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Why it hurts a lot

Jesse Martin

June 02, 2016


In Why it hurts we learned that, essentially, a breakup is supposed to hurt. The pain we feel is Nature’s way of telling us that there is something here we need to avoid to improve our odds of survival.

That being said, the pain can also be utterly debilitating. It can completely paralyze us, disrupt our eating and sleeping patterns and remove all the joy from our lives.

Surely there can’t be any added benefit there for our survival, can there?

And what about those who suffer heartbreak over and over again? Are they not picking up on Nature’s lesson? Or is something else going on?

I seems that while most will suffer some degree of pain following a breakup, especially one they didn’t initiate, some suffer more than others.

What do those that suffer more have in common with one another?

I believe what they have in common is one or more older, unhealed wounds.

Those of us that are the most lost, the most hopeless and the most crushed after breaking up, have also been carrying the most pain with us from the past. Perhaps a difficult childhood, unavailable parents or an traumatic event.

Invariably it is the older wound, that we are unaware of, that gets re-opened when we are hurt again. This opens the floodgates to pain, past and present.

The severity of pain that we feel after the breakup is not the only indication that there may be underlying pain. How we relate to those we love is shaped by our experiences growing up. Pain, more than anything else, colors these experiences.

Loosely interpreting Professor Gabor Maté’s work on understanding drug addicts — addicts seek out drugs to self-medicate the pain they are feeling. It is often only through drugs that they are able to briefly escape the constant pressure of sadness that pushes down on them day after day.

I believe those that suffer the most after a breakup are also the ones that relied on the relationship, and their ex-girlfriend's, the most to help them escape past pain.

Much in the same way as the addiction assumes control of the addict’s life, the relationship assumes control over the dumpee’s.

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