Why is it that we console a baby when it cries yet we don’t show ourselves the same quality of compassion? What has changed? Where is the arbitrary line we draw that forces us into an adulthood that leaves no room for this kind of presence? You don’t need a textbook on healing a broken heart, just some compassionate attention—maybe, a lot of it (at least at first).
“The most important ingredient in resolution is becoming aware of where we are. It is essentially the most intense, unconditional presence.” — Teal Swan
*This note is inspired by one of Teal Swan’s workshops.*
Have you ever felt such terrible heartache and had someone tell you to feel differently? How did that feel? I know it never felt good to me. The thing is, we won’t feel differently if we don’t sit in understanding with ourselves first.
If we don’t acknowledge and console ourselves, meeting ourselves where we’re at before we expect forward movement, that suffering aspect of ourselves will stay stuck in that place and won’t move forward with the rest of us. And if you’ve ever had your heart hurt and haven’t dealt with it, you know that the pain comes out sideways later on down the line.
The popular phrase you have to feel it to heal it is pretty much true. You have to be acutely attentive to those acutely painful feelings if you’re going to be wholeheartedly involved in any meaningful forward movement. Furthermore, I’d add that being with the aching aspects and perspectives you contain will be the seed of self-love and self-trust that also tend to bloom later on down the line.
Healing a broken heart only happens when we pay it mindful attention.
When we are in pain, we need a resolution of some kind. That requires an intense amount of presence that we often don’t want to devote ourselves to. Rather than deal with the discomfort, we distract ourselves; we focus on something else.
Distraction serves to keep us from staying with (being present with) the acute pain of what has caused our trauma, which is useful until it’s not.
Suffering is useful until it’s not.
Since we’re human, we often don’t deal with pain by focusing on something else—work, partying, drinking, another person, gossip, traveling, or anything else. These distractions can be helpful if we’re not ready to deal with the immediate pain, but they ultimately don’t serve our healing.
We wish we could move forward. So, why do we get so stuck? Why does the trauma stay with us, maybe years or decades later? I think it might have something to do with us not staying with it.
For example, if someone you love dies and your friends try to get you to go out and have fun, you wish you could want to go but not all of you is on board. There’s an aspect of you that can’t be on board because you need some form of resolution to be able to move forward.
You wish you could move forward, but there is resistance. And if part of you can’t move forward, you’re not bringing your whole self forward. Something is left behind, and that gap widens each time you opt not to address it.Don't ignore the part of you that isn't ready for change; that part has something it still needs to show you. Click To Tweet
Try treating a broken heart like you would a child.
When you’re hurting, try to be with yourself. Be with that hurting. Sit with yourself and notice what you’re feeling and the thoughts you’ve been thinking. If you don’t do that, you create a gap between the different aspects of yourself and that’s what trauma is all about—that gap.
If a child is jealous of another child receiving birthday presents, their parents might tell them to “stop being jealous—it’s ridiculous; you had a birthday last month and now it’s their turn.” If a child makes a mistake and they are made to feel ashamed for it, they grow up with this distrustful aspect that leaks into other areas of their adult lives. How can you trust yourself if you don’t believe you’re good all the way to your core?
I know these examples may sound silly and trivial, yet this happens.
When an adult silences a child’s emotions, there is no opportunity for resolution. There’s that gap. An aspect of that child never moves forward and remains stuck at that age, even as they grow into an adult.
Just like the childish aspects of ourselves cannot grow up if we don’t give them an opportunity to resolve, the aspects of ourselves that suffer cannot heal if we don’t give them our unconditional presence.
What if you treated your broken heart as if it were a child? You console it. You don’t leave it alone. You don’t need to force a change, just hear it out. Give it time. Give it unhurried presence.Being with someone regardless of where they are emotionally is a spiritual practice. It's how we help each other heal. Click To Tweet
All that’s required of you is that you stay and not turn away.
Healing a broken heart might require a little compassion too.
When you feel intense emotion, do you banish the emotion and thus abandon yourself? Even more, do you beat yourself up for what you’re experiencing? Can you see how staying with yourself might close that gap and allow for more authentic wholeness?
I’m talking about trauma prevention.
You don’t necessarily need to do anything. It’s your task only to sit, stay, and be conscious of what’s happening. You might say to yourself, “Oh, your heart is broken and that is seriously understandable.” Or, “I’m going to sit with this depression until I feel like my depressed aspect has a little bit of relief so that it can move forward with me.”
This is the beginning of self-love and self-trust: You bring all of your conscious awareness and attention back here, to the truth of what you’re experiencing, feeling and thinking. You acknowledge it without berating it. You console it without forcing it to be different than what it is. This is the only way to heal and move forward.
I’ve witnessed how complete consciousness—just witnessing what I’m experiencing without judging it, labeling it, categorizing it, worrying about it—naturally leads to compassion. Hey, I’m a human being just like seven billion other beings on this planet. Things get broken. Things also mend, if given a chance.Our wounds heal when we listen to what they have to say without requiring that they change their story. Click To Tweet
Oh, and let me mention that moving forward does not mean moving on; it means moving in.
Have any thoughts on healing a broken heart, advice to offer, stories to tell? Please share your insights or favorite excerpts from this note with me in the comments.
If someone you loved very much was heartbroken, in pain, imagine sitting with them and not requiring anything of them. You say, “You don’t need to say, do, feel, or be anything other than what and who you already are. I don’t need you to be a certain way. I am here with you anyway.” Now, remember that so you can practice that same message with yourself.
Know someone who does know what heartbreak feels like? Send them this note and seal it with a hug.
Next time you’re confronted with an uncomfortable emotion, stay with it without needing to make it better.