In my work with children, I think about heartstrings a lot. There are so many different kinds. The ones that we pick up for a while, clutch to our heart and use as a lifeline. These are important and bold, but can go dormant for periods of time Others that we are born with, that are embedded deep within our soul and no amount of time, no amount of bad deeds, changes the strength and importance of that bond. There are even heartstrings that begin loosely held things that grow deep into our hearts and lives to form the bedrock of our self concept and life.
Children have an instinctive understanding of heartstrings. They are ready and willing to pick up new ones all the time. "He loves his new teacher!" "I made a new friend today!" This ability is part of the magic and innocence of childhood. It is also part and parcel of most of the pain. Imagine if you had a string set in your heart and someone walked away. Or used it to pull you close and hurt you. Or threatened to cut it off. What would you do? You would pull back, attempt to protect yourself from picking up another bad one, or hide the string.
My job is a heartstring doctor. I like to say that heartstrings, particularly ones to parents and other family, no matter how long, no matter how far, nothing can take away that connection. Parents who try to extract a heartstring from their child create damaged children. I help those in my office and in my play room to acknowledge their connections, give those connections protection and boundaries, and learn to handle them well. My interns and I work on disinfecting heartstrings and pulling out the poison that is tainting relationships.
This work is a pleasure and it is an honor. Heartstrings to a therapist are one of those you pick up and put down when they aren't needed. For us, though, we choose to dangle out there the strings to our hearts and allow others to hold them as long as they choose. This last month I have met a few former clients. It is amazing how those heartstrings snap back in place. If you have ever held one of my heartstrings, know that they are forever.