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Heartbreaks Do Hurt: How To Heal From A Painful Heartbreak

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Heartbreaks Do Hurt: How To Heal From A Painful Heartbreak

Heartbreaks really hurt. It’s for real literally, not a mere metaphor.

Every time you choose to connect with someone deeply, you’re exposing the most vulnerable part of yourself to another person. It’s like taking your heart out and connect it with another person’s. When this bonding is broken, the connected parts will torn apart. When your heart’s tearing apart, of course it hurts. There’s no difference than any physical pain.

Heartbreaks are so intense that it feels the same as physical pain.

When we experience a heartbreak, we feel sad, disappointed, angry, stressful and fearful because we feel like being rejected. The mixed feelings even cause physical pain with our heart.

Scientists conducted an aforementioned fMRI study of heartbroken individuals,[1]

When the subjects looked at and discussed their rejecter, they trembled, cried, sighed, and got angry, and in their brains these emotions triggered activity in the same area associated with physical pain.

Another study showed that subjects who touched a hot probe and those who looked at a photo of an ex-partner had the same experience of rejection. The physical pain and social rejection are rooted in exactly the same brain regions.

But like any kind of physical injuries, a heartbreak will heal; it just takes time (including a period of emotion ups and downs).

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The six stages we go through during a heartbreak:

    Stage 1: Denial.
    When things are happening too fast, it’s hard to believe it really is happening. We’re not good at handling sudden rejections, and so we want to choose to believe that the bad things never happened. We want to lie to ourselves so as to feel better.

    Stage 2: Anger.
    When lying to ourselves doesn’t work any more, we start to feel mad about what happened. Why it has to happened on me? Why s/he has to leave me like that? Why life is so unfair? We blame others. We blame the world. We hate the fact that we’re the one losing something.

    Stage 3: Blaming yourself.
    And then, we start to blame ourselves. Did I do something wrong so this happened to me? I should have done better. I could have done more than that. It’s all my fault. Instead of blaming others, we start to hate ourselves for being ourselves and having messed things up.

    Stage 4: Bargaining.
    Until this stage, we still can’t really accept what happened. We’re willing to do anything just to revert the result. We want to go back in time to change our past. We want a better ending. If there’s anything we can do to get him/her back, we’ll do it no matter what it takes.

    Stage 5: Depressed.
    Now we’ve come to a stage where we feel so hopeless and tired after going through so many negative emotions. We don’t want to do anything. We simply want to hide ourselves somewhere to cry, and rest. We are too sad to do anything. Our hearts are crying. Our hearts still ache.

    Stage 6: Initial acceptance.
    Finally, after all the emotion ups and downs and all the difficult time, we’ve started to accept the truth. We’ve begun to manage to keep ourselves calm. Bit by bit, we realize that we’re not crying that much any more. We’re still sad, but we don’t look back to the past so often.

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    Reaching stage 6 of heartbreak is a great breakthrough because you’ve totally embraced your emotions, accepting yourself as a vulnerable person. Yet this just the beginning of getting back on track of your life.

    After going through the six stages of heartbreak, you’re ready to work on the real healing.

    To mend a broken heart, firstly, understand the primal nature of the wound.

    Whether it’s a breakup or a loved one passed away, we’re losing a part of our life that means a lot to us. Here’re two different approaches for different reasons of heartbreaks.

    If it’s because a relationship ends:
    Are you feeling sad reminiscing all the sweet memories you had with him/her, missing all the moments which are like dreams to you now?

    Do you feel like you guys are meant to be together that you simply want to hold on to the relationship?

    Or are you afraid that you won’t be able to find a partner who’s as sweet as him/her, or who understands you as much as he/she did?

    Maybe it’s not really the person you’re missing; maybe it’s the memories and the feeling of being with someone that you’re missing. Maybe it’s also your ego messing with you, having to face the rejection.

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    If it’s because of a loved one passes away:
    Is it the regret you have that makes you so uneasy? You wish you could have treated him/her better? Or you wish you could have spent more time with him/her?

    Or is it that you don’t think you can live without him/her because after all, you guys had been together for so long? Is that you think it’s really hard to get used to living without him/her?

    Maybe you do miss the person, but you’re more afraid of living on your own. Imagine yourself living the future without him/her is just painful. You also hold a lot of grudges against yourself.

    No matter why you’re experiencing a heartbreak, it all comes down to your fear — the fear of past failure and the fear of future uncertainty.

    To kick away the evil fear, try this way.

    We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can learn from it and make ourselves a better future.

    Now, take out a piece of paper and grab a pen, write down everything you’re sad about this heartbreak:

    • I regret not spending more time with her.
    • He used to cheer me up when I was sad, now I have no one.
    • I never changed my feelings for him but he changed his.
    • I was lost, it wasn’t the real me when I started to become so needy.
    • ……

    When you finish writing these, look at each of them and ask yourself these questions:

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    • I understand this is part of my life and there’s a lesson in it, what’s that?
      This question makes you think about something that you can take away from the experience, so you can fully accept what happened and take only the lesson with you.
    • How can I apply the lesson learned to my daily life?
      This question guides you to make changes in your life, so you can be more positive about the situation.
    • What can I do now to prevent this from happening again?
      This question forces you to learn from the experience and think again what you can do when coming across similar situations.
    • What (or who) do I have now that will make me feel better?
      This questions helps you to get out of your cave and look at all those people who love and care about you; so you have the motivation to move on.

    While writing down your thoughts helps relieve the burden in your heart, asking yourself the above questions reminds you the importance of focusing on the present moment. As you’re answering the questions, you’ll understand yourself a lot more and will soon realize your future becomes more certain, and your life is not that out of control.

    Your mind feels calmer, but there’re a few more simple actions to take.

    Call your friends and invite them for dinner or just any kind of activities. You need their support and you need a lot of laughters!

    Take up some new hobbies or just take back up your old hobbies, just anything you enjoy doing!

    Take a break and go traveling (or a staycation in somewhere you’ve never been to) alone. You need some alone time to quiet your mind.

    Make some new friends. If you’re too shy to join your friends’ house parties, take some interest classes and meet people with like-minded. Meeting new people can stimulate your brain and make you happier.

    Yes time heals, but only if you take actions to take good care of yourself.

    As time goes by, bit by bit, you’ll realize that you no longer miss him/her that much any more. You’ll be able to smile when you see the thing that used to remind you of him/her. You’ll be able to see the bright side of things again.

    And you’re getting back on track with your life, having good time with your friends and family, enjoying your work and hobbies.

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    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

    [1] AsapSCIENCE: The Science of Heartbreak

    More by this author

    Anna Chui

    Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2021

    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

    We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

    A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

    So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

    • honest
    • reliable
    • competent
    • kind and compassionate
    • capable of taking the blame
    • able to persevere
    • modest and humble
    • pacific and can control anger.

    The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

    1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

    All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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    But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

    2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

    How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

    I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

    “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

    Abigail Van Buren

    3. How does this person take the blame?

    Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

    4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

    You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

    5. Read their emails.

    Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

    • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
    • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
    • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
    • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
    • Too many question marks can show anger
    • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

    6. Watch out for the show offs.

    Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

    7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

    A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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    Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

    8. Their empathy score is high.

    Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

    People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

    9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

    We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

    “One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

    Stendhal

     10. Avoid toxic people.

    These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

    • Envy or jealousy
    • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
    • Complaining about their own lack of success
    • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
    • Obsession with themselves and their problems

    Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

    Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

    Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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