For those of us who may or may not be affiliated with the “Crazy Ex-Boyfriend” demographic, one of the trials faced by such men is leaving the past behind. That is, in fact, what exacerbates the Crazy. The brain has a way of taking all of the good memories of the past relationship, making them seem even better than they were, and then mixing them in randomly with the comparatively miserable realities of the man’s present situation. The person almost always idealizes the past, remembering things to be better than they were, and forgetting the parts that were not so rosy. In some occasions, the past was actually rosy, and nothing was wrong; sometimes the man was the one who did all of the very bad things, and the woman was in fact pretty damn decent the whole time.
Obsession is the motor of any crazy ex, and the gas for that motor is living in the past. We all have moments in our life that we wish would never end. For some of us that wish is so strong that our minds actually make it a reality. Those moments literally do not ever end. The problem is, those moments are not always mutually valued. I remember specifically for me, there are some instances where I was with a certain person that meant more to me than they did to her, and that is what makes it hard to let those memories go. At some point there comes a reckoning, a moment when the man and women realize that they both have placed a significantly different amount of importance on a certain event or time in their shared experience. If it is the man who has exalted a time in the past, then he is not going to just let that go of that zeitgeist for anything or anybody. He becomes obsessed with making that moment in time be forever, whether the woman even believes that the “golden age” he is referring to ever existed at all or not. It is usually at this point that the man crosses the line into Crazy Ex territory, doing all he can to recreate something that has long since past, or never existed. Then come the restraining orders.
I personally believe that some of us, if our ego strength is not, well, strong enough, simply become only the sum of our shared experiences. What I mean by that is our Ego strength is similar to the main tent pole for our personalities. Our experiences are like the people who fill the arena underneath the tent. If that tent pole, our basic personality that should be stable over time, isn’t strong enough, and those people are really rowdy and drunk, eventually those experiences will break the pole and collapse the tent. Our personality then becomes entirely dependent only on our experiences. Since experiences, and our perceptions of experience, are rapidly changing and subjective, so too does the personality of that particular person become rapidly changing and prejudiced. Eventually the person who becomes the Crazy Ex, their subjective experience of the past becomes their objective reality. The person with low ego strength has based their entire personality and reality on positive shared experiences from the past that may have never existed. They CAN’T let the past go, because then there is nothing else left to hold up their tent, their psyche. Without their past, without the relationship they had, the Crazy Ex feels a complete loss of self. If there is no “them” there is no “him”. And the fact that the person’s ex is now denying that golden age and the concurrent present reality leads to confusion, frustration, obsession, and eventually, anger.
So, how do we untangle this Gordian Knot? The same way Alex did, we cut it. Cut yourself off from the past. One important step towards not being a crazy ex is to not think of yourself as an ex anymore, but to think of yourself as a person, whole and complete. And do not think of the woman you were with as your ex, but as a person you had some pleasurable memories with, but who, ultimately you could not be with in the long run. Do not let your emotions chain you to your past; don’t demonize the person who you were with, nor should you idealize her. She is a human being of flesh and blood, prone to mistakes and successes just like all of us. This is going to take some soul searching, and, most importantly, an accurate recollection of past events. The past is never how we remember it; if you don’t believe me, look up some studies about the reliability of eyewitness accounts. Our brains always twist the truth to make it a little more or less palatable to us. The point is that you cannot change the past, and like Michael McDonald says, things will never be the same again. That’s not to say your life cannot be better or worse, it just won’t ever be the same. Once you accept that, it helps towards letting go of the past. It hurts to let go of good memories, but you do not have to obliterate them; just put them where they belong, and stop trying to make them the present again. Disengage them from your waking present life and look towards the future. Concentrate on making more good memories in the future. Occupy your tent with hopeful, sober experiences, and that tent pole should get stronger and more stable, so the winds of change don’t blow it down again.