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This Is How to Get Over Someone. Fast.

Feeling Like You Can't Move On? Use My “Stop the Story” Technique to Get Over THAT Guy You Just Can’t Stop Thinking About & Heal Your Broken Heart. 


You can’t stop thinking about the last guy you dated.


It’s been kind of a while, and you feel like you really should be over it by now . . . but you’re not.


You two were dating, and everything felt like it was going SO well (allllll the green flags: Excited to see you! Planned your dates! Took you to nice places! Texted you every day!) . . . And then, suddenly, after 3 fabulous months . . . everything changed. 


He decided that he didn’t want to be with you after all. And you were left staring at your old text thread and wondering what could have changed.


You just can’t help feeling SO confused, because it had been a really long time since you felt this excited about someone. You two had AMAZING chemistry, and being with him just felt so RIGHT.


The relationship (was it a relationship?! a situationship? You don’t even know anymore!) didn’t even last that long, so WHY can’t you stop thinking about him??!


You’ve done all of the right “getting over it” things, too: You’ve given it time. It’s been, like, MONTHS by now! You try to keep busy: You have a demanding career, you go out with friends, and you’ve even tried swiping around on the apps again, but nothing seems to help. 


You just want to GET THIS GUY OUT OF YOUR HEAD, DAMMIT. 


I FEEL you! Heartbreak is the absolute worst.


Now — pause for a sec. I’ve got you. And I’ve got JUST what you need to evict this guy from your brain and to heal your broken heart.


Read on.




HOW OUR BRAINS WORK:


Human brains are meaning-making machines. Our brains make up stories all day long about the things that happen to us and what they “mean” based on our memories, our worldview, our values, and our life experiences. 


As soon as we experience something, our brain goes to work to contextualise our experience and figure out what it all “means.” 


Our brain does this because it wants us to keep us safe. It thinks that if it can make sense of the world, then we will be safe. 


How does our brain keep us safe? By making up stories that minimise our uncertainty, soothe our discomfort, and help us to get our needs met.


The human brain doesn’t like uncertainty. Uncertainty feels scary and uncomfortable: back in the day when our brains were evolving, uncertainty meant that there might be something lurking in the shadows that could jump out and eat us! So our brains evolved to try to minimise uncertainty. And the way they do that is by making up stories.


The human brain also doesn’t like discomfort. To the brain, discomfort feels unsafe. And what does the brain do with unsafe? It tries to get rid of it: often with a story.


As you can see, our brains loveeee a good story. Stories provide a quick and easy way of minimising life’s inevitable uncertainty and filling in the dots so that everything makes sense. Stories can also help us to feel like we’re getting what we want out of life — especially when real feels confusing and uncertain, stories provide comfort.


Our brains can’t NOT make up stories.


Stories are how we make sense of the world.


Sometimes our stories are accurate, but just as often they AREN’T accurate: they’re just stories that our brain comes up with to help us to explain a confusing world.


In that sense, you can think about the stories our brain comes up with a little bit like conspiracy theories. 


Conspiracy theories help us to explain a confusing or painful situation by giving us a version of events that feels less uncertain, and therefore, less scary.


To do that, conspiracy theories take the FACTS of a situation and then extrapolate BEYOND these facts to come up with a narrative that FEELS true to us, but may not actually BE true.


Stories do this by:


  1. Filling in gaps in our knowledge when we don’t have enough information to make sense of a situation.

  2. Taking situations that feel too complicated or overwhelming for us to understand and simplifying them into a story that feels easier to grasp. When our brain makes up stories, it takes certain facts and blows them up to make them seem bigger and more important than they actually are. Our brain also ignores other information that it sees as irrelevant or that doesn’t fit with the narrative it’s trying to construct. This makes the “story” it’s making easier to understand by making it simpler.


In fact, our brains loveeee minimising uncertainty and discomfort with stories so much that they reward themselves with a little dopamine hit when they do this successfully. 


That dopamine hit provides a powerful incentive for us to keep replaying the stories that gave us the biggest “hits” — even when those stories no longer serve us or actually start to hurt us.


