Our brains instead construct our worldview based on what we pay attention to.
How long does it take to get over someone?
People say it could be months, or even years. You can actually make the process even faster, if you use the right strategy to deal with your broken heart.
I used a week. And that phase was life-changing for me. I went through crying, staying in bed, eating nothing to going out, working, learning as a normal person — in just a week. I didn’t realize how fast this transition had happened until my friends pointed out:
“How can you get over someone this quick?”
Then I started wondering too. Yeah, how did I get through that miserable phase so fast? That relationship wasn’t just a one-month fling. Then I started looking back at all the reaction I had and the actions I took to analyze myself.
What Does Getting Over Mean?
Let’s face it. Getting over someone doesn’t mean not thinking of the person. Of course, you will. Your ex (or maybe you guys were not even dating, but let’s just call it “your ex”.) has been in your life EVERY SINGLE DAY for a certain period of time. And all of a sudden, a big part of your life gets torn apart from you.
Getting over someone is more like your emotions won’t have a drastic change when you think or talk about your ex and that you are able to live your life normally without being affected. Thinking of your ex at this stage is like talking about a fact. Yeah, it happened. That’s all. No tears involved.
The Path I Went Through
Phase 1: Just A Piece Of Shit
(Nope. This is not describing your ex. It’s about the state we went through.)
It was like a “Turkey Problem”: since a turkey is born, it will get fed by the owner every day. It thinks that the owner must love it so much because he provides food constantly. And its affection towards the owner builds up day by day. Just as the affection reaches its climax, Thanksgiving comes. (See Antifragile by Nassim Taleb)
I was the turkey. Out of the blue, my thanksgiving came due to some pieces of words. The sudden sadness was so overwhelming that I just couldn’t handle it. Everything had seen fine and I just couldn’t understand why this couldn’t work out.
As every cliche start of a breakup, I laid in bed all day crying; I didn’t have the mood to eat or talk; I thought of him all the time; I kept checking whether he was online. (You know how it was, as we all had been there or you probably still am.)
Basically, you can’t do anything properly at this point. Whatever you want to do, your mind flows back to the sadness. I was, at the time, a piece of lazy miserable shit.
Phase 2: Awaken
But on the third day, I forced myself to go out. Since at that time I wasn’t in my hometown, I did not want to waste my time in bed when instead, I should go explore the city. Around that time, I also decided to start building this blog. I had this thought in my mind for a while. With these incentives, I began to go out (a bit like a zombie coming out from Walking Dead though.)
Phase 3: Get Over And F**k It
My life was pretty plain afterward. I woke up and meditated for 10 minutes. Then I hopped on a train to go into the city. After arrival, I would take a 30-minute walk to a coffee house while grabbing a piece of chocolate sourdough twist on the way. I would sit at the coffee house for almost 7 whole hours for doing research. After that, I would either have my dinner or explore the city a bit and went back home.
I listened to podcasts when I was walking on the street. Similarly, whenever I had the chance to sit in the metro or train, I read books. And when I got to my favorite coffee house, I just put on my earphones and began to work.
Did you see what I constantly did?
I didn’t give my mind the time to think of him. I constantly redirected my attention.
Redirecting Your Attention
Mistakes You Might Make
I bet you have seen in a movie or TV series that once the main character gets dumped, she will start binge-watching TVs with ice cream, drinking an insane amount of alcohol, or ordering delivery foods to her apartment. Sometimes her friends can’t stand her being like this anymore that they will take her out to a bar, trying to hook her up with someone new.
Does the story sound familiar to you? This is what people mostly do. These activities are also meant to redirect the main character’s attention from thinking of her ex, or in your case, yours.
But! Not every kind of activities is equally helpful for redirecting your attention. In order to get over someone quickly, you need to wisely choose the activities.
Heavy Input & Output
In my case, rather than having free space for grief and memories emerging at the back of my mind, I constantly input new ideas from others to keep my mind busy — listened to podcasts instead of music, read books instead of watching views. In this way, I needed to pay attention and contemplate others’ ideas.
I also kept having enormous output by building the blog, which required tons of readings, research, thinking, and trial-and-error. Due to the reason that I had no coding background, I had a lot to learn and figure everything out by myself. At the end of the day, my mind had been stretched to a limitation that there would be no energy left for sorrow.
Use Up Your Attention
Concentration so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This is the only secret you need to know! Your high concentration on another subject will hijack your attention, stopping you from noticing other unpleasant problems that you don’t want to focus on but keep filling in your life.
However, one of the big notes you need to jot on about redirecting your attention is that — it has to be something requiring heavy energy and deep work. If it doesn’t fully take up your daily quota of attention and focus, at the end of the day, you will still transit your focus back to your previous relationship. (And NO! Deeply focusing on watching Netflix or drinking Tequila doesn’t count.)
Your Reset Button
After a bad or disrupting occurrence in your life, Fredrickson’s research shows, what you choose to focus on exerts significant leverage on your attention going forward. These simple choices can provide a “reset button” to your emotions. — Cal Newport
After breaking up, you may see this great tragedy in 3 ways, which will make things worse (by Martin Seligman):
- Personalization – you are at fault
- Pervasiveness – it will affect all aspects of your life
- Permanence – the sadness will last forever
You may have these feelings, but to be honest — none of them is true.
See this breakup as an opportunity for you to “reset” and change yourself. By doing so, you not only prevent yourself from soaking into a miserable situation, but also improve yourself by generating a high-quality output. It is a win-win situation!
I personally know that I have become a better person after the transition. I find new goals in my life; I remain the good habits I picked up during that stage (quitting Instagram was one of them.); I am aware of the mistakes I made.
It all seems easy in words, but we all understand the truth that it’s a lot harder to put others’ advice into action. Especially when you are heartbroken, everything seems 10x harder. But give it a try. Don’t let a breakup destroy you, make the most out of it instead. Honestly, you don’t often get this chance with such grief that can drastically change your life in a good direction.
TL;DR? Here Is The Take Away
Here is the breakup quote for you — “Stop checking whether your ex is online or not! Go F**KING WORK YOUR BRAIN OUT!”
(And I hope you have a nice day :))