We all have many wounds. Broken hearts, shattered dreams, abuse, and trauma all leave battle scars that may not be outwardly apparent to others, but can cause a lifetime or even generations of experiencing the same issues, as patterns are often repeated and handed down as part of the family legacy.
The pain sustained throughout the years frequently leads us to develop defensive shields that serve to protect our vulnerable hearts from being wounded once again. And yet, this outer armor ends up not only closing us off from others, but also ultimately from the beauty and wonder of our own souls.
As a psychotherapist working from a depth perspective, I have been fascinated and privileged to have been able to witness the soul at work every day in my interactions with clients, as well as out in the world. The soul always strives to attain a state of wholeness or unity and seeks to reestablish harmony when an imbalance exists.
For example, I have frequently noticed that individuals with deep inner wounds often spend a lot of time engaged in outer pursuits in order to avoid looking within and facing the discomfort that they feel, yet at the same time they often experience a deep yearning for something more meaningful in their lives. If the gap between their inner and outer state becomes too painful to bear, they may finally feel compelled to explore their inner world through some type of creative endeavor, spiritual practice, or by entering into an empathic therapeutic relationship. This type of inner work can lead to an inner transformation that creates a more balanced perspective.
One of our fundamental needs as human beings is to be deeply heard and understood. When we experience pain in silence, we tend to feel cut off and separated from others and unable to enter into satisfying relationships. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we are taught that certain aspects of ourselves are unacceptable and unlovable, which in turn leads us to feel different from others.
We therefore start to reject those traits and identify only with the characteristics that are deemed pleasing to others in order to try to fit in. But deep down, we are aware of this inner conflict that is going on between our outer persona and our inner authentic being, which can lead us to feel unworthy of love and disconnected from ourselves and from others. In order to heal, we often require the presence of an empathic other to help us to examine more closely the inner dynamic that has been occurring.
Soul work involves shining a light inward in order to begin to integrate more and more aspects of our being that we have learned to repress. Individuals who have gone through trauma or abuse especially can end up with deep scars that lead to feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, and fear of true intimacy. They frequently learn to hide their true nature behind a false self as an adaptive measure designed to protect them from the trauma or abuse that they have suffered.
In so doing, they inhibit all of the characteristics that they believed to be unlovable or unwanted, but that actually make up a vital part of their essence. By turning their gaze inward, however, and exploring the aspects that they had originally rejected—often because they were deemed unacceptable or shameful—they can reconnect with their ability to love on a deep level and become more compassionate and understanding of others, as well as of themselves.
The Apaches have a legend that exemplifies this inner soul work. They believe that our spirits are born with us in the form of raw diamonds and that our goal in life is to obtain as many facets or cuts on our spiritual diamonds as possible. Each facet polishes the diamond and makes it shine a little more.
A new cut is formed every time we are faced with a problem or difficulty in our life and we use the opportunity to try to learn something new about ourselves. All of the struggles and suffering that we are faced with therefore become occasions for us to grow and fulfill our purpose for living. At death, the Apaches believe that our diamond spirit is returned to the Eye of God, to shine within the heavens for all of eternity. Each facet becomes another sparkle in the Eye of God.
In the same manner, I believe that turning our attention inward and doing our own soul work is our true purpose in life, which can lead us to experience a greater sense of wholeness and unity. By starting to look at the deeper patterns at work in the soul and how these are played out in our lives and in the world, we can begin to see our interconnectedness with all beings and things.
Each individual soul has a particular path to follow that intertwines with all of the others around it. By working to become more conscious of our own particular role and purpose in the world and how we relate to others, we can begin to heal from our sense of isolation as separate beings and come to feel that we are all truly connected on a deep soul level.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California
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