But only if you have felt used, abused, betrayed, hurt or left alone in the dark with no flashlight and no guidebook.
The steps to “The Great Heart Thaw” are not found in clinical textbooks. They come from my personal healing journey as well as from sitting with many clients who are desperately seeking ease, flow, freedom, connection, health, lightness and purpose. In this article, I offer you 3 steps that can put you on the path to liberation.
First, why consider opening up your huge, tender heart again? Staying in a frozen state can be salacious and feel like the only way to stay safe. We get to tell our painful story repeatedly often eliciting a lot of compassion and attention for being wronged. It can be addictive to stay stuck in the state of struggle.
However, when we carry hurt or acrimony we tend to contract. That contraction shows up in all parts of our lives. It shows up in how we connect to others and to ourselves. We live in what we think is a safe, cramped emotional space, even if that is not what it looks like on the surface. We may even appear to be a shiny, happy human but underneath feel red, hot shame or a deep ache of unworthiness.
Not only is it harmful to our spirits, it’s not good for our bodies. When we are a storehouse for bitterness, it can manifest in a variety of physical ways. Common physiological symptoms are acid reflux, insomnia, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and colitis. It’s easier for us to attend to or lament about our physical symptoms. So, we miss or avoid going to the core issue to dismantle the hurt and heal the emotions that have taken up residence in our body. It’s crucial to take steps to clear our spirits from the toxicity in order to live a vibrant life.
1. The Art of Saying No:
When we are in the throes of bitterness, anger and sadness our energy tends to be easily depleted. Strong emotions take up the white space in our brains. The Great Thaw calls for you to assess the energy drains or energy vampires in your life and say a kind and firm no. Two letters. One sentence. No.
Life Coach and best selling author, Dr. Martha Beck taught me a quick and dirty way of assessing what and who to put my energy into, especially when feeling depleted.
She calls it Shackles On or Shackles Off. Does doing “this thing,” going to that event, or being with a specific person feel like Shackles On or Shackles Off? Essentially do you feel like you are being locked up or set free?
Become a first class boundary bitch. Assess what people, events, or ways of being are sucking the life out of you and learn to say a firm and loving no. Clear no’s make way for hearty hell yes’s.
2. Feel it to Heal it:
With the new space you created you now get the arduous and often scary task of actually feeling what has been pushed down, hidden or repressed. It can feel raw and visceral or like knock-you-to-your-knees grief. It may show up as the dull roar of uncertainty or the watery softness of sadness.
Typically we spend copious amounts of time resisting our emotions so feeling them may feel foreign and unfamiliar. There are many ways we push aside and distract ourselves from feeling; overeating, jumping from relationship to relationship, busy-ness or bouts of binge watching the Housewives of Frederick County. However, what we resist persists.
The good news is there is a beginning, middle and end when feeling emotions. According to neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, it takes 90 seconds.
Dr. Taylor describes the 90-second rule as, “Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”
There are many ways to feel. One thing you can try is simply noticing where the emotion is in your body. It could be tension in your shoulders, a set jaw, or a gnawing stomach. It could be an overwhelming feeling of sadness that feels everywhere.
If you are able to, let the emotion or feeling get bigger. When tuning into it, see if a color or shape comes to mind. Notice if the energy moves when you just allow it to be there without the need to change it. It takes practice. In doing this, you will learn that you can let yourself feel and survive the feeling. You will feel stronger and more capable knowing how to navigate and handle a strong emotion. Every time you allow the feeling to make it’s way through you, you will notice more internal softness or stillness.
If you need support while feeling to heal, contact a therapist, energy worker, pastor, or life coach to help you navigate. Big feelings often benefit from a trusted other who can help you pick up the messy parts and put them back together.
3. Intend to Forgive:
Disclaimer: This step is for Warriors Goddesses of the Highest Order.
No one really likes when I bring this up. But, hear me out.
Now that you have closed some doors on energy sucks, set clearer boundaries and allowed yourself to feel, it’s time to focus on releasing and letting go. This part is crucial.
Let’s talk about the typical messages we get about forgiveness: bury the hatchet, let bygones be bygones or turn the other cheek. The well-known words said by well meaning people indicate that forgiveness is as easy as looking away, burying something or a simply forgetting. However, when major infractions are committed it can zap our hearts and spirits for days, years or decades.
With deeper wounding, quickly forgiving, is faux forgiveness. It’s a way to bypass feeling the discomfort or avoid holding someone responsible (I've tested out faux forgiveness for you. it doesn't work long term. You're welcome).
You cannot make or will yourself to forgive. However, you can intend it. You can repeatedly and counter intuitively visualize the person in a compassionate way. You can see their flaws and scars or picture them as a small wounded child who didn’t get their needs met.
This doesn’t mean condoning their behavior.
Author and teacher Tara Brach refers to un-forgiveness as "limbic armoring." Unconsciously, we believe we are protecting ourselves but really it keeps us living in a closed hearted way.
Which only affects EVERYTHING.
This is not to say that it isn't wise to protect yourself from "them" and set boundaries to feel emotionally or physically safe. However, when we walk around in a perpetual state of holding wrongdoings in our bodies, we eat poison for breakfast, lunch and dinner, yet hope to thrive.
So, Protect yourself but unbury the hatchet if it's still creating pain. Allow yourself to feel the discomfort, the pain or the betrayal. To truly forgive, we must find the place in us that feels vulnerable. Identify where the hurt lives and what are we believing about it. Acknowledge it. Nurture it without marinating in it. Then, just create an intention to forgive. Give it space and time. Breathe into it. Scream. Sob. Talk. Journal. Draw. Sing. Dance. Spend time with nature.
See if your heart cracks open and lets a little more sunlight in. Put this on repeat until you are free. Only then can the New Beginning go toe to toe with The End, take a deep bow to honor what once was and release it in it’s entirety.
Heather Tydings works as a licensed therapist (LCSW-C in Maryland) and a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach for women and teen girls seeking their truth. She helps her clients design a vibrant life by teaching them how to tune into their internal wisdom. She uses thought work, mindfulness practices, energy psychology, spirituality and nutrition. Clients who are the most successful in working with Heather are ones who are motivated to make changes and ready to do the work it takes to own the next steps in their evolution. When she is not at work, you will often find her outside in nature, moving her body amongst trees and preferably near water. She studies all things health and wellness and voraciously seeks to learn holistic ways to calm, soothe and nourish the mind, body and spirit.