How to fix a broken heart | Guy Winch

How to fix a broken heart | Guy Winch


At some point in our lives, almost every one of us
will have our heart broken. My patient Kathy planned her wedding
when she was in middle school. She would meet her future husband by age 27, get engaged a year later and get married a year after that. But when Kathy turned 27,
she didn’t find a husband. She found a lump in her breast. She went through many months
of harsh chemotherapy and painful surgeries, and then just as she was ready
to jump back into the dating world, she found a lump in her other breast and had to do it all over again. Kathy recovered, though, and she was eager to resume
her search for a husband as soon as her eyebrows grew back in. When you’re going
on first dates in New York City, you need to be able to express
a wide range of emotions. (Laughter) Soon afterwards,
she met Rich and fell in love. The relationship was everything
she hoped it would be. Six months later, after a lovely weekend in New England, Rich made reservations
at their favorite romantic restaurant. Kathy knew he was going to propose, and she could barely
contain her excitement. But Rich did not propose
to Kathy that night. He broke up with her. As deeply as he cared
for Kathy — and he did — he simply wasn’t in love. Kathy was shattered. Her heart was truly broken,
and she now faced yet another recovery. But five months after the breakup, Kathy still couldn’t stop
thinking about Rich. Her heart was still very much broken. The question is: Why? Why was this incredibly strong
and determined woman unable to marshal the same
emotional resources that got her through four years
of cancer treatments? Why do so many of us flounder when we’re trying
to recover from heartbreak? Why do the same coping mechanisms that get us through all kinds
of life challenges fail us so miserably
when our heart gets broken? In over 20 years of private practice, I have seen people
of every age and background face every manner of heartbreak, and what I’ve learned is this: when your heart is broken, the same instincts you ordinarily rely on will time and again lead you
down the wrong path. You simply cannot trust
what your mind is telling you. For example, we know from studies
of heartbroken people that having a clear understanding
of why the relationship ended is really important
for our ability to move on. Yet time and again, when we are offered a simple
and honest explanation like the one Rich offered Kathy, we reject it. Heartbreak creates
such dramatic emotional pain, our mind tells us the cause
must be equally dramatic. And that gut instinct is so powerful, it can make even the most reasonable
and measured of us come up with mysteries
and conspiracy theories where none exist. Kathy became convinced
something must have happened during her romantic getaway with Rich that soured him on the relationship, and she became obsessed
with figuring out what that was. And so she spent countless hours going through every minute
of that weekend in her mind, searching her memory for clues
that were not there. Kathy’s mind tricked her
into initiating this wild goose chase. But what compelled her to commit to it
for so many months? Heartbreak is far more insidious
than we realize. There is a reason we keep going
down one rabbit hole after another, even when we know it’s going
to make us feel worse. Brain studies have shown that the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms
in our brain that get activated when addicts are withdrawing
from substances like cocaine or opioids. Kathy was going through withdrawal. And since she could not have
the heroin of actually being with Rich, her unconscious mind chose
the methadone of her memories with him. Her instincts told her
she was trying to solve a mystery, but what she was actually doing was getting her fix. This is what makes heartbreak
so difficult to heal. Addicts know they’re addicted. They know when they’re shooting up. But heartbroken people do not. But you do now. And if your heart is broken,
you cannot ignore that. You have to recognize that,
as compelling as the urge is, with every trip down memory lane,
every text you send, every second you spend
stalking your ex on social media, you are just feeding your addiction, deepening your emotional pain and complicating your recovery. Getting over heartbreak is not a journey. It’s a fight, and your reason
is your strongest weapon. There is no breakup explanation
that’s going to feel satisfying. No rationale can take away
the pain you feel. So don’t search for one,
don’t wait for one, just accept the one you were offered
or make up one yourself and then put the question to rest, because you need that closure
to resist the addiction. And you need something else as well: you have to be willing to let go, to accept that it’s over. Otherwise, your mind
will feed on your hope and set you back. Hope can be incredibly destructive
when your heart is broken. Heartbreak is a master manipulator. The ease with which it gets our mind
to do the absolute opposite of what we need in order to recover is remarkable. One of the most common tendencies
