Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Lorraine Green, MBACP (Reg)
14th February, 20140 Comments
The feelings experienced when a relationship ends can often seem overwhelming; i.e. sadness, loss, emptiness etc. Typically you find yourself re-living key moments; trying to make sense of why things went wrong. The end of a relationship can rupture your sense of self; you were once part of a couple and now you’re single. Everything about how you live your life has changed, and yet many things are functionally the same; i.e. school runs, work, grocery shopping etc. Dealing with the emotional fall-out can be devastatingly difficult, particularly if the emotional pain becomes chronic, making it difficult to move on. Why does this happen? There can be myriad of reasons, but the key issue is often our heads get stuck in a cycle of trying to make sense of what happened, or we simply can’t ‘let go’ of our identity as a ‘couple’. However the emotional upset we feel, 're-living key moments’ can also have a constructive purpose. Essentially, our mind will try to learn from our mistakes, and warns us not to make the same mistakes again; i.e. "don't go near that sort of man again" or "avoid women like her".
Neuroscience is adding new information about why we may become emotionally stuck. Brain scans have revealed parts of the brain which process physical pain also deal with emotional pain, and occasionally when we experience strong emotional pain, the body actually registers the sensation as if it were a physical pain. And in the same way, that physical injury can cause long-term chronic pain. The same can happen with emotional pain; it can become chronic and long lasting. Therefore, it’s no coincidence that it is often referred to as ‘heart break’ – because it actually feels like this is what is happening, we experience loss at a psychological and physical level.
But how do we begin to heal ourselves? Sorry for more clichés, but it is important to be kind to yourself, and not ‘beat yourself up’ about the past. When a relationship fails, remember it takes two to make a relationship work. It is useful to take stock, but don’t become overburdened with feelings of failure. It’s more constructive to perceive your new personal circumstance, as a new beginning.
First focus on the positive things your past relationship give you; rather than remain regretful of the time you spent in the relationship, as dwelling on all the things that went wrong will only continue to drag you down.
Reconnect with the person you are, outside of the relationship. Recognise and acknowledge the fear. You may feel frightened that you will not meet the right person and experience love again. You may feel frightened of making the same mistakes again. When these types of thoughts are re-playing in your head, it’s important to realise that you are probably experiencing a negative thought pattern, going round in a loop in your head. As a result you perceive everything in your life as doomed to fail. What’s probably happening is your ‘negative gremlins’ have hijacked your mind because you’re feeling vulnerable and destabilised. Overcoming heart break is a painful process, but there is a new beginning just waiting to happen.
Related articles from our experts
- Riding the divorce roller coaster
Catherine Cook BA (Hons), Couns. Dip., MBACP4th November, 2017
- Divorce after a long marriage
Beverley Brough (MBACP)29th October, 2017
- The secrets of how to cope with the end of a relationship
Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor21st September, 2017
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.