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How to make healing last

A few days ago you had an amazing session with your healer, counselor, or coach. You had a great breakthrough. You really got, where your trigger comes from and are fully committed to doing things differently. You feel light, happy, hopeful. And then it happens:

  • We let anger get the upper hand and explode on a friend.

  • Our anxiety makes it so hard to think that we cancel our plans and stay cooped up at home. Again.

  • We realize we’ve been verbally abusing ourselves for the last hour, just like our mother used to do.

There’s nothing more deflating than finding ourselves back at the foot of the mountain, knowing full well how much effort we put in for that moment of change.

It’s easy to feel bitter and also scared of how fleeting that moment of change seemed to be. We might be tempted to give up altogether. I know. I’ve been there. This is the thing:

True healing requires two balanced wings, just like a delicate songbird.

Birds need two symmetrical and strong wings to fly. If either wing is damaged or weakened it struggles to build momentum. Healing also has two wings, two sides to it. Both are needed for our healing to soar and for it to stay.

One wing is to Know Better and Do Better. The other wing is Expanding Love.

Knowing better and doing better is centered on gaining self-awareness, and the inch-by-inch progress of changing our habits and adopting new practices. With this wing, you’re cultivating your ideal state of “normal.” Your focus is on developing automatic thinking patterns that get you closer to embodying who you know yourself to be. True recovery would be impossible without this wing, because what’s the value of thinking differently if we keep acting the same? But there are hidden dangers with this wing. In our efforts to change our behaviors, we inadvertently deepen the very wounds we’re trying to heal. Because we end up feeling that we can never do enough to love ourselves. Constantly seeking progress, we live in a never-ending state of ‘almost there.’ Hyper-focusing on change becomes a new source of harm that replaces the original wounds that initiated our healing journey. And this is toxic. It eats away at our self-esteem and blurs the growth we’ve experienced. It makes our self-love conditional. This is our culture's default, so don’t blame yourself if you experience this pattern. Fortunately, the second wing brings balance to this cycle of conditional self-love. This is the work of ‘Expanding Love’. Expanding love takes us from conditional statements like:

  • I only like myself when I’m accomplished

  • I only love myself when I’m kind

  • I like myself when I’m sexy

To a statement of absolute acceptance: I love myself no matter what. The wing of expanding love grows your circle of self acceptance and compassion into something so big and so flexible that there’s room to include both our highs and our lows.

In this expanded circle, we can be kind to even the parts of us we hate.

I want your compassion circle to be as big, and as easy to find, as the mountains outside my window here in Vancouver. I want this expanded circle of love to become your true north, just like those mountains. It’s hard to get lost, really lost, in this city when the mountains are standing North and are visible EVERYWHERE. I want your self-compassion to be THAT BIG. Unmistakable. So you can find your way back into love, even if you make a wrong turn.

  • Even if you go on a mental rampage against yourself.

  • Even if you fall into self-sabotage.

  • Even if you do something you’re ashamed of.

I don't mean to imply that we should block the sadness or guilt we feel after inadvertently hurting the feelings of our partner, parent, or friend. I’m just inviting you to hold that part of yourself with love, like you’d hold a child that is crying after they broke our favourite vase. Faced with the child’s remorse, overwhelm, and guilt, we’d give them space to feel their sadness. Perhaps we’d gently talk with the child about handling things with greater care next time. Hopefully, we would help them see that they made a mistake, but that their mistake does not make them a bad person. Don’t you deserve the same? Can you hold the sadness of hurting someone while simultaneously loving that you care enough to feel the guilt that comes from that? Can you appreciate yourself for noticing their hurt? Can you feel the love when you promise to use that sadness as fuel to be kinder in the future? This is how we’re gently brought back to that first wing of knowing better and doing better. But this time, from a place of expanded love rather than self-judgement.

This is the beauty of the two wings. they dance together and strengthen one another.

As you love yourself, you believe in your capacity to do better. And because you know you’ll keep treating yourself with love, even if you make mistakes, you access the courage to stretch further, and pursue goals that feel hard to reach. When you stop chasing your healing, you can let this natural flow between love and action guide your daily life. You become more connected to your purpose, and experience the safety that comes with self-compassion. Supported by two functional wings, finally you can take flight. Much Love, Andrea

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