5 Key Stages of Healing

Healing is an ever-deepening process, however, our society has very few accurate definitions of what a truly transformed life looks like. I want to outline the stages of healing, what that full journey looks like, beginning to end.

Stage 1

This sucks! I can’t live like this! It all has to change.

Here is the truth: you don’t start a real transformation until you are 100% willing to abandon the pattern that is causing your suffering. Ironically, to even begin the journey, you have to first be totally over it.

Being over it feels different than wanting to be over it. Being totally over it feels more like your whole system is echoing, “ENOUGH!” It sounds like, “I’m so done with this!”

Although we may be in searing pain, many of us actually feed off this pain. As horrible as it sounds, we all do it to some extent. Part of us wants the pain.

For most humans, stage 1 happens when the pain gets so bad that they hit “rock bottom”. But for some lucky humans, it means they are just finally over it: they just can’t get hooked by the injustice or worthless or unloved parts, and instead, it feels like, “I am so over all this mess. I am not playing. I will not engage.”

It is only when there is a willingness to find another way, that you find another way. And that marks the first step towards real healing.

Stage 2

I have been at this forever and the pain is still here. What the HECK?!? I should just die.

(Around 40% down the transformation highway.)

This is a really brutal stage; it’s super, super uncomfortable. You may enter this stage 20 minutes or 20 years into your journey—the latter would be because you’ve spent 19½ of the past 20 years fooling yourself into thinking you were working for change, when really all you were doing was fighting for your unworthiness or fighting the injustice of your pattern.

Regardless, ever since you entered Stage 1 (being totally “over it”) you have been changing, shifting, and transforming. But now the pain is looping back in to try and hook you again, with the most hooky voice ever: “I have been doing this forever, and nothing has changed!” This is the voice of injustice, and it’s very tempting to believe in it.

But this story is not true. It’s never true.

When someone tells their “I’ve been at this forever and nothing is happening” story to me, 100% of the time I can point to some change and transformation that has already occurred, because this voice shows up after you’re already 40% of the way down the road. In other words, 40% of your fight, your drama, your foolishness has been transformed and is behind you. 40% is a lot!

But this story will make you pause, and make it really hard to see these changes.

Stage 3

It’s okay. This is life. You just gotta live with it. I can accept this, and I work to manage it. Heartbreak is required for our hearts to grow.

(Around 60% down the transformation highway.)

This is a really tricky stage, because our culture and society thinks this is the final stage: the end of the road. So when this story starts playing in your head, the world totally agrees with it, echoing the voices in your head: “Yes, the tragedy of your patterns and life situations are big, and you have come a long, long way. Time heals, and the pain is less intense, but some part of you will never be the same… Yup, that is how life is!”

What makes getting past this stage a little tricky is that we haven’t been real about what the healing journey really is; we fake it, and we fake the truth of what it entails. We as a global culture still think it disempowering to be an indoor gal focusing on healing, keeping journals and making daily inquiries and inventories. Therefore, there are very few honest and mature expressions of what the journey is.

To finally accept your pain, and accept your life as it is, is very powerful stuff. This is 60% of the way towards a full transformation and there is a lot more peace in comparison to the suffering in Stage 1. But the good news is, you got a ton more healing and peace coming for you if you keep going.

Stage 4

This is my gift. I know this is my hero journey. I get it.

(Around 90% down the transformation highway.)

This is a great place to be. There is a lot of willingness to look, and a lot of willingness to change. Your life feels very different.

There is a bunch of social pressure for people to pretend to be at this stage when they’re really at Stage 2. You are still really angry and heartbroken inside. But when you are legitimately at this stage, you are in love with your anger, with your heartbreak. Not in an indulgent way, desperately hoping to be seen and heard, but in a real way: you actually like it, and you kind of want to love all over it.

You just want to sit in the bath, or on the couch, or alone in the dark, and cherish all the pain in your system—I don’t mean indulge in, I mean savor. Weird, I know, but oh so delicious.

Almost nobody is talking about this stage, but it is a sure sign that you are near the end. It’s not THE end—there is a little bit more to go—but you don’t care, because you’ve got this sweet, sweet love going on inside. For all the juicy wounded bits, you’ve got a real tenderness flowing that feels like peace, not pain.

So who cares what is happening? You only want to keep discovering this legitimate tenderness that is in love with everything inside of you.

Stage 5

OMG, this wasn’t even about my beloved’s death / my health crashing / my violent childhood / cultural and systemic endorsement of sexism & racism / my awakening / ______. Nothing I thought was even true.

A full transformation brings you into total dissolve of the issue, and laughing about all that drama that you thought was real. And I would wager there are a few things in your life, small things, that you have gotten to this stage with. Ironically, you know something is totally over in your life when you suddenly know for a fact that none of it was what you thought it was—none of it!

You can’t fake this stage. Even reading about it sounds preposterous: I mean, of course, my beloved died, of course, my family is dysfunctional, of course, there is huge injustice in the world. However, at this stage of healing, you directly see through all of it.

More to the point, you can’t pretend that those old storylines that had you in such a grip are true. All you can do is laugh at yourself, and at this stage, it’s a full belly laugh. A full Buddha laughing at how the illusion seemed so real, and how you got all spun up over it.

Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.

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