Love is a learned process. Unlearn the habit to stop the hurting after a break-up or a divorce. Dr Leow tells us how.
Breakups are awful. Divorces are worse. Both can feel like someone just ripped your beating heart out, placed it on the table, and repeatedly hammered it with a brick. And the amazing thing about human beings is that we are ever hopeful, and some of us have been through these excruciating heartbreaks countless times.
Experiencing the deep pain of no longer requited love, some of us end up buckling under the stress of rejection. We pine after the past and mourn every day for a relationship that no longer exists. There doesn’t seem to be an end, and time is passing just too slowly to be a distraction. We often come out of this with multiple personality and emotion disorders that we bring to the next relationship.
What should we do then?
Make yourself fall out of love.
Follow these 4 rules to heal a broken heart:
1. Understand what love is (or is not)
Falling in love is not a rational process. Everyone defines love differently, resulting in an uncountable number of definitions of what love is. It is an intense emotional and intuitive experience. A lot of it is magic and chemistry.
Yet, it can also be seen to be planned or reasoned. Falling in love is emotionally learned on many levels. Love is simply too individual and subjective to fit into any simple or objective definition.
Given this wide range of possibilities, the experience for a teenager whose sweetheart has moved away is different in many ways from the widower whose wife of forty years has just died.
2. Unlearn love
Since falling in love is emotionally learned, it has to be emotionally unlearned if you’re going to fall out of love. That is why you should stay away from insights, rational thinking and exploring the reasons you fell in love as they are all ineffective (ie: thinking about the past).
Just how many ways you love someone can be intriguing. However, knowing them will do little to help you to stop the pain of being in love with someone who does not love you.
Instead of struggling with the shadows of your past or trying to decide who’s to blame or why this or that happened, or even why you feel they way you do, try the following to get away from the old relationship and develop new ones:
3. Deal with the pain directly
In psychotherapy sessions, the first and the most important fact the therapist would ask the client is if he or she would like to stop the pain. Therapy would remind the client the critical way to stop the pain is not by talking about it or by looking for insights or finding insights.
It is by dealing with that pain in direct.
What you feel about someone is largely in response to the person – complex responses to the things they’ve done and said, to the way they look and feel, to the things you’ve done and said.
These are learned responses. You didn’t feel them before you knew what the person looked and felt like, before you’d conversed and did things together.
Over a period of time, those responses become deeply ingrained among the patterns of your mind. Constantly thinking about the person, constantly repeating fixed images of him or her can reinforce those images and make them stronger and more persistent.
Since love is a learned process, we need to unlearn to let our emotions become freed and only then be able to stop the pain.
With a determined mind, you won’t have to rely on wishful thinking (“if only, if only, if only”), the advice of friends or outsiders, random chance of inspiration, some insight or the slow passage of time. You can do it yourself – now.
4. Use the thought-stopping method (3 steps)
Thought-stopping is the first step takes you away from being in love; that is, it reduces the time you spend thinking about that person, and leaves you more time for yourself and other people.
Step 1: Define a specific goal
Try to observe the frequency when you think of the person. Then, control and instruct your mind to stop thinking about it immediately when you realise you’re thinking of your previous partner. This helps you reduce the frequency of thinking about the person you love.
Step 2: Silent ridicule
This step helps falling out of love easier by reducing the intensity of your thoughts about your ex.
We often idealise someone who can’t or won’t return to our love. Silent ridicule uses humour to erode that pedestal you have so kindly built for the person you love.
It is also an especially useful method if you have to see that person from time to time. You can achieve these steps by designing scenes in which the person you love ends up looking, acting and/or talking absurdly.
You should practise this often in your mind, evoking the scene three to five times a day, especially whenever you see, talk to or hear of that person – or when you feel yourself unconsciously putting them on a pedestal.
Step 3: Focus firm attention on yourself
You are vulnerable now as depression and doubt make poor companions.
Your own self-review can realistically improve with a little perspective, so focus on a series of positive exercises to help develop your strength to stand alone if you need to, along with the courage to meet other people and build bridges to new relationships.
The next step continues with desensitisation to deal with jealousy and rejection. This can be achieved with organic reconditioning, positive reinforcement, and many useful skills for developing warmth and intimacy with a new person.