Part of the difficulty in moving on from a split is the reality that, although your ex is no longer in a relationship with you, they haven’t disappeared from the face of the planet. This means that, for better or worse, you’ll need to be prepared to cope with them in light of no longer being together with them.

Odds are, even though you and your ex have split, you still live in the same general area. There’s a good chance that the two of you have grown accustomed to the same shops, hangout spots, and places to have fun, so there’s a chance you’ll run into them from time to time. Even if you were in a long-distance relationship, or you or your ex have moved away, the two of you still probably have mutual friends or acquaintances, and so you’ll want to have strategies ready to cope with possibly seeing them again. If you have children together with your ex, you are of course going to be in contact far more often than you otherwise would. 

Seeing your ex again – Mind Movies

Even if you live in a large city, or not all too close to your ex, there’s always a chance of running into them again. And sometimes, even just the thought of seeing them can bring along overwhelming anxiety. I’ve worked with clients who would do everything possible to avoid going to a grocery store, out of fear of seeing their ex in the aisles. 

The tool I’m going to introduce you to will help ease any fears or anxiety, and also set you up for success if and when you do encounter your ex: Mind Movies, a technique which I learned from my friend Paul McKenna. 

Creating a Mind Movie is all about running through a scenario in your imagination, in a way that has you handle a difficult situation well. This gives you the mental practice and confidence both to know that you can handle it, and to have ‘practiced’ the encounter before it ever does occur. Remember, your brain doesn’t really know the difference between real and imaginary, so when you practice scenarios in your head with Mind Movies, it will feel like second nature if you ever have to put them to work in the real world. 

To create a Mind Movie, first you’ll pick a particular scenario that you’re worried about. Maybe it’s something sort of general, like running into your ex at the grocery store. It might also be something specific coming up, like the possibility of seeing them at a mutual friend’s upcoming wedding.

Play through this scenario in your imagination as if you were watching it on a big movie screen in a theater, watching yourself in the film. And remember, you’re going to play out a movie of this scenario where you’re in complete control of how you act and what you say, and everything is going to go well and work out perfectly for you.

Play through the movie in your mind’s eye, and see yourself acting calmly and confidently. Imagine what you would say out loud, how you would hold yourself, how you would respond to whatever your ex might say or do. 

Also, give the Mind Movie a definite ‘ending’ – a getaway line that you can use to excuse yourself easily. If your Mind Movie is about running into them at the grocery store, your getaway line might be something like, “Well, I really have to get to my shopping. It was nice to see you, have a good day!” At the end of the encounter, see yourself walking away from the situation, feeling great about how well you handled the situation.

After you play through your Mind Movie, notice how good it feels to be in control of the encounter. Running into your ex can be uncomfortable, but it can also be empowering to know that you can handle it, and that you are in control. 

Take a moment now to run through at least one Mind Movie, then in your Breakthrough Journal, take a few minutes to write out your reflections on the experience.

The Secret Weapon for Dissolving Conflict

Conflicts between people are just always going to be part of life. Looking forward towards a future relationship? There will be conflict at times. Still dealing in some way with your ex? Maybe you have children together, and are navigating that journey? There will be conflict from time to time there. 

There is a technique I practice with my clients that’s incredibly powerful and transformative – it’s my secret weapon for dissolving conflict. Shoe Shifting, as I call it, is really a very simple idea. It requires you to step into the mindset of the person you are at loggerheads with and describe the conflict from their perspective. That means trying to look at the situation through their eyes. To whatever extent you can, you need to think about what this must be like for them, with that person’s limiting beliefs, their communication styles and their emotional baggage. 

I remember at one of my workshops, I was on stage teaching this exercise with a woman, Gillian. Gillian and her ex, Wade, had split earlier that year, when Wade left her for a new woman. He and Gillian had a son together, and conflicts kept erupting between them as they navigated co-parenting. One particular issue had Gillian absolutely steaming-mad: a new desk. 

So what had happened with the desk? Well, as Gillian told it in her first step of the Shoe Shifting exercise, her son was in need of a new desk. She and Wade agreed that Wade would pay for it, as part of their splitting the costs of parenting. Gillian picked out a particular desk that would fit with their son’s décor, as well as physically fit in perfectly at the spot she’d prepared for it. She sent the link to Wade for him to order. Weeks went by without any desk, and Gillian kept reaching out to Wade about it, asking him if he’d ordered it yet. Finally, weeks late, the new desk arrived at Gillian’s house – but it wasn’t the desk she’d picked out. It didn’t match the new furniture, and didn’t even fit where she’d planned to put it. When she called Wade to confront him about it, she found out that not only did he indeed order a different desk – his new girlfriend had been the one to pick it out. 

Gillian was furious about this. When she told the story on stage at the workshop, over a month had passed, but she was still shaking with anger by the end of telling her version of events. Clearly, it was about more than just the desk. Gillian described how she felt completely belittled and ignored, how she felt that Wade was trying to make his new girlfriend the decision-maker when it came to her son, and how frustrated she was when she thought about having to deal with this kind of thing for years to come. 

On stage, I told Gillian to stand up from the chair she’d been sitting in. Then I told her that when she sat back down, she would be in Wade’s shoes, and would tell us what happened from his perspective. “Ugh, I don’t even want to be inside his head for a second,” Gillian groaned. But I urged her to give it a shot, and she relented.

So she sat back down, and started telling the story again.

“Well,” she said, slowly at first then picking up speed, “I’ve never been good about getting stuff like this handled. I have a bad habit of forgetting little tasks like ordering stuff we need. I know I do it, and it stresses me out, but I just procrastinate and forget things. So I kept forgetting to order the desk for weeks, and I felt really guilty about it. When I finally went online to order it, the desk that Gillian had picked out was out of stock. I felt awful. My girlfriend is good at interior design, she’s a real estate agent, and I’m no good at that stuff, so I asked her advice. She picked out one that she thought would work, and I ordered it. I thought Gillian would be happy that I ordered a good replacement, but she was just furious. Which only made me upset, because I always feel like nothing I do is good enough for her.”

When Gillian finished her retelling, she had a shocked look on her face.

“Ok great,” I said. “Now one more time, from a trusted third party.”

Gillian started telling the story again, from the perspective of their son’s teacher. “It’s clear to me,” she said, “that both Gillian and Wade are making Seth a priority here. They both care about his schooling, and are both trying to do their best when it comes to this new co-parenting arrangement. But they’re both holding onto a lot of baggage from their relationship, and it makes it hard for them to communicate about things. I think it’s clear how much they love Seth though, and that he’s what matters most to them.”

By the end of the Shoe Shifting, Gillian was laughing at how angry she’d been. After just a few minutes, all of her anger evaporated – and that anger had been boiling for weeks. Right then and there, she texted Wade to apologize for being so upset, and thanked him for making the effort to get Seth a great desk. 

That’s the power of Shoe Shifting. It can take all of the negative energy around a conflict, even if that conflict and energy have been boiling for a long time, and just dissolve it all. 

So the next time you get stuck in a conflict, or start to feel those negative feelings building up around a conflict, just pull out this secret weapon and fire away.