Lisa McJunkin, LMFT, CHTP, EFT Coach
Return to self is a longstanding philosophy of whole being healing, spanning across a multitude of ancient traditions. I interpret returning to self as a self-healing approach with four parts of alignment: our mind, our body, our emotions, and our soul. This alignment then allows us to foster further connection with ourselves, others, and the planet.
From an integrative healing point of view, Western culture struggles with over emphasis on using your mind to treat the problem. If you have a headache, we are taught to typically reach for a medicine versus cultivating a moment of inner reflection and inquiring from the part of our body that is in discomfort what it needs at that moment.
In my experience, some of the major concerns of relying on only one of four parts to heal is that it often leads to band-aid fixes, extreme fatigue and hopelessness, chronic body distress, and a pathologizing versus resolution of our symptoms. It's like only using a 2 cylinder vehicle to tow another vehicle uphill, or baking with only a fifth of the ingredients required. You can do it, you may even be successful, but the journey will be arduous.
As a California state licensed provider and fellow gate keeper of mental health diagnosing, I have always found concern in providing a label with no healing plan. Someone diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), per DSM-V diagnostic standards, will not have a remission or resolution of symptoms. It is generally accepted that once diagnosed with PTSD this is a forever condition, clients and their loved ones are encouraged to educate themselves and accept that their lives will need more isolation from triggering people and situations and manage their symptoms.
I call BS on this. For generations of humans across continents and tribes of people trauma energy has been moved and healed. The difference is, these traditions do not solely rely on our brains to understand, process, and move trauma energy. The reliance on our brains to accurately challenge and replace unhelpful perceptions, in many traditions, is the least emphasized for healing. From an expanded avenue of healing, our brains will typically be more agreeable challenging previously held beliefs if our other parts (body, emotions, and spirit) are also being attended to. If you are no longer concerned by if you can heal versus how do I heal, the realm of possibility and the unknown is more tolerable.
Experiencing trauma energy is a natural human state and so is the ability to discharge this energy. The goal is all four parts aligned: mind, body, emotions, and soul or what our ancestors called “healing”, and once all parts are aligned this natural healing process becomes intuitive. There are many avenues to engage your self-healing abilities, from breathwork to movement exercises to use of plant medicines; all involve focused awareness and discipline to connect with each of these parts even when we just don’t want to.
Each of us has parts of ourselves we rely on more currently, whether it’s racing thoughts in our brains, really intense body sensations, reliance on gut feelings, being of service to others, or giving it over to a higher power for assistance. So the initial task is to create a shared vision that meets the initial needs of all four parts. For some of us, this will be our first time checking in with certain parts of ourselves, let alone giving it a seat at the table. So the only rule is: Be gentle with yourself. This is an evolutionary practice of skill, not a race.
Here’s an initial exercise taken from a Western technique known as the Miracle Question and adapted for integrative healing. I call it Your Thriving Vision *.
1. Allow 3-5 minutes of contemplating the following question: If I woke up tomorrow and all this crap was gone, what would I be doing with my time, my energy, and my talent across these realms: mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, my connection to self, others, and this planet?
2. It is time to get this vision in whatever state of development it is in on paper, either bullet points in a journal or an artistic collage with magazine cutouts on a poster board. I recommend this project be hand written/created. There are alot of reasons for this, from assistance in purposefully slowing the brain down to energetical getting this vision out of our bodies and in a collective stream of energy to propel it forward.
3. Spend 3-5 minutes each morning contemplating and/or adding to this vision.
4. Then set an intention for the day that aligns with this vision and we take action.
Frequent feedback I receive with starting the healing trauma path, is folks feeling unsure how to proceed, from simple to more complex decisions, because trusting others or ourselves has been replaced with guilt, shame, and anxiety as a result of the unresolved trauma(s). The above Our Thriving Vision exercise allows us to have an external validation tool that is still self-generated, as we re-establish our own parts alignment and re-engage our natural self-healing abilities.
If you or someone you loves is struggling with self-harm and/or suicide please error on the side of caution and get help today, via local or national agencies that support suicide prevention in your area.