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In Regard to Coping with Heartbreak

There is a lot of advice out there on the internet, unsurprisingly, much of which may be less than helpful. There are even those, I perceive as con-artists, who will try to cash-in by charging you substantial amounts of money for “tools” to help you get over a break-up. If paying an inordinate amount of money for workshops, DVDs, and counseling seems helpful to you it is your choice but for many of us this is probably not necessary.

I've found that, as distracting as it may be, there is a lot of internal dialog that needs to go on between the heart and mind after a break-up. The only way, I believe, to successfully move on in a healthy way is to be 100% honest with yourself. This the only website I've found so far that, I think, is quite helpful: http://mindfulconstruct.com/2010/11/12/the-only-way-to-get-over-heartbreak/

The long and short of it is that you have “just gotta deal with it.” You have to keep meeting your daily responsibilities but you can't simply ignore what you are feeling. If you do you may miss out on important information about yourself. Allowing yourself to examine every aspect of what you are feeling and what it might mean can have the following benefits.

Benefits of Coping

1. You will be better able to avoid some unhealthy relationships in the future. This is not a guarantee of avoiding problem relationships but it can help.

2. You will be able to accept the risk of a future relationship despite the hazards. If you don't properly deal with your heartbreak you may be afraid of getting involved even with someone truly worth it.

3. You will be able to own up to your part in the doomed relationship which can help you with any future relationship. Again, honestly, you had your part in it. Some of your mistakes may be in getting into it in the first place as, in many cases, there were surely some signs it wasn't a good idea. Even if this is true you probably made some mistakes during the relationship whether or not you should have gone into it originally.

4. You can learn to be happy with yourself with or without a partner. If you rely on others for your happiness you are a victim and you will be victimized by your own attitude again and again. You may find that helping others is the only way to be happy but if you’re enabling abusive or neglectful behavior you aren't helping others but hurting them.

There are probably other benefits to properly examining what your heart is trying to tell you as well but those four are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There is no quick-fix and if there was we would miss out on an important learning opportunity. The real trick, if there is one, is in turning the crisis into an opportunity to grow so to become more of the person that you want to be.

Advice

There is a pervasive notion that dealing with any loss has what are commonly known as Five Stages. Stages is probably not the best word to use though. There is no neat and tidy progression from one to the other. You will probably cycle through them and even jump from one state of mind to another quite often.

That having been said, the Five Aspects, as they may be more accurately termed, are real despite some attempts to discount them with dubious studies. Here are some additional information and tips to help you cope with each aspect. These are observations from my own experience. They should be helpful to most people.

Five Aspects

1. Denial.

A life-changing crisis carries with it enormous sometimes debilitating pain. Denial is a state of shock that protects us from the full force of emotion we aren't ready to cope with. The mind's capacity for ignoring reality is astounding but will wear off.

2. Anger.

Anger can be a pretty nasty stage. You will misdirect your anger. It is important to keep your wits about you and make sure you aren't being too destructive to yourself, your life, or others. You may have to vent some of this energy by punching a punching bag, running, screaming into a pillow, or writing an angry letter. You may snap at people who are blameless if you aren't careful and I've even seen some people get physically violent to the point where they will assault people or damage property.

Writing an angry letter is a great outlet but DO NOT SEND IT. You may even want to burn it. Writing it on flash paper will maximize its dispose-ability. I made the mistake of composing an angry text message once. I had no intention of sending it but accidentally tapped the send button. Handwriting a letter or using an offline word-processor will prevent this sort of error.

3. Bargaining.

This aspect of grief can really complicate things. You may even try to make the relationship work again if given the opportunity. It is crucial to be honest with yourself. There may be a way of salvaging the relationship or you may be setting yourself, your ex up for failure. Remember that your relationship problems may affect others around you as well.

You may be tempted to send late-night text messages to your ex in this state. I'm not saying don't do this but I will say that it can end up making you look really pathetic which, if you are a man, is rarely a good idea. If you are the one who did the breaking up you may just be prolonging the agony for both parties. You will have to be very careful to search your feelings and analyze the circumstances which contributed to the breakup. Try to be realistic before concluding it can be salvaged.

4. Pain.

Many people call this grief. I call it pain; excruciating emotional pain. If it's a major life-changing loss I will feel it, quite literally, in my heart as a crushing clamping strife. This is the full impact denial was protecting you from until you were ready. You have probably slipped back into denial several times as a coping mechanism.

5. Acceptance.

It may sound great but it doesn't necessarily mean you're okay with your loss. All acceptance means, in this context, is that you're ready to refocus your energy toward other aspects of your life. Oftentimes, you will tell yourself you have achieved acceptance but you probably haven't; you're probably just slipping back into a form of denial.

Tips

  • Be Pathetic

Some suggest throwing yourself a one or two week pity party. This isn't terrible advice but who can afford to act like a selfish twit for weeks on end? You have to let yourself experience the emotions and you will have to take time out to go over everything in your head; otherwise you will learn nothing and may suffer longer.

  • Help Others

Helping others will make you feel good and the positive energy will help you heal. I found that I was experiencing so much emotional pain I couldn't focus on anything but the pain. It was so intense that I was desperate to alleviate it. I wrote this article. The mere possibility this might assist another, even in a small way, is nice.

  • Take an Analgesic

A recent study suggests emotional pain is virtually identical to physical pain. Some believe that many of the same methods for bodily discomfort can help. I would never recommend a pharmaceutical but there are plenty of more natural ways of easing pain. Exorcise, such as taking a brisk walk, releases natural endorphins. A hot cup of herbal tea may be nice.

  • Examine your Thoughts

We all know the Star Wars quote by Obi Wan Kenobe, “Be mindful of your thoughts; they betray you.” It is important to be very honest when exploring your thoughts and emotions. The need to be honest with yourself cannot be stressed enough; it will make the difference between making this a learning and growing experience or nothing more than a destructive event that threatens to damage you in ways which may prevent you from becoming the person you want to be. Take a personal inventory and incorporate what you've learned into your being.

Don'ts

  • Don't try to copulate your way out of the crisis. This means don't try to use sex or a rebound relationship in an attempt to get over the other person. This is self-destructive behavior which is libel to cause even more problems, possibly much bigger problems. I understand this is tempting. I try to fool myself into thinking a fling or rebound would be acceptable: it isn't.
  • Don't use alcohol or drugs. Many people will ignore this advice at their own peril. I don't even recommend cannabis which might seem benign. You may have enough difficulty taking the time to grieve while handling your life's responsibilities. If you have done other drugs or drink to get drunk this is a huge relapse danger period. The damage you will bring into your life can be extreme. Talk to people. Pray. Avoid being alone and make sure the people around you don't drink or do drugs. Do whatever you have to do but don't get drunk or do drugs.
  • Don't try to run away from your feelings. The previous “don'ts” are only two examples of avoidance. Some people may try to focus only on their work, which works out for me because I can write things like this, but often this is another attempt at avoidance. You will have to deal with the crisis at some point and burying it may create more damage.

That's All Folks

That is about all that I can think of at the moment. I trust this will benefit. Keep in mind I'm not claiming to be a credentialed mental health expert. As much as people are all the same they can also be quite different. What works for one may not be as effective for others but I have found this is how I have to cope. It's not easy dealing with any great loss but if you can make sure you are overcoming your attachment issues you won't become a victim of them.

Psychology | How To


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