Knowing our pain, healing our lives
Difficult and liberating truths about choosing the path of healing.
It is a cruel and freeing truth: we are in charge of our own healing. Outsides sources and structures might hinder or support, people may harm or help, but ultimately, we are the only ones who can claim our own wholeness.
In order to heal, we must get to know ourselves; we must learn the contours of our own wounds.
This is a brave endeavor. To take this path requires safe spaces and people who can hold us as we: begin to come into our wholeness, gently invite our tender places to come into the light, and show our defenses that there could be new ways to take care of ourselves. We need spaces to sort through all of our confusion, where we can be witnessed in our imperfection, our messy emotions, and our struggle to change. We need to be held with compassion and allowed to grow, even if we have failed a thousand times before. It is not a path for the faint of heart, but the rewards are great.
The more we heal, the better we get at discerning what is good for us, who gives us energy, and the places, people, and situations that leave us depleted and gasping for air. It is a practice of untangling who we are from who we are told or expected to be by our culture, religion, society, family, partner, friends, and our own minds. It is the courage to sit with our own particular wounds and decide that we will choose to heal instead of causing ourselves or others further harm. In my work, I witness how difficult it can be to break free of these patterns and how painful it can be to keep living in a way that is against who we are and what we believe in.
Many structures and messages in our culture bind, control, and harm us (e.g. "women have to be nice all the time," "men can't be sad," "we are only valuable when we are producing something," "it is correct for marginalized people to be in positions of inferiority"). These toxic messages are like breathing heavily polluted air - they constantly negatively impact our health until one day we have a cough and we don't know why. While we may not be able to change the air quality, we can take measures to protect our health within a toxic environment.
It is a hero's journey to reclaiming our pristine worth as a person. The more we believe and integrate toxic messages, the more difficult it can be to free ourselves. The more that structures of oppression and privilege act against our humanity, the harder it can be to claim our worthiness. I do not mean a worthiness that comes out of a defended, fearful place, but a true worthiness that allows us to relax in our own body and know that we are deserving of love and belonging.
Along the path of healing, we must learn to:
- recognize the origin of our wounds
- develop awareness around social/family messages that harm us
- allow for the pain of our experiences
- develop compassion for ourselves, especially the wounded part
- learn how to discern people, places, and experiences that are healthy and
- learn healthy strategies to protect ourselves in situations that could harm us
- develop practices of self-compassion, self-care, and self-love
- develop relationships with communities who value our worth and defend our
- take our time and learn to forgive ourselves
- practice small actions that help us build confidence in living the life we desire
Our lives are an evolution, a practice of coming back to ourselves. We are allowed to make mistakes. We are allowed to have bad days. We are allowed to try and fail and try again. We can always make a new choice and a new choice can lead to a new life. When we are stuck, there is often an unhealed wound to tend to. While we may desperately want someone else, especially someone who caused the wound in the first place, to heal it for us, they cannot. We have no control over whether they change, heal, apologize, or make amends. It is one of the hardest truths. We are the only ones who can sit with our wounds, ask share our pain, be held in our truth, and weave a new life for ourselves.
Here is to your courage. Here is to your grace and your ability to choose again. Here is to your whole, love-able and worthy self.