we have when our heart is broken is to idealize the person who broke it. We spend hours remembering their smile, how great they made us feel, that time we hiked up the mountain
and made love under the stars. All that does is make our loss
feel more painful. We know that. Yet we still allow our mind to cycle
through one greatest hit after another, like we were being held hostage by our own
passive-aggressive Spotify playlist. (Laughter) Heartbreak will make those thoughts
pop into your mind. And so to avoid idealizing,
you have to balance them out by remembering their frown,
not just their smile, how bad they made you feel, the fact that after the lovemaking,
you got lost coming down the mountain, argued like crazy
and didn’t speak for two days. What I tell my patients
is to compile an exhaustive list of all the ways
the person was wrong for you, all the bad qualities, all the pet peeves, and then keep it on your phone. (Laughter) And once you have your list, you have to use it. When I hear even a hint of idealizing or the faintest whiff
of nostalgia in a session, I go, “Phone, please.” (Laughter) Your mind will try to tell you
they were perfect. But they were not,
and neither was the relationship. And if you want to get over them,
you have to remind yourself of that, frequently. None of us is immune to heartbreak. My patient Miguel was a 56-year-old
senior executive in a software company. Five years after his wife died, he finally felt ready
to start dating again. He soon met Sharon, and a whirlwind romance ensued. They introduced each other
to their adult children after one month, and they moved in together after two. When middle-aged people date,
they don’t mess around. It’s like “Love, Actually”
meets “The Fast and the Furious.” (Laughter) Miguel was happier
than he had been in years. But the night before
their first anniversary, Sharon left him. She had decided to move to the West Coast
to be closer to her children, and she didn’t want
a long-distance relationship. Miguel was totally blindsided
and utterly devastated. He barely functioned at work
for many, many months, and he almost lost his job as a result. Another consequence of heartbreak
is that feeling alone and in pain can significantly impair
our intellectual functioning, especially when performing complex tasks
involving logic and reasoning. It temporarily lowers our IQ. But it wasn’t just the intensity
of Miguel’s grief that confused his employers; it was the duration. Miguel was confused by this as well and really quite embarrassed by it. “What’s wrong with me?”
he asked me in our session. “What adult spends almost a year
getting over a one-year relationship?” Actually, many do. Heartbreak shares all the hallmarks
of traditional loss and grief: insomnia, intrusive thoughts, immune system dysfunction. Forty percent of people experience
clinically measurable depression. Heartbreak is a complex
psychological injury. It impacts us in a multitude of ways. For example, Sharon was both very social and very active. She had dinners at the house every week. She and Miguel went on camping trips
with other couples. Although Miguel was not religious, he accompanied Sharon
to church every Sunday, where he was welcomed
into the congregation. Miguel didn’t just lose his girlfriend; he lost his entire social life, the supportive community
of Sharon’s church. He lost his identity as a couple. Now, Miguel recognized the breakup
had left this huge void in his life, but what he failed to recognize is that it left far more than just one. And that is crucial, not just because it explains
why heartbreak could be so devastating, but because it tells us how to heal. To fix your broken heart, you have to identify these voids
in your life and fill them, and I mean all of them. The voids in your identity: you have to reestablish who you are
and what your life is about. The voids in your social life, the missing activities,
even the empty spaces on the wall where pictures used to hang. But none of that will do any good unless you prevent the mistakes
that can set you back, the unnecessary searches for explanations, idealizing your ex instead of focusing
on how they were wrong for you, indulging thoughts and behaviors
that still give them a starring role in this next chapter of your life when they shouldn’t be an extra. Getting over heartbreak is hard, but if you refuse to be misled
by your mind and you take steps to heal, you can significantly minimize
your suffering. And it won’t just be you
who benefit from that. You’ll be more present with your friends, more engaged with your family, not to mention the billions of dollars
of compromised productivity in the workplace that could be avoided. So if you know someone who is heartbroken, have compassion, because social support has been found
to be important for their recovery. And have patience, because it’s going to take them longer
to move on than you think it should. And if you’re hurting, know this: it’s difficult, it is a battle
within your own mind, and you have to be diligent to win. But you do have weapons. You can fight. And you will heal. Thank you. (Applause)

