Updated: May 29, 2020
As we start any kind of therapy or healing work, we begin by asking:
What needs to be healed?
What is the issue or problem that requires a deeper look inside?
We can divide the answer into two parts.
The conscious problem that exists right now in our life. We usually start here, since we are consciously aware of this issue. This issue requires a lot of attention, as it affects our quality of life. This can be a dis-ease or physical symptom that is painful or even life threatening. This can also be an emotional issue such as stress, anxiety or depression that makes us feel bad and prevents us from living the full and joyful life we wish to live. Or this can be limiting beliefs, repetitive thought patterns and obsessions that create a deep sense of restlessness and lack of peace.
The unconscious problem of which we are not aware. That is what may be causing the problem at an unseen level. The unconscious issues will generally be in the realm of emotions and traumas and come from somewhere in the past.
We can look at the conscious problem as the tip of the iceberg that we can see above the water and the unconscious problem as the large part of the iceberg that is unseen, hidden beneath the surface, but actually much larger and more substantial than the small, visible tip we see.
As we approach a problem in our life with an attempt to fix or solve it, we tend to look only at the tip. We don't like the tip; we don't want the tip, and if we could, we would get rid of the tip as soon as possible, while putting in as little work as possible to get rid of it. This tip is the physical, emotional or mental issue that exists right now.
There are many ways we can shave the tip off (quickly and with minimal effort) so that it isn't seen above the surface anymore, but the truth is, no matter how much iceberg-tip-shaving we do, the root of the iceberg does not change or disappear.
Have you ever thought that you have fully healed, fully forgiven, fully freed yourself from your fear, anxiety, addiction, anger, sadness and pain from the past - only to discover that it's still there today?
So if we can't shave off the tip of the iceberg in order to feel better, what can we do? Deep and true healing starts by recognizing that there may be parts of the iceberg that are not visible, and that getting rid of the symptoms will not solve the problem if we don't address their source.
Once we've recognized the problem that is present today, the question is:
Where does it come from?
This question starts to point us toward the rest of the unseen iceberg and activates a different part of our brain that isn't usually working when we try to solve just the visible tip of the problem. The answer to this question is not always so clear and immediate and requires more time and deeper reflection.
In my experience, the answer always points to a moment (or moments) in the past where the emotions we were feeling were extremely strong and overwhelming. The reaction to a deep emotional conflict is what creates the iceberg to begin with. The need to suppress a feeling, emotion or thought because it's inappropriate or too strong to deal with at that moment, is the root cause of so many (if not all) of our current emotional and physical issues.
Starting to recognize where it comes from is another step towards healing, but it is not enough only to recognize. What is needed is to feel it.
You have to feel it to heal it.
In order to heal, we must feel the pain that was suppressed. We must let the emotions return and use newly acquired resources to permit feeling what we did not allow ourselves to feel at the time.
It is very important to remember that suppressing emotions or thoughts does not make them disappear.
It's also good to know that we do not suppress consciously. It is an automatic mechanism meant to protect us from the overwhelming experience in which we find ourselves.
There is not just one path to healing. It can happen in the office of an attentive therapist or in the arms of your beloved. It can happen when you're alone or in a moment of grace or deep insight. When you've had one of these healing moments, you know it. It feels like a powerful gift that comes from within and allows you to shine light into the darkness that has burdened your soul.