I want to circle back to our exploration of the healing process with a simple question: How do you know if you’re ready to heal? Even if you recognize that readiness is crucial for healing to begin, how do you know if you’ve reached that point?
We all like to think we’re ready. Some of us are but think we can’t be because we haven’t done any deliberate prep work. Some of us have spent years preparing and still aren’t ready. I know that defies logic. The path to healing is not logical.
Clear, sound reasoning-a logical path-comes from the mind. Healing involves the whole being working in concert. Often, it is the disconnection of body, mind, and spirit that generates the need for healing in the first place.
What is readiness if not being prepared?
Readiness is a state of willingness.
Duh, huh? I hate it when people say things like that. I never know what they really mean. To more clearly see how willingness relates to readiness to heal, try asking yourself the following questions:
Am I willing to stop avoiding?
Healing will sometimes mean feeling all of those emotions we work too much, sleep too much, drink too much, eat too much, watch TV too much, and medicate in order to avoid. Sometimes we are not willing to give those things up. If not, we are not ready to heal.
Am I willing to clearly state my intentions?
We have already explored the process of setting intentions. A willingness to set intentions is an indicator of readiness.
Am I willing to let go of expectations?
Staying married to the expectation of a certain outcome will hamper healing. Being willing to let expectations go shows a level of readiness.
Am I willing to trust my body?
You may not trust your body right now. That is okay. The real question is, are you willing to learn to trust it by exploring methods like somatic experiencing and mindfulness practices?
Am I willing to allow feelings to flow?
You may not be able to do this yet. If you have lived in danger, you may have had to suppress, disassociate, or hide your feelings in order to survive. It can take a long time to be able to feel and let the feelings flow. A willingness to try is all you need to get started.
Am I willing to stick with the process?
A healing journey can take you into territory that you may not immediately understand on a cognitive level. If you stick with the process, this will work itself out eventually. If you are not willing to stick with the process you can quickly get stuck in a cognitive loop. The mind cannot make this journey alone. Sometimes the body must lead.
Am I willing to stop muscling through?
It is possible to white knuckle your way through many things for a period of time, but that is not a sustainable method for change. Pushing yourself to confront your fears, for example, will have a different long term result than allowing fear to bubble up, acknowledging it, and sitting with it until it dissipates.
Am I willing to feel momentarily unsafe in order to ultimately feel more whole?
No one wants to feel unsafe, but we can all tolerate it in small doses as long as we are willing.
Am I willing to treat myself with respect and kindness?
Deep emotional and spiritual work can be as physically draining as lifting weights or running. Giving your body nutritional support, regular gentle exercise, plenty of sleep, and planned moments of beauty and pleasure are especially important for supporting the journey. A willingness to examine and revise self-talk when needed can boost your mood and energy level.
Am I willing to see what is?
This is a big thing. It sounds so easy. I’m in touch with reality. I’m sure you are too. Obviously, we see what is, right? Unfortunately, we may not. We all have blind spots and a great capacity for denial. If you come from a destructive, dysregulated, or dysfunctional family, seeing things as they actually are can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
It is painful to see your mother’s repeated and prolonged cruelty toward you for what it is – cruel, unloving behavior. You just want her to love you. You will bend yourself into any shape, do anything, make any excuse that allows you to believe that she does…or will someday.
It feels impossible to reconcile your husband’s verbal abuse with the fact that he says he loves you. It’s easier to morph what you’re hearing into a scolding you must need and deserve.
The sadness of neglect might simply consume you if you didn’t develop the ability to weave imaginary connections.
We learn early how to cushion ourselves from the harshest of realities. A willingness to release ourselves from the skills we developed for protection is part of the healing process. Because we internalize both the wounds from other’s destructive behavior and the skills we use to survive, releasing ourselves from these can feel like we’re losing ourselves and our story. We may experience grief, loss, uncertainty, and unbridled terror.
While we may know we are also releasing the things that prevent us from fully becoming our best selves, there will be moments in which it is difficult to hold that thought in our minds. When the lower brain is triggered to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn, we cannot force our way out of that state (over time we can change our relationship with the trigger points and hopefully reintegrate traumatic memories). If it were as simple as thinking our way out of this spot, no one would suffer from PTSD or complex PTSD.
Seeing what is may also mean seeing ourselves differently. Recognizing our blind spots and our contributions to dysfunction when we’re already feeling vulnerable is asking a lot.
Again, seeing what is is a BIG thing. It is not easy. You may feel more willing to explore this when you remember that on some level you already know anything you are becoming willing to see. This idea could be restated as a willingness to know what you know. You know how your mother’s cruelty feels. You know how your husband’s abuse affects your self-confidence. You know the ache of feeling invisible.
You may only recognize these things on a subconscious level. They must move to your conscious awareness for you to see them. Conscious awareness brings the feelings to the surface where you can make a decision regarding your response. This is how you will shift from the feeling position of a wounded victim to the feeling position of a powerful self-advocate. This is how you gain or regain yourself!
Am I willing to face any relationship consequences that may occur?
Once you see what is, you will have the opportunity to reevaluate your relationships. Some will be toxic and need to end. Some will need to be minimized. Some will morph into deeper, more supportive levels of love and concern. Being willing to let relationships evolve will allow you to find support for healing.
Am I willing to let go of the payoff I get from dysfunction?
Once we see what is, we may discover that we rely on unhealthy behavior to gain attention, feel supported and loved, solicit assistance, advance at work, or control our family environment. When we give up the unhealthy behavior, we will also give up the payoff.
Willingness does not require mastery of any skill. It does not require a certain level of understanding. It is not a declaration that you’ll do any particular thing. It is not an obligation or a timeline. Willingness is simply a state of being open to exploring whatever may come as you allow yourself to shift and heal. If you are willing, you are ready.