We all know the value of psychology in uncovering our deepest feelings and the importance of catharsis in temporarily releasing our pain. Yet while psychological techniques may help prepare us for the journey of healing, they often are not enough to lead us through the deeper way of transformation. Healing without transformation risks re-living negative patterns over and over -sometimes even reinforcing them by repetition -, rather than truly putting them behind us.
What psychology does well is help us understand how we feel. What psychology doesn’t always do is provide the way through. Einstein once remarked that significant problems cannot be solved at the same level of the thinking which created them. Only by rising to a higher or deeper level can an ultimate solution to psychological problems be found.
We all have something form our past that harmed us, something that hurt us, made us angry, fearful and it keeps robbing us of our happiness and being at ease. This could be ‘death’, ‘divorce’, ‘abuse as a child’, ‘bullying’, ‘ health issues’ and so on. You can work to let it go. Hopefully you can see why you need to let these memories / thoughts go – they are holding you back! Writing or journaling is an easy secure way to do this.
Our lives may be determined less by past events than by the way we remember them. Memory can be either disabling or enabling. Dr. Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of Man's Search for Meaning Click To Tweet wrote that “…everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” What we think or imagine in fact is our reality, both individually and collectively. Healing and transformation is possible only through changing one’s perspective from within. It is by making meaning out of memory that true healing and empowerment can occur. What story are you living? How do you choose to remember your story?
The following allegory offers a clue.
A Native American grandfather is talking to his grandson about how he feels about a tragedy in their village. “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The grandson asks, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather places his hand on his heart and replies, “The one I feed.”
How do we learn to “feed” the stories that heal?
How do we put together the pieces of the past? How can we rewrite our life story so that pain becomes meaningful and actually promotes growth and transformation?
One answer lies in focused journaling.
Negative patterns sometimes evolve for a reason. A child growing up in an alcoholic and/or abusive environment may create a wall around him or her for protection. Such defensive methods may actually ensure surviving emotionally and physically through challenging and threatening times in our lives. Years pass, however, and though now safe, these walls and other defensive mechanisms may sabotage our personal and professional lives. The wall is no longer needed yet it remains. It has become habitual, the pattern or behaviour is now imbedded into our subconscious. The first step is to become aware of what we have built around us. What stories we continue to tell ourselves to fortify the wall. A form of self-sabotage even if we are ‘protecting’ ourselves if it is no longer needed. Stories from the past live on in us long after the cause or effect is gone. Once we are aware of these stories, we can work on changing them, letting the old go and bringing in the new.
An example could be : A woman felt powerless because she was unable to let go of a story she was holding onto which made her a victim. Even though she no longer saw this man, her former lover, she carried him within, and over and over again inside was keeping this version of the story alive. Thus, in doing so, she made herself more and more powerless. So when she was in his company unexpectedly, she was afraid, almost debilitated. When she looked at herself from above and saw the current situation, she recognised it for what it was. All she did now was to step back and take responsibility for the story she was telling and re-telling. She could see herself as separate from what she was doing. She became a witness to her own creation of her daily life. This she could now change by taking control and moving on.
Think of a difficult event in your life, now past. Feel within the emotions associated with the person or event. Now visualize stepping back and see yourself telling the old story. Ask who is telling the story? Now choose to write a new version from where you are now standing, some distance away. Take all the time you need for this process.
As we grow these negative, protective patterns outlive their use. Then as maturity comes, we seek to create new, healthier patterns. It’s not that the negative patterns leave, they simply go dormant, and the new healthier patterns take over, as it were. We learn, as the old grandfather did, to feed the good wolf. It makes sense to accept this and have compassion for not only the old negative patterns but for the child or young adult who needed them at the time. Give thanks and let them go.
Only when old patterns which no longer serve are released can new ones emerge. Sometimes new, healthier habits must be in place before releasing the old ones.
When traumatic or disturbing events either personal or collective happened to us when young, we may not have possessed the words to speak out then? The words would come later as we look squarely at our own lives and the world we live in, at how we got here from there. What in your history, both positive & negative, made you who you are today? By going through and beyond your own story, you will connect to the great universal story of us all.
Personal events are not the only forces that darken our psyches. Sometimes the soul’s way is diametrically opposed to the collective tune, and we must find the courage to march to our own drum. It is possible peacefully to separate yourself from the dysfunctional collective whose message is that we are helpless and must accept the world as it is, that we are powerless to change it or our own lives. If we wait for only the perfect people to change the world, it will be too late. If speaking out can help one other person, how can we remain silent? How can I make a difference, be it ever so small? How do I choose to spend my free time?
Click To Tweet To be most effective, it is best if the movement towards change comes from within, that deeper part of our being. There is no greater force than being true to one’s self and finding the courage to move forward in a centered way. How many times have allies -visible and invisible – come to our aid when we walk our true walk.
Writing or focused journaling can be a powerful tool for healing wounds and furthering our own growth as a human being. Writing is the best therapy I know. I began at age twelve writing in journals. The journal became my best friend, my confidante, and began, for me, a path of self-discovery. This was again very true when I was in my 40’s and in a very abusive relationship. Journaling allowed me to get it all out and release the anger and pain that I help within me. It also enabled me to see the lessons I needed to learn and grow from.
Journaling is not instant healing as mentioned above, but it is definitely a process that you can do on your own, in your own time and get results.
Remember, we are all humans and make mistakes, but we need to recognise that we and only we, have the power to heal our hurts.
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