Amongst the top reasons that young adults come to me for psychotherapy, in recent times, is the ending of a relationship, or breakup. This seems to be a concern that is becoming more and more common, seemingly turning into an epidemic. And if we do not equip our young population to deal with this we will see a further increase in instances of depression.
As we are becoming more liberated as a society in matters of romance and partner selection, the experience of heartbreak is increasing in proportion. This is not to say that this is a negative development. People learn from trial and error. Unless you will not taste a few flavours of the Baskin Robbins ice cream you would not know which your favourite one is. It’s the same with partner selection. Each failed relationship makes one clearer about the characteristics of their compatible partner. In the days of old, people partnered up and accommodated their personalities according to their partners. Now we build our personalities first and then find a compatible partner. Which is better? I leave it to your opinion.
There are a lot of other concerns that we face but the emotional impact of this particular trauma becomes so overwhelming that we are led to visit the counsellor’s office. Some have even come in with suicidal ideations since the feelings are so painfully unbearable. What makes this pain so unbearable is that they are not able to discuss this with their families, and their friends with the best of their intentions merely tell them to ‘forget about it, ‘get over it etc. All very accurate suggestions, but unfortunately don’t work. Those feelings need to be properly expressed and processed. Suppressing them will cause long-term damage, like building trust issues or fear of becoming vulnerable to anyone ever again. In simple words, the person might find it difficult to connect with anyone again in the future.
Why are breakups so painful? I will write an article in the future discussing this at length, however, to briefly mention it. One is at their most vulnerable in the context of a romantic relationship. It could be said that it is the most intimate connection. It requires a great deal of trust and self-giving to be able to hand over the key to one’s emotional wellbeing to the hands of the other. In essence, we give the other person a huge amount of control over ourselves. Thus, a metaphorical cord gets connected between two individuals. And when this trust is breached and this cord is ruthlessly severed, it could very actually feel like the cutting off of a part of the body. Research suggests that actual physical pain is experienced as an outcome of heartbreak. But more on this later.
In this article, I want to talk specifically about the drop in self-worth and self-esteem after a ‘bad breakup’. The intrusive thoughts that come to mind on being rejected or ghosted or even after a mutual break up is “what’s wrong with me” “I am ugly” “I don’t deserve love” “I will never find love” “why do I always pick the wrong person”. There is often blame and anger for the other person, but mostly the negative thoughts are internalized. One also tends to wallow in self-pity during this time. Self-desirability and niceness, in general, are brought to question.
So, the question is, what should be done. First, we have to become skilled at the art of handling rejection. This applies on both personal and professional fronts because the experience of rejection is inevitable in life. Second, talk to someone, and get a third-person perspective. During a breakup period, you are most likely to see the reality in a skewed manner, with extreme thoughts and black and white thinking. You need a third person to show you the reality in a more realistic manner. Third, this is not the end of the world, you do not know what wonders the future holds. The overwhelming emotions of the present moment feel like doom and finalists. But you need to keep reminding yourself that “this too shall pass”. I have not known one person in my practice or personal life who has not successfully overcome a breakup and learnt valuable life lessons consequently.
Finally, and most importantly, see a therapist. No one can help you process your emotions in a better manner at the moment than a therapist. And these feelings do need to be addressed. We have been trained to handle such situations, and I can say with confidence that a lot of my clients who have come to me with this concern have found peace and relief.
Remember your heart never gets broken, it only gets wounded. And human mind and body have a miraculous capacity to heal themselves. Hence, your heart will most certainly become as good as new, soon.