A theme that’s been arising in my work with clients and talking to other therapists and helpers; is the pattern of feeling worse before feeling better while we are healing.
I remember learning how to tell clients this in graduate school and during my internship. It was something that I was taught to say and remind clients at the beginning of our therapeutic relationship. Most paperwork for therapists and sometimes other healers mentions this in their introduction or descriptions about “the work.”
It has taken me a little while to really understand this deep in my bones. I’ve also grown in my ability to normalize, validate and support clients that are experiencing this.
I like the metaphor of comparing emotional healing to the healing of a physical wound. Sometimes physical wounds get infected or didn’t heal well. When this happens, in order to heal them, we need to clean them out, reapply healing balm and possibly cover them with a bandage. Emotional healing is very similar to this. Sometimes we have emotional wounds that have become irritated or “infected” and need to be tended. When we begin to clean out emotional wounds, it brings the pain to the surface. Just like cleaning out physical wounds is painful (the sting of the water or hydrogen peroxide), it’s painful with emotional wounds too; but it’s a beneficial pain. Then we apply the healing balm. One of my mentors taught me that even though we are applying something that is beneficial (Neosporin for physical wounds, maybe love or kindness with emotional wounds) it can still hurt. That’s because we’re applying something to an open and raw wound.
We forget that sometimes even love can feel painful if it’s applied to an emotional wound.
Then, perhaps, we cover or bandage the wound. Here, I think of this as rest, rejuvenation. Periodically, or at the end of intense healing work, it is optimal to rest the system. Emotional, physical, and spiritual healing all require vitality. When we have used our vitality for healing, it is a good idea to replenish our fount.
If we look at this process using the physical wound metaphor, we see that there are many points in which we may feel worse before we feel better; and this is part of the process. When this happens, it is not because there is something wrong with us, it’s a natural occurrence.
It’s important that your guide (counselor, therapist, doctor, etc) know that this can happen and suggest not only this way of thinking about it (which can help quite a bit), but also tools to help you cope while you are going through a healing crisis and are on your way to feeling better (though you don’t yet!).
Some of the things you can do to help yourself through the healing crisis time are:
- Reach out to your support system; let them know what’s happening and if there is anything they can help with
- Double down on your “feel good” self care like massages, walks, baths, exercise, comforting foods, comforting people to see & talk with, etc
- Eat healing foods
- Get plenty of water & sunshine
- Sleep as much as you need! Our bodies need rest and when we are healing, we may need more than our usual
- Rest-not only does our body need sleep, but it also requires rest like easy walks, less screen time, quiet sitting in nature or at home, lying down
- Supplements-work with a qualified professional to get supplements that support your body, mind and spirit. Flower essences and essential oils are amazingly beneficial for emotional healing
If you’re interested in healing some wounds, you can schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation with Erin. It’s never too late to heal and usher in vitality to your system.