by Marie-Claude Boisvert, Chief Editor

The sun was shining on my face while I walked along the seine on this beautiful summer day; Paris, 8.30 am. Although I was in the city of light, I was sad, depressed, and all of it due to my broken heart, shattered in a thousand pieces. Several months had passed since I had contact with Samuel, we were no longer teasing and messing with each other as usual. We were no longer sharing all of our secrets. Even after all the time that passed, this ache in my stomach was still there; I could not stop these few tears from falling every day.

This psychological pain was a thousand times more challenging than any broken arms. This pain was so strong that sometimes I was not even able to handle myself. Time fixes everything but why was this so heavy, so intense?

Love, this powerful drug!

First of all, according to the research of Dr. Brown and Helen Fisher, Ph.D in anthropology, love is literally a drug. When we “fall in love”, the same regions of the brain active when cocaine is consumed is activated, mainly the reward pathway, the neurons connected to this region send streams of dopamine that activates the brain, creating an addictive feeling and increases serotonin levels (see article Love for more information on dopamine and serotonin). After the breakup, our body feels the same effects as when weaned from drugs, seeking to find what causes this sensation of fullness. Brown and Fisher came to these conclusions by passing magnetic resonance tests to patients who had just been dumped.

The activity in these areas of the brain was greatly increased when patients find themselves confronted with photos of the loved one. Dopamine activates the circuits of the brain creating an effect of desire, that need to be loved by the specific, special person. Our brain claims it again and again, sometimes giving the sensation of loving the person even more than during the relationship! YOU ONLY KNOW YOU LOVE HER WHEN YOU LET HER GO (small reference to this “one hit wonder” of Passenger)!

In addition, falling in love is connected to the part of our brain that controls our unconscious, such as pleasure, or the small simple gestures of the everyday life. After being dumped, our unconscious remains in love with our ex, even if it ended very badly and makes it not always rational to still feel strong feelings. As Dr. Brown says so well, “No wonder, it’s so difficult to control our feelings”.

Why do I want to send you 22 messages a day?

This weaning effect leads us to, sometimes, have unusual reactions, exaggerated ones. The part of the brain that is responsible for our motivation, our ambition; the frontal lobe, in particular the prefrontal cortex, becomes more active during a rejection, in addition to the area of pleasure that is confused (as mentioned above). Consequently, the feeling of attachment that is felt during the relationship highly increases. This lack, such as weaning, pushes us towards these exaggerated reactions, where we find ourselves ready to do anything to fill this gap, to feel these hormones of plenitudes, our brain is in panic mode. It is these different processes that push us to become irrational, impulsive and even a little stupid, like sending 22 messages to our ex, nocturnal calls a bit tipsy, or even engage in physical relations with our ex… We are pushed to take greater risk in order to get a bigger gain; much like the theory of the risk and reward in finance. It would be interesting to make a study on the relationships of the biggest trader in order to see if their riskiest positions would have been taken during a love rejection…!

I literally have the impression that I was hit by a bus.

A breakup affects not only our emotions; a real physical pain is felt. The brain being in panic mode can create intense stress that causes stomachaches or headaches. This stress can, in some rare cases, be so overwhelming that the heart literally lets go, hence the impression of a broken heart. The brain therefore interprets the physical pain in the same way as if our heart had really split in two pieces.

According to different theories, including Helen Fisher and research at Binghamton University, breakups could be so difficult and hurtful that they could make us want to keep investing deeply in our relationships. This strong pain that we feel tends to make us invest more effort in order to build a family; to continue our lineage, have babies, and so on!

It was now 9 am, time to go back to the apartment for breakfast. I was happy to remove Samuel from all my social media platforms as well as delete his phone number from my contact list. I needed to put barriers to my impulsiveness, considering how spontaneous I can be! Time will fix me. If there was one thing that I learned from my research, it is that despite all this pain, our body is well made. While these hormones make us go through hell, a part of our brain named the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex slowly proceeds to an emotional recovery, making us imagine a better future without our ex. I went back to my hobby of jogging, a little more optimistic. Somehow I knew I was going to slowly but surely recover, there was hope after all.