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A broken heart (or heartbreak) is a common metaphor used to describe the intense emotional pain or suffering one feels after losing a loved one, through death, divorce, breakup, moving, being rejected or other means. It is an extremely old and widespread metaphor, dating to at least the Indian Ramayana writings (400 BC-200 AD).[1]

Heartbreak is usually associated with losing a spouse or loved one, though losing a parent, child, pet or close friend can also "break one's heart". The phrase refers to the physical pain one may feel in the chest as a result of the loss. Although "heartbreak" is usually a metaphor, there is a condition - appropriately known as Broken Heart Syndrome - where a traumatizing incident triggers the brain to distribute chemicals that weaken heart tissue.[2]

Contents

Philosophical views

For many people having a broken heart is something that may not be recognized at first, as it takes time for an emotional or physical loss to be fully acknowledged. As Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson states:

Human beings are not always aware of what they are feeling. Like animals, they may not be able to put their feelings into words. This does not mean they have no feelings. Sigmund Freud once speculated that a man could be in love with a woman for six years and not know it until many years later. Such a man, with all the goodwill in the world, could not have verbalized what he did not know. He had the feelings, but he did not know about them. It may sound like a paradox — paradoxical because when we think of a feeling, we think of something that we are consciously aware of feeling. As Freud put it in his 1915 article The Unconscious: "It is surely of the essence of an emotion that we should be aware of it. Yet it is beyond question that we can 'have' feelings that we do not know about."[3]

Religious views

Buddhism

Regarding the sadness of loss and heartbreak, the Buddha had the following admonition:[4]

O, monks! Why should every female, male, layperson or priest always consider that all things they love would one day go away from them? What is the advantage of taking the said matter into consideration? Hearken, monks! All fondness and love existing in the beings lead them to perform physical, verbal or mental bad deeds. Upon having always taken such matter into consideration, the being will be able to leave or lighten such fondness and love. O, monks! That is the advantage that every female, male, layperson or priest should always consider that all things they love would one day go away from them.

In classical references

  • This biblical reference highlights the issues of pain surrounding a broken heart:
Psalm 69:20 Insults have broken my heart and left me weak, I looked for sympathy but there was none; I found no one to comfort me.

In this Psalm, King David says that insults have broken his heart, not loss or pain. It is also popular belief that rejection, major or minor, can break an individual's heart. This heartbreak can be greatly increased if rejected by a loved one or someone whom you respect.

Plays of William Shakespeare feature characters dying from a broken heart, such as Ahenobarbus.

Broken Heart Syndrome

In many legends and fictional tales, characters die after suffering a devastating loss. But even in reality people die from what appears to be a broken heart. Broken heart syndrome is commonly blamed for the death of a person whose spouse is already deceased, but the cause is not always so clear-cut. The condition can be triggered by sudden emotional stress caused by a traumatic breakup, the death of a loved one, or even the shock of a surprise party.[5] Broken Heart syndrome is clinically different from a heart attack because the patients have few risk factors for heart disease and were previously healthy prior to the heart muscles weakening. The recovery rates for those suffering from "broken heart syndrome" are faster than those who had heart attacks and complete recovery to the heart was achieved within two weeks .[6]

Feelings associated

The symptoms of a "broken heart" can manifest themselves through psychological pain but for many the effect is physical. Although the experience is regarded commonly as indescribable, the following is a list of common symptoms that occur:

See also

References








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