If this all seems confusing; never fear! I’ll explain what this all means for you in the next section.




WHY YOU JUST CAN’T SEEM TO GET OVER HIM:


Now — how does this all relate to your heartbreak?


Well, when a relationship ends, and especially when a relationship ends out of the blue, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and you’d best believe there’s a lot of discomfort. On the uncertainty side of things: we cannot possibly know for certain WHY somebody made the decision to end things with us, or what exactly they were thinking. Even if they told us why, there are usually still a lot of unanswered questions: what did I do wrong? How could I have missed the signs? (I thought things were going so well!) What does this mean about me? What comes next?


On the discomfort side of things: breakups are painful. Duh.


But — remember, our brain doesn’t LIKE uncertainty, and it totally hates discomfort. So it’s going to make up a story to fill in all of the little gaps that are missing from the information we have with information that helps us to feel better. 


The problem is that our brain doesn’t necessarily pick the BEST information to fill the gaps in with: it just picks whatever it thinks will make the uncertainty go away and make us feel good.


Remember: The reason our brain makes up its stories is because it thinks that it’s helping us to feel better and to cope with an uncertain future. Like a small child who colours all over the kitchen wall and then proudly shows you what he’s done, our brain thinks that it’s HELPING us by making up these stories.


Just like this kid, our brain thinks that it’s HELPING us by making up these stories.

Let’s take a look at how this goes down in practice:


When we’re having a difficult time getting over somebody, it’s usually because our brains are making up a story (or multiple stories!) about this person and our connection with them that make it seem like this person or the relationship we had with them was better than it actually was. 


In our lives, we have certain fundamental human needs. For example, humans beings NEED to experience intimacy, we need to experience connection, we need to experience safety, and we need to experience self esteem. We need to experience these things so badly that, even when we aren’t experiencing them, our brains will try to figure out a way to get our needs met. Our brains need a shortcut. 


And what do we know is our brain’s favourite shortcut? A story.


Our story tells us that, in our past relationship, we got our needs met and everything was all right in the world.


That’s what makes it so hard to move on: Who wouldn’t want to hang onto that?


Of course, these stories aren’t true: they’re just stories. But they’re stories that speak to our deep human needs to belong, to be cared for, and to experience intimacy. And that’s why they’re so easy to believe.


Stories about how great this person is and why we need to stay in love with them forever are our brain’s way of trying to protect us from what it perceives as the big, scary things that might happen if we rejected the story in order to recognise what’s ACTUALLY happening: this failed relationship DOESN’T represent the epic love story that we so deeply want.


Recognising what’s really happening would then lead to an even BIGGER, scarier uncertainty: If we recognised that this relationship wasn’t TRULY “it” for us, we would then need to take the actions that would ACTUALLY get our needs met: getting over the person who’s unavailable to us and pursuing real love.


Pursuing real love is scary to our brains: it’s risky, it’s vulnerable, and it carries the threat of being seen for who we really are and then rejected.


This prospect is TERRIFYING to our brain. So instead of putting us into an uncertain situation (remember, to our brains, uncertainty = danger!) our brain makes up a story that convinces us that, by staying in love with somebody who doesn’t want to be with us or who can’t fully show up for us, we’re better off. (At least we know what we’re getting!)


Of course, the truth is that by staying hung up on somebody who left us, we aren’t actually better off. Staying in love with somebody who can’t or who won’t be with us is what’s actually keeping us from being with somebody who CAN show up for us fully.


In order to get our needs ACTUALLY met, we’ll need to move aside the stories and see reality for what it actually is: as a situation that isn’t meeting our needs. Only then can we take the steps that we need to take to get our needs met IRL.


If this is all feeling a little abstract, don’t worry. I have examples below that are going to make this concept feel CRYSTAL clear.


But first: If you’re reading this right now, and you find yourself thinking: “But isn’t it just normal to be sad when a relationship ends? Aren’t I SUPPOSED to be sad when somebody ghosts me out of the blue? That’s NORMAL, right?”


Right! YES! It’s normal.


