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Back to Stories

Friends of Six Senses with Amy Chan: Are you Ready for Love?

When Venus and Mars Break Up

Most of us are familiar with what a bad breakup looks and feels like so Six Senses Wellness Pioneer Anna Bjurstam sat down with break-up expert, Amy Chan, to talk about the art and science of breaking up well.

First, do women and men go through breakups differently? As someone who has counseled thousands of people through her books and courses, Amy says that although she doesn’t want to generalize, she has seen that men and women go through breakups differently. Perhaps it’s because young boys are often told to “tough it out”, but men tend to use distraction as their coping mechanism instead of facing the pain and intense emotions that come with breaking up. They may get on dating apps right away whereas women often talk to their friends about it over and over again and seek help.

Although distraction can seem like a good strategy, Amy has seen that pain and intense emotions need oxygen to breathe and when you shove them down and distract yourself with dating or drinking, for example, eventually they will pop up. With men, she’s often seen that the pain comes up later as a delayed reaction. They’ll have regrets or want to get back together down the road but by then, the women may have moved on.

The Science of Breakups

The pain and intense emotions of a breakup are not all in your head. Amy explains that after a breakup, the reason it feels so horrible is because your brain and body are in shock. Think about when you’re in a relationship. You spend time together, you talk together, you have meals together and as the saying goes, “what fires together, wires together”. This means that what you do repeatedly gets set up as neural pathways in your brain. Spending time together, your neural pathways get stronger and stronger.

After a breakup, even if you know on a cognitive level that the breakup is the right thing, the body and the brain are in a state of shock. It’s used to getting dopamine, a feel-good chemical, from this person. The craving for the other person is not weakness or a sign that you should get back together but it’s actually like an addiction to a substance. The cravings reflect that you’re going through a very real physical withdrawal which is why it feels so bad.

Six Senses Wellness Woman un

The Six Stages of Mourning

Like the grief of losing someone close to you, there are stages we go through when we experience a breakup. Because the person is still alive, we often judge ourselves for having such a difficult time moving on. The first step, according to Amy, is to be gentle with what you’re feeling, especially right after a breakup when you’re in so much pain. People tend to be very hard on themselves and judge their feelings as good or bad. There can also be a lot of shame that they’re so needy with close friends and family. So start by recognizing that all your feelings are normal and the more you judge or resist them, the longer you may stay stuck in that stage of mourning.

Amy laid out the six stages for us:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Relapse denial – (this is when you may get back together and some people go through this stage repeatedly)
  • Acceptance that the relationship is really over

There are various strategies depending on the stage you are in.

For example, with the Shock stage or when you’ve newly broken up, it’s crucial to do a detox from your ex. This means no contact for at least 60-days. Remove them from your social networks, block them on your phone, remove reminders from your home because remember, every time you look at old photos and reminisce, you are strengthening the old neural networks. This strategy can be difficult if you are separating from a co-parent so in that case, you will have to be less extreme but for a start, remove all photos and reminders of them from your bedroom, for example, while leaving family photos out in shared living spaces and of course in your children’s rooms.

Sometimes when we separate, we realize we have totally lost our own identity. If our relationship took up a major percentage of our lives, the loss of this person will create a huge hole. Although your body will react with a survival response of wanting to curl up into a fetal position, you cannot listen to this impulse. After a few weeks of this, it’s important to stay connected to friends and family who love you, even if it’s on Zoom for the time being. It’s also important to make a list of activities that you enjoy and make sure to do something every day to start filling up your own life with new energy.

Amy Chan’s Top Five Tips for Staying Healthy and Well

  • Start your day without looking at your phone right away.
  • Create a morning routine – pre phone – that nourishes you, even if it’s a 2-minute meditation.
  • Do a gratitude practice every day, especially before a regular activity like at the beginning of a meal or before you brush your teeth.
  • Do things that feed your soul every day by curating with care what you are reading and listening to.
  • Tell someone what they mean to you every day. Be generous with your appreciation. It could be as simple as a text message. Put the energy out there.

ABOUT AMY CHAN

Amy Chan has been writing about relationships, dating and love for over a decade. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Heart Hackers Club – an online magazine that focuses on the psychology behind love, lust and desire. The Observer calls her “A relationship expert whose work is like that of a scientific Carrie Bradshaw” and she’s been featured across national media including Good Morning America, Vogue, Glamour, Nightline and the front page of The New York Times. Her book, Breakup Bootcamp – The Science of Rewiring Your Heart, published by Harper Collins is available at all bookstores and has been translated to five languages. Renewbreakupbootcamp.com


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