Healing is not for sissies, not by a long shot.
I believe it is far easier to remain as we are than to embark on a healing journey. And, easy sounds….well, easy.
The Call to Wholeness
The call to wholeness is a sacred journey embarked upon solely by the audacious. Indeed, wholeness is a heroine’s (or hero’s) adventure into the unknown.
Mending our bruised — or damaged — souls takes courage. The journey to wholeness doesn’t happen in a linear fashion, despite our fond hopes that it should.
Drawing from my experience, the healing process usually involves taking three steps forward and subsequently, two quick steps backward. Sometimes, the journey is comparable to a hike on a very slippery — and muddy — slope where we see the summit but can’t seem to reach it, much less stand upon it. Instead, we trip and fall and then, speedily slip back all the way down to square one; muddy, bruised, exhausted, and often, hopeless
What’s the use?.
At this juncture, quitting seems like the only logical and astute choice.
Why bother putting any effort into a scheme which appears doomed to failure?
At this point, it certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that hard work doesn’t pay and that this plan doesn’t seem to be worth your effort.
A Word Picture
Allow me to share a story.
Picture this: you are by all accounts a tad overweight and out of shape. You are therefore invited by a friend to participate in a new health program. This proposal sounds like a perfectly grand idea. You seize the moment and graciously accept the offer.
You are all in.
You are wholly committed. As a matter of fact, commitment is now your middle name. With unwavering determination and devotion, you follow all the rules…all of them…to a T.
No junk food passes your lips, and you exercise daily, as requested. By all account, you have become the poster child for this program.
You have become an inspiration and a role model.
The program comes to an end.
You are asked to step on the scale.
Drum roll, please…
… plus ten pounds.
At this point, quitting seems wise and the only sensible choice.
The draw now is to sit on the couch, binge on your favorite TV show, and please, pass the potato chips and that caramel sundae, extra fudge, nuts and whipped cream, thank you very much.
If there appears to be no payoff for all your valiant efforts, why bother?
Darkness Surrounds me Like a Blanket
As I write this post, a client of mine contacted me this morning to share she is in a bad place.
Her emotions are intense and overwhelming. The pain is all too real, and the fear of “what’s next” is paralyzing.
The work she has done so far has unearthed some emotional bodies she long ago buried.
Buring our feelings is always an attractive choice albeit a deceptive one. Feelings buried alive never die, They do, however, take on a life of their own — in the shadows where they now lurk.
Living in the darkness renders them more powerful and controlling. Obscurity makes uncomfortable and scary emotions grow and take root.
These unprocessed emotions only die when allowed to fully manifest and when we pass through them. There is — unfortunately — no detour to healing. The only way out is through.
Yeah, I am not any happier about this than you are. As a matter of fact, I really hate it.
The Dark Place
The thought of sitting with our dark, scary, or painful feelings is quite overwhelming not to mention uncomfortable. We fear they will swallow us whole and that we will never be free of them nor find our way back to “normal” — whatever this term means for us.
At this juncture, the status quo appears like the only sane and painless solution. Granted, we know this solution may not be the best option. Nevertheless, we know we can live with this quick fix better than the pain of sitting with of big raw emotions.
It takes gumption and courage to stay in the dark place in spite of the fact that it feels we shall remain there forever and maybe that we shall even cease to exist.
I am keenly aware of the picture I have painted and that it sounds quite dramatic. However, this sounds theatrical only to those who have never been lost in the clutches of emotional pain; this dim and barren no man’s land which I usually refer to as “the pit.”
Strangely enough, science taught us that talk therapy is not useful in healing emotional wounds. Trauma isn’t stored in the conscious mind as other memories are. Talking can instead retraumatize the individual.
When we are fearful, we are no longer in control of our cognitive processes, therefore, any therapy which involves the cognitive mind is doomed to fail.
I am certainly no expert, nor am I a psychologist, nevertheless, I know what worked for me and which has worked for my family and loved ones.
I have found three techniques to be efficient at reducing and dispelling fear:
- Breathing – when we are afraid, our thinking becomes cloudy and our breathing shallow. Breathing deeply will allow us take in more oxygen and to abort the fear response.
- Journaling – journaling helps to engage our unconscious mind and assist us in processing big feelings. When I say journaling, I mean writing without thought of penmanship, punctuation or spelling and to do so for a minimum of 15 minutes.
- Qigong – I must preface that meditation and yoga also can have beneficial effects on anxiety. Personally, I prefer qigong.
Note: I will add further resources below this post.
When it comes to finding the wherewithal to pursue healing, each individual must dig deep and find his (or her) own way. There is not a one size fits all approach.
I admire my client. She is a woman in her late 60s who is still walking the hard road toward freedom. Her odyssey is not a pleasant nor a simple one.
I can’t fix her emotions for her, I can’t carry her out of the pit, I can’t care more about the outcome than she does, and I won’t work at her healing harder than she is willing to work at her own healing.
What I can do is be there for her while she sits in her pit. I can be available to compassionately listen and empathize with her plight. While her story is not mine and her emotions are her own, I have been where she is…in a pit of my own. My burden wasn’t the same, and it doesn’t need to be. The feelings of being lost, afraid, and overwhelmed are not unknown to me. To the contrary, I know them well, and this is why I can sit with her wherever she is.
Taking a breather is fine as is backtracking for a bit. Any progress forward is still a victory even when we stop — or regress — for a while.
Indeed, healing isn’t for the fainthearted. The process is certainly not as simple as healing from a cut, a skinned knee, or a broken arm. However, we do possess the power to heal. There are survivors and “thrivers” all around us. Case in point, my client is such a person despite the fact she is indeed at this moment in the pit. She does not intend to stay there — she won’t stay there. She just needs to push “pause,” breathe deeply and take the time to nourish her soul.
In time, she will proceed, and I will continue to root for her.
I am still a bit of an idealist, and I believe in the power of healing. Wholeness is our birthright as are being loved and belonging.
Healing is not for the weak that’s for sure, but for some healing is not an option. Wholeness calls to some of us like the siren’s song, and despite the arduous journey ahead, we can’t do any less than answer the Call.
And while the journey can be laborious and demanding, the destination is almost always well worth the effort.
Two minutes of this exercise will help anxiety. It can be performed multiple times a day.
- Mind–Body Medicine and the Art of Self-Care: Teaching Mindfulness to Counseling Students Through Yoga, Meditation, and Qigong
- Biopsychosocial Effects of Qigong as a Mindful Exercise for People with Anxiety Disorders: A Speculative Review
- Teaching Self-Care Through Mindfulness Practices: The Application of Yoga, Meditation, and Qigong to Counselor Training
- The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adult
- Journaling for Mental Health