Yes, of COURSE we’re going to feel sad when a relationship ends: it would be wild if we weren’t. And we might even have a LOT of feelings about the relationship ending: when a relationship we were excited about ends abruptly, feelings of sadness or hurt or anger (or all of the above!) are all normal. 


But here’s the catch: when we’re finding it unusually difficult to get over somebody, and maybe it’s been kind of a while since our relationship ended, and maybe we’re even noticing that the degree to which we’re hung up on this person is disproportionate to how long or how well we actually knew them — there’s almost always a story going on that’s sneakily making things more complicated than they need to be.


(A note: I see this crop up a lot in my work with women who have recently been divorced or widowed, and who are finding it really challenging to move on from the first person they dated after their divorce or after the death of their partner. Grief and loss mean that a LOT of our needs that USED to be getting met are no longer getting met. When that happens, we can sometimes reach for another person to meet those needs — and we often end up reaching for somebody who isn’t a great fit for us. And when the inevitable happens — that person realises we aren’t a match, and then they leave — ohh baby! That hurts! Especially because it can be difficult for us to see at first that they weren’t as good of a match as our brain was making them out to be.)


But let’s take a look at how all of this goes down and how it relates to YOU, shall we?


I’ve written out three example scenarios below that show what this process looks like in action. 


In the first scenario, our brain is making up a story about the CONNECTION we share with the person who left us. In the second, our brain is making up a story about the PERSON who left us themselves. And in the third, our brain is making up a story about what’s true about our situation and our CIRCUMSTANCES.


In each of these scenarios, we’ll see how the story our brain is making up keeps us stuck and prevents us from moving on.


In the section that follows, I’ll tell you what you can do about it and exactly how to break free and move on with your life.




THE SCENARIOS:


Scenario One: Stories About Connection.


Diving into the first of our three example scenarios, let’s start by taking a look at a scenario where our brain is making up a story about the CONNECTION that we shared with the person who left us.


Let’s say that you’re dating a guy for a few months. Let’s say that you REALLY like him — and you feel like he might even be The One! Let’s say that your first six weeks together are GREAT — you have alllll of the fun dates, you see each other like five times a week, and you feel like you’re floating on a romantic blissful honeymoon cloud.


But then, as you two are rounding the corner into the two-month mark, you start noticing this guy distancing himself and pulling away.


It’s subtle at first: he starts taking foreverrrrrr to respond to your texts, and then you realise you two have been seeing each other less and less. Waiting for his texts feels like torture, and you realise you’ve started getting really bad anxiety when he says he’ll call — but then doesn’t. Eventually, he ghosts you.


Naturally, you’re devastated. And confused. Where did he go? What happened? Did you do something wrong?


Maybe you tell yourself a story that this guy was The One for you, and that you “messed up” your connection with him. Maybe you tell yourself that because this is the first guy you’ve really liked in a long time, you won’t find another connection that you feel the same way about again. In both cases, you’re telling yourself a story that this person, and the connection you shared with them, is special and rare, and that it’s going to be difficult to find another connection that compares to what you two shared. 


But here’s the thing: These things you tell yourself are just stories. They aren’t true


Instead of just looking at the facts about what our connection with this person was like, our stories reinterpret the facts to make our relationship with this person out to be different — and better! —  than it actually was IRL.


When we tell ourselves that this person was The One for us and that we won’t find anyone else like them ever again, or that the connection we shared with them was SO special that it’s irreplaceable, we’re going beyond what actually happened (we shared a special connection with this person, but they were also not super available to us) to craft a new story about the relationship and what it means for our lives. 


When this happens, our brains look back and miss the GOOD parts of the relationship (like when the person we dated was sweet and attentive), and tell us that we’ll never find love like that ever again. But in order to do that, our brains ALSO need to leapfrog over hard truths: like the fact that this person took forever to respond to our texts, or the fact that we frequently felt anxious and stressed out between our dates. 


