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In case you were wondering, here’s what’s happening in your brain during a relationship break-up

We’ve all been through them, some more than others, and it’s hardly pleasant for either party involved. The fact remains however that, unless you’re planning to remain in your first relationship for the rest of your life, a break-up is a natural event in life.

The Nerve’s Drake Baer recently went through a painful break-up and was inspired to pursue an investigation into why we are able to feel such real pain over something that’s completely psychological. After consulting mental health experts and brain researchers he discovered that the ‘need’ we feel for somebody we love is as real as physical requirements like hunger and thirst.

The oldest part of our brain, often called the lizard or reptile brain, operates this impulses unconsciously. So, when we are hungry for instance, this primordial piece of our biology excludes all conscious thought that isn’t directly related to satisfying that hunger. This explains why it’s difficult to concentrate on something else when you haven’t eaten and also why that first bite always tastes so amazing.

Psychologically speaking, when in a relationship we integrate our partner into our identity. When the break-up comes about that new identity is torn apart and the mind needs time to reform as an individual. It’s during this time that we feel the acute sadness and pain. According to experts the healthiest way to combat these feelings are to embrace them and learn to live with them until they fade and are no longer so painful. In fact this principle is practiced in meditation and is helpful for various aspects of life.

‘It’s not the practice of success.’ Says Buddhist author Susan Piver. ‘It’s not the practice of health, although these things are all associated with it. It’s the practice of friendship and it’s the practice of being with yourself in a gentle way. When waves of joy and happiness arise within you, you ride them. When waves of rage and despair arise, you ride those. When waves of boredom and frustration arise, you ride those, too.’

What it comes down to then, is that a break-up is supposed to hurt. If it doesn’t then the relationship most likely wasn’t very serious. It’s a wound as much as a broken bone and can be just as painful, if not more. The trick is to manage the feelings of loss and embrace the painful reminders rather than shutting them out. There’s no other way to heal.

Via The Nerve