The Armored Heart
Anger and hurt occur when we suffer heartbreak. In reaction, we armor the heart and contract our chest muscles, so that no-one can hurt us again. When your heart is armored, you dull your feelings. Since feelings add color to life, there is an internal deadness. No matter how successful you are on the outside, something is missing.
Because I was born in wartime, 1944, my father was in the service and my pregnant mother went home to live with her parents and give birth to me. My grandfather who doted on me, often took care of me. When my father was discharged, my parents bought a home his hometown, Altoona Pa, a railroad town about two hundred miles from Scranton Pa where I had been living. So, at approximately age three, I had to leave the loving arms of my grandfather. I did not do it with grace. I cried and screamed, hung onto the columns on the front porch, and broke out in hives. At that early age I learned it wasn’t safe to love and I better protect and armor my heart from here on in.
Three years later when I was six, Pop – that’s what I called him—passed away, reinforcing my conclusion that it’s not safe to love someone with your whole being. Before he died, I remember receiving a gift of a bride doll. I thought she was beautiful, dressed in her white gown, On the ride to the hospital to visit Pop it began to rain. When I hopped out of the car, I dropped my precious doll into a puddle that had formed, and her white dress was now dirtied. That day formed a visual for me: If you truly love, something will muddy it and diminish its beauty.
Once the heart is armored, the heart’s energy is blocked and it doesn’t flow as easily to join up with the energy in the rest of the body. Not only do you miss out on opportunities for love, more significantly, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. An armored, hurt and angry heart impacts your relationships and your entire cardiovascular system.
A client of mine, Gerald, not his real name, aged 55, quit school in tenth grade and worked in construction. His doctor suggested he see me after he suffered a stroke. Exploring his history, I found that although he felt close to his mother growing up, his father ignored him, hit him, and criticized him. Never dealing with the anger toward his father, he drank and got into fights until his health failed. Described as “hot-headed,” he admitted using his temper to undermine relationships. Now he wants to change, knowing his anger has played a role in his illness.
Cardiovascular patients who receive support from family, friends, and even from community organizations do better than those who lack support. Growing up Gerald received support from his mother, continuing into adulthood. Unfortunately, she passed away two years prior to his stroke. When I met Gerald, who was still grieving his mother’s loss, he told me that spent minimal time with friends. He did not to know his neighbors personally and he resented their loud music. Occasionally he confided in his wife and daughter, but normally he didn’t reveal anything about himself. He has few positive interactions with other people and none that he initiates himself.
For Gerald, like for myself and many of you, healing involves focusing on the heart, releasing it from its constraints, allowing it to have all of its feelings, freeing it to be both vulnerable and strong, and delivering it from the bonds of anger.
An armored heart means that you have managed to contract the muscles in your chest. To release those muscles and melt the armor, strong movement is required for a period of several days. But even before that, I suggest two exercises. First, sit down with eyes closed and visualize your heart, not the heart pictured in medical books, but a very personal heart, the seat of love. Is it smooth or bumpy, scarred, hot or cold, black, red, or pastel pink? After you visualize it, sketch it in your notebook. You don’t have to be an artist, do the best you can. Secondly, I need you to remember the original incident or event that caused you to armor your heart. Or at least go as far back as your memory will allow. For me it was leaving my grandfather’s house, and for Gerald it was the first time his father hit him. What is yours?
Now that you have that thought in mind, I am going to ask you to voluntarily move your energy. Stand unless for physical reasons you need to sit, and put your feet shoulder width apart, bending your knees slightly, so that you will be more grounded when you move your energy. Now, punch the air in front of you 100 times, one fist and then the other. You are to do this for 14 days or two weeks every morning or evening, whichever works best for you. It’s simple, visualize your original anger incident, and punch the air in front of you as hard as you can.
At the end of two weeks, you will reverse this this process. For the next two-week period, I want you to visualize the original event (in my case I was torn from the column I clumg to and thrown screaming into the backseat of the car) and look at that situation with a compassionate, loving heart. Ask for healing from the universe, with straight arms reaching directly out in front of you, grasp the air with your hands and pull it toward your chest, right into your heart. Do this same movement 50 times every morning or every evening for two weeks as you look at the perpetrators with compassion.
At the end of the month, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me if you noticed a change in your heart, in your relationships, and in your health.
With heartfelt love, Karyne