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. I put my whole soul into someone and broke all connection with my friends and moved away from my family about 45 minutes away in another town, I did whatever he wanted everyday, we fought all the time, I wasn’t perfect and I had my problems but I still loved him, I moved out after he kept calling me names constantly and we said we’d work things out, my grandma ended up passing away right after, and in the midst of all of that, he was getting wasted with his friends, purposely ignoring me, hanging out with bunches of people, not caring about me, i finally got fed up and drove to find him, he was there with two girls and his friend sitting in his car, we started arguing and I hit him a few times and threw one of the girls on the ground, I’ve never done anything like that in my life, now he tells me that he thinks I’m a bad person that is psychotic, and I know what I did was wrong, but when you love someone that much and all of these things are happening, you lose yourself, after all I’ve done for him, and all that he’s done to me, I’m still begging him to take me back, and it’s the worst feeling in the world and I hate it

  2. Jesus need to get over my heart break it’s so hard tho I love my ex still it’s hard to forget about good times you have

  3. He broke up with me over a week ago for another woman I got fired from work and am failing school because he did it during midterms week. This pain in my chest doesn’t go away and I can’t stop panic attacks. Idk what to do anymore 🙁

  4. Those hopes that he might look for you, all of that needs to go. Thank you for this! I really needed this for my story.

  5. "Imagine we treated broken hearts with the same respect and concern we have for broken arms." Guy urges us to rethink the way we deal with emotional pain, offering warm, wise, and witty advice for the broken-hearted. Our hearts might be broken, we do not have to break with them. We can take control of our lives and our minds and put ourselves on the path of healing. This book (with superb illustrations by Henn Kim) published by TED Books, offers a 'toolkit' for how to handle and cope with a broken heart and how to – eventually – move on.

    There are four (4) chapters in this book, and I include some of my favorite quotes for each chapter… To read my simple review of Dr. Guy Winch's How to Fix A Broken Heart (2018), CLICK HERE: https://www.richardangelus.me/2018/11/how-to-fix-broken-heart-2018-by-dr-guy.html?m=1

  6. I need this right now. Just broke up with my ex after 5 years in about 5 minutes yesterday. No real explanation or anything and I was left feeling hopeless. No way out. There’s no way on earth to describe the feeling

  7. Damn I really apprecaite this video a ton. You are right sir, I have been here before and i will get through it again! It does hurt but time will heal and I will be strong

  8. I don’t have problem with that, but what makes me unhappy is that I will never find anyone specially when I am gay. People are just becaming so stupid with ignoring me they just look at me and say(i can see it in their eyes)”that prsone is different” I will not tuch that gay person!. Even though, they see what i am capable of, and what I am offering to them is so much of goodness. But they just don’t care.

  9. What’s worst is knowing you could of done more. It was my fault I got obsessed with job trying to build us a “better” future that I forgot to do all those little things she loved very much. The money started flowing in and I kept buying her things instead of doing things. I lost who I was she feel in love with. I could see the hurt in her eyes. I was stupid and let her go but I a couple months later she’s happy now. I still love her but the best thing I can do is let her be happy. I now hate my job and rather find love again. I want my broken heart to recover. It’s a miserable dark place to be. I don’t wish this on anyone. If you have someone special do all those special little things they love. You’ll thank me.

  10. To someone: Im in pain. No body knows, all think about me is to be so strong, stronger than anyone but im not , wake up every morning and the pain starts to squeeze my heart, i need this time to pass.
    It's wasn't written for us to be together from the beginning and i knew but i continued. I'm sorry im sorry I'm sorry i know how hurtful what you are going through.
    It is Difficult to think that i will get older and u wouldn't be part of my life , the most painful thing for me that I would not know how are you, r u fine ?sick? happy? depressed? married? have kids? alive? died? I won't know anything about u ever💔 it's not easy to go on im so weak , i loved u , u have changed too much in me, u left a part of u in me
    I love u and i wish i can forget you

  11. I got involved with someone who had just come out of a 6 year relationship, but we had been talking as friends for a couple of years prior to that so it seemed a like a good idea. It was going really well (so i thought) and we went away to Italy. After a couple of days, her mood changed towards me for no reason and I wasn't sure what I had done wrong? I wasn't told anything and after 3 days of getting back, I was told it was over…. 😔 I beat myself up over what I had done wrong and couldn't understand it. I spent hours thinking…. What if I had done this that way? Or done that the other way? A few days ago, I found out she has got back with her ex, so it explained the mood swing. It has been a setback for me, as I really liked this person.
    My advice is to be wary of going out with someone fresh out of a breakup. It has been a horrible 3 months for me since the end of July and I never want to go through it again. .The worst experience I've dealt with in my life. I really feel what everyone is going through

