Tuesday, 22 October 2013

a wounded healer and her recipe book

I write and talk a lot about emotional healing, partly because it's what I know but also partly because it's my major hope for others. There are so many soul-shattering experiences I haven't been through, but the few I've clawed my way out of have left me with the kind of empathy which is always announcing itself and reminding me that I'm alive. I suffered with depression from a young age and as it towered into an untenable crescendo, self-harm, self-neglect, self-starvation and an attempt on my own life all grimly played out. There were several years back there which have started to look like an impossible black hole from where I am now. I can still visit those years in memory with cold clarity, and that's important. I need to be able to revisit and chart the territory. I need to be able to remember what worked, what helped and what came in handy as I stumbled towards the light.

The first American pioneers making their way across the frontiers would send maps, instructions, essays, tips and guides to friends and relatives back in the East. This was to ensure that those who came afterwards could avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by the trailblazers and hopefully arrive alive! Although every journey was as individual as the next, a common thread of camaraderie began to appear through them all. There was this incredible sense of the power of sharing personal stories in order to ease each other's troubles. Whenever I've tried to work out how best to be useful to those who are stuck inside a damaging emotional cycle, the one thing that's always made sense in the end is that I'm useful because I was once stuck in that kind of cycle myself. I'm useful because I'm willing to talk about my firsthand knowledge from a secondhand place. I'm useful because I've come back brighter. I'm useful because I'm willing to talk about how low I really went and how far I had to believe I could go to be truly happy.

I thought it would be complicated, but it's really simple. I had to know within myself that I was healed all the way through from the inner core to the outer surface. Once I knew that, I was free to hold space for anyone who felt ready to heal.

I was recently referred to as a classic 'wounded healer'. There is so much beauty in the ability to sit inside your darkest experiences and be the small light which leads someone out of theirs. The downside of being a wounded healer is the extreme danger of projection. It's murky territory. You must understand your reasons for wanting to reach out and know that your journey was unique to you and not shared completely by anyone else, no matter how many similarities you unearth. You've got to make sure that you don't paint someone's world in your own preferred colours. The most problematic thing about the 'wounded healer' moniker is that it somehow seems vain. Perhaps when I upload a video about my own struggles with self-harm or self-acceptance, it's fair to say I'm definitely channeling that specific archetype. But when I'm working with a client one-on-one, exploring their issues in an on-going dialogue or consulting Tarot for helpful messages, it's not about my wounds whatsoever. It's about theirs. Provided I manage to remain clear on these points, I quite like the Jungian slant of 'Wounded Healer' and will happily adopt it.

Emotional healing. Everyone seems to have their own formula. I spend a lot of time in the 'Mind Body Spirit' section of the bookshop and it's usually situated right next to 'Self Help'. There are a thousand different manifestos and more than half of them are peddled by those who've been through the very shitstorms they're trying to guide other people through. And that's great. We're all so different, it stands to reason that we're going to respond to different kinds of help. It does however mean that I've been unable to avoid trying to work out what my own 'Guide to Success' looks like. And the truth is that it's not simple, it's not succinct and it's not a publisher's dream. It's more like a huge disorderly recipe book of home-cooked favourites which were perfected through practice and passion until they rose in the oven. It's a collection of hard-won successes, lovingly prepared and served to those who really need it.