How to get over a breakup, according to Walter Riso

Jorge G. Palomo

He’s here. He’s arrived. Always at hand: Walter Riso. Yes, the king of motivational and self-help bestsellers never stops. A prolific wise man with a supply of enduring books, those titles you’ve seen in all the kiosks and that half the world has read in search of the vaccine against human suffering. Because this Italian, who lives in Barcelona, offers different keys to achieving happiness, while throwing out pearls like this: “There is a place where nothing can hurt you, where you have no price and are worth only what you are. It’s a point of no return: your dignity.” And with the dignity of a career of more than three decades and with millions of followers on social networks, this well-known clinical psychologist has published a guide for how to overcome broken affairs, heartbreaks, those “it’s not you, it’s me” moments that so often shatter a heart.

Ya te dije adiós, ahora cómo te olvido (“Now That I’ve Said Goodbye, How Do I Forget You?”, Planeta/Zenith) has in indisputable thesis: “Time helps, it’s true, but you have to help time.” And so, with the determination and security of someone who knows what he’s talking about, he offers an impassioned argument in favour of emotional resurrection, to the joy of living, to transforming suffering into pain that is useful. It should be recalled that, on occasion, Walter Riso has stated that “99% of the people overcome this.” And he stresses it because he has psychoanalysed people of all nationalities and ways of being, thinking, feeling and suffering. It’s precisely suffering –and anxiety, stupor, helplessness, distress, sadness, discomfort– that is produced by being left in the lurch. For whatever reason. But, dear readers, there is life beyond this pain. Take it from this expert.

Did you say “useful suffering”?

One must fight hard. We always have to do our part because nothing is achieved without effort. “This book won’t eliminate the pain that you necessarily must feel going forward, but it will make that pain more understandable and bearable,” observes Riso. He adds that the torture of a situation involving  heartbreak, disappointment or betrayal can be transformed into “useful suffering” because “the trauma that today is bringing you down” will lead you to “post-traumatic growth with which you will develop your potential as never before.” That’s when we try to turn things around, lighten the load, and allow our inner strength to “set the pace of a definitive and forceful farewell,” he concludes.

“Love is so short, and forgetting lasts so long,” Neruda said.

Getting out of the hole

Let’s consider strategies and the timeline that’s required at a moment like this. The author analyses the rhythm of events in a breakup: “This can’t be happening to me,” we lament. Later we desperately try to follow the tracks of the loved one, when what we should be doing is “not try to get your ex-mate back if you want to maintain your sanity and not nurture false hopes,” says Walter Riso. The following phase seeks “dignity above all, self-respect, in spite of love and above love.” But of course it’s not easy to start over with a clean slate. These are days, weeks and months of melancholy, even anger, memories where time mysteriously removes the blindfold from our eyes. At this point, the psychologist emphatically recommends that we “rationally attack any wish to go back” to him or her, avoid toxic friendships –those that harass you about how difficult solitude is or don’t understand you or paint everything grey– and be cautious about “unhealthy relationships” that might present themselves; and exercise self-control.

“Learn to resist,” he advises in one chapter. “Have confidence in your capabilities, fight against the urge to be with your ex” and use a conceptual trident: “resistance, resistance, resistance.” It’s also essential to find “a loved one who will help connect you to the Earth,” he explains. And please, no self-punishment: “I don’t deserve to be happy”, “I’m not a normal person, I separated”, “I’m not a good mate”… None of that. Walter Riso insists that suffering must be useful, without any self-pity, inventing a farewell ritual, a goodbye ceremony, a healthy purification because, page by page, he presents a road toward personal liberation, a goal where the capacity to forgive is as crucial as it is to reward ourselves. “Life goes on: be curious, explore, surprise yourself,” he advises.  It’s time to build a new life project. And remember that “99% of people overcome this.” But we have to help time, the time that heals all wounds.

Don’t look (too much) behind

“When you think that everything’s lost and that pain will overwhelm you, use this guide,” says Walter Riso, who is also a genius at marketing. Joking aside, “Now That I’ve Said Goodbye, How Do I Forget You?” welcomes us to a renewed, happy existence. “Remember that forgetting is not the same thing as suffering from amnesia, it’s ‘emptying of emotional content’ the memory of the person who was at your side,” he explains. And it’s a case of doing this “without hate or rancour, even with some positive affection (when the relationship allows this), but without the need or anguish of wanting to again ‘possess’ the person who is no longer there.” Let’s recognise this and be realistic: the best thing is that you don’t need this self-proclaimed “guide to getting your ex out of your head and your heart”, but if you’re going through such a devastating existential rough patch, work hard to overcome it. And don’t look back. Recall Victor Hugo and go forward to find happiness wherever you can: “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”

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