Heartbreak fucking sucks. It’s the worst. It feels like a sickness, like poison, like grief. Everything loses its importance, nothing matters anymore, it’s all pointless. We feel bad for feeling bad, and it doesn’t seem to end. Nothing about heartbreak is fair, we blame ourselves and those who hurt us, and everything is a cycle of despair and self-pity. But eventually it subsides, and when we look back on it after we’ve healed, we often think about how stupid we were to let ourselves hurt so badly.
But we’re not stupid. The truth is that after our heart was broken, in the trauma caused by the emotional wreckage, we accidentally lied to ourselves about some pretty important things. When all we want is for the pain to stop, our mind tends to want something quite different. It seems to have a different plan for us, and instead of allowing us to process everything that’s happened and move on, our minds often deceive us, and try to make things worse. It’s beyond our control, and as hard as we try, it keeps sucking us back into that cycle of despair.
There are five things that are common to most of us when we’re experiencing heartbreak. Looking out for them can be useful for spotting exactly when our minds are tricking us into behaving or feeling worse, and when you’re aware of them, you might be able to mitigate their potential to cause us harm.
Here they are. Look out for them.
What Did I Do Wrong?
We all try to make sense of heartbreak, and we feel like if we could just figure out exactly what happened, it might allow us some closure, and some understanding because heartbreak feels senseless. But it can be a trick: your mind will often put the finger at your own behavior, because that’s its closest frame of reference, and it’s the only perspective it knows. So often we end up scanning ourselves and judging our behavior FAR too harshly, and that doesn’t help the depression and anger and confusion inherent in a breakup.
Talking with friends helps overcome the pain of heartbreak, and that’s healthy. But it only works if it’s constructive and problem-solving. It’s no good to go and hear your own opinions about the situation constantly echoed back to you. That will only reinforce your misery, because it reinforces some of the lies your mind is telling you. Speak to friends, but make sure what you’re hearing in return is more than just sympathetic tones, and what you want to hear. You need friends to be pushing you forwards, not keeping you stuck in the past.
Perhaps If We Just Reach Out To Them…
In our desire to make sense of the situation, it’s natural to want to reach out to the other affected party: the person who broke your heart. That, your mind tells you, will make you feel better. But in the long run, this will hurt your self-esteem and prevent you from being able to take those difficult steps forwards like you need to. Your mind might even try to convince you that you’re over it and you’re capable of a mature and reasonable conversation about what happened, but you should always be very suspicious of this urge.
We Were Always Happy
Your mind might force you to recall only positive memories of the relationship, giving you the false impression that everything was great, which can compound your unhappiness. No relationship is THAT good. Think hard. The relationship was NOT flawless. There were plenty of frustrations and annoyances too, and those should be remembered too.
Your Ex Was The Only One
Since you hadn’t been considering alternative relationships before the one that broke your heart, your mind might try to tell you that the relationship you just lost was the only one you’d ever need. What’s worse, it might try to convince you that your ex was perfect, and you might only be able to remember the best things about them, and it will inject unwanted memories of them into your mind’s eye at random. You need to force yourself to realize that the picture your mind is painting is not accurate, or not completely true, or your pain will never recover. You need to be able to ignore your mind for a while and judge your ex more realistically.
You can’t be too angry at your mind for all this. It’s lying to you because it’s trying to protect you. It disguises pain because if it was as easy to recall pain as it was to recall happiness, we would never get out of bed. That’s why we can remember when we broke our arm, for example, but we can’t remember exactly how it felt. If something hurts us, it’s our brain’s job to remind us never to do that thing again, so that we never repeat the mistake. For as long as it can, our mind thinks it’s its job to remind you constantly of that pain you’re experiencing. You just have to learn to ignore it sometimes.