Occupational Hazards: Fionnuala Wall, Break-up Coach
"Many people think they're not complete without a partner"
Originally, I wanted to be a nurse, but that quickly changed when I saw my dad calving a cow at the age of eight on our family farm in Kilkenny.
I was lucky to have had the opportunity to travel and work a lot outside Ireland in my twenties so my CV is quite varied: PA work, working in an aboriginal community, waitressing, fruit picking, au pairing, working in a ski resort. After this, I worked for eight years in primary teaching. Yet I was always interested in human development. I completed a course in counselling and psychotherapy and later completed a course with Judymay Murphy, which confirmed for me that I was pursuing what I loved.
I work with my clients one-to-one. Each session consists of an hour, sometimes longer, and is so rewarding for both my client and for me. I coach clients internationally as well as in Ireland, so my working hours of coaching vary depending on time zones.
When I began as a break-up coach, the gender mix of my clientele was one man to every 20 women and mostly clients in their thirties.
This gender and age gap has greatly reduced now. I once coached a client who was in her sixties. Her husband had passed away years before and she wanted to know how to get into another relationship, which she is very happily in now. Women are seen to be more openly expressive of their emotions at the time of a break-up, but men still go through the same painful emotions of a break-up.
There are a number of reasons why relationship break-ups are so hard. Firstly, the emotions associated with a break-up are the very same emotions that one will go through when dealing with the death of a loved one. When people are going through a break-up, they are grieving for the life they once had, even though it might necessarily not have been the best life for them. Also, we are creatures of habit. Our mind, body and heart will crave what we just had before, even if it was not necessarily the best for us. Many think that they are not a complete person without having a partner.
People will feel better with time, but this will not stop them repeating the same behaviours they displayed in the past relationship.
For me, the client feeling better is not the point because the client feeling better will have them repeating the same behaviours again. This is about the client feeling better and having an emotional plan in place so that this same heartbreak does not have to be experienced again in another relationship. I work through the following with my clients: the client taking responsibility for their part of the break-up, the role they played, the identity they had, their standards around love, and so on.
People have different coping strategies during a break-up: going straight into another intimate relationship, avoiding intimate relationships altogether, overeating, alcohol, drugs, excessive work, shopping or exercise - anything that will create an escape.
I once had a male client who had never been in an intimate relationship before, was severely depressed and drinking excessively. He wanted to find a way out. He no longer drinks, is now in a healthy, fulfilling relationship, has changed jobs and is currently building his own house. It is pure joy to hear stories from my clients after working with them.
As to what people experiencing a break-up can do instantly to help themselves: stop all contact.
Cry as many tears as you want to cry, because it's important not to create an emotional block. Discover what it is you love to do, and try new things you never did before. You're going through a crisis moment in your life. You can see it as a negative and wallow in the pain, or you can reach out for help and see this as an opportunity to become a better person and to improve your life.
For information on Fionnuala's break-up coach services, see fionnualawall.com