Healing a Broken Heart

Healing a Broken Heart





35 Place du Quatre Septembre
Marseille 13007

Craig Newmark
210 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02146

19 October 1982

My Dear Brother,

Welcome to manhood my little brother; after I collected your recent letter I knew that you had already graduated the first step in healing your broken heart by recognizing that your heart is indeed broken. Obviously the term "broken heart" is a finesse -- it is quite possible that there is an effect on your physical heart, but in general it is the interruption of your last love affair. The pain you feel is the irregular palpitation of the heart. But when we assign a name to an object we have solidarity with those who similarly use this name; this does not mean that what you feel is not for you. Every broken heart is unique, but at the same time those of us who had the same experience have much in common with you, so we can support you and share your grief.

Your broken heart is sad and probably makes you angry, or maybe you feel depressed or you have pain and grief. Although at this time you are bothered or distressed, you will recover and eventually you will get stronger and a better person as a result. But you must first heal yourself and straighten up with feet planted firmly on the ground. I decided to write you this letter to describe how to get there, so once again welcome to manhood.

It is useful to begin by understanding the nature of your loss: how does it involve you with physical, emotional and spiritual problems? The broken heart is a complex condition, intricate and multi-faceted that touches you on many levels, therefore to better treat the condition in its entirety it is easier to decompose it into its elements. The most obvious change is the lack of physical affection. When a couple, you became completely accustomed to physical affection. But when that relationship was broken the sudden lack of contact and sexuality could even cause biochemical changes in your body. It is not uncommon for us broken-hearted to hug the pillow in the solitude of the night. A little later I will discuss how to deal with the physical loss.

When you are involved in a relationship there are several layers of dynamic communication, both verbal and nonverbal, between you and your partner mentally. As a relationship disintegrates the aspects of this cascade of communication are fragmented and disrupted. This process can lead to miscommunication or misunderstanding the thoughts or intentions on the part of you and your ex-lover. Some links continue however, and you can be confused by these expressions of love going silent. You could be deceived by your own thoughts or your interpretation of the feelings of your ex-lover.

The changing habits between being alone and being a couple can be very disruptive. Maybe you used to follow certain roads, or had sleep habits or certain foods you shared together. The disruption of habits can cause disorientation as severe as everything else. You could be especially affected by changes in diet that could easily bother the health and temperament.

People who are in love tend to accumulate evidence of positive affirmation that enhance self-esteem and the loss of this can reduce the feeling of confidence. This does not necessarily mean that you were deceived by the one you loved, but instead to allow to fall in love you needed a partner that you considered neither flattering nor unfriendly. In other words, once you had confidence in your choice, your girlfriend's positive statements were made nets of credulity. The loss of her admiration can leave you spiritually adrift. Perhaps you feel that you have lost your sense of "value" -- that is to say, your deep understanding of your own talents, and it is quite possible that you doubt your own ability judging people because now you are wondering how did you choose this ex-lover in the first place?

Overall it's less fun than jumping into the rotation cycle of a washing machine. Now we can see some of the causes and symptoms, however, I will discuss how to return to a normal stable life. The objective here is to return to a baseline "zero," not to ensure that you find love again dear brother. Falling in love is the subject of another letter... the idea now is just to help you get off the mountain safely.


Physical recovery

It is important to focus on this task to help you with the effects of physical changes that you meet, the most obvious and those that are more subtle. Clearly the most urgent change is related to the loss of sexuality and touch. Do not hesitate to seek a neutral substitute as a replacement to face the sudden withdrawal of physical affection. It is preferable however to not create another liaison. When you "bounce" into another love liaison, the problem is that your new partner will feel cheated by the stray thoughts that you still have of your ex-girlfriend. You should purify this old love, back to point zero, to really be fair when you fall in love again.

So how to find a natural replacement for what you've lost that can be acceptable? The non-sexual touch can be very healing: the massages are excellent and if you are shy of human touch, you can substitute by mechanical massage or a Jacuzzi. But many times you find that you just want someone to hold you in her arms. If you have any other close friends, ask them for hugs. You might even get a pet that is fuzzy and cuddly!

Some aspects of yoga also satisfy a requirement for touch. Yoga also provides balance, and that is important. Yoga also helps relieve the stress you feel due to the changes you encounter on the biochemical level. If you are new to yoga, take things slowly at first and find an "easy" class which focuses mainly on stretching.

Exercise is also a highly recommended way to relieve stress. If you're new to an exercise routine, start slowly and progress gradually to a regular cycle. Start perhaps by taking long walks. If you're already in good shape you can spend a good hour and a half each day by performing a range of exercises. In this case the variety and a change of view are important not only to maintain your interest, but also to increase your exposure to new healing situations.

As you exercise you can alleviate many of your biochemical desires with, yes, chocolate. But the chocolate therapy can be expensive... the trick is to buy good quality chocolate in bulk, but eat in moderation. You will have to ration your portions and exercise restraint. In summary therefore the ingredients to relieve the physical symptoms of a broken heart include massages, hugs, yoga, exercise, and chocolate.


Emotional Recovery

You may begin your path of emotional healing by a slight distraction. Get involved intensely in work: in fact be always looking to work as much as possible. This will not only divert your attention from thoughts of your former lover, but also will help you build a reservoir of inner strength. You should probably avoid trivial work or hobbies; rather focus on finding a job that is socially significant. You should have a sense that you either improve your knowledge or you improve the world around you. Focus your work on survival issues first. Do work that improves the chances of good nutrition; do a job that helps you create a living environment more comfortable; do a job that increases your flexibility and your independence.

