Breaking Down or Breaking OpenBy Dr. Margaret Paul
June 25, 2012
Breaking down keeps you stuck, while breaking open allows you to discover the power within yourself.
"Something I didn't want to happen, happens. I feel the resistance build within. I feel the pressure to control what is obviously out of my control. I become aware of what I'm doing—I become aware of the choice either to break down or to break open." Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open, p. 256
How aware are you that when bad things happen or something that you didn't want to happen, happens, you have a choice of whether to break down or break open? This is what Elizabeth Lesser's book, Broken Open, is about. It's about using all our challenging life situations to open, on deeper and deeper levels, to our true, core essential selves. Unfortunately, many people do the opposite when deeply challenged—they numb and hide and avoid. They are afraid that if they let themselves break open to their deeper, spiritual selves, they will not be able to handle the painful feelings of heartbreak, loneliness, grief and helplessness over others and circumstances.
When we don't allow ourselves to break open, compassionately embracing our emotions and discovering the huge spiritual reservoir of strength that lies within, we break down. We become anxious, depressed, angry, or numb and frozen. We may turn on those we love in an effort to not feel so helpless, or we may numb out with alcohol, drugs or food. We may vegetate in front of the TV or turn to Internet pornography—something, anything, to distract from the pain of life that we don't want to face.
In making this choice to abandon ourselves rather than compassionately embrace our emotions and allow them to release in healthy ways, we not only break down into misery, we also break down our bodies. The repressed and unexpressed pain of our heartbreak, grief and helplessness over the situation eats away at our immune systems, eventually causing illness.
Consider allowing deeply challenging life situations to break you open—over and over. Through breaking open and having the courage to compassionately embrace and express your heartbreak and grief, you also break open to the love, peace and joy that occupy the same place in your heart. If you close your heart to pain, you also close your heart to love and joy.
When you allow yourself to compassionately embrace the pain of life, you find that you are not alone. Breaking open with a deep desire to learn about what is most loving to you and others, is an invitation to spirit to fill you with the strength you need to manage the challenges.
Imagine the freedom you would feel if you no longer feared the deeper painful challenges and losses of life. Imagine the freedom you would feel if you knew that by opening to compassion for yourself, you could find the deeper knowing, strength, worth and wholeness that lies within your own heart and soul.
I have broken open many times and I'm sure I will many more times. Each time, I emerge on the other side with a greater appreciation for this journey called life, which challenges me to open my heart more and more—to break open my heart to the depth of the love that is here for me and for all of us, and to stay fully present for the sharing of that love.
I don't look forward to the challenges that break me open, but I also no longer avoid them. I know they will come, for this is life, and I also know that, each time, I will choose to fully feel the pain so I can continue to fully feel the love and joy.
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What is your first reaction when someone is harsh, critical, sarcastic, angry, judgmental, attacking? Do you attack back? Do you withdraw and get silent? Do you defend and explain? Today, honor the feeling in your body that says "This doesn't feel good" and either speak your truth without blame, defense or judgment and open to learning, or lovingly disengage and compassionately take care of your feelings.
By Dr. Margaret Paul