Image for The Gathering Pod A Martha Beck Podcast Episode #109 How to Heal Your Heart
About this episode

In this Gathering Room, Martha talks about the “heart healer” within every person. When we’re heartsick, this is the only thing that heals us. Learn how to access your own heart healer in this very popular episode! (Originally aired: January 15, 2023)


Martha Beck:

Hi everyone. Welcome to The Gathering Room. Our topic for the day is how to heal your heart. I’ve been doing a few coaching sessions lately, which I don’t usually do anymore. There’s too much demand, frankly, so I train coaches, and my coaches coach people. And that way, there’s more people, more coaches to serve the demand. But I’ve done a few sessions lately here and there, and I just love it. I just love it. It’s so much fun. And I realized that I used to think that I could help people. As if. I can’t help anybody. I can’t heal anybody’s broken heart any more than I can heal a broken bone. When there’s a broken bone, the best anyone can do is put it in position and let it heal itself. And that is the only thing that I’ve ever actually done for anyone as a coach, is try to hold them in position where they’re sort of aligned with themselves the way a bone is, and then everything heals itself.

Your heart can heal itself, and it does and it will. No matter how deep your sorrow, the heart can heal itself. You just have to know how to put it into alignment. And I was thinking about this because I was talking to this lovely man today, and he was like healing himself. You know who I’m talking about if it’s you. Anyway, it was such a moving thing to see how much power and efficacy was available to him for self-healing. And I thought, wow, we can all do this, and we don’t do it enough. We’re sort of convinced that something outside ourselves is going to help us, or that if we can just destroy a part of ourselves that’s bothering us, we’ll be okay, and the opposite is actually the case. You only heal by going inward, and you only heal by including all the parts that are broken.

So, to align with your heart… If your heart is broken at all, if you have a small heartbreak, if you have a massive heartbreak, either way, just tune into it for a second. Don’t worry. We’re not going to stay here. But find the broken, the heartsick part. So, the way to align it, to allow it to heal itself, like a bone healing itself, is to come into what I call integrity, to be completely aligned with what is truest for us at the deepest level. And to be just one thing, not a whole bunch of things. Split, but one thing, united. Okay, so I wrote this book, The Way of Integrity. And people said to me, many people said to me, “Here’s the thing. I feel like I’m living almost in integrity, but there’s a part of me, like the part that wants to run away and not take care of my responsibilities or the part of me that wants to sleep all day, or the part of me that wants to yell at other drivers, and I just can’t get rid of it.”

Well, right away, I know that they can’t be in alignment because the aligned part of us, the part that is resonates as truest for us never wants to get rid of any part of ourselves. It is unconditionally loving of everything about you. Your nastiest, worst bits of self, it loves them all. So when I say bringing them into one thing, I don’t mean excluding anything. I mean bringing in all the parts. And some of them may violently disagree with one another. The part of you that wants to sleep all day, there may be another part that goes, what is wrong with you? You’ve got to get up. Walt Whitman wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” All of us are large. We all contain multitudes, and new parts of self are forming all the time.

So, I’m very much enamored of parts psychology, a way of looking at the human mind that sees all these different aspects of the self as wholly different people, but whose goal it is to bring the whole crowd in together so that they can be healed by the deepest self, which I’ll talk about in a second. But just looking at all the different parts of self. When I say to someone, “How are you feeling?” They’ll like, “Oh, I’m so depressed. I’m really miserable.” And then I’ll talk to them a week later and they’ll say, “I’ve really had a good week.” And I’m like, “Wait, wait, wait. My head is spinning. You said you were so depressed, and now you said you’ve had a good week.” It’s even more common to have people go, “Oh, I feel great now. Last week, that was… But I was horrible, but I’m great this week.”

The next week, when I used to see people weekly, they would come back, “Oh yeah, I’m doing a lot better. I mean, last week was horrible.” They always said last week was horrible, but this week’s okay, and then they would contradict themselves. And it was because they were trying to describe themselves as one thing, when in fact they were many things. They contained multitudes. I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately, and one of the things about painting is that you can create different colors by combining the ones you’ve got. So, I’m sure if you combine red and blue, you get purple, if you combine blue and yellow, you get green, red and yellow make orange, and so on.

