When our hearts feel broken and wounded, we want nothing more than to be out of pain and to go back to our pre-wounded state. And yet, despite this longing, most of us (myself included!) resist the very healing we need because we are waiting for permission.
That seems silly to say, of course. Why on earth would we think we need permission to heal? And who would deny us that permission anyhow? Don't the people who know us and love us want to see us out of pain too?
Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
The resistance of others
Yes, those who love us may want to see us out of pain, but they may also be uncomfortable with what the process may require.
They can't bear to see us face the pain and move through it fully to get to the healing on the other side, and so they gently push us toward stuffing the pain, moving on, getting over it, sucking it up as quickly as possible. They resist the necessary movement into the very heart of the brokenness that is needed. And we sense that lack of permission.
They might want so badly for everything to go back to how it was "before," and so they resist the ways that healing changes us, making us into something new instead of restoring what once was. We feel those freshly budding parts of our souls hit this resistance, and we shrink before the lack of permission to continue moving toward those healing changes.
They may be terrified of the bandages being ripped off their own concealed wounds if they get too close to our pain, and so they avoid us or shut us down or stifle our expressions of our reality. We feel that rejection of our experience, and we know that we are being denied permission to heal as we need to.
They might also have experience with healing themselves and want that desperately for us, but they want to steer us toward whatever healing path worked for them, and they fight our efforts to move along our own path to healing in our own way and our own time. As we fun into these attempts to control our path, we feel the lack of permission to heal in the way we most need.
They may be completely incapable of understanding our pain, our grief, our brokenness if they have not experienced something similar. This lack of understanding causes them to dismiss our experience as invalid and self-serving. This lack of understanding and validation feels like a denial of permission to heal.
They may resonate so strongly with our heartache because of their own unhealed heartache that they want us to stay in that heartbroken space with them. Our movement toward healing feels like abandonment to them, and so they refuse to give their permission for us to heal and grow.
If they contributed in any way to our pain, they might resist us doing what is needed to heal because our path to healing reminds them of the guilt they feel over their role (or perceived role) in it. We sense a lack of permission to face the pain fully because we want to protect their feelings.
There are many, many reasons why even those who love us most might subconsciously resist our need to heal (and may even be some mix of more than one in play at once). They aren't even aware that they are doing it, but we nonetheless feel that resistance and feel like we need to wait for their permission to embark on our healing journey wholeheartedly.
But here's the secret ... the only permission that matters is your own.
Waiting for everyone else's permission before you grant yourself permission to heal is just a way to keep yourself from facing your own resistance for what it is.
Our own resistance to healing
But why would we resist our own healing? Isn't that what we long for most when our hearts are feeling broken? Aren't we just waiting to get the support of those around us to help us heal more effectively?
The truth is that we resist our own healing out of fear:
- fear that facing our pain head on will be more than we can bear,
- fear that the path to healing will ask more of us than we can give,
- fear of how the healing path might change our relationships with those we love,
- fear of what others might think of us if we do what we need to do to heal,
- fear that pursuing healing might disappoint us and we will find no relief,
- fear that following the path to healing will cause us to be rejected and wind up alone,
- fear that healing will require us to offer forgiveness we don't feel ready to give,
- fear that embracing our healing path will seem selfish,
- fear that healing will somehow dismiss the validity and importance of what we have lost,
- fear of how healing will change us,
- fear of how healing will change our whole lives.
And isn't that the biggest fear of all? The fear of change?
And so we put off making the choice to engage wholeheartedly on the path to healing, whatever that might look like for us, in order to avoid facing that fear.
We spend our time instead waiting for everyone else to give us their permission first because deep down we know that this will keep us stuck forever.
Staying stuck does indeed keep us from having to deal with all of those fears, but it also keeps us mired in pain and brokenness. A lousy trade-off when we look at it that way.
Yes, it would be easier and more pleasant to have the full support and permission of everyone around us to engage in healing the way we need to, but that's not going to happen.
The better option is choosing healing for ourselves and giving ourselves full permission to do whatever is needed to follow that path to healing and its gold. That may include finding others who can fully and enthusiastically support that healing when those closest to us resist.
It definitely means facing our fears and doing what needs to be done anyway with all of the support we can find, without letting the resistance slow us down.
It's not easy, but it's the only way forward.
Your permission to heal is the only permission that matters. Will you give yourself that full, wholeheartedly permission today?
Will you write a big YES on your permission slip to heal?
If it helps, here's a permission slip (PDF, 502 KB) to print out and sign as a reminder to your commitment to give yourself permission to heal (no matter what anyone else thinks). Post it where you'll see it often to keep your commitment in focus and to encourage yourself when the path is tough.
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