My journey of emotional healing began when I was 27. That’s when I had my first of many crises, beginning with the sudden onset of panic attacks, depression, and near-constant anxiety.
After a decade of work on my mental health, and the personal transformation that followed, I decided to put pen to paper and retrospectively document how my process of emotional healing unfolded. This is my depiction of the journey.
is my holistic theory of personal transformation.
However, we are a blank slate in terms of our socialization because we have yet to be conditioned by lived experiences. Yet that process of social conditioning starts shortly after birth. Our biological orientation intersects with our social experiences, crafting us into entirely unique beings as our lives unfold.
Experiencing acute events such as the death of a loved one or sexual assault
Prolonged exposure to stressful circumstances such as a dysfunctional household or military tours in an active war zone
Regular absorption of emotional energy such as a child raised by a depressed parent, or doctors, nurses, and EMTs who regularly work with dying patients
The broad collection of messages, rules, and expectations we receive in society, such as through education, religion, cultural norms and values, and so on.
Some suffering is unavoidable, such as the death of a parent. Other forms of suffering are unnecessary but nearly impossible to avoid since they are fabrications of civilization. And they are placed on us at an early age -- before we can resist them. We are bullied, told how to dress, how to speak, how to behave, what to believe in, and even who to love. Our minds become less and less our own. Our identity is defined by what the world expects of us.
To avoid psychological pain and feed our inherent drive for pleasure, we seek ways to satisfy both. That's when we enter a reoccurring cycle of pain avoidance and short-term satisfaction. If unchecked, compulsions can turn into addictions and we remain stuck in this self-harming cycle.
Feeling out of control such as feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and sadness
We think poorly of ourselves and repeat beliefs such as “I’m a bad person”
Rational thinking shuts down as we get consumed by negative emotions and thoughts
The mind begins to ruminate on ways to “act out” in order to numb our pain
We begin the process of preparing to act out, such as driving to get liquor or turning on pornography
We finally give in and partake in whatever substance or behavior that will help us temporarily numb the pain
Once the “high” from acting out wears off, our rational thinking returns and we feel shame for what we’ve done. Our shame starts the cycle all over again, leading to a feeling of unmanageability and then the rest follows, repeatedly, keeping us trapped in a cycle of suffering.
We hit “rock bottom”, leading to a full-blown crisis. For example, an attempt at suicide leads to hospitalization. Or, active addiction leads us to rehab, the loss of our independence and financial stability, the loss of our children or romantic partners, and sometimes we find ourselves on the wrong side of the law.
Eventually, we may reach a point where we decided that enough is enough. Our crisis compels us to seek a solution, leading us down a new path – one that we hope leads us away from suffering. We seek help in ways we had not before. We are tired of the cycle of suffering we have been in and turn to alternatives once thought silly or “not for us”. Finally, it’s time for a change.
We don’t yet realize it, but the Truth is the most important tool in our process of transformation. It’s essential to lead us away from future suffering. One of the first Truths we discover is that we are not responsible for the suffering that arose from our prior conditioning.
We didn’t choose the life we had growing up. We didn’t choose the societal messages we were conditioned to accept as the gospel. We didn't choose our genetics. We didn't chose many of the conditions and circumstances that contributed to our suffering. At this stage, we begin to wake up to the Truth that we are not the broken, weak, incapable and immoral person we’ve believed ourselves to be. We are something else separate from that and we’re ready to discover the person we are behind all of the pain and prior life circumstances.
To end suffering, we have to identify the false truths we’ve been conditioned to accept. To do so requires both intellectual knowledge and emotional knowledge.
Information obtained through the problem-solving capabilities of the mind.
Awareness of one’s emotions, where they come from, how they manifest in certain behaviors, and how to integrate them in positive ways.
Because of our culture’s emphasis on intellectual pursuits, we slowly lose touch with our emotional knowledge. As a result, much of the process of exploring False Beliefs involves learning how to use less of our intellectual capabilities and reestablish our emotional abilities to strike a proper balance between both forms of intelligence.
To explore our False Beliefs we have a handful of tools that we can call Truth Tools.
