If we did, we’d all be kinder and more compassionate, both to each other and to ourselves when our hearts get broken, says psychologist Guy Winch.
I have worked with scores of heartbroken people over the past twenty years, and I remember many of them vividly. This is not surprising, as the ease with which we recall events is heavily influenced by their intensity, and the raw emotion and terrible anguish of a person whose heart just got broken is hard to forget. This is especially true when the patient sitting across from me is a teenager.
One teenage patient stands out in my mind because his story encapsulated almost everything that is wrong with how we currently regard heartbreak. Greg was a highly intelligent, gay seventeen-year-old junior who had recently come out at school — thankfully, to relatively little fanfare. Greg spent two years nursing a crush on Devon, a senior and one of only two other out gay kids in his school. A month after coming out, Greg finally gathered the courage to walk up to Devon during lunch and suggest they hang out. As happens far too often with teenagers, Devon’s rejection was both swift and unnecessarily cruel. Feeling humiliated and absolutely gutted, Greg made his way to his history class, in which he was scheduled to have a big exam. Greg’s best friend (who was straight) always sat next to Greg in history, and Greg hoped to have a few moments to talk with him and get support before the exam began.