Mel Schwartz L.C.S.W.

A Shift of Mind

What Do We Mean by "Moving On"?

How to get unstuck.

Posted Jun 06, 2011

We recently announced a new feature on the blog, A Shift of Mind, called the Question of the Week. Here is my response to the following question:

People say “move on,” but how can you when the toxic job is the last on your resume, and their comments (or lack) are a plague to you, or the spouse refuses to finalize the divorce, or the parent refuses to understand that his lack of emotional support and outright favoritism of the sibling has resulted in pain and suffering (physical attempts and cheated of inheritance) to you? How not to feel a failure? Or inept? How to “deal” with life?

The term “moving on” can be subject to varying interpretations. What do we really mean by moving on? It certainly shouldn’t suggest that we can simply erase an event or relationship that is disagreeable, but we shouldn’t remain mired in it either. For example, the unloving parent remains our parent, and the end of their life doesn’t end the pain or anguish of abuse.

I’ve worked with people who are very challenged at handling such situations. At times, they have considered complete detachment from the neglectful or abusive parent—as though they weren’t alive. At other times, such individuals may alter their expectations so as to deal more effectively with the sad, yet realistic circumstances.

In all such scenarios, I recommend finding and expressing your voice. Whether your parents can validate or appreciate your feelings should not influence your need to articulate yourself. This is an exercise in self-value.

As for the case of the spouse who is delaying the conclusion of a divorce, this should not stand in your way of furthering your emotional divorce. The legal act of divorce often isn’t sufficient, anyway. Many divorced people continue their emotional entanglement well after they are divorced.

In this case, moving on would likely look like taking responsibility for your own well-being and happiness. Divorce should serve as an opportunity for accountability. Ask yourself, “Why did I choose to marry this person?” and reflect on your personal participation in the process.

Moving on doesn’t delete the past, but it enables us to transcend the disquiet as we embrace the learning opportunities. It’s really a matter of integrating the disappointments, sorrow, and injustices of life, so they no longer serve as impediments, but as the foundation of our growth.