Soul mate love is perfect, right?
Little girls love to fantasize about living happily ever after. You know the story: the not-so-popular girl gets the golden slipper and the dashing Prince Charming. While these dreams are fun make-believe in childhood, carrying this belief system into adulthood can wreak havoc in life and relationships. Unfortunately, no earthly life ends without bumps, bruises, pains, and strains. The reality is you will keep getting wounded, both knowingly and unknowingly, by yourself and because of the frailties and abuses from others. God designed human hearts to experience – and therefore desire – safe and uninterrupted intimacy. Your heart’s longing cannot find a perfect solution in two broken people united in love. Though you may have experienced emotional wounding at a young age that later turned into a full-blown belief system, emotional healing comes through managing pain and connecting to your community.
How were you wounded in childhood?
Consider these two key questions about your experiences growing up:
Did my family give me space for:
Did my family say, verbally or silently:
- Don’t talk.
- Don’t feel.
- Don’t cry.
You may long for “happily ever after” if you grew up in a home that didn’t give you space for your emotions and instead required you to silence your voice and your heart. You may also desire a fairytale scenario if your parents didn’t teach you to process your emotions in the here-and-now. You may have learned how to stuff your feelings, numbing them by overworking or with addictive substances or escalated emotions.
Unresolved pain can become a belief system
You learned to stuff, numb, or otherwise avoid your emotions, and it worked when you were young. If those hurts remain unattended to, then over time, you may experience the “Disney syndrome.” Because God created people to survive in dangerous situations, when a person perceives danger, the part of the brain called the amygdala engages a protective response. Humans automatically respond to threat with a flight, flight, freeze, or fawn survival state. The particular response you engage depends on your unique coping system. How you cope is how you know to survive.
Though humans are designed to survive, our wiring sometimes gets crossed, and what is meant to be a temporary protective mode becomes a belief system.
You may need help realigning your thoughts in order to develop a healthier belief system that produces more mature behaviors and results in increased autonomy and self-agency.
Emotional healing comes when you learn to accept and manage pain
Dr. Maya Angelou is a famed African American poet who conquered abuse and muteness. She said this about her life:
“There is nothing I don’t love about my life. It’s a struggle, but that’s life.”
You may never love everything about your life because to be human is to have pain. However, you can learn to manage your life so pain does not overwhelm you. Fred Rogers, the producer of the famed children’s TV show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, iterates this helpful line, “Anything mentionable is manageable.” In other words, it is not the absence of hardship that makes life ok, but how one processes the difficulty. What matters is is not the absence of pain but if and how the pain gets unraveled. Resmaa Menakem, the author of My Grandmother’s Hands, encourages the differentiation of dirty and clean pain by our willingness or unwillingness to “lean into, learn from, and hear the message of our body’s pain.” If the solution to managing pain is facing it, the search for a painless life would be like chasing after the wind, a fantasy.
We need each other: connect to your community
Instead of suffering alone, try reaching out to your people. I’ve talked about the downside of fairytale fantasty, but Disney characters did give us some helpful lessons through the ways that they connected to the community for survival. One study by family life researcher Sarah Coyne at Brigham Young University concluded that Disney films are “rich in so-called ‘prosocial’ behavior, such as sharing, helping others, or offering compliments or encouragement,” all of which are critical elements for human connection. It is a proven fact that no person is an island. The human body models the importance of ‘members’ working together for the good of a healthy body. If left unattended long enough, a person will find himself thirsting for emotional and spiritual care, not only out of necessity, but also by design.
There is hope beyond the fantasy
Life gives an inevitable basket of uncontrollables, and you can learn to accept the mixture of blessings AND battles. The pathway to joy is not having a problem-free life but instead learning how to respond to life’s problems and adversities, to bounce back when the storms of life knock you down or put your back against the wall.
You may need help taking steps to shift your belief system. Do you need (or require!) a life that is characterized only by security, comfort, pleasure, health, and wealth? Do you want help transitioning to a healthier belief system that is characterized by manageable blessings and battles within a community of safe people? You are not alone in your journey. I will help you make the change you need.
If you’re asking, “where can I find a therapist,” look no further. Call to schedule an appointment with Julia Henderson at Watershed Counseling, 601-362-7020.