If you’ve never read Monster at the End of This Book, by…Grover – were you ever a child? I’m assuming you jumped right from birth to being 30, so do yourself a favor and Amazon Prime that ish. Or actually – you can probably read it in its entirety throughout this post.
If you have read the book – you know that each page turn is a serious nail-biter. Like, will there be a monster at the end of the book? Please don’t turn the page – you’re giving me anxiety. As a kid I swear that every read was one giant panic attack, even though I already knew how it ended…kids, amiright? Drama Queen. When you finally get to the end of the book you realize – there is a monster, and it’s Grover.
I promise I have a point here…although, would you be mad about an entire blog post based on children’s stories?
Every year on my birthday I give myself a “word” for my next year of life. This word is usually based on different things going on in my life, or something that I feel like God wants me to press into for the coming year. Guys…this year was a friggin’ doozy, and I’ll admit I pressed back. Okay, not that word God. Let’s pick a different word? That word sounds hard…that word sounds scary…that word sounds like effort. How about friendship…isn’t that nice? What about community? Nope. No such luck – and it wasn’t until January (4 months after my birthday) that I finally fully surrendered to the word – and ultimately God. This word has seriously hunted me down since September. It was making its way into my life without me even realizing it. Really…I had no choice in the matter. It’s like obsessed with me or something, because it wouldn’t leave me alone.
This year my word is Healing. And not the physical kind – emotional healing. Ugh.
If you don’t have this reaction to the thought of healing…maybe you don’t know how painful the healing process can be. Maybe you don’t realize how split open you will have to become. I’ve realized that this is why a lot of people don’t actually put a lot of effort into growth and healing – because it can really suck. It’s easier to stay stuck. It’s easier to remain with what you know. It’s more comfortable to just not…I think I fell into those default settings too often for too long, and that’s why I’m doing this work at 26.
This is another one of those topics that I’m not thrilled God has put on my heart to write about, because in some sense I feel like a fraud. And in a real way – I kind of am. So I guess I’ll preface this with letting you know that I don’t have anything mastered here. I’m kind of stumbling around this healing journey just like the next person. I guess it’s harder to write openly and honestly about something you’re in the middle of rather than something you’ve been through already. There’s a certain detachment that can occur with writing about the past that can’t exist when you write from present struggle.
I asked God to let me write about this once I’m through it, but he insisted that I write from the smack dab middle of my struggle…awesomeeeee, won’t this be cool.
So, whats Grover got to do with this?
I heard this metaphor recently, and it was such an “ah-ha” moment for me. The process of healing really is like The Monster at the End of This Book. With every page there’s a new discovery about self, a new road block, and as you begin to peel back the layers – all you’re left with is yourself. Your authentic self. Your unadulterated, unfiltered, unmasked self. No hiding, no coping, no justification. And ya’ll…that’s terrifying. For a society that spends a lot of time, money, and energy on covering up and trying to change and suppress true identity – this process of peeling back the layers can be excruciating. At the end of it all, you realize there is a monster at the end of the book…and it’s you.
Things I had to learn that I didn’t already know about healing:
- Does God want me to be an active participant in my healing?
- What does healing mean?
- What am I healing from?
- How does one heal?
- When do I know when I’m fully healed?
I almost feel like this post needs to be a series because it’s kind of ridiculous to try to fit everything I’ve learned in the last 5 months in one, but I guess I’ll start where I start and go from there.
Does God want me to be an active participant in my healing?
Most often – yes.
God does have the ability, and I do know of stories where chains of bondage have immediately fell with a prayer. And it would be irresponsible to deny that ultimate healing comes from God – not your action, but I also believe that God equips us with knowledge and experience so that we can work the process of healing – sometimes that’s how healing has to be done – you have to work the process.
I like to think of self-exploration and healing like going to the doctor for a check up, or going to the gym, or eating healthy. God holds the ultimate key to your health, am I right? He is the ruler of all things that live and die, but you wouldn’t stop going to the doctor because God’s got it in the bag. You wouldn’t stop eating healthy and working out because God’s going to handle it all anyway. You are an active participant in your mental health, just as much as you are in your physical health.
