The first step in the process of being the optimized version of ourselves we wish to be is to unravel the knots and cords that come with our lives and relationships. As we intimately face these, our progression gradually becomes clearer and easier.
As a result of wounds and adverse events, you become different as the hypothetical scar tissue begins to form. Wounds can be so deep that they alter our consciousness. And while this could be categorized as intense shadow work, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. These wounds are our greatest teachers if you create the space for them to do their work.
Healing of these past wounds promotes growth but we must be brave enough to explore the difficult and uncomfortable questions surrounding these scars.
To do this, Cadre Benson Coulson, Recreation Therapist, suggests you recall formative life events and describe how those challenges lead to opportunity. By doing this, you’ll begin to re-write a life narrative focused on growth rather than feeling victimized or hard done by.
This method is based on a Constructivist paradigm. This paradigm assumes that individuals perceive reality through the lens of past and present experiences. Acceptance of formative events builds insight around why we view the world from our unique lenses. We begin to understand our biases, our triggers, our emotions.
When we begin to feel comfortable here we then break it all down by reminding ourselves that this moment is everything. As British philosopher Alan Watts once said, life should not be considered a journey because the end is not the primary goal.
“…Then you wake up one day about 40 years old and you say, ‘My God, I’ve arrived. I’m there.’ And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.” — Alan Watts
It’s a “simple” 3-step process:
- list formative events both challenging and joyful
- Re-write life narrative focused on growth
- Practice mindfulness
Now, while this is a “simple” exercise, it will likely bring up some tough emotions. The first being avoidance. Not wanting to revisit and acknowledge these emotionally challenging memories and feeling into the depth and darkness is a natural feeling. If you give into that fear and avoid this practice, you will continue to live in your patterns of complete re-traumatization – feeling the exact emotions experienced during your adverse events over and over again. Risk living the same year over and over again as the wounding becomes more complex and convoluted.
Break the chain and conquer that fear. Be willing to explore the darkness because that’s what true growth requires. Make note of the feelings that come up: regret, anger, hate, apathy, bitterness, victimization, repression, depression, numbness, etc. Use those as your catalysts for change.
Finally, be vulnerable and kind to yourself throughout the process. You did the best you could with the information you had at the time and the tools you were armed with. You’re a different man now and can be vastly different tomorrow… if you choose to do the work.