For many of us the Gregorian Calendar New Year represents more than just parties and resolutions. It is also a time of deep introspection, a time to review the year that is coming to an end, and to assess what is possible for the year ahead.
For me, 2022 has been a year full of mixed emotions, many of them heavy and chaotic. Although there were some truly beautiful moments, especially the marriage of my daughter, this year has also been infused with many personal challenges. It is these moments of struggle that have begged me to go inward and downward—to dig deeper to uncover higher ground.
This year I have experienced some of the most invaluable life lessons firsthand. I have chosen to share my top four with you. Each lesson has contributed to my personal healing journey.
The Moments Mean Everything
How we interact and show up in the moments of our lives means everything. In every single precious moment, we are either consciously responding or unconsciously reacting. What this means is that in every interaction, we are either relating from a place of love, connection, and a regulated nervous system, or from fear, disconnect, and dysregulation.
I believe that it is the moments that make or break any relationship. I too believe that most of us have experienced the full gamut of moments, from the most beautiful to the most painful.
And when I say the moments mean everything, what I mean is this: How safe and supported someone can make you feel in a small, seemingly insignificant moment, can change everything.
In my dysregulated, fearful moments, my co-pilot (anxiety) is often in the driver’s seat, seeking to control people and circumstances. When a loved one can experience my triggered state with love and connection, it changes the scene that is about to unfold, dramatically. Co-regulating may feel like the hardest thing to do: to hold someone and help them to regulate their nervous system when they are acting out and even hurting you, emotionally.
But we ALL suffer in our own ways, so we all NEED our kind and compassionate witnesses, our hand holders, and our dedicated/trusted cheerleaders to help us heal by enhancing our feeling of safety and secure attachment. We can have an amazing support system, with the best coach, therapist, and doctor, but how our loved ones (family and friends) hold and support us daily and how we hold ourselves, in the small, seemingly insignificant moments, will ultimately impact the trajectory of our healing the most.
Healing is Any Movement Toward Wholeness
Healing has been referred to by Gabor Maté as “any movement toward wholeness.” But what is the difference between healing and curing? Curing refers to the absence of disease, and healing is about coming into wholeness. Dr. Lissa Rankin teaches that, “Ideally, healing and curing happen together, but this isn’t always the case…It’s possible to be healed but not cured, and it’s possible to be cured but not healed.”
People who live with chronic illness may accept the fact that they cannot be cured and may also feel a strong desire to heal themselves—to find wholeness—a feeling of wellness within the illness. To feel whole is to feel a deep sense of connection and oneness, with self (your core), with others (your family, your community), and also perhaps with a Higher Power (your Creator), no matter the circumstances. Another way to describe it is to feel aligned.
A sense of alignment or connection with self—between your mind, body, and soul or between your thoughts, speech, and action—happens when what you are thinking in your mind directly translates into the words you speak, gets internalized by your body to create the emotions you feel, and is applied to the actions you take. What this demonstrates is that all your parts are listening to one another and are communicating a similar message.
Disconnection with self or a lack of alignment plays out very differently. I may mentally understand that all is well, that I am safe and have no reason to feel anxious. But emotionally and physically, my body and nervous system show me otherwise. When these parts are not in alignment, it means the message is not received on all levels and does not get internalized. It is as if my mind is speaking one language and my body another. (Spiritually, I may also be feeling separate, alone, and disconnected, making it even harder to align my mind and body.)
Thankfully, this year I was blessed with the opportunity to learn more about the different parts of my mind, the different parts and systems of my body, and the different levels of my soul. In building this awareness, I am healing and moving toward wholeness and alignment by learning how to pay attention and listen to all my parts, to enhance communication between my mind, body, and spirit—between my thoughts, speech, and action.
Healing takes daily, consistent inner work. It is an ongoing commitment of time and energy. Although building new mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual muscles can feel like an arduous task, moving towards wholeness is a practice that can feel most gratifying. While much has been written about the mind-body connection, which is scientifically proven, there is also an overlap between emotional health and spirituality that cannot be disputed and contributes to one’s healing experience.
Feeling worthy enough to build an intimate connection with G-d was foundational to my healing. This spiritual connection helps me daily to move toward a more peaceful and trusting place of wholeness. I call my relationship with G-d, “Our Most Sacred and Holy Dance.”
Healing is About Finding Not Fixing
So many times, we find ourselves trying to fix things, people, and situations. We are problem-solvers by nature—it is how we evolved to survive. We try to fix ourselves by finding a cure or a band-aid, something external to relieve the symptoms that weigh us down.
What if we recognized the fact that there was nothing to fix only something to uncover? What if all we had to do was find ourselves? Gabor Maté refers to healing as a kind of self-retrieval: “When we heal, we are engaged in recovering our lost parts of self, not trying to change or better them…. Healing is a direction, not a destination; a line on a map, not a dot.”
It took me a very long time to integrate the following concept: People who suffer are not broken people in need of fixing, they are not bad people in need of punishment—they are people who feel broken and wounded and need connection to find themselves.
Holding the Tension of Opposites is Real
Holding the tension of opposites means we can feel both fearful and safe at the same time—both whole and fragmented. I recently heard a woman grieving the loss of her parents speak of “simultaneously feeling abandoned and also carried” by G-d.
This past year I experienced many moments of opposing emotional states. At the beginning it felt quite chaotic, until I learned how to understand and internalize this phrase, “Holding the tension of opposites.”
These days I feel much less confusion around the co-existence of opposing feelings. Experiencing feelings as “both/and” rather than “either/or” changes the dynamic of self-regulation and offers true emotional maturity. Being able to acknowledge, recognize, and even hold two seemingly opposite feelings is another important part of one’s healing journey.
My Prayer for Integration & Healing
If any of these concepts resonate, may you not just embrace them intellectually and logically, dear reader, but may you also integrate them viscerally into your body—somatically into your cells.
In this New Year,
May we all invest in our own personal healing, in the healing of others, and also in a global healing.
May we create meaningful moments by pausing to notice: In this moment, ask yourself, “Am I flowing with life, expanding, and connecting, or am I controlling life, contracting, and disconnecting? Am I co-regulating or battling back?”
May we learn how to give and receive safe and secure attachment.
May we find ways to move toward wholeness, even when a cure is not in sight.
May we commit to the inner work and to the outer work, which also includes building and living new and improved lifestyle habits.
May we uncover our truths and re-discover our essence.
May we find not fix, and in our journey discover all our parts and emotions, giving ourselves permission to feel everything, even the tension of opposites.
Wishing you health, wellness, and healing of mind, body, and soul.