And if you put too many parts together, it looks really muddy. And one of the things that you do as an artist is you try to break out the pure tones. You try to find the pure tones and separate them a little so they’re not all mushed together. And in part psychology, at least internal family systems therapy, which I love, there’s a step called unblending, and it’s when you look at all the colors of yourself and you pull out the pure tones and you just look specifically at the what is the clearest, purest note, color note, mood note that you can find. So for example, I just asked you find the heart sick part of yourself. So, it might be heartsick because the state of the world is so depressing. It might be heartsick because you’re in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. It might be heartsick because you’re raising five children and you have no time for yourself.

There are a lot of reasons to be heartsick, but it’s just going to feel negative in some way. So, I want you to find the most heartsick part of yourself and then unblend it from the muddy mess that you get in your mind when you mush all yourselves together. This weirdly enough, separating in this way is a way of creating unity in a painting. If you can get pure tones and combine, then you have harmony. But if you mix too many pure tones together, you get this muddy consistency that’s not… It’s just not beautiful. So by separating the pure tones, we get something that we can recombine in a beautiful way instead of just mush together. So whatever your heartsick part is, have it step outside you and sit down facing you and be anything it wants to be. But it is purely heartsick. That is what it is. And have it tell you why it’s not feeling good, tell you how it feels.

Let it tell you what it doesn’t like, what it wishes it had, that it doesn’t. And just instead of reacting against it, I wish I could get rid of you, then I’d be happy, your job is to listen. Yeah? So, you’re going to be your own heart healer. And the heart heals when it is listened to, when it is understood. So listen, you can sometimes write it out, this is why I’m unhappy. And now we come to the part that is challenging for some people. The gentleman I was talking to today did such a wonderful job of it that I really wanted to… It made me excited to share it with you guys. Find the part of yourself that is pure unconditional acceptance of everything, actually. So, he had a religious framework, so he… A lot of people have religious frameworks and they’re not able to find the loving part. They actually can be less loving because of religious fundamentalism or whatever. But this guy just was… God is love to him. So, find the part of you that is love. And here’s the thing, love takes many forms.

Some of us associate the word love with erotic fixation or feeling sorry for someone or desiring something about them. And real love. There’s no wanting in it. There’s no pain in it, there’s no possessiveness in it. It is just calm, it is free, it is unconditional, it is unmoved, weirdly enough, because we talk about being moved as being loving. But love never moves. Really. It is we who go into love when we are moved, but love is always waiting there, steady state. It’s like space. It’s everywhere. So your essence, I believe, is this unconditional love. If you can’t find a place that feels loving, find a place that feels calm. Peace is a really significant aspect of true love, and you won’t find it in things like erotic fixation or neediness or over attachment. There’s no peace in something that is just those things. Yeah?

So find the part of you that’s most peaceful, and there’s your heartsick part right in front of you, and it’s been telling you why it’s heartsick. And you don’t have to do anything. Just observe it and see if you can find compassion and understanding for its point of view. And it could be saying stuff that sounds so selfish to a part of your mind, or it sounds so… It sounds petty or small, or it’s upset about things that you think are embarrassing or whatever. It doesn’t matter. The part of you that is pure calm accepts it all equally. It all belongs. So it says, come in, come in. And then just think what… In fact, don’t think, feel what the calmest part of your psyche is saying to the most heartsick part of your psyche.

So in the case of the guy I was talking to you today, it was really simple. I’m with you. You’re not alone. You’ve never been alone. I’m here to help. You’ve always been led by me, and I will always lead you. Now if you can’t find that, you can just say the words like that, I am here for you. And if you do it, if you address the heartsick part of you as an other, just saying the words, I’m with you, I’m here for you, I’ve always been here for you might move you into the heart healer, into the essence of you. So, you can actually use the heartbreak, and then the sort of script of unconditional love, I’ve always been here for you, I’m going to be here for you, for you, I’ve always guided you, I always will. As you say the words, you can sometimes shift into the essence, into alignment.

Now the two of you, the heart sick and the heart healer, are aligned like a two parts of a broken bone, and you just wrap that the way you’d put a cast on a broken limb. Once the bone is aligned, you just wrap it up and let it be still. When I had my famous foot surgery, which I’ve mentioned, I don’t know, 8,000 times to you guys, the surgeon sawed up one of the bones of my foot, which were deformed, and then put them in a different order and pinned them in. And then I had to keep my foot wrapped and still and above my head for eight weeks. Try keeping your foot above your head for eight weeks, quite an experience. It’s like a meditation retreat. And sure enough, it grew a little bridge of bone, all by the miracle. All he could do was saw it in two and pin it together and hope. And it doesn’t always work. And when it worked, it was a miracle. It was a healing miracle.

