Reflections on journeys that involve struggles with demons: Part 2 – Facing fears, naming hurt and healing ourselves, our loved ones and strangers (sometimes through forgiveness)

We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts ― Desmond Tutu

Awareness is the first step in healing. — Dean Ornish

The wound is the place where the Light enters you. ― Rumi

The place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it. — Cheryl Strayed

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. —  Helen Keller

Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it. —Bear Grylls

SONGS about HEALING:

The JOURNEY — Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
 


THE HEALING THAT COMES — Jan Richardson
I know how long you have been waiting
for your story to take a different turn,
how far you have gone
in search of what will mend you and make you whole.
I bear no remedy, no cure,
no miracle for the easing of your pain.
But I know the medicine
that lives in a story that has been broken open.
I know the healing that comes
in ceasing to hide ourselves away
with fingers clutched around the fragments
we think are none but ours.
See how they fit together,
these shards we have been carrying—
how in their meeting
they make a way
we could not find alone.

FACING OUR FEARS (Demons)
 
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it. — Judy Blume
 
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. — Dale Carnegie
 
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. — Eleanor Roosevelt
 
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. — Nelson Mandela
 
He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. — Thich Nhat Hanh
 
Have no fear of perfection–you’ll never reach it. — Salvador Dali
 
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. — Helen Keller
 
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt

One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. —Henry Ford

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. —Rosa Parks

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. —Nelson Mandela

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. —Marie Curie

Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. — William Congreve

ON HEALING

These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them. ― Rumi

What about evil, you may ask? Aren’t some people just evil, just monsters, and aren’t such people just unforgivable? I do believe there are monstrous and evil acts, but I do not believe those who commit such acts are monsters or evil. To relegate someone to the level of monster is to deny that person’s ability to change and to take away that person’s accountability for his or her actions and behavior. ― Desmond Tutu

Through meditation and contemplation we can learn, for example, that patience is the most potent antidote for anger, satisfaction for greed, bravery for fear, and understanding for doubt. It is not very helpful to rage against others. Instead, we should strive to change ourselves. — Dalai Lama

These verses – and all those like them scattered throughout the Scriptures – are encouraging, inspiring, and revealing. But they can also be quite painful for those who are suffering and do not experience healing. Why then and not now, we might ask. Or, more poignantly, why them and not us? — David Lose

Our own life has to be our message. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos—the trees, the clouds, everything. — Thich Nhat Hanh

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.—Marianne Williamson

Healing yourself is connected with healing others.— Yoko Ono

Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are. — Rachel Naomi Remen

There are so many ways to heal. Arrogance may have a place in technology, but not in healing. I need to get out of my own way if I am to heal. — Anne Wilson Schaef

The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love. — Hubert H. Humphrey

Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. — Sai Baba

I’m touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful – collecting these shards of spirituality – that we may be helping to bring about a healing. — Leonard Nimoy

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. — Proverbs 16:23-25

To me, forgiveness is the cornerstone of healing. — Sylvia Fraser

The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature, with an open mind. —  Paracelsus

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind. —Caroline Myss

All healing is first a healing of the heart.—  Carl Townsend

Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is. — Gary Zukav

Everybody has losses – it’s unavoidable in life. Sharing our pain is very healing. —  Isabel Allende

When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing. — Rabindranath Tagore

ON HEALING ― Richard Rohr

To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened up within us – and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body. That is the summary work of spirituality – and it is indeed work. Yes, it is also the work of “a Power greater than ourselves,” and it will lead to a great luminosity and depth of seeing. That is why true faith is one of the most holistic and free actions a human can perform. It leads to such broad and deep perception that most traditions would just call it “light.”

Remember, Jesus said that we also are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), as well as saying it about himself (John 8:12). Strange that we see light in him but do not imitate him in seeing the same light in ourselves. Such luminous seeing is quite the opposite of the closed-minded, dead-hearted, body-denying thing that much religion has been allowed to become. As you surely have heard before, “Religion is lived by people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is lived by people who have been through hell and come out enlightened.”

