i used to believe that healing required some sort of white light, come to Jesus, lighting bolt experience. something that induced an instantaneous overhaul of one’s core beliefs. that in order to truly heal from any kind of trauma, real or imagined, i’d have to become some sort of emotional archaeologist, prying at every artifact of things gone wrong from long ago, sending it back to the lab for analysis, dissecting every associated memory until a root cause had been sussed out, and my resulting theory had been given a sign-off by both a trusted professional and a trusted friend.
when my new [and awesome] therapist, A, earlier this year concluded one of our first few sessions with the statement that she believed that, unless i had something really pressing from the past to discuss, that she seriously felt like our focus was forward motion, i smiled and nodded….and died a little inside. “but i haven’t told you ALL the ways my parents have screwed me up yet,” my inner child screamed, fists pounding at the inside of my chest, her tear stained cheek and snotty nose pressed up against the plexiglass vault ensconcing my bloodied and battered heart. i shared this reaction with A the following week, and she smiled and nodded back with the knowing, comforting reassurance that only a therapist can provide…without the other person wanting to lunge at their throat, simultaneously rolling their eyes. of course, i would come to see in the weeks that followed that, not only would all of the ways my parents have screwed me up would reveal themselves in real time, but that forward motion would truly be the secret to the healing i had been so craving and desperate to find. my only real problem had been the direction of my gaze during the search.
i’ve come to realize that dumpster diving through the wreckage of the past isn’t necessarily going to bring me the contentment, peace, or pleasure out of life i’ve been longing for. and the presumed self knowledge i was convinced i’d glean from holding the broken bits of myself up to a microscope fixed with the lens of days gone by, would only provide half of the missing pieces to the puzzle that is “me.” [to be clear, this is not to be confused with the very necessary “shedding light on the darkness” process that is required for shifting shame. i wholeheartedly believe in and have experienced the power of vulnerability- a gift that Brené Brown has and continues to bestow upon humanity. what i am referring to is more of a morbid obsession with analyzing every detail of the past in an attempt to hypothesize about the current drama of the day].
i can’t speak for anyone else, but until recently, the practice i just decribed had become more of a mind altering substance to me than any overpriced microbrew or prescription opiate ever could have been. more and more i was stuck on a loop of “but why?” and “what does this mean?” and morning after morning i’d sit and present my findings to my sponsor, beaming with pride over the fossils i’d pieced together from remnants of my past, banking that, these demons now in full form, i’d achieve enlightenment. and again, i was no more in the present moment than i had been puffing cigarette after cigarette in moments of anxiety. this was unmanageable! and it still can be, when i choose to take one step too far down memory lane.
after the compulsive mental masturbation over what those charged with my care had done to me in my formative years failed time and time again to provide a framework that withstood all the trials and tribulations of my current adult life, i began to see i needed to come at this from a different angle. but it wasn’t as if i just decided to do things differently and voila! perspective changed. no. i was being
forced invited in to a new way of understanding with each challenge i was presented and attempted to face with the simple decision to just entertain the idea “perhaps there is another way to see this.”
now, as i continue to meander, and barrel, and crawl and swim my way through said trials and tribulations, and practice being present, i have been overwhelmed to discover that healing.is.happening. right now. in every situation that i choose to be present for, the universe greets me with new truths, new perspectives, and a softening ’round the edges of those wounds i feared would never close [and would forever prevent me from achieving perfection…but more on that another time].
i am learning that when i move forward in spite of discomfort, the only result is understanding and peace. to be sure, that’s not to say i avoid the discomfort, or the “bad” feelings, or the harsh realities. no. i am finding if i am truly seeking to cure what ails, the medicine is unadulterated presence [to the extent possible, of course, i mean hello this is new york and i ain’t no monk]. often times this presence does require acknowledging some maladaptive programming that took place before i could ever have possibly been aware; however, i’ve found i don’t also need to stay in that place and ruminate over the how’s and why’s that programming happened in order to find freedom. or in order to heal. and let’s be honest, isn’t freedom from the shackles the tender spots from the past tend to bear, like, the ultimate healing?
what a gift it is to see that healing for me is happening right now, and it is fueled by what is happening in the present, and by the decision to move forward with that information. the new information. the only real information there is, because it is coming from reality. this moment.
don’t get me wrong. i do believe that white light experiences happen, and are very real. and in those moments those core beliefs can be so shaken that there is no other option than to shift. i’ve just learned that, this is not the only way to heal. nor do i need to attempt to force some sort of “Eureka!” moment by sleuthing through my past. no. if i can just stay. stay with myself, stay with the moment, stay with whatever is arising within me, and then commit to observing the reality of all of that, i am bound to come away with just a few more stitches, a few less gaping wounds, and lot more of myself.