Recovering from a Breakup: Proven Ways to Heal (From Science)

Even if your heart tries to pull its broken self together to tell you it’s for the best, and your head – foggy and sad – tells you the pain will pass, the agony of a breakup can be relentless. When you’re recovering from a breakup, it’s important not to hurry things along – it’s your time to reset, recharge and draw wisdom from the experience – but what if your healing could be strong and complete … and quicker?  Science may have just found the way. 

New research has found that broken-hearted ones who reflected more on their relationships over a nine week period had a stronger overall recovery from their breakup. 

An important part of the healing is a process called ‘self-concept reorganisation’, which involves rebuilding and strengthening the sense of who you are, independent of the relationship.

[bctt tweet=”What if your healing from a breakup could be stronger and quicker? Science may have found the secret … http://wp.me/p5hkQx-lk”]

Relationships have a profound impact on the beliefs we have about ourselves, whether we realise it or not. During the course of a relationship, it’s very normal to ‘intertwine’ with a partner. Goals and directions change, as well as wants and needs for now and the future.

This isn’t because you lose yourself, though certainly that can happen, but because intimacy involves opening up to another person – opening up to their love, wants, needs, feelings, opinions, love, goals, dreams. When that happens, you can’t help but be influenced and eventually move in the same direction. Sometimes that involves adjusting your own sails. It’s all a healthy part of being with someone fully, and part of the unpredictable magic of relationships.

A breakup means the undoing of this merging, which is painful to go through. However strong and independent a person may be, the fracturing of a relationship can also mean the fracturing of the self-concept. One of the most painful parts of a breakup is that it up-ends things as you’ve come to know them. The familiar is gone, plans are changed and the future all of a sudden has too many blank spaces where happy things used to be.

[irp posts=”1144″ name=”Dear Broken Hearted One … When You’re In The Thick of a Break-Up.”]

 

Part of the healing is re-establishing who you are without your partner. Anything that can repair and re-strengthen the self-concept, will accelerate healing.

So, to get you back to strong, based on science …

  1. Talk. Go on. Go for it.

    There are a couple of ways that talking about a breakup might help to facilitate healing. The first is that talking about the relationship will help to bring a different perspective to things. It’s not called a ‘breakup’ because it’s working well. Being in love or being in like-a-lot can blur things, hide things and dress things up, sometimes at the cost of clarity. There will be a level of insight that will throw itself at your feet when you talk about the relationship from a more distant perspective.

  2. Find your story.

    Talking helps to construct a story of the relationship that gives meaning to the experience – including the experience of the relationship, the breakup, and perhaps most importantly for healing, the recovery. Let me explain …

    If you tell the story of your breakup as one of rejection and a lost happy ever after, recovery will be slow, kind of like ‘walking through quicksand’ type of slow. It’s really easy to get stuck in this narrative when the thoughts are locked in your head and want to be with you at 2am. On the other hand, talking to people in your tribe will help you find a way to understand your story from a position of strength. This might involve finding the lessons, the learning and reframing the experience as, say, an ending, rather than a rejection.

  3. An emotional release – journalling.

    Having an emotional release is an important part of healing. Journalling is one way to do this as it allows you to capture and give definition to the thoughts and feelings that are swirling around inside. Journalling doesn’t have to be done every day to have an effect. Even a few times a week will help the healing. 

  4. Write – as though you’re talking to a stranger.

    Writing repeatedly about the process of the breakup as though speaking with a stranger about it, is another way to move towards healing. As well as being an emotional release, it also encourages a fresh perspective and new insights.

    [irp posts=”150″ name=”Your Body During a Breakup: The Science of a Broken Heart”]

  5. Reclaim yourself – what’s been neglected?

    Reclaiming a strong self-concept – establishing who you are outside of the relationship – is critical and will be enormously supportive of a recovery. Think about the parts of yourself that might have been pushed aside during the relationship. When you’ve found these, find ways to build them and nurture them. 

  6. And expand them.

    Find new ways to expand your self concept. When you feel ready, (or maybe a little before then) take up new interests, establish new goals or re-establish your direction. Given that your need to connect has been messed with, anything that will give you the opportunity to connect with others who will also see you as your own, unique person will really help the healing process.

A breakup is an ending, not a rejection. It might not feel like that initially, but it’s an important thing to remember. When your heart has been broken, it can take a while to find your way back to whole but you will get there. Healing from a broken heart is as much a physical process as it is an emotional one. It’s very similar to recovering from an addiction, which is why it feels so hard and so damn painful.

Above all else, remember that there were things about you that were beautiful, strong, vibrant and extraordinary before the relationship. Nothing has changed.

337 Comments

A

I recently broke up with my boyfriend a week ago, and the wound is still so fresh. I find myself going back to our old messages, crying why everything changed. Since June he all of a sudden just stopped trying, he didn’t want affection or nothing and I started questioning if it was me. He said it was not. Later July, we met up and talked about whether we should break up or not. I said we should but he went on and asked again if this is what I wanted. I said no and he said he didn’t either so we didn’t break up. He began to distance himself a lot and I found myself cancelling plans because I felt so depressed at how things were changing or going downhill so fast. I soon realized he was talking to other girls about our relationship and how he was feeling. Whenever I asked and told him I was there for him and he could always talk to me, he would talk to them instead. He hid hanging out with a girl that he invited over to his place to play videogames and when I found out and confronted him about it, he was angry that I went through his phone rather than explaining to me what that was. It took me almost a month to get him to explain, he said they were friends nothing was going on, but it did not seem that way. I asked if maybe he could stop talking to her until I could heal from that and I found out he was still asking about her day. I was completely crushed and later on I learn that he was actually hiding things from me. It is so hard when you put so much trust in someone later for them to crush it to pieces and act like they didn’t. I am so tired and I want to be able to move on but right now it is so hard. Can anyone please give me advice on how I can do this?

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Rosan

Hii, Now I am also in similar situations. But this is my second time. During first breakup, I got depressed for 1 month, I deleted and kept away all belongings which can remind me of her. Then I focused to my career, changed my job as we both were from same organization. I got new fresh friends (both boys and girls). I enjoyed my new task and with new friends. It was so smooth in forgetting her. But in your case this may not be the option but try to find similar ideas, you tell your breakup story to those who are close to you.
For this time, I also do not know what to do though she is not from same organization. It’s difficult for me to forget even I don’t prefer tell any known person. I look for some unknown person to tell my story. Can we make it by saying to each other…….

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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