Heartbreaks Can Cause Heart Attacks

by John A. Speyrer

"If we break an arm and take painkillers for a week, everyone understands where
the pain is, how bad it might be, and the necessity for taking painkillers
. . . . But what if we have a broken heart?"
--Dr. Arthur Janov in Primal Healing

It is something which poets and philosophers have been writing about for almost forever and something that physicians have intuitively known -- "Heartbreaks can kill." And now research has been backing up this supposition that it is literally true. A study conducted by Roberto de Vogli, an epidemiologist at the University College London, looked at over 9000 British civil servants marriages and concludes that some types of unions can be deadly.

Even though statistics prove that married people live longer than those who were never married or who were divorced, take care, because it really depends on the type of spouse one has. A wag has suggested that married people really don't live longer. It's only because their lives seem to be longer!

Another study, published online in the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine in July, 2007, did not find that purported association between an unhappy marriage and risks for heart disease or early death. Yet the women in that study who, during their marital conflicts did not express their feelings, did die at a faster rate than did single men!

In the de Vogli study, both men and women had equal risks for death. Whomever had the heartbreak was susceptible to coronary problems. "When the researchers stripped out risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension, smoking, drinking and family history, the chance of a heart attack for people in bad relationships was still 23 percent higher, De Vogli said." [See Heartbreak can kill, study proves, sort of]

De Vogli noted that such treatment could make a person more hostile and angry, and also increase the risk of depression. People may also choose unhealthy ways of coping with the stress of unfair treatment, by smoking cigarettes or drinking excessively, he added.

When a future casualty of the killing field of marriage and close relationships makes one feel that they have been unfairly treated, physical and mental health suffers. Even, if in truth, they were not treated unfairly, believing that they were can be just as harmful.

"Consistent with the hypothesis suggesting that unfairness is a fundamental aspect of human behavior, social relations, and the organization of society, the frequency with which people experience unfairness may influence their physical and mental health, De Vogli and his colleagues conclude." [See Unfair treatment worsens physical, mental health]
ORIGINAL SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, June 2007.

In her book, Reclaiming Your Heartaches and Breaks, Psychologist Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., tries to put a positive spin on these catastrophes since she writes that the tragedy can make you more intuitive. Not only that, but she believes that "Heartbreak pushes us close to the edge of madness without having to fully lose it."

These are examples of positive thinking gone mad. Because you have not "lost it", she insists, you can concentrate your energies on the "subtle energies in your heart." Perhaps, one can offer thanks for only having experienced nervous prostration rather than a full blown psychosis! "You become more loving," as a result of that bad relationship. But, that is, if you don't develop a inhibiting phobia about such future relationships. However, all is not lost since after using all those defenses you somehow ". . . can choose to feel the pain and use it for your own benefit." [See Visionary Soul ]

I don't believe that defenses can help someone "feel the pain" of heartbreak. The author seems to believe that erecting defenses is the way to access and resolve the pain of our early traumas. I always thought the method was to dismantle the defenses, not to reinforce them.

The triggering of the original infantile feeling of "mama or daddy doesn't like me" or "please like me mama" is what is actually being unconsciously felt when the partner feels that he/she is being unfairly treated. Feeling the pain of the hurt of rejection accompanying the actual early repressed pains being triggered is the way to ultimately get to the original cast of characters and resolution of heart break.

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