Love and heartbreak

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[autop] Ah, love. That blissful, euphoric state full of rainbows and unicorns. It’s a high we wish could last forever.

For some, it does.

For others, well, it don’t.

“At first things are functioning correctly. Then your partner breaks up with you. Then you feel like crap,” says Rachel Brenner, a counseling doctoral student in the Department of Psychology. “Love isn’t just euphoric, it’s a craving. So when you break up, your brain is still telling you it needs that high.”


Brenner’s research focuses around our tendency to ruminate – to negatively obsess – after a breakup. But instead of us dwelling on negative thoughts, she claims we might actually be focusing on happy memories.

Happy thoughts after a breakup?

“There is a lot of research that says people are depressed after a breakup because they are thinking about sad things: They are alone. They are unhappy. Their ex-partner did something wrong,” she said. “But I think people are depressed because they are thinking about the good times they had with their partner. That is what makes breakups hard.”

To prove her point, Brenner is attempting to develop a scale that measures our acceptance, rather than depression, after a relationship ends. Can we accept that although the past was great, the future has the possibility to be better?

“We’re looking at how people think, rather than solely on how people feel. You can be miserable while thinking about happy memories,” she said.

Brenner and her research team are in preliminary stages, but so far their research has shown that – at least in the short term – positive memories are predictive of more distress.

“I’m studying something everyone can relate to, but few people understand,” she said.

So, to those in love – or with broken hearts – happy Valentine’s Day. [/autop]

[story_footer author="Jess Guess" read_more="alumni"]