How to have an open heart and mind following disappointment?
May 2, 2009 9:11 PM   Subscribe

How to have an open heart and mind following disappointment?

There are all different experiences that can cause a person to become closed off from people. For example, being cheated on, losing a loved one, or another devastating type of loss--sometimes a series of them.

Although I've made it through a number of disappointing experiences, I have found that I've become very emotionally closed off to other people. When I was younger I was overly sensitive, so some of this was probably self protective so as to keep me from being overly vulnerable. However, I've become way too closed off to relationships. It's to the point where I don't even feel like returning a guy's calls because "he'll probably turn out to be a jerk or disappoint me in the end anyway." Obviously, this is a problem and this attitude hasn't helped me attract love into my life.

I want to be open again. What do I need to do to cast off all of this baggage and approach other people with positive energy and an open heart? Yes, I am in therapy (and work very hard at it). Beyond that, any suggestions?
posted by mintchip to Human Relations (11 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest doing thing to make YOU happy. I'd try not to focus on trying actively let people into your life. It seems like those thing happen when you are feeling good and positive about yourself. When you feel happy about who you are as a person, other people pick up on that and you start attracting people you may be able to form a connection with. It seems like maybe your difficultly lies in being able to trust the people you DO attract. So I'd definitely say, try to get to a place where you are feeling self-confident (which I know is a lot easier said than done. Most of us at least some little issue with self-confidence). Ways I have found to that include channeling some of my past pain through art. You don't have to be a talented artist at all to do this. Take pictures at a place you love. Journal. Grab a sketch pad and some oil pastels and have at it. Maybe take a class in something that has always interested you. Make it a point to see your friends often, and schedule fun and different things to do with them. I know these ideas are all rehashed from some source or another, but there is a reason they are recommended- they work. I don't pretend to know anything about how you feel about yourself, you may have all the confidence in the world! But since you mentioned your attitude "hasn't helped me attract love into my life," you may want to try improving your attitude by improving the way you feel about yourself.

Think positively! You can do it. I wish you luck, and happiness.
posted by muxnaw at 9:27 PM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Realize that the actions of one person aren't predictive of the actions of another.
posted by gjc at 9:51 PM on May 2, 2009

Maybe you're not ready yet?
posted by salvia at 10:50 PM on May 2, 2009

I keep flogging this book here, but Marianne Williamson has some excellent exercises for having an open heart in her book A Return to Love. A lot of them have to do with affirmations about willingness and some form of prayer (not necessarily christian prayer) - I am willing to try, I am willing to see the innocence in people, I am willing to have an open heart, I am willing to see the love in the other people, I am willing to see the goodness in people. I am willing to see this situation in a different, more loving way.
posted by gt2 at 11:30 PM on May 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd learn about where your weaknesses are and stay away from high-chemistry partners that trigger those. Stick to the therapy,
posted by Ironmouth at 4:05 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

...I don't even feel like returning a guy's calls because "he'll probably turn out to be a jerk or disappoint me in the end anyway."

There's not a lot of specific information to work from here, but this statement gives me the sense that you are clinging to the idea that you should find someone who will never disappoint you; that relationships are no good at all unless everything is smooth-sailing bliss. I suspect you're setting up an impossible standard, then taking other's failure to meet that standard as confirmation that you shouldn't even bother trying to connect because it will inevitably hurt. I suspect you're right that such impossible standards are an old defense mechanism with serious shortcomings.

Relationships will hurt sometimes, but healthy relationships are not supposed to be bottomless cocktails of breezy happiness and the unconditional affirmation of every idea you find comfortable. Healthy relationships push and challenge you to grow, and growth is rarely comfortable. Vulnerability is part of the deal.

I don't mean to suggest that all pain is good for you but I do think that 'casting off baggage' is the wrong way to go here. Those painful, disappointing experiences were real. You don't need to erase them and start over from square one. You need to learn what you can from them, grow, heal and move on.
posted by jon1270 at 7:00 AM on May 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

lately, this quote has helped me keep an open heart towards others & the world:
When you give the world what you want the most, you heal the part inside yourself that most needs healing... Happiness exists in action. It exists in saying what your truth is. And it exists in giving away what you want the most. -Eve Ensler
it also helps that someone has been spraypainting this all around where i live... :)

good luck - having an open heart is often a hard path to follow - don't be surprised if it isn't always easy - it takes awhile but eventually it becomes it's own reward
posted by jammy at 7:18 AM on May 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

Recently on MeFi...
posted by hermitosis at 7:38 AM on May 3, 2009

The trick is, I think, is to have an open mind and heart BEFORE disappointment.

I was like you a bit, I used to be very sensitive and get hurt very easily, then finally after years of that, I toughened up, to the point were I was very "hard to get" and wouldn't show interest or risk myself - I still continued to hurt, but I kept it all inside.

You have to learn to make yourself happy, really trust yourself, like you would a good friend, trust that YOU will always be there for yourself. Once you have gotten to that place, where you really love yourself and (mostly) focus on doing what's best for you, you will find it's much easier to take risks.

Because people are going to let you down now and again, people don't always do what you want them to, people who love you are still trying to take care of themselves in they way they know best, which may not coincide with what works for you...

The other thing, is just being able to confront and deal with pain. You can't avoid it, it'll come one way or another, but once you are confident in your ability to deal with it, you won't work so hard to prevent it, by setting up painful defenses.

You'll do the best you can, feel good about it, enjoy the good stuff alot more, and lick your wounds when things go bad, and then shrug it off.

And believe me, when you can accept the painful things, the wonderful things about life and love, and everything, are so much more enjoyable! Cause you're no longer worrying about what will go wrong...
posted by Locochona at 9:50 AM on May 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

"Realize that the actions of one person aren't predictive of the actions of another."

But if the OP keeps defaulting to seek out the same type of person, they very well can be. Poor relationship choices, due to whatever hard-wiring we have, can consistently drive us toward the very people we should avoid. Ironmouth's comment spoke to this and I definitely agree.

If we go from the last jerk who will disappointed us to the next jerk who is the same type of person... that's a self-fulfilling prophecy. They WILL lie about calling and you WILL end up with an even thicker shell.

So yeah- therapy. Discover what drives your selection process, what your instincts are, what you respond to and how you can correct those behavioral patterns.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:45 PM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

And then... there's poetry, the balm sublime.

My favorite for this situation is Cavafy's Ithaca. (Better yet, with Sean Connery).
posted by metaseeker at 11:48 PM on June 11, 2009

« Older Live in the Twin Cities? Love your neurosurgeon?   |   Take a look at this tool Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.