Most people see the journey of healing from childhood trauma as a journey from A to B.
Island A looks like this: you, broken, wounded and alone on a desert island. You can’t find happiness; your past has a negative impact on every area of your life. Your relationship to yourself and others is a constant struggle, an emotional roller-coaster. You are miserable, unhealthy in body and mind, and you fear a happy life is simply not possible for you.
Island B is a much sunnier place: full of kind faces and drinks with umbrellas. You have fully healed and integrated your past. You are in perfect health. You are successful in your relationships, your work and you love your social life. The best part is you love yourself and feel inner peace and joy almost all of the time – free to live the life you desire and deserve. You can finally relax.
And to get from one to the other, you just need to follow the path of your “journey to healing” – therapy, coaching, spirituality, diet, exercise, forgiveness and whatever else, until you are there. Right? WRONG.
The trip from A to B is not linear, nor is it overnight, and – once you arrive at island B – you discover a chain of islands that goes on into the horizon infinitely. There is no such thing as “fully healed” because as a human being there is always room for more wholeness, peace, success, and contentment. So, if you are waiting to arrive somewhere in order to relax and enjoy life, you will be waiting forever!
“That the abyss is bottomless is the bad news. The good news is it must also be topless!” ~ David James Duncan
When you believe that joy is not possible until you are fully healed, you put it off forever and deprive yourself of the very practice that will facilitate the majority of your healing.
The journey of healing is about learning to enjoy life again. Learning happens through practice – and that is something you can give yourself permission to start doing today, right now. Here are a few tips on how to do that.
1. Build your joy muscle by noticing and celebrating the little joys in your life each day; the big joys will come later.
Each day there are things to be grateful for: even if it’s just waking up, eyesight, the ability to walk, a beautiful flower, call from a friend, relaxing bath, or a kind word from your boss or child. Really notice and take in these moments of joy. Breathe them into all the cells of your body. Much trauma is stored in your body, not just your mind – so bring the new message of joy to your body as well. Even if these moments only amount to 10% of your day – focus on that 10%. What you turn your attention to begins to show up more in your life. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater by ignoring the joy available now.
2. See Joy as an integral part of your recovery program, and commit to it.
Practicing joy is as essential to your healing journey as seeing your therapist or attending meetings or changing your diet. Does it matter how healthy you are if you don’t know how to enjoy it? Also, joy has been proven to increase neurotransmitters in the brain that actually help you to create new neural pathways – ie. healing! You can do this by the simple act of smiling. Think of activities that bring you joy, and commit to a joy-date with yourself at least once per week, ideally once per day. You will be amazed at how much faster you heal.
3. Surround yourself with people who make the journey worth it.
This walk of life can be a doozy of ups and downs – good companions can make the whole thing worth it! Choose your friends wisely. Keep people around who bring you UP rather than bring you DOWN the majority of the time (everyone has bad days). You know the saying, misery loves company – well, so does joy! If you surround yourself with people who make you laugh, feel loved, and experience happiness themselves, you will feel joyful.
4. When you have a bad day – don’t compound it by beating yourself up – simply let it go.
It’s time to redefine lapses as just another step in the process rather than failure. When you have a bad day, yell at your kids, eat the whole pint of ice cream, take a drink – don’t make it worse by beating yourself up on top of that. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Laugh if you can, and set the intention to do better next time. Trust that you are headed in the right direction, and that this is not a block to your destination, but part of the path.
5. Be present -- stop and smell the roses – take your eyes off the destination.
As someone who has recovered from complex trauma myself, I know that the healing process is a process that brings you alive. You will explore your soul deeply, discover gifts of empathy and sensitivity that result from your experiences, a wealth of knowledge within, learn things, go places and meet people you never would have otherwise. So be here for your journey as if your soul chose this path intentionally for your own growth and in order to serve the world more deeply. When you don’t feel like you “should” be at the destination, you are free to enjoy what’s actually happening now.
The truth is – the more you enjoy yourself along the journey of healing, the faster the ship starts to sail. So, give yourself permission to feel joy NOW, in this moment, today.
Join us next week as we get even more awesomeness from Zoë!
As a Buddhist Nun, Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Life & Business Coach she has spent thousands of hours in personal retreat and worked with thousands of people on their own spiritual unfolding for life success. She is a beloved spiritual community leader known for her grounded, no BS approach and unshakeable love.
When she’s not bringing people to their knees in awe of themselves or exploring the deepest questions of life with her community -- you can find Zoë hiking the red rocks, riding horses, and learning to sing.
Her book The Little Book of Being is scheduled to be complete by summer 2015.
You are so much more than you know. Liberate yourself at www.zoewild.com