I said SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!
Ending a relationship is never fun, after being scorned, many find that the road to recovery involves a lot of sobbing, Facebook stalking, blog tailing and limited contact with the outside world. Why is it that withdrawal from a relationship can cause such extreme emotions and actions?
Well, researchers think it may be because we are actually addicted to love. A recent study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology shows that the same part of the brain is activated when someone feels rejected romantically as when someone is craving cocaine.
Researchers at Stony Brook University had 15 brokenhearted men look at a picture of the ex they had been obsessing over and then try to complete a math problem while researchers studied their brain activity. Then the same process was done over again, only this time using a photo of someone the subject knew, but not intimately.
The test showed that certain areas of the brain are much more active after seeing the image of the ex. These same active areas are also afire in cocaine addicts who are experiencing physical pain while going through withdrawal. The good news is, much like kicking a drug habit, the mental distress you experience trying to recover from a bad breakup eventually wears away with time. Looks like Ke$sha was on to something remotely intelligent with her song “Your Love is My Drug.” Emphasis on remotely.
I would have to say that if anyone ever figured out how to bottle the ability to achieve closure after a relationship ends, they would be rich and famous. As someone who has stumbled in finding closure a few times in my life, all I can say for sure is how it feels. It feels peaceful; it feels freeing, like taking a rock out of your shoe. It is the moment a chapter in the book of your life has been written, read, reread, and filed away for posterity. No matter what the situation, closure is a feeling that comes from within.
Sometimes you have the other person there to debrief with and that can be helpful, like when I met up with an ex years ago to compare notes on our relationship. It was an incredibly therapeutic experience that helped me close the door on the relationship once and for all. But let’s be honest, it hardly ever happens like that…
Most of the time, we are struggling alone. Whether it’s because the other person(s) is dead, unavailable, toxic, crazy, or just an ass (you know who you are) who we’ve decided doesn’t deserve to be in our life anymore. If we can’t have their input/thoughts/feelings/apologies, but we still need closure, how to proceed?
The un-sent letter. I dated a guy who suddenly stopped talking to me without any rhyme, reason, or warning. I later realized this was because he was an addict, but at the time, it was devastating. I knew I could and never would speak to him again. But I still had so much pain and anger pent up inside. I sat down at my desk and proceeded to write an epic letter telling him exactly what I thought of him. I wrote until there were no more words, broke 6 pencils and poked holes in the paper. Then I folded that sucker up, put it in an envelope, and locked it away in a drawer. It helped me let go just a little bit
Write it. Write a book about the demise of your relationship, sell it for a six-figure advance, and then have it turned into a show on HBO starring someone exceedingly attractive (and I mean go all out, because baby! You deserve it!). But seriously, even if you’re not a professional writer, write it anyway. A play, screenplay, short story can help you gain perspective on a situation, or even give you an opportunity to write a different ending (instead of having your ex meeting with an insidious and heinous fate, that once you achieve closure – you could change the ending to wear he is wearing a pink fluffy tutu entertaining kids at the zoo and HEY! It’s OK if you’re the only one who ever reads it. It’s worth it.
Weird-ass rituals. As a person who considers myself “spiritually eclectic” (I’ll explain some other time), I love performing weird-ass rituals that mean something only to me. I highly recommend printing out all the emails that the person ever sent you, lighting them on fire, and burying the ashes under your favorite tree. Or a voodoo doll to pass around at a party amongst your best girlfriends (thanks Tela) Or make up your own random ritual that is simpatico with your beliefs. The point is to try to lay the past to rest.
Art. Art! Art! Art! Paint it, collage it, cartoon it, photograph it. Make art about it. I have an entire sketchbook of awful collages and watercolor paintings that got me through college. No one will EVER see them, but I don’t care. If you are gifted in this way, I’m jealous!
Reflection. Ruminate on both the good and the bad of the relationship, so that you don’t: A) totally idealize it or B) reactively hate the person. The more clarity you have on a situation, the easier it will be to sort out your feelings and gain insight about the situation. This may even be helpful to do with a good friend (but you may make an enemy if you won’t shut up about it). If you’re a list person, a good old-fashioned pro-and-con should do the trick. Every time I break up with a dude or a friend, I write a list of all of the things I didn’t like about them and all of the things I learned about myself. Then I can refer to it in the future if need be.
Reclaiming. For Gawd’s Sake! Take the memories back! That Italian restaurant you both loved, your favorite dive bar or music venue, the bench you sat on to watch the sunset—do all the things you loved doing together on your own. Make new memories dammit…. But make them 10 times better!
Change of scenery. Sometimes the best way to get a fresh perspective on a life situation is to get away for a while. Go on a retreat/vacation, move to a new neighborhood, or just redecorate (a fresh coat of paint does wonders!). Get out of your bubble. When your environment changes so does your state of mind. New states of mind are conducive to change.
Forgiveness. This is so easy to say and so hard to do. Closure requires forgiveness either of yourself or others. Forgiveness takes time. And time is really the only way to heal from a major loss in your life. Unfortunately, time is something we have no control over. Yeah, that kind of sucks, but be patient with and kind to yourself. You never know when forgiveness will happen or exactly how long it will take, but sometimes you just wake up one day and that stupid rock has miraculously fallen out of your shoe. You may not know why or how, but it did. That is the moment that you’re ready to walk on. Only more comfortably.
So get off the crack! Quit snorting the cocaine and find your closure! And do everybody a huge favor and don’t contact your ex, leave them alone. They don’t like you, accept it.