Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 28-Day Break-Up Cleanse, Part III

Week 1: Habituation

A simple way to become less focused on your loved one is to wear down your brain. This method is also known as "habituation." It's a well known mechanism to avoid obsessions and has been used in cognitive-behavioral therapy for decades.

For habituation to work you must do something that seems quite counterintuitive at first. You must expose yourself to the things that make you feel bad. Over time this will desensitize you.

How to apply habituation to breakups? If you are going through a difficult breakup, thoughts of your ex now put your body into a state of fear or anger. This is because you implicitly associate thoughts of your ex with something negative, for example, the fact that he is no longer in your life, the loss of future experiences with him or the simple fact that he turned you down. Thoughts of your ex automatically trigger hyper-activity in your emotional brain.

To desensitize you can't simply stop thinking about your him. That could worsen the situation. Instead you need to break the associations by overexposing your brain to the fear-triggering stimulus.

Allow your brain to dwell on your ex and the things you did together. Put on some music that reminds you of your loved one. Think about the good times you had together, or the bad. Cry if necessary. The only thing that is off limits is making explicit contact with your ex.

Though it may not feel that way, extreme exposure to thoughts of your ex will likely tire your brain neurons. They may fire wildly at the beginning. It's going to feel awful. But your bran activity will slowly become less intense.

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