Coping with heartbreak can be one of the most difficult things we face. The pain of loss can hit the center of our being. Initially, it’s usually necessary to fully feel the pain. Friends and loved ones can support us during the initial crisis. However, many of us nurse a broken heart for so long we may forget that moving on is a good idea.
Are you are stuck in a broken-hearted rut?
One way to know is by considering the content of your thoughts. Fixated thinking often has a repetitive, urgent quality; it won’t feel like a natural flow. Broken-hearted thoughts may reflect and repeat any or all of the following themes… I don’t understand… How can I make it right? How can I get him/her back? If I could only explain… I don’t want him/her back but I want him/her to want me back… If you find yourself wondering where these thoughts are coming from whether they’re serving you well, consider these tips:
Wear a rubber band around your wrist. Whenever you have an obsessive thought — snap it! You don’t have to snap hard, just enough to feel an irritating flick on your wrist that interrupts your thinking. For some people, noticing obsessive thoughts and associating them with a negative consequence can break the obsessive cycle. This technique is often used to help gain awareness of unconscious cravings and habits.
Another way to manage obsessive thinking is by surrendering to it. This is the first step in 12-step programs: recognizing you have a problem that is beyond your control. We often engage in compulsive thinking and feeling to try to manage a situation that feels overwhelming. Admitting you have no control and are overwhelmed can actually help you feel better.
Another expression of obsessive thinking involves expending energy trying to understand the situation from your ex’s point of view. This often occurs when their behavior has been confusing or unacceptable. By all means, if empathy releases insight that could change things, reach out to the person you broke up with. However, if you are continuously trying to entertain new points of view, ask yourself if this a way to truly reach acceptance and understanding, or is it holding you back from the pain of letting go and moving on?
Another way to disrupt obsessive thinking is to take time to state what you do want. You may start with, “I want to stop obsessing” but you ultimately want your goal to be something positive, not something you don’t want. It’s hard to aim toward a negative. Consider variations of “I think balanced thoughts,” “I am happy and healthy,” or “I am moving forward in my life.”
Taking the time to consider what you want can be as important as actually realizing what it is. If this activity is difficult, there may be significant reasons that keep you from moving on. There’s a good chance that your obsessive thinking is sparked by underlying issues for which holding onto the relationship feels like a good solution. A few sessions with a trusted therapist can help you sort this out so you can move forward.
Make a list of qualities of your ideal partner. This list will probably include qualities of your ex. But as you take time to focus on what you want, it will also become clear that this ideal partner has qualities your ex does not have. And they are important to you! Allow yourself to freely imagine. When you are able to replace obsessive thoughts of your ex with the voice and presence of your future partner, you are on your way past heartbreak and toward loving again.