Then start writing things. Start with a simple list of decisions... a list of tasks. Note then other lists for yourself: this may be places you want to visit, a list of memories, why you are angry. If you're feeling adventurous start writing a daily diary. Writing will help you explore the limits of your feelings and it also provides a kind of completion, closure, and resolution of your thoughts. Do not worry if your spelling is horrible and your grammar leaves much to be desired... write as though it will never be read by anyone (even you).

At the same time as you write you should also broaden and diversify your reading. Reading opens the mind to different perspectives and also allows you to weigh your life in the broader context of what is happening in the world. Go to the library and read magazines you've never read before. Take a mystery novel or science fiction, a history book, a book of science, and a book on politics. Read magazines that are targeted to the opposite sex; read magazines for teenagers, flip through a magazine in a language you do not know.

At this stage it may be worth taking the time to consider your feelings directly from a view outside of yourself. One of the puzzling aspects of a broken heart is the apparent separation between the gravity of what you feel and the banality of ordinary tasks that you must accomplish each day. Putting your emotions in the context of this triviality can be difficult. One way to understand this dissociation is to change your frame of reference. Emotions can be considered a side effect of the interaction of souls. Instead of placing you at the center of a whirlwind of emotions, look at yourself and other people from the shore.

Acknowledge your emotions and those of others, but acquire them from the direction in which your souls are moving. Or to use another metaphor, instead of fixing your attention in front of you when you're in the driver's seat of the car, set the radio to the traffic report and imagine that you are planning travel to creatively avoid congestion and collisions.

Have a temporary vantage point to monitor the path of your soul and your ex-lover. What if external forces had intervened to modify one of those paths? Sometimes this happens in the immediate family, health, employment, or there could be an accident, and suddenly the life of a person may be thrown on an entirely different way. They might be intimately involved unexpectedly with a different circle of friends. Allow your mind to follow this way of thinking and how the derived relations could be ephemeral.

A couple tends to be more "fun" because you want a gift for your lover and the lover returns the favor. Therefore you raised each other to "higher" experiences. Now alone, engaging from time to time small follies will lift your spirit. But also be wise and moderate on how you enjoy these special treats. The particular types of special events you will enjoy are naturally different than when you were with a partner, but there are still many pleasures you can enjoy alone.

As you follow your way through these exercises remember to look back occasionally and check if you maintain balance in the use of your time and personal resources. Since you are working hard to recover emotionally there is the possibility of being overwhelmed by new thoughts. All these processes, evaluating, and healing can be quite demanding, so remember to rest and reassess the commitment of your time: balance is a key element of healing. So to summarize, you can retrieve your emotional well-being by focusing on labor, survival, and adaptability. Write and read more often. Consider your emotions while taking an external perspective, and remember to apply your energies in a balanced way.


Spiritual Recovery

If you view love as the interaction of souls then it is fair enough to invoke some spirituality in your imaginative rescue and recovery. This can be induced by a variety of stimuli, but to be safe, it is better to invoke a "higher power". It is quite common for the person who has a broken heart to go to drugs or alcohol as an adjunct to "forgetting" his grief. It is a reaction quite natural: the preoccupation with your incessant flow of thoughts that are not relevant immediately is often held to distraction by the person whose heart is broken. Drugs or alcohol might work for you, but they could also lead to major risks. Relying upon a Spiritual Guide is a safer alternative.

It is no matter what spirits or Gods which you invoke, but do not hesitate to do it... that is why they are there. If you are unsure what to ask your spirit guide, or how to impose, seek something more abstract: ask for advice on what you should ask them. The key to this approach however is to use courtesy and look forward. Imagine where you want to be and then ask for advice on how to get there. Recognize of course that your request is not given as a "gift", but rather as a journey. You'll always have work to do to reach the destination but your spiritual guide can provide indications on the road.

Do not ask for vengeance or revenge, ask for the understanding about your anger. As Gandhi said, "eye for an eye makes the world blind." As a person ends a liason, the scales often appear "unbalanced" in the end. Yet if you look deeply you will find that the love affairs that are not fair dissolve quickly: there is some need to be completed by both parties so a love affair can continue. So if you are angry that you've been cheated, then you can ask for clarification on how to avoid it for the future.

If your separation was hasty and you find yourself suddenly disconnected from a lover, then a broken heart can feel very similar to the impact of a death. In fact what happened was the death of a "love affair," and therefore it manifests many of the same obstacles to recovery as a real death. In fact, you should go through a grieving process.

You could find yourself with great sorrow and pain to manage, and this may be complicated by feelings of guilt. Seeking advice can be very useful for this condition: traditional advice from a psychologist or spiritual counseling from a minister. Rest assured however that you probably considerably overestimated the role you played in the "cause" of the loss. A counselor can help you identify the underlying flows and provide tools to gradually reduce your pain.

Where possible, and even if you feel depressed, find in your heart the kindness to help people. Be open to those who ask for help (within reason) and look for opportunities to volunteer. This will not only give you an account of your blessings, but also let you consider your own pain in the context of a broader perspective. It always seems your own problems are greater because you are closer to them, but when compared to the problems faced by many other people we see that your problems are proportionately tiny.

If you are near the coast, spend some time along the beach. The magnitude of life gathered under the sea and the expansiveness of its size and history allows you to place your soul in its historical context.

Finally, take time to listen to more music and see more art. People who create music often do this because of love or sadness, and listening to their music you'll be transported to be more in touch with your feelings. At first this may seem like a cruel form of punishment you inflict on yourself, but with leaving you to be totally connected to your feelings and knowing them completely, you will find the way to be released. The physical arts -- painting, sculpture and others -- will allow you to compare the temporary state of your soul with issues of enduring value. Unless you've already done this, maybe this is not the best opportunity to express yourself through an artistic outlet. If you already have the tools however, exercising your own creativity is an excellent cure.

Drop and remove your self from your former lover gently, and remember that the broken heart is a monument to a love that never dies.

Your Brother and Friend