I have suffer a broken heart twice.
The first time I was 22. I’d deserted from German National Service and was living in a squat with a group of friends. We’d occupied an old industrial building and we all lived and worked (producing radical pamphlets and posters) in one large room.
The love of my life, Sabine was by my side. We were inseparable. She was my soulmate. We were lovers, friends and comrades in arms, equally dedicated to each other and the cause of social change. I knew that we’d be together forever. Then one day she had sex with my friend, while I was there.
I felt as if I’d been knifed through the heart. I was a drug-user in those days so I went and did a massive hit of speed, and then stayed high for as long as possible. A decade later in Australia, I suffered a broken heart again. And again I thought it was the end of my world. I’d quit drugs by then so I tried to numb the pain by getting blind drunk.
So when Dan, a 39-year-old architect, came in to my clinic for help with heartbreak and depression, I knew just how he felt.
His girlfriend, whom he was convinced was ‘the one’, had abruptly ended their relationship. Dan, who had been imagining them living happily ever after, didn’t see it coming.
He said that when she dumped him, the shock was so great he thought he was having a heart attack.
Broken Heart Syndrome
The medical profession refer to this as ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ as plenty of people experiencing this actually do call ambulances. The theory is that under intense emotional stress the brain releases massive amounts of stress hormones into the blood. These can go to the heart and stun the heart muscle causing a temporary dysfunction resembling a heart attack (although it doesn’t create physical damage as a heart attack would).
But Dan was still devastated months later. He had lost his appetite and would lie awake all night going over and over what went wrong. He blamed himself, then he blamed her, then he blamed himself.
He couldn’t switch off this internal dialogue, even during the day, and was unable to concentrate on anything. He had become obsessed with Facebook and had been endlessly checking to see what his ex was doing, whether she had met someone else, and what their friends were saying about him and their split.
He was dreading Valentine’s Day, because any references to hearts, love or romantic evenings, just reminded him of what he didn’t have.
He said he’d read a relationship book that suggested meditation as a cure for heartbreak and depression, but he had no interest in meditating, he was getting to the stage where didn’t even want to get out of bed.
His doctor had suggested antidepressants but Dan didn’t think that would resolve the issue, and he wanted resolution. He wanted to work out what had gone wrong. He said he kept calling and emailing his ex, but she never responded.
Just as well. I do a lot of relationship work with couples who have been trying to talk through and resolve their problems. But there is no resolution to be found in the physical world or not, at least, by talking.
This might start out well intentioned but it can quickly fall into ‘why do you always have to…” territory, which just adds fuel to the emotional fire. Now I’m not saying bail out of a relationship if things aren’t working, negotiation and discussion can be useful (do it at 10am when chi is in your spleen and your sense of emotional balance and boundaries will be stronger).
But if someone has left you there is no point lingering in pain, or attempting to resolve the past. I treat people who never got over old relationships, even years after they moved on to a new relationship.
Moving on from a Broken Heart
Instead of trying to resolve the unresolvable, use the pain of a relationship break-up as an opportunity to learn about yin and yang, and to shift the focus from human consciousness towards soul consciousness.
You can’t engage with this if you’re trapped in an internal dialogue regulated by pain, loss and grief though, as Dan was, so this is the first thing to address.
He was now sitting hunched-over in his chair, his eyes were dull eyes and his skin pale, he was really suffering. So I told him to forget about medications, meditating and guilt.
He didn’t do anything wrong, in fact, what he needed now was a great big reward. He looked pretty shocked at this. But physical, emotional and spiritual pain, including heartbreak, comes from chi stagnation. The immediate antidote is movement. You want to get chi flowing, and pleasure benefits chi.
I gave him a sheet of paper and told him to start writing down things that inspired him, things that he’d always wanted to do but never got around to, for whatever reason. He looked glum, and said he couldn’t think of anything.
This was because he was still stuck in the idea that he’d done something wrong so he didn’t feel he ‘deserved’ anything.
I started firing off some ideas that I sensed would trigger him, and his face slowly became more animated. He’d always wanted a tattoo, so we talked about some significant imagery, and he’d always wanted to play the guitar, so he added ‘guitar lessons’. Archery was a sport that fascinated him, so he decided to find an archery school. By now he was sitting up straight and looking almost enthusiastic.
I told him that this was all good and well, but to now add some items to the list that excited him but that his ex would have criticised or not approved of, things that he couldn’t have done while in the relationship.
These are the most powerful for healing heartbreak. Not because you are ‘getting back at’ someone in some abstract way, but because it starts reinforcing your own identity. It helps bring something of your true nature, your cosmic self, forward again.
