Thursday, September 19, 2013

Unchain Your Heart

Unchain your heart
In the age-old search for love, we all guard our hearts against being hurt, but this can close us off from life. Follow these insights to find fulfilment.
If your heart was like rubber, it would be easier for you to bounce back when you get rejected from your dream job or when a friend betrays your trust. Better still, you wouldn’t have to pick up the pieces after a break-up or feel you are about to crack from a cruel remark. However, the way we carry our hearts is usually more like glass - to be protected and handled with care.
Unlocking the barricades
While it’s natural to turn away from painful feelings like anxiety and rejection, too much protection can act as stiff armour, shielding you from change, from growth, and ultimately, from getting what you need to make your life better. “It’s only when you’re able to feel the weight of all your emotions that you’ll be able to find fulfilment in your life,” say Marilyn Kagan and Neil Einbund, authors of Defenders of the Heart, a self-help book that helps people identify and break free from the barriers they build around their hearts.
“Pain and suffering are a good indication that you’re alive. Barricades lock you in and limit you from knowing and understanding your deepest feelings.” It’s a willingness to tolerate - instead of fending off – these scary, uncomfortable, unfamiliar feelings that can get you to the real reasons for what is unsettling you. “Discomfort is no fun, but both physically and psychologically it gives us signs that we need to attend to something,” say Kagan and Einbund. Eventually, they add, if you develop this ability to let yourself be affected, and then you have the power to improve your situation or relationship with that person who rubs you up the wrong way.
This transition first involves being aware of the different tactics you use to keep yourself unscathed. Here are some common defence strategies we continually fall back on, inhibiting us from being connected to our true feelings and needs.
1. Denial: Using a blindfold
Overlooking the obvious to reduce feelings of pain and suffering. Rather than dealing with the overwhelming, painful circumstances and uncomfortable feelings head-on, people in denial reject them and act as though they never happen. Think of the woman who can’t face up to the fact that her partner doesn’t want kids but who hangs on the hope that he’ll change when they get married, or the alcoholic who is totally disconnected from his family but says he only drinks to relax after work.
2. Projection: Screening your own movie
Attributing your own unacceptable, shocking or embarrassing thoughts and feelings to someone else in order to relieve your anxiety about them. This can be seen in couples where he or she will say, “Are you kidding me? What are you talking about? Are we in the same marriage here?” They use their partner to dump all their emotional garbage into, because they can’t acknowledge these feelings within themselves.
3. Rationalisation: A load of bull
Making self-serving and often seemingly logical excuses to cover up disappointment, fury, or hurt feelings over an unbearable situation. We tend to rationalise when something has been done to us that we can’t bring ourselves to confront, such as getting passed over for a job, or when a good friend chooses someone else instead of you as their maid of honour.
4. Intellectualisation: Head over heart
Using facts, figures, information, and research that allows you to distance yourself from the emotions related to painful events or thoughts. Common jargon phrases we use to deflect the anxiety of a potentially emotionally ‘hot’ subject include, “We’re going to take a break” (he dumped me), or “My grandfather passed on” (my Pa died).
5. Humour: It’s not just a joke
Using laughter or joking, especially sarcasm and irony, to get out of a difficult situation or to cover up feelings of unease, agitation and pain. We may be using humour as a way to keep our true feelings hidden when we make cutting, sarcastic remarks about others’ bodies, possessions, families or achievements, or when we’re pretty sure that if we didn’t laugh about a certain situation, we’d cry.
Follow these tips and be on your way to a more satisfying life:
* Stop ignoring and dismissing how you really feel.
* Allow yourself to become affected by what it is that is unsettling you; let the feelings of embarrassment or fear point you to what needs to change.
* Question why the situation or person is giving you these feelings and work on what positive steps can be made to experience an improved situation.
* Listen to those around you. Whenever loved ones, colleagues or acquaintances tell you more than twice of their concern for your attitudes or behaviours, then you have the power to address these issues, opening you up to a much better outcome.
Once you’re conscious of the way these defence mechanisms work to block you from dealing with hurtful feelings, you can then start to deal with them in a healthy way: facing them head on. For instance, if you find that you rationalise a lot, Kagan and Einbund suggest that for one week, keep a running tab of the excuses you make in a day. Typical rationalisation phrases include, “I don’t care,” “It’s not my fault,” or “It has nothing to do with me.”
When you hear yourself saying these statements, interrupt yourself and question them. How have these reasons served you up until now? What are the tough areas in your life that you don’t want to face? What are the consequences for not facing them? You may find that you’ve used them to move on from something without considering what you’re losing. Then restate these ‘truths’ you’ve been using to delude yourself. These statements then begin to sound like, “I do care,” “I screwed up,” or “I’m really upset about what happened.” These may reveal your true and painful feelings of loss or embarrassment, but at least you have the power to work on what it is you have lost or what is upsetting you. You have the power to take action, instead of walking away.
To see rationalisation at work, consider a friend telling you that you have gained a few kilos. If you were to rationalise, you’d be more inclined to say that it’s your outfit that makes you look fat. But, if you let yourself be open and honest about your weight instead of pretending that you haven’t gained any, you are more likely to say that you have been stressed out and eating for comfort, and that you should get back on a healthy plan. You may feel a twinge of not looking like your ideal weight, but you gain the clarity on what you really want to achieve in your life. “Having an appreciation for your desires even when you don’t attain them helps you direct your energy positively toward other dreams that you can reach,” say Kagan and Einbund. “When you stop fooling yourself about how badly you wanted something, you’ll connect with something else that’s just as meaningful.” And it’s getting more meaning from uncomfortable and painful situations that leads you to a richer, more satisfying life. So, perhaps, it is good to treat your heart like glass - to be touched, but to still be handled with care.

Source : Nature and Health


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