“Be brave enough to heal yourself…even when it hurts. The strength is in our scars.” - Bianca Sparacino
As I have been bound at home physically healing from a painful repair this past week, I have been in awe of the magical miracle of healing. Just as our bodies break down or suffer trauma and need intense and dedicated external attention and recovery, so does the inside of us where our emotions and feelings reside. Why do we take time for one kind of healing but push away the other?
If you ask me what the first step to getting your life together is, I will unwaveringly tell you that everything starts with leaning into and working toward healing. Full healing internally and externally.
If you just groaned, trust me, you aren’t alone. The minute I utter the word “healing”, a large majority of people shut down. Why do we do this?
I think one reason we do this is because it requires work, challenging, sometimes grueling work. There’s risk involved. It can change and even break us in the process. Ultimately, it demands us to risk feeling. Feeling the hard stuff.
With all of that aside - healing is complicated because most of us are not taught how to properly heal, when needed. It’s not like most of us are given useable, fundamental knowledge to move through our experiences in a healthy and grounded manner, whether in our childhood homes or within the education system. As adults, there is a wealth of “knowledge” at our fingertips, but even that has its limits. I mean, have you ever Googled the word healing? The number of links will make your head spin.
Here’s why: What you find on Google often devalues two fundamental truths. Number one, the “how-to,” “do this, do that,” “checklist” culture of social media and the world wide web, in regards to healing and our emotions, simply does not work for everyone because of its structure. If it did, we would have a world of happy, healed, and thriving humans.
The reason why this formula does not work is that it is not individualized for our personal experiences. It takes away the idea that each individual must do what works for them, within their unique circumstances. Parameters and techniques for healing can be offered, but it all comes back to what works for the individual.
Number two, healing is never a linear process; meaning, it’s never a straight-line. We have to bend and make changes as new emotional information is discovered and occurs. This means healing is, in fact, as individual as the person seeking it.
This realization can be frustrating. I get it. We all want answers. We want the gold standard of rules and instructions so we can move on. And when I say, “Healing is a process,” it never seems to fail that the next natural question sounds something like: “If there’s not a straight-line process, then can you tell me how long it should take to get over this break-up, a significant death, a job loss, health issue, trauma…” This question requires me to pause once again because I know the answer will not be well-received. “No one can give you an answer as to how long it takes to heal. There is absolutely no measure of “should” when it comes to healing.”
Does that mean healing is an endless and hopeless process? Absolutely not! It means you must understand the process to move through the process. The act of healing depends on so many factors—how deep the trauma of the situation was/is, how deep-seated the coping skills are that you’ve developed to avoid/deal with the trauma, and how willing you are to meet yourself in the healing process. Healing demands we level up, lean in, and sometimes battle until we break through to the other side of our inner/outer pain and emotions.
If you are willing to engage your life, the situation, and all the walls, barriers, and coping skills you’ve adopted, healing can absolutely be yours. It’s essential to know that when hard things or trauma occur, there are several common reactions such as fear, anxiety, denial, anger, and hopelessness. Understanding this helps remind us that we are not alone in our responses.
You can start by recognizing that there is nothing wrong with you. This is a huge step as it works to eliminate that word ‘why.’ How many times have you asked yourself, “Why me?” “What is wrong with me that this situation or bad things continue to happen?” Or, “How could I have let this happen?”
Things happen—we all break. We all experience brokenness because of our actions or the actions of others. Like it or not, it’s a part of our development in this journey called life, and it’s an essential tool in our learning and growth.
From there, we can begin to take our power back.
To heal, it’s important to accept and acknowledge where you are. Look at the situation at hand and ask yourself, “What is the real problem?” Look at that sentence. It does not say, “What do I feel the real problem is?” What you are seeking to understand are the facts. Facts look and sound like: This occurred, and I responded this way. Facts. Then, this happened, and I reacted this way. Facts.
