A Conversation with Amy Chan, Founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp
Can you share with us your journey and how you started the Renew Breakup Bootcamp?
Five years ago, I was in a relationship with a man whom I thought I’d be spending the rest of my life with. He was my first love, and without realizing it, I had put much of my sense of identity into that relationship. When one day suddenly everything fell apart, I broke into pieces. Not only did I lose my partner, my best friend, but I lost my identity. I spiraled into a depression, broke out into panic attacks, and had thoughts of suicide.
During that time, I searched everywhere for a retreat or some safe place where I could go to get the healing that I needed. Unfortunately, there was nothing targeted specifically to the type of excruciating pain that comes along with detaching. It took me almost two years to fully recover from that breakup and along the way, I’ve learned critical tools for self-soothing and getting oneself back into equilibrium. I also count my blessings that I had such a great support system that helped me through the worst of the darkness.
The business idea for Renew came to me about one and a half years ago. I realized that most of the emails I get from readers of my blog were from people going through breakups and completely distraught on how to handle the pain. It was an aha moment where everything came together, and I knew that I had to be the one to create a safe space for people to come and heal in a healthy way.
Can you explain what happens during a Renew Breakup Bootcamp retreat?
Upon arrival, guests are encouraged to check in their digital devices so they can unplug, be present (and remove the temptation of stalking their ex’s social media). From that point on, there’s a mixture of talks and exercises led by myself, a neuroscientist, and a psychologist. We go deep into the neurobiology and psychology of attachment, addiction to suffering and look into what’s happening in the brain and body when we are in withdrawal of a romantic partner. We provide tools for emotional regulation, how to create dopamine and the feel good chemicals in a healthy way, and look at the original source of the wounds so that we can start rewiring the subconscious patterns and scripts that are running their lives. Dr. Lana Morrow leads one-on-one sessions using her technology that helps people use their own brain frequency to create new neural pathways for dopamine production. We also have one-on-one sessions with a life coach and an expert in psychomagic who looks at blockages passed down from one’s family ancestry. There’s also yoga, meditation and tantra classes to help the women move their energy and get connected to their body.
An on-site chef cooks all our meals with organic and local ingredients, ensuring we get the nutrition we need. If the body is not healthy, it’s extremely difficult to get the heart and mind healthy - it’s all connected. We eat all our meals together and a strong sense of family and bonding occurs. (Ed note: Chan and her team now offer Virtual Breakup Retreats that include "letting go ceremonies", fireside chats, and sessions led by tantra coaches, a dominatrix, and leading experts in anxiety and relationships).
There is no quick fix—resilience and self-love are muscles—the more your practice, the stronger it gets.
We love that you focus on "bridging the gap between the science and the spiritual." What is your philosophy in healing from a breakup?
I believe that a holistic approach to healing the heart is effective. We can talk theory all we want, but we need to embody the lessons, which requires more than reading a book. When someone is going through a breakup, studies have shown that the same part of the brain is activated as a heroin addict, fiending for the next fix. You’re physically in withdrawal. Time will help with the stabilization of emotions that occur from the chemical imbalances during the detaching process; however, time doesn’t necessarily address the resentment or hurt self-esteem that lingers. For that, we need to know the tools for emotional regulation, calming our anxieties, reframing trauma, and building our foundation of self-compassion. There is no quick fix—resilience and self-love are muscles—the more your practice, the stronger it gets.
It's important to unravel the decades of programming that we've built in order to survive, protect myself and avoid pain. In my own experience, as I unravel each layer of armor, false narrative and ego-based script, I get closer to living in my true authentic self, maximizing my full potential.
How do you think self-care plays a role in healing?
Self care is the same as self-love / self-compassion. Too often we think of loving ourselves as a final destination, as if you flip a switch and suddenly you’re transported to some magical island of enlightenment and relationship bliss. The alternative is feeling ashamed—as if you’re not strong enough, or working hard enough, to get there. This mentality does more damage than good.
Loving yourself is not a destination. Loving yourself is a muscle you build. It’s a choice you make, every single day, in the same way you must choose to love another person through the good times and the bad. You get better at it the more you practice, which is really good news! When we approach self-love as a way of living, rather than some elevated state of being, we can choose at this exact moment to start.
