Feel to Heal
“We are not healed of our suffering until we experience it to the full.” ~Marcel Proust
There is a world of difference between intellectual acceptance of an idea, or a memory of an event, and emotional ownership of it.
We can remember some horrible event and think we’re done with it, because we can talk about it, only to find ourselves blindsided years later by the emotional impact of it.
Here’s the thing, though: without that emotional ownership, we can’t heal.
We can fake it, we can pretend, we can think we’ve outrun it, but until we feel it, we can’t move past it. That’s why so many avoid feeling it: it hurts.
There was an intelligent, successful man of a certain maturity at a recent program I conducted. During a casual conversation, he revisited a moment, a brief moment when he said something hurtful to his child over twenty years ago. Apparently, it had haunted him since.
Suddenly, he stopped mid-sentence. He gulped. Tears sprang to his eyes. And then he exploded. Stomped from the room and screamed into the wind on the porch.
We took a break.
When we resumed, I checked in with him and asked how he felt. With a look of confusion, he responded. “Better. Lighter.” But with wonder in his voice he enjoined, “I don’t understand. I’ve talked about this in therapy before and never had this kind of reaction.”
“Because you only talked about it,” I responded. “You didn’t feel it. You couldn’t, because you weren’t ready to forgive yourself. Now, apparently, you are.”
When it comes to healing, there’s no timeline, no deadline, on the process.
We heal when we feel.
When we’re ready.