Actually, I can’t give you the answer to why healing doesn’t happen. While I may have some, “been there, done that” insight, I can’t tell you exactly why healing isn’t happening.
I’m not God or Oprah, after all.
But the information here is critical to healing, and a missing piece in health protocols. It’s about understanding the archetypal Healing Journey.
The Healing Journey is the Hero’s Journey
Joseph Campbell, the most well-known mythologist, presented us with the idea of The Hero’s Journey. He studied the ancient mythology from all cultures and found profound, cross-cultural parallels between the hero of those myths.
The Hero, he realized, was an archetype so integral to the human psyche and the human experience that it arose in each culture. While mythology paints the Hero as a special or supernatural, the myth serves to reveal the hero in each of us.
When we align our healing process with The Hero’s Journey archetype, we perceive our life with a greater sense of empowerment. We gain wisdom about what challenges and support we can expect, and why the experience is vital to our soul.
How we get in the way of our own healing
Most importantly, using the archetype of the Healing Journey encourages us to see where we prevent our own healing, and how we can empower ourselves to heal.
We all go through a period where we refuse the call to our healing journey. As long as we refuse to step onto our healing journey, we resent our illness and we do not truly heal. But when we take the journey, we find we can no longer hate that which has helped us find ourselves.
When I finally plunged forward into the dark forest of my healing journey, I began to bless every step of the way. I came to see my autoimmune disease as a sacred initiation into my strength. This shift in perspective IS the healing. And the shift only occurs through the harrowing and enlightening path of the healing journey.
Here’s how the Healing Journey goes.
1. THE ORDINARY LIFE
We find ourselves in the world we’ve always expected. Beneath the many heavy layers of stress and tedious daily obligations, we may find a shadow of longing. We have an inexplicable hunch that we are not fulfilling our purpose, or a distant sense of waiting for something.
No matter how boring or purposeless, we’ve come to know this life as normal. By the time we reach the last step in the healing journey, however, this normal will seem abnormal. It will look confining, shallow, and bland.
2. THE CALL TO THE JOURNEY
The first call to our Healing Journey presents an opportunity to make a drastic choice, a decision which would remove us from our normal life.
The call may come in the form of mild symptoms, which we perceive as nagging disruptions to our life. Insomnia, digestive problems, and ambivalence to life are all symptoms we consider normal in the 21st century. They are not normal, but instead common.
The call may be the persistent voice of our intuition. We hear it whisper in our mind saying, Something is wrong, something is wrong. You are not who you should be, you are not living as you were meant to live.
3. THE REFUSAL OF THE CALL
We refuse the call of our Healing Journey when we silence the messenger of our symptoms. We view our symptoms as obstacles, rather than messages from our wise body. To prevent changing ourselves and our lives, we patch symptoms with prescriptions.
We know, deep down, that addressing these symptoms would mean radically changing our present lifestyle. In other words, we don’t want to leave our broken but familiar normal.
We dismiss the call of our intuition like an annoying telemarketer. “No, I don’t need anything, don’t call back, kthanksbye!” we say, and slam down the phone. Instead of asking, “What are you telling me?” We say, “Stop talking to me!”
Because we don’t want to disrupt our ordinary life, we may use self-harm, pharmaceuticals, addiction, or mindless entertainment to numb this intuition. Still, it escapes occasionally from the darkness to prod at our heart.
This attempt to maintain our normal (i.e. non-tranformative) life is the refusal of the call.
4. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
Then comes the point of no return. We pass through the gates of the journey, step onto the Golden Brick Road, sail away from the safe harbor.
This crossing over may be the quiet, internal decision to finally overhaul your diet. It may be the choice to finally see an alternative practitioner, even though you’ve been told that only Western Medicine promises a cure. It may be the moment you sign up for a support group or class.
In this moment, we realize we can never go back to our normal life: we will need to change how we are living. We feel suffocated with apprehension, but we take the first tentative step onto the path.
In other words, crossing the threshold occurs when you dedicate yourself to changing yourself.
5. SUPPORT AND TEMPTATIONS
Now, we find yourself on a new road without a roadmap. As we walk farther and farther from home, foreign surroundings make us feel alone and vulnerable. We don’t know where we’re going, and we don’t even know what we need.
Joseph Campbell says, “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on somebody else’s.” Our healing journey will not replicate anyone else’s: we must blaze your own trail.
A Law of the Universe requires that support be made available for any hero who is brave enough to start their healing journey. I don’t know why this is the case, but help as integral to the journey as the challenges.
You may find this support through a series of coincidences or by blindly following your intuition. This support may take the form of a friend, a mentor, a class, an online program, a therapist, or a practitioner. At different points in your journey, previous support will disappear or no longer prove useful. Do not be alarmed, for this is as it should be. It makes us available to the next form of support.
Temptation comes up in all the world’s religious stories and mythologies, because it occurs in the hero’s journey. On a healing journey, the most treacherous temptations are often old thought patterns. We may find yourself wanting to fall into these false beliefs:
- “It’s not fair that I’m sick.”
