Breakup and the obsession for closure
Relationship Self Help

Breakup and the obsession for closure

Break-up, a word that brings back memories. The good, the bad, and everything in between. You think of ‘what was… ‘, ‘what could have been… ‘ and how there’s nothing at the moment but grief. Breakup is such a phase of life that makes you look in the past, the present, and the future, all at the same time.

There are innumerable researches, studies, and articles on the topic of break up, thanks to which we are now better equipped to understand this otherwise puzzling situation.  We are still nowhere close to solving this puzzle and I don’t think we ever will because it affects everyone differently. What remains the same is the pain you feel. Another common dilemma everyone goes through is finding the answer to what went wrong. Whether the reason for the breakup is clear or not the obsession to look for answers is always there. You keep going through the time spent with your ex over and over again in your mind. You are stuck in a loop, splitting hairs trying to figure out why it went sideways. Weighed down by self-loathing, guilt, and resentment, all you look for is closure, but every time you reach there you refuse to believe it and start all over again. In reality, you are entrapped in your mind finding answers for the unimportant questions that don’t exist. This behavior is commonly called ‘ghost chasing’. You don’t actually do this because you want to know what really happened, or else in cases where the reason for the breakup is clearly stated by one partner, why would the other still not believe it and keep looking for closure? It is because love activates the same neural circuits of the brain as drugs like cocaine, heroin; and neurochemistry associated with the addiction(yeah, that feeling of “love drunk” actually exists). Some studies support this claim.

Guy Winch, a renowned clinical psychologist, and writer, in his book “How to fix a broken heart” writes, “when our heart is broken by romantic love or infatuation, our brain responds very similarly to the brains of addicts going through withdrawal from cocaine or heroin. We become intensely focused on the person who broke our heart (“the drug”) and feels intense cravings for them that are extremely difficult to banish, ignore, or soothe.”

We experience powerful symptoms of “withdrawal” like crying spells, loss of appetite and sleep, depression, irritability, and so on. What happens is when we are not able to get the ‘high’ of being with our partner(drug) we try to get our ‘fix’ by the way we can, in our mind. So we search for clues like there’s a mystery to be solved while in reality there isn’t one. We try to do so to get the small taste of what we crave badly i.e., being with that special one. We get a little amount of pleasure from sweet memories only to wake up to the harsh reality later.

Winning Your Mind Back

Trying to shut out the intruding thoughts and stop the temptation to delve into sweet memories is difficult but not impossible. All you need is a strong will to rehabilitate your mind to be able to move on.

Some of the things that can help are:-

» Try to give yourself a narrative of the breakup and stick to it. Every time you feel the need for closure just remind yourself of that narrative. After a while, your mind will stop trying to get one.

» Keep a conscious watch on your pattern of thought- from where it starts, when it derails, and write it down in a journal. It is important to break the pattern and stop your train of thought from derailing.

» Distract your mind from the intruding thoughts of the past. Do something you love, for example, painting, cooking, poetry, etc. Try to sublimate your emotions in art or your work.

» Try deep breathing and meditation when you feel overwhelmed by unwanted thoughts and also try to remain active physically (no matter how exhausted you feel).

» Fix a time to process your thoughts and do it at that time only. Vent out if it becomes overwhelming and slowly try to decrease this time so that you don’t become stuck. But the walk down memory lane could backfire and you may find yourself in the same spiral again. Distance yourself when recalling the painful experience as if it wasn’t your own. The fly on the wall effect can help i.e. observing your thoughts, emotions, and feelings from the perspective of a fly sitting on the wall.

You waste so much of our precious time and energy ruminating on memories, the time & energy that you should be using on personal growth by reflecting on your past to gain insights. Remember that no matter how much hard it looks to forget your past now and the future looks bleak but there is light at the end of the tunnel always. All you’ve to do is to keep moving on the path of healing.

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