Enhancement of Personal Growth
There are three steps one needs to take for healing to be complete.
Step One - Awareness and acknowledgement.
Always be true to your self!
Before something can be remedied it must first be acknowledged that there is a problem or issue. Acknowledgement is shedding the light on what every your issues or problems are. As long as the issues are in darkness, which is the individual’s inability to acknowledge their existence, this is the fuel that causes it to manifest, fester and grow. Acknowledgement to yourself and aloud penetrates to a deep level, not just a surface-level idea which fosters the movement of negativity within you. An example would be, if one acknowledges that they have an overeating habit, merely shedding the light that the problem exist opens the door for the individual to look at why they have this eating problems, issues, or disorders, which generally has its root in loneliness, and or providing a comfort zone (food can provide a comfort zone). Once the acknowledgement has taken place it is very important to follow those feeling associate with the issue because it is always rooted or linked to another emotion or feeling. Exploring that feeling in depth will result in one finding that underneath that overeating is a feeling of, loneliness or sense of comfort which is derived from the consumption of food (an emotional eater). This is just an example, but it does illustrate how stopping at the feeling of loneness would mean one misses out on being aware of the other, related feelings of food providing a comfort zone, feelings of abandonment, inadequacy, rejection, etc..
Fortunately, there are a number of good approaches to exploring our feelings, and as long as they are respectful of the timing, safety, and support that’s needed to delve into these sometimes murky and potentially scary places, most of them allow us to identify the primary feelings and those lurking underneath, no matter how long that discovery process takes.
A common question that arises is why anyone would want to get rid of feelings or fix them. Unfortunately, that’s the wrong question, as it assumes that there is a desire to be free of emotions. The real question would be, “For how much longer do you want your emotions and feelings to overwhelm you and prevent you from living your life in the manner that is most resourceful to you?”
There is a world of difference between eradicating emotions and feelings, and having a healthy relationship with them, where they arise and subside naturally, without causing you excessive distress. This is also different from suppressing or denying them, which is often the underlying approach to techniques that talk about “controlling your emotions”.
Step Two - Expression
Once we have identified a specific feeling or emotion that we want to work with, it is often helpful to express that emotion, both as part of the awareness deepening and the acceptance of it. Being able to talk to ourselves about a feeling is a good first step. We feel fear, for example, and instead of trying to avoid or deny that feeling, we notice that fear. If next we express it out loud, this can be a very powerful act. Just looking ourselves in the mirror and saying the words “I feel fear”, can be very liberating. Affirmations are good for the elimination of trapped emotions.
Taking this process of expression further, we would then express the words that describe the feeling to someone else. We need a good, patient listener who is not going to judge what we say, react to it, try to fix it or otherwise get involved in our experience of expressing the feeling. Remembering that we do not employ self empting minds we have to empty them our though counseling or confiding I a good friend.
As well, the importance of a safe environment to do this work is paramount - this would include a comfortable quite place where we will not be interrupted. If we feel safe enough, soon after the words start to flow will come other expressions of that feeling, which could include tears, shouting, sobbing, body sensations, etc..
Step Three - Resolution
The third step in healing an unresourceful emotion or feeling is to achieve some resolution around it. This resolution would include the following elements - a full exposure to the feeling, a diminishing of the intensity of the feeling to a level that is first comfortable and then truly absent, a feeling of peacefulness around the event or subject that triggered the feeling in the first place, and some insight into what was going on for us.
Most of the emotional healing methods I have explored do not achieve all of these markers of success. Some try to immediately get an insight as to what caused the feeling and then use that insight to “think away the feeling”, which is pretty close to willfully suppressing it - it will arise again another day.
Some try to put whipped cream on the issue, by “reframing” a painful incident through rationalizing about it, verbally minimizing it, putting a positive spin on it, etc. - this again merely shoves the feeling into a storage place, from which it will probably emerge at a later date.
Some methods place a lot of value on the expression phase, having people scream, punch pillows, kick their feet, etc. etc., but then do not actually resolve the underlying feeling.
