healing, part 2
This is a shot I took in the rainforest on the Big Island where the writing retreat I attended was held. All over that property were gems like this one—not exactly hidden, yet waiting to be found. How peaceful the face regarding the natural beauty before it, which is how I felt each day as I traversed the path to the pavilion.
The words atop my image are from Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Cultivating authenticity is the book’s first guidepost. Its subtitle: Letting Go Of What People Think.
Easier said than done, isn’t it?
Have you ever paid attention to how much of your thought energy goes towards ruminating, dissecting, and rebutting what you think other people think about you? (That’s a lot of thinking, I know.) But really. Have you? I have. And man, the minutes wasted from my day can add up, resulting in me feeling bad and losing focus from healthier endeavors. A vicious cycle then ensues. The thoughts, what I think about those thoughts, what I think about myself, how I try to manipulate myself. Around and around I go. There’s a reason our inner critic is called “monkey mind.” Therapy and meditation are tools I use, choices I make to break this unfortunate habit and to live more fully in the present moment—a step toward healing.
In my healing part 1 post (read here),I pondered questions like what healing is, how we achieve it, and what we are healing from. Of course, the answers are as diverse as humans are. For no two people share the same exact life experiences or perspectives. What one person considers deeply traumatic another might consider simply upsetting. But the first step on a healing journey is the same for everyone: Realization that we feel suboptimal combines with desire to feel better and insight that there is something, big or small, to heal from and willingness to do so. My initial catalyst for healing was big. My thirteen-year-old daughter was diagnosed with mental illness.
Trust me; I did not view her diagnosis as a catalyst for a long time. At first, we were at war, in the trenches and fighting for her life. If that sounds dramatic, it was. Treatment was about surviving each day, first one and then the next and the next. Treatment was crisis management: de-escalation, coping, safety, prevention. Treatment was learning how to stay calm, engage when appropriate, and walk away when necessary. Over time, my daughter’s mental health improved and treatment morphed away from survival toward longer term recovery.
That’s when I met a therapeutic assignment called the Whole Person Wheel. (Read here.) As 1-2 punches go, the Wheel was a right cross directly to my gut, a wake-up call. Yes, there was my daughter’s diagnosis, but there were other life experiences too, more subtle, a lifetime’s worth, around fear, resistance, shame, self-esteem, heartache, love and more, that needed excavation and exploration. I had learned to hide, to diminish myself. I’d lied, mostly to myself, but to others as well. I’d tried to shape myself, literally and figuratively, to fit the world without understanding that the path to contentment is built by staying vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy and facing each day as authentically as possible.
I love this quote because it was Brené who taught me that authenticity is the ultimate goal of healing, for me. That healing behavior can be a near-term fix and a way of life. Now, I spend less time focusing on what is beyond my control, like what people think of me, and more time remembering that I can make the choice to do so. And yes. It's fine and good to say that I'm more authentic now than before, but what does that mean and how did I get here? More good questions!
Up Next: Words on what authenticity means to me and how I strive to achieve it.
For more on trauma read this Psychology Today article.