Stages of healing | Michelle Dixon

When will things ever get better? What’s a realistic roadmap or timeline for your healing?

Holistic therapist for online trauma therapy services | Heal from trauma | Therapist for trauma

When you’re suffering, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, to want to give up, and to wonder if your present experience is all you will ever, well, experience!

It’s only human to want reassurance that you ARE whole, that you CAN heal, that you WILL feel better and even find joy in your life.

This blog is for you if you relate to any of that.

Yes, it’s for you, no matter where you’re at in your journey!

I’m sprinkling timeline fairy dust over your path to give you hope. There IS a path that we humans tend to take from suffering to healing and peace.

Want to make this blog extra powerful? Then grab a cup of tea/water/coffee and a notepad and pencil so you can take notes, do some self-reflection, and see where you may be at.

Let’s get started!

healing after trauma

Stage 1: Suffering.

You are in pain, whether you acknowledge it to yourself or not. There are things in your life which are simply not working or which feel stuck. Again, you may be fully aware of this and know that trauma is the cause, or you may not be aware of it at all, and simply live your life tolerating the pain or even ignoring it completely. Whatever the case, you are not seeking help from anyone and are not actively trying to change your experience and/or circumstances.

This might look like: You are so used to suffering that you take your symptoms for granted and just get on with life, believing you just have to live with insomnia, flashbacks, mood swings, toxic relationships, social anxiety, or however it manifests for you. Or you see it for what it is and certainly don’t like it – but you just don’t know what to do about it. Or you think it’s ‘too hard’ to fix. You may become stuck in Victim consciousness at this stage because suffering can become an identity, one that you rely upon to justify your suffering.

What works at this stage in order to progress to the next stage of healing: Being honest with yourself, allowing and observing your suffering. Not repressing, not denying it, not thinking ‘it’s no big deal’ when it actually is!

overwhelm trauma healing

Stage 2: Dismantling (or Crisis)

Life has pushed you to a point where you can’t continue as before, just tolerating, ignoring or acknowledging your suffering. There is either an internal drive for change (in other words, healing), or an external crisis which worsens your situation sufficiently that you realize you MUST change or die (metaphorically or literally). It’s at this point that you have begun to desire change, even though you may have NO idea what that looks like, or how to achieve it.

This might look like: A growing inner knowing that it’s time for massive change which may be accompanied by an increase in symptoms, volatile moods, or perhaps moments of total clarity when you KNOW you must change. Or, there might be an external crisis which prompts massive change, like divorce, a death, losing a job/career change, or an accident.

What works at this stage in order to progress to the next stage of healing: Allowing the dust to settle, including giving your nervous system a chance to settle and come back into balance. Then, it’s a great time to commit to deeper self-reflection with or without a practitioner or holistic therapist.

healthy anger

Stage 3: Acting out

A desire for change usually arrives chaotically in the form of an intense desire to discharge (release) pent up emotion and pain. Maybe you do go searching for help, trying different practitioners and approaches in a passionate bid for healing. Or maybe you act out your frustration and desire for change by expressing anger or getting stuck in unhealthy behaviours/habits. At this stage, you know that you are suffering and are starting to take steps towards change.

This may look like: Searching for a magic bullet healing solution, trying lots of things in the hope something will ‘fix’ you. You might change your behaviour or lifestyle dramatically, engaging in dangerous and even addictive behaviours, either to express your pain or numb it. Often there is projection and blame onto others – whether because they haven’t help you as you wished, or because you hold them responsible for your pain.

What works at this stage in order to progress to the next stage of healing: Be kind to yourself here, and understand that your body-mind-spirit are all crying out for change, and this period of acting out is normal, and rarely clean and easy! Make every effort to find healthy ways to release pent up frustration (nature, movement practices, art, writing, singing). Consider seeking help, especially if you find yourself caught up in obsessive behaviours that you can’t seem to stop.

Stage 4: Taking responsibility

When the change isn’t happening how you want and you still find yourself suffering and stuck, there arises a realization that what’s needed is to participate more consciously in healing without holding anyone else responsible. Blame and finding an external ‘cure’ fall away at this stage. Somehow, you understand that healing is about figuring out what’s going on inside yourself. Part of this realization is the recognition that there is Wholeness inside you, that there is still an innocent and worthy part of you that is okay. This part of you now begins to have a voice in your healing.

What this may look like: You realize that no one else is responsible for your pain or your healing because whatever happened is no longer happening and right now, which means that you have the opportunity to move past it and return to Wholeness. You start to make changes and seek support that mirrors your knowing that the answers lay inside you.

What works at this stage in order to progress to the next stage of healing: Spend time in self-reflection to really acknowledge this vital inner shift into taking responsibility. You might enjoy journalling or making voice recordings, or even doing art or body movement practices (yoga, dancing, qi gong) at this stage in order to fully come back into your body and your power.

healing from trauma

Stage 5: Seeing your patterns and beliefs and realizing that they are not working for you.

At this point you begin to notice how you relate to yourself and to the world, and you are able to see the negative patterns, beliefs and habits that are harming you (or keeping you from peace or joy). You begin to understand how your emotional pain/suffering/past trauma contributed to how you DO life and experience people, situations, relationships, your health, and your attitudes. This is partly “shadow work” as you have to take an honest look at the chaos and pain within. It’s also where you do ‘inner child’ work to reconnect with the part/s of you that were wounded.

What this may look like: You begin to notice you have a particular pattern in one or several areas: a relationship pattern; a social/friendship pattern; a recurring physical illness or chronic illness; a way that you are triggered and experience symptoms of trauma. You may be seeing a practitioner or doing a course to support you to identify unhealthy patterns and/or habits, or you may be learning this through your own self-reflection.

What works at this stage in order to progress to the next stage of healing: Find a holistic therapist or practitioner who can support you to really understand your own patterns and symptoms, including inner child work and shadow work, if they are good choices for you.

emotional healing

Stage 6. Rejection of old ways of being (and seeking new ways of being)

Now you become determined to change your patterns and ways of being. This very active stage can go either way: towards Wholeness and healing, or towards frustration and powerlessness, which may throw you back into the ‘Acting Out’ of stage 3.

What this may look like: You may feel determined to change your patterns of being and/or relating, and launch into change – changing your eating/exercise/health habits, ending relationships or leaving jobs, quitting habits, finding a ‘changework’ practitioner to help you change your behaviours in order to reduce symptoms. OR you may feel frustrated and/or overwhelmed by your symptoms and patterns and can feel angry or helpless. This could lead to more acting out (stage 3), or even the return of Victim Consciousness.

What works at this stage in order to progress to the next stage of healing: Commitment to change. Changework therapies that actively rewire your mind, promoting a growth mindset and helping you cultivate new habits.

How to start to heal from trauma

trauma therapy

Step 1.

See your suffering and be willing to investigate it and release it (in a way that makes you feel safe). Whether you are ready to understand your shadows and inner pain, and the patterns of relating and being this pain have created in your life or NOT, you are on the journey of healing.

trauma nervous system

Step 2.

If you are in stages 1, 2, or 3, it’s vital to support your BODY and settle the nervous system! My short online program helps you create a 15 minute trauma release practice in order to release held trauma, emotion, and memory from your physical body. Everyday Healing: Releasing Trauma from the Body.

trauma nervous system release

Step 3.

If you’re in stage 4, 5, or 6, now is the perfect time to Book a session with me from anywhere in the world. I can support you with shadow work and inner child work, helping you not only to identify your patterns, but also empowering you to rewire them through mind-based modalities (hypnotherapy, somatic healing, timeline work, and more).

Thanks for reading everyone! I hope this brought you some clarity. xxx

*I have based these stages on 1. Donald Epstein’s work on the 12 stages of healing (to Awakening) – he is the founder of Network Chiropractic; 2. stages of Awakening from various spiritual traditions and teachers such as Bonnie Greenwell; and 3. my own personal experience as a holistic therapist and body therapist both with hundreds of clients and in myself through my own journey.

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