(you might want to grab a cup of tea or coffee... this is a long one, but interesting, I promise :)
I feel lucky to understand the difference between a closed heart and an open heart. I don't just understand the difference, I *know* the difference.
There's a difference.
Understanding is being able to identify a closed heart from an open one.
To know the difference is to have experienced both.
To visualize this in my mind helps. I see a small dot in the middle of my chest area, and from this dot is a light that radiates in all direction. The dot is like a door (or filter), depending on how open it is, that gives out a certain amount of light. To me this light is like love. Putting words to this is hard because words are words; they only help in trying to understand concepts but they are not the concept. Anyway.
So yeah, LOVE.
There was a time in my life when the amount of light/love which I was able to channel (to myself and to others around me) was in very small amounts. I was not radiating much love. The source of love was always there, for me to grab it, but my door/filter was closed (to different degrees during different times.)
Since I was a child, one thing I've always wanted was a best friend, a husband (or life partner) with whom to share a deep connection and trust. Basically, I wanted something only my imagination was able to conceive because not knowing what "connection and trust" was, it makes it quite difficult to find. And you can imagine that with a closed heart, finding love is very hard to achieve. And without a trustworthy and positive role model to demonstrate a loving relationship, it's even harder.
I remember when I was about 20 years old, at a time when I had both feet in deep shit difficulties trying to support myself and a baby, a social worker told me - actually two social workers told me - that I would never be able to have a close functional relationship because I suffered from co-dependency. I repeat, they said "never". Even though I kind of believed them, somehow, by the grace of a loving Higher Power, deep transformation is possible. They were right about the co-dependent part, they were wrong about never having a functional relationship.
My life experiences led me to deeper and deeper suffering inside. The type of suffering we can qualify as hitting bottom. This was the biggest blessing I've received. It led me to years of therapy and work on myself.
To make a very long story kind of short, I discovered that I had to learn how to love myself and consequently, love others too. Essentially, I had to open my heart. The words "open heart" to someone with a closed heart sounds really yucky. It just sounds totally uncool, it creates a judgement like "wtf is an open heart??" It's not that the person with a closed heart doesn't want to have an open heart, it's that this person has no idea what it is. If presented with a clear choice: "Dear person, if you press that button, you will feel so much better", I think this person would chose to try out the button. With the snap of the fingers I would feel better?? Sure!!
But it's not that simple. One who has acquired the experiences of an environment that helped create the closed heart will have to go through a series of life changes. Perhaps therapy if possible, or a 12-step program, or a loving church's teaching, or a Buddhist temple, or meditation, or good self-help books, or all of the above.
Mostly, the person has to have an "intention" of becoming a better version of himself/herself.
Personally, I found it easier to go through this type of change by starting with being selfish. "I am doing it for myself". I know it's not always seen has a good thing to be selfish, but in this case I believe it is a good thing, and a necessary part of the process. It's like on airplanes, when we're told in case of emergency to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. Can anyone of us help someone else without first taking our own oxygen mask? Not for very long.
So the first thing someone should learn is to love oneself. Confront that inner critic, bring her/him to court to prove her/his point. You will find that her/his arguments are not valid. "You suck because you've always sucked" is not a valid argument. Or, "You're not lovable because you have awful faults" is not a valid argument either. We all have faults. And some of them are pretty awful. But we are ALL equal. And we ALL deserve love. Yes! Faults and all! (What a lesson that was for me.)
Getting rid of as many things that don't serve you is not only useful, it's essential in some cases. And be honest about what "good" is. Good is not revenge. It's not getting back at people. However, in the process, you will probably lose a few friends. It's scary. It's a temporary transition period, and these old "friends" get replaced with new ones over time.
The transition period can be a pretty lonely time.
But it's definitely not as lonely as not loving yourself.
So back to me. I learn to love myself. I accept love in my life. I open my door to let the light and love radiate to myself, my life, and those around me.
That's when I meet Sean. After my heart had opened up a bit. Funny how life works eh? :) I met him in 2008 at work. The first thing I noticed was his kindness. He has a true, soft, loving heart... something I need the most. And thank God that I had previously discovered what kindness was because how the heck would I have been able identify kindness having never experienced it? And most importantly, had my heart not been opened, I would've never noticed him in that way. And he probably wouldn't have noticed me either.
I'm 34 today. No, sorry, 35! Wow, I always forget my age. Had to double-check that one. I got married this past August and was 34 at that time. I've been with Sean for 4 years, living together for 2.5, and married for 5 months. We have a loving, FUNCTIONAL, relationship. We argue like any other functional couple, but never ever "fight" (fighting is something that used to happen almost every day for me in the past, before the transition.)
As for co-dependency, well that's a term from the psychology world. I guess according to that definition I am a "recovering co-dependent". I just like to say that my heart keeps opening more and more. Call it cheesy, or cliché, but it's my truth. My life.