Posted by: Viola | October 30, 2015

Miss Havisham and what a broken heart can do

If you have read “Great Expectations” or watched the movie (the one starring Gillian Anderson), then you have an idea of who Miss Havisham was and how she lived. Left at the alter, jilted by her one great love (a man who, by the way, turned out to be a really awful person, so she was lucky to be rid of him), she opted (or felt compelled) to remain broken by the whole experience. So jaded was she about love that she sought to ruin it for the girl she had adopted, Stella. Ultimately, Miss Havisham felt that she had nothing to live for.

This is an extreme example, of course, but an example nonetheless of what can happen to a woman (and perhaps even a man) if a broken heart is not healed in some way. An unhealed broken heart can become a source of more pain and darkness in the world, it’s dark power almost unstoppable.

I refuse to believe that Miss Havisham had no other options in life. I refuse to believe that she couldn’t have explored those other potentially joyful and liberating options, especially since she had the financial means to do so. She had her own home, her own income/savings, and servants at her disposal. She could afford a life of her choosing.

The challenge for her was the society she lived in. Would that society have viewed her as a complete person, worthy of happiness as a single/unmarried lady? Probably not. Being abandoned at the alter by her prospective husband, she felt ashamed, embarrassed, made a mockery of, as if people were laughing at her and waiting for her to just go crazy and die. Her ability to find joy would have rested on her ability to block out the judgments of others, real or perceived judgments that were not serving her in any positive or constructive way.

Easier said than done, but that ability to tune others out would have saved her life and given her many chances at experiencing joy and maybe finding love again–love with a nicer man or with those close to her and entrusted to her care. She also could have just said, “Fuck it! Marriage and men and all. I don’t give a damn. I am who I am and I am awesome. And I won’t play that stupid game anymore.” 🙂

Many of us have a version of Miss Havisham inside us. This is why literature is so powerful, so true, so tangible to us–stories do represent what is deep within us, all the characters we inhabit or all the roles we house within us and all the stories we adopt and embody in our lives.

Most of us have what I would like to call “a Miss Havisham Complex”…an archetype of the broken-hearted person, the jilted person, the rejected and abandoned person, the victim who refuses to see past what has been hurtful and psychologically damaging in the past. Know anyone like this? See this person in yourself sometimes? That archetype alive and well within you?

Many of us realize this and do what we can to heal our hurts, to move forward in whatever way we can. But sometimes, we get stuck…or some of us choose to remain stuck, holding on to what hurt us deeply. Somewhere within us, the archetype lives on and directs our actions, reactions, choices, desires. We just cannot get over how badly we were shamed and rejected. This archetype is so powerful that it keeps us from trusting the future and reaching out to touch our own inner joy.

I don’t think the answer to a broken heart is to find love again. I really don’t. I think the answer to a broken heart and the way to begin the deepest form of healing is to turn inward, to reach within the self and see something new, a core of joy and light, a place of joyful possibilities. To live from that inner place of wholeness is the most authentic way I know of for healing the sore places in our lives where people or circumstances dealt us some hard blows.

Then, having turned inward and found a modicum of peace and joy there, we can turn outward and share that peace and joy with others and with the world at large. This doesn’t have to take the form of finding love again, romantically. It can manifest itself as serving others in positive ways, giving of our time and resources to those in need, or pursuing a calling that brings more light and heaing into the world.

Being happy, feeling deep joy, is sufficient in and of itself, because it means we are less likely to hurt others, less likely to break more and more hearts and continue the cycle of pain and victim-hood in our lives and in the lives of others. If Miss Havisham had been able to find some inner peace and joy and heal even a small room in her frozen-cold palatial heart, she would have seen that she was surrounded by people who wanted to love and honor her, people who could appreciate her and remain loyal to her.

With a small shift in perspective, Miss Havisham would have seen that, if love is what she wanted most in life, she already had love in heaps. Her life-story would have been different, would have ended differently. She would have lived to enjoy many a blissful moment for many, many years, and she would have created a joyful family for herself and had her pick of people to show love and kindness to and to receive love and kindness from. She could have experienced an abundance of love.


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