There's this phrase that gives people comfort during trying times, but it actually sets you up for failure.
It's this: Time heals all.
It's not exactly true. The passage of time does not guarantee that all wounds heal. Physical ones, sure, but emotional ones are a little trickier.
Healing is an active endeavor. We must participate in our own healing, show up to confront the things that scare us and feel the feelings that we wish would just go away.
It can be really scary — I get it. You may feel the feels and cringe, worrying that the depth of any pain you feel means that it will never end.
One thing I've learned for sure: As soon as you lean into emotions, the pain begins to dissolve.
One problem with the word "healed" is that it's subjective. There's no proof, no objective test.
Sure psychologists will give you a bunch of criteria, but you can't quantify what's going on in someone's heart.
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My definition of healed is that the pain no longer influences your life. And that's another problem with someone who is heal-ing or recover-ing — the pain warps the very lens through which you view life, making it difficult to ascertain whether you're surviving or just thriving.
For example, after my father and sister died while I was in high school, I fought for many years through the long black tunnel of depression to arrive on what I thought was the other side.
I was reasonably happy, or so I thought. I no longer thought about killing myself. I had a good job as an up-and-coming newspaper reporter. I had goals.
But then one day I wrote in my journal, "I have lost my zest for life."
It was the last journal entry before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Cancer cracked my heart open wide. The pain was so great that I had no choice but to feel my feelings. This is the time where I stumbled upon the simplest, most effective meditation technique for emotional healing that changed my life, and is now changing so many of my students' lives.
Download the guided audio below so you can try for yourself.
And over time, a long time, I healed. I felt greater peace. I felt joy run through my veins for the first time in my entire life. Sometimes life just seems so ridiculously beautiful.
As a young, depressed teen, or as a conflicted, existentially-confused 20-something trying to find her path through the cubicle maze, I never really thought peace or happiness like that existed.
Those moments are fleeting, for sure. You can't get attached to them. That's another reason for suffering.
But taking a step backward, take a look from a higher vantage point.
Two tragedies, two very different outcomes.
Tragedy No. 1: Losing father and sister one year apart.
Healing process: Bury emotions, rely on the passage of time, talk to psychiatrists more willing to write prescriptions and blame my sadness on biology than help me sort through my very deep, very overwhelming feelings of sadness, isolation and grief.
Outcome: Prolonged existential crisis, mild depression, lost zest for life. Zero intuition. No clue what I wanted to do with my life. Despite a brief interlude of peace (which was more like a numbed acceptance that my dreams weren't realistic and I should just grow up), lost hope.
Tragedy No. 2: Breast cancer at 27.
Healing process: Completely lose my mind. Feel all the feelings, even when they're excrutiating. Turn to meditation and spirituality because I knew therapists had nothing to offer me. (I've since heard that great therapists exist, and I'm sure many do, but that was not my experience. I'm only speaking about my personal experience.)
Trust that I wasn't biologically flawed or diseased and that I had the power to be happy, all on my own, because that is my natural, spiritual state of being.
Outcome: An empowered ability to respond to my emotions in healthy ways, understand myself, hear my intuition for the first time in my adult life, create a life that feels like me. Authentic, not wild like I'm still trying to be 22, but also not the boring cubicle sentence I know would slowly kill me.
The main difference?
It wasn't time. It was how I showed up for myself during that time. It was the way in which I decided to face my feelings and feel them for the first time in my life.
Life sat me down and refused to allow me to run away. I mean, for someone who lived in seven states in three years, it wasn't easy to stay put for the next seven years after cancer. But I'm so grateful.
Because you know what? Suffering still comes. Pain still comes. The feeling of impatience that makes my skin crawl sometimes still comes.
But it no longer controls me. It's no longer my constant companion. The more I use my spiritual tools, the less these painful moments come.
And in the space between, I'm finally able to believe in myself long enough to make my dreams real. I'm no longer controlled by my desire to run. I finally have the ability to create the body of work that I want to create.
Doing that was impossible before. Every time I sat down, the same resistance that blocked me from my feelings also blocked me from entering the void necessary to connect with spirit and channel the words that come through me.
Once you've experienced deep trauma, it takes a really long time to release from your body. I'm not sure if it ever fully does.
Just because we survive and heal, meaning the pain no longer controls us, doesn't mean it fully goes away.
Sometimes it's a lifetime of unraveling. This isn't a punishment, but a soul contract. An agreement our souls make before entering this planet about the lessons you will learn during this incarnation.
We must rise to the challenge!
This gives us a few choices in the face of pain.
We can resist it and wish it would go away, which makes it hurt even more.
Or we can turn our faces toward it, which is actually turning our faces to our true selves and the sun.
We can expand our capacity to love ourselves as we sit with ourselves. And as we do, we cultivate a peace that's so deep, so unconditional, that it changes everything.
And that is my hope for you. That you see your pain as you see your greatest self because they are one and the same. The clouds are blocking the sun, but the sun was there the whole time.
So yes, time is required for healing, but you must show up for it. You must rise to the occasion.
Share your story in the comments below.
All the best,
Suzanne Heyn is a spirituality teacher and online course creator. Her life-changing online course experiences and popular blog help people heal their hearts and love who they are. With an online community of more than 20,000 people, Suzanne is known for her practical, authentic take on spirituality that creates space for deep healing and heartfelt connection.
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Most meditation techniques focus on the breath. This brings you into your body