  12. The intensity of heartbreak imo depends on your mindset. If you 100% believe you could find someone better or just as good than it's significantly easier to move on. Try to think of all the reasons this would've never worked out with them. Realize all the possibilities that have opened up to you because this relationship ended. Think of all the good things that will happen now because of this. Thank them for the experience and let them go. The relationship ending, no matter how it ended, was the best thing that could've happened to you. You guys will both have benefited.

  13. I think what helped me was stop lying to myself and acknowledge that love IS NOT a luxury, but you gonna destroy yourself if you decide to close up ur heart. so open your heart for someone new

  14. She kinda broke up but she said she would take a week to think about it, i dont want to be heartbroken.What should i do?

  15. Is there anything more heartbreaking than an unblessed relationship?
    Why does asian parents puts their ego above our happiness?

  16. I think he had some good insight but I don't like what he said about idealizing. He is essentially asking his patients to erase all their good memories and only focus on the bad things. That can create bitterness and resentment instead of a grateful attitude for the season of life. I think he was spot on about the addiction part.

  17. feels like he's talking about me, although it is not the same person. As he sad Hope is so awful when you have your heart broken, you keep idealising the person who broke and suddenly she is the most perfect person in the word and you make yourself a fool for thinking you were all wrong and it is your fault, danm it…Feeling lost and thinking you will never love someone again it is so destructive, I wish I could stop this pain, I thought time would heal me, but one year have passed and I keep her in my mind she's still in my heart… Tried to find another girl but all the girl I meet reminds me her and the cycle begins again and again, but I know one day I will be over it. wish me luck guys 🙁

  18. I just experienced heartbreak… the woman who was game to hang out became cold-hearted towards me all of a sudden… I don’t know why it happened, but it just hurts so much 😞

  19. I lost my friend and friends. I feel like I have made a massive mistake filing for divorce. I would stop it if I could. I never knew how much I love/loved my wife.till I let her go. I’m a blokeish man, but can’t stop crying. I feel empty without her. My heart is broken and I’m broken. It doesn’t seem to be getting better. Hopefully this will help.

  20. One of the worst TED talks ever. Just because your heart is broken, applying a negative reinforcement and finding all negatives in order to move on is a miserable idea; miles apart from amor fati.

  21. Never been in a relation ship.
    But yes, i loved the same girl for 3 years. I loved her too deeply. And now that depth is the depth of my wound now and i dont know how to get over it😖😢.

  22. This is why there is a God. You realize your worth through Jesus Christ and dont begin idolizing the person or relationship. Jesus gives you the insight of how precious and special you truly are. You begin living the image that jesus has of you.. you wont tolerate toxic people. Instead, you will know in the early stages if that person is meant for you, God will lead you and whispers the truth in your ear… as long as you have faith. I love Jesus.

  23. it sounds so over-rehearsed and lacking spontaneity, i can't listen to it. it's like listening to a non-fiction e-book.

  24. my ex broke up with me 2 weeks ago. i was crippled when she said "i fell out of love for yeas now" a 7 year relationship shattered during a taco bell run. i lost my mind for a few days, i wasnt acting myself i was perpetually cry from my imagination coming up with what if scenarios which is torture. she wont talk to me at all for me to get the closure i want idk how you can be so cold to somebody like that. came up with a song on piano to try and convey my feelings i blasted it all over social media but she never even listen to it which deepened that pain i already had. i truly lost everything and i barely know why.

  25. I was just heartbroken a couple days ago and I don’t believe In love anymore.
    So thank u to the guy that broke me. Thank you

  26. My heart hurts. The one I lost didn't want me to go. I had to. Even then he still understood. He had a wife. He couldn't come out for us to be open, I couldn't handle it. But it hurt so bad because he hurt too. He was the sweetest man I'd ever met, and I couldn't expect him to throw away his life. He was a fairly successful local comedian, no one extremely famous but he couldn't jeopardize it. We split and my heart never fucking healed.

