Eventually we’re all on the spiritual path for one reason: healing. Inspired by romanticized ideas of spirituality, we think that being healed means we’re constantly living in bliss. Life is suddenly one big party, we only encounter friendly people, everyone likes us and negative emotions are vague memories from the past. I would lie if I would say that this isn’t exactly the idea with which I embarked on the spiritual journey. I came in order to heal my relationship patterns, therefore every sign of disturbed relationship patterns would be a sign that I’d still be broken which in turn was a sign that I had to work harder to achieve my healing. Throughout the years I’ve healed from my rather simplistic ideas about healing and have developed much healthier ideas about what healing truly means which I would like to share with you in this post.
I remember when I had my first glimpses of healing in which I truly felt the effect of all the work of my self love. I was in a situation in which I had normally succumbed to self hatred and self doubt, but there I was, standing strong like a proud - albeit wounded - warrior. The fact that I was wounded didn’t really count anymore. I was just so freaking proud of myself that I had obviously cared enough about myself to not let this situation get me down. I felt immensely empowered, knowing that other people’s actions didn’t necessarily have an effect on me. Ever since, I’ve often been in this state in which I’d fly high in the sky, empowered and full of love for everything and everyone. In those moments I feel invincible and most of all healed.
But inevitably, something always throws me off of my high flying disc and I get called back to reality. Either I suddenly experience the pain I couldn’t experience before or some other unwanted event makes me feel bad - or worse, both arise. Up until recently, my conclusion was that I simply wasn’t healed. I’d conclude that I had been fooling myself, making myself believe that I had healed. After all, if I was healed, I wouldn’t be still struggling, wouldn’t I?
Fortunately, I started to question this false premise recently while I was on a serious high flying disc, mainly because I realized how much I have healed myself in the past years. This state of high lasted for four happy days and after that I unexpectedly fell off into immense heartache, feelings of rejection, loneliness, shame, guilt and unworthiness. The contrast was so extreme, I couldn’t help but notice that something strange was going on.
Since my extreme high had been induced by my commitment to really stay in the Here and Now, I didn’t allow myself to get off track. Uneasy as it was, I continued staying in the present and I just watched these completely unexpected feelings. My rational mind kept wanting to tell me that the pain I was feeling didn’t match my current life situation and that there was no need to feel all of this. After all, I was healed, so why should I dwell on those meaningless feelings? But fortunately, my commitment to the Here and Now didn’t allow me to follow those storylines. All I could do was to allow myself to follow the feelings these storylines created - that was all.
I’ve spent a great amount of time recently simply sitting (or lying) with my hands on my heart, feeling whatever was arising from deep within. I didn’t link the feeling to any story anymore, but just allowed everything to come up. Of course, I realized that my rational mind was right when it told me that my pain wasn’t related to the current situations, but that didn’t mean that it was a good idea to ignore those feelings. While I was lying there and I allowed myself to really feel this feeling that permeated my entire chest, it suddenly dawned on me that the pain was in fact part of the healing!
I realized that the pain wasn’t showing me that I still had so many unhealed parts, instead the pain happened because I was healing! Suddenly I noticed how often I had misinterpreted this pain, thinking that I was obviously on the wrong track and that I had to work even harder to get there. Particularly in the past 1.5 years I did commit myself to feeling the feeling, but always with this nagging feeling in the back of my head: When am I finally going to get there?! I knew I was doing a lot of work and I knew that it was valuable, but I always misinterpreted my recurring negative feelings as proof of my still broken condition.
Since I didn’t allow myself to buy into my mental stories anymore, I also stopped believing this story. Deep within, I knew that this couldn’t be a sign of my incompleteness, I had just experienced the depth of my wholeness a couple of hours earlier! So, I just laid back and relaxed into the pain, letting it be what it is, without any story or explanation. After I relaxed into it for a while, a bittersweet feeling arose inside of me. The pain continued to exist - and even deteriorated at times - but it got accompanied by a sweet, tender and loving feeling. Intuitively, I felt something great was unfolding and allowed this feeling to stay as long as it wanted - which it did over the course of a couple of weeks.
Within those weeks the same pain came and went and new feelings came and went, positive as well as negative. Like in Rumi’s beautiful poem “The Guesthouse”, I hosted all of those feelings for the duration and the extent that they wanted to stay. I opened the door for them with a welcoming smile and whenever they left, I gently closed the door behind them with a feeling of gratitude, since every single emotion left behind a gift: an insight, a burden off my shoulder, an intimate moment with myself.
This experience really opened my eyes and my heart to what healing really is. I realized that healing is not about this feeling of being on a high flying disc. Of course, it’s great to experience your own power and happiness, but true healing occurs when we are able to see ourselves and stay with ourselves in any condition - also in the negative ones. There are several explanations as to why it makes perfectly sense why we get struck by negative emotions after having experienced feelings of healing. One of them can be related to the concept of the Inner Child, who was literally waiting for me to heal so it could come and show itself to me. The rejection, loneliness, shame, guilt and unworthiness I was experiencing was not a product of my current situation, but my current situation has helped me to get to those feelings which simply needed to be seen.
