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Breaking up is Hard to Do

You know the old song … “Breaking up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka?

“Don’t take your love, Away from me
Don’t leave my heart, In misery
If you go, Then I’ll be blue
Cause breakin’ up is hard to do.”

Have you ever had the experience of breaking up with someone? For this discussion, let’s assume that it was *you* who broke off with her. (Getting dumped is another whole can of worms.)

For example, for some time you were kind of nattering inside your head. She did this, and she did that, and you didn’t like it. And she won’t do this other, and that’s just stupid. And, frankly, you’ve just had it up to here. And some other girl or girls are looking pretty good. And you need your freedom. And you need to move on.


And so then you said, “We’ve got to talk,” and you did talk and most likely that wasn’t much fun (though sometimes you feel a little power, you evil creature). And then she said something and you said something, and then later she wasn’t there with you and the two of you had broken up.

And then what happened?

Maybe the next day, or maybe that same night, in between the feeling of glee and excitement, you feel a tinge of … something. Something not quite right.

And then, before long, you start thinking back …

“Remember when, You held me tight
And you kissed me, All through the night
Think of all, That we been through
Breakin’ up is hard to do!”

And the first thing you know, you’re wallowing in uncertainty and anguish. You *think* you did the right thing, but where is your feeling of certainty? You wonder if just *maybe* you were too hasty. You wish that you’d spent another night (or two) in the sack with her before breaking up. Damn!

And … you miss her.

Her “impossible and ridiculous” behavior seems to mutate like mist, becoming merely annoying foibles. And before long, in your rose-colored remembrance, these irritations become endearing quirks, even as you think about them.


And now … should you call her?

Back and forth you go. Back and forth you go.

And for most people, at least half the time you *do* call her back. And half the time, you *do* get back together, though usually there’s a spike between you that will never dissolve. And most of the time, the whole scene will repeat, some time a little later.

If you’re stubborn, given to drama, or too clumsy to get another girlfriend, god forbid, but the scene may play out over and over, until maybe *she* gets fed up, and then one time when you call her to make up … she isn’t interested.

Now all this is very human, and very common. It’s not a good thing, but you’re hardly a hardened criminal for the committing of this particular crime.


To answer this interesting question, we’ll find it handy to examine the subject of “inertia.”

Oh, no- Wait a minute. We’ve already talked about inertia. You may want to review the subject. I’ll bet it will seem most useful, in a brand new way. [See Inertia — How to Approach a Woman.]

So let’s not discuss inertia. Instead let’s talk about the neurons in your brain. That’s always fun.


People think that the ‘subconscious mind’ or the ‘unconscious mind’ is something big and mysterious. It’s dark, and lurky, and who knows what the hell it’s doing in there. It’s supposed to be with us all the time. And it can cause us to do things ‘unconsciously,’ like pick your nose in front of the bishop if you ‘subconsciously’ don’t like him.

Jeez! That mysterious ‘subconscious mind’ could get a guy in a lot of trouble!

Well, of course sometimes it can. But most of the time we get ourselves in trouble without much help from dark and lurky things deepy hidden away inside us.

But doesn’t the ‘subconscious mind’ start to sound like a stalker in a horror movie?

And it’s not that big a deal. And it’s not that mysterious.


You’re a kid and you learn to tie your shoe. And you have to really, really concentrate to do it. And the next day, still, it’s difficult. But a few days later, you’ve really got it. And maybe you feel real proud for a little while.

But a week or two later, it’s just a task. You have to pay attention, but it’s not a big deal. And if you fast-forward a few years to your new career as a corporate executive, or on your first day as the janitor at The Bigge Building downtown, when you’re putting on your shoes on that day, you’re thinking about the new job and you don’t want to be late, and now your shoes are tied, so you stand up.

What just happened?

Where did tying your shoes go?

It went into a different part of your brain, where (like any habit) you’ve built (by repetition) a set of automatic behaviors. All you have to do (in the conscious part of your mind) is think: Shoes; tie shoes. And an automatic set of reflexes happened, as automatic as righting yourself when your bicycle tilts to the left. And that automatic reflex operated your body and tied your shoes.

My friend, that is the unconscious mind.

That, and nothing else, is the subconscious mind.

I will personally beat the crap out of Sigmund Freud, if he wishes to push it.

We could, in a similar fashion, say that your “personality” is the net sum total of all your learned behaviors, social habits, preferences and avoidances, opinions, chronic emotions, usual ways of approaching problems, and who you automatically like and dislike.

And notice something. The way you are … is the way you usually (and automatically) are.


One powerful principle used by this automatic-mind, in helping you to operate your body and your thought-processes, is this:

The mind and body attempt to return to the ‘Stable State.’

In fact, we could call this “Body and Mind Operating Principle #1.”

In textbooks, they call this ‘homeostasis’. This does not mean a railroad station for homosexuals. It means ‘same state.’ (homeo = ‘same’, and stasis = unmoving state)

For example, your body regulates your blood pressure. By built-in feedback mechanisms, when pressure is high, some chemicals are released and pressure drops. When pressure is too low, some chemicals are released and pressure goes up. It’s all very clever.

Likewise a given mental state can operate your whole life long. For example, a baby learns early on that crying will bring help and attention. In normal cases, perhaps most of us learn additional ways to get help and attention, but imagine a business meeting, and one fellow isn’t getting his way. Suddenly, he’s red in the face, he’s making a lot of noise, and he’s pounding on the table. He learned that particular behavior when he was an infant, but he doesn’t realize now that the same automatic behavior is no longer working in his favor.

The key is in whether a behavior is “automatic.”


When you run on automatic, you tend to automatically re-engage the automatic behaviors that you long ago built into your ‘subconscious mind.’ If you remain unconscious of this activity, and don’t question it, it will persist. Only if you notice that your behavior is unworking, or kind of odd, or automatic, and you say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting,” will it suddenly stop running on automatic. Inspected, it vanishes. Uninspected, it runs unconsciously.

That’s how you tie a shoe. And that’s how you operate large parts of your life.

To break a habit, here’s the rule:

Your body and your mind will succumb to your will, if you are consistent.

But when you’re breaking up with somebody, you can’t really practice being consistent as you could if it was a case of doing your exercise each day until it becomes a habit.

When you break up, you’re engaging in a behavior that is a radical departure from your habitual behavior over the last few weeks or months or even years. So it’s new. And that’s why sometimes it can kind of wake you up and make you feel alive, just as a funeral or danger sometimes does.

But as soon as she’s gone, what does the ‘subconscious’ (automatic) mind try to do?


When she’s gone, your body automatically tries to follow Body and Mind Operating Principle Number One.

Your body and your ‘unconscious’ (automatic) mind tries to re-establish the previous stable state. Its tendencies to homeostasis will (automatically) lead your thoughts and behaviors back along the lines that would re-establish that particular girlfriend back in your life.

And so back and forth you go.

Unless, of course, you notice that something’s peculiar, and you look at your behavior and suddenly you say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting!”

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