This question is a part of bigger inquiry driving my life. I see so much pain and suffering in others, it is my lens to the world. I can’t help my curiosity (or obsession) about the methods and modalities that guide each of us towards healing. This is the beginning of the search but I have many experiences (mine and from others) to draw upon that I will reference. One important note about how I’m framing healing is that I’m currently viewing our human psychology as a spectrum on one end we experience challenges and an imbalance due to the mind being too rigid, getting stuck and being in a loop (i.e. ruminations) and on the other end, the mind being entropic and chaotic without ways to structure or organize thoughts and feelings. The best place to be would be in the middle of these two ends, the best place is a balance between rigidity and chaos. That is the intention I am seeking in my own inquiry and to add one more important note, I have deep experience with the manifestations of rigidity which I believe are directly tied to depression, anxiety, addiction and obsessive-compulsive. I will focus my writing and sharing around the rigidity of my own mind and what my healing journey has taught me along the way. I am very interested in learning more about the other side, the entropic mind and my intention is to learn and share more about this over time.
I define healing as the journey that returns us to whole. Specifically, I breakdown healing into two main parts:
#1 as an empowerment of the self, which is the ability to act for your own wellbeing (this requires trust)
#2 as a reconnection to the self and others
To heal when we are wounded requires a safe place. Somewhere we can be exposed, breakdown and be vulnerable without fear of negative consequences such as judgement or being penalised.
Our modern health system in the west does not view healing in this way. They first diagnose by judging based on symptoms that appear and use a medical construct that labels the patient as having a disease or condition.
How do you become empowered?
The first two steps in Alcoholics Anonymous are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Does this feel empowering or disempowering to you? I’m not here to hate on AA, I actually believe that this provides a great community for my second point below about reconnection. But with this inquiry about empowerment, I feel that this line of thinking is flawed. There is a strong religious tone for AA. I’m not here to hate on religion either, BUT do you believe that someone in pain should be made to feel powerful or powerless?
Let’s take another example. I have a friend that has had challenges with depression following her pregnancy and a dependency on alcohol. Even in writing these words, I catch myself. What does this tell you about her? Not much, these are the symptoms. These are the manifestations of what I believe are emotional wounds. I refer to these emotional wounds as traumas. When I was with her, she slipped into an episode where she was unable to function and we decided to have her go to detox at a nearby hospital. In going through this experience, I was amazed by how others reacted and the usage of labels like “alcoholic” and “mentally-ill” person. There were so many assumptions thrown around, many of them being that someone with these problems will always have these problems and that I should remove myself from the situation. This attitude is widely used across society — where binge drinking, excessive partying is acceptable yet when a human becomes a problem, we run for the exits. We label, we abandon, we get angry, we disempower. I’ve even hesitated in bringing up this story because there is a real person behind it and while I believe in honoring privacy, these are issues that need to be talked about. We are all getting this wrong and we don’t even see it.
I believe that we all heal in different ways. We have different experiences and we are all unique as humans in so many ways. To expect that we all would heal from the same medication or the same type of therapy to me, is a failure to appreciate our humanity. I’ve seen one of my friends heal through forgiveness and gratitude. I’ve seen my partner heal through self expression and finding her voice. I’ve personally healed through facing fears, finding safe spaces to explore and express myself and then creating my own safety. My own safety is this bubble of energy around me where the pain, the judgements and the actions of others don’t touch me. If anything occurs, it is my own doing and then I look inward and inquire with compassion for myself. There are no rules to how we heal besides we need to first be safe, then we need to lead the journey ourselves. We need to seek and find our wound, we have to love ourselves through it and we can begin to heal.
The orientation that we are dependent on an outside force to restore us does exactly what it says, it creates a life long dependency. If we tell someone they have a disease and they will always have it, I believe this puts someone in a state of hopelessness. What are they aspiring toward then? This orientation lacks hope. Don’t get me wrong, there are many people that can live great lives and are kind to others through all of this. I have friends in AA and they are loving people. But, I believe that they would be better served by an empowering orientation. Their lives could be even better than they are now. And for those that struggle, that aren’t loving and kind — those stuck in the loop of what we label as addiction, depression, anxiety, obsessive behaviors, etc. I believe they can break their patterns and move into healing if they are first empowered. Step 1 is to empower and we need to be in a safe place for that. Anyone in a crisis doesn’t feel safe, which can be physical, emotional or spiritual safety. If someone’s system is compromised, they can’t act powerfully in that state.
When we aren’t safe, we begin to feel the things we’ve been avoiding. We avoid feel the pain in our body because it hurts. For our survival, our brains response to pain is to move away from it. To not feel. The use of substances is a choice we make, to not feel how we feel. To not be who we are being. There is a hidden belief inside us that is holding us stuck in place. By avoiding the pain and the belief we become powerless. I don’t believe there is any external force that can change this, it can only be done from within.
I want to help so many people. I want to be a hero, a savior. I used to love Superman and aspire to be like him. I don’t think I’ve ever lost that feeling. It was like he spoke to a part of me that wanted to fly into a room where there was pain and make everyone safe again. I believe I have done that many times. But I’m not a hero. It isn’t the best orientation for me because it’s tied to a part of me that wants to feel superior for all of the times I’ve felt inferior. For all the times I felt worthless and shameful about who I am. I want to prove to my past self that I’m not a loser, but I don’t want that to be at the expense of others. Deep down, I really don’t believe I’m special or above anyone else. I desire fairness and get angry when myself or others aren’t treated with respect. This goes for those with mental health challenges whether its my friend or someone living under a bridge. A hero stands out from the crowd, but I’m just like you. I want you to see and feel the same for me. Someone was my hero on my healing journey and they are imperfect and breakdown too. We want to transcend our humanity and it may be possible, but not alone. We are all connected in some way that science probably won’t discover in this lifetime, if ever. I believe this in my heart and soul. I am humble but not powerless to the things I don’ t understand. I can control my next action. I can control the energy I offer to myself and others. I am in a good place today and I am so grateful.
