The mind has a pretty straightforward way of processing common events – those that happen regularly like sitting in traffic, getting a spam email, exchanging passive-aggressive comments with a coworker, or even getting into that same old argument with your mother. These are the simple things that your mind knows how to process. The series of emotions is pretty cut and dry. You’re annoyed, then you’re over it. But then there are rare experiences, like the grief over losing a loved one, or the pain of a breakup that really aren’t that easy to take in. How many times in a lifetime will your brain have to truly process that? Only a handful if you’re lucky. But that’s also why the human mind kind of short circuits when it is time to process something like that.
When you lose someone, you sometimes wake up thinking they’re still around, right? Even if you had a love/hate relationship with the person, sometimes you only feel the love, and sometimes only the hate, when thinking about them. It’s almost like your brain shatters after difficult experiences, like a breakup, and there is no straightforward path to recovery. You should understand that your mind is working against you in a breakup. It has one goal: avoid pain. Unfortunately, that’s in direct conflict with what you need to do to get over this breakup in a healthy and real way. You have to experience the pain. But nobody is conditioned to ignore their thoughts or do the opposite of what they feel like doing, which is what makes breakups so difficult. We spoke with licensed therapist and author of The Dumping Ground Latasha Matthews, and she shared ways the brain plays tricks on you after a breakup.
Everything looks better in the rearview mirror
If you’ve felt that the moment you ended a tumultuous relationship, you lost connection with the bad feelings that sent you out the door and suddenly only recalled the good stuff, that’s common, according to Matthews. “People tend to have on rose-colored glasses when it comes to looking at the tough stuff in the relationship after it has ended. Some might experience relationship amnesia, which could cause partial or total memory loss as it pertains to negative content in the relationship.” It’s also simply painful to relive the bad moments in your relationship, so while there is value in remembering that there were plenty, your mind protects itself by conveniently forgetting those.