Being true to your heart

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Decisions, decisions

Have you ever been on the verge of something, whether a small action or a life-changing decision, and felt with every fiber of your being that it was wrong? I’m not talking wrong in the moral sense but wrong for you.

I just entered that domain (again) and am paying the price. For those of us who choose to walk through this world openhearted (or at least attempt openheartedness on a regular basis) this price is paid in emotional pain. For those who choose otherwise, or ignore that choice, that pain is usually sublimated into the body.

Sick at heart

I’ve witnessed this over and over in my own life and in observed it in others. The most dramatic case of Not Being True to Yourself I have witnessed is the story of a friend who fell for a guy, who for all intents and purposes, was the perfect guy, but not the perfect guy for her. They looked great together, they were the perfect hosts and friends, they treated each other with care and respect, they had a perfect house, and they had a perfect baby. Then they decided to get married. Leading up to the wedding she didn’t seem so well. She was insomniac and having a lot of anxiety that was beginning to manifest in physical illness. She sought the help of many types of doctors who tried everything and nothing worked. They chalked it up to the stress of a new baby. After the wedding it only worsened. She finally called it quits on the marriage and voila–she got better. It was an uphill climb back to health, but in time she made it. Her intuitive knowing that this marriage was not right for her and acting against that knowing manifested very concretely as physical illness.

I can now look at their wedding photographs and can see in her face that she was not happy. Of course none of us wanted to acknowledge that as it was happening. We all chose to ignore what we felt deep inside was true. Is willfully acting against our own happiness and heart the true fall of humankind? I wonder . . .

What to do?

When we have those nagging feelings as we are about to act or make a choice, we need toconsider them before acting. Or at least take a good hard look at them before choosing to do nothing. I think we all forget that the act of not choosing is, in fact, an act; it is not entirely passive. How many times have you let a deadline slip or not followed up on something with hardly a thought about it? We do this with at least a modicum of intention, whether we know it or not. We let just let it pass by. And just standing at the crossroads too long has its own consequences. Is that what all of those old blues songs are about? At these crossroads do our fragile little egos need to imagine a Devil coercing us to commit our wrong deeds or make our bad choices? Or is standing there too long the real sin? Inevitably, these memorable crossroads happen along in all of our lives.

But seriously, we need to listen to those nagging feelings. Only then can our choices become more conscious, and hopefully more appropriate for us.

Do we really know?

Do we REALLY know what is best for us at any given moment? Or at all of of our moments? Can we access this information solely from within ourselves? My from-the-gut answer is a resounding YES. But we can only know if we make a habit of listening to our deeper feelings. Our bodies give us subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle hints. Unfortunately, our culture values the rational mind so much moreso than the body or our emotions that we are taught to ignore these hints and override them. We convince ourselves with our all-too-tricky minds to pay no heed to those silly cues and act otherwise.

Deb Shapiro, in her book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, shows that there is a direct relationship between what is happening in our body and what is happening psychologically and emotionally. Specifically she explains how our illnesses and physical trials and tribulations speak what our minds sometimes cannot say. Psycho-neuro-immunology is a new science that is exploring these relationships and coming to some extraordinary conclusions about how our traditional conceptions about the dualistic nature of body and mind are incorrect; that it is more descriptive to look at it as a single entity–the bodymind. As such, it is much easier to understand how we work.

She talks about the analogy of the body as a tube of toothpaste such that when you plug up the opening of the tube and exert pressure it will split the side and toothpaste is released in an unintended and unexpected way. This happens as well with our emotions/psyche. If we do not allow for the release of psychological pain it is held in the body and manifests there until it finds some release.

The popular culture test

And it’s not just obscure branches of science that are broaching this subject. One of America’s most beloved TV shows has used this concept in its storyline.

I just finished watching the entire Sex in the City series (yes, I junked out and watched all six seasons in just a few weeks) and this concept is played out quite nicely between the writers and the actors. They don’t go deep as Deb Shapiro does, but the subject is addressed enough to elicit some thought from the audience. You really can see Carrie and the girls being faced with decisions that affect them deeply, whether they want to admit it or not, and how their choices play out for them in the long run. In the episode “Change of a Dress” Carrie knows that she shouldn’t be marrying Aidan and lets herself be talked into some cold-feet therapy by Miranda. They have a laugh trying on ugly wedding dresses until Carrie really sees herself as Aidan’s bride-to-be and has a panic attack. Not only is she not able to breathe in the ridiculous tiny-buttoned, high-necked dress and has to rip it off of her body, but she develops a severe rash where the fabric has touched her. It takes this severity for Carrie to come to terms with the fact that she doesn’t want to marry Aidan. Fortunately, she realizes this before it has gone too far.

For those who stuff their emotions and never give themselves the opportunity to really feel them, they never come to terms with the myriad bad decisions we are all prone to making. Really, it’s a natural part of learning. But when we don’t deal with our bad decisions what are the consequences? I think we can all agree that stress is a natural consequence that inhibits our lives in many ways. Is it a stretch to think that heart disease and cancer are consequences, however indirect? I think not.

Honesty IS the best policy

So, how to avoid this dis-ease in the first place? Perhaps we should look to developing a policy of honesty; the best policy, really. It is often most difficult to be honest with ourselves. But if we’re paying attention and we feel even the slightest twinge of wrongness when about to act, then we must stop and take a closer look. You may want to turn away, but don’t. This is the good stuff. This is where we get to see ourselves without the mask, naked with all of our beautiful flaws.

The inevitable emotional baggage and lightening the load

And if you find yourself with some emotional baggage because you did make that wrong turn then work it out.

I am experiencing a lightening of my emotional load just in writing this. I can literally feel my dark cloud lifting. Some people need a confessional, whether the tall wooden box off to the side of a church, or the small office with a couch (that’ll be $85 please), or a barstool and a person next to or across the bar. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter in whom we confide. We all need to work it out and it doesn’t need to have an external outlet.

Some suggestions on how to do this:

  • rest your mind
  • contemplate it
  • work it out of your body with physical exercise or massage
  • practice compassion for yourself
  • don’t be afraid to really look
  • accept the moment as it is – don’t worry, it will change!
  • write about it  (thank you sweet Jacob and Myriah for giving me an opportunity to explore this more deeply and for motivating me to get back to my real work)
Jen MurphyComment