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The Science of Mending a Broken Heart

The Science of Mending a Broken Heart

Breakups are one of life’s most difficult obstacles. You feel like you’re left to pick up the pieces of a failed life together, wondering if you’ll ever get over the pain, the disappointment, the broken heart.

It’s hard because you’ve idealized him/her unconsciously.

You’ve just lost somebody who once played a major part in your life and now you have to get through the stages of grief to get over it. Getting over a breakup is never easy, and here’s why:

During your relationship, your brain switches off the ability to judge and feel negatively about your partner. At the same time, it turns on the areas that cause you to bond with and feel attached to your partner. It’s hard to get over your ex because your brain causes you to idealize them.[1]

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Dopamine, oxytocin, testosterone – these are all the chemicals your brain produces when you’re first falling in love. They’re responsible for those butterfly feelings, the need to cuddle, the rapid heart rate, and the excitement that come with a new relationship. Addicting feelings, to say the least. What happens when you break up? The ventral segment of your brain activates, which is the same thing that happens when someone is addicted to drugs. You are literally going through withdrawal over your ex.

Breakups often happen suddenly, leaving you with little to no closure. It’s that feeling of unfinished business that makes it hard for you to get over your ex. You keep thinking about them because you were left with a void to fill, a hole to cover.[2] You feel like there’s something left to understand about the situation and you just can’t shake the feeling.

Unconsciousness is hard to control but it doesn’t mean you should just let it be.

So now you’ve justified why it’s okay for you to keep thinking about your ex. You’re just going through the stages of grief, right? Your brain is tricking you into miss them, right? So, this is normal, right?

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Well, yes, sort of. You need to forget about your ex, though, so you can move on with your life. Somewhere out there is the right person for you and you don’t want thoughts of your ex messing up your future relationship.

Instead of letting time heal, take control of how you feel.

First of all, allow yourself to process the stages of grief. Your feelings are valid and deserve to be acknowledged.

Ask yourself how not to let that happen again.

Getting over a breakup is similar to recovering from a physical injury. To recuperate after hurting yourself, you have to identify the root cause. Why? If you know the root cause, you can stop it from happening again.[3] You can give your future relationships a chance at success.

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Learn how to be alone gradually, but not right after breaking up.

The best thing to do right now is be around your friends and family. Surround yourself with community and the people you love. Doing this will help your brain produce more opioids, which are the feel good hormones. Definitely try not to be alone right now.

Get him/her out of sight.

If you’re having a hard time getting over your ex, you’re still in one of the stages of grief. The most common stage is denial, thinking that it really isn’t over or refusing to believe it. When you’re feeling this way, you’re way more likely to pick up the phone and call your ex. You’ll never be able to process your grief if you keep calling them every time you feel lonely. Do yourself a favor and delete their contact info from your phone and social media.

Keep yourself entertained.

In order to process the anger and disappointment that you’re feeling, you need to accept that one of the final stages of grief is to redirect your hope.[4] For your entire relationship, you had all of your hopes tied up in your future together. Now, you have to find that hope again and redirect it. Try keeping yourself busy with new sources of entertainment. Maybe there’s an old hobby you let fall by the wayside when the two of you were dating or maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to try. Now’s the time. Being busy keeps your mind off of the past and helps you redirect your thoughts to the future.

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Moving on after a relationship ends isn’t easy. Just try to be patient with yourself, the pain won’t last forever. You’ll get through this and learn more about yourself in the process.

Reference

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Last Updated on February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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