Dark Nights of the Soul
Our hearts can be disfigured.
They can be troubled and tormented. Our hearts can be squeezed and distressed emotionally and psychologically to such a degree that finally they begin to whither under the strain.
They crack or even break. The experience of having a “Broken Heart” is real.
Losing a loved one, struggling with job woes, or having our lives shattered with a horrible divorce are just some of the catalysts that can create severe trauma to our hearts.
The psychotherapist and author, Thomas Moore writes that “at one time or another, most people go through a period of sadness, trial, loss, frustration, or failure that is so disturbing and long-lasting that it can be called a dark night of the soul.”
Unfortunately, hearts living through darkness and turmoil, hearts that are “broken” don’t just suffer emotionally. Medical research has clearly shown that deep grief, sadness, and other painful experiences can cause actual heart disease.
In the 1970’s medical researchers from the Mayo Clinic discovered that what we think and feel has a direct bearing on having a healthy heart. In a research study of over 170 people they demonstrated that people suffering with severe grief or overwhelming anger can literally “drop dead” from something called Sudden Cardiac Death. You can indeed die from a “broken heart.”
Yet, just as emotional pain and trauma can wind us tighter and tighter and ultimately create heart disease- the troublesome cords that bind us can also be loosened. We can learn to unravel the emotional heartache that is creating illness. We can learn to heal our broken hearts.
One important first step for heart healing is to recognize that our “dark nights” of broken heartedness can be a path to deeper meaning, perhaps even spiritual awakening. If we tune into this idea that our misfortunes may in fact teach us something about ourselves, something vital to our overall growth as a human being, then some of the painful “sting” of our heart’s aching can be lifted.
Not long ago a patient of mine suffered a major heart attack. John worked at home as a computer programmer. He was loner, who hadn’t made the effort to establish a new relationship after a messy divorce. Suffering a heart attack was a wake up call. Facing death, he became acutely aware of the fragility of life.
Having a heart attack provided the motivation for him to begin dating again. Soon he was married and actually started a family.
Another key for healing one’s broken heart is to find a treatment that right for you. Support groups, meditation, psychotherapy, and many other modalities are available that can get you moving down the road towards heart healing. What’s vital is that you begin searching diligently for a method you feel comfortable with and then begin working on yourself.
Just as you can’t get into shape while sitting on a couch, you can’t release the pain and anguish of a broken heart by ignoring the problem. You’ll need to get busy doing the psychological work that it takes to become well.
Having a “broken heart” isn’t the end of the world. Rather we should consider it as a natural part of life. As long as we’re living, we’re going to rub up against people and situations that stretch and challenge us.
We just need to have hope. Your broken heart can be healed. You become well.
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