How to Heal a Broken Heart - Part 1
Broken heart? Rejection? Failure? It Hurts (and Hurts, and Hurts)
If its heartbreak, it can be healed. I can help to you to help yourself mend your broken heart. I can help you to let go of hurt and learn to love again.
To fall in love is awfully simple, but to fall out of love is simply awful. Especially if you are the one who wanted the relationship to last. To stop loving is not an option. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful.
The trouble with the old saying that time heals everything, is that it takes... time! The heart wrenching feelings will pass when the time is right, but a little more quickly with a little help, and / or using proven therapeutic and self-help techniques.
We have all had our hearts broken. It was bound to happen to you sooner or later. Perhaps it was the loss of a person, a relationship, a career, or something else you treasured. But mostly it’s about the loss of love. When you are in pain you need to begin by making a decision. This decision is about how you want to use your pain. The first and sadly most common, and also very human reaction, is to use our pain to hurt someone.
We want to lash out and make someone else suffer as much as we are suffering. Perhaps you want revenge, using your pain as a weapon. Perhaps it is the person whom you blame for taking away your love that you want to punish. Perhaps it is the third person, that intruder who stole your friend, who is the first on your hit list of hurt. Or perhaps it is the one whom you loved and who betrayed you, who deceived you, rejected and abandoned you, that you want to hurt.
Decide How You Want Use Your Pain
Maybe you are using your pain to torture yourself, telling yourself that you’re not good enough, worthless, a failure. Are you punishing yourself, in a mistaken attempt to pay off some kind of guilt? Beating yourself up by nurturing a broken heart is really adding insult to injury. Perhaps you feel that if you are heartbroken enough, the intensity of the pain proves how real the love between you and your former partner was.
Maybe you are using your hurt as a form of emotional blackmail. Maybe you are hoping that if your ex sees how much you are hurting, they will come back and make it better. In the process you are forgetting all the ways in which that relationship was wrong or harmful to you. You are forgetting that if it’s a breakup, it means it was broken, even if you were not ready to admit it.
Perhaps holding on to your pain is a subconscious attempt to hold on to your love, or to resurrect the idol that your relationship was. An idol is anything or anyone outside of yourself that you make the source of your happiness, worth, and wholeness. Being broken-hearted is always a symptom of the fact that you are probably an idol-worshipper - that you seek happiness from outside of yourself, that you see the source of your happiness, and your unhappiness, outside of yourself.
A crucial insight toward healing your broken heart, is to realize that it is not what’s happening that is hurting you. What is hurting you is your thoughts about what’s happening. Nothing that happens can really hurt you. Only your own thoughts can hurt you. Please remember that you created the thoughts that made you love that person in the first place. That person didn’t force you to fall in love. You fell in love by weaving a whole network of brain cells, and they can and must be torn apart for you to live joyously without that person again.
The Healing Purpose of Pain
The most important decision you need to make is to decide to use your pain - not to destroy others, or yourself - but to destroy the thoughts that cause your grief. Properly used, the pain can also be used to destroy your erroneous thoughts about yourself and about love that caused you to choose a person who would hurt and leave you in the first place.
Emotional pain can be used to heal. Indeed, that is the purpose of pain. It’s a bit like chemotherapy. If you have cancer, the chemotherapy is definitely going to make you feel rotten, but that’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to destroy the cancer that might have killed you.
So, decide to use your emotional pain like chemotherapy - a chemical process in your body whose purpose is to kill off the network of thoughts in your brain that made you a worshipper of that idol.
Stop resisting and allow the pain to do its proper work. Begin to surrender, and simply to observe the wondrous - although painful - process by which nature re-organizes your brain cell networks and nervous system pathways in order to regain comfort and peace.
Stop Saying “NO!”
Emotional pain always means in essence that you are saying “NO!” You are saying “no” to what IS. You want things to be different from the way they are. But you can decide to join with the purpose of the pain; that is, to destroy those perspectives that cause you to say “no”, and to create new perspectives - perspectives that enable you to say “YES!”
If you say “no” to the pain, if you resist the process and purpose of pain, you are adding a “no” to a “no”, and you are making your pain much worse than necessary. That is what is meant by the saying that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. If you resist the pain, you are adding suffering to it.
The pain is trying to create a place in your mind where you accept what is. Acceptance of what is, is the healing, and brings you peace. Knowing this, is the beginning of your constructive and creative use of pain. Indeed, this is a way of making your pain sacred. It is using your pain not to try to change others, or the world, but using your pain to change your deepest mind. A broken heart is open, and able to accept new understandings, new perspectives on yourself, and on what you really need.
