Tips & How To's

A Guide to Building a New You After a Devastating Break Up

A Guide to Building a New You After a Devastating Break Up

The devastating pain of a failed relationship is perhaps the greatest suffering one will ever experience.

Enduring the pain and loss, changes how we deal with ourselves and the everyone else around us. It can be said that we are never the same person we were before we entered a failed relationship.

Yes, a broken heart truly changes someone.

While may go up and down, there’s just one way to go — forward. However, to move on is difficult, even seemingly impossible in some instances.

Worry not, that pain will pass.

Pain demands to be felt. So, feel it.

A favorite line from the movie “Fault in our Stars” sums the first step to mend that pain. Feel it.

Accept that it naturally comes with what you signed up for in the first place. Is it not a know truth the if you loved enough to be heartbroken, you have to experience some suffering?

When we lose something that mattered to us a lot, is is but natural to feel sad about it. That feeling of sadness is but part of the healing process. Pain, to put it differently, is just a reminder that we still care.

“We bleed just to know we’re alive.” –  Iris, Goo Goo Dolls

However, while pain demands to be felt, it demands to be felt wisely. Pain can become unhealthy when you never cease reliving your misery over and over and over again. This cycle of painful memories could lead you to repeat dysfunction patterns of behaviours, too. Pain now becomes your mental habit.

Here’s an example showing why making pain a habit detrimental to your well-being: You enter you room at night, and you switch on the light without thinking. That’s because it’s been your habit. Now, reminiscing your time with your ex over and over again would sooner or later and then feeling miserable afterwards will just be like switching on the light in your bedroom at night — a habit you do unconsciously.

Feel the pain, but keep in mind that you’re trying to let the pain in to confront it and get over it; not wallow and sulk and be miserable forever.

Break the connection and change your ways

It is undeniable that when we are with somebody we love, every memory, good or bad, is a memory we cherish.

Everything else around us becomes part of these memories – certain music, a scent (probably his or her perfume), a tree, a chair, a table, a couch, a chipped cup, or whatever. And, yes, it is painful to see anything that would remind us of the other person we used to love very dearly.

Revamp your daily activities. Try not to do the same exact routine you’ve been doing for the past months or years. Keep moving, try jogging in the morning because exercise is the single most effective therapy for depression (yes, not alcohol nor sex).

Doing everything differently will help you break those painful associations. Build a new environment for yourself (delete his/her number, change your shampoo, or your soap, whatever).

It’s time for a paradigm shift; change your thoughts!

Revamping your routine is not enough, a transformation of the habits of the thought is also necessary.

When we are in love, we create an almost magical idea of what the world looks like with you and your beloved partner at the focus of it. It is almost always a pattern of a fairytale like conflict-to-happily-ever-after plot.

And when the love affair suddenly ends, the world you so fondly created in your heads, too, collapses.

Then, you’ll spend the days henceforth thinking where you went wrong, or what’s so wrong with you, and sulk and cry and feel helpless and sorry.

Understand your situation. Look for similar cases around you. Widen your perspective (easier said than done, I know but you got to try!).

The reason why it’s too painful and overbearing oftentimes is that your thought is pegged at that particular frame — you and your lover’s unfortunate love affair.

Detach and look into your relationship from somebody else’s perspective.

Now, imagine you’re a movie star and this tragic event is you blockbuster debut film. Think of somebody you idolize, or care for about (other than your ex-lover; say your mom, sister, or brother) and think of how they’d react or comment about your film.

Step into their shoes and watch your own film. What can you say?

Try a neutral person, say an ordinary kid who does not know you, bought the ticket and watched your film. Step into his shoes and ask yourself, what would he say about this story?

Strong and resilient people never look at difficulties such as a heartbreak as tragedy, they look at it as a challenge. A chance to start over again — a clean slate.

Try to change the way you see him, and most especially, yourself.

The next stage is to focus on your mental picture of your lost love. By changing how you represent your ex in your mind, you can greatly reduce or even eliminate your distress.

You must learn to control your ‘visualisation’. Every single one of us makes pictures in our imagination – and we can all learn how to change the pictures. It is important to learn to do this, because our bodies react to what we imagine in the same way that they react to what is actually happening to us.

Memory and imagination affect our feelings in the same way as reality does.

We are constantly altering our state by the pictures we make in our imagination and the way we talk to ourselves. So it is vital to control those pictures and not let them run away with our feelings.

Do change the way you see your past.

