July 12, 2020

The Best Way to Open your Heart (& No, it’s not by Embracing Vulnerability).


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Dear woman, there is a reason why sometimes you shut down your heart.

It’s not because you are difficult.

It’s not because you are not loving.

It’s not because you are not good at relationships.

It’s because your heart is holding too much hurt and everyday life asks you to function.

So, when it feels too painful, you shut down your heart. You lift your chin up, and you go and get things done.

I shut down my heart many times. Without even realizing it. My escape was to focus on work.

Then, I would witness someone performing a genuine act of kindness or being truly loving. It would touch that dormant tender place in me and make me realize how much I missed it.

That beautiful heart energy that makes connection possible—that’s what we are wired for. That’s what makes us feel alive.

Being immersed into yoga and tantra, I would look for practices or teachings mentioning “heart-opener” or “surrender.”

I tried a lot of different techniques. Sometimes I found tools to access my heart, but it was like reopening a box full of sadness. The tears would eventually give me a sense of relief, but not the motivation to keep my heart open when interacting with others. It felt too weak and vulnerable.

At that time, some teachers were inviting us to embrace “vulnerability.” And as much as I could see the point to doing that on my own, again for clearing and releasing, I found out quickly that I could not walk in every room or interaction with an open and vulnerable heart.

I liked the idea, but it simply didn’t serve me.

To go on, I could only consider those two polar opposite options:

Keeping my heart guarded, which makes it difficult to connect to others, because for them it energetically feels like they are meeting someone wearing an armor.

Or relying on a kind of faith, acting as if I have never been hurt, and remaining open no matter what. And sadly, sometimes ending up being treated like a doormat.

So where is the balance between the two? Is there a way to keep an open heart without freaking out about being hurt again or being taken advantage of? What is the missing piece to switch from what feels like submission to surrender?

Surrender requires the highest level of trust, and before you invest that trust in someone else, you need to be able to have your own back.

Maybe it’s already the case. You usually have a clear sense of the power dynamic going on between you and who you’re speaking with. When you interact you can naturally adjust your heart’s energy. It’s like a door you choose to open, more or less.

But if you are an extremely sensitive person, more often, you will be thrown out of center. You will find yourself navigating between the two options described before—shutting down and retreating, or opening, but in a spongy way.

That’s when you need to build a structure, but a structure is not armor.

A structure is in charge of your own safety and holds the possibility for openness, softness, and surrender.

To build that structure you need to learn what I call the art of emotional self-defense.

Think about it, when it comes to your physical safety, you would ask for protection or you’d learn some self-defense tools. (I actually encourage every woman to take a self-defense class.)

But who teaches us to protect our body of emotions?

Thankfully, only a few of us will be physically attacked. But we are subject to emotional violence almost every day. Most of my female clients report experiencing regularly: inappropriate questions or comments, people interrupting them, people gaslighting them. Dominant personalities taking all the space.

And then, retreating, submitting, or overreacting, allowing themselves to feel “disheartened.”

If they evolve for a while in an emotionally challenging environment, they come out wearing an invisible defensive armor, and their capacity to genuinely connect is damaged.

The art of emotional self-defense offers another array of possibilities. It is made of two skills.

The first one is alchemizing emotions with practices allowing you to deal with your emotional overwhelm on your own. It addresses all those emotions you have repressed until the only way to cope was to shut down your heart.

Repressed emotions are still hiding somewhere inside you. They will lead to behaviors that don’t serve you at all—like retreating, overreacting, overeating, or anything else that numbs the pain before bringing a sense of disconnection.

Once you alchemize those repressed emotions—which means completing a cycle of stress until they are released—they stop controlling you and impacting your interactions and your relationships.

The second skill is getting out of that freeze you can experience when you feel dominated.

I am talking about all those moments when you feel you have to say something but the words stay stuck in your head or in your throat.

This is such a common behavior for women to stay silent and feel resentment or defeat inside afterward. But once the emotion of overwhelm is taken care of, the voice can come back.

It’s a conscious effort at the beginning to say something because the nervous system is still confused.

There is a step-by-step process with language tools that can help you to get started. For example, by reformulating the question that was just asked. To pause, get ready to reply, and say, “Did you just ask me…?” or “So you want to know…” This can give you a little extra time to feel ready to truly speak what is on your heart or in your mind.

When women unfreeze and can speak up for themselves in each and every one of the moments when they would have felt frozen before, it’s a big step toward authentic connection.

This combination gives you back a lot of power, because when you alchemize your emotions, you won’t feel offended or overwhelmed during a conversation. It allows you to stay present and more centered.

From that more neutral place, it becomes easier to unfreeze and be able to respond and even to play with something that is not triggering you anymore. You can reverse conversations and situations to your advantage.

When you know in your bones you are capable of doing that, it changes everything—the way your carry yourself, the tone of your voice, your self-confidence.

You switch from defensive to powerful.

And this is, I believe, the missing piece for a lot of women to be able to connect again.

Now your heart is safe. Safe to reopen, engage, connect, and create beautiful relationships.

The protective structure is in place for the tenderness to blossom.


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