On Pain and Real Healing

I have the utmost respect for the healer who helps the healing process unfold naturally, who is able to create and hold the space. Healing is a process that happens automatically when given the right kind of space.

I see a toxicity in our modern understanding of healing, which is the application of medicine towards numbing, or suppressing.

Real healing happens when we face that which we are trying to run from. Which is to say… there is a part of the life process that is deeply uncomfortable. Life hands us pain and we say, “Oh no, that hurts! Make it go away!” Modern medicine gives us the option to do just that. “Here, take this, it will make the pain go away.” We numb and suppress the sensations we do not like. We run away from them.

… But the pain does not truly go away. It can only be stalled out. And the thing is, life is more wise than we are. It does not hand us pain to hurt us. It hands us pain because pain is just a part of life. The true effect of avoiding pain is the stifling of the life force itself. We create blockages in ourselves, and that blocked energy becomes tension and fear. Bits of it spill out chaotically and uncontrolled. It causes illness. There is an idea that all illness can be traced back to blocked flow, which is exactly what is created when things happen in our lives, in our bodies, that we refuse to fully experience. If it doesn’t flow through us, if we don’t find a way to express it, it buries itself inside us and we carry it with us, hidden. This is what trauma is.

I see it as a great tragedy that our system of medicine feeds the belief that pain isn’t real, isn’t normal, isn’t important. That life can be lived without pain and difficulty. That we can and should lessen our pain with numbing drugs.

This way of being creates chaos. It makes it not okay to be in pain, which then creates mental health issues – for once pain strikes me (any kind of pain, physical/emotional/spiritual), if I cannot ‘fix’ it with drugs, there must be something ‘wrong’ with me. My culture tells me pain is bad. So I must be bad when I am in pain.

This makes it incredibly hard to be honest. Showing our pain becomes an act of deep vulnerability. And we think we will do damage to others when we show our pain. We think we have to hold it so it doesn’t get out, doesn’t hurt someone else.

The Process

A true healer creates a space where the fear inside us can be quieted enough, our body and mind can relax enough, that we can open the box we’ve been so tightly holding closed.

The first thing we feel when we do this, is discomfort. We will begin to feel the feeling that we tried to run away from in the first place. We do not like it. We fear it. We don’t understand it.

And once again we have the choice! Shut the door, or let the floodgates open. Close our eyes, or dive bravely in.

The consequence of the first action is to continue life the way we have been. To continue living with whatever has been ailing us. To keep the pain inside, and let it keep eating away at us. This is the choice to live in chronic illness, to slowly die, instead of face what life has handed us.

The result of the second action is, immediately, an intensely uncomfortable experience. If it was something easy to experience, we would have done it already instead of carrying it around avoiding it! It’s very difficult, but when we let our resistance down, we just experience it… and by and by, it ends. We feel a release, and then… freedom! The energy has been allowed to flow through. You no longer have to carry it inside you. And in the feeling of it, it became something less scary, less intimidating. It no longer has power over you.

No doubt, this is an intense process. It is so, so, so difficult to look at the dark spot head on. To feel the pain. I do not think it can be done alone. And I think this has been the purpose of healers throughout most of human history. To create the space. To guide people into their discomfort instead of away from it. To help us be brave to face what we cannot face alone.

The hands of true healers can be the only comfort that makes us feel brave and supported enough to face the discomfort.

On Healing In The World We Live In

Our pattern is to hide our pain, our wound, inside our bodies until a time when it can be felt and released. Most of the world I live in seems to not be a safe space for exposing my wounds.

Exposing the wound, by the way, is the only way to let light into it, the only way to heal.

If we do not intentionally create space to look into the dark spots inside us, they will bury themselves deeper and deeper. In this way we can become hardened by life. Our bodies can become tense to the point of being vulnerable to injury. This is why it is easy to become inflexible and pained as we age. It is because we don’t stop to let our bodies unwind. We don’t know how to look at the feelings, the memories, the traumas that are hiding in our bodies, needing to be seen and set free.

I see a MASSIVE NEED for healing spaces – spaces that are sacred, and kept safe from the hustle-bustle, busyness, and frantic rationalism of our daily lives. We cannot be on guard, if we are to heal. We cannot be fearing for our survival, if we are to heal. Our healing process requires patience. It cannot be rushed or forced.

Our hospitals are not, as a rule, true healing spaces. I am sure there are exceptions. But many peoples’ visits to the doctor are rushed, and many of our ailments are treated as static things out of textbooks. We need to be seen as a living process and treated individually. We need to be cared for.

Underneath our illness is a wound. Wounds need to be cared for.

Do you understand what that means? We need to love our wounds, to hold them with our hearts, shine light on them. We need spaces for our healing process. Healing is the return to wholeness, the acceptance of life where we have previously rejected it. Healing is beautiful and necessary.

A Story of Healing

In the last week, I went through an emotional breakdown with my dad. We were on our mountain bikes, out in nature. Nature is a safer-feeling place to be in than a man-made environment; something relaxes inside me when I am outside in the fresh air, on the trail. My dad was the healer-presence that held the space.

