Suffering can appear in our lives with little warning. It startles us out of complacency. One day we are swimming with the tide, just breezing through life, then wham! Disease and discord hit us when we aren't looking. Suddenly our nice dip in the ocean becomes a terrifying race from the sharks that we had no idea were right below the surface.
Hardship in whatever form it manifests, can cause us to lose faith that life is on our side. It can render us incapable of trusting the ebb and flow of reality as we understand it.
When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, I was utterly blindsided. I am a healing practitioner, so in the beginning stages of being sick I had faith that I would be more than capable of handling the issue and moving on with my life. I had multiple tools to help me.
I did all the work, taking a mind/body/spirit approach to the disease, but instead of getting better, I got worse. I did everything that I knew how to do as a healing practitioner, but all my knowledge was useless in the face of my wretched suffering.
I stopped trusting the process and began to believe that I must have done something horribly wrong to deserve the physical and emotional trauma that I was experiencing.
To top it all off, I had a belief that no one would want to see a healer with a chronic disease. How could anyone put their faith in me to help them, if I couldn't even heal myself? A sick healer is a paradox.
I spent a good deal of time stoically putting on my best game face while seeking help from other practitioners behind closed doors. Everyone that I knew had plenty of advice to give me, from why I got sick to what might help me get better.
Conventional medicine, naturopaths, homeopaths, nutritionists, spiritual counselors, acupuncturists, biofeedback therapists, energy healers of all different types; you name it, I tried it. I stopped trusting the healthcare industry to give me answers, but the worst part about it all is that I stopped trusting my ability to help myself.
Suffering makes us feel weak, and in that weakness we become vulnerable. It's a terrifying experience to recognize that no matter what we've been taught to believe, there are some things we don't have control over. Sometimes when we allow ourselves to step into our vulnerability, we can feel like victims. We are victims to our bodies, our thoughts, our creative process that's gone awry, to God, to the Universe, to genetics.
I have vacillated back and forth between all of these things. I blamed my ancestors, the environment, but mostly I held myself accountable for this disease. I have a firmly held belief that I am a co-creator of my reality, so clearly I must have made this happen.
I played the self-blame game very well. I decided that I can’t be trusted to care for myself when I am in this open, susceptible state. The Universe can't be trusted either because it certainly didn't have my back and stop me from creating this horrible mistake.
It didn't even give me fair warning.
When we are raw and wounded, the first thing we throw out of the window is usually trust. The most natural reaction to our loss of faith is to wrap ourselves in a protective shell because we are afraid of what might come next. The world no longer feels safe.
When we become ill, whether it's emotionally, spiritually, or physically, we tend to try to keep the world at a comfortable distance. Instead of stepping into our vulnerability, we hide it under the guise of courage and dignity.
Society rewards stoicism with praise. If we see a cancer patient, we say “Isn't she brave? She never complains about the pain she's in. She just keeps fighting. It's amazing!” Very rarely do we acknowledge it when someone courageously embraces their vulnerability by taking a step into the darkness of their condition and seeing what gifts lie within the murky depths.
When we voice our fears or expose our vulnerability, it can frighten our loved ones. It makes people uncomfortable when they can see our wounds. It makes them remember their mortality and their own ability to suffer.
We often respond to this behavior by hiding behind a courageous mask, when the truth is that it makes us feel guilt, anger, and shame.
It’s time for us as healers to take that mask off. It is impossible to heal if we don’t allow the shadows of our creation to surface for healing, or try to hide them. Ignoring them is no longer an option.
Barbara Buck is a Foundational Reconnective Healing Practitioner, writer, and teacher. For more information, please visit her website at www.barbarabuck.org.