How to Get Over Someone

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Many people believe that time heals all wounds, and that’s true to some extent. But when it comes to getting over a lost love, time isn’t necessarily a cure all. Everything in life is impermanent, even our most closely held relationships, which means we are all fated to experience the suffering of loss repeatedly throughout our lives. It’s just part of life. We can look around and see how some people manage to process, heal, and move on from their breakups, while others get stuck in an endless cycle of denial, delusion, and unrequited love. How exactly do we move through life the first way and avoid the second?

If you’re trying to get over someone, here’s how it’s done effectively: 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind. You’ve heard this one before, but it’s a critical step most people fail to take. The first part is relatively easy: stop following your ex on social media, change their name in your phone, and put away all pictures and memorabilia from your relationship. You don’t have to destroy their love letters or trash their hoodie; just set everything aside in a box to deal with later. The second part, out of mind, is much harder. How do you stop thinking about someone who has taken up so much of your mental space for so long? 

  1. The Thought Police. The truth is, you’re not thinking about them so much because you’re karmically connected or anything like that; you’re thinking about them because it’s a mental habit. When you wake up, you think about them; when you go to sleep, you think about them. When something good happens, you think about them; when something bad happens, you think about them. It’s like a reflex. Recognizing this behavior as a mental habit is the first step to overcoming it. The process here is simple, but not easy: you have to constantly police your thoughts, and when you notice your mind is habitually thinking about them, distract yourself with literally anything else. At first, this process will be difficult because you’ll notice your mind is obsessively thinking about them every few minutes or seconds even. Don’t despair! Just keep policing your thoughts and redirecting them to something else. After a few days, you’ll find your mind is obsessing a little less. After a few weeks, you’ll find your mind is only occasionally going there. After a few months, you’ll find your mind has stopped thinking about them, and the habit is broken. But what are appropriate ways to ‘distract’ yourself? 

  2. Healthy Distractions. Your best bet in these moods is to elevate your heart rate, which means walking/running/hiking, doing yoga, lifting weights, and even dancing. Breaking a sweat can be cathartic for detoxing your body of your ex’s energy. Already wired? Try focusing on a creative project instead. Been meaning to try your hand at painting? Sewing? Woodworking? Or maybe learning to read Tarot? Or finally write that script? Whatever your curiosity, now is the time to dive in and play. All these options sound too draining? Then relax; take a bath, get a massage, read a good book, listen to a record, or practice some yoga nidra. Even if you manage to do all these initial steps right, you’ll still end up having a few crummy days here and there. What then? 

  3. Outside Support. When you’re just about to explode, avoid ruminating and instead, write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. If that doesn’t help, then call a friend. If you’ve already exhausted all your friends talking about your love life, visit a therapist/counselor instead. The key is that you need an outlet to express these thoughts and feelings, be it by writing it down, or talking to a friend or professional. Letting these thoughts fester inside you is the exact opposite of step 2, and will undermine your progress. Do your best to police your thoughts and give yourself healthy distractions; but when the going gets tough, call on others for help. We all need it sometimes. 

  4. Checking for Progress. So let’s say you do the above and you gradually improve. After a few months of removing reminders of your ex, policing your thoughts to avoid thinking about them, and expressing your feelings without dwelling on them, you’ll find that you’ve broken the habit and are no longer automatically thinking about them. Now is the time to check your progress. Start by looking at just their name. Does seeing their name trigger an emotional reaction? Even if a positive emotion is triggered, this reaction means you are not fully over them yet. Return to step 1, and keep practicing the whole process for another month or so before checking again. If you find you don’t have a significant emotional reaction to seeing their name, escalate by looking at a photo of them (note: avoid the urge to stalk them online and see what they’re up to and if they’re with someone new). Does seeing their picture trigger an emotional reaction? If so, you’re not done. Keep working and try again in another month. Eventually, you’ll be able to see their face without experiencing an emotional reaction. When that happens, congratulations! You’re over them. 

This technique is also a warning of what not to do. See, if your obsession with an ex is a mental habit, it can be broken. But if the habit is indulged, it will get worse, just like any other untreated addiction. That means that if you indulge in the temptation to fantasize about your ex late at night, you are deepening your attachment and digging a deeper hole to pull yourself out of. Many people waste entire decades of their lives pining for someone who’s long gone. Don’t let that be you. Apply the steps above with diligence and patience, and you’ll be feeling better in no time.