The Trauma Of Breaking Up

A broken heart has been the lament and inspiration of our entire lifetime as feeling-prone human beings. We were programmed to bond, to connect, to mate, to reproduce, and to stay bonded for a lifetime. Our ideals of romance, love, and partnership have changed significantly over time and the way we relate to romance, love, and partnership have evolved as well. Despite the many, many ways which exist for approaching relationships, there is one facet of a relationship which has gone unchanged: breaking up is hard to do.

Breaking up with someone is a process of many traumatic experiences which can trigger traumatic experiences in our lives, as well as manifestations of our trauma we may or may not be aware of. Break ups typically come upon us one of two ways: very suddenly, without any warning or gradually overtime in a very long, painful ending. Either way, we see something, and someone, that we wanted, an idea, a fantasy, a need, a want, a desire, a life plan, a marriage, an arrangement- something new, something long term- come to an end. Endings are, inherently, unsettling. When we have issues of trauma which have gone unresolved, we might have abandonment issues of different kinds which come up for us. Even if we don’t have abandonment issues, we are still left with the very real physical, emotional, and mental experience, as well as spiritual experience, of having a vacancy in our heart.

Relationships are deeply intimate, often in more than one way. Our relationships become a sort of reality- what we know to be true about the world, like our security, our trust, and our faith- can at least in some way be traced back to our relationship. Relationships make us feel secure. A relationship ending, whether we are ready for it or not, leaves us feeling insecure, much in the way trauma does.

In her book The Trauma Heart, Judy Crane defines trauma as “any life event or series of life events, or ongoing life events, that create a negative impact on your life that changes or distorts your vision of yourself and your place in the world.” Trauma is the sudden shattering of our reality, the sudden disruption of our sense of security, the breaking of our trust, and the dissolving of some, if not all of, our faith. Everything we thought we knew, believed, and felt about ourselves and our place in the world is changed. That couldn’t be more true for relationships. What we know about ourselves, in part, has to do with our relationship and what we know about our place in the world is that we are by the side of our partner.

Feeling Retraumatized During A Break Up

If we have trauma in our past which had to do with abandonment of any kind, we are likely to experience some retraumatization during a break up. Regardless of how far we are into our trauma recovery after graduating a trauma treatment program, how long we’ve been sober, or long we’ve abstained from harmful behaviors, the pain of loss and the presence of grief can trigger a need to cope in the ways most familiar and comfortable to us. We lean heavily into our recovery and onto our support team during these times to get through the initial phases of what is essentially emotional withdrawal until we find solid ground again. Just as we learned from our treatment and recovery, we can, and we will, get through just about anything and come out stronger on the other side.

Letting Go Of Toxic Attachments

However, getting to the point of recognizing we are ready to recover, or that we are ready to break up, or that we will be okay after a break up, takes a phenomenal amount of work. Being prepared to let go, or able to let go, also depends the nature of our relationships. Specifically, a break up can feel more like a detox from drugs and alcohol if we had a toxic attachment.

The idea that we wouldn’t be readily willing to let go of something which is so bad for our wellbeing that it is be deemed toxic seems nothing less than ridiculous. On the outside, toxic attachments do seem somewhat ridiculous, but the shame-programmed perspective we have on toxic attachments comes from our personal lack of understanding for one. At best, we can understand the extreme difficulty in giving up a bad habit like soda, sugar, social media- any kind of behavior which provides us some kind of benefit that we desire. When a partner has hurt us, abused us, abandoned us, neglected us, rejected us, or done more to us, we should feel ready and empowered to leave- but trauma and toxic attachments are much more complicated than that.

Getting Through A Breakup In Recovery

Breaking up is hard to do, no matter how much recovery we have under our belt. Living in trauma recovery means living knowing that we still need support for new challenges we face in life. Connecting with our treatment team can be a good idea during a break up. We can find out what kind of alumni events are coming up, if there are intensives being offered, and how we can find structured support. Relying heavily on our close friends and family, as well as our recovery fellowship, can help us remember we aren’t alone, we will get through this, and all of our memories of trauma will pass.

When you graduate trauma treatment, the rubber meets the road, as it is said. To live successfully in recovery from trauma, addictions, or related mental health issues, we need the care and professionalism of an experienced, specialized staff who provide us excellence in treatment. Our alumni learn how to thrive in their lives not in spite of trauma, but because of it. We’re always here to welcome those in need of help at The Guest House Ocala. Call us today for information and resources: 1-855-483-7800