  1. Answer the following question. Which side of your front door is the lock on? To answer, you have had to make a mental picture of the door. You have made a visualisation.
  2. Now try to imagine what your front door would look like if it was bright orange or had yellow stripes down it. Make it bigger. Move it away so that it is smaller. Move it further away and down a bit so you are looking down on it. Make it open. Change it in different ways.
  3. Think about your ex now. As soon as you remember what someone looks like, you are using visualisation. What is the expression on his or her face? Observe what your ex is wearing and what he or she is doing. Where do you see the picture of them? In front of you, or to the left or the right? Is it life size or smaller? Is it a movie or a still image? Is it solid or transparent? Now, as you keep that image in your mind’s eye, notice the feelings that arise. Make a note of those feelings.
  4. Now you could remember or imagine them differently. You can imagine you are a great film director. You can reshoot the scenes of your memory and imagination in any way you want. You can change the action, soundtrack, lighting, camera angles, framing, focus and speed. Change how you are visualising your ex and notice how it affects your feelings.
  5. Bring to mind the picture you had of your ex.
  6. Notice where it appears and how big it is.
  7. Now drain the colour out until it looks like an old black and white picture.
  8. Move the image further away until it is one-tenth of its original size.
  9. Shrink it even further, right down to a little black dot.
  10. Notice how your feelings have changed and compare how you feel now to the note you made earlier.

You will notice that some changes have a bigger effect than others. Images that are closer, bigger, brighter and more colourful have greater emotional intensity than those that are duller, smaller and further away.

Standing outside your memories and watching as if they were a movie helps you distance yourself from them.

Then, fall out of love. And for good.

Now you are ready to tackle the central problem using the visualisation technique. Part of being heartbroken is the fact that you still feel in love. It hurts because part of you is still attached to your ex. This exercise helps that piece of you release itself.

  1. List five occasions when you felt very in love with your ex. List them so you can easily call them to mind.
  2. Start with the first of those memories. Play with it. Move the image away from you so that you can see yourself in the picture. Make it small.
  3. Drain out the colour so it is black and white, then make it transparent. When you look at your memory like this, it will seem as if the event is happening to someone else, and the emotional intensity will be reduced still further. You are starting to re-code your memory.
  4. When you have finished re-coding the first memory, do the same for the next one. Work through them until you have done all five.
  5. Remember in detail five negative experiences with your ex-partner, where you felt very definitely put off by him or her. List the five experiences.
  6. Take the least appealing memory and fully return to that moment. Try to relive it.
  7. Now turn up the colour and the clarity. Make the memory as bright and clear as you can, and experience the feelings more and more strongly.
  8. Go through each of the other four negative memories of your ex-partner, and relive them. Carry on until even thinking about them puts you off.

When you think about the bad experiences again and again, the negative memories begin to join up so that there is no space between them for the feelings of love, yearning and regret.

Concentrate on the exercise and do it methodically. Some people have found that doing this just once makes them feel different. To make sure the effect sticks, do it every day for two weeks.

Understand your emotions. Confront them. Do not run away from them.

The next stage is to learn to understand your emotional reactions better. Your feelings of heartbreak are unlikely to disappear unless you cope with what they are trying to tell you.

An emotion is a bit like someone knocking on your door to deliver a message. If you don’t answer, it keeps knocking until you do open up.

Opening the door to your feelings means learning to understand them. This can be hard, because heartbreak is complicated by other feelings: anger, fear and shame.

Believe that you will find love again. There’s something reassuring about believing.

You could fall into the trap of remaining convinced that your ex is the only person you could ever love. This is unlikely to be true on a planet with six billion people.

So why do you believe it? Can it be because you are desperately trying to avoid accepting that the relationship is over? Or are you afraid that the bad feelings associated with heartbreak will never go away?

That fear makes you anxious, and keeps you feeling bad for longer. The burden of your heartbreak has grown heavier, and a vicious circle has been established.

Living Happily After the Break Up

A good way of giving yourself a boost – and coping with complicated feelings – is to imagine a bright future.

  1. Imagine the future as a corridor in front of you. Imagine walking down it, away from the present, towards a door.
  2. Open the door, and see beyond it a world in which you have recovered from your heartbreaking relationship.
  3. See what you look like, what you are wearing, where you are going, whom you are seeing.
  4. Now step into this new world and into the new happy you. Imagine the whole experience from the inside, seeing what you would see, hearing what you would hear, and feeling how good and happy things are now.

It is not a matter of believing the image is real: just imagine it as vividly as possible.

In heartbreak, there is often a backlog of emotional learning to get through. Do one bit at a time. Your unconscious mind will protect you, and give you a rest so that you can deal with the next bit. You will learn to step out of the memories, leave them behind, and start a new life.


Adapted  from How To Mend Your Broken Heart by Paul McKenna and Hugh

Willbourn (Bantam Press, £7.99). ° 2003, Paul McKenna and Hugh Willbourn