Guy Winch (@GuyWinch) is a licensed psychologist, leading advocate for integrating the science of emotional health into our daily lives, workplaces, and education systems, and author of How to Fix a Broken Heart.

What We Discuss with Guy Winch:

  • While our physical body works overtime to heal itself when injured, our mind counterintuitively works against healing the wounds of emotional trauma. Guy explains why this happens and why it’s imperative to intervene.
  • The insidious lengths to which the mind will go to keep us perpetually experiencing pain and how we can take back control from our default autopilot.
  • We can’t passively count on time to heal all wounds. We need to take a more active role in our recovery from an emotional wound.
  • If you shame someone who is coping with the death of a pet or otherwise lack the ability to empathize with their pain, you might be kind of a monster.
  • Getting comfortable asking for help when we’re recovering from emotional trauma helps others understand that it’s okay for them to ask for help as well.
  • And much more…
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Getting people to take physical health seriously is hard enough. Addressing the importance of emotional health care in a society that more readily advocates the relief of food, alcohol, or other substances over seeking a permanent solution is nearly impossible.

But psychologist and How to Fix a Broken Heart author Guy Winch joins us to champion the cause and share the science-based techniques and tools we can use to treat our distress and minimize its intensity, duration, and spill-over into other areas of our lives. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

Please Scroll down for Full Show Notes and Featured Resources!

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More About This Show

When we’re physically injured, our bodies tend to work overtime toward recovery. But when we’re emotionally injured, the healing process isn’t quite as automatic. In fact, according to psychologist and How to Fix a Broken Heart author Guy Winch, our brains often act counterintuitively against our own well-being.

The Unforgettable Allure of the Hot Stove

“When we’re kids and we touch a hot stove,” says Guy, “our mind is like, ‘Oh, that was really painful! I’m going to make sure you remember never to do that again, and I’ll make sure you remember by reminding you about it frequently by making it very clear that you were very hurt by this, by making it very difficult for you to forget that the stove was hot and it really hurt to touch it.’

“But when our heart gets broken, as an example of an emotional wound, our goal is to get over it. And to get over it, we actually have to be able to move it out of our mind — to diminish its presence in our thoughts. Except that our mind is trained to keep very painful things present in our thoughts. And so we actually have to assert control over our recovery, because if we just let our mind do what it wants, it’ll keep reminding us of this person who broke our heart, reminding us of how painful it is, and doing all kinds of things to make sure we are in significant pain because our mind thinks that will help prevent us from doing this bad thing again even though the thing is something that’s not bad and we would like to do it again.”

Even worse, as The Power of Moments co-author Dan Heath touched upon back in episode 12, we’re more apt to hold onto an idealized series of events surrounding experiences — and in this case, people — that, in the moment, probably weren’t all that great.

We ignore the flaws and arguments and irritating quirks of the person we couldn’t stand while remembering the chemistry and laughter and adorable qualities of the person who broke our heart — even though they’re the same person.

And because the brain is committed to keeping us constantly alerted to the cause of our pain, it provides us with countless excuses to keep their memory close at hand. This is why we might find ourselves irrationally dreaming up reasons to call them or reach out to them on social media or drive by their house five times a night.

“It’s really insidious because it feels compelling in the moment, and it feels very true and real in the moment,” says Guy, “but it’s actually very idealized and very skewed.”

You Can’t Get from Here to There on Autopilot

Because our brains are already working against us in the aftermath of a breakup or similarly devastating emotional trauma, we need to be conscious of the process and resist its grasp — it’s the only way to forget the pain and move on.

Guy points out the importance of striking a balance between idealized and less-than-perfect memories by making a list — either writing it down and keeping it in our wallet or in our smartphone’s note-taking app of choice. Every time we begin to drift off into warm and fuzzy daydreams about the person from whom we’re trying to move on, read the list and remember what really happened.

If things get really bad, leave yourself a reminder on your phone’s home screen not to call so-and-so. Additionally, it couldn’t hurt to unfriend them on social media so you’re not constantly barraged with perfectly curated moments that only reinforce your idealized notion of them.

It doesn’t have to be forever. You might even be able to handle becoming friends again at some point down the line. But this is the time when at least a temporary break could really help you move on.

It’s painful when we force ourselves to operate counter to what our brains are telling us to do, but Guy likens this part of the process to physical therapy — difficult at first, but easier with every effort thereafter.

“It hurts to do that, but you need to do that to get strong and get well,” says Guy. “You have to tolerate the discomfort.”

Listen to this episode to learn more about why time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, how even a minor rejection can send us into a spiral of self-inflicted emotional damage, what we can do to revive our self-esteem after such an episode, how the self-esteem industry creates demand for its own product, how we can play to our strengths instead of focusing on our self-critical weaknesses, the big differences between self affirmation and positive affirmation (why one works and the other makes a bad situation worse), why grieving for lost pets is an emotional healing process as difficult — and valid — as grieving for any lost loved one, and much more.


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