Why Healing Can Feel Like Self-Betrayal
There comes a point in any healing or recovery journey where you recognize that you have to take responsibility for your own healing, and that feels in some way that you are “letting them off the hook”. If you heal completely from your abuse, does that mean that it didn’t really harm you? If you manage to make a good living despite systemic oppression, does that mean the “American Dream” is real & capitalism is fair? If we manage to solve our problems, does that mean they weren’t that bad?
At some point in healing, you have to move beyond the fact that it isn’t fair. You have to decide to care more about your own life, happiness, and future than you do about proving that they were wrong and it was really bad. You have to give up being a living example of everything they did to you, and instead become a living example of everything you did for yourself. You have to give up the story of what you were subject to, and write your own story.
But telling people they can do that is dicey. Because when you’re in the thick of it, when you’re mired in the pain that this world definitely can inflict on us, then you need validation. You need people to say, “Yup, that definitely sucks. That’s fucking terrible. And it’s not your fault”. But you also need people to say, “And you can change your life. You can make your story about something other than this. This does not define you. You define you. Don’t let anyone take that from you.”.
It’s a tricky line to walk. There is a ton of content out there that jumps over the validation and just tries to push positivity, with no acknowledgement of the realness of the struggle. There is also a ton of content that is just stuck on validating the pain through blame, which just keeps people stuck in the worst experience that ever happened to them. I’m always going to try to hold both, because I want people to genuinely know that there is a way forward. We can be challenged by shit that is genuinely unfair, and we can also rise above it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t that bad. It means we are fucking amazing and we are choosing to take back our power and make our life what we decide it should be.
When power is used against us, it sucks. It’s wrong. And abuse of power is rampant in human life. And the pain it inflicts on us is real. It derails us. It haunts us. It gives us nightmares. It curtails our potential. It crushes our spirits. All of that pain is real. It’s as real as the sun that shines on our beautiful faces, with the promise that life can and should be about more than pain. But it’s up to us to rise above that pain, to release it, to let in the Light and let it remind us that we are more than our pain. We have to make that choice.
And it can be the hardest choice point in the entire healing journey, because we have to let go of the story of what the pain did to us, and that can feel like betraying ourselves. It can feel like self-invalidation. But it’s not. It’s actually connecting to a much deeper and larger part of us, the part of us that is bigger than the pain. That’s the part that will carry us through our healing and beyond.
When pain is intense, it envelops us. It is so huge and piercing that it feels like all that we are. That is the nature of huge, traumatizing, overwhelming pain. There’s no getting around it. And the younger we are when it happens, the more it shapes our developing mind and body.
Healing involves realizing that who we truly are is actually bigger, wiser, older, and deeper than that pain. Our pain does not define us. It is an experience that we had or are having, but it is not all of who we are. Healing is about finding the even deeper truth of who we are. And then from that place, embracing all of our pain and fear and confusion with compassion and love.
People find that deeper place in lots of different ways, but for many of us, it’s an inner spiritual experience. It’s an intimate encounter with the very ground of our being. It’s asking the question, “Who am I, that this could happen to me?” and finding the answer: “I am far more than this.” It is the pain that prompts us to ask, to seek, and to find. It is the pain that forces us to look beyond what we know, beyond the ways in which the pain shaped us, to find what is outside of it. And what we eventually find is our pure, marvelous, beautiful selves, unbroken and strong. We find our strength. We find our peace. We find that what we thought was missing was there all along, inside of us. We just had to grow ourselves into a person who was ready to embody it.
We each have to decide for ourselves what the purpose of this wild and crazy journey of life is. But for me, it is about this journey from broken-ness to wholeness, from pain to peace, from helplessness to strength, from being lost to finding the truth inside ourselves. I know from deeply hard-won experience that when we feel like all is lost and nothing can ever be right again, that we are simply not done with our journey. There is more in store for us. I have learned to trust that journey, and the wild magic that accompanies those who walk it. I don’t know where your journey will take you, but I believe in it, and I believe in you.