Psychotherapy Perspectives

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How To Heal Your Broken Heart

By Margy Davis-Mintun, LCSW, ACSW

Please answer the following questions (true or false) to rate your coping after a break up. ( answers at the end of the article)

1. T F I had high expectations of my significant other and the person did not live up to my ideals.

2. T F I felt blindsighted by him/her leaving me.

3. T F I felt that I was in love until we became married, and then he/she was not the same person.

4. T F I feel the pain of being rejected by not only her/him and am re-living every rejection in my life.

5. T F I keep asking myself , what if……. and I seem to obsess about being dumped.

6. T F I will never allow myself to be hurt again and refuse to have another relationship.

7. T F I can’t stand to be alone and will quickly establish a new intimate relationship.

8. T F I don’t want to talk to anybody about this break up and I can handle it all myself.

9. T F Sometimes professional counseling and group work can help me map a strategy to heal my emotional wounds after this breakup.

10. T F I am basically a good person and will use this break-up to reflect on how I can make changes in my next relationship.

In relationships there is always the matter of coping with disappointment and loss. This begins in the early phase of relationship in which you meet someone and feel this instant connection. In the early phase of relationship we are enchanted with the illusion of who we believe we have met. We begin by having a relationship with our idealized version of our partner. Slowly over time we begin to replace the mental construction we’ve developed of who they are with the facts as they slowly build in the context of time together. This process of the early phase of relationship is very important as we slowly deconstruct our fantasy of our partner so that we can build a more authentic relationship with the person they are. Often relationships that move very fast can bypass this process and the relationship continues to be based on “fill in the blanks” that we have created, rather than based on who we actually are. The fact is that no one is a perfect match and each of us will have to come to terms with aspects of the other that are not to our liking.

Have you ever met someone, and you think you know who they are and then, as you get to know them, “they are not who I thought they were”. This is a common phenomenon in many relationships, including friendships. Taking time to get to know who you are dating and “falling in love with” allows you to more fully grasp the nuances and discover the gifts and the not so wonderful parts of who they are.

In short term relationships/marriages, often the discovery of your partner’s actual identity will create much conflict and ultimately terminate the relationship. This occurs because who they are is not really who you thought and as you begin to loose interest and hope, you disengage from the relationship.

The other important aspect of getting to know someone has to do with the bottom line of what compromises each of you is willing to make against your ideal version of who you want as a partner. Common interests, values, belief systems, and the ability to accept who they are become critical factors in relationships. Often there is a false belief that if you continue in the relationship you can change them so that you can tolerate the parts you don’t like. It can be very disillusioning when a partner either doesn’t change and/or you find yourself increasingly less tolerant of them. These are common factors that bring stress and frustration to relationships that end in breakups or divorce.

The focus of this discussion will be on the recovery process of a “broken heart” and hopefully help deter the “lonely heart” experience. One of the least emphasized aspects of relationships is the repair of oneself after a difficult and heart rendering end of relationship. It is common for individuals to experience a sense of failure, self criticism, rage, isolation, self righteousness and depression, just to name a few reactions to loss.
Grief is a time to allow oneself to begin to let go and mend from sorrow and loss. Within grief, the emotions are in an active state of change. Despair about being alone is a strong pull that can keep you in a very unhealthy state of trying to hold on and digging yourself deeper into depression. Sometimes there can be a belief that what you feel at the time a relationship ends will last forever. We tend to project this desperate feeling of loss into our entire future and overwhelm ourselves with a sense of urgency to fix everything right now. This can be seen in relationships that are “on again off again” as avoidance of the ending and the fear of never finding someone again. These endings can be very destructive to the couple as the only string that holds then together is the fear of ending and not the desire for the other.

So the first step in the break up is to allow yourself some time to sort out the decision to let go of the relationship, and/or the impact of the decision made by another to end the relationship. This allows you to review the factors that brought you to this point, and let yourself experience the feelings that emerge without taking action, just being in the moment of loss. This is not a time for action, rather a time for reflection. It may be that fear and anger flood you emotionally, which is a natural reaction to loss. The feeling of rejection and the angst of rejecting are also common powerful emotional responses to ending a relationship. These feelings of guilt, rage, and/or rejection can often cloud the process of allowing yourself to experience grief.

The healing process is not rapid, and often triggers other past losses and sorrow. As these feelings blend, the emotional response often intensifies and coping becomes more difficult.

For healing, it is important to reach out to loved ones, utilize your support systems, engage in physical activity, write in a personal journal and begin to understand what your part was in the breakdown of the relationship/marriage. We often come from hurt/anger and want to blame others; it’s easy to find fault in our partner. Another common response is to accept full blame and feel self loathing.

Healing and change come from being able to understand and discover our contribution to the relationship ending. This understanding enables us to grow and to make changes in behaviors that are destructive to our relationships. This allows us to feel empowered instead of hopeless about the future. If it’s all their fault, we are absolutely powerless and helpless. If we can claim our part, however, we have something to take hold of to become stronger and more capable in future relationships.

Support groups and therapeutic groups that address grief associated with the loss of a relationship create a structured environment for learning together how to cope with loss. This offers an opportunity to get feedback and to hear observations from others. We can learn from others’ experiences and minimize isolation within a positive environment which promotes growth and change.

Sometimes individual counseling in conjunction with group work provides added help as you cope with loss. This is particularly useful to address past triggers that often are surfaced in times of grief and loss.

Sometimes individuals want to give up on any possibility for future healthy relationships. Many close down emotionally, fearing they cannot ever succeed in relationships. Other times individuals will throw themselves into random relationships to avoid the pain of being alone and try to turn off the feelings of grief. Both of these methods of coping have little success in creating growth or change for positive future outcomes.

Choosing to be reflective, going slow with any new relationship with a long courtship phase, and joining either a therapeutic therapy group for “broken hearts” or a support group is important. Try to remember to “go slow” and do not succumb to extreme thinking of giving up on relationships or quickly moving into another intimate relationship. In mapping out your strategy, you may want to seek professional psychotherapy or counseling. (See other articles in Psychotherapy Perspective blog for assistance with seeking professional help)

****Answers to emotional I Q on relationships

1. true
2. true
3. true
4. true
5. true
6. true
7. true
8. false
9. true
10. true

If you answered one question true (or 8. false) you have awareness of your “broken heart” and, with reflection and help, can emotionally heal yourself.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home