The emotional pain that heartbreak evokes is excruciating. Nothing else matters, no one else matters. We can barely function, think, or move. We feel removed from everyone and alone in a haze of unreality, trapped in our shattered world. All we can see is the person who broke our heart, and all we can feel is terrible pain.
In his famous TED talk early this year which has gone viral, renowned New York Psychologist and faculty member of our Academy, Dr Guy Winch, stunned everyone when he explained that we cannot trust our mind when we have a broken heart. What we want most is for the pain to ease, to stop hurting so badly — but that is not what our mind wants. In this article he shares the 5 ways your mind tricks you after a break-up.
For those of you who prefer to watch or listen you will find the video below. For those who prefer the face-to-face multi-sensory experience, you can meet Dr Guy Winch at our Upgrade Your Life event. Details below.
5 ways your mind tricks you after a break-up.
To stop hurting, we need to reduce the amount of time we spend thinking about the person who broke our heart. We need to diminish their presence in our thoughts and our lives, slowly but surely. Our mind wants to do the opposite. Our mind wants us to think about the person all the time, to hold on to the pain and never forget who and what caused it.
Our mind wants this, because it is trying to “protect” us in the manner in which it typically does. If something causes us pain, like a hot stove, our mind’s job is to remind us not to touch that hot stove again, to make sure we remember how painful it was the first time. The more painful the experience, the more our mind will labour to make sure we don’t forget it, so we never make that “mistake” again. Given how excruciating heartbreak is, our mind will do everything it can to keep that pain fresh in our thoughts. As a result, our mind will trick us into thinking that …:
1. Our ex was the best, the one, the only one.
Our mind will try to remind us of our ex’s best qualities. Images of them at their best will pop into our head unbidden. However, this unbalanced, unrealistic, and idealized portrayal of the person who broke our heart will only make the pain we feel worse.
2. The relationship made us happy all the time.
No, it didn’t; no relationship does. There were plenty of frustrating, annoying, or hurtful moments, and we should recall those as well.
3. If we just text them or contact them, we will feel better.
The urge to text, message, call, or email will be very strong. But doing those things will only make us feel more desperate and needy, and hurt our self-esteem.
4. Talking about the breakup with all our friends will ease our pain.
No, it won’t. Talking about emotionally painful events is natural — even useful, if we do it in a problem-solving way, or if we do it to get emotional validation. But just going over the same details again and again will only make us feel worse.
5. We have to know exactly why the breakup occurred.
Having a clear understanding of why a breakup occurred is actually useful. However, few of us ever get a clear and honest explanation for such things. Trying to get into our ex’s head to understand why things didn’t work out is a rabbit hole. Better to settle on “they weren’t in love enough” or “we were not the right match.”
Watch Dr Guy Winch TED Talk
Dr Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, keynote speaker and author. His many books including latest How to Mend A Broken Heart have been translated into twenty languages, and his TED Talk Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid has been rated among the top 5 most inspirational TED Talks of all time on ted.com. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology from New York University in 1991 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in family and couples therapy at NYU Medical Centre.