The facts are where we begin to understand the scope of any situation without dirtying it with feelings. Why is this needed? Feelings are not facts. They are not necessarily based on or in truth. Feelings are impulses, imprints of our individual beliefs, thoughts, and perspectives—again, all of which are not entirely fact-based. Think of it this way—feeling fearful means something different to me than it does to you, because we’ve had different life experiences and hold different perspectives.
If you still struggle with drilling into the facts, switch the question. Ask: “How did I arrive here?” With the answer in hand, then ask, “Where do I want to go now?” Again, look to the question. It doesn’t say, “Where do I feel I want to go now?” These fact-driven questions are far better direction pointers than the open-ended question of why or being solely guided by our emotional reactions.
Once the facts are established, it’s time to be open and honest with yourself. This is the place where most people abandon healing. It’s here that it becomes risky and heavy. It’s here that’s important to ask yourself, “What is my role in this situation?” “What is my responsibility?” It’s easy to assign blame to someone else while limiting our personal ownership, but doing so gives away our power. If we continue to blame, it requires the other party to take action for our healing to truly begin. Until we release blame, there cannot be freedom.
From here, it’s time to honor your emotions. It’s nearly impossible to reach this place until we understand the facts. The facts help us understand the impact of our feelings and what they are trying to show us. Within this, it’s far easier to witness the impulses, the “feelings” you feel. Validating each emotion present shows us the particular lesson each emotion has been working to handle over. Think about it. Fear and anger are excellent teachers of boundaries. Feelings of happiness show us our likes and desires. Feeling worried can help establish what we find important or where we’ve tied value in our lives. If you feel afraid you will lose a particular relationship, you could witness that you value the relationship. Emotions do teach; it’s our job to listen. You may find it helpful to write down the feelings and what value you’ve assigned to the emotion while doing the heavy work of healing.
This will help you answer the next valuable and pertinent question. “What is my truth?” Meaning, what is the truth of the situation now? If you have done the work, the reality of the situation is likely to be quite different than when you first began this process. Asking this question helps us make meaning out of the experience—there is always meaning. It also directs us to what we’ve learned. What we’ve learned guides us to establish new behaviors and boundaries. Without understanding the facts, the emotional impact, and moving these new understandings into grounded and helpful behaviors, we will continue to struggle to release, reset, and redirect ourselves productively.
Lastly, it becomes essential to look for roadblocks—places and emotions that you may respond to in a way that doesn’t benefit you or the healing work you’ve done. When we have challenging experiences, we anchor the moment. If you look for roadblocks ahead of time and establish grounded reactions before another experience happens, it will help you when emotional tests occur. This is not the same as forecasting how something will happen. This is simply setting guidelines for yourself. Such as: if I find myself in a heated moment with this person, instead of reacting in anger, I will allow myself two days before I respond. If the person is in front of me, I will offer a line of reasoning such as: “I see and feel your upset. I’m going to take time to think about how I feel and the facts before I respond.” It may feel impossible to hold this kind of space for yourself, but it’s not. It simply requires practice.
You are most likely now starting to see why healing is so individual and the “do this, do that” culture actually does not work. It all comes back to you, how you show up, and at what level you put healthy practices in place. However, if you do so choose to be guided in this process, once you’ve gone through the experience, you may ask: “How do I know if I am healing?” Here are a few signs to show you that you are on the right track:
1. You are able to accept your experience, instead of pushing it away.
2. You can experience your emotions and make them work for you.
3. What scared you before becomes acceptable and manageable.
4. You begin to make changes.
5. You understand that there is something more for you than brokenness.
6. You find yourself talking about your happiness, instead of your suffering.
7. The physical symptoms begin to ease—the pain in your body, the emptiness, sleepiness, etc.
8. You find yourself enjoying your life
Be brave enough to heal yourself even when it hurts. Realize that when we are brave enough to share our healing journey with others, we give others the courage to do the same. We are in this together. Ask for the help and support that you need. As we move towards this… we move towards a healthier and more whole version of our true self and a more loving and connected community.