Emotional Roller Coaster

Forget period cramps, bad hair days, hangovers, breakouts, getting fired, the guilt you feel after you’ve eaten a half-dozen donuts by yourself, or even a fight with a dear friend—few things feel worse than the way you are likely feeling right now. Newly single has left you dazed, confused, and feeling as though you’ve been stabbed in the heart. You feel like your entire world collapsed, like your body may explode, and you’re numb from crying so much.

No matter your role in this breakup, whether you were dumped or you walked away, it takes serious courage and resiliency to make it through to the other side. Your whole life is changing, and the unknown can be scary. You suddenly shifted from a “we” to a “me,” no longer having to consider someone else in your plans and daily routine. Flying solo and making decisions as an individual can be overwhelming. You’ve learned to rely on someone else for emotional support, and to share living responsibilities.

It’s hard to be optimistic about a happy future love life when you’re dealing with the painful nuisances of getting back all of your stuff, finding a new place to live, and running into him and his new girlfriend at your old favorite coffee shop you still can’t believe he had the indecency to bring her there! You may be wallowing in self-pity, questioning if you’re doomed to be alone forever. You’re consumed by thoughts of the breakup, and nothing seems to distract you. Your mind is racing and only one person is running through your mind—your ex.

So why do you care so much about this breakup? Why is it so challenging to stand up and be strong on your own? The answer is because at our core, wear easpecies that survives and thrives on giving and receiving love. We are animals who spend the longest time being reared by our parents, depending on someone to care for us from infancy through our teen years. We regulate our emotions through our connections. We have evolved to be in close, intimate relationships—it’s our primal need, so much so that our brain chemistry and nervous systems are affected by those closest to us. Rejection is one of the most excruciating human experiences because it makes us feel alone, unvalued, unprotected, and that we don’t matter. We feel like we’ve been left for dead and that we can no longer depend on the person we trusted most.

This devastating realization can make you feel utterly alone and question if you will ever be able to trust and depend on a romantic partner again. In the aftermath of a breakup, you’re missing your emotional home, your sense of connection and belonging in this world. The home that was supposed to protect your heart and keep you safe is the one that hurt you.

Right now your heartbreak probably has you questioning the very Concept of love, lacking a sense of belonging, and writing with a deep sense
of shame. Researcher and author Brené Brown captures the inter-dependent relationship between love, shame, and belonging in The Gifts of Imperfection, in which she defines these concepts as follows:

Love: We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known ...Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when
it exists within each one of them—we can only love others as much as we love ourselves ...Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows.

Belonging: The innate human desire to be part of something larger than us...We often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which is not only hollow substitutes for belonging but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Shame: The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

Keep these definitions in mind, as we’ll work on increasing elf-love, decreasing shame, and opening yourself to vulnerability along the way in your bounce-back journey.


Though the content and context of everyone’s break up may be unique, there are common emotional experiences and stages of grief that we tend to go through.

I don’t want to minimize or diminish what you may be feeling right now. We’re so used to intellectualizing our feelings and not being tuned into our bodies that it’s challenging to connect to yourself on an emotional level.

You’re likely experiencing numerous, conflicting emotions at once, and it’s important to take the time now to identify them. Research actually shows that when you become mindfully aware of your emotions and label them, they won’t feel as strong. It sounds too simple to be true, but it works. That’s because when you think about what feelings you are experiencing, this mental effort activates the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for emotional regulation. We know through science that whenyou don’t take time to identify your emotions there’s no decreased response in the brain region called the amygdala, which helps process feelings, and your emotions can actually be more intense and harder to understand. Once you label the emotions, you don’t need to do anything radical or rash to number change them; just observe them gently and kindly without judgment. Know that you’re able to experience these emotions, and despite their feeling intense, they are not static or permanent. The rest of you can hold strong and watch these motions roll in and out, like waves, coming and going. Imagine yourself flowing with them, instead of fighting against them, honoring each without resistance. This is your first step to healing.

Author's Bio: 

Excerpt from Breaking Up and Bouncing Back: Moving On to Create the Love Life You Deserve, by Samantha Burns, LMHC. Ixia Press, June 2018. © 2018 by Samantha Burns