You Are Your Best Guide
Mental health and wellness professionals may disagree about this, but there is no one therapy technique that is better than another. Neuroscientist Dr. Damir del Monte explains, “The brain is self-referential…talking mostly to itself. For the one fiber that enters the brain from the periphery (the outside environment), you have 100,000 fibers in the brain… The brain does dialogue with the world, but that is a small part…So if a change process begins, it depends more on the self-dialogue in the brain than any outside input.” This is why individuals must trust their own unique personal hero’s journey, and not give away all the power to the therapist or therapy. If you are in pain, you are being led to know something deeper about yourself.
It is my personal opinion, as well as my experience, that doing body-centered therapy is more profound, and is being proven to be more long lasting. We are all wounded by the very nature of being human. Entering this world is our first trauma; just living is brave. As we heal those wounds, or create some release from their power, we live out more fulfilling lives.
Psychological and Spiritual Work
Also, psychological work, i.e. therapy, clears the space for spiritual beliefs and creative abilities to flourish. If trauma or survival programming is running the show, then it’s pretty hard to think positively, tap creativity or for miracles to happen.
I tell clients: The brain seeks to heal, but the mind often gets in the way. Your early wounding or survival programming turns you into your own worst enemy, and yet, as pain drives you to seek balance, you can become your greatest ally.
Safety and Joy Can Feel Threatening
What do I mean by psychological work clearing the space for spiritual beliefs to flourish? Remember “The Secret?” You can visualize all you would like, and for some (given the unpredictability of outcome and the true possibility for miracles), that will work. But, for others, joy and abundance can feel threatening to early trauma and survival programming. If joy and abundance are perceived to be a threat, you can be sure that your body will prevent your mind from manifesting that.
Psychological and spiritual perspectives both serve to help us navigate the rough seas of life. I tend to call on therapy if I run to the exact SAME patch of rough sea again and again, as though going in circles. The spiritual may help me get through it without my boat tipping over and completely losing it, but if it’s the same area of stormy sea, it’s time to get help to figure out how to move on out of the negative or destructive pattern.
We don’t PLAN to go in circles, but it’s a given if we are human that we are going to repeat patterns. Freud called it “Repetition Compulsion.” We repeat what we know until we feel a release in that area…until we heal the wound. If we don’t heal the wound, odds are we will be wounded in much the same way again. Maybe your mother was cold and distant. The odds are more likely that you’ll find yourself with a cold, distant partner. Or, if you had a father with a huge temper, odds are you’ll have that kind of partner, or you will be overtly angry in much the same way.
When you are hurt, or victimized, in the moment you dissociate and identify with both parties. And, so, later you may act out both victim and perpetrator at different times.
So, with psychological awareness, you can make good use of spiritual tools. Soul is the rich earth explored in counseling, and spirit is the vast, open sky of possibility explored as we reach to touch the mystery beyond us.
Sometimes, I notice someone “spiritually bypass” a deeper issue, or a mentor or friend points it out in me. Spiritual bypass is subtle and manifests as everything being “just fine.” It’s a distraction, a placid sea when underneath tension is broiling. Or, if a sort of superficial positive thinking doesn’t work to hold down the deeper feelings, then guilt is easier to feel than sorrow. And, numbness is easier to bear than pain. But, superficiality and avoidance take a toll on the brain and body, manifest in physical ailments or others turning away inexplicably.
Feel More Authentic
Deep work is scary, messy and difficult, but worth it as you feel more authentic and more empathetic towards and connected to others. It takes courage to go through a therapy process, especially trauma work like Brainspotting, Hakomi, Somatic Experiencing or EMDR. In those processes, you are moving beyond the language centers and linear thinking (that often helps us to spiritually bypass by distracting), to the places trauma is encapsulated in the subcortex. Granted, it’s exhausting to go through the work, and so you want to do it when you have some space, time and support to be more “unhinged” or lost than usual.
Only Your Brain Knows
All this being said, no expert in the field (even if they want to prescribe and diagnose) knows how to heal someone. It’s not like a broken leg. Individuals heal themselves, and only your brain knows how to heal you. You can discover modalities and other people who can lead you towards balance and healing, but there is no single way to achieve that. That’s why the people who are most successful at achieving inner peace are either people who experienced minimal trauma and lots of healthy attachment with parents, OR people who try different modalities and seek different perspectives, on a path of self-actualization.
The Brain is More Intelligent than the Modality
Dr. David Grand, founder of Brainspotting has often been heard saying, to paraphrase: “The brain is more intelligent than the therapy or method; so our responsibility [as therapists] is to try to create the best environment for the brain to engage in a good self-dialogue, to find good self-organization and self-regulation.”
It’s the combination of spiritual and psychological pursuits that can create an optimal healing environment. Find a connection to nature or to an art form or to the Divine; to God/Goddess – to something bigger, more loving and expansive. And then, seek out a compassionate counseling guide who understands what it means to comfort your inner child and who connects with you in a loving and nonjudgmental way. Your counselor will also compassionately confront you in a way that helps you stop sabotaging or doing what doesn’t serve you. He or she can help you to adopt a new way of thinking and being that feels vital, balanced and worthwhile. But, you will always be the one leading away.