Episode #58: Tips for Healing
Our nation is not well. We are not well. But we can heal. As individuals, communities and as a country. It will take time, and patience, and peeling back the layers one by one by one. It will require showing up with kindness, empathy, respect and compassion for ourselves and for each other. In this episode I share four important things I have learned about what it takes to heal. The longer we wait, the longer it will take. Begin now.
Welcome to the Freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
If you are ready to:
- Be grounded in your purpose.
- Understand the signs, symptoms, risks and costs of burnout
- Know how to recognize the warning signs of burnout in your own life
- Understand how to recover from stress and expand your capacity to reach your goals
- Be ready to avoid common traps that can keep you stuck
- Have your own Personal Recovery Toolkit you can use as needed; and
- Be prepared to overcome obstacles on the path to thriving (not just surviving) in your own life
then the 6 Steps for Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevention are for you. Go to boothandrews.com/6steps for more information. That’s boothandrews.com forward slash number six steps. I am including the link in the transcript for this episode as well.
I am recording this episode one day after Martin Luther King., Jr. day and one day before Inauguration Day 2021. Even as I have intentionally grounded myself in practices that support my well-being--such as sleep, moving my body, meditation, EFT tapping, nourishing food, and connecting with loved ones--the collective anxiety is palpable.
We have never witnessed the National Guard sleeping in our Capitol. We have perhaps never been more aware of potential threats to the inauguration of a new President.
And if we are paying attention, we are also deeply aware that the advent of a new Presidential term alone is not enough to heal our nation.
Our nation is not well. We are not well.
I started to title this episode “To Heal a Nation,” and I am not generally one to shy away from BIG topics, but that topic is likely too big for this format, and I will admit that while I definitely have some formed opinions, on root cause healing vs. denial or slapping a band-aids on wounds that are actually hemorrhaging, I don’t claim to have all of the answers.
In the meantime, here are a couple of things I have been thinking about. And I hope they might be helpful to you:
Denial is not an effective healing strategy
Denial is not an effective healing strategy, for ourselves or for others. In Episode 52: Getting to Know Burnout, I made the following analogy:
You see, ignoring the burnout will not make it better. If you ignore cancer, it will spread. It will grow. It will ravage your body. The same is true of burnout. If you ignore the signs and symptoms and just keep pushing forward, it will not get better. It will get worse.
Generally, we human beings are very interested in stopping pain. Which is completely understandable because our reptilian brain thinks we are dying. And sometimes it feels like we actually are.
But often, the pain we are so desperate to avoid isn’t life threatening at all even if it is temporarily, and sometimes overwhelmingly uncomfortable.
We have learned to suck it up and push through and be tough. But if my multiple stress fractures in my right side are any proof . . . ignoring the pain long enough can lead us to break.
And when we turn our lens of “you aren’t hurting that bad just get over it” on other people, not only are we not holding space for healing (for more on holding space go to Episode 4 of the podcast), we may actually be perpetuating a trauma by denying their experience or our own.
When we deny our experience and the experience of other people, instead of practicing the tools that can allow the body to process its emotional responses in a healing way, those emotions get stuck in the body and, over time, can create a festering wound (both literally and figuratively).
This phenomenon plays out in individuals, communities, and currently, in our country.
In contrast, when we look someone in the eye and acknowledge their experience with empathy, healing can begin. I am linking a great video explanation of the difference between empathy and sympathy by Brene Brown in the show notes.
Taking responsibility is a powerful first step
When I was 15 years old, the primary caregiver in my home, who was not my parent, entered into treatment for alcoholism. I had been emotionally and physically abused by this caregiver up until about age 13. I apparently pushed all of her buttons and I was her scapegoat.
This abuse happened in my parents’ home. On their watch, so to speak, just not while they were paying attention.
There was evidence, marked by bruises on my skin where everything from brushes, to kindling, to an approximately 1 inch thick 4x8 wooden plaque with the word Koinonia engraved on it, were used to meter punishments in addition to other methods.
I know there was evidence, because my elementary school classmates used to make comments when we changed for gym class.
Out of the three adults who had direct responsibility for what happened to me, the perpetrator and my parents, only one ever looked me in the eye and said “I know what I did caused you so much harm and that you are still living with the repercussions today. I am so so sorry.”