What we’re not doing is being fully honest with ourselves about the reality of the connection we shared: that we may have really liked this person, but they weren’t always available to us — sometimes they were flakey, sometimes they didn’t call us back, and they often made plans with us at the last minute. Instead, we’re stuck in a fantasy in which we focus only on the positive parts of the connection we shared, and we start believing that this person was more available to us or compatible with us than they actually were. Yes, we had strong feelings for them, but our feelings were based on the story we created for ourselves about what this person was like, rather than on what, in 3D reality, they were actually like.


Our brains hold onto our stories because believing that our connection was better than it actually was feels good. Feeling like we had a great connection with this person was our brain’s way of helping us to feel like we were getting our needs for connection and intimacy met in the relationship. During our relationship, our story allowed us to imagine that we had the intimate, close relationship that we deeply craved: one in which we were loved and accepted, and that satisfied our deeply human needs for intimacy, connection, love, and acceptance.


The other thing our story did was that it allowed us to feel this way WITHOUT requiring us to do what would actually be needed for us to achieve TRUE intimacy, but what would feel even scarier to our brains than staying in a half-in, half-out relationship: putting ourselves back out into the dating pool to look for somebody who actually wants a long-term, intimate relationship with us.


Putting ourselves back out there to date again feels really vulnerable and scary for our brain. 


Not only is dating ITSELF scary (so many unknowns! So much uncertainty!), but the thought of dating again and meeting somebody who might ACTUALLY want a long-term, intimate relationship with us is scary, too!


Getting authentically close to somebody who wants what we want and who’s emotionally available is scary to our brain because it leaves us really vulnerable and exposed. What if we’re fully seen and fully known by somebody new, and they reject us? What if they judge us? Ugh.


So, instead of risking alllll that vulnerability, we pick somebody who isn’t actually fully available to date (the guy who left us), and then our brain airbrushes parts of the story to convince us that the relationship DID meet all of our needs. That way, our brain reasons, we get the best of both worlds: we get to FEEL like our needs are being met, and we get to avoid doing the big, scary thing of being fully seen and known by another person.


This is why we kept dating Mr. Half-In-Half-Out even when he started giving us mixed signals: we wanted so badly to just be in a great relationship already, that we overlooked them. 


And this is also why we’re staying hung up on him instead of dating again: it feels safer to pine over lost love than to risk getting hurt again.


Is this starting to make sense yet?


If not, don’t worry. Let’s look at another example.




Scenario Two: Stories About People.


This time, let’s look at an example in which the story that our brain is making up, instead of being about our connection, is about the person that we can’t stop thinking about.


Okay, so let’s say that we were dating somebody for about six months, and then the relationship ended because this person realised that they weren’t in a great place to date because their kids weren’t ready yet for another woman to be in the picture after their parent’s divorce — so rather than dragging out the relationship with us, they did the honourable thing and chose to end it.


Now let’s say that the story we’re telling ourselves that this person was the perfect partner for us: that they were the kindest, most loving, most integrity-filled man that we’d ever met, and that it’s unlikely in today’s dating climate that we’re going to meet somebody else like them anytime soon.


Now hold up. If we truly believe that somebody is the kindest, most loving, most integrity-filled person we’ve ever met, it’s going to make it REALLY difficult to get over them, right?


Right.


Remember how in our last scenario, our story made out the CONNECTION we shared with somebody to be better than it actually was? Well, in this scenario, our story is making out the PERSON we dated to be better than THEY actually are. In our story, the person who we dated becomes MORE than just a great guy — he becomes “the KINDEST, MOST loving, MOST integrity-filled PERSON we’ve EVER MET” — an almost superhuman version of a potential partner!


This is how we stay stuck.


I can hear you now, though: “But Chelsey! This guy really WAS the kindest, most integrity-filled man I’ve ever met! How can this be a story that keeps me stuck if it’s TRUE?”


I hear you. But here’s the thing: Our story is a story because this guy may have been kind, he may have been loving, and he may have been full of integrity. But NOBODY is superhuman. And nobody is a perfect partner.


