It would be so much better if someone had punched you in the face. An elbow to the head. Hell, a hockey stick to the groin would do. But It hurts!

Heartbreak is a really strange kind of pain. The clenching of the chest, the dull but anxious feeling in your body both at the same time.

It’s like all the bad feelings you can possibly have are fighting over who gets the next turn.

One moment you start longing to see your ex, but as soon as you start thinking about that you start to get pissed. You feel hopeless, then desperate. You feel like you got screwed over, you wasted your time and you failed somehow.

You can feel this way right when you’ve been dumped or if you get rejected by someone you are really into. It also happens when the realization settles in that you’re in a doomed relationship.

I’m going to guess there aren’t too many times where you have felt the way you do now.

What’s Really Happening?

A simple way to understand why heartache feels so strange and intensely painful at the same time is to see that ALL LEVELS of your being are affected.

“Levels?” you ask?

We all operate on three levels.

Emotional, physical and logical.

This is based on the model of the triune brain, first conceived by Paul Maclane.

The “emotional” levels are the drives and feelings that motivate us. Fear and anger are considered the most primitive of these, while love, lust, attraction, shame and jealousy are all also part of this.

how to beat breaking up pain

The “physical” level is our body. Our nervous system and everything that controls your breathing, heartbeat, digestion, immune system, etc.

Then there is the “logical” level. This is really the mind. These are the conscious thoughts you have, the part of you that thinks, reasons and makes sense of things.

Just as reminder, we are saying there are different levels just for the sake of simplification.

In reality all of these parts of you are integrated and communicate with each other all the time, although some tend to take over and run the show depending on the situation.

The Feedback Loop From Hell

Here is the bad news. All three levels have just been thrown into chaos.

You are dealing with the impact of the separation, so on the emotional level the feelings are really intense. Anger, grief, rejection, loneliness, jealousy…

The cascade of emotions is so overwhelming that physically your body responds to this with a fight or flight reaction to the stress. Although in this case, there is nothing to do or run from so this results in a constant stress put on the body.


All of this has a profound effect on your mind. With all this going on your logical mind can’t think straight. Constantly the thoughts go back to your ex and it becomes really hard not to think about it.

Here is the kicker. All of these form a “negative feedback” loop.

Picture it this way.

All of these feed into each other. Changing one will strongly affect the other. If you start feeling heartache it strongly affects your physical state. This effects what you are thinking about, and the more you dwell on it, this fuels the heartache even more.

But these aren’t all balanced in each direction.

In fact, as an example, I want you to try something right now. Try your best to think of one for each one of the categories below.

A reason why you and your ex weren’t compatible in the first place.

Something she always did that pissed you off.

Why there is no way you can repair the relationship at this point.

So…Feel better?

Kinda maybe? Not really huh?

Thinking of these kinds of things as well as consoling comments from friends and family really do nothing for you at this point because they don’t speak to the pain that you are going through.

Why is that?

This is because these things appeal to your “logical” mind. And your logical mind isn’t running the show right now.

In fact, it’s safe to say that it has taken a back seat entirely, as this is almost entirely dealing with the “emotional” level of your mind.

Before I go on, I have to remind you that this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Emotions play a huge part in everything we are doing whether we are aware of it or not. They are the way our minds have evolved to motivate us to do what is right for our survival and well being.

More importantly, they are also the feeling of being alive. Arguably nothing in our lives has meaning unless there is emotion surrounding it.

Your relationships with your family, friends, the causes you believe in, the things you love doing are all important to you because they make you feel a certain way. I believe the “rational” reasons we have for these is actually secondary.

I hate to break this to you but you weren’t into your ex girlfriend for rational reasons in the first place. You liked being around her because of how she made you feel… All the reasons you had you came up with afterwards, but you didn’t question it or think about it because it felt good.

People often have trouble accepting this. They regard emotions as something that is to be controlled, and that if someone is being emotional, that mean they are being “irrational”.

painful experience

I believe our emotions have far more intelligence to them than we can comprehend and most of the time they are sending us legitimate, important signals.

But…they can misfire and overreact.

Understanding the relationship between your emotional mind and your logical mind is a huge part of what’s going on right now, so let’s zoom in on it for minute.

The Six Lane Super Highway In Your Brain

So, the dilemma of heartbreak is that our emotions have so much momentum and strength built up around a person that is no longer there.

You may know “logically” that it’s over. You might be able to think of a hundred convincing reasons why you should move on. But you still have this reservoir of emotion that has nowhere to go.

It doesn’t “know” that it’s over. It doesn’t care. All it knows is that there is something wrong and it’s reacting to it.

Think of your emotional mind and your logical mind as two different systems that operate mostly on totally DIFFERENT sets of rules.

Imagine both of them have one way streets that are used to communicate with each other.

Think of the street that goes from your logical mind to your emotional mind as a little dirt road.

So what this means is that all of the thoughts you are having about her and the break up are almost entirely being fueled by emotion.

This is a tough one, but accepting that this how things are right now is so key to moving forward.

Generally if you have strong emotion over something, your “thinking” or “logical” mind has very little power over it.

Here is another example of this principle at work.

Think back to the most recent time when you were really annoyed with someone you know (other than your ex).

How hard was it at the time to think anything positive about this person when you were pissed off?

Pretty damn hard wasn’t it? Positive things about that person probably didn’t even occur to you at the time. And if they did, it probably felt really unnatural.

So if just being really annoyed with someone makes it’s really hard to positive thoughts about them…

Then what could it be like when the thought of someone makes you feel angry, in love, sad, longing, confused, betrayed, devastated, and rejected all at the same time?

If you are feeling heartbroken then you know exactly what it is like.

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