The more you choose acts of self-love, the more they become habitual, and they all add up, like putting coins in a piggy bank. Soon, your days are filled with more acts of self-love than negative habits. The more you build on that internal stability, the less your self-worth will be influenced by other people and external triggers.
Some ways that I incorporate self-love/self care in my life:
- I communicate my boundaries and am not being apologetic for who I am, where I’m at and the values I stand for. I do not do anything out of obligation or to be liked. I value being authentic more than I value being like-able and won’t do something that is rooted in fear or ego. Too often people over-give, or are not protective of their time and energy because they fear not being liked. I do not think the result of an action birthed from fear and ego can create light.
- I celebrate my wins. When something significant happens, I take myself on a date. In the hustle of everyday, it’s easy to not stop and appreciate all the steps and wins along the way. I also have a “human evolution" worksheet where I track my wins for the prior month.
- I write down what I’m grateful for in my journal on a consistent and regular basis. This builds your muscle for feeling gratitude.
- I take my mornings to myself to have "holy time." I meditate, I write, I do what I need to start my day with an abundance mindset.
Why do you think it's important to empower yourself and other women through this common, and tough-to-talk-about, life event?
A breakup can feel absolutely horrible, but often this is what is needed to incentivize someone to seek change and growth. Pain is actually a powerful motivator. However, it can go both ways. The traumatic event can cause someone to be jaded, resentful and negative and if they don’t heal their wounds they continue on with life with a closed heart and acting from fear. Or, it can be a positive catalyst for change: you get a blank canvas and get to decide how you want to paint that canvas as you enter the next chapter of life. It can be reframed as extremely exciting.
The guests who come to Renew are similar in the sense that they are all successful and high achieving people who are doing really well with their careers but when it comes to their romantic relationships, lose their power. We need to learn the tools for self-empowerment, self-compassion and build our own self-love so that we stop giving away our power.
I do not think the result of an action birthed from fear and ego can create light.
What is inspiring you right now?
Books inspire me. I’m a voracious reader and am currently reading works from David Hawkins.
Running a breakup retreat is a totally unique career path.
Growing up I wanted to be in fashion, so this is a totally different career path. And the switch symbolizes a key perspective shift in life. I definitely put effort in my appearance, but I used to obsess over appearing perfect. I didn’t understand why regardless of how beautiful my clothes were or how many designer handbags I had, or how perfect my hair and makeup were, why I felt insecure and empty. I have realized how focusing on the superficial, which is the ego, does not create light or love. I learned the importance of focusing on the inside: your state of being, your energy, your emotional intelligence, and your spiritual evolution. That is the beauty and light that touches the soul.
To the skeptics out there that say "just suck it up," what would you tell them?
Going through a heartbreak is similar to mourning death; it’s an emotional process that requires time, compassion, reflection and healing. We live in a society where we want to power through everything, take a pill for the pain, move fast and move on. This is great in theory, but in matters of the heart, it just doesn’t work that way. The drive for love is as primal as the drive for food and water.
Research of the recently rejected show that they spend more than ¾ of their waking hours thinking of the person who left, yearning for reconnection. Brain scans show that rejection activates many of the same parts of the brain that are activated by when a drug addict is craving for cocaine and other addictive drugs. There is a process to healing, and “sucking it up” (also known as suppressing) is actually more harmful than it does good (there’s a ton of research that shows that suppression of emotions has harmful effects on the body).
Renew is a good starting point to help create a positive momentum for healing. There are trained facilitators guiding the healing and renewal process. You are also amongst a community of other women going through the same experience. A sisterhood develops. Suddenly you don’t feel like you’re going crazy, and you don’t feel like you’re alone in the journey.
As women, it can feel second nature to invest everything in our relationships. How can we empower ourselves to make sure we are strong as individuals as well?
Putting someone else as the priority before taking care of yourself is a lack of self-love. Of course in a relationship we compromise and act selflessly at times, but this is different from giving away your identity and power. There is no quick fix, to love someone else in a healthy way, we must love ourselves first. This is a muscle we build. We need to get the foundation of the house - with the first layers being self-compassion and self-esteem, strong and stable, before we focus on decorating the house.
What is your best breakup advice?
Stop being so hard on yourself and the sooner you can get out of victimization and blaming, the sooner you start your journey of healing. It requires looking at the relationship as a learning and growth opportunity instead of an unfair and unfortunate event that happened to you.
What do you want your legacy to be?
To heal the hearts of millions of people.