The thing is, real, authentic connections are made up of two people, two humans, who have flaws and needs and weaknesses, just like everybody else. When we make up a story about how somebody is a perfect partner, and about how nobody else could possibly compare to them, what we’re doing is erasing their humanity (which includes their flaws!) and instead of seeing them as a PERSON, we’re seeing them as a collection of QUALITIES that represent who WE need them to be. In other words, we start seeing them as a sort of need-fulfilling machine, rather than as a whole person.


If this sounds a little harsh, think about it this way: When we make up a story that paints somebody as perfect, or near-perfect, what we’re actually doing is erasing the complexity that comes with being a full human person. Full humans have flaws. When we tell ourselves that somebody is perfect (or it’s near cousin: perfect for us!), instead of seeng this person for who THEY really are, we only pay attention to the ways that this person fulfils our needs.


Here’s one more way to look at it: If we aren’t making up a story that somebody is the perfect partner for us, when we’re interacting with them and we learn new information that tells us that they’re emotionally unavailable — maybe they aren’t looking for a relationship right now, or maybe they aren’t fully over their ex, or maybe they aren’t in a great place to date because of their kids — the logical thing for us to do is to receive that information, to acknowledge that we feel disappointed, and then to revise the mental picture we have of them to accommodate our new information. We’ll recognise that, while this person might be a great person overall, if they aren’t emotionally available right now, they aren’t a great partner for us, and they certainly aren’t perfect. And we’ll end the relationship with them.


But when we’re making up a story, instead of taking in new information about them, what we might do instead is that we might try to ignore the new information we learn. Or we might make excuses for the new information: “Yes, he said that he isn’t in a great place to date right now, but if I just wait long enough — maybe things will change!” We’ll do this because that new information is getting in the way of our STORY — that this person is wonderful and the perfect partner for us — and our story is how we’re getting our need for feeling loved and safe in the relationship met.


Remember, the purpose of our stories is ALWAYS to keep us safe, to meet our needs, and to minimise uncertainty. Our brain is always just trying to keep us safe and do what it thinks is best.


How on earth is a story that keeps us stuck and sad helping us?


Well . . . 


Maybe our story is meeting a need we have to feel safe. For example, if we don’t normally feel safe with men and we have trouble trusting romantic partners, believing that THIS man was exceptional and better than every other man out there would help us to feel safe while we were dating them — because he’s not like the other guys!


But what about now that he’s gone? How is the belief that he’s better than everyone else helping us now? Isn’t it just keeping us stuck and miserable? 


Well — yes and no. Yes, it’s keeping us stuck and sad, but it’s also keeping us “safe”: by keeping us stuck, this belief is protecting us from needing to do the scary thing and to open up again to a NEW partner in a NEW relationship — a new partner that might hurt us.


See how this works?


Let’s take a look at one last example.




Scenario Three: Stories About Circumstances.


Here’s our last example: Sometimes our brain makes up a story about the REALITY of our situation.


For this one, let’s say that you were dating somebody you really, REEEEEALLY liked.

 

Let's say that you both got attached quickly.  You two spent HOURS talking on the phone and had epic 48-hour long marathon dates over a period of about 6 weeks . . . 

 

. . . And then, out of nowhere, he started to slowly pull back. Eventually, he disappeared completely. 

 

You’re left feeling confused and hurt, and how you feel is made worse by the fact that you’ve had a hell of a time dating: you haven’t had a lot of luck on the apps, and you JUST saw on the news that the city you live in was named one of the worst cities in the US for dating. (You totally can believe it!)

 

Now let’s say that you start telling yourself that your city sucks for dating, and you’re probably not going to meet anybody else you like again for a long time. You tell yourself that it’s going to be REALLY HARD TO DATE, that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to meet somebody else you like in your city, that dating is hard and that this is the LAST guy you’re ever going to be attracted to (like ever again!).

 

But the truth of the matter is: These things that you're telling yourself might FEEL true, but they aren’t true. Our brain is making up stories that serve a purpose: our stories keep us from needing to take risks and to take an action (dating) that feels scary and stressful for us.