The ideology that you don’t have to work at healing is similar to those who sit on the couch praying for a fit body, it’s just not going to happen. Honestly though – I’m still not convinced that donuts aren’t tiny carb/sugar angels sent directly from God Himself.
Ultimately, so many of us don’t want to step into the uncomfortable place of healing, because it’s hard, and it’s painful. So we’re just livin’ on a prayer – which is the BEST place to start. But, the day that you get fed up living a broken life is the day you’ll understand that it’ll take more than a prayer. God calls us to action.
What does healing mean?
Healing is a lot of things. It’s forgiveness (of self and others), it’s acceptance, it’s understanding, it’s emotional healthiness. Healing means dealing with all the repressed experiences and emotions that you’ve ignored, denied, justified, redirected, or suppressed. It means coming to a place where you truly feel neutral about everything in your past – neither good nor bad. Yikes…I probably just lost a lot of people who rolled their eyes and said “not possible”. Oh, but it is.
Healing means facing the brokenness and dysfunction that you’ve been living in or you’ve accepted. It’s about healing past hurts and traumas. Its about understanding who you truly are, and what parts of you have been buried in the rubble of your life. It’s not about emotional numbness – it’s about emotional awareness. During the process of healing you will be acutely in tune with your emotional reactions and wellbeing.
Healing engages your mind, body, and spirit. It’s important to note here that the three are one in the same. The idea that there is separation between them is simply a way for us to compartmentalize and categorize. BUT, you can’t achieve full emotional healing without addressing physical wellness. You can’t achieve complete physical healing without addressing spiritual healing. Stop setting these three apart – think of them as H2O. The body is like an ice cube – solid in nature, the mind is like liquid water – fluid in nature, and the spirit is like vapor – elusive in nature, but, they’re all the same compound, they’re all made up of the same thing.
So full, complete healing engages mind, body, and spirit – the three have to be in balance for you yourself to be balanced.
What am I healing from?
This, like pretty much all questions associated with healing is somewhat of a loaded question. Broadly put – you’re healing from trauma.
Chillllllll – I’m sure you just immediately discounted yourself from the discussion right there. Thinking I’ve experienced no serious trauma in my life. I haven’t been abused or anything serious like that, so I must be exempt from this “healing” business. Not true my friend.
And some of you took one look at the word trauma and knew you could relate because you have been through some serious crap that probably no human was ever meant to go through – for that I am sorry. There’s no excuse for the pain people are put through at the hands of others (or even worse – at the hands of themselves).
I guess here would be a good place to put in the disclaimer that this BLOG POST is not a replacement for real counseling or trauma informed care. This is simply some of my personal discoveries and is not to be treated as a care plan. You would think this would be self explanatory…but you just never know with people these days.
Peter Levine writes in his book Waking the Tiger – Healing Trauma, “On a broad level, trauma is anything from one’s life experience that remains trapped and unresolved causing disturbances at the biological, physiological, emotional, mental or behavior levels.”
This means that anytime that your brain has activated your nervous system you are susceptible to unresolved trauma. What do humans normally do in high stress or highly emotional situations? “I’m fine”, “This is fine”, “It’s all good” – this is avoidance and it’s not allowing your body to metabolize that nervous system response.
Something interesting to note here – wild animals don’t walk around with any unresolved trauma…ever. They wouldn’t be able to survive. BUT they instead allow their body to quite literally shake off their nervous system response. Here’s a video of a polar bear that experiences trauma at the realization that he is being hunted (with a tranquilizer – but he doesn’t know that), but before his body is able to see that emotion through until it’s over – he is tranquilized – aka unresolved trauma in his body. As he wakes up you see him literally convulse until his nervous system has let go of these stress hormones. It ends with deep breathing to bring him back into the present…and in that moment he is healed. We could learn a thing or two from these animals.
So maybe at this point you’re realizing that there is the potential for a lot of unresolved trauma living inside of you. If you are like me when I first started digging into this you may be feeling overwhelmed at the amount of times you’ve suppressed your nervous system response. You may start to realize that you don’t feel neutral about that girl that stole your pencil case in the 4th grade, you don’t feel neutral about the day your mom took your pacifier away, and you suppressed those emotions connected to that break up in the 10th grade. That’s trauma – and it literally lives in your cells. Although our brain may forget – our nervous system and the cells in our body actually don’t keep track of time. It is still very alive and real inside your body. You know what this means?
