“The mark of a healthy healing . . . of core psycho-spiritual qualities such as anger, assertiveness, control, boundaries, freedom, critical thinking, emotional nourishment, and all the ingredients of what makes us whole, is when we can express these to meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs . . .” – J A Weber
Our wholeness is our joy, our thriving, our passion, our enjoyment of and creative service to life. Yet, we lose essential aspects of our wholeness in ways that we would least expect. Here I will discuss how denial and hurtful experiences work together to stymie our experience of thriving.
When we are hurt by others, we will often disavow (reject) in ourselves the qualities that hurt us, until we heal that wound. For example, if I have been hurt by another’s anger, I might vow not to be angry and thereby deny anger in myself. But, when I deny my anger, I also deny the ways it can be used to help and to protect myself and others. These life-affirming “ways” I call the vital qualities embedded in an emotion or experience.
The vital qualities associated with anger include assertiveness, courage, appropriate control of one’s world, an ability to establish healthy “boundaries,” to say “no,” to speak up for ourselves, the ability to effect change, as well fight against injustice in the world. When we deny anger in ourselves, we often will also deny these positive, life-giving, vital qualities that the collective energy of anger embraces. In other words, we throw the vitality-rich “babies” out with the hurtful “bathwater” of anger.
When I deny anger, its power becomes part of my shadow self, and remains unusable. When I have shunned anger, not only do I miss out on anger’s assets, but this denied anger will often act out unconsciously and violently, hurting others and myself, and diminishing love in the world. When I reclaim and work through anger’s shadow and reclaim its vital qualities I increase my capacity to feel love and to act kindly.
Repressed anger also can squash our creativity and inspiration, leading to depression. Healing the disavowed aspects of our psyche, such as anger, is to claim the vitality and life-enhancing aspects of that quality and employ these vital qualities towards good.
Consider some other examples:
1) If I was overly controlled as a child, I might reject boundaries and assertiveness in my adult life, which can leave me less satisfied, less protected and cared for, and less productive and powerful. When I can work through the pain of having been controlled, I can heal my issues with control and use control to my and others’ benefit.
2) If I was denied attention and admiration as child and simultaneously experienced my parents to be more concerned with material wealth, I might shun the power and the many positive and sustainable benefits of making money, business acumen, competition, and developing a career. I might also lack assertiveness when focus, dedication, follow-through, and goal orientation are appropriate—all of which can leave me less satisfied, less healthy, and less fulfilled.
3) If I received less emotional nourishment than I needed and perceived my parents and other primary influences as intellectuals or “in their head” too much, I might come to reject intellectual pursuits, logic, planning, rationality, and critical thinking in unilateral favor of intuition, feelings, non-commitment, and “love.” Yet, love requires us to use our good minds in support of our hearts. By denying the boons of the mind, ironically, we deny our hearts.
4) If I my parents were not protective enough of me and gave me too much freedom, and this created difficulties and pain for me, I might “hate freedom.” I might grow up to shun freedom and overly control myself and others. I might find myself unable to set boundaries and be appropriately controlling of my children. I might justify this with all kinds of spiritual jargon, when in fact, children developmentally want and need to be appropriately controlled by their parents, as this is how they learn to be in the world, as well as what is safe and what is not. Children rely on healthy, psychically balanced adults to help them find their way safely into adulthood.
One way to discover the vital qualities we have denied is to notice what qualities we find uncomfortable or intolerable in others. Do I have difficulty receiving another’s anger towards me, even when responsibly expressed by them and in proportion to the injury I caused? Is it difficult for me to be present to another’s grief? Can I bear witness and feel compassion for another’s feelings of helplessness, despair, and fear? If so, this might mean that I am denying my own experience of these feelings. Do I cringe and find judgment in others’ freedom, responsibly expressed? Am I jealous of my girlfriend’s loving relations with her family? If so, I might use these uncomfortable feelings as impetus to claim these qualities for myself.
Even joy can unnerve us! Do I find it difficult to be happy for others, to celebrate their victories and accomplishments? This might mean that I have not found enough of my own joy. The healthiest response to envy that I have found is to get busy creating for myself what another has achieved, if of course I truly want it. If I cannot create this, I allow myself to feel sadness and remorse for my loss, and love myself through it, thereby gaining something anyway.
We often will justify and have really good reasons for denying essential psycho-spiritual qualities in others and in ourselves. This is the defensive and entitled ego at work. No one will convince us of our shortcomings if we don’t want to be convinced. So, our only hope is self-honesty. We alone have the power to save or further deny ourselves. What we are not honest about is what we lose out on. We would do well to listen to criticism from others (preferably kindly expressed) and be as honest as possible to hear any truth in it, even when that criticism is delivered with strong emotion.
A popular New-Age axiom goes, “What others think of us is none of our business.” Because New-Age beliefs tend to be in denial of the shadow, I find it more helpful to believe: What others think of us is our business, if it rings true for us when we honestly and humbly assess it. Such self-reflective honesty helps us to recover our vitality and wholeness. Ordinary self-transparency can go a long way towards improving quality of life. If we can’t find humility through honest self-reflection, we can’t be as whole a person as you could be.
How to Heal
What we are hurt by we deny in ourselves and others, until we heal it. This healing involves feeling the loss (grief) and any other emotions associated with our loss of love (such as anger, remorse, sadness, and helplessness). When we release our charge and “grudge” (resentment) against that hurt, we can both feel it and welcome its healthy expression in us. We can reclaim the positive attributes—the vital qualities—of what we have denied as a key ingredients for our wholeness and thriving.
If I have denied anger, I can heal by allowing myself to feel anger. This might initially be anger towards those who hurt me with their own misguided anger. In reclaiming my anger, I reclaim parts of my passion and assertiveness. If I was over-controlled as a child, I can allow myself to feel what I was unable to feel about being over-controlled in the past (anger, sadness, resentment, helplessness?).
By working through these difficult, shadow feelings, I allow myself the possibility to feel more inner freedom, as well as create outward freedom in my life. Indeed, I might find my shadow feelings prevented my internal experience of freedom. I might notice I am more able to tolerate, even celebrate, others’ freedom.
As another example, if I have received a lot of intellectual stimulation and not enough heartfelt affection, I can grieve this loss of love and reclaim emotional nourishment in the process of my remorse. I can also positively seek it out and not have to shun intellectual growth, power, and curiosity—all of which are essential to living a whole and productive life.
The mark of a healthy healing—via integration and not blanket acceptance versus denial—of core psycho-spiritual qualities such as anger, assertiveness, control, boundaries, freedom, critical thinking, emotional nourishment, and all the ingredients of what makes us whole, is when we can express these to meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and thereby experience more fulfillment, love, compassion, purpose, meaning, and service in our lives, as well as celebrate this goodness in others.
To Sum Up
1) What vital qualities hurt us — either through over-action or deficient offering — and cause us to disavow (deny) crucial aspects of our psyche, diminishing our wholeness and capacity to love.
2) This denial of vital qualities creates a vacancy, a core wound.
3) One way to identify our core wounds—our under-developed character qualities—is to notice what areas (which vital qualities, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, or actions we feel we under-express), or resist with emotional charge, and which qualities/expressions/emotions in others we find difficult to be around or to celebrate.
4) Jealousy and envy are best used to motivate us into pro-action.
5) To heal the wound can a) grieve what we didn’t get, which is to love ourselves b) take pro-action to cultivate these qualities.
6) We have reclaimed some of our wholeness when we can feel and appropriately express emotions and their vital qualities that have hurt us, as well as genuinely celebrate them in others.
About the author: Based on the island of Hawai’i, Jack Adam Weber is a licensed acupuncturist, master herbalist, author, organic farmer, celebrated poet, and activist for Earth-centered spirituality. He lives close to nature and protects the Earth with his body and writing, integrating poetry, ancient wisdom, holistic medicine, and depth psychology into passionate presentations for personal fulfilment as a path to planetary transformation. Jack’s books, artwork, and provocative poems can be found at his website PoeticHealing.com. He can be reached on Facebook or by emailing Jack@PoeticHealing.com.