The feeling of faith (the authentic experience of it in consciousness, not the mental construct), arises slowly through the healing of trust wounds. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work, but it can be cultivated.
At first, it feels like a miraculous mystical condition, an incredible gift that you want to hold on to forever. But for the practicing mystic, there is a very real mechanical process associated with it. The more the process is performed, the purer the consciousness becomes, the more permanent and sustainable the feeling.
There is a returning quality to it; one returns to faith, so to speak, because it is a return of consciousness to a pre-wounded condition. It’s not a denial nor a naivete, but a repairing and removing of a barrier, which prevents the experience of faith. It is only accomplished through healing.
If a person is full of wounding, unhealed betrayals, unprocessed heart-aches, etc., and is fearful of trusting, this will stand as a barrier to the feeling sense of faith.
Then, absent the authentic feelings, mental constructs can be created and emotions can be generated with the mind temporarily, if one “believes” hard enough or keeps dogmatically repeating to himself how much he “believes” or “ought to believe.” This is what most religions teach lay people. But quickly that kind of faith breaks down, as it’s a very fragile sort of house of cards. The mind undermines itself in these matters often, and doubt prevails. Underneath that mental construct, full of trust wounds, the pain and fear and skepticism remain. No amount of belief can change that. This is why the real inner work is necessary.
Genuine faith is the serene and effortless surrender to the Divine will. It is neither blind nor ignorant. It is not attained through affirmative prayer, nor by the rejection of reason. In reality, it is a courageous path of negation; a purgative process requiring the arduous grappling with fundamental doubt and fear, and a healing of all the betrayals that caused the loss of faith in the first place. The more trauma one carries in the sphere of trust, the more difficult the journey.
When we talk about psychosis, spiritual emergence, or any of the many different labels that fall under the umbrella of mental illness, we are really talking about the eruption of truth. Capital “T” kind of truth.
We are talking about the unshackling and often destructive rebellion of the soul, against the oppression of the false ego, the lies of the mind, and the dysfunctional abusive and inauthentic patterns of relating.
This eruption is violent, not in the material sense of causing external physical harm to others, but rather its emergence destroys the web of lies that have kept the person oppressed. It destroys the conditioning, the abusive relationships, the false loyalties, and indoctrination that keep us stuck. The revelations of truth, to the experiencer and those around him, plunge everything into a chaotic anarchy, just as any political rebellion would.
This chaos is hard, and scary, and causes the oppressors (sometimes other people, sometimes the mind itself) to become even more authoritative and tyrannical. Oppressors, (within and without) who feel their power threatened, never react well to such eruptions. They try to quell the rebellion by any force necessary. Thus maintaining of the status quo becomes of paramount importance, as everyone is horrified by the implications of the truth.
The truth is ugly. The truth is shameful. The truth hurts, a lot, and requires real change. Few are willing to go there. An urgent and immediate return to “normal” is what is sought, but to the experiencer (to his soul), such efforts are silly, meaningless, and provide only an illusion of safety and comfort.
Once he has seen and experienced his truth, he knows that there can be no real return to what was before. Thus begins the very long, painful, often solitary, complicated journey to healing.
Honoring the truth, surrendering to truth, and finding the path forward is the very Hero’s Journey that we all admire and aspire to. It means leaving what we thought we knew behind, for a wilderness of the unknown.
Most often alone and afraid, we venture forth. And just as the sages have told us for centuries, with each step forward, somehow magically, somehow synchronistically, the path just appears. We realize that we are guided, supported, and something unknown and unseen is rooting for us. The battles are hard. The terrain and darkness are astounding. The demons and monsters are very very real.
And while the purpose isn’t winning in the normal sense (it’s rather the way in which we do battle that really matters), the journey becomes the very purpose and meaning of our lives.
I shared this video a while ago on Facebook. It’s a talk given by Caroline Myss some years ago called “Why People Don’t Heal.” In case you didn’t get a chance to watch it then, or aren’t into watching it now, here it is in print format.
I think it takes a lot of courage on Caroline’s part, to talk so directly about this somewhat sensitive issue. I wanted to bring some more attention to this, as I’ve seen this dynamic in my work as well.
Simply put, one important reason that some people don’t heal from trauma, illness, or emotional suffering, is because they get stuck in their own victim-hood; their story of pain becomes deeply enmeshed with their sense of identity, and they cannot let go of their stories or move through to healing. Often this is accompanied by lots of self-pity, and martyrdom patterns. To them, letting go of their victim story feels like annihilation, that’s how serious this issue is.
We all know that avoiding dealing with your pain can cause more pain. This is the other side of the spectrum; these are the professional victims. (There is a pejorative quality to that term, intentionally.). The people who are prone to doing this learn how to hold on tightly to their wounds and use them, in a rather manipulative way, even if they don’t consciously intend to do so. This has the effect of draining vital spiritual and emotional energy from themselves, and from those around them.