Even if you are not a Christian, Christ is a supreme example of how to use betrayal and pain as the gateway to transformation. You too, can decide to use your heartache to destroy the thoughts that no longer serve you. Decide to use your pain to destroy the old you, in order to become a new person, a person who is wiser, stronger, more courageous, more mature, balanced, creative, loving, self-loving and peaceful. And above all a person who makes better choices in love - choosing appropriate, available, and trustworthy people to love.
The Trouble with Heartbreak
The process of grief is usually divided into four stages. The first, denial, is where we try to reject what happened. In the second, we accept it, but still feel angry about it. In the third stage we acknowledge our sadness, and when we reach the fourth, we have accepted the loss and are able to look back and enjoy the happy memories we have.
The trouble with heartbreak, however, is that the natural process of grief does not always work properly. People can get stuck, repeating the same painful feelings over and over again. People have said that it is easier to recover when a loved one has died than it is if they have betrayed, rejected, and abandoned us, or worse, replaced us with another.
If a partner dies, the love we had is never questioned. But when a partner leaves us for someone else, it calls into question the love we had together. If we still live in the same town, it makes it all the more difficult to forget them and move on.
Every heartbreak is in some way a betrayal. It is the betrayal of the promise of love. It was a promise made in the past that was a commitment to the future. Our mind makes sense of our lives by relating the present to the past and the future. That is, by creating narratives. When your heart is broken, all that meaning is thrown up in the air. Your future is taken to pieces and your past is called into question. How can you have reached this point of heartbreak when you thought you loved each other?
With a broken heart, instead of heading toward a future we had planned and were looking forward to, we face the unknown. We feel desperate, because our mind is trying to make a meaning, any meaning, of an unknown future. It has changed our future and we don’t know how or when we’re going to feel better. The point is that right now, for a little while, it is well worth getting used to the unknown.
How Grief Heals
Grieving is a specific process by which we gradually let go of our attachment to the people (or places or things or even possibilities) we have lost. Grief happens one bit at a time. You feel bad for a while and then it stops. You feel fine, then you feel sad again. It is important to know that grief works like this, so that we are not frightened that it will carry on for ever. It won’t. It will stop. But while it does happen, it is important for your recovery.
We experience only as much sadness as is necessary for our feelings to adjust as far as they can at any time, then the feeling stops. When we have become used to that amount of change and loss, the unconscious lets us feel a bit more, and so on, until we have fully absorbed the significance of the loss. Don’t worry, I promise you can trust your subconscious to hold back the feelings you cannot yet deal with, and to only bring up as much of the pain as you are ready to deal with right now.
“Focusing,” developed by Eugene Gendlin is a wonderfully effective technique similar to Mindfulness Meditation, underpinned by research and the experiential reality that our problems actually exist in our physical body.
Your body-mind is a great and sacred mystery. It is a complex, life-maintaining system. The life-force in the body always tends in the direction of feeling better. The bad feeling is the body knowing and pushing towards what good would be.
Professor Gendlin correctly maintains that every bad feeling is potential energy toward a righter way of being if you give it space to move toward its rightness. The very existence of bad feelings within you is evidence that your body knows what is wrong and what is right. It must know what it would be like to feel perfect, or it would not evoke a sense of wrong.
While focusing on the physical process of the push from feeling bad to feeling good again - no matter how painful the sensations might be - you can relax and absolutely trust that there is no chance that your body will push you in the wrong direction. The sense of what is wrong carries with it, inseparably, a sense of the direction towards what is right.
Letting Go of the Illusion
One of the most horrible parts of heartbreak is the feeling of need of that person; the feeling of helplessness, abandonment, incompleteness, even desperation. It feels as though there is an immense void in your life which only one person can fill, and that person has gone. The painful feeling of neediness is actually a combination of two things; a fear and an attachment.
The fear is of aloneness, of being on your own and being solely responsible for yourself and your feelings. The other part of the neediness is attachment. The attachment is the identification with your ex. It is the sense that they are part of your existence. That person was part of your world, part of your future, part of your understanding of life, part of you.
You might feel sad and hurt, but guess what? Even though your heart is broken, you can still love yourself deeply and completely! Being heartbroken invites you to undertake the personal journey through the void of emptiness toward complete and profound self-love. The fact that our relationships never prove to be more evolved than the relationship we have with ourselves obliges us to embrace our own empty and unloved places, for what we do not know, or will not face about ourselves, is bound to show up and impair the relationship with those we say we love. Eventually developing the art of self-love may in fact be our best way of loving others.
Doing this work is especially difficult, for it may require us to relinquish our chief, perhaps unconscious, desire - namely to be taken care of by another. If we do not recognize this heavily charged desire, every relationship will sooner or later break under the burden of expectation, for no one can, or should, or will, take care of us.
Let us change that sentence... we have met the person who is charged with taking care of us, and that is the one person with whom we lived since the moment of birth, and with whom we alone journey toward death.