A bad break-up can trigger an immediate brain-mind-body cascade of emotions, body sensations, and thoughts. It’s a significant experience that can keep you stuck for years, decades, or a lifetime.
But that doesn’t have to be your experience. You don’t have to suffer the ongoing emotional effects of a breakup, which include panic, sadness, grief, depression, rage, anger, resentments, guilt, and deep hurt.
You can heal your heart…if you know how to work with your brain.
What is heartbreak?
When you use the word “heartbreak,” you’re speaking in metaphoric language about an organ in the body most associated with love, the heart, and it’s symbolically breaking in two. But there’s another vital organ that has more to do with why you feel emotional or physiological pain and stuckness after a break-up.
It’s the brain.
Many people often believe their emotional pain comes from the stuff that happened. So they assume the pain is from the break-up and want the event to not have ever happened. With new scanning technologies, neuroscientists have looked at what happens in the brain as it relates to social loss. They have demonstrated that pain registers in the brain and activates the same circuits as a physical injury. This new information supports the possibility of using neuroscience to accelerate heartbreak resolution.
Using neuroscience to stop heartbreak pain replaces beliefs like:
- It takes a long time to let go and move on.
- You must take a significant length of time to grieve and to release the emotional pain.
- Forgiveness is required to heal your heart and move on.
- You need to understand why the break-up happened to have resolution.
While those are common views of what to do after heartbreak, they aren’t neuroscience views and may feed the emotional pain response, thus making it worse. In fact, analyzing yourself and/or asking others more “Why” questions can keep you stuck.
The good news is that you don’t need to know why the break-up happened to get resolution. But you may benefit from understanding your brain and how it processes information or data.
How to Heal Your Heartbreak
Here are seven ways you can heal your brain…so you feel like you have healed your heart. Indeed, you will have done just that.
- Stop talking about the break-up and your ex. More talking equals more data for your brain to process through working memory, leading to the potential for more heartbreak pain experiences.
- Stop analyzing. Self-analysis is particularly problematic, since it often makes you feel you are to blame. Ongoing analysis can promote greater attention on the causes for the break-up, leading to distorted meanings plus more data review that can produce more pain in the brain.
- Become aware. First train your brain to be more aware of what it has been doing with data about the ex or break-up. Welcome this new understanding of the brain processing and responding to data. And become more aware of heartbreak as a brain-based problem involving data processing.
- Name the pain. You don’t choose to have an emotion; it’s a normal, automatic brain response to any real or perceived loss of connection. Label the emotion to alter how the brain is processing and responding. When you name the emotion it tames and trains the brain’s emotional center so you feel less pain.
- Drop the “why.” Create a new relationship to your brain’s internal workings with data. Tune into the emotional pain response; don’t fight or avoid it. Next, figure out what, if anything, needs to be done by you right now about what your brain has been processing in terms of thought, memory, emotion, an external cue or trigger, etc.
- Divide and conquer. You’ll get skilled in interrupting the emotional pain response by tuning into what your brain has been doing and by naming the components it’s processing. Begin a brain-changing conversation with yourself by saying something like “this emotional pain, I feel right now, is just my brain processing internal data such as thoughts, emotions, memories, sensations, and/or cravings. Say to yourself, “It’s not me, but something my brain has been doing.”
- Deal with data only. Remember, for the brain, all that information is what it processes, and it’s doing so automatically, which is normal—just not optimal. It processes fast and is prone to timing errors. Processing thought or memory data could have your brain focusing too much on either past or future, which throws off timing mechanisms. And time orientation malfunctions get in the way of you being fully in the present moment, feeling calm, and focused on what’s possible and good for you to do right now.
Your Brain Holds the Key to Healing Heartbreak.
There are ways to use neuroscience to stop the painful past memories from haunting you and playing your brain. After all, heartbreak occurs in the brain even if it feels like it’s in the heart.
These play-the-brain tips train your awareness of internal data, which will help you transform heartbreak as you change your brain. Instead of being focus on what and why the break-up happened, you’re empowered with a brain-based view to alter and rewire the data impressions effects on you.
Healing doesn’t have to take a long time nor require great effort, the results you achieve by working with your brain—not your heart—can even set-up a rapid and painless resolution.
What are your thoughts and experiences with heartbreak?!
Dr. Elizabeth Michas is the founder and CEO of MindWorks Psychology, LLC which offers brain-based coaching and consulting as well as professional workshops and trainings for continuing education on Neuroscience to practice methods. She has developed an Emotional Pain Intervention (EPI)® framework which utilizes neuroscience breakthroughs and psychotherapy. She is the author of an upcoming book about heartbreak, stay tuned!