Actors Pratyusha Banerjee’s (2016) and Jiah Khan’s (2013) suicides brought the focus on people’s inability to cope with heartbreaks. Suicide helplines report that nearly 30 per cent of the distress calls deal with love and heartbreak.
In a breakup, at least one of the partners slips into a psychological state known as love shock. Love shock is a state of psychological numbness, perplexity and barrenness that follows the break up of a serious love relationship. There is often a feeling akin to being cast out into the stormy sea with no hope in sight. People go through different stages of shock, grief, introspection and blame, followed by resignation, rebuilding and resolution.
Shock and grieving are diverse reactions, where one either withdraws into a shell to protect the self from further hurt, or laments endlessly. The latter, although cathartic, is exhausting, whereas withdrawing into a shell, although not very healthy, gives one the space to think.
Setting blame, which is self-explanatory, operates at three levels—1 Blame oneself, 2 Blame the partner, 3 Blame the circumstances or others.
Resignation: The first step towards breaking away from shackles.
Rebuilding: Clarity of thought and positivity set in, paving the way for looking ahead.
Resolution: One starts looking for another relationship.
Stephen Gullo, a former professor of behavioural sciences at Columbia University, suggests the following strategies to cope with emotional turmoil.
Evaluating your behaviour and actions on a daily basis provides you the opportunity to step outside of yourself and watch what is going on. Self-awareness enhances personal growth, especially during love shock. If you are honest to yourself, self-monitoring will alert you to any destructive habits or patterns, especially excessive smoking, eating or drinking. This exercise is not intended to make you feel bad about yourself. It is intended to help you move through love shock with minimum pain. Self-monitoring can be done by recording your feelings on tape, maintaining a journal, or making a list of the day’s activities and how you felt.
- Illustration: Bhaskaran
Every time you start thinking about your ex or wallow in self-pity, ask yourself to stop. Shift your thoughts to something equally compelling, or engross yourself in an activity that will divert your attention. The more you practise this technique, the more effective it becomes.
Any constructive activity or interest that you can focus your energy on can be an effective diverter. Compelling diverters can be shock absorbers with a bonus: at the end of love shock you may have developed a new skill, learned a new sport, got a better job, or improved your appearance.
Develop safe, nonaddictive ways to overcome high stress, panic and anxiety. Try exercising, long, hot baths with soothing music, massage, dancing, deep breathing, painting, watching movies, playing a musical instrument and other crafts.
Power of positive suggestion
As you repeat different affirmations such as "My love shock is ending", "I grow stronger every day", "I am in control", they sink into your subconscious, which will eventually begin to support the affirmation. Every time you think "I’m so miserable", replace it with "I grow stronger every day".
Affirmation notes, strategically placed, will help. For instance, place a "Stop, don't call" note by your phone. Also, paste a list of the positives of your life on your bathroom mirror. Recite them aloud to remind yourself how much you have going for you.
Let someone be your 108
Create a support system of friends and family who say it is okay to call them when you are tempted to call your ex or when you are feeling down or lonely. Your place of worship can be source of additional emotional support.
When in doubt, reach out
If you feel completely out of control, reach out for help immediately. Consult a counsellor or therapist.