|Photo by Alyce Chan|
Amy Chan is the author of the new book Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Rewiring Your Heart. She is the founder of the Renew Breakup Bootcamp retreat and the editor-in-chief of the magazine JustMyType.ca.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book, and how does it tie into your Renew Breakup Bootcamp retreats?
A: Several years ago, I was dating someone who I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. I thought life was perfect. I had the job, the status, and the boyfriend. I was training to be the perfect CEO’s girlfriend so that eventually I’d be the perfect CEO’s wife.
Living the dream, at that time, was being someone’s plus one, getting married, and eventually being a stay-at-home-mom. It’s the only dream I ever knew. But one day, that dream fell apart.
The man I thought was going to be happily ever after cheated on me, and when the relationship fell apart, I fell apart. I had also lost my job a few months prior and moved out of my apartment to live with him. I felt like my entire world came crashing down and found myself jobless, boyfriend-less and without a place to call my home. I stopped eating, I spiraled into depression, I had suicidal thoughts.
After I hit rock bottom, I realized that I couldn’t continue the way I was. I picked myself back up and tried to heal. I tried everything - therapy, reiki, meditation, yoga retreats, you name it, I tried it. Eventually the steps added up and I started to feel like the dark haze was being lifted.
I immersed myself into learning everything I could about heartbreak. I researched, I wrote, I experimented on myself and sought the guidance of experts from the scientific to the metaphysical. I realized that during my heartbreak there was no one place where I could go to heal and learn about myself and my patterns so that I wouldn’t repeat the same heartbreak all over again.
Throughout my journey I was blogging about my experience. After receiving countless emails from people feeling hopeless in heartbreak, I learned that there’s so many people struggling, and that it’s a very scary place to be when you feel like you have no hope.
I was fortunate to have a support system and to learn the tools to heal, but what about the people who didn’t have such support?
I knew I had to be the one to create a safe space for people mourning heartbreak, and to leave different from how they came in. Alas, the idea for breakup bootcamp was born.
This book is for anyone who wants to create healthier and more joyful relationships—starting with the relationship with self, which automatically impacts our romantic relationships. It’s for anyone who wants to change old patterns and shift unhelpful subconscious beliefs.
This book can also benefit those in a relationship because it helps you understand your triggers, where those triggers come from, and how to create healthier responses when your inner child is freaking out. It teaches you how to communicate your needs, express your boundaries, and live in your truth in an empowered way.
Q: The book's subtitle is "The Science of Rewiring Your Heart." What are some of the strategies a person should turn to after their heart is broken?
A: Give yourself permission to grieve. There are different stages of separation that mirror the stages of grief. Different strategies apply depending on which stage you’re at.
In the beginning, you’re in a state of shock. The new reality without your partner hasn’t quite set in yet and you might feel numb and confused. During this stage you need to grieve. It’s okay to cry, to scream, to feel all the feels.
You can even ask your friends and family to “hold space” for you. That means they listen without judgment, without advice giving, and provide a safe space for you to feel your emotions and process them.
Detox from your ex - Your body is used to getting its doses of feel-good chemicals from the relationship, and even though on a cognitive level you know it’s over, your body doesn’t. You’re in withdrawal and you may rationalize that you should contact your ex, or stare at old photos and texts.
Don’t do it! By doing so you only strengthen the old neural pathways that keep you attached. Delete them off social media, remove physical and digital reminders of your ex. You’ll have intense cravings, but this is a natural part of the process.
Find other sources of dopamine - Your relationship likely satisfied a lot of needs - connection, play, adventure, and physical touch to name a few. You need to create a proactive strategy of how you're going to get your needs met - in health ways that do not involve your ex.
Write a list of all the needs you use to get fulfilled in your relationship and brainstorm alternative, healthy ways to get that need met. For connection perhaps you volunteer at a charity, or set a weekly friends’ night. For adventure, perhaps you take that course you’ve always wanted to take, or go on that mountain climbing excursion that’s been on your bucket list.
Don’t just wait for the boredom of a clear schedule to kick in. Be proactive and fill your schedule with things that light you up.
Get something on the calendar that you can look forward to - Whether it’s a trip, or signing up for a new course, or a spa date - get something in the calendar so that you have something you can feel excited about. It’s easy to get stuck in a slump and feel numb when you’re overwhelmed by missing your ex; this is a way to get your mind off your past and look forward to something to come.
Q: How do your own experiences factor into the book, and how did you overcome your own breakup?
A: There is no one thing I did to get over my breakup.
It was a combination of taking many different steps that eventually added up. Such steps included therapy, to learning about relationships and psychology through books, interviews, and workshops, to meditation, to mindfulness practice, to feeding my body with nutritious food, to creating morning and evening rituals, to writing, to energy healing, to volunteering, to helping others… Many steps, some seemingly small - but together they added up to have a compound effect.
The book weaves in personal narrative of my own experiences of heartbreak, healing, dating, and creating healthy love. I learned the tools to self-soothe, from using state changes to help with anxiety and from going on an emotional spiral when triggered.
I learned why I chose unavailable men, over and over again, and how to rewire my “chemistry compass” and choose healthier partners. It also shares my own dating experiment where I challenged myself to date guys outside my “type.” There are a lot of personal anecdotes from funny to shocking - all of the names of my exes have been changed, of course.
Q: Who do you see as the audience for the book, and what do you hope readers take away from it?
A: This book is written for a female audience, but really it’s for anyone who is frustrated with their relationship outcomes and wants to change their patterns. It’s not only for people who have gone through a breakup; in fact, about 30 percent of the women who come to the retreats are not going through a breakup or separation at all - they just want to learn how to change their patterns and create healthier relationships.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Since the pandemic, I’ve taken my bootcamps online and now offer Breakup Bootcamp Online Intensives. I’m also going to start offering one-day workshops for people who are single and want to learn tools for better dating and connection, as well as for people in relationships who want to create more passion and desire in their lives.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb