10. Places We Go When The Heart Is Open

Love, Lovelessness, Heartbreak, Trust, Self-Trust, Betrayal, Defensiveness, Flooding, Hurt


We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow. We can love others only as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can survive these injuries only if they’re acknowledged, healed, and rare.


bell hooks teaches that the injustice and systemic oppression that we see in the world today stem from a deep, collective lovelessness and calls for an ethic of love.

hooks writes,

Refusal to stand up for what you believe in weakens individual morality and ethics as well as those of the culture. No wonder then that we are a nation of people, the majority of whom, across race, class, and gender, claim to be religious, claim to believe in the divine power of love, and yet collectively remain unable to embrace a love ethic and allow it to guide behavior, especially if doing so would mean supporting radical change. Fear of radical changes leads many citizens of our nation to betray their minds and hearts.


Heartbreak comes from the loss of love or the perceived loss of love. Disappointment doesn’t grow into heartbreak, nor does failure. It hurts in a different way because heartbreak is always connected to love and belonging.


Trust means choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. Trust is more of a cognitive assessment than an emotion, but trust can bring up a lot of emotions, especially hurt and defensiveness.

Distrust means that what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).

What constitutes trust = B.R.A.V.I.N.G


Self-trust is normally the first casualty of failure or mistakes. We stop trusting ourselves when we hurt others, get hurt, feel shame, or question our worth.

How to use the BRAVING tool to think about self-trust:


Betrayal is so painful because, at its core, it is a violation of trust.

It happens in relationships in which trust is expected and assumed, so when it’s violated, we’re often shocked, and we can struggle to believe what’s happening. It can feel as if the ground beneath us has given way.

It’s possible to heal betrayal, but it’s rare because it requires significant courage and vulnerability to hear the pain we’ve caused without becoming defensive. The only way back from betrayal is accountability, amends, and action.


Defensiveness is a way to protect our ego and a fragile self- esteem.

In order to try to limit our exposure to information that differs from how we think of ourselves, we get defensive and over-justify, make excuses, minimize, blame, discredit, discount, refute, and reinterpret. Defensiveness blocks us from hearing feedback and evaluating if we want to make meaningful changes in our thinking or behavior based on input from others.

When I get defensive, I often get tunnel vision and start planning what I’m going to say instead of listening. But I have found some ways to disarm my defensiveness. My strategy is to subtly open my palms, even if my hands are just hanging by my side or on my lap, and actually say, “I’m sorry. Can you say that again? I really want to understand.” It’s pretty effective.

If I’m having a really hard time, I might say, “I’m sorry. I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m going to get a glass of water. Can we sit down in ten minutes and start again?”


Flooding is a sensation of feeling psychologically and physically overwhelmed during conflict, making it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving discussion.

This is why it is so important that I be able to identify when I am feeling this and request a break until I can calm down.


Hurt is a combination of sadness at having been emotionally wounded and fear of being vulnerable to harm. When people feel hurt, they have appraised something that someone said or did as causing them emotional pain.

Most behaviors that result in hurt feelings are not intended to be hurtful; they typically involve actions that are thoughtless, careless, or insensitive. However, the more intentional an action is perceived, the more hurtful it feels.