 

Yes, PARTS of our stories may in fact be true: We might indeed live in a city that other people have agreed is difficult to date in. We might not have met a lot of men in our city the past who we have wanted to date. We might have even used dating apps in the past and not had a lot of success.

 

But the STORY we’re making up here lies in our INTERPRETATION of these facts.

 

Our STORY says that because of where we live, we cannot possibly meet anybody we like — when the REALITY is that there are likely many people who find love in our city every day, and if they can find love, so can we. 

 

Our STORY says that because we haven’t met anybody we like on the apps so far, that it must be impossible to for us to find love online. The REALITY is that maybe we haven’t met anyone we like online because we haven’t been using the apps effectively, we may not have been dating with a dating strategy, or we may have been filtering for the wrong things.

 

Our STORY says that this guy who disappeared is the last guy we’re ever going to meet and like, when the REALITY is that there are probably many people we’re compatible with, and we won’t meet them if we stop dating.

 

The reason our brain holds onto our story is because it’s trying to keep us safe: Dating feels really scary, stressful, and vulnerable (after all, dating is an inherently vulnerable act!).  Putting ourselves out there again feels UNBELIEVABLY scary (what if we get hurt?) and our story protects us from needing to ever do that again. 

 

So instead of us diving into the inherently vulnerable act of dating, we’re telling ourselves a STORY that keeps us from needing to do that.  As long as we believe that dating is really hard, or that it’s impossible for us to meet somebody else in the city where we live, or that this guy was probably the last guy in our city who we’re compatible with, we’re creating a false reality for ourselves that removes any necessity for us to date. Logically, if these things were true, why would we date? It would be futile.

 

Of course, the reality is that — yes, we COULD get hurt if we dated again! But we could also find love. And — let’s be honest — there might be a chance that we’ll get hurt if we date again, but there’s a 100% chance that we definitely won’t find love if we hide out and avoid dating forever.

 

So: stay lonely and afraid of taking risks forever, or put ourselves out there and take a chance — and maybe find love in the process? 

 

The choice is always ours.




OTHER STORIES THAT CAN STOP US FROM MOVING ON:


Here are some examples of other stories that can stop us from moving on that I’ve seen in my Facebook communities and in my work with clients: 


  • Believing that there’s nobody else for us out there.

  • Believing that this person, and our connection with them, is special in some way, and that it’s going to be difficult to find somebody else with whom we share what we have with them. 

  • Believing that dating is hard and that it’s going to be REALLY difficult to find somebody else who we like again. 

  • Believing that this person was “The One.” (Psssst: Let me let you in on a little secret. “The One” doesn’t exist!)

  • Believing that because you and this person had a really intense connection, that the relationship was “meant to be.” (PSA: Nope! Often times, really strong chemistry DOESN’T mean that somebody is meant for us: it means that our brains and bodies are responding to a trauma bond!)

  • Believing that by continuing to love somebody who doesn’t love us back from afar, that we’re “being loyal.” (Pssssst: You’re not. That’s not how loyalty works. We can’t “be loyal” to somebody who doesn’t want to be with us. That’s not loyalty: that’s a trauma response.)

  • Believing that there’s something uniquely flawed about US (we’re a single parent, we have a disability, we’re in a difficult place financially, etc.) or our situation (we live in a city that’s difficult to date in, we’re in grad school, we’re recently divorced, we’re in a difficult time in our lives) that will make finding somebody who wants to be with us uniquely difficult, if not impossible. (The truth is that there will ALWAYS be external factors that make it difficult to date. We take our power back by focusing on what we CAN control, rather than on what we CAN’T control. And usually, that’s enough to get us to where we want to be!) 


Our brain makes up stories because it wants to keep us SAFE.

HOW TO BREAK FREE FROM OUR STORIES:


Here’s the thing: Our stories aren't true. (Even if they FEEL really true!) They're just stories.


It’s okay to feel disappointed when a meaningful connection ends. But when we make the ending mean more than it actually does, we hurt our own feelings. 


The only time that a relationship ending means that we won’t find love is when we decide that it means that, and we give up on dating. 


Our person is out there, and we won’t find them if we give up.


