Oh what a question! The thing is, with healing, it happens so gradually that sometimes we don’t even notice. We may feel like we are still repeating unhealthy patterns, but if we are doing our inner work, subtle yet important changes are happening internally. Little by little our old patterns move further away from us each day mentally, emotionally and physically. But how do you know you’re healing? Here are some examples of what I mean.
Feelings about your childhood are validated
And by validated I mean self-validated. People who grow up in toxic households often become extreme people pleasers, living to serve others for external validation. We only value ourselves for what we can do to please others, because that was the only time love was shown to us. We may be unsure what the right thing to do is in certain situations, but because there were no boundaries or stability in the home we are left having to learn how to be in the world alone as adults. Now you are in no doubt about the reality of your upbringing because of the deep work you’ve done on yourself and you are no longer confused. The truth becomes crystal clear.
Old patterns reemerge
We may find ourselves in the middle of our toxic patterns when we thought we were free of them. However, we don’t stay there for very long. In fact, having engaged with our old toxic behaviors, we may feel physically ill. We may also have feelings of letting ourselves down or betraying ourselves. This is a sure sign that we have moved on from those toxic behaviors being normal to them being detrimental. Don’t forget that living in a certain way most of your life is a hard habit to kick. Sometimes you will be drawn into the familiar chaos which can be comforting. However, your nervous system has created new pathways in the brain and now the comfortable has become extremely uncomfortable. Good job!
You feel a bit lost
To begin to trust ourselves is deep. It’s a process that we may not even recognize, but if we are feeling lost and not returning to our old ways it means the process is working. Making decisions purely from your own understanding is scary and lonely sometimes. But you’ve begun to understand that your life is yours alone to live.
People seem to have vanished
Yea, this is a hard one. We certainly learn who our friends are in this world when we begin a healing journey. People who were once important to us seem to fall away and even long-term relationships like marriages can crumble. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes as traumatized people, we play roles instead of being ourselves. We behave in ways we think we should instead of being authentic which leads to chronic people-pleasing and never really knowing ourselves at all.
It’s the simple things
A simple life is now my greatest joy. I love to be home, writing, decorating and just enjoying peace. I’ve no desire to keep moving constantly, no great dreams to travel or live any kind of lavish lifestyle. I very much love solitude and time just with my family. Sure I enjoy some time with friends, but maybe once a month. I’m no longer tormented in my heart and mind and need a distraction from pain. If I’m feeling sad or low, I deal with it gently and softly instead of aggressively. Most people I know who have done intense work on themselves live the same way. A slower, intentional lifestyle instead of the hustle and bustle seems to be the prefered way for them to be.
Sometimes, healing can be lonely and sad, but it is also enlightening and deeply rewarding. As Dory said in the film Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming”.