- “My life is ruined. I am worthless now, and I’ll never be happy.”
- “I’m a victim here and so it’s not my responsibility to change things.”
- “I’ll find a magic pill (or supplement/therapy/therapist) to cure me, so that I can return to my normal life.”
- “I can hand my health over to my doctors or practitioners and let them give me the answers.”
- “I’m not strong enough to do this.”
Those temptations come from unhealthy neuroplasticity — neural pathways — in our brain. Our greatest enemy is the beliefs we have programmed ourself to believe. We must exert the intention and effort to re-wire our brain with more empowering beliefs.
6. FACING THE GREATEST FEAR
Now, we may be bruised from the bumpy ride. But we don’t get off this troublesome path until we’ve entered the bowels of hell. In other words, we come to the Dark Night of the Soul.
At this point of the healing journey, our greatest fear arrives at our doorstep and forces its way inside. The scenario we thought would signal the end of the world arrives: we may lose relationships, careers, finances, dreams.
The thread thread which bound us to our old, ordinary life is severed. We no longer hold to the hope that somehow, and someday, we will return to our old and ordinary life.
In this freedom, we find a hidden part of ourselves. We find an untapped well of courage or faith or creativity to get through this dark night.
The morning comes and we realize, “I got through what I thought would kill me, because I relied on a part of myself I didn’t know. With all these hidden parts of me, I know I am enough for my life.”
Remember that vague longing we felt in our ordinary life? No wonder we felt a dull hunger for something more, because there was something more.
We’ve found a treasure within yourself, our unique gift that we can share with the world. And the task of sharing this gift feels like destiny.
This is the Resurrection of the healing journey: the becoming more whole, and radiating that wholeness into the world.
8. RETURNING HOME
Through our Healing Journey, we have been initiated into a higher consciousness. We’ve found ourselves with a sense of purpose, and we’ve been introduced to our strength.
Now, we return to our metaphorical home. We integrate our new self with the world, and in doing so, our world changes.
Note that the homecoming may not be a balloons and ice cream celebration. Your newly discovered gifts will disrupt the life which you once tolerated, so that your life may accommodate your transformed self.
Even though you battle fears and worries, you stand up for your new self. For she is too precious to lose, and she has too much to offer the world.
What is your healing journey?
Have you made yourself the hero in your healing yet? I encourage you to write out the steps of the healing journey, and fill them in with your specific situation.
Here’s my example:
- Ordinary Life — A straight-A high school student. I feel like I’m waiting for my “real life” to begin, that there is something more to direct my energy towards than being a perfect student.
- The Call To The Journey — For months, I struggle with worsening digestive symptoms, as well as deep loneliness and anger. I’m given prescriptions for reflux and depression, and I struggle with anorexia as a way to drown my emotional pain with a false sense of control.
- The Refusal of The Call — I tell all my symptoms, “Don’t talk to me! I don’t want to know what’s wrong because I don’t know what to do about it.” But the symptoms worsen, and suddenly I experience my first flare of ulcerative colitis. I’m hospitalized for two weeks. For the next few years, I go from medication to medication. I dabble in some nutrition, but I don’t fully commit to changing my life and myself.
- Crossing the Threshold — My first semester in college, all my medications stop working and I am with a life-changing surgery. Knowing I can no longer continue school, I think, “This is the end of the life to which I’ve clung. I can no longer salvage my normal life.” And with that crossing of the threshold, I am ready to change my life.
- Support and Temptations, Facing the Greatest Fear — These aspects on your healing journey are not necessarily linear. Leaving college was, at that time, my greatest fear. Suddenly, the secure, knowable future slipped from my grasp. I returned home, nearly bedridden, and didn’t know if I next month a surgery would remove my colon from my body. I didn’t know if I was going to dance ever again (the activity which always connected me to my joy). I didn’t know if I was going to be happy ever again. Support and temptations came during this period of transition. In particular, I was supported with a book called Breaking The Vicious Cycle. I began the dietary protocol outlined in the book and within three days, my acute symptoms were gone. Within three months, I was off all prescription drugs. The most stubborn temptations, for me, was falling for the belief that “I can’t do this alone,” or “This is too hard for me.”
- The Resurrection — Although this realization will come many times in the future, I understand for the first time that I am enough for my life. I am no longer fitting myself into a future that doesn’t sit well with my soul, and I feel empowered.
- Returning Home — One morning, I wake up with a tsunami of creative energy within me. I decide I’m going to start a blog to share grain-free recipes and resources.
My journey above may look tidy and nicely packaged, but please know this is a very brief summary. And it’s a sliver of my healing journey, which is certainly not complete. You’ll find numerous cycles in your healing journey, some of which are completed and others which are yet to come full circle. As you consider your life, you’ll find your spirituality also follows a healing journey.
You’ll be surprised at the discoveries you make as you write this stream-of-consciousness. A common discovery is, “Oh, I always knew this was the person I was meant to be!”