What Gets in the Way of an Open Heart?
With heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States, we put a lot of emphasis on heart health. How to eat right, exercise and manage stress for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system is a common topic among health seekers. While this is essential to having a healthy physical heart, a less common, but vitally important piece to your cardiovascular and overall health, is the state of your emotional heart. Paying attention to how you feel has a profound impact on your nervous system and is actually very therapeutic.
We’re all more sensitive than we feel or believe, and feelings can be hurt, often unintentionally. Take for example a busy morning, rushing around getting yourself and maybe children ready for the day. It’s easy to be thrown off center, feel irritable from lack of sleep, or not having accomplished what you wanted to do for the household. Then your spouse or partner asks you one more question- and you snap back with a quick reaction that results in hurt feelings. They react back and you both leave the house in a hurry without addressing what happened.
It’s not always possible to handle hurt feelings the minute they occur; sometimes, it’s subtle and you may not even be aware that your heart has closed, ever so slightly, towards your partner, friend or colleague, until later in the day, or even a week later.
The important thing is, when you realize it, share your feelings with this important person in your life! It can take practice to recognize and own your feelings without blaming the other person. By paying attention to your feelings, you’ll get to know what it’s like when your heart has subtly, or not so subtly, shut down. It’s common to actually feel physical sensations, like a tightening of the throat or chest. In these moments, you may need to give yourself empathy before addressing the other person. Often the physical sensations can overwhelm your nervous system and in a moment of providing protection for yourself, you lashed out at the other person.
Of course, you feel badly about this later, when you’ve had some time to reflect and you’re feeling less reactive. It’s always healing to address what you were feeling in that moment and ask your partner, spouse of friend, if they “are available to talk about it now?”
It’s important to address these interactions that cause emotional upset, for these moments create hurt feelings. Before you know it, these little unresolved moments and hurt feelings, which may seem insignificant at the time, have accumulated. Then, when you ordinarily would feel loving, you notice your heart feels closed, and the natural and free flow of love, caring and intimacy isn’t present.
I like to think of the energy of the heart, or passion that flows from the heart similar to a river. The river needs to be flowing smoothly, with minimal debris in its path. It’s important to be centered in yourself and have energy that is clear of debris, so you can be intimate with another. The debris is analogous to the clutter we all accumulate in our daily life- too much to do, too little time, office politics, world politics, and those around us who may be similarly stressed.