Your Pain Is the Doorway to Growth
I’m a therapist who recently had one of the most challenging years of my life — it changed me for the better
In psychology and the world of self-betterment, we always talk about “resiliency” as a barometer for mental health. Resiliency has always been something I talked about with my own therapist and with my clients but, until a recent challenging experience in my own life, I didn’t truly understand it in a deeply felt way. In reflecting on that recent experience, however, I had a profound moment of realization — recognizing just how far I have come on my personal journey toward building resiliency.
I wrote my thesis on the theory of trauma as initiation. That’s a topic for another piece altogether, but the short version of the theory goes something like this: Initiations are big, life-altering, internal or external changes that usher us from one stage of life to another. Things like changing career paths, breaking off a toxic relationship, or a mid-life crisis are all types of initiations. Spirituality and rituals used to be a platform for humans to experience and make sense of these initiations, but in our modern world, we have, in many ways, lost our connection to the spirit and the numinous (the unknown and mysterious). During a time of initiation, these sometimes painful and abrupt periods of change, we are no longer who we were and are not quite yet who we will become.
In the past, it was through our connection to spirit and ritual that we comprehended the pain, incorporated it into our inner narratives, and emerged as stronger, more resilient versions of ourselves. Initiations form a core part of our psyche. They come when it is absolutely necessary for us to grow or change life direction or thinking. Without those rituals, our psyches will sometimes seek out their own initiations to give us the push we need. Just because we have mostly lost touch with our spiritual and ritualized ancestral past does not mean painful initiations do not happen, just that we simply have a harder time integrating and making sense of them.
A little over two years ago, I desperately needed to change the direction of my life but was afraid to face the work such a change would require. So my psyche pushed me head-first into it…