One of Unity’s most powerful healing messages is the second Unity principle: “The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.” No matter what scars we show up with, Unity communities and ministers do their best to help us heal from past experiences that contradict this truth. We could increase our healing power if we understood how healing interconnects with: 1) our past, 2) our connection with others, and 3) the connection between body and mind.
Research shows the lifetime impact of childhood trauma is greater than previously thought. There is evidence of a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, depression, suicide and violence. Nearly 90% of people in one study reported some form of childhood abuse or neglect, scoring one or more on the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) index. Nearly 25% scored a three or more. Similar studies have yielded the same trends, meaning there is a strong likelihood that many of your congregants have deep hurts that impact their health and well-being.
Tension, hurt feelings, anger, disappointment and gossip are part of any human institution, and spiritual communities are no different. Moments when unskillful behavior arises between congregants are opportunity for authentic healing. Conflict between boards and ministers, founders and new leaders, or staff and volunteers all call for healing. Healing can be messy, deeply uncomfortable, and even painful. At times we might prefer to ignore tensions and wounding. Yet, for us to reach our spiritual potential, it must be addressed—and telling ourselves “it’s all good” isn’t enough.
Healing is interconnected in nature as it occurs between the present and the past, between individuals, and between our psychology (our mind) and our physiology (our body). The connection between the two is so strong that it would serve us well to think of them as one thing: a body-mind. We heal best when we align with this interconnectivity to achieve greater levels of self-mastery in our body-mind.
Four Steps to Healing
Recognizing the impact of tension, conflict, and challenge on our nervous system and brain function is critical. Conflict may have the unintended consequence of mimicking old hurts to such a degree that our body-mind becomes reactive and defensive. In less than three seconds, the neo-cortex, our center of higher thinking, goes “off-line” and we begin responding using the instinctual part of the brain, sometimes called the reptilian brain. Before we can utter a prayer, take a breath, or have a rational thought, we begin to fight (escalate conflict), flee (dismiss, deny, or remove ourselves from conflict), or freeze (shrink internally from conflict while being unable to remove ourselves or respond to it). In these moments it is essential to know our reptilian brain’s preferred option (fight, flight, or freeze) and how to recognize it. Then we need to practice body-based techniques to settle the nervous system, restoring calm to our body, and bringing our higher thinking back on line.
Once our higher thinking is restored, the second step is to notice and name the upsetting feelings we are experiencing. It helps to invest some time in becoming aware of unconscious beliefs about ourselves and others. Greater awareness means we can more quickly catch ourselves when we are replaying old stories/tapes and substituting the people in front of us for the original cast of characters.
The third step is to appreciate the opportunity before us to create a new body-mind response—one that is more in keeping with spiritual principle. When we appreciate the potential for healing in the moment, see our patterns playing out before us, and have a settled nervous system, we have an increased ability to make new, healthier choices.
And finally, we must practice being the change in our own lives. With repeated changed behavior, the body-mind repatterns itself with new neural networks, new ways of thinking and feeling, and new nervous system responses. With consistent and compassionate practice, the old fears and hurts lose their hold and we experience life in a whole new way.
Just think of SNAP!
Settle the body-mind
Name the feelings
Appreciate the opportunity to heal
Practice being the change
As interconnected beings, our words and actions either promote healing or reinforce wounds. It’s not easy to transform, but the benefit is well worth the effort as the work each one of us does to heal ourselves in turn heals our world.