Doors open, opportunities to meet new people arise, and all of this contributes to a sense of movement. Dan said that his girlfriend had thought video games were stupid, I told him to go buy a heap of these. He also loved customising his car but she thought this was a waste of money. So he added ‘get an exhaust system for the car that makes it too loud’ and ‘tint the windows too dark’ to his list.
In these relationship sessions with yang-type men, who have a naturally high sex drive, I also raise the issue of sensual pleasure. Before I go any further, if you have an issue with the sex industry, just skip the rest of this paragraph (but remember, the cosmic self has no opinions).
Men are subject to regular sperm development. This is a physiological fact. It can intensify the emotional pain, because it keeps bringing the sensual memories closer which keeps reinforcing the pain of loss and separation. This can start to make life feel unbearable. It also makes it harder to let anything go, and contributes to creating an unreal picture of what the relationship was. This can be neutralised by engaging with a therapeutic sex worker.
It creates immediate distance from the sensual memories, which creates some space to see the relationship from a more objective perspective. It’s a better approach than a one-night-stand, as it won’t have any impact on destiny (a one-night-stand or rebound relationship might).
Now, for those who are wondering why not just employ the, er, hand-relief approach to sperm build-up, in the context of healing relationship breakdowns, yin and yang have to be considered.
A relationship is a partnership of yin and yang. Masturbation is not. It may alleviate a physical need, but not the emotional pain. This is not for everyone, of course. Another way of engaging with the sensual loss in a more abstract way is to perhaps learn tantra or new sexual practices, that you might not have got into in the previous relationship.
But getting back to Dan, I told him to look at his list, commit to it, and act on it. But he hadn’t fully accepted the ‘nothing went wrong’ concept and was worried that my ‘reward’ approach meant he was just avoiding the issue.
No! Because if you are trapped in analysis guilt and judgment you are trapped in your ‘acquired self’, not the ‘cosmic self’. The acquired self is not real, it is a social construct.
By turning to sensory reward you are not avoiding the issue, because there is no issue. Rewarding yourself diverts the senses to pleasure, rather than to pain. Every time you engage with one of the things on your list, you are lessening the pull of the memories, making it easier to turn to a chi practice.
This is the ultimate goal, because this is where true liberation occurs. The chi practices are designed to burn out the painful or toxic emotions stored in your body, but an ongoing chi practice also opens you up to the cosmic consciousness.
You get the big picture perspective and a sense of the absolute truth, rather than the relative truth we experience in the physical world. This allows us to understand that the fundamental nature of life is mystical (Chinese medicine is based on this concept) and that destiny is at play here too.
We are not in charge of everything, there are factors in life that are beyond our reasoning or control.
For a long time after my second heartbreak, I was convinced that if I’d just done things differently, if I had tried harder to conform to my partner’s expectations of me, maybe everything would have worked out. But it wouldn’t have.
If you have to suppress your true nature in a relationship, it is not beneficial to your chi or to developing your cosmic self.
Had that relationship not ended, I’d probably still be following the rules rather than my destiny, so I would have become cynical, bitter and frustrated with life. There’s no need for a proscribed amount of time to pass before you move on from a relationship either.
I regularly have clients saying to me “it’s too soon to move on, or I need to get my act together first” – there is no lineal approach. You can resolve everything in one day – quantum healing as Deepak Chopra called it – is possible.
But this involves chi. Seeing things differently so that chi flows, and doing things that help chi to flow. My book “The Perfect Day Plan” explains how to build Chi into your life by following the natural Chi Cycle lifestyle
Letting go of the idea that something went wrong, transformed Dan. It freed him from guilt, chi began to flow and his outlook on life immediately changed.
He started doing everything on his list. He met interesting people at the music school and in the archery lessons (he decided against the tattoo). He took himself off Facebook so that he could no longer be emotionally engaged 24/7 in the relationship. He still missed his ex but, as chi was moving, he could see a future again.
So, if you are stuck in the wreckage of a relationship breakdown, prepare your list and start acting on it.
Even if you are in a happy relationship, think of everything you would do if your partner ever left you, especially the things you don’t do together, whether its tango, tantra, cat shows or embroidery, and write your list anyway.
Now do those things (except the sex worker part!). Independence is a key to a happy relationship because doing things that resonate with you, will take you closer to your cosmic self. The closer you get to this, the more extraordinary and meaningful your life and your relationships will become.
The other thing to bear in mind is that if you are stuck in heartbreak, pain, loss, grief or past memories, the relationship that has actually broken down is the one with your cosmic self. The cosmic self is pure liberated love.
So, as Valentine’s Day, a day of love, approaches remember that the most important relationship to nurture is the one with your cosmic self. Get all loved-up with chi, and let your destiny unfold.