If you ever find yourself wondering how long it takes to heal, you’re not alone. I have asked that question. We all have. I started this work in the early 90s with that very question. And as soon as I looked under the hood of my pain and discovered that I had deeply-rooted self-loathing and that it was affecting all of my relationships, I let that hood slam shut again. I first wanted the answer, before I dug in: “How long is this going to take?” As if I were asking a mechanic! As if the question were answerable. This past weekend two readers emailed to ask me, How long? We all want to know, How long will it take to heal myself and be the kind of person who can feel contented most of the time and not have so many damn issues?!
I can now say that it’s a beginner’s question. It’s a valid beginner’s question. It cannot be answered. The only answer is a Buddhist one, “Begin the work.”
Here’s why. As soon as you commit yourself to self-healing, the question drops. The question of “how long?” becomes irrelevant.
Once you begin, you’re on a journey and that makes the question irrelevant; you’ve stepped off the cliff’s edge and into thin air where the path is forming under your feet with each step forward.
Recovery work is a practice. It’s work, but not the kind of work that gets “done,” or wraps-up. A practice is something you’re committed to doing (like guitar or yoga) over time. And over time as you practice regularly, you improve. But the goal isn’t to “finish,” it’s to become someone who plays guitar, does yoga, heals himself or herself — you! — and whose life reflects that practice in both small and large ways. Your practice informs your choices. As you practice self-healing, you begin to realize that your choices are those of someone who is healing and wants better for herself or himself. Making choices that suit you is a result of your practice and making choices is the practice itself. We make time for ourselves by making time for our practice. We might mention our practice to others, saying, “I’m doing an hour of self-care every week now.” And, as we practice self-healing, we begin to notice something: we have come to love the qualities, routines, and ritual of practicing. We’ve let go of the results because the results are the practice, too.
Be kind to yourself.
Amy Eden is the author of The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion
[...] if you are still asking that question, read my post from last [...]
‘begin the work…” oh how true… my first meeting was in 1983… it was hard going and oh so slow, or so I thought… I was veeeery impatient. I think things have actually improved in recent times….
I ask myself: “care, or cure?” I would love a cure from pain, and that is the goal. Maybe I am a cot-case? if so i need to apply the serenity prayer. But most of all I really need other people. It is the light from other people, along with myself by which I see my growth and changes… …thanks
It really does feel like such slow going — in the beginning. That’s when the concepts of co-dependence, recovery, and ACoA issues are first click-click-clicking in our minds, and recovery seems like a simple math problem (recognize problem = solve problem). But it’s not as simple as math. It’s action that did it for me – acting differently, thinking differently, easing up on expectations and control, too.
I’m curious, what does “care, or cure mean”?
A lifetime. I first attended an ACoA meeting in 1993, a Godsend – showed me sanity. Memorial day of this year – visit the cemetery where the parents are buried or not? It depends on my current outlook – so I pass. I’m not going to force myself ever again out of guilt.
Then the following Wednesday at breakfast. I become nauseous, can’t catch my breath, everything is closing in.. It’s a full-blown panic attack. Haven’t had one in over a decade.
Takes weeks for the underlying crap to reveal itself. Nothing that connects to anything else obvious – but that’s the way it is.
I think I’m facing ACoA issues squarely every day, yet there are always some things that can’t be resolved, so they get pushed back until the subconscious can’t hold any more.
And then the seas calm, and once more I look and act like everybody else – just your normal, neurotic suburbanite.
Thanks for this John. The healing and processing the pain isn’t linear – that’s what I’ve found. You describe is well! It’s very asynchronous, unplanned, and messy. Free-form. It resembles what I experienced of the grieving process (over which I felt I had very little control – grieving of my Mother’s sudden death, which hit in waves during my commute or other disconnected quiet moments, over the course of a year); the process had me. It couldn’t be scheduled into my calendar, I had to be open and willing to meet it when a wave of grief struck.
You touched on something that’s rings true for me as well – visiting the cemetery. For me it’s Mother’s Day. I feel different each year, some years I feel resentful and others open to giving recognition and feeling appreciative. The key though, like you say so well, is acting out of the present truth (not guilty obligation).
Also, I chuckled reading your description “normal, neurotic” suburbanite! Outsiders would be shocked at how much piecing-back-together some days require before one of us can hit the sidewalk.
A lifetime indeed