I like to do crossword puzzles, I always have. There’s something about manipulating words and extracting obscured meanings that fascinates me. And just as I was wondering what this article needed to be about I came across a crossword clue that gave me the answer. The clue was the title above: This heartbreaking world (5).
And the solution, if you’re not there ahead of me, is EARTH, because if you take the word HEART, break it up and rearrange the letters they make the word EARTH.
Few of us haven’t experienced heartbreak of one form or another. But heartbreak isn’t the real issue, it’s what you do with it that matters. It’s the interpretations you make and the significance you attach to these that inform [in-form] you, and condition the life you lead.
There’s no denying the agony of heartbreak. It devastates your inner landscape, shifting your concept of what’s true and what can be trusted. It can create wounds that turn septic in ways that are so difficult to look at we resist even considering that they might ever be healed. When this happens those wounds remain festering within, contaminating and defining our relationships with ourselves, with others and with the world.
That contamination takes the form of blame, resentment, bitterness, cynicism, contempt, guilt and shame, self-justification and the determination to take revenge. That could be revenge on the culprit or cause of the heartbreak, or revenge upon an uncaring world. Human history is drenched with the blood spilled by self-indulgent retributional psychopaths who have sought to take their pain out on the rest of us. That kind of history is still being made.
Make it go away
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
The typical (less psychotic) response to heartbreak is to make it go away. But this is generally impossible. So what tends to happen is you go away. This not primarily a physical going away, although you may leave a situation or relationship. It’s more of an internal process. The tendency is to retreat inside, and while you’re in there make decisions about how you’re going to avoid a similar experience.
More often than not those decisions lead to a shutting down. They determine limits that you impose upon yourself to prevent the world touching you too deeply. These are set points that you will not allow yourself to venture beyond. You become hardened, defended and ‘experienced’. This is often mistaken for being strong, but it disconnects you from the core essence that wants to weep at the tragedy of humanity or dance with the joy of life. And just because you can’t feel the pain, doesn’t mean it’s gone. That original pain has now become part of you. It will haunt you and your relationships until you find a way to embrace it and let it go.
The fear of what will happen when we do is what prevents us from fully embracing our emotional pain. But unless and until you embrace the emotional pain of your life you will be crippled by it.
In the emotional climate of the culture I come from (English), embracing your emotional pain is tantamount to committing social suicide. The anchors of social acceptability that sustain you in a sense of your own existence are totally threatened; this threat is translated by the mind into the fear of dying. In many other western cultures it’s not so different, especially if you inhabit a male body.
That sense of impending death funds the imperative to keep your precious emotional self ‘safe’, locked away in unreachable recesses of your unconscious, hidden even from you. So the actuality is, it takes courage (buckets of it) to face your emotional self with honesty and integrity. Learning that it won’t actually kill you is what finally makes you stronger.
Most people I come across have struggled with their experiences of love. I’m no exception. As a child and young adult I wrestled with my sensitivity, and the love that kept wanting to burst out of me to find its natural expression. In the pragmatic oppressive working class environment I inhabited this was just not on. Eventually I got myself under control. I shut down my feelings and emotions tighter and tighter over a period of years. It almost killed me, literally.
The effect of keeping myself shutdown was that I felt so little it seemed that life itself was completely irrelevant. And when I looked at myself, I could see it was.
This is the way our defence patterns work. They shut out the pain, and what we consider to be its cause; and at the same time they shut us in. The very strategies we adopt to keep us safe are actually toxic to our well-being. If you want to be alive you must let yourself feel.
One of the things that saved me was taking the decision to allow myself to open up to my feelings – my heartbreak. As I did, everything changed.
“… So don’t mind if I fall apart.
There’s more room in a broken heart.”
– Carly Simon [Coming Around Again]
Letting yourself fall apart is quite different from the cultural obligation to pull yourself together and pull through. It’s loving yourself to give yourself time to grieve, hurt and heal, but it’s often seen as a dereliction of duty, attracting criticism, judgement, denigration and anger.
Picking Up the Pieces
What you should realise is that whatever adverse reaction you attract is a projection of what’s going on inside the critic at an unconscious level. It’s the reaction of someone in fear – fear at being reminded that somewhere inside they too have wounds that are crying out for love. And if you’re criticising yourself it’s an indication of where you’re being informed by the collective, rather than your own wisdom.
When you understand this it becomes clearer that if you want to retrieve your sanity [those pieces of yourself you abandoned in order to fit into some kind of acceptance], a shift in priorities is required. You have to be prepared to surrender everything you’ve been taught to believe about who you are and the reality you live in. This is what it means to love yourself. From this place it becomes possible to appreciate others beyond the pain, confusion and conflict of their life situation. You open to the flow of love through you.
“Sometimes I’m frightened,
but I’m ready to learn the Power of Love”
– Gunther Mende, Candy DeRouge,
Jennifer Rush & Mary Susan Applegate [The Power of Love]
Love is a Universal energy that flows through you seeking those places where it’s needed most. When you open to the flow of love you’re effectively choosing a different paradigm of existence from the dominant cultural ethos. You’re contributing to the shift in world consciousness and the world responds to you in ways that affirm this. You will be operating from a centre of ‘EARTH-shattering’ power – the HEART.