“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…” — Nicholas Sparks
For Huffington Post by Joyce Marter, LCPC, Owner of Urban Balance Counseling.
Romantic love is mystical and magical — permeating every aspect of mind, body and spirit until you are completely consumed. The intensity of the attraction, the depths of the desire, and the power of the passion are simultaneously exhilarating, intoxicating and terrifying. Tremendous courage is a prerequisite for the awesome vulnerability of opening up your heart, body and soul for love.
When that love is not reciprocated or sustained, it can be devastatingly sad, like a death. Like a flower that yearns for the sun until it blossoms completely, until every last petal drops, heartbreak leaves you feeling turned inside out. Not having your love reciprocated or being rejected can trigger a grief response that mirrors a depressive episode. Symptoms may include difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, sadness, apathy, hopelessness and sometimes even loss of the will to live.
The heartbroken often struggle with feelings of powerlessness; frustration that it’s not within their control to make things the way they want. Many internalize the rejection of a break-up to mean that they are somehow not worthy, not capable of a sustaining relationship, or not lovable on a deeper level. This self-loathing can take root and cause a pessimistic view of the future, igniting panic and despair that love may never be found again.
Many people seek therapy to remedy a broken heart. In treatment, we try to understand and analyze our love relationships. Are we recreating old patterns? Filling a void? Addicted to love? Seeking ego validation? Dysfunctional? Delusional? Naive? Insane? Perhaps. Or maybe we are just human and subject to the forces of love.
Recovery from heartbreak is much like processing grief, so we go through the following stages:
- Denial (“This can’t be the end, I’m sure he will call.”)
- Anger (“I hate her.”)
- Bargaining (“Maybe if I behaved differently, it would work.”)
- Depression (“I never want to love again so I never feel this pain again.”)
- Acceptance (“It was. And now, it is over.”)
In my practice, I have counseled hundreds through the depths of the depression that accompanies heartbreak. I recommend the following: