Getting to the Heart of Illness – and of Heart Disease

 Listed on the next page is a extended set of everyday expressions, many of which are mentioned in other sections of this book and all of which refer to the ‘heart’. Together they ‘get to the heart’ of what I call the ‘felt body’ or ‘lived body’. For the ‘heart’ they refer to is not a mere biological organ which mechanically pumps blood, and neither do the expressions refer merely to ‘states of mind’ separate from and independent of the body. Instead the ‘heart’ they all refer to is an organ of our lived body rather than our ‘physical body’. It is the heart experienced not as a biological organ but as an organ of the lived body – an organ of feeling awareness.


The Language of the Heart”


‘a loving heart’

‘a passionate heart’

a ‘big heart’ / a ‘kind heart’

a ‘cold heart’ / ‘cold-hearted’

a ‘warm heart’ / ‘warm-hearted’

to be ‘open hearted’ or ‘closed-hearted’

to be ‘heart-broken’ or ‘broken-hearted’

to ‘go to’ or ‘get to’ the heart of something’

to be ‘hard-hearted’ or to ‘harden one’s heart’

to have or not have the ‘heart’ for something

to suffer an ‘aching heart’ or ‘heartache’

to be ‘heartened’ or ‘disheartened’

to ‘lose heart’ or to ‘lack heart’

to have a ‘heart-to-heart’ talk

to feel ‘stabbed in the heart

to ‘take something to heart’

to ‘strengthen one’s heart’

to speak ‘from the heart’

to feel one’s heart ‘sink’

a ‘heartfelt emotion’

to be ‘heartless’

a ‘frozen heart’

‘At the heart’ of Life Medicine lie three basic understandings all linking Language, Life and Illness:

  1.  That everyday language referring to any of the parts, organs or functions of the human body does not merely make use of bodily ‘metaphors’ to describe mental or emotional states, but instead indicates the way we live and experience such states in a bodily way – through our subjectively ‘felt body’ or ‘lived body’.
  2. That both bodily expressions such as ‘losing heart’ and bodily conditions such as heart disease and its symptoms are symbols of something else – states and experiences of the felt or lived body and of its organs and functions.
  1. That so-called ‘organic’ dysfunctions, disorders or diseases – for example heart diseases – are biological embodiments of basic dysfunctions, disorders or diseases of the lived or felt body: for example an incapacity to feel or love expressed through a hardened heart, or the felt experience of a ‘broken heart’ or ‘loss of heart’.

Life Medicine therefore, does not claim that illness is ‘all in the mind’. On the contrary, it understands illness – like the many everyday expressions that symbolise its nature and symptoms – as an expression of our subjective experience of life and of our subjectively felt body – ‘the lived body’.

No form of conventional medical testing however, no matter how technologically sophisticated, can see, scan or diagnose the felt or lived body – nor can it detect a felt sense of dis-ease in that body – such as a ‘broken heart’ or a feeling of ‘loss of heart’.

Similarly, no form of biomedical treatment for hardened arteries can cure ‘a hardened heart’, just as no form of ‘open-heart’ surgery can cure someone with ‘a closed heart’.

“The heart is often described as a type of pump. With the latest developments in modern technology, there are all kinds of heart operations that can be performed, even the use of heart transplants. In many cases, even when hearts are repaired through medical technology, the same trouble reoccurs at a later date, or the patient recovers only to fall prey to a different, nearly fatal or fatal disease. This is not always the case by any means, but when such a person does recover fully, and maintains good health, it is because [their] beliefs, attitudes and feelings have changed for the better, and because the person ‘has a heart’ again; in other words because the patient himself has regained the will to live.”

“Many people who have heart trouble feel that they have ‘lost the heart’ for life. They may feel broken-hearted for many reasons. They may feel heartless, or imagine themselves to be so cold-hearted that they punish themselves literally by trying to lose their heart.”          

“With many people having such difficulties, the addition of love in the environment may work far better than any heart operation. A new pet given to a bereaved individual has saved more people from needing heart operations than any physician. In other words, a ‘love transplant’ in the environment may work far better overall than a heart-transplant operation, or a bypass, or whatever; in such ways the heart is allowed to heal itself.”

“The condition of your heart is affected, for example, by your own feelings about it. If you consider yourself to be cold-hearted or heartless, those feelings will have a significant effect upon that physical organ. If you feel broken-hearted then you will also have that feeling reflected in one way or another in the physical organ itself…. each individual also has many options open. Everyone who feels broken-hearted does not necessarily die of heart failure for example. The subject of health cannot be considered in an isolated fashion … each person will try to fulfil their own unique abilities, and to ‘fill out’ the experience of life as fully as possible.”

From The Way Toward Health by Jane Roberts

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