“Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.” – Audre Lorde
Dealing with a break up in our times is doubly difficult when the market offers many antidotes to pain in the form of goods and services that can be consumed in order to ‘forget’ our loss. In today’s times, the populist logic of ‘self-care/self-love’ is mired in capitalist consumerism – it tends to then obfuscate the transformative potential of both love and loss.
How does one ‘move on’ from heartbreak? ‘Dil pe pathar rakh ke, muh pe make-up karke, consumerism ko form of self-expression samjh ke?’ Of course, popular articles floating on the internet will tell you to just get yourself a gym membership, or take a holiday, or get a job, and just ‘pick yourself up and start anew!’ These happiness-inducing programs should guarantee you ‘peace of mind’.
popular articles floating on the internet will tell you to just get yourself a gym membership, take a holiday, get a job, and just ‘pick yourself up and start anew!’
We tend to withdraw more and more into a solipsism which is not only egotistic but also enslaves us to the neoliberal ‘happiness industry’. Following the expectations of a ‘modern’ world, rationality lies in ‘moving on.’ And move on, we must but how? Any attempt to articulate an amorphous hurt is rendered futile and unnecessary. When the aching heart leaks and bleeds into poetry and other such ‘non-productive’ creative forms, it is regarded as ‘attention seeking’. When all the solace that people have to offer is: “Why can’t these heartbroken souls vent elsewhere? Or better still, just keep their feelings in their pockets and buy themselves a chocolate cake instead?”
Upon breaking up, a sense of urgency to forget gets created, an immediate need to delete a very beautiful part of one’s life. This is coupled with all kinds of strange advice to channel all the love for the other back to the self – as though love was a failed transaction and you need to now ‘disinvest’ to be able ‘love thyself.’
This precise notion of ‘reclaiming’ the self from the other is in fact what is always an impossibility. Love is a risky, ambiguous affair which dares to allow the coexistence of two selves ridden with uncertainties. It is therefore, a ‘fall’ in love. Let’s just embrace that for once? Let’s refuse to rush.
The neoliberal discourse taps into the insecurity, the ambiguity, the uncertainty and the vulnerability of lovers for its own (read, ‘their own’) good. An inability to deal with the harrowing abyss the dejected lover is plunged into, leads to them easily buying into the argument of constantly keeping oneself ‘distracted/busy’ to keep their minds off the hurt. So we are prompt in renewing our gym membership and getting hair spas at salon.
I’m not suggesting that these acts must be outrightly condoned. It may even work beautifully for some. Some of the distractions may even succeed in bringing ‘positive’ change in oneself. However, the point isn’t to find the ‘best coping mechanism,’ that simultaneously resists the logic of capital while healing the hurt. Rather, the point is to merely acknowledge that one is in a vulnerable place, in love and in pain.
All we need at times is the ability to talk to somebody, to share experiences that are regarded as ‘strictly’ personal. Yet, these ‘personal’ instances are the ones on which a thriving industry of love capitalizes on, by offering to provide ‘solutions’ to love/pain through alienating people from their own experiences and their own people.
We are heartbroken! No, we do not need to ‘move on’ quickly! Instead, we need to build friendships, solidarities, care-systems.
Instead of calling a friend up and crying one’s eyes out, one prefers to make the gym their temple, in which they ‘sculpt’ and ‘resurrect’ themselves. So the gym then becomes the go-to-place for both the lover and the loser: one hits it to impress a potential partner and another hits the gym to recover from a break up. Of course, some do it for themselves too, but here I want to restrict myself to discussing the scenario where the Gym (or any other commodity) assumes the form of hope, of recovery, of healing and re-building ‘self-confidence,’ regaining the lost self esteem – all at once. But is it really?
Functionally, none of these possibilities are promised by the gym, contingently though the chances of its fulfilment are seen to have been achieved.
Do it! Hit the gym, clip your hair, take a run! Sleep around, get drunk, smoke! Do it if you think it helps! Have that ‘Break Up Party Chocolate Eclair’ and even dance to that Break Up Song. Do it if you want to, don’t do it because the world is pressuring you to ‘forget,’ to erase yourself and your experiences in order to maintain a facade of normalcy/happiness. Don’t do it because their human sensibilities cannot respond to your ‘negativity/(oft loosely-used) depression.’ Don’t do it because the society demands of you to disengage with grief.
It is essential that we recognise that we’re not alone in this!
Let us resist the temptation offered by rationalists and marketers that taps into people’s insecurities, needle their deepest feelings of inadequacy, to market a break up just as much as they want to market love on Valentine’s Day. But understand that our heartbreaks do have a subversive potential. We are heartbroken! Yes! No, we do not need to ‘get over this and move on’ quickly! Instead, we need to build friendships, solidarities, care-systems.
It is essential that we recognize that we’re not alone in this! Even though we feel lonely, this loneliness is collective and shared. The world is trying to make it feel as though a break up or a patch up is strictly ‘personal,’ and that you alone must survive it. It’s not! The pursuit of individual happiness doesn’t trump or excuse our obligations to each other.
Let’s resist the appeal of individualistic ‘therapeutic’ approaches to the problems of our time by recognizing the need for creation of solidarity that rebuild confidence in our collective capacity to deal with problems attributed to ‘personal shortcomings’ and in that the market’s grip on our very souls can be broken.