For the month of August, we’re delving into the process of change and growth that humans undergo as we embark on our inner work journey.
My model of change, The Change Spiral, emerged as one of the frameworks that now underlies much of my work.
The quality of spiraling can feel like a revisiting of old themes and patterns in our lives as we move through the four domains of change: relationships, healing, capacity building, and communicating.
Last week, we focused on the domain of relationships. This week I’m highlighting the domain of healing.
And, what’s one of the biggest signs that we have healing work to do?
Being “triggered” in our relationships.
What do I mean by “triggered”?
Ok, yes, this word is widely overused (just like “trauma” is being grossly overused these days). I’m using the term “triggered” to refer to any time we’re having a reaction to someone or something that feels charged up and loaded in a way that also feels out of proportion to what is actually happening in the present moment.
For example, let’s say someone changes plans on you at the last minute, and you feel outraged and indignant, and you ruminate for the rest of the day about how disrespectful you think they are.
This may be a sign that you’re merging painful past experiences with your present moment experience.
While we might feel disappointed and a bit irritated at needing to adjust our plans at the last minute, anything more charged up than that is a sign that more is going on for us under the surface. When we load our present moment experience with unresolved past pain, we are being “triggered” or “activated.”
That’s when we know we might have some personal healing work to do before we can find our way back to wise actions.
What is healing work?
When I talk about psychological, emotional, mental, spiritual, or relational healing work in this context, I’m referring to all the ways we process through the accumulated pain of our lives and bring self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-understanding to who we are today.
- We might start to understand the dance between codependency and narcissism, and we begin to see our own patterns and how we contribute to drama triangles.
- We might begin to examine how our imperfect childhood experiences influenced us, framed our meaning-making systems, and led us to develop self-protective habits that now hold us back as adults.
- We might start to revisit traumatic experiences that we put away years ago and begin processing memories and feelings that we had been avoiding – until now.
We get to feel again, we get to cry again, we get to express our authenticity again. We find empathic communities and nurturing spaces where we can heal what still hurts from the past and distorts our perceptions in the present.
Healing processes often involve developing a new relationship with the things that happened to us. We feel through the feelings attached to those experiences and memories. We bring a compassionate witnessing presence to ourselves as we reclaim parts of ourselves and bring ourselves back online again.
I want to stress this: In my professional opinion, healing is best done with a well-trained, highly qualified therapist/ guide within a private, confidential, predictable relational container. Deep healing is not a DIY project.
If you’re looking for deep healing work, you may want to consider working with professionals who have training and experience with modalities such as these:
- Internal Family Systems (IFS)
- Somatic Experiencing (SE)
- Sensorimotor Therapy
- Compassionate Inquiry
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Psychoanalytically and psychodynamically trained professionals tend to offer deeper, more characterological work over intense time periods
(This is not a complete nor exhaustive list, just a starting point.)
Healing work can bring up very painful memories and feelings and needs a strong, safe, and reliable relational container within which to do this work. Please do not try to DIY your healing work, especially if some of the ways you adapted to your early childhood experiences involved becoming uber responsible, super self reliant, or attuning to everyone else’s needs for your own safety.
What are the ways in which you have begun to heal? What methods and models have worked for you?
Next week, we’ll explore the domain that follows healing: capacity building.
Want to go deeper in this work?
Here are a few of my programs that might be of interest to you:
Conversations from the Heart, a free Q&A learning call on Wednesdays at 10am CT.
Gold Membership, a deep dive into personal growth with a dedicated community.
Private Sessions, one-on-one guidance and coaching for your specific life situations.
Oh Sagacious Dr. Erasmus, I so agree that in order to truly have a shot at seeing the world and others (reality itself for goodness sake) through a different lens from the one that formed our brains as children, humans are necessary. And I have found, over the course of 55 years of therapy, that they must have the CAPACITY for being loving, able to listen, (how about believing you too?), and affirming in that witnessing so that you can have a DIFFERNT experience “this time: interpreting reality… A safe container is so fundamental, that had I less need and more agency in the 1980’s I would have fired some of the therapists who did more harm than good. Thank god, as a group Psychologists know sooo much more about really helping than they ever have. Thank god for all the succor I get from you each week. Truly less alone on this earth, Leah.