Soul Support Blog

What is Healing?

Healing is a BIG word. It has the capacity to conjure relief, hope, peace, and courage. It contains the energy of transformation, taking the parts of us that hurt and converting them into something more, something better.

Since it is such a big word that speaks to such auspicious things, it can be challenging to grasp both the fullness and particularity of what healing is. In considering what it means to heal, the etymological roots of the word prove very instructive.

“Heal” comes, in large part, from the Proto-Germanic word haljean which literally means “to make whole.” This intuitively makes sense because we often talk about that which we heal from—pain, harm, and trauma—as having “broken,” “shattered,” and “damaged” us. Therefore, to heal represents the process and journey of making whole the parts of us that have been touched by pain, harm, and trauma.

In my experience, there is no standard protocol that can guarantee healing as an outcome, but there are several ingredients that almost always need to be present for healing to take place: 1) honesty; 2) vulnerability; and 3) the intent to heal.

Honesty

Honesty is a critical element in healing because it is essential to the very first step: naming your hurt and suffering. Pain, harm, and trauma are problems, and we can only address and eliminate them if we first accurately diagnose the type, breadth, and depth of the problem. This absolutely requires honesty. We must be willing to state our whole unadulterated and undiluted truth.

We must forego common trauma responses that hinder honesty, such as avoiding the most uncomfortable or inconvenient details, and telling only partial truths to manage our own sense of guilt, shame, and distress or that of others. Honesty enables us to name something fully and completely, and once we can name something we can grab ahold of and deal with it.

Without honesty, our pain, harm, and trauma fester in the shadows growing ever bolder and staking new ground in our lives. Honesty cauterizes the wound, stops the advance of dis-ease, and gives us a chance to bring other tools and practices to bear on our hurts and suffering to finally heal them.

Vulnerability

Vulnerability is another essential element of healing. If honesty is the willingness to name our pain, harm, and trauma, then vulnerability is our willingness (and daresay, desire) to experience, move through, and intervene in the hurt.

We must take down the defensive mechanisms and egoic responses we have created and developed as a means to triage, manage, and endure the pain and trauma. The armor we build to mitigate the sting of our hurt might very well be necessary in the immediate aftermath of the harm, but over time that armor becomes a barrier to dealing with that pain and keeps us in pain’s presence.

The need for vulnerability can be seen and likened to the experience of needing surgery for a physical ailment. The only way to address the physical dis-ease our body is going through is to open ourselves up to the vulnerability of surgery. To take the risk of anesthesia and undergoing the surgeon’s scalpel. There is no guarantee that there will be no complications or even the possibility of death, but there is virtually no possibility—barring a Divine miracle—for relief and healing without taking on the risk of surgery.

Vulnerability makes us soft—not to be confused with weak—and that softness means we are malleable, flexible, able to change. And what is healing if not necessary change? You take what is broken and make it whole. Trauma and pain want us to remain rigid and unyielding, because as long as we remain so, it survives and continues. Thus, honesty opens the possibility for healing, and vulnerability is what allows the process to begin.

Intention

The third necessary ingredient to enable healing is intention. This element may seem quite obvious, so much so, that it is easy to overlook or take for granted. Intention is the component that provides direction and structure in the healing process, without it we usually don’t get very far.

Intention encompasses the decision, resolve, and commitment to bring to bear your time, resources, talents, and skills to a particular effort, in this case healing. We can often desire, opine for, or dream of healing, but unless and until we arrive at the place of understanding that healing is a choice on our part, we rarely take the steps to undergo the process and journey.

Intention to heal is important because trauma and pain relies on our remaining immobile, static, and stuck in the hurt. Intention is kinetic energy that removes us from the inertia of harm. To have an intention means we have a vision calling us forward.

When it comes to healing that vision is usually some variation on liberation, freedom, and love. This vision and the commitment to reach it is crucial because it deflects and tamps down all the distractions pain and trauma throw up to maintain their hold on our life.

Finally, intention is a portal through which we activate Divine help—whether in the form of the Creator, angels, orishas, ancestor helping spirits, Buddhas, devas, gurus, etc.—that often provides the elusive answers and sacred wisdom to guide and complete any individual healing journey. Intention is a call that we send out, not only to ourselves, but to the world and energies around us, and they respond in kind. We send out healing intentions and healing has a way of returning to us like a boomerang.

These three elements—honesty, vulnerability, and intention—are key to beginning and maintaining our healing journeys. I state journeys, plural, because each harm or trauma we experience requires its own healing process. Some healing journeys will be similar, others altogether different, but always will they require these three things. There is no singular pathway to wholeness, but these ingredients represent everlasting companions to show us our way.