The other two, spent the rest of their lives in denial in a variety of contexts--always unwilling to accept full responsibility for what happened under their roof or at the hands of people they invited into our lives.
While I can forgive my parents today, what compels me to do so is the fact that I have made it my mission to break the chain of trauma between my family of origin and my children. And the only way for me to do that, is to turn and face the pain, to heal the traumas, and to choose a different path.
This, I have done imperfectly. But with a level of tenacity and commitment that I hope will serve me and my children and community well.
And when it is time for my children to confront me with the ways in which I may have harmed them (even inadvertently) I can assure you that the response they will get from me is, “I am so so sorry that I caused you pain.”
We cannot erase the sands of time. We cannot “undo” all that has been done. But when we take responsibility for our own choices and actions, we remove a powerful barrier to healing.
We don’t get to dictate someone else’s healing process or timeline.
Just because we have apologized doesn’t mean we get to then tell someone how to heal. I once was in a situation where almost two decades of unresolved issues were met with a sincere apology, but then a pronouncement that if I would just decide everything was okay, and essentially choose to forget the past, all would be well. Oh, if I had only had that power!
I was grateful for the apology, hard fought as it was, but I couldn’t just erase the effects of the emotional wounds accumulated over decades. In part because I wasn’t yet adept at allowing my emotions to rise within my body and I didn’t know how to process them in a way that allowed my body and mind to heal.
I was still hanging on for dear life in many respects while the tsunami of repressed emotions and pain flooded my body and mind.
Once we have fully accepted our role or responsibility in someone else’s pain, we certainly have the option to set boundaries around our engagement. For it is true that sometimes when someone finally expresses pent up pain, it can flow like lava out of a volcano, obliterating everything in sight. Not even in the full control of the injured.
We can take full responsibility while maintaining healthy boundaries.
But we also don’t get to dictate how someone else heals, what modalities they use or what their timelines are.
Healing is a uniquely individual process. And we may be asked to engage in more than one conversation as the other person works through the various layers of healing.
As each person works through healing, well-being practices on both sides can help each person show up as fully human, with kindness, humility, empathy and respect. Over and over and over again.
When we show up this way over time, we allow the other person to begin to trust, and to be able to feel safe in their body, in our relationship, in our home, community and country again.
The longer we wait to begin the healing process, the longer healing will take.
I talk often about the beliefs, thought processes, habits and patterns that have been hardwired into our brains. Many of us are operating out of auto-pilot settings that were locked in when we were young. We don’t even realize we are doing it.
These beliefs often keep us stuck in behavior patterns that no longer serve us and, sometimes, are absolutely antithetical to our long-term health and well-being as individuals and in our relationship with others.
We can lay down new neural pathways. AND it takes practice, patience, and time.
Think about your neural pathways this way. Imagine a rope that has been woven out of multiple strands. Your ingrained beliefs, habits, and thought patterns have the strength of a rope as they have been reinforced over the years. One thread laid and another. But once upon a time, those ropes were just a single thread.
When we are creating new habits and thought patterns when we are healing, we start with a single thread. Each and every time we choose to practice a new habit or belief or to engage in the healing process in a new way, we lay down a new thread.
Over time, we can weave these new beliefs and habits and healing bombs into our lives with the strength and resilience of a rope. And this rope is woven over time, with intentional choices we make over and over and over again.
So now imagine that our fears, beliefs, emotional wounds and traumas have layers upon layers. And every emotional wound that is not fully processed and released from the body adds another layer, often leaving a scar in the process.
WE CAN HEAL. And it takes time, and patience, and peeling back the layers one by one by one.
The longer we wait to begin healing, the longer healing will take. There is no magic wand here. We have to choose to show up differently, to believe that we can feel overwhelming pain without being overwhelmed. To forgive ourselves and others as many times as it takes. And to choose compassion (toward others and self) again and again and again.
I’m holding space for you and for all of us on this path to healing. Until next time.
The 6 Steps to Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevention--a step by step process for staying connected and calibrated--is available now. There are self-guided options and also options that include 1:1 coaching with me. Recover from stress, prevent burnout, build resilience, expand your capacity for impact, and find more perspective, peace, and presence in your life. You can find out more at boothandrews.com/6steps or at the link in my bio @theboothandrews on Instagram.
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I look forward to being back with you next time!