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May 30, 2016

How to Manage Self-Preservation with an Open Heart.

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Several months ago I was in a relationship. It clearly meant more to me than it did to him, and when it ended, I struggled with my feelings of loss.

In the process of grieving my loss, I had to acknowledge my own limitations.

Every single time he was tagged in a Facebook picture, it set me back. Just seeing him happily carrying on while I was having to push myself forward was difficult.

At a certain point, given the fact that he chose to ghost me rather than say goodbye, I acknowledged that our friendship was of the Facebook-only variety. There was no benefit to keeping him as a friend when he actively ignored me “IRL.”

So I clicked the unfriend button.

A few weeks later, I took it a step farther and blocked his account after I noticed an update to his relationship status (yes, Facebook stalking happens). I had to acknowledge that the temptation of any form of contact was unhealthy for my ability to move on.

I’ve made it a point to date after divorce with an open heart. I’m committed to being fully present, completely honest and courageous in the face of my fears. It’s far from easy, but I feel that in order to live a mindful life I need to keep my heart open.

I don’t want to become crippled by my past experiences, allowing them to become baggage that I have to carry around from relationship to relationship. Instead, I want to learn from them, and let them make me stronger.

The challenge is keeping our hearts open while also maintaining a sense of self-preservation. To be vulnerable is to risk getting hurt, and it’s impossible to maintain an open heart without vulnerability.

However, when our hearts have been broken, I think it’s important to have a sense of self-preservation when it comes to the people who have broken them. At a certain point, we have to claim back our personal power and acknowledge our limitations.

I didn’t block him out of anger.

It came from a need to protect myself from further damage.

Whatever we need to do to protect our hearts after a heartbreak, we should do it. In order to move forward with an open heart in the future, we need to take good care of those hearts now.

There was no benefit to the friend status or updates for me, because it only reminded me of my loss. By acknowledging my own limitations and taking action to respect them, I was able to remove a source of stress from my life.

Another aspect of self-preservation is practicing thought-stopping and redirection.

Endlessly dwelling on our hurt doesn’t help us heal; it only keeps the wound open. In order to move on, we have to stop the thoughts that head in an unhealthy direction, and we have to redirect them in safer directions.

Instead of dwelling on the loss or thoughts of what might have been, we can focus on the present. When we choose to live a mindful life, we choose to live fully in the present rather than dwelling in the past or in our plans for the future.

We often have to remind ourselves to tune into what’s going on now in order to be fully present in the current relationships in our lives. Whether we practice thought-stopping, redirection or taking time out for a brief meditation, we need to find ways of bringing ourselves out of the past and into the present moment.

We need to balance our vulnerability with our self-protection.

Rather than building up our defenses for future relationships, we can create boundaries with the relationships in our past. When people in our lives show us that they do not value us by their careless actions, we can learn from the experience by not allowing them to repeat that behavior toward us in the future.

We can keep our hearts open for the next person, rather than punishing all future dates for past heartbreaks.

It’s entirely possible to develop a sense of self-preservation with healthy boundaries and still go forward with open hearts. It takes practice, and it takes a commitment to living this way. It’s certainly not the easiest of paths, but I feel strongly that we can only find great love when we have courageous hearts.

So, let’s fortify our borders with those who have shown us a lack of respect, and invite in the people who value us.

Our open hearts aren’t foolish ones.

We have an amazing capacity for love, but we must refuse to tolerate anything less than what we deserve.

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Relephant Read:

Lessons in Love: Dating Again After Divorce.

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Author: Crystal Jackson

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Pixabay

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