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How to get over someone and move on from a breakup

By Harriet Piercy

Aug 30, 2020

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Have you reached that point of despair, where you just can’t kick a former (or never) lover out of your head, or heart—without sounding too cringe? We’ve been there, and it’s not fun. What exactly makes it so hard to move on? And what can you do to make it easier?

How to move on

First of all, do yourself a favour and acknowledge that it’s a pretty rubbish feeling, universally. Because when love is good, it’s really good, and it feels like it’s never going to end. Because why would you invest yourself into something you know will end anyway, right? You want to go for it with all guns blazing, and you want to really love, hard. So when that love suddenly leaves, you have a hole to fill. But the thing is, you don’t—you were whole before and you’re still whole now. The illusion of a hole just needs a little attention, and all you have to do is say ‘hey there, I see you, I feel you and it’s gonna be okay’. Once you’ve acknowledged its presence it wont fight for your attention anymore.

Ways to deal with a breakup

There’s a lot of research out there on how to force yourself to fall out of love, we are not our thoughts unless we let them control us. One researcher, biological anthropologist and TED talk speaker Helen Fisher told NPR that she used a technique called ‘neurofeedback’, which measures brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG) and turns them into visual or audio tones. This essentially means that when you can see or hear what’s going on in your brain, you can effectively train the thoughts that go through it. You can spot those pesky visions that pop up of your ex, and shoo them away.

Fisher observed that by “Understanding how we fall in love on a physiological level doesn’t necessarily mean we can control it, but it does mean we may be able to influence it.”

In her research, she found that when people looked at a picture of the person they love, the hypothalamus was pumping out dopamine. Fisher explains that “at the base of the brain, where your instincts and drives are: hunger, thirst, lust” is the hypothalamus—what Fisher calls the brain’s “dopamine factory.”

“Dopamine is linked with feelings of elation, mood swings, cravings, and obsessive thinking,” she says. “These are all basic traits of romantic love. When you start to fall for someone, everything about them is special. The house they live in, the street they live on, it’s all special to you. They’re dopamine triggers.” So when you break up, little reminders of the person you loved trigger the same dopamine reaction of when you were in love, which makes it harder to move on.

Fisher’s conclusion is that by recognising the patterns your brain is habitual to means that you can force it to focus on other things. Basically, you can fill that illusion of a hole by distracting yourself. Not just by filling your social calendar or picking up a new hobby, but when you find yourself thinking about your ex, recognise it and stop yourself immediately by doing something that requires your concentration. That can be anything, even something mindless—the feeling won’t last forever. Fisher also says that “the attachment eventually reduces. Time does heal the brain.”

If you can’t imminently get enough control over your thoughts (like most of us) use the tech age to your advantage, do what Fisher tells us to do in our brains but instead do it with your external influencers. Social media babe, block the heartache. You don’t need to see what they’re doing.

Another thing to do when getting over an ex, is to remove the blinkers—don’t kid yourself. We too easily remember the good stuff, and ignore the bad, which is why we usually end up pining over a perfect match that in reality, was just not. Allow yourself to see the full picture. That charming, goodlooking, funny, sex pot must have some other sides to them too.

Remind yourself that what’s good for you, sticks with you. If it’s not sticking around, then they just aren’t the right person for you—as much as you wanted them to be, it’s okay that they’re not. Don’t fight it, that just gets in the way of welcoming other good loves. Lose some and win some.

Which brings me to the final phase of moving on, let someone else love you. Let it all begin again, breakups are inevitable, but each time they happen—think of it as the last time, then one day it will be.