Recently had a messy breakup, and find it hard to walk away? Want to stop loving someone who doesn’t love you back, but just can’t stop thinking about them?
Sadly, we are bombarded by unhealthy ideas about love and relationships by films, books, music, and advertisements.
And if you grew up with parents who didn’t love you just as you were, or even neglected you, these kinds of sugary, exciting (and yet actually false) versions of love are going to seem very attractive.
But they come at a price.
Believing that another person will make you happy or be the answer to your problems is using them as a distraction from yourself. And many distractions - alcohol, drugs, and yes, people - are addictive.
If you can’t stop thinking about your ex, then it was probably an addictive relationship involving codependency.
If you can’t stop thinking about someone who showed you a little bit of attention, you might have ‘romance addiction’, where you are using fantasy thoughts to escape your life and problems.
For starters, give up the idea this will be fixed in a day. Addictive thinking, like any addiction, takes time to break. But it can be broken. Here are some good starting points.
If we are addicted to a person, we get a dopamine hit thinking about them. And achieving a goal also gives a dopamine hit. So pick a big goal, then break it into little goals you can tick off as you reach. It means your brain can transfer how it gets its happy hit.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term talk therapy that literally teaches your brain new ways of responding to thoughts. It means you are less likely to make unhealthy choices like drunk dialling, and that you no longer believe your thoughts that you can't live without him or her.
Self-esteem obviously helps if you want to stop thinking about someone who doesn’t want to be with you, or who wasn’t good for you. And self-compassion is touted as the new shortcut to gain some.
Each time you think something about yourself ask, would I say that to a best friend?
This includes cutting yourself some slack when you do have obsessive or addictive thoughts. Acknowledge it, then let ago. Remind yourself that beating yourself up means you are actually thinking about the other person more, not less.
When we can’t stop thinking about someone our mind is either stuck in the past, and all the things we could have done or said, or in the future, and all the things we are going to be missing out on without that person.
What’s missing here is the present moment, a netural space you can actually make new choices in.
Mindfulness is a simple tool that pulls you into the now. You can learn it in an hour, or use a mindfulness app to make it easy.
Much like giving up drugs or alcohol often involves a 12-step group or counselling, quitting an addiction to a person often requires support.
This can mean stepping away from the toxic friends who don’t want you to move on and finding new ones who do.
It can also mean reaching out to a support group, coach, or talk therapist that can also help you learn how to change the way you approach relationships in the first place.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy