Book review by Mitchell VonGemmingen
Divorce and making significantly emotional changes and concessions in one’s life are never easy considering that these life changes are never intentionally planned. Even with the daily pain one can encounter in the aftermath of a failed relationship, everyday is a new opportunity to make amends towards others and most importantly, towards oneself. The book, “Moving On: Dump Your Relationship Baggage and Make Room for the Love of Your Life” by authors Russell Friedman and John W. James is a straight forward, succinct, and approachable self-help manual for anyone of either gender or orientation who is truly motivated to overcome past unresolved relationship issues, repeated relationship patterns, and incomplete relationships. There is a pervading tone of optimism throughout the book that should help the reader recognize that working through relationship issues is not only possible, but is also necessary in order to grow and to have the successful relationship that most people desire.
This reviewer found the book to be welcoming in its direct manner of guiding the reader from a broad and early stage of learning how to respond to distressing situations to how the reader has generalized the learned principles to their adult life. The authors remind the reader to often go with his or her instincts and not to ignore them when troubles emerge in their relationships and that holding onto negative feelings drains one’s energy. The reader is continually and properly reminded to keep the completed exercises confidential not only to protect the reader’s emotions, but others, including the children of divorce or incomplete relationships, who may be possibly emotionally damaged by the production of the exercises.
The book is set up in chapters that practically transition and assist the reader into a comfortable, emotional place where the necessary work can be completed. This is done by the reader generally journaling their relationship history and eventually honing into the issues that caused the incomplete relationships to end in a manner that is both thought provoking and non-intensive. The authors provide their own personal relationship histories in order to reveal real-life examples and assumedly to support the reader. The real life and emotional examples reveal the often pervasive and common relationship issues that most people encounter in the various stages of their lives.
The book presents that people must be able to be honest and recognize and present their sad or negative feelings despite what they are taught during their childhood. The authors assert that children are often recognized for their sadness, but are often redirected and this pattern causes the negative feeling to not be truly validated or explored. The book posits that there are six myths about sadness and this may confront some readers due to things that they were taught by others in their childhood, but if the reader is willing work past any of these myths that were instilled in them, then he or she would seem to be likely be successful in approaching the recommendations posited by the authors. The short–term energy relieving behaviors (STERBs) construct is implemented in childhood in an effort to distract the person experiencing sadness.
However positive the effect of the STERBs may be, they often to do not validate the sadness the person is feeling and the sadness is never truly resolved. Without these instances being worked through it is posited that they become a person’s emotional baggage. The authors present the often-difficult principle that the reader is responsible for his or her emotional responses and that discovery for one’s past choices is an integral step in moving on.
The exercises begin to become more personal and therapeutic when the reader begins to truly document incomplete relationships. After creating a romantic relationship history, the reader is directed to select a specific relationship to review. The authors request charting this relationship on a linear timeline documenting the emotional positives and negatives of the relationship. These exercises alone could be seen as emotionally difficult because the reader is expected to revisit and record instances and issues that may have been unintentionally forgotten or deliberately attempted to be erased.
The authors request a cathartic exercise titled the completion letter which focus on three categories, forgiveness, apologies, and significant emotional statements for the reader to compose a letter without focusing on the negative regardless of who it is directed at. The aspect of forgiveness is stated to be not truly for the person the apology is directed at, but more for the composer of the completion letter. The authors assert that it is emotionally significant for the composer to say good-bye to the person whom the letter is written to and for the letter to be read aloud to another human being. The exercise appropriately directs the reader to select someone, never the person who the letter is written to, who can be both confidential and unharmed by the reader speaking the letter aloud. In order to get the maximum benefit, the reader is directed to create completion letters for all incomplete relationships.
The next stage for the reader is to start a new beginning by discovering and documenting previous, negative habits to be replaced by new habits of action and thinking. These new habits are to be implemented in times when the old habits emerged. One important point the authors make at this time is for patterns of communication to be adapted. Primarily, it is asserted that true listening to others must occur. Following is an exercise for the reader to create a realistic, dating criteria that includes supportive standards that will foster the success of a new relationship.
“Moving On” is a book that will truly and safely help anyone partially motivated to recognize and mourn unresolved feelings and harmful patterns and work through the past relationships towards success.
Mitchell J. Von Gemmingen is a counselor and father living in St. Louis, MO.