My Inner Child knows that I can’t see or hold it when I’m in a state of woundedness, so it feels safe to come out right at the moment that I’m feeling more whole. Being whole means that I’ve created an inner container in which I can contain my own emotions, so they don’t have to spill and leak all over the place (which is what happens every time I want to outsource the healing of my feelings to others). I can keep my emotions in a place where they are safe, where I can see them and give them the attention they need in order to vanish into thin air. Eventually this is all my Inner Child has ever wanted anyone to do with my feelings: to see and acknowledge them. Our Inner Child doesn’t necessarily need us to make an analysis of its feelings, all it needs is to be seen and held. The reason we still walk around with these old feelings, is because we couldn’t find anyone to give these feelings a safe space - not even we would do this for ourselves. Therefore, being healed means that you’ve created the space to hold and see the pain, and not that you’ve wiped all the pain away.
By telling ourselves stories about what happened or by rationalizing the pain away, we deny our Inner Child the chance to simply let go of the feeling. Ever since I work in child care, I see how important it is for children to just be seen and heard. No matter how sad or angry the kid is, if you can truly allow it to be with their feelings and simply acknowledge their truths, you’ll be surprised how quickly they can let go of the feeling and how they sometimes walk away as if nothing had happened (this is equally important for positive emotions by the way).
Back to our Inner Child. When we don’t manage to simply see our Inner Child with the pain it is carrying around, it will simply turn its back to you, hoping for a better day in which you might acknowledge it. The Inner Child might take the pain away when it retreats in the background again, but you don’t realize that it’s still holding on to the pain and it will return with that exact same pain another day. And chances are big it’s going to come when it feels you’re ready to embrace it. And that’s why the pain will come right when you’re feeling stronger and more secure than before. Once you find a way to just see the pain, you’ll realize that maybe it hurts more than expected, but it’s gone so much quicker. You’ll notice that what made you continue feeling the pain, was not the pain itself, but your attachment to the pain through the story you kept telling yourself about the pain. We allow our Inner Child to continue holding onto the pain by not paying attention to it and feeding the mental story instead.
What is worse, is that the pain you experience is oftentimes not even related to your current story. The situation has been divinely orchestrated in order to trigger those old feelings which haven’t been acknowledged yet. The more open you are to the pain, the more sensitive you’ll become which means that you’ll probably not even need a truly painful story to elicit these emotions. In their original form the pain is more intense though, which is why a small event could cause immense pain. When this happened to me, I thought that I had even made steps backward on the healing path, since I felt overly emotional. Now I realize that also this is part of the healing path.
For those amongst you who aren’t huge fans of the Inner Child concept, this phenomenon can also be perfectly explained by universal laws. Throughout your spiritual practice you have learned many lessons and as a way of testing how well you learned the lesson, the universe will send you “tests''. This is not the universe’s way of teasing you, but it’s the most effective way of really embodying the things you have learned and therefore stimulate your further growth. By sending you a real life situation in which you can demonstrate to yourself what you’ve learned, chances are bigger you’ll remember this throughout your life. These tests will probably continue coming up, but instead of resisting the situation, you will realize that this pain is needed in order to continue your growth, which is a true sign that you’ve embodied the wisdom. So, you don’t attract the pain because you’re vibrating negatively, but because you’re ready for expansion and growth.
So, it’s not the amount of painful situations which indicate your level of healing, but how you deal with them. Being able to allow and accept the pain just the way it is, without abandoning yourself by running off into mental stories or waiting to be rescued by someone else, is a sure sign that you’re healed. The intensity of this pain also doesn’t really say anything, each time a new pain comes up, the pain will come with the intensity it needs to come with in order to be released. If the pain has been deep, it can feel as if it’s overwhelming you, but as long as you’re capable of allowing yourself to be flooded, you can be assured that you’re healed. Merely the resistance you feel towards your own feelings and reality, is an indicator that you’re not there yet. Of course, it’s easy to accept our feelings when we’re high on our new insights and we feel on top of the world, but we can only truly be healed when we as well can accept the painful feelings which are an inevitable part of our lives.
I really hope this post has helped you put into perspective the role of negative emotions in your healing path. The more you accept the pain and discomfort as your ally towards expansion, you’ll continue walking the healing path. You’ll notice that the more you follow the path, the more untended wounds you’ll encounter. And the more wounds you encounter, the more whole you become. It won’t be your goal anymore to not experience negative emotions, but instead to find a peaceful way of encountering whatever arises. Being able to experience negative emotions without getting stuck on the mental stories, will eventually grant you the freedom to experience the inevitable pain without the suffering. Eventually, pursuing a life without pain is futile, there’s no end to the pain and therefore the elimination of pain can never be the end station of healing. The fact that you are allowing yourself to feel the pain is a sign that you’re healed - healed from your own self sabotage which keeps you from healing the old wounds.