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Everyone feels broken sometimes and here is why it’s normal— the psychology of “brokenness”

Updated: May 20, 2020

Understanding the psychology behind the “I am broken” pattern and using these 7 strategies will help you break and release any brokenness and apathy so you can do better decisions every day.

Thinking you’re broken and need to be fixed is an illusion. (Photo by Jose A.Thompson on Unsplash)
Thinking you’re broken and you need to be fixed is an illusion. (Photo by Jose A.Thompson on Unsplash)

“No matter how much I try, there always seems to be a catch. I must be broken.

I guess it is because of my childhood. My parents’ screwed up lives perfectly reflected in my upbringing. Now, as a result, I have to go through all this shit.

Where would I be if it were not that [person/event]?! How can I fix myself so I can function like normal people again?”


Feeling broken is one of the worst states to be in.

Nothing goes right, nothing makes sense anymore and there is zero hope as the diagnosis feels terminal: “I am broken.”

Being broken feels like apathy, resignation, giving up and tearless sadness.

The separation from those who are “okay” is massive and overwhelming. They seem to never fully understand the intensity of the feeling we go through.

Being broken means having a fundamental and incurable flaw that prevents us from being the way we want to be — or at least being “normal”.

It is an incredibly energy-draining state because if we know there is zero hope, why even try?


The Illusion Of Being Broken

The reason why the idea of being broken sticks around is a combination of a belief reinforced through confirmation bias, fueled by emotion.

When you see the whole mechanism at work, you will understand that it’s an illusion that can be healed and released.

Let’s break it down one-by-one.

Beliefs determine how we see the world

Two women turn 70 years old and their lives unfold in two very different ways. One believes, that after 7 decades, her body must be deteriorating and she now needs to prepare for leaving life. The other one believes that the best is yet to come and starts running and mountain-climbing. As a result, Hulda Crooks is the oldest woman that has ever hiked mount Fuji in Japan at the age of 91.

Their beliefs about themselves created two very different meanings, feelings about themselves and consequently — results.

In psychology, beliefs are the ideas, that you hold to be true and feel certain about. They are a brain’s way of making sense of our reality and navigating our complex world.

Beliefs are linked to our expectations of pain or pleasure. They serve as guiding principles for our brains to seek pleasure and avoid pain in life.

Our beliefs about eating icecream determine our decisions about eating it. Our beliefs about physical movement determine how much we work out.

And our beliefs about ourselves determine how we interpret and feel about the events of everyday life and — as a result — what life decisions we do.

Believing I am good at public speaking will make me seek and enjoy speaking engagements. Believing I suck at it will make me fear of the audience and avoid the stage as much as possible.

In childhood, beliefs about ourselves are formed in 2 ways: 1. They are blindly accepted from the parents and the environment — “I am talented because my mom always says so.” 2. They are concluded in our head as a result of our experiences — “I dance well. They say that those who dance well are talented. I must be talented.”

The “I am broken.” statement is an expression of a belief about ourselves — about how we are.

When nothing goes right, disempowering beliefs tend to show up on the surface.
When nothing goes right, our disempowering beliefs tend to show up on the surface.

Once we form a belief, our mind has a natural tendency to seek its evidence in the external world. This tendency is called confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias makes our beliefs bulletproof

Let’s say I set myself a task.

I don’t finish it because I feel broken inside and don’t have enough energy. My mind will mark not finishing the task as the evidence for my brokenness — despite it being the cause for not finishing it.

My mind says — “See? I told you.” My belief about my brokenness is confirmed.

For comparison, let’s say I’ll take a Stoic perspective — a belief, that every obstacle is a raw material of the result and the amount of pain equals the amount of growth.

I set myself a task and I finish it despite setbacks and exhaustion. I now also have evidence for my belief. I finished the task and feel proud.

My mind says — “See? I told you.” My belief about my growth is verified.

Different beliefs in the same situation created different emotions and consequently — different results.

In both cases, I confirmed my already existing belief.

Once we form our beliefs, our mind has a natural tendency to search for evidence to prove them right.

Behavioral scientists call this effect a confirmation bias. The part of our brain responsible for this function is the Reticular Activating System.