Any attempt to move people like this out of their pain and victim stories is received as callous and lacking in compassion. You can offer lots of alternatives, and compassionate patient loving kind help, but they will find ways to sabotage that help and then blame you for being insensitive. It can be very frustrating and painful to watch someone you care about become entrenched in their own misery.
This is a telling, somewhat extreme, example from the article:
I met one woman, for instance, who stated upon our introduction that the “rules” of being a friend to her began with agreeing to “honor her wounds.” When I asked her to tell me what that meant in practical terms, she said that she was only now beginning to process all of the violations that had happened to her as a child and that in the course of healing these wounds, she would frequently have mood swings and bouts of depression. “Honoring her wounds” meant respecting these moods, not challenging them. She claimed the right to set the tone of any social event of which she was a part. If she was in a “low space,” she expected her support system not to introduce humor into the atmosphere but to adjust their mood and conversation to hers. I asked her how long she anticipated needing this intense level of support. “It may take years,” she replied, “and if it does, I expect my support system to give me that amount of time.“
The reality is that wounds need to be attended to. The victim stories need to be honored; consciously, subconsciously, and all the way down to their source in childhood. But then those wounds need to be processed and healed. Forgiveness needs to be found. And the person has to let go of the victim story. Otherwise, he becomes something of an energetic vampire, constantly (even if unintentionally) pulling on the sympathy, pity, and attention from others.
Spirit does not support this kind of victim mentality, that’s why healing can’t happen for a person in this state of mind.
People don’t heal, because subconsciously they don’t intend to heal. They are often unaware of their own attachment to suffering, and the psychological payoff that suffering brings them. (It’s a way they get love, a way they feel safe, a way they dominate interactions and generate a sense of importance. It’s all designed to feed the ego.)
And when you point it out to them, as Caroline describes in the article, they become extremely defensive. I’ve encountered lots and lots of people in the last few years who love their suffering. They glorify it endlessly and with great fanfare, and they glorify the suffering of others as well. Any attempt to reduce suffering or offer alternatives in a compassionate (but direct) way is met with hostility. Not just from the sufferer, but from the enablers as well.
I was in an online support group a few months ago, having a conversation about healing trauma. We were talking about the merits of different therapeutic approaches, and whether a person could administer the therapy himself, or whether he would need a facilitator. Out of nowhere, a woman interjected aggressively, saying that she knows trauma better than anyone, and no one can begin to know trauma like hers. (They always seem to have this kind of monopoly on suffering). And since her trauma makes her the ultimate expert and authority on this topic, she let us all know that we were wrong, and that none of what we were talking about could ever work. (It does work, and has worked for lots of people.) But the aggressive nature of her interjection quickly shut down the entire conversation. And yet, unsurprisingly, the very next day, this same woman, shared in the group that she’s experiencing suicidal depression, and she’s been in tremendous suffering for 20+ years, and no one can ever seem to help her out of her pain…
I want to say here that I’m not indifferent to suffering; as I’ve written about lots and lots of it here. Without recounting a litany of stories that will solidify my status as someone who knows about trauma, I’ll just say that I have had my fair share of pain. Catastrophic levels of pain which, thanks to my spiritual work, I’ve been acutely re-living and re-feeling and healing, step by step, for the last few years. Pain and trauma happen to be subjective – what was painful and traumatic for one person, is not necessarily so for another. That’s why comparisons of “who had it worse” are rather silly.
But the one thing I’m shown over and over again is that you have to want to heal, and take complete responsibility for that healing, and you have to be your own advocate in that healing. You have to make every possible self-reliant effort to heal.
Healing isn’t something we actually have control over the way we assume. Healing comes from Grace. Healing is a gift given to us by Spirit. There is a sacred element to how it happens and when. It works in cooperation with the person – we do our part, and Spirit does its part. But within the sphere of what we can control, we have to do everything we can and focus our intentions as directly as possible towards that end. Emotional wounds don’t heal on their own. It takes time and effort to move towards healing.
The people described in Caroline’s article, and those I’ve met along my path, don’t have the determination or commitment to marshal their inner resources, and to pull themselves up and out of their pain. They are deeply deeply attached to their victim stories. Sometimes you can hear a sort of helplessness that accompanies their mental state “I can’t do it on my own. I want someone to do it for me.” They sit around and wait for someone else to initiate the process, while they take the time to wallow in misery. (But then when someone does come along and says “come on, I’ll walk with you through this. I know the way,” that too is rejected.)
The truth is: if you don’t do it for yourself, no one can ever do it for you. No doctor, no pill, no famous shaman, no magic spell.
This is, of course, not to say that you shouldn’t seek help and support when you need it. You should. Traditional therapies or spiritual or holistic approaches, it doesn’t matter. There are lots of resources (free resources) available for healing these days. But you have to really really want to heal, and to let go of all the egoic benefits that are attached to victimhood. The process isn’t easy. You have to be willing to confront the pain and the darkness, and take responsibility for a lot of unpleasant stuff. It requires that you be the one who is most committed to your own freedom from suffering. You have to want it for yourself, and you have to want it more than wanting someone else to come and rescue you out of your pain.