Laura Opening- It’s a pleasure to have Florence Williams back at World Wise Beauty to chat about her latest book ‘Heartbreak’ a Personal and Scientific journey. Her previous book ‘Nature Fix’ is a favorite of mine and I highly recommend readers check it out if you missed it. I chose Heartbreak as the Spring Book Wise pick because I believe there are a-lot of heartbroken people out there right now. I also think it opens up a great conversation in our culture about our human social condition and the danger of too much isolation. From a wellness perspective the book elevates the understanding that our emotional health is supremely important to our physical health. There is so much to be gleaned from her latest book ‘Heartbreak’ and it deserves a strong introduction.
UNBREAK MY HEART
To start, Heartbreak is full of fascinating cutting-edge science on the effects of heartbreak on our mind, body, and spirit, while also being a raw personal story of the author’s own experience with heartbreak and her desire to speed up the healing process. Sound heavy? Well it is, but the research and her travel stories makes it bearable and extremely fascinating.
KILLING ME SOFTLY
The book is also an examination of the unraveling of a ‘self’ when we experience separation from our loved ones. It seems some relationships and marriages can either nurture our growth and enhance our well-being, or they can force parts of our identity into jail-cells and make us sick. It’s complicated! While you can become sick from a heartbreak, Florence discovered unhappy marriages can also chronically affect our health negatively. There is a lot of grey area with this topic, but it’s fascinating to learn just how important the quality of our attachments and social connectedness is to our health. But don’t lock up your heart just yet, it’s all survivable. It is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all right?
AS TIME GOES BY
I was impressed with how Florence merged her discovery of social science with her own account of grief and healing. Studying ‘social pain’ and why heartbreak hurts so much is no easy task when your own heart is aching from the loss of your marriage. I think doing the research for her book was a creative and empowering approach for getting through her loss and pain. No-one wants to hear “time heals all wounds”, but if not a healer, time can allow us space to breathe, restore, and recover.
On the upside, Florence has definitely made it through, and came out on the other side of her heartbreak stronger, wiser, and open to what’s next in her life. She also wrote an enlightening book for us all to reflect on. Florence William’s ‘Heartbreak’ is not just about heartbreak and divorce, it is also about how we human beings are hardwired for social connection, belonging, and interdependence. Before I get started with questions for Florence, I would like to share with her and my readers wise words from an Irish scholar and writer John O’Donohue.
“The Human Heart is a Theater of Longing.”
The arduous task of being a human is to balance longing and belonging so that they work with and against each other to ensure that all the potential and gifts that sleep in the clay of the heart may be awakened and realized in this one life.” ~John O’Donohue
Amen to that, and bravo to all of us on the hero’s journey of loving, connecting, and belonging. ‘Heartbreak’ is a must read if you want to understand how each part of our holistic being (mind, body, spirit) can guide us well if we attune to the trinity and nourish our social human experience.
Laura Connolly, Founder of World Wise Beauty
Laura Q- Thank you for joining me Florence to explore your new book ‘Heartbreak’. From a wellness lens your book connects dots I’ve embraced about holistic wellness over my lifetime. You met with many experts and I thought I’d ask you which area of science focused on social pain (i.e., heartbreak) really blew your mind? With reflection can you share a personal aha moment that deepened your understanding of yourself and the pain from the divorce?
Laura Q- Yes, I think the challenging part of the losing people we bond with whether it be a spouse, friend, or parent is what you candidly talk about in your book. It’s scary! When we experience a broken marriage, sometimes a part of our identity is enmeshed with the person who is no longer there, and we are left unmoored. This is probably why lots of experts recommend we grow and individuate before we plunge into a marriage. Love and commitment can be wonderfully expansive (when it’s good), but it also demands a certain amount of sacrifice when the ‘self’ takes a back seat to the expansiveness of the union. Can you share what you have learned about our human relationships from your research?
When a man gets rejected, he is more likely to turn violent and vengeful (and the violence is often directed at women). After divorce, men end up with more resources and enjoy higher earning potential. Divorced women are twice as likely to end up living in poverty. Women pay a higher price on the dating market for being middle-aged and older. Men are more likely to re-marry and to do it faster. But if men don’t remarry, they are more likely to suffer health consequences and to die earlier than their married or re-married peers. Single and divorced women do better on average than divorced men health-wise as they age, but not if they are too poor to afford good health insurance. In general, both sexes are more likely than their married peers to be depressed, to be lonely, and to suffer from chronic illness. The worst health effects occur in the first 4 years after separation.
Laura Q- Now that’s depressing research considering half of our country is divorced! One of the genomic researchers you worked with Steve Cole said ‘loneliness is one of the most toxic risk factors known to human health.” What is sad is it seems to be widespread and growing in America. This is why connecting the dots in science is so important. Stress affects our immune systems, and isolation and loneliness can increase our levels of cortisol in our bodies. Our mind, body, and spirit are connected and interdependent. When we care for all three, we protect ourselves from dis-ease. Can you expand on Steve’s important research in this context? And maybe throw in a silver lining!
Laura Q and Closing– The topics we touched on here are just snippets of what you will learn in ‘Heartbreak’. For the single and unattached people reading this, there is hope in the science too! Florence, can you share with us the difference between Hedonic happiness and Eudaemonic fulfillment. What does research bear out? Thank you for sharing your journey, and personal wisdom Florence! Wishing you peace in your heart.