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Opening our hearts fully

A new month. Commercially the month for lovers and all things heart related, February also reminds us to take care of our heart.

Since 1963, February is heart month in the US. I take the liberty to take it from a different angle here.

I experience that clients have a real struggle to open their heart more fully in their day-to-day lives. A recent example from a coaching conversation. My client was experiencing so much pain about her family situation but didn’t allow herself to really feel it. In our conversation she suddenly got in touch with it. She had a thick layer of amor, and some strong limiting self-belief. Above all, she believed all her thoughts to be true. Wanting to be a good parent meant not to show any emotions towards her kids when they were emotional. Wanting to be a successful executive meant not to discuss her challenging home situation with her manager. Because she believed he doesn’t care, and it can be used against her. She controlled herself, protected herself, kept the façade. And powered through … with lots of suffering as a result.

Unfortunately, this is a dead-end road. It will not only make you feel alone and miserable. In the long run it can also do real harm to yourself. Suppressed emotions stay in the body.

And it can become worse. When you lose the ability to feel or express any emotions, this is called flat affect. If you feel numb only to positive emotions but are still able to feel negative emotions, this is called anhedonia. Anhedonia is a common symptom of depression and shows up in a lot of mental health conditions.

When you give yourself the permission to FEEL whatever is within you — both joyful and miserable — you are giving yourself the permission to grow. Opening your heart is about having the courage to face and fully feel your emotions.

There are many ways to open your heart more fully. Here are just a few suggestions:

  1. Breathe into painful emotions. Whenever a painful feeling, memory or situation arises, instead of running away or masking the hurt, take some deep breaths and lean in. ...

  2. Practice self-compassion (through exercises or tailored meditation)

  3. Attend a breathwork session …

  4. Tune into the messages of your heart...

  5. Start journaling …

  6. Spend time alone, in nature ...

  7. Connect with others, with whom you feel safe ...

Allow yourself to be human. By nature, human beings are first and foremost emotional creatures. We are motivated and activated by emotions. Let life flow right through you as one of my favorite spiritual teachers Tara Brach says.

A beautiful book about emotions and experiences is Atlas of the heart by the fabulous Brené Brown. Download here the list of emotions from Browns research. It contains 87 emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. This resource also features eight emotions, behaviours and empathic miscues that get in the way of connection.

Download PDF • 253KB

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