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!