Heartbreaks are part of our human experience and a life path devoid of pain and suffering doesn’t exist. The end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of something that carried our heart, or an unfulfilled heart’s desire—all of these can be experienced as heartbreaking.
Oftentimes, we see painful experiences as obstacles and hindrances on our path, as if they stand in the way of our happiness. However, seen from a soul’s perspective and navigated consciously, these experiences serve as teachings—about ourselves, our journey, and about love. Through our dealing with pain and suffering, we might discover the barriers within us against intense and painful experiences. While these inner dynamics keep us safe, they are also the dynamics that cut us off from the experience of love. Of course, we don’t consciously want to obstruct love, and yet, we protect ourselves against pain.
The Sufi poet Rumi gives us a direction for this process in his well-known quote: ‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’
What are these inner barriers that we construct to protect ourselves against pain? Some common ways of protecting ourselves include disconnecting from our bodies or seeking distraction so that we don’t have to be present and feel our feelings. We toughen up, sedate ourselves, openly deny the intensity of the hurt, or we close our hearts beforehand to make sure we are not closely attached to anyone anymore.
Albeit useful strategies in the short term, the cost of these self-protective behaviors, in the long term, is missing out on love. When we understand that our capacity to experience love is closely connected to our ability to experience pain and suffering, our attitude towards suffering, the greatest common factor in humanity, may change. Learning to deal with pain, trusting ourselves while being present in the experience of pain and sensing it in our bodies, transforms not only the pain but also changes our relationship to suffering.
Gradually, over time, we begin welcoming and remaining present to whatever comes on our path and no longer feel the need to (over) protect ourselves from pain. As we continue to sit with the experience, we are simultaneously initiated into the mystery of love while bringing down our inner barriers.
Here are some questions that help to recognize the protective barriers:
- How do I protect myself from being hurt? Which strategies do I employ regularly?
- How well connected am I to my body? Where in my body do I feel pain, suffering, joy, or love? What are the exact sensations that accompany each of these emotions?
- Do I fully acknowledge when I am hurting or do I have a tendency to minimize my suffering or do I feel ashamed?
- What are my usual ways of relieving suffering? Which of those are not beneficial for me in the long run?
Learning about the barriers we’ve built against pain and love, is how a heartbreaking experience can serve as a valuable teacher. By accepting the invitations of heartbreak, we learn about ourselves, about letting go and allowing renewal to take place so that we open ourselves up for love again. By removing these barriers, we become more present to life, love, and ourselves.
The many heartbreaks on my path have taught me about life and love, and along the way, they have helped me to open my heart. Throughout the years, I’ve coached many clients to deal with their heartbreaks. I am pleased to share my learnings in the Jung Platform course ‘Heartbreak and Its Invitations’.
How to deal with heartbreak? How to recover from a breakup or how to heal from the loss of a person that was close to you? And how to get over the loss of a heart’s desire? Join Akke-Jeanne Klerk in her thoughtful course Heartbreak and Its Invitations and let yourself be guided to open your heart (again), to love more deeply, and to continue loving life. Learn more here.
Akke-Jeanne is Jung Platform’s co-founder & VP Strategy Programs. Her background consists of a Master’s in Psychology, and several years of training in Jungian Analysis. She is the author of ‘Psychology of Heartbreak’ (in Dutch) and she provides Jungian coaching and training.More Posts by Akke-Jeanne Klerk