The innocuous mental belief systems of much religion are probably the major cause of atheism in the world today, because people see that religion has not generally created people who are that different, more caring, or less prejudiced than other people. In fact, they are often worse because they think they have God on their small side. I wish I did not have to say this, but religion either produces the very best people or the very worst. Jesus makes this point in many settings and stories. Mere mental belief systems split people apart, whereas actual faith puts all our parts (body, heart, and head) on notice and on call. Honestly, it takes major surgery and much of one’s life to get head, heart, and body to put down their defenses, their false programs for happiness, and their many forms of resistance to what is right in front of them. This is the meat and muscle of the whole conversion process.

Dogfish Mary Oliver

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?

*

I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

alive
for a little while.

*

It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.

*

Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?

Slowly

*

the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.

*

You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it’s the same old story – – –
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

*

And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.

*

And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

FORGIVE — Wendell Berry

I was your rebellious child,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.

On Healing with Christ  — Nadia Bolz-Weber (excerpts)

He just touched him, looked to heaven, sighed and said “BE OPEN.”

It’s a wonderful statement for healing isn’t it? Be open.

It’s an image that’s stuck with me all week.  This might sound weird but all week I kept picturing Jesus sticking his fingers in each of your ears and saying “BE OPENED.”  And then in the same daydream, before I could stop it, I pictured Jesus’ Holy and unwashed fingers in my own ears. He sighed he looked to heaven and he said, “Be opened.”  To which I said, “No thanks.”

See, It’s painful to be open.  There’s no control in it. No self-determination. But Jesus is like that, taking us away from whatever the THEY thinks about us, getting all up in our business and insisting on our wholeness.

Be opened, he says.

Be opened to a life where you aren’t the broken one anymore.

Be opened to the possibility that there is healing in the world and it might not look like you think it should.

Be opened to knowing that your own brokenness doesn’t need to be hidden behind someone else’s brokenness.

Be opened to the idea that you are stronger than you think.

Be opened to the idea that you aren’t as strong as you think.

Be opened to the fact that you may not ever get what you want and that you will actually be OK anyway.

Be opened to finally being happy.

Be opened to your own need for healing especially if you yourself are a healer.

Be opened to life and life abundant.

Maybe that’s what healing really is.

We think it’s about identifying what’s wrong with someone else or with ourselves and then having that thing cured, but I wonder if spiritual healing has more to do with being opened than being cured…

But it’s not easy. Healing can hurt.  It can feel like a loss as much as it can feel like a gain.

Because sometimes healing feels more like death and resurrection than getting a warm cookie and glass of milk.

Maybe you are someone who has for so long been the one who suffers depression or illness or dysfunction that you are simply more comfortable that way, because frankly, when you stay sick no one expects much from you. And that’s easier.

Maybe you are someone who deals so much with the brokenness and sickness of others in your work that you forget that you are in need of healing too.

Maybe you are someone who has experienced healing of hospitality here in this community and you have yet to be healed through offer the same thing to others.

Maybe you, like myself, would rather not admit to needing anything form anyone. Including Jesus…

FORGIVENESS as a HEALING PROCESS 

From article by Religious News Service — Jonathan Merritt: As the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu became a leading human rights advocate who has championed causes such as poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, HIV/AIDS and war. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In his … work, The Book of Forgiving (co-authored with his daughter, Mpho Tutu), he offers four steps to forgiving and healing:

  1. Telling the Story
  2. Naming the Hurt
  3. Granting Forgiveness
  4. Renewing or Releasing the Relationship

Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible. We do not heal in isolation. When we reach out and connect with one another—when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship—our suffering begins to transform.
― Desmond Tutu


7 SKILLS for FORGIVING

1- Understanding
The skills of making sense of one’s suffering, researching & learning phase
Nothing is easier than to condemn the evildoer, nothing is harder than to understand him.Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another. — Emma Goldman

Broaden perspective through history.
A potentially useful way to seek an understanding of one’s suffering is by considering the bigger historical context in which the harm took place. Such consideration may help uncover the links between one’s suffering and the adversary group’s suffering. An understanding of one’s suffering in relation to the past or current suffering of the ‘other’ may reveal insights into the adversary group’s basic psychological needs (e.g. security, autonomy, avert existential threats). A threat to these needs may have given rise to the motivation to use aggression to protect them.

