People say love hurts. Love incorporates pained emotions at times. Love is a risk once fragile feelings are invested. Love can do damage.
And I, too, used to think somewhere along those lines; breakups do inflict repercussions on the heart. In those emotionally-wrought scenarios, it’s not difficult to fathom why love is the culprit.
Yet, are we too quick to point our fingers at its source?
For some, this mindset may induce a fear of vulnerability for future connections — why take the plunge once more and sift through that murky, melancholy territory?
A study conducted at the University of Michigan confirmed that the brain reacts to a breakup the same way it reacts to physical pain. “The psychic pain that follows from the breakup of a relationship definitely affects physical health,” Susan Heitler, a clinical psychologist said.
Maybe it’s not really love that’s to blame; this potent wound could be a separate construct altogether. What about heartbreak? Now, that hurts. After all, isn’t it the loss of love, and the fracture of a significant relationship that emits such heaviness, such grief?
Ashley Cox’s 2008 article on Science20.com pinpoints the subsequent stages of heartbreak. Shock and denial occur from feeling overwhelmed. Pain and guilt seep in, along with regret over what could’ve been done differently. Anger and bargaining are present, with lashing-out attempts to release unspoken emotions. Depression, reflection and loneliness are present, and a period of sadness ensues once the magnitude of the loss is realized. Finally, acceptance and an upward turn permit moving forward.
Definitions of what love is vary among individuals, and it’s only human to have a personalized view of something that’s so intangible, wondrous and abstract. However, could we draw a conclusion to what does not embody love? Could we surmise that those aches and pains are rooted elsewhere?
The Thought Catalog piece, What Love Is Not, struck a deep chord with thousands of people (based on its evident popularity on social media platforms). “Love doesn’t drive people mad, it drives people sane,” David Cain wrote. He notes that it’s desire, in its numerous forms, that propels people to commit drastic acts.
I can recall stumbling upon that post last year and was captivated by the second line in his thesis, which says: “Love doesn’t hurt. If it hurts, it’s something else. Fear. Attachment. Idolatry. Addiction. Possessiveness.” Perhaps heartbreak can be added to the list as well.
It’s heartbreak that induces suffering and inner turmoil when we lose love. But does that mean love itself is the villain here? I’m learning to differentiate between these two concepts, and it’s certainly thought-provoking, to say the least.
“Defining it (love) is impossible,” Cain said. “You can throw words at it but never pin it down. Nothing is misidentified more than love. But for now, we can know what it’s not. If it hurts, it’s not love.”
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Oct 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Suval, L. (2013). Is It Love That Hurts?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 3, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/10/07/is-it-love-that-hurts/