Facing the Void: Healing in Therapy
Moving through the Healing Spiral
Healing in therapy can sometimes feel like a never-ending process. For those of us who have been on a healing journey for a while, it can seem like “when does this end? When do I get to be finished and be healed?”
I often have clients coming into therapy who are tired, they’ve been to therapy before, they have ‘dealt’ with the past and yet can’t explain why all the past hurts, or dysfunctional behaviours are resurfacing. This is particularly prevalent since the ‘end’ of the pandemic – it’s like the past is bubbling up and requiring us to look at it again, to heal, again.
It is important to know that healing is a journey. It is not, unfortunately, a destination. Part of being human is to struggle, to have moments of difficulty. Grief and loss are a normal part of life – grieving for a family member or friend, or even grieving a part of yourself that you’ve had to let go of.
You can consider this healing journey as a Spiral of Healing.
Although you may feel like you are ‘back here again’ in a familiar dysfunctional place, know that you are not. Perhaps you find yourself in a familiar and unhappy relationship pattern. Or using substances in a way you thought you had handled. Or maybe just feeling anxious or depressed again.
You are not back where you started. You are further along your Healing Spiral. Some things are different than they were before. Perhaps you got unstuck faster than you did before. Maybe you recovered connection in your relationship faster, or you used fewer substances. Maybe you forgave yourself faster or were kinder to others.
Ask yourself – even though it feels like I am in the same place, what is different this time?
Perhaps it is small, minuscule even. Regardless, give yourself credit for what is different. Because healing is happening, and change is coming.
In Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT), we talk about something called The Void. This is the space that is left over after we have cleared traumas and emptied our psyche of traumatic emotions, patterns and negative core beliefs. The Taoists and Buddhists about this void as well. Therapy and personal development work are about moving toward becoming more of who you are. Finding your centre.
Often we have lived our lives with a deeper connection to our traumas than we realize. Being anxious, depressed, addicted, or mentally ‘ill’ has become a part of our identity, who we feel we are.
So who would we be if we healed all of that?
It can feel like giving up our identities – even when that is exactly what we desperately want. We are shying away from the Void, unconsciously sabotaging ourselves because to fully heal and recover we fear that there might be nothing left of us. This is the Void.
Facing the Void
When on a healing journey, it is important to replace our trauma and our dysfunctional behaviour with something positive. It is necessary to face to Void, and replace a life of trauma and difficulty with things that bring you joy.
Meditation, yoga, sports, play, family, connection, life purpose, meaningful work, and volunteer work. These are all examples of how we can fill the Void and become accustomed to living a life free from trauma.
This doesn’t mean turning to any of these things ‘addictively’. True healing involves recovering our capacity to feel freely and spontaneously, to use our thinking in service of ourselves and others, and to take action in our lives to get what we want. When we have freed up our capacity to feel again, and let those feelings guide us for what we need next, we are free to live in ‘good relations with ourselves and others.