    My God I miss him, but I pushed him away. I couldn't pretend we weren't in love anymore. We even had the same fucking birthday.

    Goddamn it I miss him. Watching this didn't help like I thought it would. I hurt worse.

  27. I’m in a weird place right now because I was talking to a guy for a few weeks and we got pretty close, easy to say I was head over heels for him. We talked everyday, but I noticed he became less interested. He took longer and longer to respond, and soon he just didn’t. Last time I talked to him, he left me on read. I finally decided I needed move on, but I see him everyday and it still hurts. It’s like a stab wound in the heart every time I see him.

  28. I had to end things with my bf in July because it was easy for him to lie to me even though he knew how much I disliked it. I couldn’t hack it anymore and decided to end things in July. During the breakup he tried contacting me many times by making fake accounts and messaging but I had to ignore them. Eventually everything stopped, no phone calls, no texts no nothing. I started healing and just told myself that you know what although the relationship was toxic maybe we did love each other. But to my surprise just two months after our breakup he already has a gf and is buying her presents and they seem to be public in social media. I reached out to him again in shock because I could not believe that in a matter of few months he was already in a serious relationship , it really made me believe that in all honesty he never truly loved me and that I was stupid and gullible. He told me I deserved better and that he is in a better place now and that I should do the same and move on. I could not believe who this person became in such a short span of time. It’s like the guy I knew no longer exits and my hurt break has really hit me now because whatever I did with him seem to be nothing and mainly I know that i loved him more

  29. I miss her so much… Having that feeling of love, and having someone close to give you comfort, is amazing.. since I rarely got any.. But realizing that they didn't miss me, they missed the person that loved them so much they didn't have to love them back… it hurts man. it really hurts, I guess I'm gonna have to work hard to get over this..

  30. When I first watched this a few months ago I had to stop watching 4 minutes in and I went to the bathroom collapsed in the doorway and just sobbed for 3 hours in the middle of the night

  31. i tried to make a list and i couldn’t think of anything . literally the only person i have ever loved it’s been a month it hasn’t gotten any easier

  32. I think I search for those “clues” (and maybe others as well) is because it was a change from what was a norm. Everything seems fine at once, and then it’s over the next. That feeling of drastic change makes me feel that something larger has happened.

  33. I broke up with my cheating ex boyfriend and I can’t seem to get him out of my mind. As if I ACTUALLY deserved to go through that. I found the most wonderful person and I am still thinking about why I deserved him. There’s times where I find myself completely confused because I’m not used to being treated so good which is so sad. I wish I could tell my younger self that love isn’t always putting someone before you, but instead putting yourself first and your significant other supporting you. I’ve been soul searching for some time and I finally found my self. I had to go through heartbreak to find who I really was. I wish nothing but happiness for my ex. I’m so proud to say I’ve let go, moved on and I’m so more than happy. Thx for listening to my rant.

  34. What if you go to school and see them every day? What can you do? It makes you feel as if things will never heal because you see them everyday, and it makes it even worse when you see them with someone else moving on

  35. You know what is the hardest thing for someone with a broken heart. The hardest things are when the person who breaks your heart is studying with you in the same school and specifically in the same class. You see him/her laughing and talking to his/her friends and you feel from inside as volcanoes explode from sadness and pain and could not do anything.

  36. Im the one who broke up with my ex but now that the months have passed he has moved on and I want him back. I feel that I have no right feeling how I do because everything that has happened was because of me.

  37. One doesn’t find one's worth in another person, but within. Try to be whole, complete within yourself, then someone will come into your life to compliment you not complete you.

  38. In my pain of a broken heart I made a discovery I would like to share with you … “ the longest distance in the world is from your HEART to your MIND “ It takes such a long , long time for the heart to understand what the mind already knows ! As in my case , I saw all of the red flags but unfortunately made the dreadful many of us make by slipping and escaping into denial !
    The consequences of that huge error is almost unbearable … for me after 3 years to accept the betrayal , humiliation and deceit has bee the worst nightmare ever ! I hope and pray that this horrible pain in my heart , which has left me numb which grief will soon fade away so that I can feel good about life and be happy again !

  39. My heart is just destroyed.. he has no idea how hard it is just to be alive without him.. this too shall pass I guess

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