Yoga for Mental Health

Wounds of the Heart:
The Closed Avoidant Heart &
The Needy Overcompensating Heart

The heart connects us to our deepest essence—and to the essence of life itself. It is a gateway to the soul and the sacred experience of life. When the heart is open and alive, we feel joyful, nourished, and peaceful. The vibrant heart brings sweetness and presence; we feel connected to ourselves and to the larger whole. Entering the heart is a feeling of coming home. Of being at rest and comfortable inside the self. Love is an integrating force. It integrates all the parts of us—the light and shadow aspects. It is the answer to our pain and suffering. Love makes us whole.
Even though we all have a beating heart right at the center of our chest, more people than ever feel lonely and empty, or are wounded. This organ−that is the source of so much beauty and sacredness in life−also carries some of our deepest emotions and grief. When we experience the pain of rejection, abandonment, betrayal, humiliation, and fear, the heart often closes itself to help us cope. Unfortunately, closing the heart shuts us off from what we so desperately need to thrive: love. When the heart is shut, we block the flow of love in our lives, both internally and externally.
We carry most of our heart-wounds with us from childhood. This is because children are sensitive. They are unaware of the larger context and circumstances of their experiences. Neither do they know how to frame their experiences.

Where and How We Learn ‘Love’

A stable inner source of love is created in children with parents who have a stable inner source of love. This means that the vast majority of lack of love is not caused by obvious mistakes in parenting—the child learns by feeling and imitating her parents. If as parents we ourselves have not developed a stable inner source of love, it is likely that our children won’t either. It is something that we pass on over generations. Unfortunately, there are also more obvious ways in which the sensitive heart of a child gets hurt. Children need to feel loved, safe, encouraged, and supported throughout their childhood. Neglect, rejection, smothering, abandonment, and abuse are just some of the ways in which the heart gets scarred.
Children and young adults who have not internalized a feeling of love may struggle with eating disorders, personality problems, anger, depression, and anxiety. Without a stable internal source of love, we may have difficulties expressing ourselves and getting our needs met. We may feel that we don’t have what it takes to deal with the challenges of life. And here’s the thing. Our pain and fear create patterns that confirm our belief of lack of love.

The Closed Avoidant Heart & The Needy Overcompensating Heart

To deal with this lack of love, we create coping strategies that either close the heart or overcompensate. When we close our hearts, we respond to wounds of love by withdrawing. As a result of pain, the heart makes its love conditional. It wants to receive before giving—because at its core, the heart feels depleted. The child who was not met with empathy has difficulties empathizing with others. Or one may be critical and judgmental, driving others away. In intimate relationships, people with a deficient heart energy are often the ones walking away in order to avoid getting hurt. The deficient heart at its core feels unlovable and lonely.
Where the deficient heart chakra is the result of an avoidant response to too little love, the compensating heart chakra overcompensates in an attempt to fulfill its needs. It uses love excessively to get one’s own need for love met. We overcompensate because of our own subconscious feeling of lack. This compensation strategy has a compulsive need to fixate on others. It takes care of others almost obsessively from our own denied needs for such care. This coping strategy creates dependency and codependency. Love is like a drug whose high keeps one away from one’s unresolved pain.
Neither the avoidant nor the compensation strategy leads to a fulfilled heart. They block the natural flow of giving and receiving. The previous closes us off from love altogether, while the latter obsessively seeks love through the other. We could say that symptoms of an avoidant strategy often manifest as a lack of love for others, while those of a compensating strategy manifest as a lack of love for oneself. Both stem from a feeling of lack of love, and neither strategy manages to fuel the heart with actual love.
Healing the heart is a gentle process that can not be forced. We cannot force the heart to open—and neither can we decide to suddenly have a stable inner source of love. The heart thrives on compassion and gentleness. When the heart feels safe and the conditions are right—this is the area where we can do our healing work—the heart will begin to go through its natural cycle of healing and blossoming.


Deniz Aydoslu, MA, is an advanced certified yoga and meditation teacher and expert in the therapeutic application of yoga and somatics for mental health. She helps women heal emotionally and restore their connection to Spirit by integrating the body, heart, inner child, and soul into a meaningful whole. She offers deeply transformative work as well as simple tools to improve well-being, creativity, and productivity through fun, easy, and nourishing self-care tools.

As an experienced yoga and meditation teacher, somatic educator, and shamanic psychotherapy practitioner, she infuses her work with the healing power of love and the value of nature as medicine.