Beating Breakup Hurts Through Psychotherapy
By Carol Goh | Published on 23 May 2021
Why is breaking up so painful?
Every relationship has its moments of joy and happiness. It also has its moments of pain and suffering. When a relationship reaches a breaking point, it can be a very difficult experience.
Breaking up can be painful, especially when you give your all to the relationship in return for being told “we are not compatible” or “I have no more feelings for you.” That sets the stage for a barrage of questions infiltrating your mind:
- “Am I not good enough?”
- “What is wrong with me?”
- “What have I done to turn him/her off?”
- “What did I do that is wrong or not working?”
When the dust settles, such questions turn to beliefs and statements about you…
- “So, I am not good enough.”
- “I am not worthy.”
- “I am so lousy.”
- “It’s all my fault.”
- “I’m so ugly.”
At this point, the rejection can sting our soul to the innermost core of our being. It sends our identity into shock. All of a sudden, you start to question yourself to the very core:
- “Who am I?”
- “What I possess are all not good enough?”
- “Will I ever recover and find someone?”
- “Can I truly find someone who appreciates me and values me?”
Along with the feeling of rejection comes the hurt, anger and sadness. Often when the breakup is still raw, clients will start asking question such as “What can I do to heal?” My immediate response to them at this raw stage is to encourage them to just let it out and cry. They must be allowed to grieve over this loss of relationship.
If the feeling of rejection is not bad enough, the feeling of betrayal may also grab you. You will start to regard the other party as heartless as you have given so much in the relationship. The danger here is that the betrayal thought can suck whatever that is left of you. Anger will ensue, and you will cry foul feeling you have been unfairly treated.
If these negative emotions are not addressed, it will give rise to negative self-pronounced prophesies which eventually become pronouncements:
- “I will not be able to find a partner”
- “I will be doomed to be single for the rest of my life”
- “I am so hopeless and useless”
- “Everyone around me is better than me”
The negative beliefs and emotions will eat you up slowly. They can erode your confidence in life and your work or studies, causing you to lose hope and motivations to carry on. You see no more meaning to carry on living and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. The negative emotions can weigh you down so heavily that they can suffocate you.
I have counselled many broken-hearted clients, especially women, who are on the verge of breaking down. They just could not get themselves to function normally and are like dead spirits living in a forced-to-live human body.
Even if they get past the ‘dead’ stage and can get back to work or study, the scars remain to haunt them now and then. This is seen by their lack of confidence in themselves or becoming more possessive and controlling in new relationships. Having had the experience before, they are so fearful of being ditched again. Hence the constant need for assurance that they are wanted and is still in a relationship.
"The negative beliefs and emotions will eat you up slowly, erode your confidence in life and your work or studies, causing you to lose hope and motivations to carry on."
This fear drives their behaviour to become ‘unreasonable’ to their future partner such as checking their partner’s phone or demanding their partner to ‘report’ his or her whereabouts. It often results in their partner feeling controlled, bound without freedom, and feeling suffocated. Arguments and fights become frequent in the new relationship which inevitably point to another potential breakup.
If no closure is found for this hurt and rejection, it will constantly be festered inside your entire body for a very long time and often manifesting in a new relationship.
Psychotherapy intervention for relationship breakup
You need and must help yourself to stand up from this setback. Get started now. Tell yourself that you want to get well at all costs, no matter what.
1. The first thing to do when you are faced with a breakup is to give yourself time and space to grieve, to cry, to feel, and to accept the reality. However, it is good to give yourself a specified time each day to cry over this. You can start by giving yourself 30 minutes each day to reflect and cry. After a week, shorten it to 20 minutes each day. Keep shortening the crying time at your own pace.
2. Next, conduct an objective assessment of the past relationship, identifying what went right and wrong. It is advisable to do this with a qualified therapist who can guide you with the right questions. Honest evaluation allows you to have a balanced yet objective picture of yourself in this relationship. Retain what is good, what you have done well, and affirm yourself for that. In areas you think you might have fallen short of you and your ex’s expectations or even mistakes made, be brave to admit it and come to terms with it.
3. This stage will be effective only after you have grieved sufficiently and have accepted the fact of no return in the previous relationship. The focus in this stage is forgiveness and letting go. Practise forgiving the other party and also yourself. This is not a straightforward exercise. A trained therapist can facilitate your need to forgive using therapeutic techniques. A common technique used is for you to write your thoughts along the following lines:
- Thanking him/her for the beautiful memories
- State what he/she has done to cause you the hurt
- State what you have fallen short
- Specifically write: I forgive you
- Specifically write: I want to forgive myself and I want to release you from my life and I want to move on and end this chapter of my life
4. Start on your next journey which is to rebuild yourself after this aftermath that has wreaked havoc in your life. During the therapy sessions, techniques will be used to help you find closure and build confidence in yourself. Techniques such as EMDR, Schema, Gestalt will be employed to desensitize your hurt feelings slowly and build positive beliefs in you.
Do not be too eager to start a new relationship as you might set yourself up into another trap. This stage will take some time so go slow and just take one step at a time. Areas that you need to work on before entering a new relationship are:
In summary, you might need a trained relationship therapist to facilitate your recovery. If this is not your first relationship, your past hurting relationships might complicate recovery. The therapist will make use of various therapeutic tools to aid you in desensitising your emotions to facilitate faster recovery during the healing process.
You are valuable and deserve to lead a meaningful and joyous life that should not and must not be compromised. You are worthy as a treasured individual. You can look forward to a better future.
Your life can be renewed.
Client’s healing journey…
"Carol helped me to work with my emotions after my breakup. My emotions were out of control and I was overwhelmed to the point I really didn't know what to do about it and hated myself for it as it affected and hindered my daily routines and interaction with people. My overwhelmed emotions subsided, and I feel stronger about myself to understand my own worthiness and now still in the process to appreciate and love myself."
Female working adult
"I was in an abusive relationship but I could not get out of it as I did not feel loved and accepted by my parents. I was afraid of letting go of him even though he was physically abusive and even cheated on me. Even though I eventually broke up with him and had a new boyfriend, I could not rid myself of all the emotions from him. I felt insecure in my new relationship and was controlling. That caused many fights with my boyfriend. After the therapy, I was able to release all my pent-up anger and seek closure to this chapter of my life. I was able to put this person behind me and embrace positive relationships with my friends and my current boyfriend."
Female working adult
1. Should I Stay or Should I Go? By Lundy Bancroft
2. When Love Hurts by Jill Cory
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