Then the breakup happens. The love is unrequited. What happens to us then? The dopamine high has created an addiction to the other person. So, we have now become drug addicts without access to the drug. Our bodies are screaming out loud. Our bodies want the drug. But the drug is not available. There are only cheaper and much less effective drugs on the market (the other men or women out there).
Like the state of mind of drug addicts, this state of mind may drive us to do the unthinkable: Stalk the ex-lover, spend all day thinking about them, send them 200 text messages, beg them to come back.
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Like the drug addict without access to the drug, the effort we put into getting the ex back or trying to understand why they broke up with us rarely gives us what we want. You can’t make people love you by asking them to love you, and people do not always know exactly why they wanted to break up.
Without access to the drug, deep depression kicks in. The serotonin-levels drop lower than they already were during the “fun times”. The dopamine levels drop too. We now lack motivation to do anything at all. Everything feels meaningless.
What to do? To be honest, though most people recover from a bad breakup within a year, a few never fully recover. They learn to live with the memories and the pain. Like people in chronic pain, they learn to manage the pain, think less and less about it, distract themselves. So, while it is likely that you will recover from your breakup, you may never fully recover. There is no guarantee. This is something “love gurus” out there won’t tell you.
However, the emotional pain becomes more manageable if you can get your dopamine levels back up to normal or preferably slightly higher than normal. How can you do that?
Well, you need to search for something you are truly passionate about. If you are really depressed, you won’t be passionate about anything. But then you need to think back to the times before the relationship.
What were you truly passionate about? It may not be something you actually did at the time. But perhaps you can remember a course in college that really caught your attention or an article you read that got you thinking. Search for that thing that can make your blood boil.
For me, personally, writing has always been a passion. I know that if I feel down, I just have to write and write and write and then — like a miracle — I feel great.
When you find that one thing you are passionate about, your dopamine levels will go up. Your passion about your new hobby may occasionally feel like the passion you had for your lover. Once you become passionate about something else, you will be less likely to feel the emotional pain that is still there.
It takes time to get better after a breakup. You need to consciously redirect your attention and focus and sometimes almost literally push your thoughts of your former lover away. There is no miracle cure.
Dr. Brit and Catherine
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