Imagine that you took this picture with your digital camera. You aimed your camera towards those beautiful green mountains while you were stuck behind an iron gate. See yourself behind that gate. Look, with longing at the white bridge that crosses the raging river to the green fields. Now, look down at your feet. You’re surrounded by dry barren earth.
This is what life before healing is like. You see others living rich, joyful lives. You’re blocked from having what they have, but are tormented by being able to see what you want, but not attain it. Instead, you’re stuck, as if you were standing in quicksand when you took this picture.
We all start on our journey to healing in the same place, a place of helpless, a place where we have no control over the circumstances of our lives. We feel stuck. The more we struggle to improve our lot in life, the more we sink into the mire.
To begin the journey towards healing, we must exert a great force of will to start moving towards change. We’ve been in a place of learned helplessness for so long, that we believe we are unable to effect change in our own lives, so why bother? Quicksand is the perfect metaphor for learned helplessness.
To get out of the quicksand, we must have the attitude that we are going to do whatever it takes to move towards healing. At first, the more effort we exert to pull ourselves out, the more we feel ourselves being sucked back in. This is why starting the journey is the hardest part. In my next post, I will describe the seven steps for getting out of quicksand.
Once we’ve gotten ourselves moving towards healing, we are next faced by an iron gate that represents our self-beliefs. We have many beliefs about our worthiness, our capabilities, our lovability that are not based on truth, but rather the lies told to us by our abusers. This is the gate of false beliefs. It is much like being behind an unlocked gate that we believe is locked, so we never try to open it.
Once we accept that our self-belief system is based on false beliefs, we’re able to pass through the gate. On the other side is a terrain not much better than the one we left behind. It is what I call “The Battleground of Beliefs.” There are three main areas of conflict in the battleground.
We first have the conflict of circumstances. Our present circumstances are the result of the choices we’ve made up to this point. We may now live in circumstances that make our lives difficult, such as debt, bad relationships, or an unsatisfying job situation. To overcome this conflict, we must learn to let go of the assumption that our past predicts our future.
Next, we have conflict with others. The conflict we had with our abuser in the past is behind us, but we bring with us a pattern of dealing with others that was shaped by our past. We may even enter into relationships now that mirror the abusive relationships of the past. A major source of conflict with others is how we interpret their words and actions.
The third area of conflict is conflict with ourselves. Ultimately, all conflict is self-conflict. The defining moment of healing and growth is moment of taking responsibility, not for the abuse, but for our choices. Personal responsibility is crucial to healing. We are responsible for our own healing. If we wait for someone to heal us, we will be waiting for the rest of our lives. It is here that we have to face our inner critic, and deny its power in our lives.
Taking personal responsibility is the toll that we must pay to step onto the bridge. The bridge is where we reconcile with our lives. We first must forgive ourselves of the harsh things we’ve said to ourselves with our inner critic. We must reconcile ourselves with our past.
These steps all lead us to the only place where healing can happen, a place of self-love. Self-love was robbed from us. But only we can restore it. No one outside of ourselves can do it for us. As we love ourselves more, we let go of those relationships that do not support self-love. As we love ourselves more, we draw to ourselves others that will love us. Everything that we want for our lives on the other side of the bridge begins will self-love.
In the next post, I will share what I call “The Wounded Child’s Journey Toolkit,” seven tools that are necessary to begin the journey towards healing.