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  1. My boyfriend last week broke up with me. He simply sent a text message on phone that he does not wish to continue our relationship. I asked him to meet me to talk things over but he does not want to. He has stopped replying to my messages and doesn’t answer my calls. Recently, he had told me that I had become too possessive of him and that I need to give him more space. But, I noticed that he had been getting fond of someone else and I did not want that to happen. I know, he has made up his mind but I feel cheated. What should I do? Ria

Break-ups are difficult, however you can not only get through this but also grow from it. Studies have shown heartbreak lights up the same parts of the brain as physical pain. The theory is, this evolved to discourage us from being alone in our hunter-gatherer days. And so, naturally, you would be thinking of any way to get back together, including texting and calling him. The irony is that this will only confirm his idea that you are possessive. Ask yourself whether you were satisfied with being with someone who was fond of someone else.

What you should be doing is working on overcoming the feeling of being cheated, and the crucial key is avoiding contact. Confide in your close family and friends and lean on them for support. They can help you fight the urge to keep contacting him. Occupy your time doing things you enjoy. Most importantly, don’t let yourself ruminate on the positive memories you had. People usually have a distorted perspective on their relationships that makes them feel they’ll never find a better one. Instead, write down all the bad moments in the relationship.

Take a look at this list every time you feel cheated. Don’t beat yourself up if you do slip up and contact him. Know that, with time, the painful feelings will pass.

  1. I am 21 years old and find it very difficult to concentrate on my studies. I have just completed my graduation and want to continue higher studies but I don’t think I will succeed. Since most of my friends are going ahead with higher studies, I don’t want to lag behind. But doing so will mean doing something I am not comfortable doing. What should I do? Piyush

While most people agree on the benefits of an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree is not necessarily the best option for everyone. Going for higher studies should be a bridge to your desired career or goals and not just a step along the way. Since you aren’t comfortable with it, perhaps doing something more practical or more in line with your interests would be best, e.g. taking a technical course or doing an apprenticeship.

While you fear lagging behind, everyone takes different paths after college; there’s no one path to success. Make sure you’re not deciding to go for further studies based on what your friends are doing or what is expected of you, but based on whether it will get you closer to the career you want. Many young people opt to take some time to work or intern before deciding to pursue further studies – this is useful because it gives you practical knowledge into the working world and helps you clarify your future steps.

  1. I am a very generous person and, whenever I go out with friends, I am always the first person to offer to foot the bill in a restaurant. Somehow, I have recently noticed that people are taking advantage of my generosity. I am unable to refuse when someone asks for monetary help and I also find it difficult to remind others that they owe me something. How can I train myself to be more practical? Wilfred D’sa

Being generous is admirable, but – as with all traits – it can be harmful when excessive. Psychotherapist and coach Jonathan Alpert says, “over-givers use gifts as a way to gain and keep friends, because they think they need to be overly generous to be liked.” Being an over-giver can actually damage your friendships, if you start resenting your friends when you feel they’re taking advantage. Stop giving until you can learn to be generous in healthy doses.

At restaurants, insist on splitting the bill. If friends ask for loans, explain that you care for them but you simply cannot loan anyone any money right now.  If you struggle to say no, ask for more time to think; e.g. ‘let me get back to you next week’. You might even ask someone you trust to help; before you agree to pay for anything, you can double check with them so they can call you out if they think you’re over-giving.

Any time you feel inclined to give, ask yourself whether you’re giving because you want to or because you feel you need to. If you feel someone won’t like you if you don’t pay for something, then that’s a clue you’re giving because you feel you have to. Keep in mind you can be generous towards your friends in other ways, not just financially.

  1. Last month, we had a death in the family and ever since there is a gloomy atmosphere in our home. I am a 16 year old girl and I feel very upset by the odd behaviour of everyone. I feel we need to accept reality and move on, but no one at home likes to listen to me. It seems to them that the event hasn’t left me saddened. I would like to make everyone get out of this gloom. What should I do without hurting their feelings? Shaila N

Everyone deals with loss in different ways. Researcher Susan Berger identifies five types of grievers – those that are confused about how they feel, those that are committed to preserving the memory of the deceased, those who focus on creating a sense of family, those who focus on helping others, and those who create spiritual meaning from the loss. In addition, it takes everyone a different amount of time to be able to ‘accept reality and move on’ as you put it.

There is nothing wrong with your desire to remove the gloom in your home but it is harmful to rush your family through their grieving process. Instead, see this as a time when you can grow closer to them by supporting them through their pain. Allow them to feel what they’re feeling (without trying to change anything), listen to them, if they want to share and try not to judge them for their reactions. Often, when someone is in pain, we try to fix it because we feel uncomfortable sitting through the strong emotions.

As is said, the only way out of pain is through it.

Manal al Adawi is a certified positive psychology coach in Oman

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