As a matchmaker, I meet people who are stuck in grief, holding onto the misery of a past break-up. That pain is real. Indeed, brain imaging has shown that the part of your brain that lights up when struck on the skin with a hot object is the same part that ignites when you’re shown a picture of an ex.
Sound extreme? The good news is that, as with a skin burn that recovers, emotional pain can also heal.
When a person is reminded of their ex, they experience a dopamine surge similar to that of a drug hit. As with addiction, often the best way to come off is to go cold turkey. Remove all reminders of your ex by getting rid of their belongings. Why not put a few key items in a box and put it away?
As you remove reminders, be mindful of your thought patterns. Instead of focusing on the distress, are you able to consider what didn’t work in the relationship?
How to speed up your emotional recovery
One way to rewire the brain and speed up your healing is to consider the benefits that came from a negative experience. Stefani Goerlich, a Detroit-based psychotherapist writes about how a gratitude app helped her to let go of post-break up rage.
By looking at triggering photos and finding the thing you’re thankful for in that picture, regardless of how big or small that aspect may be, you will begin to associate positive points with something that originally seemed bad. This enables you to reframe your experiences and thus rewire the brain.
Rewiring the brain
If you find the idea of looking at photos of your ex torturous, consider the science behind the process. Brains have natural neural plasticity, so the neural pathways can be reworked to create new connections. The subjects of the brain imaging study who were shown photos of their ex were given a placebo nasal spray which they were told would heal emotional pain. When they took the spray, the periaqueductal gray part of their brain that produces painkilling chemicals and dopamine began working. Your brain wants to protect you, and it will have already begun to heal.
The royal ‘We’
Being in a relationship means making compromises. It means thinking of someone else, and, inevitably, your identities become interlinked. If you break up, there might be some degree of ‘untangling’ needed. You are no longer a ‘we’, so you no longer need to enjoy the things they did, invest in their hobbies, or give brain space to what they require.
Once you have accepted the pain this thought might bring, it’s important to bring the focus back to you. Self-concept clarity is the notion of truly understanding yourself, as a unique individual. What are the core values you hold dear? Which belief systems do you honor? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
If you can work to increase your self-concept clarity, you will enjoy a speedier emotional recovery. But this must be intentional. Work with a focus to remember who you are outside of a relationship. What do you want? What do you enjoy doing? What makes you happy? Think of the possibilities now open to you. Write these down. As you write, you’ll create a new neural pathway and thus take another step toward emotional stability.
Rewiring and moving forward
If you are dealing with a tormenting break-up, hopefully these pointers will provide comfort. Look for the positives gained in the experience, then work on how you can move yourself forward. Once you have taken the time to rediscover who you are, there will come a time when you’re ready to move on to another relationship.
Yes, there’s the risk that things might not work out again, but there is also the possibility of joy. Falling in love is joyful, and this time around, that joy could be all-encompassing, life partner stuff.
If you’re ready to begin a new relationship, get in touch with Maclynn International. Our trusted matchmakers are here and ready to help you on the road to finding joy and long-lasting love.