Relinquish rigidity.
For some, it may be possible to make sense of their suffering by viewing the roles of victims and perpetrators as reversible. Such flexibility can result from considerations that a degree of victimhood and hopelessness must have lied within the perpetrator to motivate him/her to cause suffering in others. The inter-changeability of roles between victims and perpetrators may further be encouraged by beliefs that human beings are fallible and that they all share a potential to harm each other. This skill may also require one’s acceptance that one’s views of justice and truth may not be shared by others, especially by the adversary party.

Move beyond understanding.
Sometimes victims become too preoccupied with their search for understanding the causes of the harm they’ve experienced and consequently may neglect to harvest the benefits of the above researching & learning skills phase. In other words, understanding becomes the only and ultimate goal. The above skills are not intended solely to accumulate knowledge but also to utilize that acquired knowledge to stimulate shifts in one’s static, uncompromising attitudes and positions.

2- Building bridges born out of suffering:
The skills of relating to another person’s pain
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Build bonds of suffering.
A tendency that maintains the cycle of revenge is to compete over one’s share of suffering (akin to Dr Noor’s concept of Competitive Victimhood: We have suffered more than the other group!). However, it is also possible to use one’s suffering as a bridge to connect to someone else’s suffering, their ‘imperfect’ humanity. Thus despite political, economic, religious and other types of divides, the victims of two conflicting groups can use their suffering (e.g. loss of loved ones and other traumatic losses) to establish a strong, emotional and psychological bond (akin to Dr Vollhardt’s concept of Inclusive Victim Consciousness). They can find it possible to agree that the conflict has brought about adverse consequences for both groups, albeit in perhaps different ways. A focus on common suffering can result in unexpected discoveries of intimate bonds based on shared pain and it can trigger generosity in attitudes and actions between counterparts.

Grasp the concept of Ubuntu.
My humanity is caught up in yours. This ethic which originated in South Africa is a critical skill. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes this perspective as, ‘Ubuntu’ is not, “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am a human because I belong. I participate. I share.” In essence, I am only because you are.

3- Empathy
The skill of putting oneself into someone else’s shoes without judgement.   You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. — Atticus in To Kill A Mocking BirdTry on dirty, uncomfortable, new shoes.
Attempts to understand how the world is viewed by the adversary party might shed further light on what motivated them to cause the suffering. For example, the adversary party’s attacks on one’s child who serves in the military may be incomprehensible to the bereaved mother/father, especially because of the child’s best intentions and limited choice to avoid compulsory conscription. However, after taking the perspective of the adversary group, from which the military is viewed as a force of oppression, and thus their child as a symbol of that oppression, the hostile behaviour towards soldiers may become more understandable. Thus the skill of putting oneself into someone else’s shoes enables one to acknowledge that the world can be viewed and understood in ways that may be very different from one’s own worldview. To do this, it is required to first become aware that these other types of perspectives and worldviews exist and then to develop the desire to relate to them. Healing work is about acquiring a new pair of spectacles. Practising this skill in relation to someone who has inflicted harm can result in insights into the person’s thoughts, feelings and actions that motivated him/her to cause the suffering. Such empathy is void of moral judgement and thus can move the person beyond simple understanding. Yet, it does not necessarily contain condoning of the suffering.
4- Curiosity & Courage The skills of looking beyond yourself.
You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. — Andre GideGenerate curiosity to correct stereotypes.The benefits of the other skills in the tool-box can be honed partly by developing the skills of curiosity. To develop a sense of wanting to find out more about the ‘enemy’ requires one to go beyond oneself and one’s existing knowledge. It also requires an acceptance that one’s knowledge of the world as well as its sources are imperfect, limited and in need of expansion. Such expansion can be implemented by developing a desire to reach out and add to or revise one’s existing knowledge. It is also possible to gain further understanding of one’s own suffering and the circumstances that led to it by generating curiosity to find out who the enemy group really is. Such curiosity often generates a motivation to engage with the other group, which in turn creates opportunities to correct one’s stereotypes of the other group.
Be courageous.
In tandem with the skills associated with curiosity, the skills of developing courage to engage and potentially meet with the person who is responsible for one’s suffering may be required. One way of developing courage is to become aware that the adversary might have to go through a similar courage-generating process full of its own challenges and that they could have opted for ‘easier’ options (e.g. avoidance, offers of pseudo-apologies).   5-Accepting personal and collective responsibility:
The skill of locating the ‘I’ and the ‘We’ in the suffering
The gunman and his family are victims too. Perhaps victims of the society we have responsibility for. — Andrea LeBlanc, (lost husband in 9/11) commenting on Boston bombings
Rediscover agency without shame or guilt.
Acknowledgement and apology are important factors in the healing journey but they may not be available and therefore can put the power in the wrong hands, keeping the harmed stuck in a place of disappointment and expectation. Instead, rediscovering one’ personal and group-based agency is a more fruitful approach to healing. The skill of reviving one’s agency requires that one does not separate oneself as a passive recipient from the harmful event, but instead one acknowledges that as human beings we have agency. At the time of the harm such an agency may have been perceived as non-existent or strictly diminished. Acknowledging personal and collective responsibility is to concede that even at the time of the difficult harmful situation one had a degree of agency. Such insights may produce feelings of guilt and shame. However, the above skill is intended to direct individuals towards empowerment such that it helps them to rediscover their agency after the harm has been done. Whether erroneous decisions (miscalculation, missed opportunities, etc.) were made by one’s group leaders or by one’s own inaction to challenge short-sighted leaders, accepting personal and collective responsibility requires the development of a critical awareness of how oneself and one’s group have contributed to the situation that led to the suffering. Such insights into own contributions to one’s suffering can in turn enable one to act in order to change the course of action from further harming to healing.
6- Resisting conformity The skills of finding your own path
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that has ever happened. — Margaret Mead

