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Surviving Heartbreak

A couple crying due to a broken heart illustration

Bad breakups can be devastating especially when you feel that you are the one being dumped. Often you will feel like your whole world has just collapsed and you are are floating aimlessly in a deep dark void. Often there will be a whole mess of emotions happening at the same time like rejection, anger, anxiety and disbelief that it has ended. All these feelings and the pain that you experience is a normal process of grieving, and things can get better in time.

But why does it hurt to bad?

Researches have used fMRI scanners to assess which part of the brain lights-up when you look at the picture of your Ex and found that this same part is associated with experiencing pain. This doesn’t mean that a romantic break-up causes physical pain but unfortunately our brain recognizes that it is of similar importance. Pain is a function that alerts us to something that is not right and that needs attention and care. So we feel the emotional pain as though it is a physical pain.

The thoughts of love triggers a part of the brain that is associated with reward and motivation. This same part also releases dopamine which is a feel-good chemical. Hence, some people find it hard to let-go of their ex-partners because thoughts of their ex triggers this same part of the brain. This is the same reason why someone who is addicted to a substance is continually craving for it. Hence, when the substance is taken away, or as in a break-up, it can lead to intense distress and psychological discomfort.

Sometimes, you may also find the images of your ex intruding and interrupting your daily thoughts, even though you really don’t want to think of this person anymore. This happens because our brain is trying to process and understand the loss so that it can integrate this new knowledge of the break-up into our memory.

 

 

Coping Skills

How a person recovers from a nasty breakup depends on personality type, attachment styles to significant others, self-esteem, reasons for the break-up and the degree of dependence on the relationship. More importantly, how fast or well you recover is also dependent on coping skills.

 

Feel the feels

Heart-break is a bad feeling that nobody wants, but unfortunately it’s normal to feel this way when a treasured relationship ends. Recognizing the many different emotions that you feel is a necessary step towards healing. Denying that you feel anything could suppress the emotions only to have them surface later in life. One way of recognizing these feelings is to name the feelings. If the relationship has been deep and meaningful, the break-up can be akin to the loss of a close family member. So, allow yourself to grieve the loss for a while. However, avoid the use of alcohol and harmful substances to drown your sorrow.

 

Challenge maladaptive thinking

While you may want to identify the individual emotions that you are experiencing such as anger, sadness, shame etc, be very careful that these emotions do not reinforce any negative or bad thoughts that you may have about yourselves or your future.

Some distorted thinking that is often entertained include:

(1) ‘Should’ statements – These are absolute statements that certain things must be the way we expect it to be.

  • We were so perfect, we should still be together.
  • I need to be strong, I shouldn’t be feeling this way

It’s normal to feel this way when things do not live up to our expectations. Admitting that we are hurt and disappointed by the break-up could help us to come to terms with loss.

 

(2) ‘Could’ and ‘if only’ statements – These are blame statements, often directed at yourself

  • I could have avoided losing this person If only I was a better partner.
  • I could have been more understanding and less demanding.

Don’t blame yourself, sometimes couples grow apart or realize that the other person is just not what he/she wants. It’s never always just one person’s fault if things don’t work out.

 

(3) Fortune telling – This is drawing a conclusion about our future.

  • I’ll never find another person to love me.
  • I’ll always be miserable.

You cannot foretell what is going to happen or whom we are going to meet in the future. Give yourself another  chance at love.

There are a lot more cognitive distortions that can keep you trapped in misery. By being aware of these thought patterns and challenging these distorted thinking, it will help you to heal and recover faster.

 

Be kind to yourself

How fast a person gets over the break-up and moves on depends on how long the relationship has been going on and how dependent you are on your ex. So give yourself time to adjust to a new life and new routines. While we may feel lost and aimless without our partner for a while, do put in effort to make positive changes to a life without this person. Be kind to yourself, take care of your health, appearance, and think good thoughts about yourself. Just because one person decides that you are not the one, it doesn’t mean that you are unlovable. So, love yourself.

 

Change your routine.

Often similar places and activities can trigger thoughts of your ex and the things you used to do together. So, change your routine and avoid the places and activities that can remind you of your ex. Get busy, try new things, meet new people and find activities that your mind can focus on and not wander. When our minds are left to wander, it can cause us to ruminate or think repetitive thoughts of the negative aspects of the breakup. Be very mindful, as continued repetitive and distorted thinking can lead to depression. Healthy and meaningful distractions such as starting a new hobby, volunteering or just hanging out more with friends could really help.

 

Process the relationship

Some people find that as they think non-judgmentally of the relationship, they recognise and learn more about themselves and even why they fell in love in the first place. So when you find yourself thinking about the relationship, look at it as you would watching a drama serial. Look at your ex and yourself as two characters in a romances story. Process the reasons why you came together, how you interacted, both of your expectations and ideas of a relationship. This will give you a more objective view of what you really want in a person and how to make the next relationship better.

 

Support

Sometimes the strongest and most sensible people crumble under the weight of a nasty breakup. Don’t try to go through it all alone. If the negative feelings are overwhelming, share it with a friend or find a support groups whom you can share with. If you find that you are unable to continue with daily routines, having thoughts of harming yourself or ending life, please find professional help immediately.

Heartbreak is tough but there are positive ways and people who can help you mend your broken heart.

Share this with a friend who is going through a break-up

 

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