How To Find Peace After A Breakup

The Breakup

Guilt, self-pitying, self-destruction, lack of motivation and longing are the notorious hallmarks of a mind cast errantly into the void of a relationship breakup. These subset of states are often viewed from afar by others, most often well-wishers such as family and friends, as a dreamlike distortion which will eventually fix itself as time fades old wounds. They will encourage the victim (and also the person who did the breaking up -- it can be just as devastating for them as well) to distract themselves through nights-out, exercise, attention and treats.

This is an effective process in dealing with stress. But it often ignores one of the most important and painful aspects of breaking-up, memory triggers. Let's be honest here, it is incredibly difficult to just walk out of someone's life decisively, leaving a large slice of a very tangible life closed away -- forever. Because the chasm between a life with, and a life without can seem overwhelming, especially on short notice, we litter the world around us with memory triggers (items,songs,films,scents -- anything we associate with our "ex" partner). It is simply our brain's attempt to heal a wound which cannot be healed.

Raising the dead with memory triggers

In PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) the effects of an adrenal memory trigger are well known. Functionally, the memory trigger works the same way with a breakup. Allow me to illustrate the similarity with two examples.

  • A man walks into a supermarket, he feels nauseous and nervous the entire time - without knowing why. Upon reaching the counter, his anxiety peaks into a full-blown panic attack and an ambulance is called.
  • A woman opens an old box in the house while she is cleaning up, while the box contains nothing of note, the hint of a scent reminding her of her ex refreshes the pain of a violent breakup once more, seemingly nullyfing any gains made over the last few weeks of effort.

The two examples may seem wildly different at first. In the first case, a psychologist ruled that the beeping of the cash-machine had resurrected a subconscious memory of his time in intensive care. When he was close to the counter and the beeping was loudest, his brain perceived the threat and attempted to prepare him for physical danger by inducing a panic attack (the flight or fight response).

As we can see the pain and anxiety were caused by subconscious fears. While the second example may seem conscious, the mechanism is essentially the same. It is easy to see why removing an unwanted series of memory triggers is difficult, simply because they are subconscious and we may feel like we are unable to control them. Don't let anyone tell you this is easy! But having understood that the sadness comes not from loss, but from within, it becomes digestible and the road to resurrection is within walking distance. Read on.

Getting Over It

Be realistic. You are not going to shed all traces of your ex relationship from one day to another. If we reflect back on why attention, treats, nights-out and exercise are such popular methods of post-breakup revivial, it is simply because they offer you the ability to:

  1. Reprogram your memory triggers - Hearing "the song" while you are having fun with your friends will go a long way in instructing your brain to review the effect it will have on you. Given time, it's meaning will change. This is a subconscious process, so don't actively try to achieve it, rather, make sure you are in places where it might occur.
  2. Have fun - I disagree with the idea that going out with friends is a distraction. Calling it this way suggests that your fun is only a temporary mask for an underlying canvas of pain and depression. Instead, remember that your fun is genuine and not at all relative to your previous state. Ultimately you alone are responsible for your own happiness.
  3. Build self-worth and confidence - An abrupt breakup can leave a feeling emptiness and worthlessness. Isolation only leads to a negative cycle of self-reinforcement. Remind yourself that what you are feeling has deep chemical roots and you are likely to overstate your guilt, fears or shortcomings. Aside from being active socially, accept that a passive healing process has begun, time and experience will dull the ache. Know it.

Down with the king

Remember to balance your memories!
Remember to balance your memories!

Was your breakup...

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Common Mistakes

Our thoughts are our worst enemy when it comes to healing. To many of us, it seems that a single thought or memory can wash away a week's worth of effort and progress. Cutting negative routines and cyclical pitfalls is an important part of finding peace. Avoid the following issues wherever possible:

  • No contact with your ex - Being relegated to a backseat driver in the life for someone you once drove for will sap your energy and morale. Stay away. Friendship will come naturally once you are free of any negative anchors.
  • They weren't that special - Every couple claims that their partner is special. It is both a subjective truth and part of love's intoxication. There is every chance that your ex was that special. But so is everyone else in their own way. As the video above claims, "this is why you will fall in love again". Remember to come back here and thank me when you do :)
  • "The good times" - Love, as you already know, is not an endless downhill. While you should not erase the good times you had together, balance them with the things you had to juggle and sacrifice. Build on them. Do things you couldn't, or missed out on.
  • It wasn't a waste of time - Don't let the feeling that time has tricked you. You have learned much about yourself, and have loved. You will benefit from that experience in your next relationship despite that being not very obvious in the present.

More help

If the pain is severe, then there are various psychological tools that can help you deal with the pain. The most accessible is neuro linguistic programming, a tool that has helped many "reprogram" their attitudes and anchors. For the record, professional NLP experts are popular solutions for the curing of many disorders such as phobias and depression.

