David Whyte on Heartbreak

‘…heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life…’

Beautiful, moving, elegiac reflections from David on the meaning and hidden treasures of heartbreak. The writer believes we have an unhelpful cultural tendency to interpret our natural shrinking from pain as meaning the task of life is to avoid, or work to remove as quickly as possible, our painful feelings. Attempts to escape the pain that is inherent in human experience have a tendency to limit, stifle and distort us. As Brené Brown puts it, in her famous TED talk on vulnerability:-

“You cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb [painful feelings], we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”

The writer has a cautiousness about ideals of non-attachment – both because she sees them as impossible to achieve for most, if not all of us, and because they seem to miss the point of being alive in a human body, which is to have a full human experience, including loving and belonging. Full aliveness in ourselves and in relationship open us to the entire palette of human experience, joy, sorrow, intimacy, aloneness, calm, storm, terror, beauty, loss, tenderness, home-coming, acceptance….and…and…

‘Heartbreak asks us not to look for an alternative path, because there is no alternative path. It is a deeper introduction to what we love and have loved….’

David Whyte repeatedly recognizes in his work that it is through the pain of connection and relationship, for example in the universal experience of loss, be that by death, desertion or another form of separation – perhaps even more than through the experience of loving and being loved – that we have the potential to deepen our journeys, and to soften and open our hearts to ourselves, each other and the living world.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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