At The Heart of the Matter
With Valentine’s Day in the air, this month our thoughts turn to love. In fact, in the work I do leading people on transformational journeys, love is the most consistent theme: learning to love the self, finding love, trying to help those we love, deepening love, expressing love. Due to less-than-positive childhood experiences, many of us learn to shut down our hearts as a means of protection—but this makes it challenging to feel compassion as adults. I call this “contraction of the heart.” In my role as art therapist, clinical counselor, and life coach, I often have people draw from their hearts, talk about their hearts, or do the simple exercise in the video below. This brings forth expansion of the heart—elevating self-esteem, reducing stress, increasing self-love, and improving relationships.
FIVE-MINUTES OF FEEL GOOD
Access Your Heart’s Wisdom
Client Success Story
DRAWING IT OUT
“When I first started my journey with Carrie I was consumed by fear and overcome with darkness in both my mind and heart. With the healing work I’ve learned to trust and love myself which is making a huge difference in my life.”
Talking isn’t the only way I lead clients to understand their emotions and heal. Sometimes, words just aren’t enough. That’s where art therapy comes in. Lorraine came into therapy anxious, depressed, and showing signs of love addiction. What little self-esteem she had stemmed from the attention she got from a certain unavailable man or how important she seemed to people she deemed more powerful than she. As a result, Lorraine was deeply divided in her mind and heart. Over the course of weekly therapy, she was able to feel and process unresolved childhood traumas and learn to trust her heart and the wisdom of her body. Gradually, her relationships have become more positive, and she has started to recognize manipulative, inauthentic people and set better boundaries with them. Her artwork illustrates three aspects of self: her inner child, her inner adolescent, and her adult self. Over the course of her journey, Lorraine has learned to nurture and integrate all three, forgive herself for past mistakes, and connect with the divine presence of the Holy Spirit. Today, she feels worthy of love and has improved self-esteem and a diminished need for validation from others.
The term narcissism is bandied about so often in pop culture these days. What exactly is it, and how does it relate to self-love?
Narcissism comes from Greek mythology, in which the young, handsome Narcissus falls in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. In everyday speech, one often hears the word narcissism to describe garden-variety human vanity, but in psychological terminology, narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from admiration of one’s idealized self-image rather than from love and connection.
It is also noteworthy that the mythological Narcissus fell in love with his reflection. After all, a reflection is not what the observer truly is, but its mirror image, or opposite. Likewise, the narcissist’s picture of him or herself is frequently the opposite of what others perceive.
Because intimacy means “in-to-me-you-see,” people plagued by narcissism who value only idealized versions of themselves run from being truly seen, often keeping themselves at an elevated distance from others. As a result, they cause deep emotional pain to the partners, children, siblings, co-workers, and friends who want to get close to them. In my practice, I often treat their victims who come to me with their self-esteem shattered, their life forces drained. However, by doing deep, authentic work around recognizing boundaries and healthy self-love, these individuals demonstrate a remarkable ability to heal and grow.
Far fewer narcissists seek my healing and guidance, though they do, usually via prompting by a loved one. Despite their confident exteriors, narcissists are often riddled with shame, their more fragile parts disowned and unsupported. Because they view the world as a competitive rather than a cooperative place, favor dominance over healthy give-and-take, and have little empathy for the vulnerability of themselves or others, their progress can be slow. It doesn’t mean such a person can’t evolve, but the path is longer, steeper, and rockier than it is for a non-narcissist. For those who love narcissists, it is important to remember their limitations and to celebrate each hard-won victory.