Blame It On the Biology

Sunday, July 18, 2010 / 11:17 PM

A recent TIME Magazine article highlighted a recent study that sought to examine the exact reason why breakups hurt. Answer: they're supposed to.

"In a way, nature gave us this response as a protection," Professor Lucy Brown of neuroscience and neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine said. "It helps us keep relationships going under adverse circumstances, which is important for keeping our species going."

Heartbreak is difficult, the study (and article) reiterates. It's a feeling most everyone can relate to -- the overwhelming flood of misery combined with an exaggerated dread that causes one to wonder if they'll ever be okay again. It's dramatic, it's depressing, it makes you think your life is a million times worse than it actually is.

Overall, it's also kind of silly.

I won't lie and say I haven't engaged in the teenage angst that comes with the depressing end of any sort of relationship. I question anyone who says they've never cried over a breakup or falling out. It's a natural human reaction. We feel helpless and scared when things we thought were reliable just don't work out. It's only in retrospect, when we look back, that we realize how silly it is to cry over a natural part of life: things come to an end, for better or for worse, and we just need to learn how to deal with it.

I just finished reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking in which she ponders the process of loss and grieving following her husband's sudden death, which was followed by watching her daughter slowly die. "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity."

Is there really any "simple" way to explain our actions and reactions? Shit happens. We lose people, we lose things. Why do we grieve? "Grief was passive," Didion wrote. "Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention." And how true that is. It's easy for us to cry over something lost; it's much more difficult to confront that loss and find a way to eventually move on.

Heartbreak. Pain. Suffering. It may keep us going, but for how much longer? Until we can learn to "deal with it" and pick ourselves back up? Or until we build up tough enough barriers to stop anyone from ever allowing us to hurt again?

The latter, unfortunately, is a choice too many choose -- myself included.

"We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all."

You Might Also Like


  1. hmmm I like joan didion...I also am thinking of an interesting quote along this topic from somebody else but i cannot remember it verbatim so to do the writer justice i will share it tomorrow