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. — Friedrich Nietzsche
Defy what others may have in mind for you.
Traditionally, there is a piece of cautionary advice not to overburden individuals who have experienced major painful events in life, for example, by encouraging them to re-adjust too quickly or to engage with the person who caused the pain. However, as useful as this advice may be, it is equally important to bear in mind that at times these individuals may be trapped within their victimhood, not because they want to remain victims but rather because of the expectations by their families, community, society, etc. to conform to their victim role. Thus, in order to counter these expectations individuals may be required to develop the skills involved in resisting such expectations, namely, deviance. The kind of deviance referred to here involves two sets of skills:   Be a small black sheep The first set presents a number of challenges at the personal level and encourages the individual to acquire skills that were described earlier (e.g. challenges to the self to empathize with the adversary, to consider the non-static nature of victim and perpetrator roles, to acknowledge personal responsibility, to be curious and brave, and to engage with the person causing the pain).
Be a big black sheep This set of skills presents challenges at the group-based level and requires critical thinking about one’s own group, their assumptions, norms, values and worldview. It further requires a genuine understanding of the adversary group’s concerns and psychological needs (e.g. need for safety). These skills will help develop awareness that one’s own group may have contributed to the conflict and suffering as well, be it through provocation, poor negotiation skills or missed opportunities for a peaceful co-existence. The above sets of skills essentially enable the individuals to discover the ‘full story’ and to move beyond the ‘always guilty other’ and the ‘always innocent me/us’.   7- Recovering from resentment: The skill of letting go of anger and bitterness

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. — Anon
Return to being human.
No-one is born angry, resentful or evil. However, our hearts and minds can easily be filled with strong and persistent negative emotions and intentions due to a victimhood experience. The more that resentment plants the desire in one to exact a wrong, the further one moves away from our humanness with which we are gifted at birth. The skill of letting go of anger and bitterness requires the realisation that resentment has the potential to undermine our humanity, its integrity and its capacity for compassion, as well as the potential to eat away at our peace of mind and well-being. Holding onto resentment has a cost. This skill is the ability to transform the impulse for revenge into a search for something larger; it is about broadening one’s perspective to encompass a sense of the ‘other’.
This skill invites the act of forgiving.
Forgiveness is not a pancake movement. Feelings cannot just be flipped, but you can tilt the balance in the direction towards the discovery of a new way of operating in the world. Hatred and resentment have a tight grip in the same way that the more one focuses on a problem the more engrained it becomes. Forgiveness results in a loosening of that tight grip. It generates  space and creates capacity to doubt, modify and think anew.

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