Open wide


To love and be loved… something that sits at the heart of every child. It is only as we grow that the accumulated disappointments, the rejections large and small, teach us to shield our hearts against being hurt again. We all get hurt as we grow… even the happiest childhood will carry the shadows of events, unnoticed and unintended perhaps, that have squeezed the little heart tightly. It may be no more than a ‘Not now’ from a busy parent engaged in something that is not safe for the child… with the best of intentions… but to the small person wanting to show that parent a caterpillar they found, it is a rejection. We all suffer them and learn, brick by brick, how to build a defensive barrier around our emotions.

We are taught that emotions have a time and place too. Some are socially acceptable. We can be calm or happy in public… as long as we are not too happy for other people’s comfort. Tears, however, should be a private affair and we learn to swallow them… hide them… except from those to whom we are close enough to let the mask slide. Romance is only acceptable in youngsters… old people may, perhaps, hold hands in public and draw an ‘awww’ from us… but heaven forbid that they have a proper cuddle or kiss. Even our own children see us as too old for ‘that sort of thing’.

Yet is it wrong to have emotions at any age… or merely to display them? For many that becomes an uncertain balance of suppression and repression. Is it wrong to weep for beauty…or for grief? No more so than to laugh out loud for sheer joy… yet both make many uncomfortable. Of course there is a need for self-control… we cannot be ruled by every emotion, displaying and acting upon them at every turn; the world would be untenable. A certain amount of appropriateness must be learned as we go, though our tendency as a society is to stifle all emotional displays.

For all of us there will come a moment when something starts picking away at the defensive walls we have built around our hearts. Something, or someone, will begin to breach our defences… and then we are faced with a choice. Do we let them in, knowing that we leave ourselves defenceless against possible heartache? Or do we shore up the walls with anything we can find to keep our vulnerability protected?

It isn’t always obvious, even to ourselves, how many ways we can find to strengthen the barricades of the heart. We can throw ourselves into a career, with perfectly legitimate goals, seeking security and the rewards of industry…the ‘things’ that distance us from the emotional depths. We might pursue a dream or a cause with a passion… and that passion is fuelled by the same source that we might lavish on a relationship…if we dared. There is, of course, nothing wrong with the dream, the cause or the career in themselves… on the contrary, we need those people who will focus and become the movers and shakers of society. Where it falls down is the ‘why’. Is the focus due to a pure intent to attain the goal, or is it being used to shield a vulnerability that dare not allow a chink of light into the inner fastness of the barricaded heart?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

On any spiritual path, a path of consciousness, it is through the emotions that we begin to see a wider Love that it is possible to touch. We cannot do so whilst we are immured within the prison of our own fears. We have to live fully, embracing every part of our fragile, beautiful, vulnerable humanity before we can feel what lays both beyond and within us.

When we open ourselves wide to love, we open ourselves to every imaginable heartache as well as every conceivable joy. If we could hook our emotions up to a monitor as easily as we can the heart, for most of us the needle would trace a graph that looks remarkably like a heartbeat as life swings us between the two extremes with periods of quiescence in between. I don’t think that is coincidence… it means we are alive; fully alive, whole and living an emotional journey. That has to be better than flatlining ourselves through fear… don’t you think?

8 thoughts on “Open wide

  1. It isn’t good to suppress emotion for fear of other’s comments. Since life is a series of ups and downs for everyone from childhood, we should learn to accept that emotions can be displayed at any time. The suppression of emotion from ‘Boys don’t cry’ has never done much good, often leading to emotionally repressed males incapable of displaying emotion when it’s required.
    Why should we expect others to hide their feelings in public when we ourselves go through exactly the same things in our turn and where those feelings may be of distress at the loss of a loved one, a hug may serve to give support. It’s expected that young ladies will be prone to displays of emotion and it seems acceptable they should do so and yet between the sexes there is little difference except in what is taught about acceptability.
    I’m happy to see a male confident enough in himself to display his feelings as I’m confident enough to offer hugs to males as well as females. I think repression of feelings does us no good physically or mentally.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx


    1. I agree with you, David and as a mother of sons always encouraged them to be able to show emotion. Of course, against that you have the pressure of society and what is and is not ‘done’. Poeple are people, regardless of age or gender and we share that rollercoaster ride.
      Although girls are ‘allowed’ more emotions, they too are now under a kind of reverse peer pressure… a hangover from the misunderstanding of ‘equality’ perhaps… I would just like us all to feel at home in our own hearts. Hugs xxx


  2. Beautiful sentiments Sue, and in a perfect world we could all be like this, but for those life has shown a different path, it can be impossible. Unfortunately, C S Lewis has summed it up more than adequately and describes the way I have become, far too well…


    1. I can understand why many become so, life can be painful and the risk of more can be more than we are willing to take. For myself, I have to go with the other end of the scale. Nick often reminds me that at least if we are feeling, we are alive… no matter what we feel. After all he has been through that seems to put things in perspective for me. x


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