So — what do we do, then? How do we stop our brain from making up stories that keep us feeling trapped and stuck?


Welllllllll . . . I have some good news, and I have some bad news.


The bad news is that we CAN’T actually choose to never make up stories again. Stories are how our brain makes sense of the world, remember? Our brains are always going to make up stories to some extent. 


But the good news is that we CAN choose to respond differently to our stories. And that’s enough for us to get unstuck and be able to move on with our lives and with our relationships.


So while we can’t stop our brains from making up stories, we DO have the power to choose how we respond to our stories. We can choose to question our stories, and to stop giving unhelpful stories airtime. We can choose to take a magnifying glass to the stories we make up and to critically evaluate whether we want to subscribe to that story, or whether we’re going to choose to believe a different story — one that, instead of keeping us stuck, empowers us to create a new (happier!) ending for ourselves.


Got it? Great. Let’s take a look at how you can DIY this in your specific heartbreak situation.




BREAKING FREE USING MY 4-STEP “STOP THE STORY” PROCESS:


How we get over somebody who’s taking up rent-free space in our heads is by stopping the story and by replacing it with a NEW story.


I teach my clients to do this using a 4-step process. That process goes like this: 


  1. Stopping the story

  2. Replacing the old story with a NEW story

  3. Distraction & habits

  4. Being brave enough to put ourselves back out there.


Let’s dive into each of these steps in depth. 



Step 1: Stop the story.


Recognise that your brain is making up a story, and what that story is saying.


For example: “My brain is telling me that I really messed up a good thing, and that the person who I’m no longer with was the only one for me.”


Once you identify your story, acknowledge that, while this story might FEEL really true: it isn’t true. It’s just a story. It’s just your brain trying to make sense of a painful and confusing situation and to protect you in the best way that it knows how.


A helpful way to stop believing in your story is to think of disinvesting from your story like hitting “unsubscribe” to an email list or to an Instagram account. Just like you don’t need to stay subscribed to an Instagram account that makes you feel bad about yourself, you likewise don’t need to believe a story just because your brain is making it up. In other words: you have the ability to choose what you’re going to believe.


This might look like you saying to yourself: “Interesting! Looks like my brain is doing that story thing again. Thanks, brain, for trying to keep me safe, but this isn’t helping me today. I’m going to hit unsubscribe.”



Step 2: Replace your OLD story with a NEW story.


To heal from heartbreak, our task is to not buy into the scary stories that our brain makes up, but instead to INTERRUPT those stories and to intentionally choose to create a NEW story for ourselves.


For example, instead of “This person is the only one for me,” you might try: “I shared a special connection with this person. They aren’t the only person or the LAST person I’ll ever share a connection with. There’s somebody else out there for me, but I won’t find them if I stay in my story and believe that they don’t exist.”



Step 3: Distraction & Habits.


Okay, so we’ve stopped our old story and we’ve replaced it with a new story. Now what?


Even once we’ve shifted our story, our brain can still want to return to its old source of dopamine (our story!) to get a hit. 


Our brain has been getting a dopamine reward from playing our old story over and over (it’s filling a need, remember?) and has grown to depend on that reward to feel good. 


In other words, our old story has become a HABIT.


In order to break that habit, we’re going to need to consciously and to deliberately retrain the way that our brain is used to thinking.


Human brains learn through repetition. Just like we formed a habit of replaying our old story over and over again in our minds, we’re going to need to teach our brain a NEW habit: one of consciously returning to our NEW story again and again instead.


Eventually, our new story will become our brain’s new go-to. But until then, we need to make replacing our old story with our new story a conscious habit.


This will mean recognising when your brain is trying to go back to its old patterns, and actively arresting your thought process in its tracks. To make this process of halting your story easier, you might need to employ a visual aid or a tangible practice, like snapping a rubber band on your wrist or clapping your hands together, or taking a deep breath. 


Once you’ve halted your old story, you will need to consciously distract yourself by actively turning your attention to something else. This might mean going for a walk, turning on your favourite upbeat music, calling a friend, or immersing yourself in a project. Whatever you choose, the goal is to acknowledge that your brain is making up its story again, and then to actively choose to put your attention onto something else.


