When we've had our heart broken, we rehearse the last conversations we had with our loved one in our head, thinking about what we should have said, wondering what the impact would have been if we chose other words, imagining what we're going to say if they text us out of weakness (should it be snarky or forgiving?), or what kind of attitude we'll have if we see them randomly on the street (casual and disinterested? Cheerful and huggy?) We bring out our whip and flog ourselves hour after hour- for months! years! - for being so emotionally attached, so needy of someone who has rejected us. Our neediness feels shameful to us, so we tell ourselves we will never be open and vulnerable like that again, and we begin to rehearse. We spend hundreds of hours spinning a web of emotional protection by mentally rehearsing all the possible scenarios in which we get our revenge/accept the olive branch/tell them what we really think of them so that when we see them again, we're ready. We want to be ready.
That's not our job. When we have our heart broken, our only job is to stay with the body and notice its tensions, gnawings, cravings, and irregularities in the breath. I notice the tension in the veins in my neck, the small of my back, my face, my stomach, the arches in my feet. Getting a text from them after a few days feels like a rush, and it takes a while to notice that we just got reintangled in the narrative in the head, and to come back to the body: to notice our heartbeat, the way we're holding our stomach, the muscles around our mouth.
The point of self-observation is that we're observing parts of ourselves that have previously been rejected, parts that were too "awful" to be seen before. We've all had the experience where someone couldn't look at us because something we tried to contribute to a conversation sounded retarded, or we reacted inappropriately to someone embarassing us in front of others. The human experience of rejection is even more fundamental than that. As babies, perhaps our mom is passing us around to her friends and there might be nervous laughter in the group because of an awkward mannerism we have, and the polite conversation falls apart. Or we sense that her breathing has stopped when our diaper is being changed and we discover our genitals with our hands. The flow of in-breath/out-breath gets halted at times when our behavior isn't the perfect idea of someone else's perfect flow, and we pick up on those cues unconsciously. We learn to suppress those parts of us that don't get approved of. We get socialized.
Until later in life, we realize we have a deep craving to be ourselves. The practice of self-observation is the process whereby we become our own healer. We're bringing the rejected parts of ourselves back into the unique flow of our souls. As the Irish poet David Whyte says, "To wake the giant inside ourselves, we have to be faithful to our own eccentric nature, and bring it out into conversation with the world." Being faithful is being the witness that stays with the arching of desire and moaning of despondency within the body. When we notice we want to flee from a difficult situation by eating or socializing or spinning the narrative in our head, we can take a breath, notice how hard it is to sit with what's going on, notice that we feel tension in the back of the neck and our fingers are itchy to text, we have just "stayed" with ourselves through difficulty instead of abandoning ourselves like others have done.
There is no way to rehearse our way to a perfect relationship. The best relationships are where we're fully present and we accept and are friendly with the full flow of our souls. And the only way to be present is to practice presence by paying attention to the body. While our minds and hearts can be in the past or the future, our bodies have no choice to be in the present. In times of heartbreak, use your body as your anchor.