And when I’ve aligned my heart sick part with my heart healer part, it’s always grown a little bridge, a little new, strong bridge of wholeness, but you have to be still with it for a while. You have to take the time for the heart sick to express itself, and the heart full, the heart essence to connect and wrap itself around that wound. And then you let them be still. So if you meditate or you have time in the car or whatever, be still with the alignment of the heart sick and the heart healer, and they’ll start to grow stronger. And the more time you can spend in stillness with those two aligned, the faster your heart will heal. It’s a good trick. It works. It actually works. So, let’s go to some questions here.

Hang on. I’m going to have some questions coming in. Anne says, “How do I deal with the heartbreak of total rejection of a loved one?” You find the part of you that is really heartsick about it. You can picture that part of you. It might not look exactly like you look now. It might have a different hair color or be a different age, or it might be an animal. A lot of my different parts take the forms of animals when I try to imagine them. And just listen to it tell you how heartbroken it is and how devastating it is to love someone and not be loved back and be totally rejected. And then start addressing the heartsick one. What would it say to you? See, I can’t do that for you, Anne. You have to move into the space. So if you can find compassion for the one who is totally rejected, I suspect… When I do that… And I have been totally rejected by people I loved. Oh yes, I have been. And it’s like the heart healer says, “I could never reject you.” And somehow I know…

I mean, Richard Schwartz, who created internal family systems therapy, talks about how this heart healer part… He calls it the Self, capital S. And he says, the interesting thing about it is when his clients get to that, he’ll say, “So, what part of you is that?” And they say, “This isn’t a part. This is who I am. This is the center. It’s not just a part, but it holds all the other parts.” And he says, furthermore, it’s the same in all people. It exists in all people, and it’s the same in all people. So when I go to, okay, the people who’ve rejected me, and I have been rejected, I’m like, well, I don’t reject you. And the part of them that is me doesn’t reject you either. That’s not even possible. So weirdly, even though those people think they’re rejecting me, I don’t feel rejected because I’m so in touch with my own heart healer that I can’t help but feel their heart healers as well. And I really believe that all of us are totally accepted by the loving being at the center of every person.

Yeah, so thank you, Anne. I just felt really healed by that, and I can only hope it works for you. Alan says, “Can separating out our grief into different parts help to heal it?” Yeah, this is the whole thing. And I love the word unending that they use in IFS. Because I do visual art, it makes so much sense to me. The painting behind me right here, I don’t know if you can see it on Facebook, it’s the cover of the book I wrote called Diana Herself. And I didn’t mix any color for that painting. I just would paint like a bright, clear, transparent yellow, and then wait for that to dry, and then paint red over that, and then paint blue over that kind of the way they do color photography. And because of that, it has a glowy look, I think. I liked the glowy look, and it comes from the fact that I was using separated colors instead of blended colors. There’s an unblending that creates clarity and transparency. And I love the metaphor for painting because it works so well for me in my life.

So yes, separating the parts out is getting the clarity and purity of each part. And then they combine in this way that is glowy and beautiful instead of muddy. Thank you. So Rose says, “If there are many different parts, how do we best make decisions?” Once you find the heart healer, once you find the calm, peaceful one at the center, that’s the one that makes the decisions. And you’ll go to it and… Whatever makes you feel calmest and most peaceful and most that part of the self, that’s the person who calls the shots. And other parts of you go, oh, no, maybe if I do that, they’ll never love me back. And the calm part will talk back and say, oh sweetheart, if you don’t do what you need to do to be peaceful and they don’t love you back, then their love is not love because it wants you out of peace. And how could that ever work? Even if they love you, you won’t even be available to love them.

So, it’s a wise self. It can help explain the dynamics of relationships, the dynamics of loss and love and all the things that are so difficult for us as human beings. It knows its way through all the obstacles. And your heart healer, Rose, is it’s much wiser than I am for you. It’s your facet of the jewel. That is the one essence, the one soul. Marianne says, “I love this. What’s the best time to practice it?” I do it first thing in the morning, first thing, but I also do it whenever I am distressed in any way. Last night, I saw a play on Broadway. It’s called Ohio State Murders, and it was heartbreaking, really, really heartbreaking. Sorry if that’s a spoiler. Very inspiring as well, but it was heartbreaking.

