Healing the Hole in Our Hearts

In a conversation with someone from the Hoarding workshop, it became clear that talking about something more fundamental than organizing or clearing things out would be worthwhile. For people struggling with any form of addiction or compulsive behavior, identifying the underlying cause often leads to a creeping sense of insufficiency, of nothing being ‘enough’ or satisfactory. I call this feeling the ‘hole in the heart’ syndrome. It makes people feel that nothing they do or have is enough or right, so they keep trying to do or have more to fix this problem. But that never works, and the effort to heal the hole this way invariably leads to worse problems.

I think nearly everybody starts out with a (metaphorical) hole in their heart. It’s what happens when we are growing up and we get messages that we aren’t really ok as we are, that we are in some way deficient, inadequate, or sub-par. These messages make us feel anxious and make us feel like we need to DO something to fix things. Some people live in denial that they have this hole, but it doesn’t take a lot of close inspection to realize that it is there. The rest of us, who are painfully aware that something is missing, not right, out of sync, spend our lives trying to find that hole and plug it.

Some people try to plug the hole with activity, by staying so busy that they never have time or the opportunity to slow down and look at what is meaningful in their lives. Others try to fill it by inflating themselves (with wealth, power, celebrity), becoming so important that others are forced to constantly acknowledge them, temporarily closing (or at least giving the illusion of it) the hole. Some rely on relationships to overcome the pain of this hole, and others use therapy. Many people resort to a wide variety of addictive behaviors, such as clutter or hoarding, to distract or comfort themselves, a futile effort that can only make every other difficulty in life much worse.

So, what does work? How does one close the hole in the heart? First you have to recognize that nothing outside yourself can ever do the job because everything outside yourself conveys the message that you are not ‘enough’, that without the help of what-ever you are leaning on, you would fall down. Therefore, all such efforts only make matters worse. That means that the answer has to be inside.

I believe that closing the hole requires calmness, peace of mind. In fact you could say that the essence of peace of mind is the result of closing the hole. To get there it is necessary to abandon any idea of NEEDING anything, to let go of everything that stands in the way of calmness, and to be willing to tell yourself the truth in all situations. This means that the chief requirement for healing is not to get more anything but to have less, less that you need, much less that you want, and less that you are dependent upon. This step alone will go a long way towards plugging the hole, but still more progress can be made using meditation, that is, consciously working to empty the mind (I know, a contradiction in terms, but it does work). Relaxation gives much the same benefit, clearing the mind, allowing one to see what matters more clearly, and to let go of things that do not matter.

Even when there is a great deal of necessary activity to be done, such as the need to clear out and organize excess belongings, the more that one can do this in a state of calm and reflecting upon how capable one is of doing without owning so much, the higher the odds of success. And the more that we clear out things and activities that do not matter, the more that we are able to appreciate and benefit from those that do. Much more importantly, however, will the growing sense of peace as we reduce our dependence on external clues for satisfaction and solace.

©2011 Gloria Valoris

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