How does someone reconnect to themselves (body, heart, soul) and to others?
At a basic level, all humans need safety and belonging. A trauma creates a threat or downright violation of one or both of those core needs. We look at trauma as this negative, terrible thing that we hope to avoid. When we have an emotional wound and we feel it, it triggers a response that can manifest as emotions and/or a physical response. This is a good thing! This is a signal. Something isn’t right. There is something here I need to inquire about. There is a belief here that I need to rewrite. I’ve personally dealt with PTSD, which is actually a constant barrage of feeling triggered. This is when the system is going haywire and you lose trust in your ability to know what is safe or unsafe, good or bad. It’s really hard and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. PTSD goes beyond the conscious, thinking brain. It goes deep into the body and the feeling brain. The traumatic experience and event sits here being replayed across our body in numerous ways — our inner ear, muscle tension and our nervous system responses to the inputs of our five senses.
Reconnection began for me with coming back to child-like body awareness. Today, I have awareness of where I hold tension and stress (my shoulders and neck), how my body reacts when I’m going through an emotional time. I used to get angry and then repress it. This would then shut my emotions and self expression off. This made me feel worse. I would be unable to sleep and get stuck in my head with thought loops on repeat until they didn’t make sense. My chest can get tight over my heart when I’m holding back love, when I’m afraid to be myself freely and safely. To be who you are, you don’ t have to “do” anything. You have to allow, you have to remove the things that block you, all of the emotions and worries and past and future. You have to be here, right here in the present. When you can feel your body, it’s like having a compass. You can check to see where your going, how a certain direction feels for you. When you’ve lived without a compass for so long, you feel lost. I’ve been there and feeling lost is really hard too. I’ve wandered around the world looking for myself, meeting all different kinds of people and cultures. I started to see a pattern, the good people I met were all different culturally but they kept reflecting back to me who I was. The same thing theme kept appearing. I am pure, I am safe, I am love. I bring good energy. My face lights up when I feel safe and free. I can be intellectual and have wonderful conversations about all kinds of topics, but my favorite thing is when I’m feeling something, I can capture that moment and I can share a part of me with others. It brings us closer, its a common thread that binds us all. I’ve seen how in those moments its contagious, those around me will open their hearts. They feel safe, they share, they connect to their hearts. They feel something they were avoiding, they work through it. I am an instrument for them and they are one for me. This is my spiritual beliefs, which are founded on the intense belief that we are all connected. Like the time, when I was younger when I was snorkeling and a school of fish surrounded me in the clear blue water. We were all so close but we didn’t touch. We were one. It was so powerful to feel in that moment, it was this feeling that I already knew. I’ve come back to this moment in my dark times when I’ve hurt someone or I’ve been hurt. That memory, that experience I will always cherish. Others may have experiences with the universe or god, I don’t judge your interpretation. I just believe it’s so important to feel a deep connection to yourself and others. So deep it cannot be shaken by scandal, by fear, by pain.
When we find ourselves, we have our compass. We can start heading in the direction that is calling for us. This is the opposite of trauma and pain. Those are signals that we are going the wrong way, that something isn’t aligned. The connection to our body is deeper, past our story-telling, intellectualising brain. When we find ourselves and express what is in our heart and soul, it sets off an energy, a signal to be received by some but not all. I’ve had times where I felt alone, like no one understood me. I felt like no one could see me, yet I was hiding. I can be really good at hiding. I’ve made a rule for myself now that there is no hiding, if I’m uncomfortable telling those that I love about something I did, I probably need to reconsider whether it’s worth doing. What am I ashamed of? For example, I’m in an open relationship with my partner. I have thought experiments where I find someone attractive and I run through the process of having a sexual and physical experience with them. I think about how I would feel after that. What comes up for me is feeling the lack, feeling guilt and disconnected. Feeling unfulfilled. Before I even create this experience, I can feel in my body how it would be to share this story with her. How it’s not the me that I believe I am, it’s not who I want to spend my time and energy being. My compass is my body. My compass tells me the direction before I take the next step. When you start connecting to this authentic self, the real and unedited version. You start to attract others in a beautiful way that I can’t begin to explain. I’ve experienced it. I recently put my truth out into the world, my first art piece. It was my heart for all to see, with the scars and the beauty and all its parts. It’s now become a podcast and there are people that reach out that hear our voices, but it’s more than that. Their energy feels us, it feels me. We are born from the same explosion in the stars, we can’t all connect and understand each other, but I believe there is love, a tribe and a community for all of us. We just have to be safe within, express our truest self, release and allow for the unknown. I believe that if you do this, you will begin to heal. You will be powerful and free and love yourself and others in ways you never believed possible. I believe we are all capable of being whole. Healing is the practice of returning to that place, returning to our truest self which is whole, which is love. I believe this is what we are here for, this is my message to the universe and it brings tears to my eyes to finally share it 35 years into this human experience. This is healing my wound healing too, so thank you for reading.
I cannot go into the darkness for anyone. I’ve tried and it consumes me too. It doesn’t work. I can only shine my light, the best I know. If you can see me, let me know. It makes me smile. My heart and soul are an open door to you.
I dedicate this to my source of inspiration, CAM. I love you.