And at the most heartbreaking break, part of the play, I kind of started to dissociate because it was so heartbreaking. And so I took my eyes off the stage and I dropped my eyes down and I did a little meditation. And I put the part of me that was distressed in front of me, and I kind of contacted that and I was like working with it. It’s a play about loss and racism and injustice and sexism and all these tragedies. And so the part of me that was heartbroken by all of that, had to go back to source, had to go back to the heart healer, and then I was able to calm down, and I felt healed. And it was a very powerful piece of art, and it did that for me. It broke my heart to heal my heart. And great art can do that for us.

T-bone Nuke says, “What if the heart pain keeps coming back?” Oh, it will. That’s just what we do. So, you just repeat, repeat, repeat. And it’s not like, oh my gosh, I have to do that again. The necessity of repeating, thinking of it is like, I keep eating food I love and it’s delicious, but I’m hungry again just hours later. Why won’t it stick? It won’t stick because it’s meant to be a continuous process of nourishment, and because the process is nourishing. Once you learn to do, it’s delicious. It’s relieving. It’s like being starving and getting fed, or being thirsty and getting a drink, or being hot and being refreshed. It happens again and again and again so that the heart heals stronger and stronger and stronger, and so that the process itself can be experienced in its full deliciousness.

Just eating once and never being hungry again wouldn’t be as fun as having delicious food every day, right? Laurie says, “Are we afraid of wholeness?” I think a lot of us are, because our wholeness includes all the parts that hurt. And I know people who are always happy, always keeping themselves happy and excited, and everything’s great, everything’s great, and I can feel a manic quality. And it’s because they’re saying, “I don’t feel the parts, parts of myself that are heartbroken. No, they don’t exist. They’re not even here.” That’s why people are always telling me, “I’m fine now. Last week was terrible, but I’m fine now.” Letting it into the present moment, you can’t really do it while you’re at work sometimes. You kind of have to do [inaudible 00:21:05] by yourself to open a really deep heartbreak. So yeah, we’re terrified of our wholeness.

Once we’ve integrated though, then there’s so much more power and wisdom to hold the pain of being human that it turns out to be a huge advantage to be whole. And we stop suffering as much, and maybe we stop suffering at all. I don’t know. Tell me when you get there. In [inaudible 00:21:30] says, “How do you know if it’s healed properly aligned, or if it’s grown over misaligned?” Really simple. When it grows over aligned, you are completely peaceful, completely contented, almost unflappable. Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. The one phrase that rings the chime of truth most deeply in the most people I’ve talked to, hundreds and hundreds of people is, I am meant to live in peace. And when you say that, you can feel the truth of it. And that becomes my bellwether. That’s the chime of truth that I’m always looking for. Does this bring me peace?

And even believing something scary or heartbreaking, if it’s true, can feel peaceful. It does feel peaceful. The truth feels peaceful, even if the news is not good. If you tried to say to someone, “There’s no suffering in the world,” Okay, maybe there’s no suffering in the world, doesn’t feel peaceful But if you say what the heart healer says, there is suffering, but there’s a reason for it and you’ll be okay, that’s more peaceful for me. You can check and see what’s peaceful for you, but that’s how you know if it’s aligned, peace. Constellations in her bones, I love that tag. “If we heal ourselves, do we heal the larger community? Think of Martin Luther King. Is rejecting actually an illusion?” Yeah, I think that’s… Well, there’s a lot in that question. If we heal ourselves, we can’t help but become a component of healing for the larger community.

There’s something, I’m sure you’ve heard of this, called the hundredth monkey syndrome. It was based on these people who were studying monkeys in the islands off the coast of Japan. They’re these monkeys that live in cold… They’re the only monkeys that live in cold climates. They were cut off in Japan by the advance of an ice age, and they’re very wooly and have short tails, and they like to hang out in hot springs, but they eat… The locals were giving them yams and rice to eat. And they were on the beach, so the yams and the rice would get sand and it would grind their teeth down and not be good. And one monkey on one island figured out that if she threw her yams or rice into the ocean, into a pool, then she could wash them and they’d come out clean and the rice could be separated from the sand.

