You thought you knew pain but heartbreak has completely overwhelmed you. You can’t enjoy anything you enjoyed before. You want to start healing but you don’t know where to start and what to do. You just know you never want to get hurt like this again.
Eat, love & numb
Tackling pain is so difficult that most people avoid it by jumping into a hot new romance, or numb themselves with substances, food, work, exercise, or just by keeping busy. While this may blunt the pain, but if you have not taken the time to tackle the pain at its source it is likely that you will end up in a vicious pain cycle where you will date the same type of person with merely different names or date the right person but start seeing the same issues you were trying to avoid.
Paradox of pain
After a heartbreak, your natural defense mechanism builds necessary walls to protect you from getting hurt again. The paradox is that even though pain builds these walls, in order to feel deep love, joy, and fulfilment, in order to get out of the pain cycle, you must learn to drop the walls and try to love and trust again. It is very difficult to be vulnerable if the last time you opened up you had daggers thrown at your heart. However, if you can’t develop enough trust and safety to make this switch, you run the risk of staying in the pain cycle: You can’t succeed at relationships because you are worried about getting hurt, you get hurt because you can’t open up and give it your best shot, you get hurt so your defensive wall gets higher and stronger, perpetuating more pain and taking you away from love, joy, and fulfillment.
As you pick yourself off the floor and start learning to trust again, this time around you cannot rely on anyone who can hurt you again. The reality of life is that you cannot control anything or anyone but yourself. This means that the only place trust should come from is ‘you’. The minute you start relying on people and things to fill that void and feel safe, you will set them up for failure. For example, if you start relying on other people, your work, or your success for your happiness, these things will determine if you are happy or not. In order to feel safe, you may start controlling others which never works and will only hurt your relationships. This blocks joy, creates confusion and chaos and makes you feel like you are on a perpetual emotional roller coaster. Here is what you can do to stop this craziness and take charge of your healing.
Be kind to yourself
Be honest about your pain. You did get deeply hurt, so have compassion and take care of yourself as you would take care of a young child who is hurt. Ask yourself, ‘what can I do to help you right now?’ and then get up and do it. Treat yourself as you would treat a jilted friend. If you have a good support system, take their help, but be careful of people who start taking over. Don’t depend on anyone. If you want healing and empowerment, the main work has to come from you.
Unsubscribe from perfectionism
Embrace the reality that perfectionism is ‘fake news’. It’s unachievable because it’s not real. It only causes pain and confusion and it prevents you from tapping into your real self where all the guidance and answers lie. Know that you are the only one who can hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button.
The first person you have to forgive is yourself. Organize your thoughts by making a list of what you hold yourself responsible for (e.g.: “I can’t believe I didn’t realize she was cheating on me this whole time”). Replace this list with things you would say to a friend who was beating down on himself. Write down statements of forgiveness: “I forgive myself for not knowing she was cheating on me”, “I forgive myself for not being able to protect myself from this pain”.
Let the past go
As you start to head towards healing and start recognizing what you did wrong in the past, don’t sit in anger, shame, or regret. Know that you did the best you could at that time, that those behaviors probably saved you from doing something more harmful. Respectfully let them go by saying, “thank you for helping me, but I don’t need you anymore” and kindly keep them aside. If you don’t do this, the guilt and shame will not let you move on.
Take Out the Head-Trash:
The forgiveness list gave you a pretty good idea of the head trash you carry that keeps you in a negative spiral. Tune into your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself? How can you connect with yourself so that you can take control of your thoughts and feelings rather than the other way around? Louise Hay’s mirror work gets you there faster and deeper, here is how I use it to help my clients:
1. Don’t Should all over yourself
Write down a ‘should’s list’ that has all the little things that gnaw at you as you are going about your day. I should _________ (lose weight, be happier, get over it). Now change word ‘should’ to ‘could’: I could lose weight, I could be happier, I could get over it.
- Changes the mood of your self-talk.
- Takes the meanness of ‘should’ out, it discourages perfectionism and thus allows creative thinking.
- Calms you down enough to actually be able to tackle things on the list.
- Reminds you that it’s in your hands and there is no need to be mean about it, you’ll get to it when you can.
2. Don’t criticize yourself and accept compliments graciously
After all, how can you respect and trust someone you can’t feel compassion and value. If you find yourself being mean to yourself (“Of course I dropped this coffee on myself, I had to mess things up somehow”), apologize to yourself with the same sincerity that you would apologize to a friend if you said the same statements to her. If someone compliments you and you undermine it or even put yourself down, apologize to yourself the way you would if you interjected with negativity when a friend was getting a compliment.
3. Show up for yourself
You cannot start relying on someone without proof that they’ll be there for you when need them. The next time you feel hurt, instead of calling a friend, reach out to yourself. Go to the mirror and ask yourself ‘what is bothering you’, and talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend.
You will find that ‘you’ are someone you can rely on, because no matter what you’ll find ‘you’ are always there for you. Say things to yourself in the mirror that you would say to a friend “Don’t worry, I’ll be there for you, we’ll do this together”, “I am so proud of you” or “I’m sorry I doubted you”, “I can see that this is hurting you, you are not alone, I’ll always be here for you no matter what”. Statements you always want to hear, but for the first time you can actually count on them.
4. Why the mirror? It’s weird and uncomfortable
Most of us are visual learners. It is much easier for us to tap into our moments of pain, fear, joy, and pride when we have the ability to see our micro expressions in the mirror. It helps us treat ourselves with the same courtesy and compassion we usually reserve for others. This helps us become better friends with ourselves. Once you have done this work in the mirror a few times, you can recall the expressions and the compassion when you don’t have the mirror as well. If you can’t get over using the mirror, for now, just do the rest of the work until you can get to a point where you can face yourself.
As you take on the task of managing your pain, please remember that this process is not linear. You can have a few perfect, strong days, then have a terrible day where you feel completely broken as if you have not made any progress at all. Expect the bad days so that when one comes you can say ‘I was expecting some bad days and today is one of them’.
One day at time
As you head on your journey, even though the random appearance of the ‘bad day’ doesn’t go away, it’s frequency and intensity lessens.
The chaos heartbreak leaves behind is very difficult to come out of, and if not done right it can lead to a lifetime of unwanted consequences. Share this article with your therapist and they will be able to guide you out of this turmoil in a relatively short period of time. Don’t let other people’s presumptions about therapy keep you from getting all the help you need as you tackle possibly the biggest pain of your life.