Understanding & Getting over Heartbreak

None of us is immune to heartbreak

Heartbreak effects every one of us - irrespective of age, gender or circumstance. There are also many kinds of heartbreak. Heartbreak is the extreme feeling of loss over someone or something we had a close relationship with.

Our usual coping mechanisms and instincts can actually not help us get over heartbreak.

You cannot trust what your mind is telling you.

Understanding why the relationship ended is extremely important for our ability to move on. However, often when we are given a clear, honest and simple explanation, we simply don’t accept it and reject it. Heartbreak creates such dramatic and intense emotional pain, that our mind tells us that the cause must be equally as dramatic. Therefore we come up with mysteries, conspiracies and fantasies, where none exist.We become obsessed with figuring out what went wrong, what we did to cause the break up. We play scenarios over  and over in our mind, searching for clues that are not there.

Our mind tricks us into continuing this wild goose chase for many months. Why do we continue even when we know it makes us feel worse? Brain studies have shown that withdrawal from romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that get activated when substance abusers withdraw from cocaine or opiates. Since we cannot have the drug that equates with being with the past partner, we settle for a poor substitute of memories with them.

You feel like you are solving a mystery, but you are actually getting your “fix”. This is what makes heartbreak so difficult to heal. When you are heartbroken you don’t realise this is what’s going on. Once you do understand this, you know that every text, social stalking check, memory fantasy you are feeding your addiction, deepening your emotional pain and complicating your recovery.

Getting over heartbreak is not a journey - it’s a fight with reason as your strongest weapon. There is no explanation that is going to feel satisfying. No rationale will take away the pain you are feeling. Stop searching for this. Accept this and close off.

You must let go and accept it’s over. Otherwise your mind will feed on your hope and set you back.

Hope can be incredibly destructive when your heart is broken.

We tend to idealise the person who broke our heart. We spend hours remembering what they looked like, moments, memories and how they made us feel. That makes our loss feel more painful. To balance the idealization, you need to remember the negatives and disappointments as well. Compile an exhaustive list of all the ways the person was wrong for you, all the bad qualities, all the pet peeves, and then keep it on your phone. Once you have your list, you have to use it. Your mind will try to tell you they were perfect. But they were not, and neither was the relationship. And if you want to get over them, you have to remind yourself of that, frequently. Catch yourself and look at the list on your phone.

Heartbreak shares all the hallmarks of traditional loss and grief: insomnia, intrusive thoughts, immune system dysfunction. Forty percent of people experience clinically measurable depression.

Heartbreak is a complex psychological injury. It impacts us in multiple ways. Your breakup can leave a huge void in your life - often more than just one. This is crucial, not just because it explains why heartbreak could be so devastating, but because it tells us how to heal. 

To fix your broken heart, you have to identify these voids in your life and fill them, and I mean all of them. 

The voids in your identity: you have to reestablish who you are and what your life is about. The voids in your social life, the missing activities, even the empty spaces on the wall where pictures used to hang. 

But none of that will do any good unless you prevent the mistakes that can set you back, the unnecessary searches for explanations, idealizing your ex instead of focusing on how they were wrong for you, indulging thoughts and behaviors that still give them a starring role in this next chapter of your life when they shouldn't be an extra. 

Getting over heartbreak is hard, but if you refuse to be misled by your mind and you take steps to heal, you can significantly minimize your suffering. 

Getting over someone you loved and then lost is more about the way you see yourself and the failed relationship than it is about figuring out what went wrong.

So before admonishing you to “get back out there,” I want you to try to look at things a little differently first. Getting over an ex has a lot more to do with knowing who you are and the story you tell yourself about your past relationship than it does with trying to mitigate the pain every time you’re reminded of them.

Why Losing a Relationship Hurts so much

Relationships form the basis of meaning in our lives. This includes your interpersonal relationships, the relationships you have with your job or your identity or your possessions.

Therefore, when you lose a relationship, especially one that was important and central to your life, you lose that associated meaning. To lose meaning is to lose a part of yourself. All of these things are intimately connected — your relationships, your sense of meaning and purpose, and your perception of who you are. You feel as if there was a hole inside of you.

Getting over someone requires new sources of meaning

Connecting/reconnecting with people who care about you will start to add meaning back into your life, the meaning that was so abruptly taken from you.

See the Relationship for what it was.

To separate yourself from your past relationship and move on, take an objective look at what the relationship was really like. If part of the story you tell yourself is, “We were so perfect for each other. We should be together forever! Why doesn’t he/she see that?” then you’re falling victim to biases that you’re simply not aware of.

We often remember that past as better than it actually was. Consciously thinking about the reality of the relationship is helpful. (These prompts are helpful)

“Relationships don’t end because two people did something wrong to each other—they end because two people are something wrong for each other.” Mark Manson

Invest in a Relationship with yourself

If your identity has been so wrapped up in a relationship that’s now gone, it’s a good time to explore who you are in contexts outside of that relationship. Rushing out to find someone to fill that void without really figuring out what you want and what you need is a recipe for recurring relationship disaster.

This lack of self awareness around one’s needs often leads to a relationship falling apart in the first place. One of the best things you can do is figure out who you are, what you need, and how to get those needs met. And to truly know that, you have to figure it out on your own.

Figuring out what your needs are

Think, reflect and look inside yourself to find out what you need and what is important to you. There are numerous resources available if you use search terms including: understanding what I want; understanding myself.

If you need to process your thoughts and feelings consider speaking to a Therapist or Journalling. The energy and feelings need to go somewhere. (Try this Journalling prompt page: 30 Thought Provoking Questions to Get over Heartbreak)

Tips & Advice

It takes a long time to get over a breakup because you still have feelings to work through. It doesn’t matter how short or long the relationship was. You need to grieve.

 

Heartbreak prompts

Work through these, as difficult as it may be. Even though nothing can take your pain away, we hope this article has helped you gain perspective and given you some helpful tools.

30 Thought Provoking Questions to Get over Heartbreak

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