Unlocking Your Heart to Love
An excerpt from The Positively Present Guide to Life by Dani DiPirro
An important step on the road to romantic relationship success is to find that special one—or at least to be open to finding them. So many people are afraid to open their hearts to love. Perhaps you’ve had a broken heart that has scared you into locking the door and throwing away the key, or perhaps you’ve had difficulty even opening the door in the first place. Believe it or not, there are ways to develop confidence in love and your ability to be loved that may help you open up again. Or, perhaps you think you’ve been open to love, but it simply hasn’t found you yet. If that sounds like you, this is a good place to get started, too; you’ll find inspiration for keeping your heart and mind open to new possibilities.
If you’re the type of person who tends to be emotionally closed off (whatever the reason), you’re probably focused on how to keep people out, rather than letting them in. Keeping your heart closed might seem like the ultimate in self-preservation—a way to avoid an onslaught of negative emotions in the future—but locking up your heart prevents you from enjoying so many positive experiences. How can you fully connect with the relationships you already have (that is, the non-romantic ones) if your heart is closed? How can you form strong, meaningful relationships if you push people away?
I’ve always struggled a bit with having an open heart. I’ve been suspicious and mistrustful of those who want to show me love. It’s only when I’ve chosen to open my heart (which is usually really scary for me!) that I’ve discovered meaningful connections. And those meaningful connections have led me to significant relationships and even, in some cases, to love. Had I kept my heart closed, I never would have had so many positive experiences. Here are some tactics you might want to try if you’re struggling to crack open the door to your heart.
1. Learn new things
The more you learn—through your own experiences and the wisdom of others—the more you know; and the more you know, the more likely you are to relate to others, regardless of age, background or anything else. Knowledge makes you smarter, more creative and more empathetic. It opens your heart in a way that allows you to see the world from new viewpoints, which makes you more able to connect with those around you.
2. Monitor your non-verbal cues
Sometimes closing yourself off emotionally manifests itself in physical “symptoms”. If you’re afraid to smile, if you keep your arms crossed or if you always look down at your toes or over someone’s shoulder, you’re letting others know you aren’t open to the idea of friendship, let alone love. Open your body language—smile, uncross those arms, look people in the eye—and in doing so watch how they respond more positively to you. Allow this to give you confidence in the notion of opening yourself up emotionally and letting someone in. Little by little, as people approach you and respond to you with their own openness, you’ll feel more like receiving their attention without suspicion and with an open heart.
3. Ignore your fear
In order to live a positive and present life, it’s important to acknowledge rather than ignore negative emotions. However, when it comes to opening your heart to others, pushing aside the negative emotion of fear and replacing it with positivity can really help. Think about why you’re afraid to open your heart. Are you worried about being judged? Do you fear your openness will be rejected or rebuffed? In order to bask in the light of potential new relationships, you need to step out of the shadow of your fear. One way to do this is to ask yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” or “What do I really have to lose?” When you consider questions such as these, you’re likely to notice that the risk of ignoring your fear is much lower than the potential rewards you might reap from doing so.
4. Stay in the moment
When you’re hesitating to open your heart, it’s usually because of fears connected to the past or concerns about what the future might hold. If you catch yourself agonizing over your relationship history, or fretting about your relationship future, bring yourself back to the present. Shift your attention to what’s happening in the moment of your interactions—listen attentively, talk openly, drink in the sights and smells around you. If you find your mind drifting off to the past or the future, reconnect with the present again—and keep reminding yourself to do so as often as needed. If you concentrate on what’s happening right now, you are more likely to open your heart to the moment’s potential—and the potential of a relationship.
5. Stop judging
No one likes to be judged. Considering what others might think about us can be intimidating, sometimes so much so that (imagined) opinions can hold us back from creating interpersonal connections. You might think the way to avoid judgement is just to keep the door to your heart firmly closed. But consider this concept—you get what you give. If you appear open, receptive and accepting of others just as they are, that’s exactly how people will see you. Try not to worry about how other people view you, and especially try to avoid making assessments about others based on your own preconceived ideas or previous experiences. The more open-minded you are about other people, the more open-minded other people will be about you.
6. Be specific
When you’re trying to connect with others, particularly those you don’t know well, be specific in what you say. When someone says to you, “How was your day?” don’t respond with, “Fine. Yours?” Try to be more specific. Give details. Provide examples. Share stories. People will feel more connected to you (and will probably share some of their own stories) if you open up to them with specifics. You can also do some specific asking with creative questions, such as “What is your favourite colour? Why?” or “I love [insert favourite book or movie here]. Have you seen/read it?”
7. Take your time
Opening the door to your heart, especially when openness doesn’t come naturally to you, will take time. At first you’ll make a single turn of the handle, letting in only a fraction of light. As you develop confidence in how people respond to you when you give a little, you’ll open up a tiny bit more. At first you might stumble over your words as you try to answer questions more honestly and creatively. It might take you a while to articulate what you want to say in just the way you want to say it. Be patient with yourself, and don’t let a few initially awkward encounters put you off trying again (and again and again if you need to!). The more you practise opening up to others, the easier the process of opening your heart’s door will become.
Positively Present Principle #1
Unlocking your heart to love is similar to opening your mind to being positive and present. If you don’t at least crack open the door, love can’t find a way in.
Share a secret
If you want to develop a closer relationship with someone, share a secret. It doesn’t have to be your deepest, darkest secret – in fact, it can be completely trivial – but make sure it’s personal, interesting and something you’ve never told anyone else before. When you experience the release of sharing one small part of yourself, you are one step closer to being able to share your heart.
Excerpted with permission from The Positively Present Guide to Life by Dani DiPirro © Dani DiPirro 2016, published by Watkins, London.