All emotional suffering and stuckness is caused by closing down and contracting around pain. Pain happens, and change happens – this is the nature of life. However, suffering is an add-on that we create through our reaction to that pain and change.
Healing is the process of grieving and accepting this pain and change, and integrating the information into our lives in a way that supports our growth and wellbeing. Healing is an opening-up process. The ultimate goal is to reconnect you to the flow of life.
Our resistance to pain and change blocks this flow. Our ability to adapt to change, and to grieve pain and loss, determines how much we will be able to taste life as it unfolds before us.
The stages of grief apply to all transitions.
If you look at the five classic stages of grieving, there are four stages of resistance/contracting/”inner war”, and then one stage of healing/expansion:
And that’s OK. This model was developed for dealing with death, which takes our bodies and minds some time to adjust to. It’s OK to take however long it takes to go through the grief process. But in each stage, one can hold in mind the idea to open up and to be kind to oneself (this supports opening up).
I believe that all change requires grieving on some level. Our bodies and minds naturally attach to things and it’s up to us to develop the ability to move through change and transformation gracefully.
Acceptance is not resignation.
Resignation is a form of closing-down. Acceptance is an opening-up. To cultivate acceptance means practicing opening our heart when it wants to close.
Being open-hearted requires skilled self-protection.
Pain is always an opportunity to open up more; but this requires skill, not just ambition. Constant exposure to pain will not transform you. It’s being able to learn from pain that helps us to grow.
To do this requires inner and outer boundaries. If we open our heart when it’s dangerous to do so and if we don’t look out for ourselves, we will get hurt more and shut down again.
Part of cultivating acceptance and open-heartedness is developing the skills to protect ourselves in healthy ways. They go hand in hand. Our mind is not going to give up its shutting-down behaviors if it doesn’t have any sense of trust that we can provide protection for it any other way. You have to earn the trust of the scared parts of yourself by learning to care for them well.
You can learn and practice these skills.
If your family did not model skillful adaptation to change, this is something you will need to learn and coach yourself through.
But it’s well worth it–developing this “grieving muscle” gives you a strength and inner resilience that keeps you steady and centered throughout everything that life brings.