If You Could Unbreak Your Heart Using Science, Would You? (Because Soon, It May Be Possible… But I’d Still Say ‘No’)

getting over heartbreak - eternal sunshine

There truly is no feeling quite like the devastation that comes from having your heart broken. The ache in your stomach, the uncontrollable sobbing, the appearance of an empty bed — it’s such a specific pain, impossible to pinpoint to anybody who’s not feeling the same genre of hurt. So, if you could get rid of it permanently… would you? I would answer, “Probably not.”

According to Tracey Cox at the Daily Mail, the “controversial new world of the manipulation of memory” is coming about. She says that “memory researchers are exploring the possibility of deleting – or at least turning down the volume – on certain memories using drugs.” So, similar to Eternal Sunshine but minus the crazy contraption and stoned Kirsten Dunst jumping on your bed. Cox says these can be dangerous and tempting:

“It’s stating the obvious that if these drugs work, they are potentially very, very dangerous with all sorts of sinister uses. But if you’re suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, been sexually abused, haunted by the death of a loved one – or completely and utterly broken hearted – they are potentially very, very appealing.”

Last year, I went through a pretty rough breakup. Actually, the split itself wasn’t too terrible; it was why we broke up that was unpleasant. My ex used to lie to me. Chronic, unapologetic lying about anything and everything that would cause suspicion and stress to a significant other. This was followed by me always finding out on my own, followed by him apologizing for weeks, followed by my naive forgiveness. To be fair, I am one of the most difficult people person I know to be with, but lying is lying is lying (not to mention he had a pretty abysmal record of cheating and dishonesty… basically, I fail at character judgment). To this day, though I have absolutely no feelings for the guy anymore — possibly my own bitter defensive response — I still don’t trust anybody and it’s doubtful that I’ll be able to for a long, long time. And as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, that’s not the only thing I’d prefer to just forget.

So this idea of my memory being wiped clean (or, at the very least, cleaner)? It sounds amazing… sort of. For anybody who’s ever wanted a fresh start, a new beginning, this seems so wonderful. But then again, don’t your memories make you the person that you are, at least in part? For some reason, being compared to Clementine in that fucking movie every other day for the last 9 years has led me to imagine what losing all of my bad memories might be like — and I don’t think I like it.

When you’re getting over heartbreak, no matter the sort, you change. You grow and build and are more apt to learn from your mistakes because right at that moment, those mistakes (and the mistakes of others, possibly) have left you proverbially bruised and battered, forcing you to pay closer attention to them. Eventually, that pain will go away and you’ll be left with something much better. The ache in your stomach will subside, the crying will switch from flood to trickle to gone and you will realize that your bed is not empty, because you are in it, and you are not empty.

Photo: Focus Features

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    • Ms. Pants

      I might. I’ve had my heart broken to pieces. I wouldn’t erase that first memory. All the subsequent assholes? Yeah–get rid of those fuckers.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Yeah, I think I would actually feel quite similarly. The first time my heart was really broken, it ached and ached but was so important to my growth. This past time and the time before that? Meh, I learned nothing besides “don’t ever trust emotionally unavailable stoners with the mentalities of high schoolers. Ever.”

    • Candace

      But what if you bump into that ex again, an forget why you broke up with them?? Memories are your brain protecting you!

    • Nancy

      “… you will realize that your bed is not empty, because you are in it, and you are not empty.” Beautiful!

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Thank you so much :) After years of seeing the left side of my bed as empty whenever somebody else wasn’t there, I eventually realized it was room for me to starfish myself.

    • L

      i tend to fall hard and fast. just cant help it. so yes. please yes.

      • Samantha_Escobar


    • katie richardson

      I find it odd that we’re only focusing on one aspect of this drug – it’s ability to alleviate heartache. As noted in the quoted paragraph, it can have benefits for people who’ve been abused or suffer PTSD, which are extremely debilitating disorders. I feel that’s far more important here – especially since people who’ve gone through these issues tend to handle breakups more harshly than the average bear, as it awakens their feelings of abandonment/abuse. I feel that these issues are much more pertinent to this discovery.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Totally agreed (I probably should’ve elaborated on the link I posted, but it was about my own PTSD). The article I was commenting on was primarily about heartache; I figured the issue of PTSD and other stress/anxiety disorders caused by negative past events would deserve their own post this week along with the Ecstasy treatment they’ve been working on. :)

    • MR

      Try a new type of guy, if the current type isn’t working for you. You know there was this Asian woman I met over 20 years ago. A Japanese woman friend of mine, I studied with earlier, introduced me to her and, man, did she turn the page. Over the next 17 years, I managed to get all the way to Tasmania with her. :)

    • Ben W

      That last line was beautiful… But I agree. Personal growth aside, and taking a page from Eternal Sunshine, the good memories are worth keeping, despite the bad. Although, I think getting your heart-broken and being betrayed (ex. cheated on) are two very different things…. I might not want to remember the latter.

    • paperraincoat

      I’m still coping with my first heartbreak. We weren’t even dating or thinking about dating; we just had a very close [maybe too close] but platonic friendship and I trusted him completely the way you should when you have the kind of friendship and then one day he unfriended me on facebook and stopped texting me and wouldn’t return my calls and we haven’t spoken since. I know he’s not secretly dead because we have mutual friends. It’s been months and I still don’t know what to do, but it would be nice to drive by his exit on the freeway without feeling like I’m going to vomit.

      I have pretty much decided that he is a raging dickbag, even though up until the moment he suddenly became a raging dickbag he was the kindest sweetest person with the most enormous beautiful giant open squishy heart. I just tell myself that he is a raging dickbag because it makes me feel a little better. And I am so, so mad at him but I also feel like there’s just vacuum in my chest when I think about him and even though I could probably never trust him again I still want him to call and ask me to come over so we can curl up in his bed and watch movies and talk about everything and I’ll rub his back until he falls asleep like we used to. So I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d use the drug.

      That asshole.

      [I'm probably going to regret posting this in the morning.]

    • Andie

      That last line is perfect. And one I needed to read right at this very moment. Thank you.