Acknowledging Pain In Order To Heal

How will we be able to heal if we do not acknowledge the pain? How will we stop the wound from reopening? How will we have the capacity to move forward, toward recovery?

Over the past couple of weeks I have experienced and witnessed different types of pain and I’ve been part of some beautiful healing. I’ve had raw conversations with people about their suffering, and I’ve been forced to acknowledge for the first time some of my own past trauma.

Much of the experience has been personal, affecting either me, a loved one or dear friends. However, from yesterday I have felt encompassed by the collective cries of my people, our country, the moral world.  Ever since horror stormed through the doors of a synagogue, a sanctuary in every meaning of the word, people everywhere have been left reeling from the nightmare of their worst fears turning into reality.

This is not the first time our hearts have ached from the senseless massacre of innocent life. Not changing our laws to prevent these acts of terror, creates wounds that are left open and raw.  It is ignoring the pain. Ignoring the heartbreak the current gun laws are causing,  the terror caused by the national calls against groups of human beings, and the grief caused by a lack of resources and understanding about mental illness, prevents our country from healing. This latest nightmare is another straw on the camel’s back. What is going to break the camel’s back? And what will that look like when it happens?

While so much of this anguish is globally experienced, and feels out of my control, I am simultaneously realizing that there is personal pain that I have not acknowledged, which is preventing me from healing from past events in my own life. No one was more surprised than I when a movie I recently saw triggered some awful memories and emotions I had apparently suppressed, from when I was married to an addict.  Confusion and mistrust. Shame, fear, and worry.  Not trusting my own intuition. 

The dams I had hurriedly constructed to block out the memories, as I moved forward in my life, have started cracking. The feelings I experienced so long ago are starting to seep through. I don’t like it; I prefer to wear armor. After I left the cinema, my brain felt poisoned as my subconscious started breaking through my protective shield.

The next morning, learning that our government is trying to erase my daughter’s existence, brought back more fears and vulnerability from five years ago that I naively thought were behind me.

My sleep is interrupted as I beg my thoughts to “turn back off” and let me carry on peacefully as before, ignoring the impact some of my really difficult life experiences have had on me.

I’m realizing that I’m going to have to do more than build a quick dam to contain my past. I’m going to have to swim back through some of that water, acknowledge what I’ve experienced, allow myself to feel some difficult emotions, in order to truly heal and live a future that’s not plagued by triggers. True peace will not come if I don’t delve into how my past affects my present. I have a knack for focusing on the positive, for moving forward and leaving negative experiences behind me. As grateful as I am for that ability, I am starting to realize that it’s shortchanging me out of true healing. And I don’t want to live a life whose happiness is threatened any time a raw subject is brought up. I want to have serenity, so I can skip through the fields without worrying about mines.

I refuse to be viewed or to live my life as a victim. By not spending time on negative emotions, I thought I was accomplishing that. I am learning that experiencing trauma does not make one a victim. Quite the opposite.  Processing the experiences will be empowering. I see this modelled this past weekend, as I witness my son’s growth as he  starts facing his past. And I started crying out of relief that he has people to guide him through that process and vulnerability as I realized that’s what I want for myself, as well. 

I gave myself a rare gift to spent quantity and quality time with my son for the first time in months – only the 4th time in a year.  For the past many weeks I have wanted to see him but literally couldn’t find the time. But a few days ago, my intuition set me straight. I woke up and knew it was time to travel across the country to see him. I spontaneously carved out a few days at the end of the week, knowing that visiting him would be a decision I’d never regret. Now at the end of my visit, I realize that this weekend has actually given me space to breathe, in a way that making my way through my very long to-do list could not. This was the perfect weekend to be with him. I couldn’t find the time but the time found me.

This trip has actually been focused quite a bit on healing and acknowledging pain. We’ve had so many conversations reflecting on the subjects in different ways. My son shares that as he is acknowledging past pain and beginning to face difficult emotions in a more embracing way, he is discovering powerful insights. He is on a difficult and wonderful journey of self-discovery.

He is also always on my mind. I have been connecting to him empathically from 3000 miles away. I have completed higher levels of Reiki in order to be able to send him the healing universal energy, even when we are physically so far apart. Every single morning, I focus on his wellbeing. I picture him in my mind. I visualize surrounding him in the warmth and light of positive energy. And yesterday, I had the most soul-filling experience. For the first time, I was able to give him Reiki in person. For an hour, my son lay still on the grass, listening to my meditation music, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and allowed me to place my healing hands on him. I felt the universal energy coursing through my hands. But what truly stopped me in my tracks, was how powerful my maternal-love energy felt. The energies coming together created the most beautiful force that both my son and I felt.

I wish all healing was as easy as placing our hands on a loved one and sending them the intention of peace. In all cases, we must not run away, emotionally or physically. We must face what is difficult, find the root of the pain, and then replace the trauma with love. We must spread our positive energy. We must hug and listen and love. And yes, we must figuratively (and sometimes literally) place healing hands on one another.

We also must eliminate the ability for ordinary citizens to acquire weapons of war.  We must create widespread accessibility to mental health services, having open, nonjudgmental conversations with opportunities for sharing and discourse. And we must drown out the vitriol, paranoia, and suspicion of people who are different from us by learning about one another, celebrating what we share, and loving one another. We must insist that our leaders celebrate humanity.

In other words, it’s time to vote and it’s time for me to find a therapist.


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