I was surprised to read in an article that breaking up is like kicking a bad habit until I thought a bit more about it. It can be like giving up alcohol or your drug of choice, which in this case happens to be a him or a her. Unfortunately, the plethora of emotions that we feel after a break up can seriously dysregulate our nervous system and it makes sense that some people would re-regulate by making a beeline to the cookie jar.
In “Why a romantic breakup is like kicking a bad habit” by Danielle Braff (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/8/17, E18), Kinsey Institute researcher and author, Helen Fisher, describes love as “an addiction biologically designed so that we can mate successfully.” This makes sense when we recognize that many of our behaviors are dedicated to promoting evolution. She says that the same region of the brain that is connected to addiction “is activated when you’re rejected in love” and that “we’re all predisposed to love addiction” as “a basic mating drive.”
According to research, there are things we can do to make a break up (aka kicking the addiction) easier, including making “the pain go away faster.” These include “talking about the breakup with someone other than your ex from a distanced, calm, rational perspective.” She adds that this discussion “shouldn’t go on for weeks.” She advises that when you’ve said everything there is to say about the relationship and the breakup, to “stop mentioning your ex to anyone…like something that is to be forbidden at all costs…Don’t write, don’t call, don’t show up at various places, don’t ask friends what your ex is doing, don’t check him or her out on Facebook.” As an example, she says, “If you’re going to get rid of alcohol, don’t keep a bottle on your desk.”
Sad how we often do the opposite and talk incessantly about our ex. We’re even encouraged by therapists and friends to journal about our feelings which, University of Arizona researchers conclude, actually keeps the subject alive in our minds. This is especially true, they say, if a person insists on seeking meaning in the relationship or breakup. In fact, advises David Sbarra, University of Arizona psychology professor, journaling works against them by keeping fresh in our minds “the saga of their failed relationship, prolonging suffering,” instead of helping people move on.
What tactics do you employ after a breakup? Do you wallow in your pain and constantly strive to understand what happened? If so, that may be keeping you stuck and prevent you from returning to a more comfortable emotional state. Moreover, it may keep you so upset that it becomes harder and harder to keep away from hitting the cookie jar.