Putting together two bits of research gives us a fascinating alternative explanation for why we can feel so bad at the end of a relationship – and a different route out of our pain.
In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers looked at the brain activity of people who were still in love with someone who had recently left them whilst they looked at photographs of people they knew along with pictures of their ex. MRI scans showed that when they looked at pictures of their exes, the parts and neural pathways of their brain linked with love and happiness lit up – as did those linked with cravings, addiction and the upset we feel when we have been physically hurt.
This study shows that we really can cross over from love to addiction. That means that part of the psychological pain that we feel when someone we love leaves is us actually battling with the addiction itself rather than the loss of them. I would add that from a quantum perspective, the pain we feel is also in part because when we are close to people on an emotional, psychic and physical level, our energy literally gets tangled up with theirs. That means what we are dealing with when they leave is also a shock to our energetic system.
Along with this, a classic psychological study done years ago by Schachter and Singer showed that if people didn’t know why they started to feel different as a result of being given a shot of adrenaline, they looked for something around them to explain the changes they felt. That led Schacter and Singer to conclude that our emotions have two parts; how we actually physically feel and the meaning we make of them.
So what does all of this mean? I think it suggests that if we cross over from love to addiction in terms of the way our neural pathways are working, that is undoubtedly going to make the ending of a relationship much harder, as is the sudden shock to our energetic system. But without being able to understand that what we are actually battling is the way our neural pathways are firing, we are going to look for reasons as to why we feel so bad that mean we could be tempted to start telling ourselves what amount to stories. We might start telling ourselves how amazing our ex was, how we could never love anyone else and how we’re never going to find love again.
The good news is that when we know that part of what we are actually dealing with at the end of a relationship is what amounts to a physiological response, we are in a much stronger position to be able to challenge any ideas about how we have just lost the one true love of our life.
What can we do?
1/If you’re feeling devastated at the end of a relationship understand that along with anything else, understand that you may be actually dealing with the neurology of addiction as well as the psychic separation of energy and anything practical that you have to sort out.
2/Take extra care of yourself on every level; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Even if you want to curl up into a ball and wait for the end of the world, exercise every day, eat well, connect with people who love you just as you are, get massages if you can and cuddles if you can’t. This will nurture you spiritually and also at a physiological level.
3/Gently challenge any thoughts you might find yourself mulling over along the lines of ‘I’ll never find anyone like them again’ and really avoid beating yourself if they left you. Know that whatever you tell yourself about what happened and what it meant is going to change over time. Replace any disempowering thoughts with a more realistic assessment of what you’re going through along the lines of, ‘I might be going through a tough time right now but I’m going to get through it.’
4/Give yourself something to look forward to – particularly something that you might not have been able to do whilst you were with the person who is now your ex. Sign up for a course, book a holiday, or do something that absorbs all of your time and attention.
The study published in the Journal of Neuropsychology also shows that the activity in the pathways related to craving, addiction and upset do fade over time. That means that whatever you are going through, you really can say to yourself ‘This too shall pass’.
Loads of love,
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