The Paradox of Healing

September 13, 2018

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Life and this reality are full of paradoxes, and you’ll hear them all the time. For example:

The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

That’s super true but I’ve found that one of the most difficult paradoxes to grasp, and one of the most important if not the most important, is the paradox of healing. It’s a beast, this one. But why, you may be asking, wouldn’t someone want to heal? Why would someone choose to remain in pain, to hurt, to hide from healing? And I could give you a slew of theories, you could pick one and apply it to your self and go from there. But there’s really only one answer: fear. Fear of pain.

See, it hurts to heal. Bad.

None of us are perfect, we all have experiences that have shaped and molded us into who we are today—some of which have been deeply painful and have taught us ways to protect ourselves from further hurt, humiliation or pain. We are not even aware of our defenses sometimes which can even masquerade as helpful or positive attributes of our personality. For example, the workaholic: hard working, dedicated, will pull the all-nighter to get the job done, forsaking love, life and living, and even their own health sometimes. We look at these people as being “on the grind” because that is what it takes to get ahead. But here’s the question: are you working that hard out of love or fear? Are you working that hard because you love what you do and what you are contributing to the world, and you find it so fulfilling that you just simply don’t want to stop? Or do you feel like you can’t stop because you will feel like a failure? There’s a huge difference there. And if it’s the latter, then you’re working out of fear. And if you’re working out of fear…what are you afraid of? And in acknowledging what you are afraid of, well…that’s where the paradox comes in.

The ego (that sneaky but necessary aspect of the self) doesn’t want to feel pain and it doesn’t want you to feel pain. Because here’s the thing: questioning the self can hurt and cause deep pain to rise to the surface. Questioning your self can force you to examine people and situations in your life that support your ego and false ideas about your self. Once you begin to question your self, you will begin to question your motivations for why you do what you do, and that’s where it gets tricky. To acknowledge that you need to heal an aspect of your self is to acknowledge that there is a problem, that something has hurt you, that a wound needs to heal. To acknowledge that a wound needs to heal is to acknowledge that you’ve been walking around in pain, which is to truly ask your self why you’ve been doing that. Why didn’t you try to fix it earlier? Why didn’t you want to fix it earlier? Are you a masochist? Well, of course you’re not! You tell your self, “I practice yoga and meditation and breathing techniques and I eat organic and drink tea and exercise and…and of course I want to heal!.” Of course you do. But the ego has issues admitting it’s not perfect. It wants to protect you, at all times, no matter what. So it will tell you that you’re right no matter what, even if what you’re doing is detrimental to the self, like not acknowledging the wound.

Because here’s the other thing: there is a reason for the wound, a cause. It’s usually a person, not always as sometimes it can be a situation like bullying, but most of the time it’s a person that’s the root cause and it’s usually a person that we love(d) very, very much. Someone that we trusted to not hurt us, someone we trusted to protect us…a parent or guardian, a teacher, a coach, a friend. If it’s a person, then it has to be someone we love(d) because otherwise they would never have been able to wound us so deeply. And to heal is to acknowledge the wound, to acknowledge the wound is to accept that the individual that inflicted the pain creating the wound was someone we love(d), and that they hurt us. It is to walk through that pain all over again, whether it was some form, any form, of abuse, or something as uncontrollable as them dying on us and leaving us “forever.” To relive that pain all over again, especially if we think we’re over it, in the name of healing, is asking a lot. It’s asking the self to go through it all over again and release it, to no longer be a prisoner to it or a victim. It is asking the ego to acknowledge and accept that we’re not perfect, and neither are others because as we know, life is not perfect, far from it.

Healing hurts, a lot…and that is the paradox. So why do it? Why even bother?

Because it’s worth it. Because freedom from the pain is worth it. Because the sense of liberation in facing your own personal “demons”, vanquishing and releasing them will give you a window into the self that you may have never opened. A view into your true strength and power. It will balance and empower your ego to begin to protect that aspect of your self, to begin to work with you and not just tell you that you’re right all the time. We’re not here to “kill the ego”, though this is necessary, but we’re here instead to balance it so that it works with us on this plane as it was intended to do. And then you can begin to forgive, not just the person or circumstances that created the wound but also your self—the self that hid from the pain for so long and pretended everything was okay, that numbed it with drinking or smoking or working or exercising excessively, constantly. You can begin the process of embracing and understanding your humanity and the humanity of those who hurt you, and maybe even begin to find compassion for your self, and for them because hurt people hurt people. Then begin to see every single person that you meet for how truly precious and special they all are. Begin to see the fragility of everyone, the pure and simple beauty in all of us trying to understand and navigate this world, this plane. And then begin the process of release, and it is a process because healing does not happen overnight, it can take a long time to uncover the roots depending on how deep it goes.

An abstract painting of what appears to be clouds opening unto a brightly colored background.

“Ablaze” by Lisa Horlander

But trust me, it’s worth it.

“Every situation, properly perceived, becomes an opportunity to heal.” (Helen Schucman)

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” (Leo Tolstoy)


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Bernard S. Siegel, MD Recent comment authors
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Bernard S. Siegel, MD
Bernard S. Siegel, MD

Pain is necessary. It makes us aware of what we need to do to protect ourselves. If we were to feel no pain we would lose parts of our bodies and lives.



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