The Messy Side of Healing

by | Jun 14, 2021 | Healing Trauma


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I am all about the self-healing and self-loving journey. 

As a teenager, when my mother would pick me up from school in Los Angeles, she’d be listening to a call-in radio show where marriage and family therapist John Jolliffe helped people with their problems on his show, The Issues of Life

I was mesmerized. With a few magical words he’d help someone get clarity, see a productive next step in their relationship, and find hope. And it all applied to me too. I took notes, felt seen, felt known. Even though I was listening to other people’s issues, it felt like I was vicariously getting help with all my own “stuff.” 

I felt the same way about Oprah. As she interviewed people who had been in abusive relationships, who had had the courage to leave hard situations, who had embarked on their own journey of authenticity, I was inspired to do the same. 

I began questioning my family culture.
I began taking my unhappiness more seriously. 
I began inhabiting my defiance more fully, more righteously. 

(Ok, I feel a small cringe as I write that last part, but I was a teenager after all. I will soothe myself by reminding myself that it was developmentally appropriate. And I’ve grown up more since then.) 

What I didn’t know when I began this journey, however, was how messy it really is. 

I heard someone recently say, “When it comes to healing, we glorify the glow-up.” 

I can relate. 

Motivated by visions of my most loving, empowered, and take-the-world-by-its-horns self, I have ended “bad relationships” and left toxic situations. I’ve said no to things I used to say yes to. I’ve changed my mind about commitments that became cages.   

But let’s remember this: Before we get to that state of empowerment, radiantly riding off into the sunset, there are some very messy stages that we traverse through first:

  • The wondering whether our whole lives up until this point have been a lie. 

  • The realization that what we thought was our personality was simply a collection of trauma bonds and coping mechanisms and unconscious projections. 

  • The feeling of profound disorientation when things just no longer make sense and we start looking at people with raised eyebrows, thinking “Who are these people? Is this really what I’ve been living with?” 

  • The crying.

  • The questioning. 

  • The ruminating and the obsessing.

  • The not wanting to get out of bed.

  • The not wanting to speak to anyone because we’ve been saying exactly the same thing for three weeks now when people ask how we are. 

  • The deep grief that washes over us as we collect and love up the unhealed, frightened versions of ourselves. 

  • The shame, insecurity, and anxiety that arise as we find ourselves beginning to break old “rules,” as we rock that boat, as we start saying things we haven’t said before.

Healing, growing, and reclaiming ourselves is a messy, messy act.  

Embrace all parts of your journey. Love it all up. 

And what might the journey look like? 

Reaching for partnership, collaboration, trust, and intimacy, we inevitably come face-to-face with those things that we can choose to leave behind and transform: oppression, abuse, exploitation, dishonesty, criticism, selfishness.   

We start with self-healing: Undoing our internalized oppression. Learning to hold ourselves in our own hearts. Becoming conscious of our unconscious programming. Developing the ability to greet ourselves with compassion, to love ourselves, and to protect ourselves from further harm.  

The self-healing then ripples out into relational healing: Learning to navigate dialogue in new ways. Living from the “both-and.” Learning how to hold two people in your heart at the same time. Starting new conversations. Balancing your listening and speaking; balancing the dance of giving and receiving and discovering they are one and the same.

The relational healing in turn leads to cultural, societal, and global healing: Transforming institutions, rules, policies, procedures, rituals into processes that work better for all people. Creating restorative systems of justice that integrate forgiveness and grace with accountability. Living sustainably and ecologically, caring about the chains of supply and demand and how they affect our planet.  

The journey is worthwhile.  Embrace the messy along the way.


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2 Comments

  1. Laurie Schmidt

    So clearly described and hopeful, Yvette. Thank you for continuing to inspire me.

    Reply
  2. Karen Greer

    Yvette, I appreciate so much how you encourage us on our "inner journey".
    Your vulnerability inspires me to keep learning the internal parts of me.
    Karen Greer

    Reply

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