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When your “healing journey” holds you back from living.

Updated: Jan 27

Many of us feel like we need to go on a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement, digging deeper into our past experiences, looking at every action and behaviour of ourselves and others with a critical eye and trying to find the one root cause or problem for it all, or the quick fix to make it all better. It can be empowering and exciting at first, but can quickly become exhausting, stressful and... stuck.


A brunette woman covering face with her hands, wearing a jumper

It's a bit of a vortex, the world of healing, with endless self-help books, articles, workshops, and 'self healers' Instagram pages. (I realise the irony of this from someone who creates similar content). I don't have an issue with the idea of 'healing' in general, and I think self-awareness and understanding yourself on a deeper level is a great thing. But what I do have an issue with is when people give the impression that you can never move forward, because "the work is never done" and every stone in your past must be overturned and every detail analysed to the nth degree - forever.


Here's my message:


Diving deep can be helpful, but many people get stuck in the 'healing phase' and spend so much time looking back that they miss living their life in the present. It is impossible to go back and undo the past, and so we have to learn how to live with what has happened in a way that we can be at peace with. And I know it is possible with the right resources, support and action - however that looks for you.


It will take some time to work through, it won't take away your pain or erase what has happened, but you can learn to live with your past in a way that is supportive of your life now. You don't have to be stuck in a holding pattern going round and round on the same stuff forever.


I don’t want you to need therapy forever. I want you to work on what is holding you back, reach your goals and then move on confident that you've got things covered. There is no prescribed timeframe for this, but that's the aim for me as a therapist. (this is not to say you won't ever need therapy in the future, but you should have some good coping skills and supportive practices to lean on in tough times from past therapy work).


I don't want you to go digging for things that aren’t there, or take everything I say as true for you. Just because someone else had trauma in their childhood or tells you that everyone is traumatised doesn't automatically mean you did/are too. Take what resonates and leave the rest behind.


You don't need to "fix" yourself. The focus should be learning to deal with your challenges effectively and then move toward living with your experiences in a healthy way (so your daily life isn't significantly impacted) and so you can find peace and contentment.


Self-awareness is great, as long as you're using this new information to improve your life, not just as a way to sabotage what is good, to only focus on your deficits, or to endlessly blame/shame yourself (or others) for your decisions or behaviours. Self-awareness should bring clarity so you can find solutions to create meaningful change in your life.


We can achieve meaningful change through a combination of things like therapy (if needed), living by our values, looking after our health and wellbeing, practicing gratitude and mindfulness, building resilience and healthy coping skills, working on our relationships and focusing on the things in our life that bring us love, joy and peace. It's not always easy, it takes effort and work, it's not the path of least resistance - but it should ultimately lead you to a life you are happy with - looking forward again, rather than only ever looking back.


Here are some ways to think about making forward progress if you have been feeling stuck in the healing phase:


A black woman with a white shirt leaning on a building edge in the city eyes closed smiling
  1. You are not defined by your past. Yes, acknowledge your past experiences, including the pain you endured, and how this impacted you, learn the lessons etc (this is where therapy is helpful). But realise that the experiences we go through don’t define us, and that your present and future life can still be amazing despite a past history of grief, trauma or pain.

  2. Move on from endless analysis, and take action. You can read all the books, take all the workshops, do all the therapy, analyse your emotions and behaviour patterns forever, and still not create meaningful change if you take no action. Action brings clarity and confidence. Overthinking and procrastinating will only add to more confusion and uncertainty. Be sure to set realistic goals for yourself - small, achievable goals worked at consistently will get you there. 

  3. Focus on progress, not perfection. There is no perfect moment or perfect version of yourself and there never will be. You can start living by your values and working toward your goals despite this - again, start small and celebrate your wins along the way. Showing up for yourself will build trust, belief and confidence, unlocking greater potential and possibilities for the future.

  4. Use your strengths to your advantage. Yes, we’ve all made past mistakes, and moving through these can take a whole lot of work on forgiveness, humility and learning lessons. Our brains naturally want to focus on the negative to keep us safe, so how about looking at the positives: What are you good at? Where have you been successful/resilient/confident in the past? What is working in your life right now?

  5. Lean on your support system. You want to be around positive, encouraging people who believe in you and want to see you succeed in life, and you'll also want them to hold you accountable as they will see things about you that you sometimes can't. We may not always like what our trusted people (or our therapist) challenge us on, and this is why you need to know that your people are in your corner and want the best for you.

  6. Focus on your health and wellbeing. This is critical for our fast-paced, modern lives. Looking after yourself will be supportive in all areas of your life - physically, mentally and emotionally. Don't put yourself in last place.


There is no way of being completely healed, there is no destination or enlightened state to reach. Pain is a part of the human experience, it's not nice, but it's unavoidable and accepting there will be ups and downs is important to increase our ability to tolerate stress and build resilience. Life is a journey of continuous growth, learning and adapting. Let's not forget to live well along the way.


S.W.


If you need counselling support, book a session here or email me at info@bluejaycounselling.au. 


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