If there is any experience that can connect not only the teens and adults of the 21 century but also all those who have/had loved, it is the breakup. We all love, and we all have experienced heartbreak. Those who haven’t suffered, they think it is just another emotional experience in our lives. But no, it’s rather atomic. The pain endured by a heart is also felt by the mind. It sinks into every atom of our body. Sleepless nights and empty stomach becomes a regular thing. But some people tend to sleep more to avoid remembering the person; eat more in an attempt to find happiness in food. All the time you spent with that one person just flashes in front of your eyes when awake. And no power can stop that.
Why does it hurt so much?
MRI (studies that show brain activity using scanners) tests have shown that the parts of the brain activated during a physical injury get enabled following a breakup. So it means that the brain processes a breakup similar to a physical injury.
A 2010 study found that the same brain regions (the Insula and Anterior Cingulate Cortex) lit up in people who were being burnt on their forearm and those who were shown pictures of their ex-partner. Another study showed that the brain releases opioids, natural painkillers of the brain reserved for times of physical pain when people feel rejected. This study was interesting as the people saw the faces of those that they had not even met before. They were shown dating profiles of strangers and asked who they liked. Then the researcher told them that their feelings were not mutual. This was when the brain released opioids. So, even though it was not a real rejection, the brain processed it like a physical injury and responded.
But it doesn’t mean that you feel the same pain during a breakup when you get injured. It merely means that rejection alerts your brain to a potential threat for your survival. This threat is at the same level as physical pain. So the brain alerts us about the threat and focuses our attention on it. It believes it will keep us safe by making us focus on what it considers to be a danger. The brain thinks it is helping us, but in reality, it is just making things worse. Hence, it is no wonder that breakups suck. Now you know that it is not only processed emotionally but also mentally.
What do you go through?
It’s not that the breakup hurts only when someone has left you. There are some circumstances when you have to leave someone either for yourself or for some higher priority. So a breakup hurts in either case. Our minds and bodies react differently to this painful experience. But there are some stages we all face in order to live a happy life again.
1. Shock and Denial- The fact that someone has just left you, it leaves you in shock. A natural thought that crosses our mind when we find someone special; what if they are gone someday. And when your worst nightmare comes true, it’s hard to accept that it has happened. You refuse to accept the reality because you never thought you would have to deal with this, ever.
2. False Hopes- As the mind is not able to cope up with the situation, we give ourselves a false hope. A hope that they will come back. A belief that we can go back to that person. We try to fill the void in our life with such false hopes. It leads us to do things that will make these false hopes a reality. This makes the situation worse. But it’s a human tendency to not give up on what you had.
3. Anger- You get frustrated from the present. In your mind, somewhere you still live in the past. Thus, you become angry at those around you. You just lash out at the people who care about you. It’s because the person whose care you want is not around anymore.
4. Depression- There comes a time when you get frustrated with what you have become. You see that you are hurting yourself and your loved ones. You slowly realize that this is not you. This is not the kind of person you want to be. But you have become that now. So you just stop. Time never stops for anyone. You stop your life. You stop living. Earlier, even though you felt anger, you were feeling something. But now, it’s just emptiness.
5. Acceptance- This is the moment when you finally give in and surrender to the truth. You begin to accept the void formed by the absence of someone. You are now comfortable with the idea of being with yourself. You start to live again, slowly.
6. True hope- Finally, after fighting so many battles against yourself, you see the light at the end of your tunnel. You begin to see yourself. You start putting back your broken pieces together, turning yourself into a masterpiece.
It is not necessary that one goes through these stages in order. One can go round these phases in circles. But what matters is to come out of the loop. And it becomes really hard to do that once you have lost yourself. After a breakup, a part of you is snatched away from you. As painful as it sounds, it is as hard to deal with.
What can you do?
1. Involve in physical activities like running, cycling or join a gym. It allows you to release your frustration and put it into something that benefits you.
2. Give time to yourself. You cannot recover from a breakup in a day. It does not matter how long it takes for you to recover emotionally. But mentally, you need to strengthen yourself so that you can focus on your studies or job or whatever you are doing in life.
3. Spend time with people who make you feel you. Even if you want to be alone, then write down your emotions. It will help you to figure out yourself, more than anyone else.
4. You will begin to doubt yourself. You will criticize your body or skills, whatever you thought you were good at. But don’t fall for it. Talk to yourself. Stand up right in front of the mirror and face everything.
5. Don’t enter into any other relationship, until you are sure that you are ready for it mentally and emotionally. Even if there is the slightest uncertainty, talk to the person and to yourself.
We live in a world where love and breakups are becoming a trend. But it does not make them less impactful on our lives and essentially, mind. Breakups suck, and you might think that there is no way out of it. You will feel like drowning, but it is only in these bad times that you learn to swim. You learn about life. You become stronger when you snap out of it. And that is what matters at the end.