Healing the splits between our head, heart and body
One fundamental aspect of therapy is that of healing the splits between our heart, head and body. We created these splits in order to survive trauma (I use “trauma” in its widest sense). We all experienced childhood trauma of some sort and this splitting was part of our unconscious survival strategy, it enabled us to desensitize what was too much to bear. This, together with our nature and nurture, formed our personality and our ways of relating to our world.
Psychotherapy is the process of healing and changing this adapted structure of ourselves. It is no wonder that it takes time, and that its emphasis is slightly different different from counselling and especially “life coaching”, which are more aimed at “symptom relief” or superficial change.
So, the need is to consciously reintegrate our head, heart and body. One first step in this is about attending to, listening and sensing the energy of our bodies. This helps to reverse the agitation of our nervous system caused by the flight/fight/freeze stress responses that trauma trapped inside us. Bringing our attention back to our bodies, grounds us in the here and now so that at least some of our nervous energy can be let go of, or “earthed” as it were. Quietening down this stress can give us with space for self-enquiry, so having some practice of returning to our bodies is, to my understanding, essential.
This helps us to be closer to our here and now experience with enough self-support to be able to face and look more deeply at what we are feeling, to see past the “loud” top layers, to the underlying feelings that are driving us to be the way we are. For instance, behind anger there is often hurt. Behind withdrawal or deflection or acting into some “extrovert” role, there is often shame. Behind anxiety, self-judgement and behind depression, defeatedness, and so on. We need to acknowledge, hear and see our feelings at as deep a layer as possible so as to access the vitally important “compressed information” they contain. It is through this looking, facing and questioning of our feelings that we can start to really understand what is driving us to be the way we are.
This is to me the heart of therapy. Seeing how we are a victim of trauma can starts to open our hearts to ourselves, which starts to undo our “shoulds”, our sense of “inadequacy”, of “not being good enough”, our constant anxiety from living with a sense of “deficit” or insecurity of whatever sort. Through this we can find the self-compassion we need to bear what we have not yet been able to bear, be it the hurt, distress, shame, fear or grief, that is behind each of our self-limiting shoulds, and every aspect of our insecurity.
We also need to consciously develop our thinking, taking the time to think through, to question and take responsibility for understanding ourselves and our relationships. Understanding how trauma formed us, helps enormously in forgiving ourselves for being the “dysfunctional creatures” we are (or seeing how we are adults with deeply childish parts). Understanding that people are fundamentally good and that all our negativity, whatever form it takes, is the result of trauma, helps us to stop blaming ourselves and others and take responsibility for being the way we are. Forging clarity in our understanding (along with coming back to our bodies) helps enormously to weather the emotional turbulence that can emerge from our “victim mode” states. Being ruthlessly honest with ourselves is bound to lead us towards facing the almost unbearable wounds we have, for so long, been defensively resisting.
The aim is to move from being “un” or “sub” consciously identified with the victim part of ourselves into being able to make what we are subject to (i.e. our victimness) into an object of conscious investigation and study, using all three parts of ourselves.
It is only when these three parts of ourselves are connected and working that we are fully resourced and able to function optimally, i.e. able to live fully present in the here and now with our authenticity, our spontaneity and creativity. Any stage of self-understanding is only full, when all three parts of our selves are integrated.
What’s in the Way is the Way
The totally extraordinary thing about human beings is our profound creativity. We are designed for growth and development, it is embedded in the depth of our self, in every fibre of its structure. So when we get stuck, for whatever reason (usually trauma induced) a deep conflict arises within us, the force of development comes up against a dam and if we cannot find a way of removing the dam we can get into all sorts of trouble. It can take decades for this process to come to a head, but for the lucky (?) amongst us, this intolerable conflict leads to the search for a way out.
When we arrive on this path of self-discovery the innate force of growth of development is always there to support us, so that as Rumi put it, all we have to do is “remove the obstacles within us”. We cannot “do” growing, it just flows when “what’s in the way” is removed. So, our task is see, face and take responsibility for removing the blocks and restrictions we unconsciously created in order to survive.
The further extraordinary aspect of this innate creativity is that the deep wisdom of the self (and perhaps of life as well?) is always presenting us with the most relevant and suitable “obstacle” for us to deal with at any particular time. We may not want to, we may well rail against having to deal with it, but our task and journey is simply to attend to what is right front of our noses, just now. The rest miraculously takes care of itself. It really is the case that each and every “obstacle” is the doorway to our further growth and freedom. We can trust life at this deep level!
By becoming consciously aware of our experience a miracle happens, we become a participant in the unfolding developmental process that is ourselves. As awareness increases and as we integrate our head, heart and body, our ability to choose the freedom to “Be” that we so deeply desire, very slowly increases. It is self-knowledge and the truth that set us free, but it takes time for the structure of our self to loosen, for our behaviour with its ego driven compulsive and compensatory motivations to change and move towards the non-egoic unconditional Love, Consciousness and Energy that exists deep within us all and which is always there waiting patiently, wanting to be met and embodied.