by Anna Rodenfels, MSW, LCSWA
With teary eyes and sunken shoulders, my client looked me straight in the eyes and vulnerably asked,
“Can you fix me?”
It’s not an uncommon question in therapy. Some clients bluntly ask and some come each week silently hoping they will find the answer. But therapy is not about fixing. You are not broken. No, you are hurting, or grieving, or hopeless, which is an incredibly human experience that does not need fixing. You need healing. We all do. We all have prior wounds or current hurt, loss or trauma that requires healing.
And, healing is a process that can only start from within.
I always tell my clients there is no magic in therapy. There is compassion and empathy and reflections that challenge, but not magic. I firmly believe healing comes from within us. Sure, a safe space and an empathetic witness can be extremely helpful in your healing journey (and we hope you find that at Three Oaks), but ultimately it starts with you.
Many times, our journey to healing begins in a place of desperation. We can no longer manage our lives as they are due to our behaviors, our relationships, or our emotions. We are both desperate for change and extremely adverse to it. What a vulnerable and beautiful place to be. What an opportunity to begin wrestling with our experiences, our traumas, and our beliefs. That is the healing work.
And honestly, healing is often a painful process. Because to heal these wounds we have to go deeper within them and they are already extremely sensitive to the touch. I wish it was easier, I really do. And I also am continuously amazed in the human capacity to heal.
Healing is not the same for everyone. My healing will look different than yours. Our journeys will look different. And we both deserve the chance to move toward it.
My hope is that you will either start or continue to work toward your own healing. That you will celebrate the moments you see the changes within, no matter how small. That you will remember healing is a process, not a destination; a continual place where we show up for ourselves, try again when we fail, and learn to be kind as we navigate this very complicated life.
Three strategies for beginning your healing journey:
1. Set one very small goal for yourself that you keep for at least 30 days before adding another one. This helps build trust with ourselves as we see we can keep promises we make to ourselves.
Possible small goals:
- Drink a glass of water every morning before having your coffee
- Journal for 5 minutes each day
- Complete a 5 minute stretching routine
2. Get out of your mind and into your body. Our bodies hold what we need to heal, but we are often taught to think our way out of things instead of being within our bodies. (If your body feels unsafe due to trauma, a therapist can help you safely begin this process.)
Possible ways to start:
- Breath work: Focused breathing is extremely healing to our nervous systems and it is always available to us. If you don’t know where to start, begin with the four square breathing technique: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, repeat 4 times.
- Body movement: This can be dancing, walking, running, yoga, etc. This is not about exercise for weight loss. This is about giving our bodies the chance to work out emotions that live within them.
- Notice your body sensations: When you are in an emotional experience, can you start to notice what you’re feeling in your body? Is your heart beating fast? Your breath quick? Your chest tight? When you notice these sensations, what does your body need in this moment?
3. Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion decreases our judgement of ourselves resulting in less distress. A great place to start practicing self-compassion is with a loving kindness meditation.