Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Written by Frances Eve Weir
'When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, you know you’ve healed.'
David’s reference to story-telling reminded me of a concept I found fascinating when studying counselling psychology. Although therapy is incredibly complex and multi-faceted, I shall attempt to describe this concept generally for the purpose of discussion.
Therapists accompany their clients through a range of situations. It is thought that therapeutic success (for want of a better word) involves enabling an individual to develop a smooth life narrative over time. Consider the last time something upset you; you may have found yourself repeating the same story to different individuals until you finally found ‘peace’ with your version of events. Healing takes time, but sometimes this isn’t enough. Healing may also require re-living the experience, considering its different perspectives, and maybe, good old-fashioned catharsis by way of regular, wracking sobs.
Think of progress like riding a steady wave, instead of being dragged under by the current. The best therapists will hold your board steady, until you can make it to shore on your own.
I don’t know if we ever fully heal. Trauma, to me, means learning to live alongside it as comfortably as we can; we will all change over time, and time itself enriches our experiences of the world, including those in retrospect.
As I’ve become older and learnt more about life, events that are long behind me have taken on new meaning, and I have had to ‘heal’ a second, or even third time. For example, I know more about grief now, which has allowed me to revisit times of loss and understand them in a new light. In this respect, the healing process may better be described as an ever-evolving puzzle; one that perhaps we’ll never complete (and that’s ok). When healing, there is no right or wrong, so ask yourself what behaviour will help you most at whatever stage you’ve reached.
Some situations (like grief) truly allow for optimists to be trumped by pessimists, because sometimes the healthiest thing to do is to feel your emotions, rather than fix the problem. Consider the times you’ve focused on your feelings (a pessimistic trait), and someone is trying to give you advice (an optimistic trait). How irritated does that make you? Healing often involves a combination of both, so wallow in your emotions, allow yourself to feel as wretched as possible, then stop, make some tea, and ask yourself - 'Now what?'
The first part of David's quote implies that YOU own your story - when you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry... - there is huge power in that. The second part - you know you’ve healed - references the self-awareness needed to 'know' when you’re wherever you want to be.
I think that’s integral; sometimes life takes away all of the choices you thought you had, but you still get to decide how you feel about it – don’t let anybody make you feel any other way.
What I love about this quote is the very basic fact that it is a statement, written by a man, about crying. I love this because it allows me to query just how much social norms have developed in the past few decades. A lot can be said about the current state of our climate, politics and digitisation, but I still consider this era to be one of the most forward-thinking in terms of personal development. I am utterly passionate about enabling others to be their best selves, therefore I value any statement that promotes wellbeing, diminishes stigma and encourages conversation.
What do you think?
Frances, a Business Psychologist, is currently Chief of Staff for the See Change Institute, where she looks after a team of formidable behavioural scientists.
She's passionate about improving businesses for people. She believes it is entirely possible to deliver returns AND improve conditions for the individuals who make up most businesses.
Frances used to live in a ski resort, so skiing is a favourite past-time for her, as well as moving countries, which is high on her list of hobbies.
Frances wants you to know, 'Maya Angelou said it best, "I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it."
You can find her on LinkedIn.