When You Miss Someone (An ex, a friend, a family member)


Most of us have been in a position in which
we had to say goodbye to someone dear to us. This could be because of the cycle of life
and death. But this could also be because of a breakup
or being separated from friends by moving to another country. When we’re strongly attached to someone,
the separation can hurt a lot and often goes together with feelings of nostalgia and grief. In this video, I’d like to share a few philosophical
ideas that might be helpful to cope. (1) Contemplate impermanence. It strikes me how many people long for permanence
in an impermanent universe. This is especially true when it comes to attachments
to other people. When something feels good, we want to stay
in that situation as long as possible. So, when we are attached to loved ones, we
do not want these bonds to ever end. The reality is that everything comes and goes,
and so do people. The thing is that impermanence is what makes
life possible and, also, appealing. Imagine that their presence was permanent;
then this would mean that they have always been here and will never cease to exist. They are never born and never die. They would be unchanging, static and completely
predictable. What’s the appeal of that? As humans, we aren’t attracted to the unchanged. What attracts us is the uncertainty, and in
a relationship with another person, we bond in the face of a universe that is completely
out of control; including ourselves. But the nature of change also means that people
change; they change interests, change preferences, change the places they live, age, get sick
and die. This is the sacrifice we all make in entropy,
and that is a reason to fully enjoy our loved ones when they are here, but accept that,
one day, the inevitable change will remove them from our lives. Here is a quote from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat
Hanh: If we are not empty, we become a block of
matter. We cannot breathe, we cannot think. To be empty means to be alive, to breathe
in and to breathe out. We cannot be alive if we are not empty. Emptiness is impermanence, it is change. We should not complain about impermanence,
because without impermanence, nothing is possible. (2) Remove entitlement. Life didn’t come with any promises. The universe has given you what you have,
and you aren’t entitled to anything more than what’s coming to you. This may sound a bit harsh, but nature has
never promised you things like a long-lasting stable marriage or a big social circle. Perhaps society makes us believe that we deserve
a number of things in our lives, including certain people, but the reality is that we
don’t. When we miss someone, we are dissatisfied
with the situation of not having this person in our lives. Especially after a breakup, we sometimes feel
that we have the right to be with that person and their absence disturbs us. But in the grand scheme of things, we don’t
own people – it’s just our turn to be with them. Some stick around for life, but the majority
are just passengers. According to Stoic philosopher Epictetus we
should treat life as a dinner party, by simply enjoying what we get from it, but accept the
things that pass us by. I quote: Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with
moderation. Does it pass by you? Don’t stop it. Is it not yet come? Don’t stretch your desire towards it, but
wait till it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a wife,
to public posts, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods. (3) Love them without being physically with
them. Loving someone means setting them free. When people walk out of our lives or are in
any other way separated from us, instead of wishing them to return, we could also love
them selflessly. If we only love people because of what they
can do for us, which can be something as simple as keeping us company, then we might miss
them partly because we miss their utility in our lives. They made us feel good, they cooked us nice
meals, they listened to our rants, they entertained us. And now that’s all gone, we feel dissatisfied. But the question we could ask ourselves is:
what’s best for them? Was them walking away from us in their best
interest? Did they, for example, move to another country
to pursue their dreams and ambitions? Thus, what’s in it for them, instead of what’s
in it for us? Chances are that they are better off now,
and that should be a reason to be happy for them. And if they aren’t, we can at least wish them
the best, even if we aren’t with them, and aren’t getting anything out of them. This way, we might transform the painful desire
for them to be with us, into what the Buddhists call loving-kindness: an unconditional wish
for all living beings to be happy. (4) Focus on the present moment. Hands down the most direct way to deal with
missing someone is to move your attention to the present. When we, for example, focus on the task at
hand or immerse ourselves in a conversation with people our focus will not be on the person
we miss. Here is a quote from Marcus Aurelius: Then remind yourself that past and future
have no power over you. Only the present—and even that can be minimized. Just mark off its limits. And if your mind tries to claim that it can’t
hold out against that… well, then, heap shame upon it. End quote. When we spend large amounts of time and energy
on missing someone, we hand over the power over our mood to past memories. There is nothing wrong with memories, but
the desire for what’s already gone shouldn’t dictate what we do today. If we can’t let go and long for something
that isn’t there, our present will appear gray and lifeless, often full of despair. Because we have opened the door for the past
to come back, which will never happen, of course, we close the door for the present
moment. This results in wasted opportunities. If we miss someone, and really love that person,
and this love is mutual: don’t you think that this person would want the best for us, which
is living well in the present moment? Thank you for watching.

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