Thursday, January 7, 2010

Openhearted: The Best Way to Be

Big Heart of Art - 1000 Visual MashupsImage by qthomasbower via Flickr

Yesterday I went with my husband to his eye doctor appointment. He goes twice a year and on this visit he got his eyes dilated, so he asked me to drive him home. While waiting for him in the lobby, I got a chance to read a free e-book I downloaded from the Institute of Heart Math's website, De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times. As I read the paper, I suddenly realized that being openhearted has saved me from a life of anxiety, blame, anger, gloom and doom, grief and emotional pain.

I should start by defining what I mean be openhearted, as what I am referring to goes beyond the Merriam Webster definition of:

1: candidly straightforward: frank
2: responsive to emotional appeal

I now define an openhearted person as someone who genuinely cares about other people, knows how to communicate feelings to them, can offer others emotional support and demonstrates kindness and compassion through their thoughts, feelings and actions. Being openhearted means tapping into the social connectedness that lies at the core of the human experience and recognizing that it is through genuine feelings of appreciation for other people that we derive our strength, balance and stability. When I practice openheartedness, I can come to a place where I can let go of the things that trouble me and open myself up to what Doc Childre calls a "psychological turnaround."

Attending a support group with others in a similar situation as your own, expressing your feelings, listening and support others and sharing a laugh or a good cry is a powerful example of this concept in action. It just so happens that I learned to be openhearted through the young adult cancer support group I attended in the Fall of 1988. Yet it wasn't until today that I truly grasped the overwhelming significance of this experience as I applied what I was reading to myself and my family of origin.

You see, I grew up with a mother who was all about the drama. She kept me and my siblings spinning like tops so as to keep us all off balance. She played the blame game and stoked the flames of anger between us. She only focused on the downside of every situation and
infected us with her predictions of gloom and doom. Her approach to life left me feeling stressed out, out of balance, fearful and drained and I imagine that my three younger siblings felt the same way too.

I sadly know that this upbringing spawned the fractured and non-existent relationships I have with my siblings today. I often feel badly about the state of affairs between myself and my siblings, but I understand after reading this article why things are this way. I find myself thankful that cancer came into my life and put me on a path that taught me a healthier way to deal with the stresses, upheavals and anxieties in my life.
Dare I go as far as to say that cancer saved me from going through life as an anxious, miserable and hardhearted person?

Yes, I learned from my cancer experience that being openhearted is the best way to be. And yes,
it feels weird to be grateful that I had cancer.

What lessons have you learned from your chronic illness(es)? I'd love to hear what you have to say, so please share by clicking Add Your Comment.

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