Caroline struggled for years with dissociation and a sense of not feeling safe.
In our early sessions together, we ascertained that these limiting beliefs originated from early childhood sexual abuse. For years she lived in an almost perpetual state of hypervigilance, on red alert, tracking all the people around her. This skill made her keenly sensitive to others’ needs, but she was unable to know or be with her own needs and comfort.
On top of that, Caroline’s husband was emotionally unavailable and traveled most of the time, which furthered her sense of aloneness in the world. She only felt truly at ease out in nature with her dog. Yet she longed to feel at home—that easy sense of belonging that she knew others had but that she lacked.
For several years, Caroline has worked with me, tenaciously fighting her way back to reinhabiting her body with all of its sensations. Initially, my role as her facilitator was simply to help her notice the threshold where she would begin to dissociate so she could choose to stay present when she was ready to do so.
After months of her moving back into her torso and her pelvis, she was finally ready to focus on her heart.
Caroline started this session by announcing that despite all our work, and all that she had done, she still found herself plagued by a sense of not belonging, no matter where she went, no matter how friendly the people, no matter how hard she struggled to recognize her limiting beliefs and neutralize them. On top of that, her beloved dog, Muffin, was dying, and that impending loss felt excruciatingly painful to contemplate.
“It hurts too badly to stay with this dying process—I need it to just be over,” she said. I could tell she was feeling guilty even as those words tumbled out of her mouth.
I didn’t know how Muffin’s dying and her bigger life issue of feeling a sense of belonging were tied together, but it felt right to continue.
“So, Caroline, exactly which part of your heart hurts the most with the pain of Muffin’s dying?” I asked.
She said the front part—it was full of searing pain that felt achy around the edges. We sat with that sensation for a moment and honored how special Muffin was for her. I asked her how it felt if she let her attention drop back behind the searing pain, into the area deep in her chest along the front of the spine.
Caroline got very quiet, and then she told me it was all very dark and very peaceful. Her love for her dog was alive and well in this part of her heart. She found no fear of loss here. In her mind’s eye, she could see Muffin curled up on her lap sleeping peacefully.
As the minutes passed, Caroline realized this area, her deeper heart space, felt large, dark, and empty like a huge cave. She found it a bit unsettling to be alone in the dark with all that empty space. I asked her if anybody else was there. She replied that there were only echoes when she called out.
We sat together for several more minutes, and then Caroline noticed there were whispers all around her in the dark. Not scary whispers but comforting somehow. Initially, she could not tell what was being said, and then she started to weep softly. She told me, “They are welcoming me home. They are whispering things like, There you are. You have come back!”
I asked her how it felt to hear those words. As she continued weeping, she said, “Comforting—it feels comforting, like I have found where I belong, where I fit in.” These were tears of joy and relief, and I could feel her relax.
Caroline said the gentle whisperings told her, You can stop searching now. As she experienced this place within her heart, she felt the nearly constant grip of the knot in her stomach dissolving.
She finished her session by weaving together the front and back of her heart, thus integrating this place into the totality of who she is.
For Your Heart Only
“Falling head over heels in love with someone who is not right for me seems to be the story of my life,” said Bella, a gorgeous, vibrant, 20-something who loves with all her heart. Unfortunately, she would forget to include the inner wisdom of the rest of her body.
Bella’s dilemma was apparent as I listened to the account of her latest in a string of similar love relationships.
“When I fall in love, my heart gives me a big yes—however, it is not unusual for there to be whispers of advice from elsewhere in my body suggesting that I put the brakes on, to wait and see. To be honest, I rarely, if ever, wait. Then, after diving in too soon and living with the consequences, I walk around feeling guilty for betraying myself because I did not listen to the rest of me about the rightness or wrongness of the relationship.”
Bella continued, “Honestly, I don’t even know if I really ‘love’ my latest guy because of the disconnection between my heart and the rest of me.
“I often end up feeling heartbroken because he wanders away or does not reciprocate to the depth that I am extending to him. Then there is the confusion inside after we have a particularly potent night together, and I feel like I’m having a drug withdrawal. He does not understand that at all, and even I feel a little crazy to feel this way.”
We talked at length about her lonely brokenheartedness. Bella is a striking beauty, intelligent, and kind—a wonderful combination, but not where her own heart is concerned.
I helped her explore what it would feel like to get her heart deeply connected to her gut and head. Her connections were tentative at best and easily ignored in a rush of passion.
As I showed her how to make this connection more palpable within her inner landscape, she visibly relaxed and had a more solid feeling within herself. She was becoming her own best friend.
After several years, now 29 years old, Bella is in a healthy, passionate relationship—with her inner knowing guiding her choices moment to moment.
In her words from a recent conversation, “I took much longer to set the foundation for this relationship. But he felt the specialness of it as well, so he was totally onboard with the pace of how it all unfolded.”
The heart is meant to be held and supported by the lower half of the body, not betrayed by it. Yet when that pelvis/gut/heart connection is not there, the heart is often disappointed, if not broken.
In closing, there is much wonderful research about the power and intelligence of the heart and its integral relationships with all the other systems of the body, most notably the heart-to-brain and heart-to-immune-system connections.
These stories are a small sampling from the thousands I could have chosen to make the point about the heart, its characteristic wisdom, and its metaphoric anatomy, which can make all the difference in the world to our quality of life, to our sense of deep inspiration, and to whether we are thriving or burning out.
My hope is that you see some similarities in these stories with yourself and those around you. May the learning inform and deepen your embodiment in this important wisdom area of who you are as a human being.
About the Author
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, C.M.T., C.S.T.-D., is the author of Reclaiming Your Body and Full Body Presence. Her Healing from the Core curriculum combined with CranioSacral therapy and other bodywork modalities creates a complete, body-centered guide to awareness, healing, and joy. She teaches around the world and lives in Reston, Virginia. Excerpted from the book Reclaiming Your Body: Healing from Trauma and Awakening to Your Body’s Wisdom. Copyright ©2017 by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. Printed with permission from New World Library—www.newworldlibrary.com. Read more of Suzanne’s teachings on the heart in “Can You Really Trust Your Heart? Read This Before You Decide,” in the October print issue of MASSAGE Magazine.
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