Maybe it’s the oppressive heat, incessant drought, or the raging wildfires, but a lot of people around me have been struggling with relationship anxiety this summer. One friend in particular is trying to recover from a fleeting lover who called it quits after just a few months. She’s caught up in the stormy brain chemistry of rejection and loss—likely including significant drops in her dopamine and serotonin levels—and the resulting depression, anxiety, feelings of addiction and deprivation-- plus an overwhelming drive to recover what was lost in order to combat the real emotional pain of rejection. As she struggles to resist the temptation to stalk, plead, and generally make a needy fool of herself, we created a list of reminders to help her become more mindful of her emotions, reframe her urges, and set a new course. Her ultimate goal is to come through this ordeal in one piece and perhaps even emerge better and brighter. She agreed to share her list, in the hope of supporting others in the throes of rejection.
(Naturally, change the pronouns to fit your situation and rest on the affirmations that resonate for you.)
When I’m feeling anxious, insecure, and upset, I’m experiencing a drop in my brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels. These drops undermine my feelings of optimism and confidence, and drive me to seek out the false reward of reassurance and closeness with my ex-lover.
I shall boost my confidence and restore calm by remembering the following:
Now after six weeks, she's finding that these affirmations have become habits in her thinking, and she can more easily counter destructive thoughts as they arise. Occasionally she still trips up or gets triggered, but the falls are less frequent and not as far. Over time she's also noticing that her insecurities are turning into "how dare he treat me that way!"
Do you have strategies that have helped you reframe and recover?
(For more on the 90-second timeout, watch Jill Bolte Taylor's fascinating TED talk, or refer to her book where she explains her "stroke of insight" on balancing the brain's the left and right hemispheres.)