We were doing a ‘check-in’, like we often do with each other when we go on rides – it’s a chance to share where we’re at physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. We were in the middle of a long climb when my dad finished his check-in, and I was struggling physically, as well as emotionally. I had some stuck energy, there was no hiding it. I started trying to talk about it, and my words came out stilted and angry. Just… life right now. All the challenges I’m going through with adjusting to my first office job, my first “real” job. Trying to keep the pace up with my other endeavors, and how it feels like too much sometimes. Putting time into my writing seriously for the first time ever, and how hard that feels on days when I have so much else going on. Is it okay for me to try to make space for this? This thing that I feel is important? But what if it’s just another thing I’m stacking on my plate, just another way I’m being overly ambitious? I want to live in line with my true calling, to develop the gifts I’ve been given, but I also need to relax sometimes and don’t know how… and I’ve been mindlessly snacking my days away, sometimes! I feel gross! I hate this disordered eating demon, it keeps circling back around and it feels out of control!

All of that, and more, as I was climbing up this damn hill feeling like I should be in better shape than I was, feeling frustrated and weak… and then I fell off my bike. My dad got off his bike, came and stood next to me, and reminded me to go into my body and feel. ‘Don’t be in your head, that’s where the story is.’

One of my big problems is living too much in my head. Healing happens in the body. Feeling happens in the body. Our minds – the stories we tell ourselves about the feelings we feel – get in the way of the healing and feeling process.

‘What do you feel?’ he asked me.

‘I feel a rock in my heart’, I choked. My voice broke, and I started crying. I felt sad, but I didn’t know what about. A wave of judgement came over me – fear of the feelings, embarrassment, weakness, vulnerability. I think I apologized, and my dad just stood with me and told me to let it come.

That’s a really important moment. When you open yourself up to the feeling a little bit, to be told it’s okay, to be given permission… the last of my guard dropped away, and then I was just feeling and experiencing. No resistance. And as I dove into my pain it changed. I listened to it instead of resisting it. Pain when we let go of the resistance is just feeling. And in the feeling is depth. As I cried, my pain told me a story of the life I’m living, of the way my life has touched me, of the parts of life I feel in my heart. Of the aches and longings I feel toward life. The ways I see and feel pain. The ways I want to help. Sadness engulfed me, and I cried, and cried, and cried.

At the end of the crying, I still felt sad. But I felt open to my sadness. I felt real and raw and water-like. My dad told me it’s okay to ache. I think he’s right; our hearts are meant to ache. It’s a part of loving, a part of living as a being receptive to love. We are called to help heal the world, to help whatever makes our hearts ache.

After you go through a process like this, you feel lighter. You don’t have the answers to all your questions right away, but you are in a place of more complete Being. A better place to walk forward from. More open. More tender.

The hardest part was breaking through at the beginning. Luckily, I think this process gets easier. That is, once our bodies see we are willing to feel the feelings, they don’t bury them so deeply. They keep the feelings closer to the surface, where they can more easily be released. In this way, when something needs to be felt… we get better at noticing it. We can get better at not holding on to so many things. Letting ourselves feel, letting our armor down. Letting our bodies be fluid and free.

Being Imperfect At Holding Space For Others

Last night my partner went through an emotional process in front of me, with me. I encouraged it, and tried to hold space, but got a little bit tangled up in it emotionally as well.

I feel remorseful for letting my ego get in the way when others close to me are in an emotional process. I become unsure how to act in those moments. I want to support them, but more importantly support myself… yes?

In my own healing process, and in my life in general, I am learning to value and own my Truth. When I’m in an emotional process involving someone else, I think that is still the place to root myself, as much as I can – what is true for me right now? What is my Truth?

It can be tough to figure out what is the truth and what is the fiction. And when someone else is going through a process, I get confused about what my role is, where my Truth comes into play. Do I step wholly aside, and just hold space? (Probably. It’s best not to act out of the triggered place.) Do I focus more on them or more on me? If I focus too much on them, am I in danger of becoming ungrounded? I have done it in the past at great personal cost. So then, is my being grounded more important than the space they need for their process? I have been held in healing space by others before and know how valuable it is.

I think great healers have intense Presence. They do not let their mind get in the way. They focus on the process at hand. There is no space for getting personally triggered, there. But they also stay grounded and strong. I don’t think a good healer extends themselves energetically into the person they are holding space for.

Maybe it’s part of life to grapple with this, the base-level weakness of being a human right now. We are growing in our awareness, but have to accept that we are ignorant as well, that we have the capacity for mindlessness, emotional manipulation, dishonesty, selfishness. It’s all part of it. Part of the process.

I think it’s okay for me not to be perfect, in short. To keep walking my path, putting one foot in front of the other, learning as I go. Getting better.

I aspire to be a force that aids healing in this world.

2 thoughts on “On Pain and Real Healing

  1. Reblogged this on Marin Marketing and commented:
    Emma, I loved your post, I recommend you talk with Ange Frost, do at The Hub in Fairfax, that is a very sacred space, to learn to hold space for others and yourself. My partner and I hold Reiki Session and Classes there when you are ready.
    Love Auntie Jean


  2. Hi Emma, I loved your blog, You on the right path, I encourage you to seek out Angelina Frost and The Hub In Fairfax, it is a very sacred space, she can help you learn to hold space for other’s longer and work on healing yourself. I have taken Reiki Level One there, Self Healing very powerful. Keep up the good work you have to go down to go up. Appreciate the journey, even when you fall off. Love Auntie


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