So, she learned to do that, and then she taught her babies to do it. And the whole troop started watching, and they all learned to do it. Now, there are groups of these monkeys living on different isolated islands, and there were people observing all of their communities. And it is said that when about a hundred monkeys on one island learned how to watch their yams, suddenly all the monkeys on all the islands knew how to wash the yams. So, the idea that we’re all connected, I believe, is literal. And I believe that consciousness communicates things. So if enough of us get to a place of heart wholeness, you just walk through a Starbucks, you’re a force for healing if your heart is at peace. You walk through the United Nations, if your heart is at peace, you’ll be a force for wholeness.

We all help heal the world by healing ourselves. And furthermore, it’s the only way. If you’re not healed, you can’t give healing, not the deep heart healing. And I think Martin Luther King knew that, and I think he had deep reserves of acceptance and compassion for himself, for his people, for even the people who had so horrifically oppressed other people, his people specifically. The rejection, for example, of black Americans by white Americans, it’s not an illusion on the level of form. It is real, and it happened. And yet Martin Luther King and everybody who followed him in the civil rights movement, any person, of any color, found a depth of acceptance that was able to encompass the horror of that past. And that is truer. That is a truer source of reality than just getting focused completely on oppression and suffering. So, you have to include it.

Remember, you’re not getting rid of any… You have to include the truth of discrimination and injustice and horror. You include that in the heart healing. And that way, you end up healing every part of yourself, and then you can even eventually, I hope, start to heal others who are maybe not so just and maybe who are in positions of privilege, and they like it and they’re abusing it. That was his legacy. He said, even they will come to find the truth, to find compassion if we can just keep this up. And I hope we all can treasure his legacy. And tomorrow, as we celebrate the day named for him, if we can really heal our own hearts and turn it toward the world, even the parts of the world that are truly not just. So, Gail says, “Can you talk about the difference between clean pain or pure grief over a loss versus dirty pain, pain caused by the stories we tell about a loss? I can’t tell if my heart sick part is feeling clean pain or dirty pain.”

That’s pretty easy. You look to see if you’re responding the way an animal would or if there are words attached to your suffering. That’s the key. Are you talking to yourself about the suffering? Because the only way you can suffer from thoughts is if you’re using words. So when I think about the death of someone I love, there’s the kind of pain that makes dogs go sit on their master’s graves, that kind of thing. But when I think of things like, oh, I’ve been so deprived by life and nobody should ever die and whatever, then I’m not at peace. And there are words attached to the not peace, and those words will always be a lie, I promise you. The heart healer will tell you, “Honey, that’s not true, but I’m listening. And I get how hurt you are by your own words. I hope you can get past that. And the clean pain you’re feeling will heal so strong. It heals so strong when it’s loved.”

Couple more. Little over time, but that’s fine. We started a minute late. Donna says, “What if the hearts sick part of you is a part of you that you loathe and feel has made terrible choices, and it is hard to even listen to that part.” Then you take the part that hates it, that is loathing, that is making judgments about the terrible choices, and you put down in front of you, because that raving angry loathing self needs your love as well. So, you listen to it. Let it rant, let it loath, and then say, “Wow, you’re suffering a lot. You’re in a lot of pain. I see that. Tell me more.”

And just let it keep telling you its story and say, “I’m listening. I’m listening.” If you can find the a way to mean it, when you say, “I really want to hear you, I really want to understand,” don’t contradict it, just listen to it. Eventually, you’ll find a part of yourself that can see why it has that perspective and can accept it anyway. And then it starts to change its nature and soften and become less aggressive. If you push against it, you’re trying to kill it, of course it’s going to fight back. I would too. Okay, [inaudible 00:29:26] finally says… [inaudible 00:29:27], wow, which means star. I love that. “Are there specific differences to this technique we can make for pre-verbal heartsick parts?” Yeah. If you draw at all, you can draw a picture of the party that’s grieving. If you don’t draw, you can choose something to stand for that, like a little stuffed bear, or you can find a picture of a little kid.

I remember when I read Tennyson… Is it Tennyson who said, “So runs my hope, but what am I? An infant crying in the night, an infant crying for the light, and with no language but a cry?” I remember reading that and having it touch the part of me that has no language but a cry. So if you find a symbol for that that is kinesthetic or visual or a tactile, you can just cuddle it up, wait for it to heal, because you can’t heal anything. But it heals itself if you come into alignment. So, I hope all your hearts are very healed and that you feel very, very peaceful, and that I will see you again next time on The Gathering Room. Thank you everybody. Love you. And love you.

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