t it?

What’s really happening though, is metamorphosis.

Whilst inside the pupa, the insect will excrete digestive juices, to destroy much of the larva’s body, leaving a few cells intact. Some of the remaining cells will begin the growth of the adult, using the nutrients from the broken down larva.

But listen! Not every breakdown is as dramatic as that! I’d wager a bet that you have had a few experiences in life that were, and yet, what’s more challenging for you is the daily, incessant tap tap tapping of seemingly minor stuff.

That my friend, is a breakdown too.

A mini-metamorphophophowhatchumacallit. And more common than the wild, heart exploding kind that we find huge reserves to overcome. The one thing these two types of breakdowns have in common?

They make you feel powerless.

Any situation in which you lose your power, is a breakdown. And we all know that feeling WELL.

So it makes sense then, that the first order of business is to get that power back.

Well, the first order might be to cave in and panic that the sky is falling your head, chicken-little style (feel the feelings!), and the second could be to take a few deep breaths and check out the rest of this post. Here’s an option if you’d like your breakdown to lead to a breakthrough.

  • Instead of coming from the view that a breakdown is something bad, what if you looked at it as a gap between where you are and where you want to be and decided to explore the possibilities?
  • Realise that breakdowns happen in the past – it’s already happened, and what you are experiencing in the present moment is a rehashing of that.
  • Don’t go to the familiar response. By that I mean the knee jerk reaction you have when something doesn’t happen your way – do you withdraw? Hide? Get aggressive? Blame yourself? Shut down? Work harder? Stop it. Recognise your go-to place, acknowledge you’re doing it and stop. It’s time to do something different.
  • Next, think about what you’d love to see happen next – describe the new reality that you wish to experience. For example, if you’re stuck in any area of your life, facing debt or wanting to quit your job, envision what it would look like to be debt free or working in a job you love.
  • Bring the vision to life. Who’s around you? What are you doing? Where are you? What are you wearing? What are people around you saying? How are you feeling? Is it warm or cold? Trace your steps from waking up to sleeping. You don’t have to know every exact detail, just focus on the feeling.
  • By now your state will have changed from utterly hopeless to hopefully positive. This is what we’re looking for cos you can’t find solutions in the state of mind that creates ‘problems’.
  • Ask yourself, what’s possible from here? What little step can I take to move towards my vision? Even something turtle-small will do! All you need is the next step. Then the next and the next and the next will become clearer.

This may sound overly simplistic and you probably already know these steps, but how often have you actually applied them? There’s a big difference between knowing and believing / doing.

This space is yours and it is ripe for exploration and discovery, if you so choose.

The next time you’re having a “breakdown”, let it happen and thank your stars for the opportunity to create a new possibility in the moment. You have the power to change and transform any thought, feeling, belief you have.

You are POWERFUL beyond your wildest imagination!

It’s time to step into it. A little practice and a whole lotta faith. Whatchu gonna do? I’d love to hear about how YOU deal with breakdowns. Do you have a process? What have you learned about BD’s? Thanks in advance for your insights.

ps: Know someone who needs to hear this right now? Please share this post, “like” or tweet it below, cheers!

Facebook comments:



  1. says

    I am going to have to take the time and read this carefully – because right now I’m mastering the Breakdown part and not doing so well on the Breakthrough 🙂

    • says

      If you’re mastering the breakdown Amy, you’ve half mastered the breakthrough – can’t have one without the other ay. Woohoo for you!

  2. says

    Love, love, love this conversation of breakdowns and breakthroughs! The context is everything, and when I remember that a breakdown is just a nudge letting me know that a breakthrough is coming I can shift to anticipation rather than avoidance!

    I give myself a timeline, ie: I’m going to thoroughly milk this breakdown for 24 hours. I cancel things, stay in my PJ’s, really get into it! I’ve found over and over when I don’t resist, it blows through me like weather! I wake up the next day, usually much more able and willing to “see” what’s going on!

    • says

      Oh there is sooo much more to learn and talk about in the zone of breakdowns and breakthroughs, I am looking forward to it. Funny thing is – I’m actually looking at it so differently that it doesn’t feel like a “down” anymore, just a “here”.

      Love how you deal with yours – bang on sistafriend! I always lead with milking it, throwing myself a pity party and getting the feelings out too! The only thing missing this year is the Nutella – frozen yoghurt just ain’t cutting it, I’mma stocking up some gooey hazelnutty spread soon.

