Sunday, November 6, 2016

The courage of the human heart

Our expectations in relationship – how much we will allow the other to matter, whether it is safe to assert a need, our fears around being loved as we are, the excitement and terror around leading with our vulnerability – originated in a fragile little nervous system that was longing for empathy and connection.
The strategies we developed to protect us from inevitable empathic failure arose intelligently at an earlier time to prevent overwhelm and massive dysregulation in a developing little heart.
Look carefully and you will see that these strategies are nearby, awaiting reorganization. But the implications of this rewiring are earth-shattering. To dissolve the dream of unworthiness is a radical act that will change everything. One world will end, without any knowing of what will come next. This is risky.
The neural pathways are tender, open, and responsive, as we seek attuned, right brain-to-right brain resonance with those around us. We want to feel felt, to have our subjective experience held and mirrored, and for the space in which we can explore unstructured states of being. To rest in the mystery of what we are.
While this encoding is deeply embedded, it can be reorganized. While it may feel so entrenched, it is not as solid as it appears. Even if your early environment was one of consistent empathic failure, developmental trauma, and insecure attachment, it is never too late. The wild realities of neuroplasticity and the courage of the human heart is unstoppable and an erupting force of creativity.
Through new relational experiences – with a therapist, a lover, a friend, a baby; or with a star, a deer, a tree, a sunset, or with the moon, it will be revealed that love is the basis of all neural circuitry. It is the substance which forms the neurons and their synapses, and lights up the cells in your heart in a fresh moment of warmth, presence, and kindness. Each time you meet and attune to another, receive their love, return it with your presence, and stay close with the “other” within you, this new world is born.
As long as there is breath moving in and out, you can update the narrative. You can make new meaning of your life, make a new commitment to the miracle of the here and now, and learn to flood your immediate experience with presence, warmth, and acceptance. Slowly, over time, you can embed your neural circuitry with the new pathway of holding awareness.
No matter what is happening in your life, you can start right now. In this moment. There is only ever this moment. The opportunity for reorganization is always here and wired within you. Don’t give up. Love will never give up on you.

Photo by David C. Schultz


  1. each morning, upon waking, it starts simply, as honest gratitude to be breathing and alove.....alive to each day has an opening and an invitation to engage and be engaged with life. it is a love long relationship

  2. Dear Matt, in the sentence, "Each time you meet and attune to another, receive their love, return it with your presence, and stay close with the “other” within you, this new world is born." What does the "other" refer to?

    1. Dear friend, when I write about the "other," at times of course I am referring to another person, but often I am also pointing to the "other" within us, those previously unmet, disavowed, unmetabolized aspects of ourselves that have become sequestered into the unconscious. Until we are able to provide a home for these feelings, emotions, sensations, aspects, and ways of being, we will likely always (though most often in unconscious ways) subtly (or not so subtle) look to other to take care of an metabolize this material for us. Developmentally, we did not have the capacities to do so as young children in our families of origin; these strategies to disavow these parts of ourselves were quite intelligent and often life-saving then. In order to maintain an often very precarious tie to the attachment figures around us - and to fit in, receive even a small amount of affection, mirroring, empathy, attunement, etc. - we learned which parts of ourselves were okay and safe to bring forward and express. And also learned (often the hard way) which would trigger separation, aggression, shame, pulling away, lack of contact, and which would generate anxiety in those around us. But we must now, at least the way I see it, decide if as adults we still need to be protected from our vulnerability in this way and whether doing so is supportive of the life of intimacy, aliveness, and connection that so many are longing for. Hope this helps. Take care.

    2. Lovely and completely clarifying. Your words are heart melting and a compass which points inward with warm intention to one's waiting heart. Much love and gratitude....