Time to heal.
Trauma rears its head in many ways. Ultimately it creates imbalance and disconnection between who we wish to be, who God created us to be, and who we are in the moment. I won’t go into the details here – but I’m sure you get it. If you don’t – message me I guess.
How does one heal?
Oh boy – another loaded question. And although I would like to give you a step-by-step guide to healing trauma and hurt…I just can’t, because everyone gets there differently. I will outline some different areas of your life that you should maybe start to consider.
I’ll start by saying that for me it all started with a prayer, and continues with everyday obedience to where God is leading me. Lately – He’s been leading me to books, people, situations, and experiences that have all been slowly peeling back my layers for ultimate healing. Its been a pretty cool experience to watch Him work so creatively and so intricately. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it…or maybe not.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far –
Patterns – Start to notice any patterns in your life that lead to a disconnection between who you want to be, who God made you to be, and who you actually are. Usually those patterns have clues as to what any underlying or over-arching traumas might be present.
Substance Use – I would suggest completely giving up any substance for a while. It’s pretty hard to do an inventory of your reality if you’re constantly altering it. It’s pretty hard to notice recurring heartaches or dysfunctions if you’re masking them. Catch my drift? Doesn’t need to be forever – just while you heal.
Diet and Exercise – healing from the inside out. Since we already know that mind, body, and spirit are connected it would only make sense that once we become physically strong and healthy the rest starts to follow. Make sure that you are eating for YOUR body. Eating what you know makes you feel good – not eating those things that make you feel crappy. Take dairy for example – I know that dairy doesn’t make me feel good…but I see other people eat it, so I eat it regardless – but that’s not eating for ME…that’s eating for other people.
Meditation and prayer – they aren’t really the same thing, but I’ve found both extraordinarily necessary in my healing journey. Meditation has been instrumental in teaching me healthy coping skills and knowing how to really feel a feeling through – which is allowing my body to get rid of stress hormones.
Self – Exploration – You need to become acutely aware of who you are, what you struggle with, where healing needs to occur, and where disconnect in identity takes place. Only then can you start to reintegrate and resolve past traumas and past selves. This can be done through books, journaling, close friendships, and time in solitude.
Forgiveness – Start working on forgiveness for yourself and others. Harder said that done – seek out God’s guidance for this, and check out the books – Radical Forgiveness and Radical Self-Forgiveness.
Community – God doesn’t want us to be isolated. Do an inventory on your relationships and your community. Where do you feel like relationships and community have burned you in the past? There’s no need to hold on to that. Ask God to help you, and ask Him for a healthy community and healthy friendships.
I’ll stop there – because this will probably turn into a whole blog post on its own.
When do I know if I’m fully healed?
I would say the journey of complete and total healing is never really done. But, I guess I wouldn’t know for sure because I’m in the middle of it. However, I have experienced complete healing in certain areas of my life – and when you heal – you know. You feel neutral about past experiences.
You feel a sense of immense freedom of identity and you feel a strong intimacy with yourself and your Creator.
You aren’t harboring bitterness – you can not be unforgiving toward yourself or others and be healed – that’s like the biggest oxymoron ever.
You actually like yourself, and your actions are in line with your morals and values. All aspects of your life are align with one another.
Your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with one another.
I think that’s all I can write on this question at this time just because I’m such a noob at this. But, that’s what I’ve been able to gather so far.
Like I said at the beginning of this – I really can’t imagine this journey without my God. I believe God has a way of opening the eyes of those who follow Him closely so that they are opened to areas where healing needs to occur. Without Him I would be blind to myself and my past experience’s effect on my present self.
Perhaps one of my most eye – opening discoveries through this process is that God actually wants physical, spiritual, and emotional healing for us. He wants us to be whole – that is His design. If you follow Him in the journey He won’t leave you or forsake you because He does want this for your life. Keep taking steps.
Can I just say – I’m emotionally exhausted after just writing that. This is draining work, and it’s vulnerable. Be ready to be tired, but be ready to love the crap outta that monster.