Sound hard? It is. But it’s totally doable. You can totally do it. And, once you do, you’ll find that you gradually think about your old relationship less and less . . . almost as if by magic.


You, a stopping the story PRO by the time you're done reading this article & creating new habits. Look at you go!

Here’s the thing, though: This process works, but it won’t completely get rid of all thoughts of your heartbreak the first time you do it. Like breaking any habit, the magic comes from repeating the process again and again. Over and over. Little bit by little bit. 


Gradually, the habit will break, your heartbreak will subside, and you will feel lighter and free from ruminating thoughts. But to get there, you will need to repeat the “Stop the Story” process every time you find yourself slipping back into your old habits. This is how you get it to stick.



Step 4: Get back out there.


Okay, so now that you’ve learned how to stop the story and how to replace your story with a new story, what’s next?


Well, the last step of the “Stop the Story” process is . . . 




YOUR LAST STEP: GET BACK OUT THERE & DATE.


The last thing I have for you is something that might feel a little bit hard to hear: There IS absolutely somebody out there for you, but you won’t find them if you believe that they don’t exist. 


You also won’t find them if you don’t date.


(Ooof, I know!)


Yes, grieve the ending of a meaningful connection: but when you’re done, get back out there and date! Something I had to learn the hard way is that endless reflecting on what went wrong isn’t healthy processing — it’s ruminating.


Your brain might try to convince you that you need to wait until you feel “ready” to date, but that’s just your brain doing what it does best and holding you back (being stuck is “safe”, remember?). 


Your brain is just trying to keep you safe by convincing you that by staying stuck and waiting to feel “ready,” we’ll be able to avoid hurt, heartbreak, and disappointment. But the way to guarantee that we DO stay hurt, heartbroken, and disappointed is by ruminating and by staying stuck. And the only way that we get ready to date is by getting started.


Confidence is something we learn by DOING, not by waiting to feel confident.


So: even if you reeeeeally don’t want to date, it’s critical that you get back on the horse.


Feel sad, eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s (my old stand-by is Cherry Garcia), listen to Taylor Swift while you drink a glass of Chardonnay, read through this blog post one more time — but when you’re done, strap on your cute little boots and get back on the horse. 


Dating is how we give ourselves the real-world feedback that we need to prove our stories wrong. 


We can do all of the affirmations, read all of the books, and meditate until our feet have fallen asleep from sitting on the floor, but until we go out there and date, we won’t REALLY believe that there are people out there who can give us butterflies again, that good connections aren’t as rare as we think, or that finding love again is indeed possible for us.


Yes, putting ourselves out there will feel hard and scary — but it’s necessary. That’s why I’ve made it the last step in my “stop the story” process: we won’t FULLY believe in a new story until we give ourselves EVIDENCE that a beautiful new connection is possible for us.


If you never start, you’re never going to get to the part where you’ve succeeded. We won’t find our person by sitting at home. 


So get out there and start dating again.


This work is tough. Totally. But so are you. 


And you can TOTALLY do this. 


I believe in you.



 


PS. If you try everything I’ve talked about here and you’re STILL finding it difficult to break through your brain’s old thought patterns (and especially if those patterns seem to be repeating themselves with EVERYONE you date!), doing some work with a professional who works on attachment can be helpful in shifting that pattern. This is work that can be done with many therapists; this is also work that I do with my 1:1 coaching clients. You can apply to work with me by clicking HERE.



PPS. If you're drained from drowning in a sea of dreadful dating dossiers and want nothing more than to just find someone attractive and normal for once — I see you, I was you, and I'm here for you!


I walk you through how to spot the sneaky red flags that are lurking in your Hinge queue and how to gain the CONFIDENCE to walk away from them inside of my FREE workshop, Confident & Clear Dating. Confident & Clear is my FREE workshop where I walk you through how to attract high quality matches, avoid hidden red flags and date with confidence — EVEN IF you hate dating and never want to use a dating app ever again. (I get it!)


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