These are intellectual tools for developing informational knowledge of ourselves, how and why we are the way we are, and the root of our suffering. Examples would be: Therapy & Coaching where we receive expert guidance and knowledge from people trained to assist others. Intellectual investments such as reading books, academic literature, etc to develop knowledge of our condition and circumstances.
This refers to tools or methods that are “outside of ourselves” such as medication, which can help stabilize the mind and nervous system such that Top Down and Bottom Up work can be done more effectively. It’s very difficult to explore False Beliefs while in crisis so external tools can be turned to in order to establish a relative level of calmness, focus, and preparedness. Common forms of external methods include psychiatric medications, and psychedelics like psilocybin and dissociatives such as Ketamine.
These are body-based tools that help us tap into the wisdom of our emotions, as well as any trauma that’s stored in our bodies. Contrary to the dated model of the mind and body as separate organs, it’s imperative to understand that they are all part of the same integrated unit and that treating the body is essential for treating the mind and spirit. Body-based methods can include somatic experiencing, breathwork to help regulate the nervous system, acupuncture, heat and cold exposure with the use of sauna and cold baths, and yoga.
Our shift away from negative self beliefs gives us room to rewrite our sense of self. That gives us the opportunity to create a new set of core beliefs that can serve us better in life moving forward. Our new sense of self leads to changes in how we treat ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We now treat ourselves according to what we now know to be Truth of ourselves. We start to treat ourselves well because we begin to respect and love ourselves. We begin to believe we deserve a better life.
Just like our False Inner Beliefs, our outer beliefs begin to fall apart as well. How we view the world fundamentally changes because we learn that they were built on top of a faulty set of previously-held internal beliefs. How we view others, society and its institutions, and the beliefs that arrange us into ideological categories are exposed for what they are -- illusions. We realize that they are fabrications of the dream machine of the mind, and as such, we can create a new dream of the world around us.
We start taking better care of our bodies. That may mean we adopt new exercise and diet habits. It may mean we go to the doctor to treat the nagging injuries we’ve always ignored.
We start taking better care of our emotional needs. We may start setting boundaries with people that have historically crossed our boundaries. Or, it may be as simple as expressing the feelings we’ve always kept private.
We also begin to explore a sense of a “higher power”, and attempt to find our source of meaning and purpose. We become less selfish and begin thinking more about others and how we fit into the broader picture of the human experience.
Our social network begins to shift. We cut ties with old relationships that we have come to realize are toxic and inconsistent with the new path that we’re on. Whether that’s friends, family, or colleagues, it doesn’t matter. We’re ready to reconstitute our connections. By doing so, we create room for a new set of relationships to be built around our new sense of identity.
The clubs, organizations, or ideologies we were a part of also begin to shift. We seek out new institutions that are consistent with our renewed sense of self.
We find the error in our previous beliefs. We realize that they were closely held beliefs because they reinforced our old sense of identity, which is no longer who we understand ourselves to be. Our thoughts on politics, religion, spirituality, humanity and other major categories of beliefs all begin to shift.
Armed with the awakening to our new inner and outer Truths, we adopt new patterns in all aspects of our lives. We realize that some things are beyond our control, like our biological makeup, but that other things are entirely within the realm of control, like who we want to be in this dream world we call life.
We can’t change our height, but we can choose to let go of beliefs that led to our unnecessary suffering, and that’s what we do. We start to live in an entirely new way. We refuse to go back “to the way things used to be” since we know that to be the source of our suffering. The new patterns we adopt accelerate the process of becoming the new person we’ve set out to be.
When we have realized the Truth, there is no looking back. What we have seen and realized cannot be unseen and unrealized. We set foot on new land and burn the boats behind us. The desire to do so is too great to ignore. It can’t be repressed because you know that to do so is to repress what is True. You set a fire to everything that you once held as True to create room for the next chapter of your life.
We understand ourselves and the world around us for what it truly is -- a great big mystery that’s unable to ever fully be known. But now we are free from the illusion that we once lived under. What we do next is entirely up to us. Convention, requirements, expectations.... we can throw all of that away. The only thing left to do is to live according to what is True for us. Pursue life with the creative freedom of an artist. We have arrived on the other side of this journey of awakening. Now, we simply have to walk the path toward becoming the new version of ourselves that we aspire to be.