There is not a human being on this planet who has not experienced emotional pain as a child. Nobody is beyond carrying the injuries of the past in some way – like a weight that has attached to your body, mind and spirit. I believe that it is through our hurtful experiences that we learn to grow into wiser beings. In this way, accumulating emotional wounds is almost a developmental right of passage. That’s a new perspective on pain, isn’t it? It is a right of passage that you were meant to experience and now you are ready to heal your wounds so your heart light can shine and assist others through their passage.
The pain we experience may present more obviously for some in the form of behaviors and reactions to events. While you are likely aware of some of the emotional injuries carried within the mind at a conscious level, it is common that much lurks beneath the surface. This is called our shadow because it is the dark, dingy, scary place within us that is an unpleasant place to visit. It is the chamber within that radiates shame and embarrassment for what we feel is inherently wrong with us. It is the closet that contains our deepest, darkest secrets we withhold from the world.
We are careful not to expose our chamber to the outside world. However, what we often do not realize is that what appears to be hidden is simply an illusion. No matter what we do, what we worked really hard at keeping a secret deep within will seep out. The contents of inner chamber are similar to a watery/oily substance that will leak, because despite our efforts, our chambers are not made of steel. It is porous and the innards crave validation and acknowledgement. Eventually the chamber becomes soggy and it seeps. It seeps not in original form, however, but rather through glimpses of our behavior.
Our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers might be presented with perfectionistic tendencies, distraction, irritability, anxiety, depression, materialism, lack of connection with others, substance abuse, lack of or over-commitment, obsessions with food, technology, physical appearance, sex, carelessness or reckless behavior. It might present to ourselves as thoughts or beliefs such as criticism and judgement toward self or others.
This behavior is merely a reflection of what cannot be seen by the eye. Going deeper and opening that chamber, we might see remnants of unworthiness, feelings that we are unlovable, self hatred, insecurity and fear. These are the sources of pain in their rawest, most vulnerable form. Rather than showing the world this vulnerability, we frequently work overtime to hide this pain from any outside viewers and sometimes even ourselves. As we work to keep our hurtful feelings private, we experience a sense of separateness and we suffer with the illusion of being alone in the residence of pain.
You know it is time to cast light upon the shadow and relieve the darkness that cries from within when an internal voice becomes louder than the desire to continue wearing a mask. The voice that cries out to you and sheds tears is the child that was you and still exists, ready to emerge and yet fearful of what may come. As you grow and mature into your spiritual self, it becomes your work to free your child self from this place of confinement. This takes honesty, courage, effort and often support.
1. Honesty – Perhaps the most difficult part of the emotional healing process is becoming honest with yourself. There are aspects of ourselves that we hold within our shadow because they create a feeling of shame. It is embarrassing to feel weak, alone, to crave love and intimacy, to want to be needed, to admit to the workings of the ego mind and our thoughts and beliefs, to actually feel the fear that contains all of our shame within the shadow of darkness. When I began my own process of healing, I had to get real and admit to myself the many judgements I carried about myself, as well as the embarrassment of not being perfect. I was identified with the experiences that happened to me, thinking they were me. The initial step in self healing is acknowledging with honesty your most shameful and embarrassing parts – whether they be emotions, beliefs, thoughts or past behavior. You must get honest with yourself.
2. Courage – The exhaustion that accumulates from years of presenting to the world an inauthentic self becomes unbearable. The positive aspect of this exhaustion is that it frequently serves as a catalyst for change. The authentic voice within begins as a whisper, then a hum and grows into a powerful force and guidance of transformation. The desire to change your life creates that initial step of courage which is needed to heal.
3. Effort – Healing past wounds takes work. In my own healing process, there were days it was necessary to pull back and do nothing but watch mindless t.v. We need that respite sometimes in order to integrate in a safe, manageable way. However, it takes a willingness to engage in returning to our shadow chamber in order to free ourselves from the years of accumulation and heaviness.
5. Support – It is essential you reach out for help during your emotional healing journey. I found great solace in discussing my experiences with friends, colleagues and a therapist. Sometimes it is enough just to have someone be the container that holds your emotions and experiences for you, for even just a few moments – to be validated. Ultimately, the journey is about validating yourself, but it is important to recognize when you can use support along the way and eventually learn to create that foundation for yourself. It can even help to bring to mind someone who you feel is strong enough to hold you emotionally, or even to imagine being held by your older, wiser self or by your highest self in spirit. When you feel supported and held, you can stand with strength.
You now have in place a sturdy foundation of support, an honest admittance of the shadow that exists within, courage and a willingness to engage in your healing process. It is now time to gather some supplies: A childhood picture of yourself, a journal, soft music if you find that beneficial, a cozy blanket and a tissue box. Get comfortable, settle the physical body and softly gaze at your childhood picture for a couple of minutes, noticing what comes up for you if anything. Practice the following steps in nurturing this tender being who was essential at getting you to this point on your journey:
1. Close your eyes and go to your child self. Retrieve this young being who is afraid. Notice where he/she is being held – in a childhood home, a safe space or a place of nurturance or pain? Let him/her know that you are here for him/her now and that you are strong enough to hold whatever it is he/she would like to share with you.
2. If your child self is not in a comfortable, space place, ask your child self where he/she would like to go (whether a place you’ve been to before or one that is imagined) and bring him/her there, free from the painful space that has been holding this delicate being.
3. Let your child self know he/she is safe now and thank him/her for experiencing all of the challenges he/she has for your benefit. Have a conversation with your child self and communicate everything you would like to say to him/her. Be honest, kind and loving. This being is carrying the source of pain that you now seek to heal. Imagine approaching your child self as if he/she were a young one, standing right here before you and speak from your heart. If you find it helpful, you can write your younger self a letter or hold this conversation within the workings of your mind.
4. Imagine him/her receiving these words of tenderness, healing the spaces that seek to be healed. Validate the emotions communicated to you by your child self, allowing him/her to share anything he/she desires. Let him/her know there is no wrong way to feel and that you give him/her permission to express all he/she has been holding within. If it is helpful, you can imagine your child self, with your support, placing all that is ready to be released into a large bon fire. Go there, sing campfire songs, play, roast marshmallows, cuddle and release – TOGETHER. Release everything that no longer serves you and watch it burn away. Now drop into the body and feel the freedom and spaciousness – the lightness. Fill this space with radiant light or any image or symbol that is meaningful to and resonates with you. Allow this feeling to grow within your being and turning now toward a new path – one that is well lit with a beautiful glow. Hand in hand with your child self, a smile upon your faces, step onto this new path in the forest of your journey – a path that continues to lead you in this coming home to yourself.
As you embark upon this journey, it is natural for emotion to arise. Do take time for self care and make that a priority. Here is one guided imagery relaxation technique you can utilize to support you through this process: