by DEI Professional and Registered Acupuncturist Heather Giasson
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the question, “What would be the number one element to healing?” The question itself isn’t wrong; what makes it problematic is that it lacks the understanding that healing is a process and at different times will require different things.
Think of it like baking. If there are any bakers out there, you know that you need to do a little preparation before you start: gather ingredients, have a recipe, an oven, some bowls, and get yourself ready. Then comes measuring; following the recipe is pretty key in order to enjoy the cake, cookies, or bread that comes out of the oven smelling so wonderfully. Basically, you need a plan to follow and more importantly, you need to take the steps in the correct order. The right ingredient being added at the right time is critical.
Here we will expand the definition of ingredient, because actions can be included too. Ingredients can look like flour and salt, but they are also elements like stirring, states of being like bake time and temperature, and spaces like containers to mix in or counters to work on top of. If you’re baking bread there is a period of time in the right environment to let the dough rest and rise. Time, warmth, and humidity (coming after the already-completed first step of making the dough) enable the necessary chemical reactions to take place; then everything is ready for the step after that – where popping the loaf into a preheated oven for a set amount of time results in taking a crispy and golden loaf of bread out when the timer rings. Miss or skip any step in the moment where it is fundamental in supporting the next, and your process is disrupted or altered.
For recovery, just like in baking, any ingredient (or support method) inserted at the wrong time or without completion of the previous step may be ineffective or downright harmful.
When I open my senses so fully to the magnitude of the process required to bake, I marvel at the fact that we have bread at all! It is a constant dynamic process built step upon step, each one leading to the next and ending up with this new state at the end.
So what does this have to do with injury recovery or healing? Putting dough in the oven for two minutes, taking it out and being devastated that it isn’t bread yet would be pretty ridiculous. The same idea applies in healing. For recovery, just like in baking, any ingredient (or support method) inserted at the wrong time or without completion of the previous step may be ineffective or downright harmful. Rest and reduction of activity at the beginning of an acute injury like an ankle sprain or broken bone is crucial for certain processes in the body to activate and do their job. If that step is skipped (in part or completely), the body may be at higher risk in future phases like return to weight bearing and later strengthening. Because the initial processes of tissue repair or regulating inflammatory response were not completed to their full capacity, the body would not be prepared for what comes after that.
One of the most important ingredients in this process is our emotions. How do emotions come into play you ask? Bring on the powerhouse that helps us navigate novelty, orient us to our surroundings, and maintain our security. Wave hello, fear!
The physical body communicates a huge array of non-verbal information through sensations, pain, swelling, bruises, or decreased energy levels. Fear (because it helps us orient to our environment) can respond to and help us effectively keep track of these changes within the internal environment of our bodies. Creating this partnership between your body and your fear is an enormous asset through a healing process of any kind.
We are not prevented from rushing through the steps of recovery, and the capacity to push through is often a cultivated skill. Fear is the emotion that may arise and try to bring awareness to the danger of those push-through behaviors (that are ignoring its message, which is trying to orient us). Although, we often think the fear came first, which is why we try to outrun the fear but then end up in this tangled cycle. Phew… turned around at all?
Consider how well you respond to and support yourself in navigating the continual shifting state/changes in your body. This requires a degree of attention and then implementation of appropriate supports that help you maintain your sense of security in your environment. Isn’t it interesting that both your body and mind are an element of your environment in a way?
Ask yourself, is it only physical repair that needs to occur, or are there mental-emotional elements to your recovery as well? Is this your first time being injured or has this been a developing condition over time? With these two questions you can quickly see how the journey of healing and recovery is an incredibly complex, dynamic, and in some ways very unique-to-you process to go through. The functional role of fear is called on to help navigate that process by orientating to any changes in situation as well as threats to security. And you may also find an energy from your fear that helps move you forward if you walk with it through that period.
Being able to orient and flow with the shifting states and phases of any healing process cultivates a skillset that is universally applicable to all future injury and recovery experiences. The gifts of fear include being in touch with your intuition, instinct, focus, vigor, clarity, and attentiveness.
Fear can be surprisingly stabilizing once you have a solid relationship with its flow and understand its connection to the situation you are in. The question of “What action must be taken?” can help make clear your next step. This action may look like gathering information; connecting with your own inner reserves; or rallying external support through your treatment team, family members, or spiritual communities. It may look like allowing confusion (another fear family emotion) to be present which arises in states of not-knowing.
There is nothing wrong with being in a state of not knowing, especially if being injured is a new experience for you. When you either learn something for the first time or you have to release what you used to know (or think you knew) and rebuild with updated information, that state suits confusion and fear just fine. The dynamic flow of the healing journey requires us to flow with fear in particular, because built into the phases of that process are changes in environment that we have to orient and adapt to as they come and go. (Add in a sprinkling of soft sadness as well to keep releasing the things no longer of service to us.) The complexity of how emotions partner together is such a beautiful weaving.
The focus thus far has been on flowing with fear through injury recovery, and welcoming the potential for confusion to visit if needed, but we haven’t even gotten to how our planner and task completing emotion anxiety comes into the mix yet. Stay tuned for part two where we welcome anxiety to the process of injury recovery and see how it fits into this recipe of healing.
Heather Giasson is double-licensed as a Dynamic Emotional Integration® Trainer & Consultant. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, and has a clinical practice as a Registered Acupuncturist. She has found that including the mental-emotional aspect of her clients’ wellbeing often holds the key to their optimal health. This inclusive approach is what led Heather to DEI, and has remained a core component of her work. Her DEI work is virtual through her website and allows her to offer availability beyond her in-person practice. View Heather’s website: So Sensitive.