Some methods attempt to quickly reduce the intensity of the feeling by use of physiological actions - having clients do lots of slow, deep breathing, for example, which is known to reduce tension in the body and induce feelings of relaxation and calmness. An effective method of curbing symptoms of distress is taking a deep breath and forcefully blowing out through a small hole in your mouth, letting your cheeks puff out. This puts pressure on the vagus nerve, which is one of the most important nerves in the body, and tells it to reset to a normal (calmer) state.
Attempts to “speed things along”, which can include constant prompting of the client to “find another (deeper) feeling”, often result in temporary relief but not resolution. The problematic feeling eventually returns. I once filmed a “master healer” running a number of healing processes and declaring each to be successful. Unfortunately, in each case the client’s problem returned within a few weeks, as the process actually only resulted in temporary relief.
Other techniques take advantage of the normal human desire to avoid pain and our built-in defense mechanism, disassociating, to simply further disassociate the client from the feeling. Again, this does not resolve anything, but just shoves it down further into the person’s hiding places for uncomfortable feelings.
One truly unfortunate thing about techniques that do not provide resolution is that the client is often held responsible for the success or failure of the process. People are told things such as “you are not ready yet to heal this”, “you are resisting the process”, and “you need to do something else first before you can heal this”.
The proper use of EFT is a topic to be covered in another article, but suffice to say here that one should follow closely the process outlined by the inventor, Gary Craig, and avoid introducing elements of other systems which attempt to “speed things up” or “reframe a feeling” - the goal is resolution, not speed or further disassociating from the feeling.
Getting to resolution
Having watched hundreds of people try various healing processes, with varying degrees of success, I boiled down the results to these four essential elements of a long-term successful healing process. They are simple, practical and easy to look for:
· The client experiences full exposure to the feeling, for as long as it takes for resolution to occur - they remain fully associated. As this can be seen as counter-intuitive, given human nature to avoid pain and the large number of relief methods being promoted on the basis of being “quick and painless”, one must overcome the tendency to run away from the feeling. Having someone else guide you through a fully-associated process a few times makes it easier to eventually be able to do it on one’s own, if desired. “ Fully associated” means you feel the feeling, and are looking out through your own eyes, not watching yourself as if watching a movie.
· The feeling will diminish in intensity, first to a level that is comfortable and then dissolve completely. Many relief oriented processes stop once a comfortable intensity is reached. However, stopping prematurely can lead to the feeling being re-triggered, as it is not gone from the system, much like cancer can continue to spread if not eradicated.
· The amount of time needed for a feeling to diminish can vary tremendously, so patience is important and the classical 50 minute therapist’s hour is often not conducive to complete resolution in a single session - it might take hours. An important element here is that there is no attempt to make the unresourceful feeling go away or change - it is accepted for what it is, in each moment, and allowed to run its course until it dissolves of its own accord.
· Once the intensity of the feeling has been reduced to null, a new sense of peacefulness around the event or subject that triggered the feeling in the first place is reported. If that peacefulness is not present, it is likely that related feelings are present, and each in turn would be handled like the first, until the peacefulness arises.
· Some insight into what was going on for us, what meaning we can give to the fact we had strong feelings about an incident, can and often do arise after holding oneself in the peacefulness for a while.
If the healing process you are presently trying does not give you long- lasting resolutions (the problem keeps resurfacing, despite the temporary relief you experience), you may want to look for someone to guide you through a spiritual approach that involves prayer. You may “get lucky” with one of those processes that make you feel better temporarily, using “reframing”, lots of deep breathing and other feel-good whipped cream, but true resolution comes from true honoring of the feeling, and that means staying in it until it dissolves of its own accord.
Many of the existing healing oriented methods could be improved and provide long lasting results if the concept of full association with the feeling was incorporated into them. However, once you have healed your own pain, it becomes far easier to patiently support those doing their 3 step healing work.
Remember to stay with the healing process until healing is complete, remaining in the feeling as fully as you possibly can.
By Dr. Sharon R. Bonds, PhD.
This article is copyrighted.
Copyright© The Library of Congress 2007