How to Keep Your Heart Open When You’ve Been Hurt

In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Heart speaks louder than words

A FABULOUS QUOTE, which is equally attributable to us women of course! Yet when Tennyson penned his immortal lines, the fairer sex were not supposed to show outward, public signs of lust and longing. To make up for this, there was feverish letter writing, many an attack of the vapours (probably due to tight corsetry), and many a hushed chaperoned visit with the object of one’s desire.  There was no word for sex when Tennyson wrote this either, so the word ‘love’ encompassed the whole gamut of heart/mind/body attraction.

Love – a hurricane of enmeshed chemical attraction and neuroses? Or a soul’s recognition of someone we’ve most certainly met before – albeit in another form. Probably a bit of both. The feeling is certainly visceral enough…

For those of you lucky enough to have experienced love, it also means you’ve been bitten by love’s little flip side – pain. Yes the ‘ouch’ factor is one of the great trade-offs when we open our hearts to love someone – and receive in return. And it’s a price most of us are prepared to pay and a risk we want to take. But how do we keep our hearts open after we’ve been hurt? This is the secret – keeping ourselves open to giving and receiving love when all we want to do is curl up somewhere and never come out. Scary world. Scary people. Nope, never giving my heart to anyone again. Know the feeling?

As a result, we all too often retreat for safety into our heads and remain intellectually bound – cutting off from our feelings and emotions. Stymied. Not a good idea. Why? Because we actually cut ourselves off from receiving love – from any direction. Painful – and not a good strategy for success and emotional well being.

So what’s the cure when you’ve been bitten by the after-love bug? How can we possibly keep our hearts open when we’ve been hurt?

Here are some ways that have worked for me, at times when my heart has felt broken and I have lost trust in the world and the people who were once close to me, but have betrayed my trust. Hope you find them helpful too. P.S. the heart does heal… You will love again.

1. Often we feel shattered because we are grieving for a future that will never be realised. We’ve spent so much time imagining how life will be with this person in the FUTURE – we’ve totally forgotten to take it all day by day. Practise taking just one day at a time. In your own personal life as well as with others. Stay fully present. Neither dwelling on the past nor projecting yourself into the future. Both are escape mechanisms.

2. Forgive. Yourself primarily, then others. Harder said than done, but it does work. It means that events and people no longer have a hold over you and make you a perennial victim. It also takes a lot of energy constantly ruminating on what might have been, what you could/should have done. It’s past. Let it go.

3. Focus on all the good things in your life right now. From basics such as the fact you still have a job, a roof over your head, to all the loving friends and family who are there to support you. And good health, if you have that too then you are truly blessed.

4. Develop a state of optimism. Trust that good things will come to you. Be open to wherever and whomever they come from.

5. Acknowledge your emotions and let them out. Don’t suppress them. Crying is good – yes guys – for you too!

6. Understand that you control your thoughts. And your thoughts dictate what happens to you in life. If you dwell on the negative that’s exactly what you’ll attract. Only YOU have the power to make yourself happy. People come and go, but if you focus on establishing a closer relationships with yourself, you will rarely feel lonely.

7. Stay in the present. Every time you start looking back and feel sad, gently find ways to bring your thoughts back into the present.

Photo: christiancoachingcenter.org