Overcoming heartbreak? In the wake of a breakup, we obsess over what went wrong and search for an explanation that will satisfy us. But falling into this trap will only make it difficult, if not impossible, to heal a broken heart. Here’s why.
In his ted talk, How to Fix a Broken Heart, Guy Winch shares what he’s learned in his 20+ years as a psychologist. When it comes to breakups, he’s seen otherwise strong and resilient individuals “flounder” – all because they’re desperate for an explanation for what happened.
That’s because in order to move on and have closure, people think they need a clear reason for what happened. But Winch has observed that this isn’t really what people want. Because even when people are given a simple and honest explanation for the breakup, they reject it.
The reason for this is simple. The explanation people hear doesn’t match with the dramatic emotional pain they feel. Therefore, they create mysteries, conspiracy theories and obsess over what “really” happened. But this doesn’t provide much-needed closure. Instead, this search for answers acts like a debilitating addiction.
In his talk, Winch points out studies which show that the end of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in the brain associated with withdrawal from heroine, cocaine and opioids. Therefore, a person’s obsession with finding “answers” is not a way to heal, but a way to feed their addiction to lost love.
To end this destructive behavior, Winch offers a simple yet powerful tool:
First, he says you must stop searching for a better explanation because, “no rational will satisfy you.”
Then, to keep you from sliding back into memory lane, Winch suggests that you create a list of all the ways this person and relationship was wrong for you, and put it on your smartphone.
That way, when you start idealizing your ex, or get trapped in nostalgia, your list will remind you that your partner wasn’t perfect for you. It can also help to stop adding more pain to your heartbreak and give you an opportunity to heal and move on.