Yes, you’re right. If you open your heart you risk getting hurt. But, what’s the alternative? A life devoid of love and passion? How alluring is that? The illusion of safety may be appealing, but over-protection usually leads to isolation. Is there a way to shield yourself and still be receptive? Not that I know of. However, if you pay attention you are more likely to see the warning lights. You know them. The ones that signal danger ahead: proceed at your own risk. It’s easy to close your eyes when the first flickers appear, and even ignore blazing lights, but awareness can lead to protection, so listen to those gut feelings.
In the past, inertia, or blind optimism, may have motivated you to quiet those inner voices. Perhaps, you persevered until it was untenable. At some point, you faced what you were trying to avoid and were thrust into a new reality, both frightening and exhilarating. Now, even though you have been hurt, you feel compelled to be open, because the alternative is to live a diminished life. I’m not suggesting rushing head-long into a relationship. I am advising embracing life with enlightened open-heartedness tempered with self-protection and awareness.
If you let your passion have free reign it can feel like a freight train running over everything in its path. That’s the time to remember to slow down. We all want what we want when we want it, and pausing, delaying gratification, is almost un-American. We have been steeped in the idea that we have to immediately scratch every itch. If we are middle-aged, or older, it’s even easier to justify that orientation because time’s a wasting. Carpe diem is the name of the game. But, allowing a pause enables you to go forward with your eyes open. Whether you choose instant gratification, or waiting, you know you have made your decision consciously.
If you’re female, once you have opened the door to your heart everything rushes in. This is your biological destiny. Women are all about containment. You keep menstrual blood in for weeks every month, gestate a fetus nine months, manufacture milk until the baby is weaned, and last but not least, if heterosexual, you literally take a man in. Men, on the other hand, are all about expulsion, sexually. Their very survival as a species depends on expelling sperm, while for women it is all about holding things in. Naturally, these biological imperatives effect our psyche big time. Women are predisposed to hold on emotionally, and men to let go. That’s a crucial difference, and it’s hard-wired. You can be the most evolved person on the face of the earth, and these primal templates will govern your actions more than you might like to admit.
So, if you’re a man reading this guarding your heart comes more naturally. You don’t have to consciously protect yourself as much emotionally, because you’re predisposed to not let things in. Of course, you can suffer loss, but it’s to a different degree. You are made to let go, release, and move on. Women are designed to take care of their brood until they can be fully fledged, and that inclines them to stay connected. Disconnection, even from a bad situation, is still wrenching for most women. (See Phantom Marriage Syndrome.)
If you choose to live and love know the risks. An open heart is is a wonderful thing and can bring great passion and joy, but sometimes, you will be burned. You don’t have to be rejected to feel hurt, being the rejector is just as painful. We end relationships for all sorts of reasons: fear of intimacy, fear of vulnerability, and fear of ultimately being hurt, are the big ones; but, sometimes, we simply outgrow a partner, or learn of a betrayal. Not everyone is evolving in the same way or on the same schedule. Some people actually devolve and go back to a more infantile state. It really doesn’t matter what the reason is. Even if it’s the best decision you could possibly make there will still be feelings of grief and loss.
Be brave. Open your heart. Take risks. One day you will drop the body, as they say in India. Until then, why not experience the fullness of life?
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang