The Mysterious Element of Healing

IMG_3664We’re wired to heal. We’re meant to touch down into and live from our place of wholeness. We are, in fact, already whole, and much of the healing process is about learning to reconnect to our intrinsic wholeness. We long to heal, to know joy and fulfillment on a daily basis, to settle into a place of inner solidity where we can weather life’s storms with equanimity, and it’s this longing that guides us to seek out people who may be able to light the way. If you’re here, it’s probably because something inside of you is seeking relief from your anxiety or pain. That something is your innate desire to heal, the knowledge that life is meant to be more than this.

It’s hard work, this healing business. And yet I’ve noticed a pattern in my clients who deeply commit to doing their inner work and learning about what it means to be loving to themselves: After a certain amount of journaling, crying, counseling, exercising, eating well, and mindfulness (yes, it’s hard work!), an integration occurs and suddenly it’s not quite so hard anymore.

Some of these clients  - but certainly not all – carry religious and/or spiritual beliefs that include calling out in prayer to a divine source. So alongside the hard work, they have a prayer practice where they consciously and actively ask for help, where the working stops and they take their hands off the wheel for a moment. “Please help me,” is often heard as a whisper or a scream when someone is in the agony of their own death experience, shedding the habits, beliefs, and behaviors that have grown like an encrusted coral of protection around their hearts but are no longer serving them. They work, they toil, they suffer, and in those moments of truly open-hearted prayer, they surrender and let go.

They have then opened a space for something else to come and to tend to their broken heart. In Jungian psychology we call it the healing function of the psyche. A more scientific approach would refer to it as the integration of the mind. I like to think of it as grace.

By grace I mean an element outside of our conscious effort that assists our lives. I mean the breath between the tension, the moments when our eyes are opened to the utter beauty and perfection that inform the world and we know, deeply know in our bodies, that everything is okay. Suddenly the pain isn’t quite so painful. We feel that something or someone else has arrived to share our burden. A poem emerges that fills us with the numinous. We listen to music in a stripped down place of rawness that invites us to receive the rhythm and melodies into every crevice of soul. We reach out in need to a friend and she actually answers the phone. A text of hope arrives just when the despair feels like too much to bear.

So there’s “on-the-spot” grace that helps us over the bumps in the daily road, and then there’s a broad-stroked grace that enters when a certain amount of work has been done.

For those who are uncomfortable with the word “grace”, Daniel Siegel, M.D., offers a similar explanation from a brain perspective for this element of healing that enters after a certain amount of hard work has been done:

“A cascade of positive effects seems to emerge spontaneously when integration has been initiated. It’s like the old physics idea of pushing a ball up a hill to get it rolling down the other side. It takes considerable effort and deliberate attention to move  beyond the initial engrained, nonintegrated state – to push the ball up the hill. This is the intentional work of change. But ultimately the emerging mind takes its natural course toward integration, and the ball flows effortlessly down the valley of coherence. Integration is the mind’s natural state.”

Again, we are wired for wholeness and integration. Several decades ago Carl Jung said that every challenge and symptom are the soul inviting us toward our natural state of wholeness. Dr. Siegel’s years of study of the brain’s neuroplasticity now scientifically proves the same thing. I’m not sure it matters whether we’re talking about soul or mind or the invisibles, the equation seems to be the same: Put in the hard work and something else will come to offer you a hand.

We are meant to heal. We are meant to feel balance and fulfillment. We are meant to live with a hum of rightness instead of the undercurrent of anxiety that pervades so many people’s lives. If you’re willing to do the work and climb up the steep mountain- practicing mindfulness, journaling, nourishing your body with clean, healthy foods, singing, dancing, or whatever calls to you - a healing principle inside of you will assist you the rest of way until one day you realize that it’s not so hard after all. And then you may even start to soar.

31 comments to The Mysterious Element of Healing

  • Bettina

    Oh just reading this opens my heart Sheryl. Thank you for this clear words! And how beautiful to see symptoms as friends asking us to change fear into love!

  • kp

    Sheryl,
    Today I had a moment like this. I was having severe anxiety his morning, my partner and I talked for several hours about memories and everything Ive been going through. The whole time I still felt the anxiety, the distance and disconnect I’ve felt between me and my partner, the feeling that set off my anxiety in the first place. Then we decided to go for a walk and right before going outside it was like a light cut on and the connection feeling Ive been seeking so desperately came flooding back, things felt good and natural between us again, we were even able to discuss some wedding plans, something I have been putting off even speaking of. However some of that time I experienced meta anxiety, worrying about when the anxiety would return. Slowly the connection feeling started waning and the disconnection feeling started to set back in. I now feel somewhat stuck in this state of in between, which in some ways feels worse than just the anxiety. Its like in some sick way I almost experienced some comfort as I slipped back into the anxiety, and my mind is now ruminating on the idea “you don’t really want this relationship or those connection feelings again, you just want out”. Have you seen other clients experience this “in between” feeling or even a twisted comfort from their anxiety? How can we maintain these moments of clarity and what feelings like a moment of healing from being stolen away and replaced again by thoughts such as the one I mentioned above? After having these moments or hours of clarity its as if I cant even recall them happening…

  • kp

    Thanks for that article. I think to some extent that is what has happened but I don’t really feel that empty, its just that their are less voices, I feel a bit less frantic. There was another time in this process when I felt completely empty and this doesn’t feel quite like that. I guess what is scary about this state is that right after feeling so close to what I want I am immediately bombarded with the one truth I have been holding on to during this process, that is that I know I WANT this relationship and my mind now attacks that thought with “You don’t really want this, even though you have these moments of “clarity” they aren’t how real life will be”. Now I wonder “can I trust these moments of clarity?”

    I just worry that if the anxiety isn’t there and I don’t feel connected and/or I am questioning, then it feels like those voices of you “don’t want this” are true.

    • All of those other voices are your ego’s way of trying maintain the illusion of control. The windows of clarity are you truth. You can feel the difference inside of you: the place of openheartedness is the one to trust.

      • kp

        Thank you Sheryl, this is such a relief. Sometimes you just need to hear someone else (other than your anxious mind who seems to be both your best friend and worst enemy) say it out loud, or on an internet blog :)

      • kp

        so if the voice of “you don’t really want this” is my ego, how do I banish that thought?

        • You can’t banish a thought but you can learn to attend to it. More in next week’s post… : )

          • kp

            I guess what’s scary about this is that now the anxiety is not really there so I feel like this thought must be true, and the thought “I really want this” has been the one thing Ive held onto for assurance. All that Ive wanted this whole time is to feel that connection again, I did, and now that it has somewhat gone away when I think about that desire for that connection again I question “do I really want that connection again”? It seems so crazy considering its all Ive wanted for two months now. If the anxiety is starting to go away does that mean that “I don’t really want this” is my truth?

  • lalalove

    Oh geez, Oh geez, this is one of my all time favorite blog posts!!! :) :)

  • ivee

    I’m 25, but i know that my life’s mission is healing, for myself and others. i was born with a broken heart. it is hard work.. thanks sheryl!

  • LM

    Thanks Sheryl and kp. Perfect timing! That’s exactly how things are going for me right now.

  • Sheryl..I haven’t seen my boyfriend for a couple days and I missed him and stuff . And last night he came over for like an hour and for some reason I felt very sad .. The feeling came out of nowhere like my mind kept saying tell him “you don’t feel the same anymore with him” and it kind of broke me because I DIDNT WANT to say it whatsoever so I didn’t .. But it was like my mind was pressuring and when he looked at me idk why but I didn’t want to look back and I felt sad/disappointed that I even felt that way . And I’m sad today too not really anxiety or anything just sad.. A very low low feeling. I don’t really know what this is? Emptiness or sadness but it’s not really anxiety but I feel sad and it’s kind of hard to describe. I don’t feel relieved when I read stuff about relationship anxiety like I used too because I already know it all and I don’t know what this is. I think about it so
    Much.

    • It’s the over-thinking that’s the problem. Time to drop into your heart, breath, and body and let yourself FEEL what’s living there. The answers aren’t in your head.

  • Glo

    What great timing! I feel like i am in that palce of slowly healing. Its exactly what you said (of course!) that the work is about shedding old ways, mindfulness, journaling, knowing what makes you happy, and loving yourself so that you can be loving in a relationship. What’s also true is the balance you talked about… I noticed that i can “do” all of the things to help healing. I’ll try to cry, journal, do mindfulness to help… But then thats forced healing. If i’m just “being” with it truly, that guides me through another layer of healing. Its amazing!

  • Mary Walker

    Since I found your website in December, I’ve felt infinitely better about my relationship. I had thoughts about how I used to feel anxious, but I didn’t consider the thoughts to be intrusive anymore. However, just a couple of days ago, I started to feel anxious again. I’ve spent time praying as well as reading through your material again, but it’s not resonating with me quite like it used to. The only thing I have to take comfort in is the fact that I know it’s anxiety and there’s not anything wrong with the relationship because I have had the past two months to be the best I’ve had in a long time. So if I know what the problem is, why is it even a problem at all?

    • There’s probably something deeper inside of you that needs attention. Once you know that the problem isn’t the relationship, the real self-work begins.

  • Sunny

    Thank you so much for this, Sheryl – it gives such hope and comes at a perfect time. I have worked really hard and I’ve felt things shift a bit more to the positive lately. And actually today my therapist told me I seemed better and she adviced me to “try to think of yourself as well” (as opposed to mentally ill from anxiety). I think her point was to help me remember what my mind is like when it is integrated, and by this boost the process of my mind finding “its natural course toward integration” as you put it. So I am so greatful you posted this today. Comfort in content as well as in a sense of synchronicity :)

  • Kerri

    Hi Sheryl,

    I came across your website last week when I was in the middle of an absolute panic attack, mainly focused around my relationship. Your blog posts have been extremely helpful in reminding me that my thoughts are just thoughts, recognizing the fears and where they are coming from, but not letting them control me. I have always struggled with anxiety, from having OCD when I was younger, being hospitalized for an eating disorder in my teens, to sometimes being promiscuous/drinking too much in my early 20′s.

    One of the things I really struggle with is being in my mid 20′s – adjusting to being a ” grown up”, and figuring out a balance between spending time with friends, with my boyfriend and then just alone time with myself. I have always had trouble just “being”, I am very active person. One thing that I think recently discovered really triggers my anxiety is after spending so much time with my boyfriend, I think I am nervous about losing myself. It’s scary to think about spending every day with someone and never just being by yourself. But then when I am alone in my apartment, I feel like I need to be doing something. If I am not with friends, then I feel alone and “empty”. Like I don’t have any friends.Recently I moved into my own apartment for the first time, and these struggles are really effecting me. If you could write an article focused on “growing up” I would really appreciate it!

  • Kerri

    It also might be helpful to add that my boyfriend is older and all his friends are married ( while non of my friends are). We have been talking about getting engaged soon – I get really happy talking and thinking about it, picture a great life for us, look at engagement rings, houses and then BAM out of nowhere comes a panic attack that lasts for weeks. I can’t eat, my thoughts of ” Should I break up with him? If I am feeling this anxiety does that mean that it’s not meant to be?”, and I feel like I am going to jump out of my skin. It’s hard figuring out who you are in your 20′s – Especially when you have never really liked yourself!

  • Kimmi

    This article was really helpful to me. My whole life I have dreamed of growing up and getting married. This has been my ambition in life, but in many cases it has also created major issues in my relationships. I find that after a period of time, I grow frustrated, feel stuck, and end of leaving the relationship, in my mind far too soon than I should. I almost feel a need to be single, because it gives me a sense of independence that I find motivating, but I also wonder deep down, if it’s also a loss of a goal. Since I have found someone, I no longer have this goal to reach of getting married or engaged, and I don’t have another goal to fill it? I send to get into push and pull relationships. I am comfortable when I am gaining the affection, but once I have it completely, I get annoyed or freaking out and I push away. I fantasized about being in love my whole life, and now that I am, I’m still fascinating about falling in love again with someone else, someone perfect, in the perfect senerio, perfect moment. How do I deal with this issue, and get it under control? I want stability in my life, and this way of running away is defiantly only bringing me hardship.

  • D

    So far your articles have helped a lot. But it seems like I can’t get much of a break. When I finally move on from one thing something else comes up. Or they both come up. Now the thing I’m worrying about is if my partner and I share the same core values. I can’t stop thinking about it and it’s scaring me. I’m not sure what to do.

  • Yurski

    This is amazing Sheryl. The words “Please help me,” have been a prayer and a wish so many times during journaling and mindfulness moments. Thank you for writing something yet again that resonates so deeply!! These articles are like an oasis for me!