Mind-Body Health

Healing the Heart


Original article by David Simon

Editor’s Note

Dr. David Simon co-founded the Chopra Center with Deepak Chopra in 1996 and served as the Center’s Medical Director for many years, seeing patients and teaching courses in meditation, yoga, Ayurveda, and other practices for mind-body health. Early in his training and career as a neurologist, he departed from the conventional medical paradigm, which tended to focused on relieving the physical symptoms of illness without looking at the whole person, including their emotions, relationships, lifestyle, and beliefs about themselves and about the meaning of life.

In David’s experience working with thousands of patients for more than three decades, he found that all illnesses have underlying emotional components, and that when those components weren’t addressed, new symptoms would crop up over time. As he wrote in his book, Free to Love, Free to Heal, “After listening to people’s problems for so many years, I’ve learned that when I can create enough safety for the sufferer, an underlying story – a story that at its heart is about giving or receiving love – will be revealed to me. And if I as a doctor can coax the hidden meaning of the illness into the open, then healing can begin.”

“Life is too short not to be happy.” ~David Simon

I still vividly remember my experiences as a medical student delivering babies on the South Side of Chicago. After hours of intense labor there finally arrived that precious moment of immense relief and joy when a newborn was embraced by its mother, and the world took a deep breath. Regardless of the drama or circumstances heralding a birth, the pure sweet potential of a new life is palpable. As Carl Sandburg said, “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.”
Every life is sacred. You arrived in this world innocent and open, with the unequivocal expectation for unconditional love. It may have taken months or even years for the idea to emerge that you actually had to do something other than exist to deserve love. After incubating for nine months in a sea of unity, you required some time to see yourself as a separate being.

But sooner or later you did. You learned to compartmentalize and prioritize, concealing parts of yourself that received negative feedback while refining those aspects of your nature that generated positive responses. You learned which of your actions evoked approval and which brought upset, gradually molding yourself into a personality with the hope of recapturing the unconditional loving you carry as a memory in the heart of your being. For the fortunate ones, this path back to love is relatively uncomplicated; but for many, it is strewn with obstacles. Challenging family dynamics, sibling rivalries, physical health concerns, disruptive household moves, awkward relationships, and difficulties at school are just a few of the encumbrances that cause people to doubt they are unconditionally lovable.

This belief of unlovability manifests in many disguises. It may appear as obesity or anorexia, depression or anxiety, allergies or autoimmune disorders. Digestive problems, chronic pain, and fatigue can all reflect underlying emotional malnourishment.

I recently met with a woman who illustrates how our stories shape our emotional and physical health. She suffered from depression for years, and her chronic fatigue and recurrent migraines severely limited her activities. She carried a handful of painful memories associated with her father. In one, she recalled him saying in a moment of anger that she was an accident and the only reason he remained in a loveless marriage. In another, she overheard her father in a heated argument with her mother, referring to their children as parasites. Although her parents remain in their conflict-ridden marriage to this day, she still carries the sense that she is to blame for their unhappiness, and more importantly, she cannot shake the feeling of being unwanted and unworthy. She had woven these memories and her childhood interpretations into a story that contributed to her chronic health challenges and sabotaged her ability to love and be loved.

While acknowledging our wounds and expressing our feelings of hurt and fear is fundamental to healing them, life is too short to allow the violations, losses, misunderstandings, distortions, and disappointments of the past to dictate our course moving forward. We are innately creative beings capable of writing a love story worth living, and we cannot afford to miss out on the opportunity to experience nourishing relationships. If we are willing to shed the constricting skin that keeps us from knowing our true nature, we can recapture our birthright as beings of love.

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