      Isn’t it a mother though, that no matter how well we allow, it always starts with resistance untill we become aware of it? Cracks me up (in the aftermath, that is). I wonder what it would be like to be in the hands up taking and hands down giving mode more often..

      Thanks for sharing Sandikins! Much loves!

  3. says

    It hurts less if you roll with the punches [grin] Not sure if we ever really get over these hiccups. Or even if we’d want to. As you say… breakdown before breakthrough. The breakthrough is always sooo soooo worth it! LOL Thanks Tia. Good topic 🙂

    • says

      My fave analogy here is could well be “be the bamboo not the oak”. Flexible wins! Then, you don’t even break – you just get bent + the springback rocks! Wheeeeeee! Great to see you here Jean x

  4. says

    I’m learning that breakdowns = movement. When I’m in the middle of a breakdown, I try to remember that on the other side of it is always a new insight that I might not have seen if things hadn’t gotten so intense. A pattern has emerged with this…I may feel like shit today, but in a day or two the sun will rise again and I’ll be a lot further along on my path. If I allow the breakdown instead of resisting it, the issue becomes easier to let go; not sure how that works, all that matters is that it DOES!

    • says

      Exactly! The trick is to remember that nothing is permanent, no matter how it feels in the moment. This.Too.Shall.Pass.

      Allow, Allow, Allow IS the fastest way and that’s cos a lot of energy goes into resisting and the more energy you expend then, the harder it gets to drum up more energy to stay stuck and so you explode.

      When you stop resisting, you need less energy to ward off the feelings and all the poor feelings want are to be felt and then they can go their merry way.

      It’s like opening your hands under a tap and letting water flow through – you’ll always have a cupped hand full of water. If you close your fists to keep the water in, you’ll end up with nothing and have worked harder to get nothing.

      Here’s the same idea in Haikunised form:
      Non resisting open hands
      Flow never stops.
      Resistance, no flow, no go.

  5. Dianne says

    T, once again, perfect timing. I’m smack in the middle of breakdown as you well know – not only in my mind but my body as well. But what I realized today is that all these illnesses and ailments are actually making me pay more attention to my body – they have reminded me that I have abandoned my body and I need to start caring for her again. The breakdown has been a way for me to connect with my body again and realize how much I miss being strong, healthy and powerful, which means I am starting Kundalini yoga again next week and joining a climbing/yoga gym next month once I have recovered from being so sick. I’m also changing my diet and going back to my healthier food patterns. Yay for breakdowns, and yay for breakthroughs! xo

    • says

      If there’s anyone I consider a master manifestor, it’s YOU, babe! And in the midst of all the amazing things we draw to ourselves, it’s easy to forget to stay grounded sometimes.

      And here’s what else I learned – we don’t have a ton of breakdowns, we have the same ones over and over again. Also, breakdowns are only BD’s when we say they are. And we can declare them at will to take ourselves to a new way of being.

      So happy to hear your revelations and breakthroughs! You’re on the right track gf!

  6. gypsyblood says

    I’m had a breakdown 2 weeks ago. I was about to do my practicum in college. I couldn’t face it. My body which has been not well, but well enough to keep going was getting in my way. I started getting perimenopausal symptoms on top of my other problems. I have been just trudging through life trying to be good and please some other voice outside of myself. I have been true to myself in some ways but not in others and was fooling myself. I just put on the breaks, couldn’t go forward in my practicum. I feel bad about this, but absolutely refuse to finish right now. I instead have decided to go to a health spa for 2 weeks to heal. I need to feel better and not later but NOW or I will go over the deep end.
    I am not totally feeling a breakthrough. I am very depressed and just getting thru the days which are gray and blah. I guess this is how the butterfly feels before it hatches out. It is easier if I accept it, but I find it hard to just enjoy it for what it is. I feel like a failure, I guess society seems to not honour breakdowns or death. It is all about producing, being your best, on top of things, having it all, and looking good all the time. I find it all messed up and I want to allow myself to do something that is perfectly natural. I might find it easier at the spa because their is support there and others experiencing this same thing.

  7. ThisGirlFriday says

    I really want to have a breakdown as I feel I’ve bottled so much up it would be a lot healthier if I could just force myself to let it all out and be done with it while I’m still really young.
    Is there a way to make myself breakdown in a controllable environment?
    I want to have a breakdown ASAP . My brain is on fire from pulling at my insides all night and I can’t sleep and all I need is that mental release.

    Any tips?

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