The word mind is generally defined as what goes on in your head – thoughts, imaginings, inventions, problem-solving, analysis, planning, dreams, post-mortems, self-criticism, judgements, appraisals, memories. When individuals miss the fact that the word ‘mind’ also means ‘to care for’ then such mind without heart is not mind at all! In other words, when the heart qualities of love, tenderness, nurture, empathy, support, comfort, warmth, affection are not present, the head without the heart can prove to be rigid, judgemental, controlling, inflexible, arrogant, depersonalising, superior, dismissive and intolerant. Our human nature only achieves equilibrium when the polarities of head and heart, feminine and masculine and right-brain and left brain are in harmony with each other. When the head, which is largely about ‘getting ahead’ – an outward movement – is not balanced by the inward movement of the heart, it can rule in a heartless way and be a major source of threat to the wellbeing of others. For example, the man who is highly ambitious – success being his God – will neglect his relationship with his wife and children resulting in considerable trauma for them. In the workplace, the loss of his own valuing of himself will manifest in a depersonalising of other staff members and clients. Whilst he does this unconsciously from a deep insecurity and a need to be visible through success, the reality is that his head without heart for himself, his partner, children and employees results in threats to his own wellbeing and that of the significant others in his life. I recall one businessman saying to me that when colleagues warned him that his intense working schedule would give him a heart attack, his response was ‘I won’t get a heart attack; I’m the one who gives heart attacks.’ The emotional disconnection evident in this stark and harsh assertion ‘I give heart attacks’ shows very clearly the major danger posed by a mind without heart. Incidentally – and sadly – three years later he suffered a heart attack – hence his seeking psychotherapeutic help recommended by an astute medical general practitioner. Sometimes it takes a major psychological crisis or illness to bring about a consciousness of hidden vulnerabilities that need resolution.
What is often not appreciated is that if mind without heart is a considerable threat to wellbeing, heart without mind is also darkness within and between people. The person who over-involves themselves in the life of another (for example, mother with child, friend with friend, wife with husband, employee with employer) is without mind. If mind – understanding, outwardness, determination, ambition, intention, assertion – were present then the over-belonging would be perceived as a dependence on the other, a living one’s life for the other and, thereby, making it difficult – particularly, for a child – to live his or her own life. Indeed, many intimate couple relationships are troubled due to an over-involved partner living her life through her partner or the opposite scenario is common, whereby one partner jealously possesses, dominates and blocks any bid for independence on the pat of his partner. A similar over-involvement can occur in the workplace. I have helped individuals who bent themselves over backwards for their employers – living their lives for them – only to be devastated when criticised or, worse still, made redundant. Basically, over-involvement with another is both that ‘I should be there for you and live my life for you’ and ‘You should be there for me and live your life for me’. Individuals who tend to be passive are more likely to live for others and those who bully and are aggressive demand ‘others live for them’; either way it is not a mature and happy situation. Individuals then who are over-involved and enmeshed with another are in an unconscious state of denial and unless they become mindful – conscious – of their dependence on the other, then their own maturity is seriously blocked. This unhappy situation has its origins in childhood – in the key relationship between a parent and a child – but, as adults, whatever happened to us in childhood, the matter is now in our own hands. However, for mindfulness to emerge, the person who is over-involved needs to encounter somebody who stays separate from her or him and provides the unconditional holding that creates the support for the crucial disengagement that is required. Without such support, it is unlikely that heart with mindfulness will emerge.
Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist/Author of several books including Myself My Partner.