Bad Thought: How will I ever get past the pain of this breakup?

On a recent afternoon, a client I’ll call Andre arrived at my studio in a state of upset. Earlier that day, he’d experienced a nasty breakup with his girlfriend, and was still smarting from the callous things she’d said to him. After filling me in on the specifics of who’d said what to whom, Andre slumped in his chair, and asked, “How will I ever get past the pain of this breakup?”

I thought for a moment about whether hypnosis was in order for this problem, but rejected the idea because I knew that Andre’s feelings were much too raw. Instead, I left it to a good night’s sleep to begin the process of Andre’s recovery. I had just read an article in Greater Good Magazine about the power of REM sleep to dislodge painful experiences from the brain (

Researcher Matthew Walker explains that the only time our brains produce no anxiety-triggering noradrenaline is when we are in REM sleep, a time when the brain’s memory-related and emotional structures are reactivated. Thus, when we process the day’s events during REM, we do so in a stress-free mode, and change the way we perceive those events.

So chances were good that Andre would begin to feel better in the morning, since a few REM cycles would soften the intensity of his emotion. He’d be in a better position to benefit from therapy once the painful charge on his experience had been lessened.

The next day, Andre emailed me to say he was in fact better, and had even found some ways to think about the breakup that were advantageous to him.

From Andre’s story, we can all learn, following unpleasant events, to think, “I’ll feel better in the morning.

You're reading the Bad Thoughts Blog, which maintains that feeling good is as simple as thinking a better thought. I'm Debbie Covino, hypnotherapist, coach, and creator of the Master Your Own Mind self-hypnosis program, available at

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