For over 20 years, on Reiki courses, I’ve been saying that we are all, ‘Walking Wounded.’
Yesterday, I heard the wonderful comedian, writer and poet Henry Normal tell the story of a psychologist he spoke to when his son was diagnosed with autism. He told him that in 30 years all the patients who came to him had the same problem. Everyone thought they weren’t good enough.
To me, effective healing is about authenticity and having the courage to look beneath the surface, to acknowledge our pain. We can only heal from where we are, not from where we think we should be or where we would like to be. Being willing to stop hiding from ourselves, our depths, our shadows, our fears and therefore no longer hiding from our inner child’s perception of an emotionally barren, harsh, critical, judgemental, disapproving and unforgiving world, but beginning to uncover and discover the rich landscape of human emotion, embracing all shades and hues, and not shying from the dark, difficult and downright painful, but fully facing and embracing it – feeling, healing and revealing the joy and freedom that is possible underneath.
We cannot heal our pain remotely. It has to be felt. It has to be acknowledged, to be witnessed, to be experienced. It needs to be held with space, with love and with gentleness – softly, like we would cradle an injured bird in our hands. We have to be courageous, (coeur – ‘heart,’,) to take the risk that it may destroy us. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to dive to the depths of the ocean to pick up the pearl. I don’t know anyone who has drowned in emotion and not risen again to the surface. But I have seen all too many drown in the drowning of their sorrows – in determined attempts to avoid feeling that pain. And in doing so, have become living dead.
“I have been down many blind alleys in my attempts to come to terms with my emotions. I’ve repressed them, swallowed them, drowned them in drink, ascended above them in clouds of hemp, starved them out, interred them with food, transcended them in meditation, outrun them, outsmarted them with rationalisation, exorcised them, handed them over to higher beings, transmuted them into pretty lights, and even briefly felt them before purging them in dramatic catharses that promised to render them finally extinct.” – Pete Walker
But there is no escape from our emotions, other than imprisoning, immobilising and impoverishing large parts of ourselves in the process of anaesthetising ourselves from that pain. And that is too high a price to pay for us individually and collectively. Most of us have not been taught how to feel freely, how to deal with difficult emotions. We do not have good models for dealing with grief, loss, disappointment, therefore we can’t know that we will survive great pain – we fear that it may bury us, destroy us or send us mad with grief. We can’t allow ourselves to cry or to really feel in case we never, ever stop. So we suppress, we divert, we ignore, we bury, we staunchly pretend to ourselves and the world that we are “fine.”
While the unsuccessful feel like failures, the successful feel like impostors. The only way back from this is to embrace our vulnerability. To be willing to take chances. To overthrow our conditioning, our upbringing, our tram lines, our safety zones, our safety masks, our normality uniforms, along with our need and desire to be accepted, to fit in, to be liked, to be loved. Would you rather fit in with a terminally sick society, rather than stand out, stand apart, separate yourself from the safety of the pack, be different, be free, be disturbing, be crazy, be unacceptable? Be emotional?
“I see there is no prison except that which I construct to protect myself from feeling my pain.” -Sheldon Kopp
The purpose of healing is not to erase the very painful emotions of sadness, grief, anger, fear, loss, rejection, hurt, abandonment, hatred, self hatred, shame, etc but to feel them. To give them space, more than to allow them – to get to know them. To let them exist and even to welcome and befriend them. If they are from childhood, then we have suppressed them long enough. Only by bringing them to the surface, allowing them to exist, to breathe, fully feeling, acknowledging, naming and owning them, (and where appropriate expressing and emoting them,) can we begin the process of reclaiming the lost parts of ourselves and our journey to wholeness.
As we do, we reduce our self sabotage and unconscious impulses that conflict with our conscious desires and intentions. We ‘get out of our own way.’ We can create a ‘neutral’ bedrock for the crystals of life to blossom, rather than always being coloured by the past.
I was in my 30’s before realising that the feeling I awoke with each morning was dread. Working with the gentle, non judgemental, loving Reiki energy enabled me to have the courage to explore what lay beneath.
When Reiki brings up our emotions, we feel it, fully and often painfully. But what we don’t have is the usual accompanying fear, so this makes the pain by itself, much easier to deal with. Usually when we have pain – any kind of pain, physical or emotional, then we also have a degree of fear. If you think about a simple situation of awaking with a headache, the fear thoughts may run something like, “Where has that come from? What’s wrong with me? Am I going to be able to do my work today? Will it get worse?”
Emotional pain also has attached fear. We fear its inconvenience. We fear showing weakness, vulnerability. We fear standing out, upsetting others, having others see us and categorise us in a different way. But mostly we fear its depth, its power over us. We fear that if we allow ourselves to feel the pain it will engulf us, bury us, destroy us, make us go mad, we fear we may never come out of it, we fear we may drown in it.
And in a way that is true. When we willingly give full space and attention to our deepest emotions, it DOES change us. We eventually emerge like a crab from an old, outgrown, constricting shell – with our soft, open, vulnerable new skin that may feel very sensitive, thin and fragile at first, but we sense the freedom this soft, flexible, open new shell can bring. We are truly alive again. Lighter, freer and more open to new possibilities.
When embarking on a healing journey, it’s helpful to remember that we can juxtapose our emotions, as the healing of big issues can be prolonged, even with Reiki. We need to know that we are capable of holding and feeling love and laughter, excitement and fun, all the ‘positive’ emotions alongside the heavy emotions – we can honour them both at the same time. And that WE are not our emotions. Our emotions are transitory residents; the one certainty is that they will change. And that while our current emotions may temporarily describe us, they don’t have to permanently define us.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.