Making Peace

There is a maxim among healers that you can only bring your client as far as you have gone yourself. Since we’re helping people travel a healing path, we have to know some of the terrain already.  To be of real assistance, we have to have done our own inner work and healing so that we can offer a hand at the right moments and point out the roots and stones along the way.

The microcosm of a one-on-one session has a macro counterpart in our prayer to heal the world.  We want to be healers, fixers, makers of peace. Many of us see the conflicts and entanglements out there and insist that something better be done. We want to be a part of the solution, and some put forth “love and light as an answer to global conflict,” absolutely a sincere desire as far as it goes. Many who ache for peace wonder “Why can’t people just be different?  Why is there so much corruption?” and feel angry at the frustration of these answerless questions.

The same healing tenet holds true whether for one person or all people: we can only bring as much peace and love into the world as we have personally felt and worked for. We have to know the terrain of reconciliation and love within ourselves to be truly effective peacemakers. Otherwise, what’s the real nature of the peace we’re seeking? It sounds and feels like a hollow concept and we assign its creation to other people.

I used to be incredibly angry–not just lit up temporarily by something specific I saw on the news, but by life in general. For me, this eventually manifested as depression and a sense of powerlessness.  What was I so angry about?  It seemed like everything.

I was mad about politics, but also circumstances, money, jobs, family, boyfriends, or not having a boyfriend. I was mad about being a woman in a culture that didn’t seem to want the 100% full, sometimes “unacceptable,” me. I was mad and ashamed to never feel completely welcome. I was angry that I felt so small. I was mad at the world and at myself and had been for so long that I couldn’t even call it anger anymore; it was more like an energetic callous that was part of my being. Carrying that much anger made me snap at smaller things, like when my train was late, my coffee was bitter, or the weather was cold.

As a result, I unconsciously chose relationships that were marked by fighting more than by affection. This was a desire to resolve my inner fight.  The boyfriend arguments provided some kind of catharsis for the rage I held inside, as though I could throw myself against them and break something open or shout loud enough to finally be heard. I desperately wanted them to help me find the resolution to my anger, which ultimately wasn’t their fault or responsibility; it was way bigger than them. Sometimes they behaved badly and I called them to account for that, but I chose them in the first place because some part of me needed to fight.

Sometimes, I fantasized about being attacked.  I didn’t actually wanted this to happen but I wanted to kick some ass and being assaulted would be a great excuse. I wanted to fight my way out of the cocoon of grief and rage, so my imagination created scenarios where I’d have to do just that. Upset by the workings of my own mind, I’d have a glass or two (or three) of wine.

But if you asked, I’d tell you I was fine.  Everything’s fine! I’m great. I’d roll my eyes, crack a joke and change the subject. Because I’ve always been introspective and spiritual, I might also slip in something somewhere about how everything turns out great in the end, plus gratitude, peace and love. But I knew I was being dishonest and could feel it in my solar plexus. I didn’t feel peaceful or connected or any of the things that spiritual types are supposed to feel.  Part of me was even angry at people for believing this lie.

To begin to make peace with myself took work and support. My therapist actually named the rage I felt without judgement, which was an indescribable relief. I threw temper tantrums with Mother Earth instead of with boyfriends. I got boxing gloves and learned to hit the heavy bag to move energy out of my body. I actively sought out reconciliation where it was possible and forgiveness where it was not.  I did a lot of ceremonies and made massive changes to my life. I realized that I could only be a healer or teacher if I truly understood the terrain.

I reframed my view of anger, seeing it not as a dangerous, unspiritual negative thing or “bad vibe,” but as a light on the dashboard telling me when something is amiss. When that light goes on in the car, we’re better served by pulling over and figuring it out than waiting until the engine overheats or we’re riding on the rims. Thank goodness for that light!

I started to see anger as an opportunity instead of a liability, an invitation to explore what I truly wanted and needed. And underneath it, I discovered that my outrage often had sadness at its core. Those feelings of failure, shame, being unwelcome and unacceptable that had inspired such anger covered tender places that needed mercy and kindness. They were – are – expressions of a broken heart. Slowly, I have begun to offer myself peace, and I understand that peacemaking requires sitting with shadow, welcoming every experience to the table. Peace has come not from avoiding anger, but from understanding it. And I can see now that everyone else has broken hearts, too.

So many of us are angry, afraid, and disillusioned.  Truthfully, most of us have been angry for some time, however secretly, and the state of our country and events around the globe are forcing us to make peace with that.  With each call to “light and love,” each cry for peace and justice, we can choose to reflect on our own inner conflicts.  Where has peace within not been achieved? What is the sadness in the rage? Where have we been unjust in our families, communities, and our own psyches? Which fights are we still unwilling to surrender, and where can we accept mercy? This moment is an opportunity to explore and reconcile shadow, and we cannot bring the world further than we have been ourselves.

May there be peace to all, including you, and including me.  May we walk more peacefully with every step. May we all be free.

Get my book, Hallowed Underground, here.

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