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...turning things around

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Some weeks have a recurring theme in working with people and helping them find a way forward. This week I found myself describing the process as a journey to the heart.

The phrase seems to capture so much of what I witness people struggling with in therapy, in making new beginnings, that I thought I would write a few words about it.

The journey to the heart, reaches back in time, through circles of pain and sadness and ends with a new beginning, a new dawn and a re-imagining of the past for a re-envisioning of the future. We withdraw to journey inwards, before turning ourselves around at a gathering place of thought. There it is necessary to choose a different path, with a different direction from the one we have been travelling on.

To journey to the heart, is to learn to listen to ourselves, to hear the whispers, that pass, unrecognised, shaping our destiny, as we direct ourselves along long known familiar pathways. We need to learn, to sift and weigh, what we say to ourselves. Too often the speeches we give ourselves, are destructive, they invalidate what we need to accept, lose what we need to find. They are speeches based on anger and hate; hate perverted inwards becomes hate of ourselves and our heart’s capacity to love.

Emerging out of love, when love’s impulse is thwarted, hate needs to be contained by love in a continual dialectic. This avoids the destructive rages against others and self that otherwise occur. We learn this if we are lucky growing up, in dialogue with an adult who cares, most often our mum. If we don't and our hatred and rage are denied to us then it gets turned inwards on to our own spontaneity and capacity to love.

Regaining that spontaneity and that capacity to love freely is the aim of the journey to the heart. Heading inwards to the still point where we have gathered together those elements of experience we have denied:  hate, rage, anger, sadness, guilt, joy, laughter and even happiness, we stand before them all, naked of our old pretensions, our old self image, in acceptance of them all and including our own nakedness. This gathering of thought comes with a refusal to go down the old ways, a saying no to old thoughts and speeches, until silence and stillness reigns, as we learn to be with ourselves, for ourselves in thought and love.

Love here can be released from its early moorings of a child's search for affection into a capacity to love not just oneself but others. Marking this change is a change of question of who will love me, to how do I love, how do I love myself and others? This is a skill that can be learned, as Eric Fromm argued in the Art of Loving. As a skill, love starts with the journey inwards to the heart, and a capacity to be, it moves outwards from the heart, into a skillful care, concern and responsibility for oneself and others. The move outwards is the heart’s journey back to life, from the trauma of self hate, and with the heart’s journey comes love, which stems from the refusal to travel the old ways and to seek a new way through the journey to the heart.

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