The Therapeutic Journey: Healing

BY: BRYAN NIXON, MA, LPC

Healing happens as we integrate the new insights into our conscious experience and allow ourselves to feel and accept the full range of emotions that often come up with these insights.

I frequently encourage my clients to slow down and turn towards their difficult emotions  welcoming them with a posture of curiosity rather than judgment.

Our emotions are often guides to deeper meanings that won’t be realized if we judge our emotional experience as wrong because we would prefer to feel differently.

Emotions are like energy. Some would argue that they are, in fact, energy. Energy moves in waves. Likewise, the intensity of an emotion has a beginning, middle and end. The thing to remember is that no emotion is permanent. Picture a bell curve with an initial rise in intensity, an eventual plateau of intensity and then a decline in intensity.  We tend to have a difficult time simply riding the wave, particularly when the emotion is an unpleasant one.

For example: Think about how you deal with your own times of grief, sadness, fear, disgust, shame and anger. Anger is particularly difficult to allow for those of us who live in West Michigan, am I right?! How many times have you either heard or said, “Oh, I’m not angry! I’m just frustrated.”

Sidenote: anger is a feeling not a behavior. We often confuse aggression and violent behavior with anger, which is why we typically try to stuff our anger down deep. I would argue that aggression and violent behavior are actually the result of one’s inability to tolerate one’s own anger in a healthy and mindful way.

There are THREE ways we tend to interact with our emotional experiences:

Aversion - like a clenched fist - a type of resisting or avoiding  (increases suffering)
Attachment - like a white-knuckled hand - a form of clinging (increases suffering)
Acceptance - like an open hand - a more fluid sense of flowing (reduces suffering)

In addition to reducing suffering, acceptance allows us to experience our emotions as guides and teachers into deeper authenticity and self-understanding. This, in turn, helps us to show up in our lives and relationships in more intentional and meaningful ways.

Please consider the following questions in relation to acceptance and movement toward your own healing:

  1. Will you have the courage NAME what is true about your:

    Past harm
    Past abuse
    Loss
    Abandonment
    Betrayal

without minimizing it? … “It wasn’t so bad...there are a lot of people who have had it worse than me. It was in the past, so it doesn’t really matter now.”

  1. Will you have the courage to GRIEVE that which you name? Which is to ask, will you stand in the in tension between the goodness and beauty of what you needed and the tragedy of not having received it?

How you answer these 2 questions with drastically impact how you experience TRANSFORMATION, which we will explore in part 3 of this series.