I advise strongly against self-medication although we all know that anxiety drops, pills and other sedatives have found a strong consumer base, especially in the U.S. If you feel you need some temporary help in the form of medicine, you should consult a doctor (and not feel guilty about it!).

In closing, know how to make the best use of your social connections and stay active. Thank you very much for reading this article, I wish you the best of luck in your revival, please let me know how things are going in the comment section of this article!

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Comments 18 comments

Madison22 profile image

Madison22 6 years ago from NYC

Great hub! very informative and useful. Thank you for sharing with us.


thooghun profile image

thooghun 6 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Thank you Madison! It was a hard one to write if you know what I mean ;)


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

Very good hub and full of great information. I can relate to the panic attack when something triggers a memory because that happens to me at times. Nice job. Cheers.


Nady profile image

Nady 6 years ago from Toronto

Nice hub. you are very right especially this part "You are not going to shed all traces of your ex relationship from one day to another".

It needs time and strength.

For me now I like those memory triggers.they bring a smile with them.


thooghun profile image

thooghun 6 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Thank you Nady and ladyjane. As you say Nady, painful memories become positive ones with time, if you have the strength to overcome them. Which is enough reason why you shouldn't feel that you've wasted your time!

Thanks for stopping by!


Alissa Margaret 6 years ago

Brilliant hub! I wish that you had written this two years ago when I went through a particularly difficult break up as you have some great points for everyone to keep in mind.


Midtown Girl profile image

Midtown Girl 6 years ago from Right where I want to be!

You have provided many great tools to help with heartbreak. I hope they help many. There are no rules for break ups that work for everyone. Letting go is hard and painful no matter what we try to do. Sharing ideas starts the conversation.


Ladybythelake55 profile image

Ladybythelake55 6 years ago from I was Born in Bethesda, Maryland and I live in Chicago,IL

My break up is due to the loss of significant others. Every man that I have loved and loved me since 1995 has died and I feel very alone in this world. Although I am in another relationship it is ok. I still can't get over my loss. They were constantly there for me and they knew when I needed them. Now I am alone and If you ever heard the song, How Could I Ever Know, that is how I feel.

God Bless,

Karissa


thooghun profile image

thooghun 6 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Ladybythelake55, I'll make a point of listening to the song, thank you very much for taking the time to read the article. I am struck by your struggles and I am at a loss at what to say. So I will let it lie, since I freely admit I don't understand what you are experiencing.

I hope you find peace,

Thoog.


connie liang  6 years ago

my breakup was hard i saw summer school was dannypomeranz and chandlerlass kiss together didn't know what going on two of you are date make painful mistrable i am alone don't need men my life change move on totally forget so happy myself i am good work at nursing room fold towel and listen music very happy myself writing my diary everyday very help me better thank you people and friend stupid of advice be okay it was over and move on don't worry about me


Ian 5 years ago

Really struggle still after nearly a year, sadly my mind seems to trigger itself. I had a lot of mutual friends with my ex and their subjective comments and "you are better off" just makes it worse to the point I cannot be around them, THEY are more painful than any song or scent. I long for the the time when I feel balanced and the negative cycles my brain performs are a thing of the past. I still feel very emotionally connected to my ex and she is with someone else now (it was in the offing before we split). At times I long for her to experience the pain I have by being lied to and cheated by the woman who always told me we were soulmates. Will try some of these techniques, particularly NLP, think they may really help, thanks


Aviago1115 profile image

Aviago1115 5 years ago

great hub check mine out!


my bones profile image

my bones 5 years ago

Wow!!! Congratulations!! This has got to be one of the most helpful hub ever written. Honestly! As for me... I found this hub to be just what I needed; somewhat like medicine.

The part that hit home for me was the part where you said "Being relegated to a backseat driver in the life for someone you once drove for will sap your energy and morale". I thought I was "STRONG" when I decided to look on my ex's facebook only found a pictures of him with his new girlfriend kissing. That strength turned in severe pain/heartbreak just like in the beginning of the break up. I felt like I wanted to die and it was like starting all over again. I wont do that again!!!!

Thank you!! Thank you! and Thank you! for sharing your insite with us... May God keep on blessing and blessing you for helping others.


Sina 4 years ago

Simply the best piece of advise I read on this regard.afew minutes before reading this , i was completely miserable due to my break up which was a month ago . but now I feel and I know what should I do to move on .I feels right

many thanks


Zachary 4 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times over for all the help and support you have given me.Dr.(gbocotemple@yahoo.com) Things between Leah and I are wonderful, she is so loving and caring, it has been magical and I owe you so much for your help, support and products. When this all began it seemed like an impossible dream and knowing all the circumstances surrounding it...it was.


chelseacharleston profile image

chelseacharleston 4 years ago

Great advice. I love the comparison to PTSD. It's def a force to be reckoned with.


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

Great advice excellent hub...your advice is very sound...I use my writing to help me with lifes problems...I voted up and awesome..debbie


Ritambhara Om 4 years ago

nice

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