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Can’t get you out of my head

Can’t get you out of my head
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So you thought you were over that breakup, huh? The reality is a bit different: You can’t stop thinking about your ex. Maybe she got under your skin, or maybe he ended up ghosting you.

No matter how romantic connections end, it’s hard to let go and move on – especially when you can’t stop thinking about someone.

The same also goes for non-romantic connections, too, like friendships and even acquaintances.

Pretty much anyone can weigh on your mind. We talked to expert therapists to understand why it’s hard to get someone out of your head and how to do it successfully.

Why it’s hard to stop thinking about someone

Why it’s hard to stop thinking about someone
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When someone’s stuck in your mind, you’ve usually succumbed to rumination – obsessive, constant and repetitive thinking. Think of it as thoughts running endlessly on a hamster wheel.

How difficult it is to stop thinking about people comes down to who they were to you and what they meant to you in your life at the time, according to Jane Greer, a marriage and family therapist and author of What About Me?

Maybe a former flame had given you visions of forever. Maybe a friend offered comfort in your time of need. There are many reasons people keep thinking about others, even when they don’t want to.

And it’s not just past connections who may be running a loop in your mind. You can ruminate on new friends and acquaintances too.

The good news is that doing this occasionally is completely normal, according to Dr Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist.

It only becomes a problem when coping skills (more on those in a bit) don’t help and you feel like you can’t control your thoughts.

So why might your mind latch onto thoughts of someone?

We’re all human

We’re all human
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Human beings need connection, says Paul Hokemeyer, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist and author of Fragile Power.

“This need for connection is hardwired into our central nervous system,” he says. “It’s primitive and instinctual, not rational or intellectual.”

And the quality and quantity of emotional connections relate to self-esteem. Our human relationships allow us to feel safe and of value in the world, according to Hokemeyer.

“They fill us up when they are good and deplete us when they turn sour,” he says. “So it’s completely natural that we will feel out of control when someone who touches us deeply enters and exits our lives.”

These are the 20 things you should never do to get over a breakup.

Mixed emotions

Mixed emotions
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One reason it’s hard to stop thinking about someone, especially an ex, is that it stirs up a mixture of feelings.

“For example, maybe the time they were in your life was a very happy time, and so you can’t stop thinking of them and the nostalgia about your past relationship,” Dr Hafeez says.

What they meant to you at that time is a loss when they’re no longer in your life, says Greer.

And thinking about them is a way to remember and recapture some of that sense of well-being that you shared with them.

These are the 8 red flags you’re in a co-dependent relationship.

Rejection

Rejection

It seems obvious, but it’s worth noting that it’s hard to get somebody out of your head if a relationship ends with rejection.

Greer says there’s still pain at the loss and maybe a continued longing to have them back in your life.

“That’s when they are in your head most of all because the greater the loss, the more you’re going to wind up ruminating about them,” she says.

So understanding the magnitude of the loss, whether that be a friendship or relationship, and how it makes you feel about yourself is important for moving on.

The buddy breakup: learn how to end a toxic friendship.

Unresolved issues

Unresolved issues
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Another reason for thinking about someone is you may have unresolved issues you don’t want to take into your next relationship, Dr Hafeez says.

“You may need time to heal and deal with your breakup before you move on,” she says. “To do this, I recommend speaking to a therapist or mental health professional.”

What I wish I’d known before getting a divorce.

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You’re focusing on potential

You’re focusing on potential
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Rumination isn’t reserved for past relationships. Consider how often you think about a crush.

If you can’t stop thinking about someone new, it may be because you’re focusing on their potential, says Greer.

“That’s the fantasy of what you could have and what you long for, what you may feel is missing in your life, what you might have had with somebody else,” Greer says. “And you see this new person as the potential to re-experience and relive, with a new person, what you had in the past relationship.”

Watch out for these 15 signs you may have a love addiction.

Remembering yourself at the time

Remembering yourself at the time
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Your nonstop thoughts may have less to do with your ex than yourself. You may have liked the person you were when you were with your ex, according to Dr Hafeez.

“It’s important to remember that you can always be that person again, whether you’re on your own or with someone new,” she says.

Loneliness

Loneliness
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Another reason why you keep thinking about people is loneliness.

“The person you spent all of your time with is now out of your life, and you can’t stop thinking about them,” Dr Hafeez says.

Rather than spending so much time thinking about them and being lonely, reach out to old friends and family who you haven’t seen in a while, she recommends.

“It’s better to reconnect with old friends and family than to be thinking about the wrong person,” Dr Hafeez says.

So how do you stop thinking about someone? Try these tips.

Grant yourself grace

Grant yourself grace
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Know that you may still love and care about your ex, and that’s okay. Just remind yourself that love is sometimes not enough in a relationship. And just because the relationship ends, doesn’t mean the love you feel ends, Dr Hafeez says.

“So stop beating yourself up for thinking about them, and over time you may eventually stop thinking about them entirely,” she says. “In other words, if you focus all of your time and energy on why you are still thinking about someone, you will only think about them more.”

Hokemeyer agrees, saying the more you try to banish people from your consciousness, the more they will hijack your life.

Training yourself to pull away from thoughts of this person isn’t an overnight process.

“Remember that you are engaging in a process that will take time to sort itself out,” Hokemeyer says.

Try these 12 proven steps to truly forgive anyone for anything.

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Please be advised that our shipment of the June issue of Reader’s Digest Asia in Hong Kong has been delayed by approximately seven days. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.
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