Shelley J Whitehead

A technique to help you get over your ex

13 November, 2022

Are you stuck in a heart break rut and finding it really hard to stop turning thoughts about your ex over and over in your head? Are you replaying moments in the relationship, trying to understand what happened and where it all went wrong? 

If you are, this technique is for you. 

I’m going to give you a really helpful, practical tool that will help you take a first step out of the obsessive thought patterns that can keep you stuck in this rut. 

In my many years of working with people who have become stuck in a heartbreak rut, I have learnt that one of the fastest ways to start to get relief from heartbreak – is using techniques that will allow you to take a break from something I call ‘Search and Seek’

This process is about understanding the state you are in and how to start to manage it. We want to get you out of ‘search and seek’ mode (Also known as STOP THE CRAZY! And I say this tongue in cheek, although it does sound funny – it’s so true)

In order to understand this I will explain what is happening in the brain when a relationship ends….

Heartbreak is a state of grief

The experience of heartbreak is the experience of loss.  It is a grief state and initially we are in shock or denial and then the loopy thoughts start.

When something is lost, your brain locks into ‘search and seek’ mode. When you lose your keys, your brain narrows its focus into a tunnel vision. When you have lost a relationship, it becomes impossible to focus on anything else. This state is triggered by a particular mode of perception in which we completely focus our attention on this loss and the pain that accompanies it.

Not only have you lost something, you are desperate to find a reason for why it has been lost, even if you instigated the ending. With heartbreak you can get easily locked in to this because it is such a fundamental part of your life.

Even if someone has given you a reason for  the ending of this relationship or even if you think you have a clear reason yourself, it is hard to let go of the questions around ‘why did this happen? What does this mean?’

I once worked with a client who had been dumped their partner and was still, 5 years later, desperately trying to understand WHY and kept reading and re-reading text messages. 

It’s part of human psychology that we are driven by the desire to avoid pain and loss. Our brains have evolved to hold on to things that feel of value and significance to us. Loss is a form of change and dealing with change takes a tremendous amount of energy, so our brains are hard-wired to avoid change and therefore avoid loss. 

Heartbreak can be a form of trauma

Heartbreak can be experienced as a trauma. Especially if it has come out of the blue. And the brain’s natural response to a trauma is sometimes to lock into this tunnel vision and feel shut down. In tunnel awareness, or tunnel vision, you’re mostly unaware of what else is possible or achievable in a situation and unable to create more resourceful perceptions and responses. So you could say that stress and anxiety frequently stem from tunnel awareness and remain because of this limited frame of reference.  

But this kind of tunnel vision isn’t helpful and can keep us stuck. If we are going around in circles, we need to break out from this rut.

How to break out of a heartbreak rut

When you learn to open your awareness and to integrate a broader, more holistic perspective, you can shift your perception about yourself and the challenging situation.

The first step out of this tunnel vision is being aware of it. Recognising that you are locked in to ‘search and seek’ and then decide to do something to stop it! As our brains are wired to resist change, if we give ourselves conscious permission to acknowledge that we are stuck and that being stuck causes us more pain, we can start to ease our way towards allowing change to happen.So the first thing is to become aware of is that your thoughts are caught in a loop in this tunnel vision and I’m going to help you to break this cycle. Remember – it’s part of creating change and these steps are the very first steps you are going to implement to change what is happening in your mind and perception.  As we practice these next steps you will possibly for the first time today begin to experience less stress and anxiety. 

I’m going to give you a technique that you can use to help with this. The exercise is called an ‘open awareness’ exercise, which is a softening of focus and a widening of your awareness. I do this a lot with my clients and have found that it brings really good results.

If you follow this technique (and then repeat it over time) you will see great benefits.

There are 3 steps in this, relating to ONE – VISION, TWO – HEARING and THREE – SOMA (in other words bodily sensations) 

1. Widening your field of vision

Start by fixating your gaze on any object in front of you. Gradually include more and more of what‘s on each side of your visual field of awareness.  Here it’s important to note that objects in your periphery remain out of focus. Hence, do not try to see more. Rather, allow your visual field to include more of what is in both extremities of your visual field, on the left and right simultaneously.

2. Opening up your range of hearing

Close your eyes and pay attention to what you hear going on in the environment around you. Progressively include the sounds that are further away and sounds that are more subtle, like a sound behind a sound. Then become aware of the fact that you are only able to hear the sounds around you and far away because your awareness has extended out to those points. In other words, you hear those sounds occurring within your awareness. Allow yourself to experience this extended awareness as not just your auditory sense detecting those sounds but rather as your sense of self that has extended. Everything that is experienced far outside of you is now experienced within you.

3. Focusing on bodily sensations

Start by focusing on the rising and lowering of the belly with each inhalation and exhalation. Then, extend the rising and lowering experience to include your whole torso. Feel your body against the chair and start to become aware of your breath as you breathe in….. And out…

That’s it! It’s that simple!

Why the exercise helps heal heartbreak

The point here is that you are consciously shifting your attention into something else – widening up your focus away from obsessive thinking and therefore starting to send messages to your brain that it is ‘safe’ to stop obsessively focusing on just one thing. 

If you keep practising this, you will find that you start to gain some relief from your heartbreak. If you feel that you need deeper work and can’t get out of the rut, you might be interested in taking a look at my course ‘Healing Your Heartbreak’. The course is packed with tools, techniques, supportive meditations and a fully comprehensive journey to take you on a healing journey and out of your heartbreak rut.

Wishing you love and healing,

Shelley J Whitehead
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