Healing… When I meet new clients for their first session (the intake session) I ask them what brings them to therapy at that time and what they would like to get from their time in therapy. Often the answer is to heal. To heal from trauma, from emotional pain, from bad news, from grief, from unrequited love, from loss of a loved one, from miscarriage, from family rifts, to name just a few. I often ask what they have already tried in their quest for healing and more times than not the answer is “I don’t know where to start.” I too have experienced the feeling of not knowing where to start in my own process of healing. Feeling a pain so deep and excruciating that you don’t know what to do can often leave you feeling empty, hopeless, and downright sad and exhausted. Sometimes the feeling can be debilitating. It can be so uncomfortable that we’ll do anything to rid ourselves of it. Sometimes the feelings are so intense we try to work them away. We immerse ourselves in people, schedules, and work to try to escape the feelings. We deflect. We cover it. We try to bury it only for the real feelings to never be dealt with or resolved. So how do we start to heal from difficult emotions? Below are a few things I share with my clients and myself.
Be Still. Sometimes we are so focused on trying not to feel so we get as busy as we can. I read something once that said “Feeling the need to be busy all the time is a trauma response and fear-based distraction from what you’d be forced to acknowledge and feel if you slowed down.” How many of us identify with that? I feel pain, let's find more work to do. Let's call friends and socialize it away. What I often find from sitting with clients is that these behaviors are not sustainable and over time the real feelings start to surface. Our efforts to escape them don’t work anymore and we feel like you are not in control of your feelings. Being still gives us the opportunity to actually feel. Try to be still enough to allow yourself to feel even if it is for small amounts of time.
Acknowledge the Feeling. Once we are able to be still we can acknowledge the feeling, name it, and admit to ourselves that it is in fact a feeling that we have. This one is hard for a lot of us. For some of us it would take the jaws of life to pry our mouths open to physically say I am sad, my feelings are hurt, or even admit feeling emotional pain. It makes us vulnerable and vulnerability is often something we try to escape. Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions is difficult enough. Allowing yourself to acknowledge feelings is part of healing. We can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge.
Feel. What does it feel like? I can hear you saying, “What do you think it feels like?” It doesn’t feel good I know. Feeling difficult feelings is hard. In my own experience I have described it as lying on the ground exhausted from trying to be strong while being punched in the gut with no energy to punch back. A difficult image indeed. You may be able to identify with that image. You may have an image of your own. It may be helpful to describe the feeling. Talk about it with someone you know and trust, a friend, family member, or therapist. Maybe you journal about the feeling. Perhaps art is your outlet and you write a song or a poem, create a drawing or painting. Allow yourself to feel the emotion and find healthy ways to get it out.
Understand that Healing Isn’t Linear. There are days that you may feel great and you can tackle the world. Other days you may feel like the feeling is taking over and you can’t stop thinking about the thing(s) that caused you pain. Some days it creeps up on you and you don’t know why you’re crying or why you feel so angry. Yeah healing is not pretty or pleasant but when we allow ourselves to feel emotions this may happen. Understand that being okay one day(s) and not being okay the next day(s) is part of healing. Also understand that patience, grace, and self-compassion, are so very important in the process of healing. Allow the feelings to come when they come and allow them to go when they need to go.
Healing Has No Specific TimeFrame. Many clients come into my office saying, “This happened so long ago. I should be over it by now.” There is no grace or self-compassion in that statement. Healing is a process that at times we wish would end but we can’t turn on or off. We can’t speed it up or slow it down. It just is. We have to go through it to understand it and figure out where it fits in our lives. Allow yourself to let it come when it comes and do what you need to do to understand the feelings, work through them, and let it go. If you had a close friend or family member that was dealing with a difficult emotion and working through the healing process, what would you tell them in regards to their healing process? My hope is that you would offer words of love and encouragement. Tell yourself those things as you work toward healing. Always remember to treat yourself like someone you love at all times.
Choosing to heal is hard. Doing what you need to do to heal can be challenging. The process of healing is a courageous act. To allow yourself to face difficult emotions instead of mask them and dismiss them is such a brave act indeed. This process may be difficult to do alone. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable speaking to family or friends about those feelings. If this is the case a therapist, a third party who is nonjudgmental, doesn’t know you personally, and is bound by law to keep your information confidential may be helpful for you in your time of healing to listen to your story with new and fresh ears and offer some guidance in your process of healing. You don’t have to suffer in sadness and pain alone. I hope that you choose healing. While it is a process it is the way to being well and being happy which is my wish for each and every one of you in this life thing we’re doing. Love and light to everyone who this touches. Always remember to be well and be happy. ❤️💫