“The Twelve Stages of Healing” written by Dr Donny Epstein describes twelve basic rhythms or stages of consciousness we pass through on our journey to healing. The journey involves mastering the lesson of each stage by getting into it’s rhythm to receive it’s wisdom, rather than trying to get out of the stage.
The Twelve Stages of Healing
STAGE 1 — SUFFERING
Different from pain, suffering is marked by a profound awareness that something is wrong. Parts of our being are disconnected. The awareness of this disconnection is made as we draw more upon our consciousness and energetic resources. This can occur when confronted by a traumatic or chaotic event or loss. In the beginning phases of this stage, our awareness may be overwhelmed by the experience of pain associated with our symptoms or distressing circumstances. As you connect with the rhythm of this stage, you learn to accept and acknowledge that you feel helpless and are distressed, that it seems like nothing works, and that it will never end. This applies to an area of your body or your life. You feel disconnection, despair, or helplessness.
STAGE 2 – POLARITIES AND DIFFERENT RHYTHMS
This stage usually begins with the search for the specialist who can or has been identified as the savior from our distress, pain, or crisis. We project from the alienated, isolated, traumatized, hurt, shamed or ignored aspects of our being. These parts try to gain power over our helplessness through external authorities, procedures, treatments, etc. In this stage, we tend to think, “it’s okay if others make decisions for me, as long as they know what they are doing.” We feel that we have to know who or what to blame when things go wrong. “I don’t have to know all the details, just what I am supposed to do.” We tend to project our alienated parts onto others, or others keep projecting onto us. We also tend to judge our experience or others as good or bad, and feel extreme discomfort or dislike for anyone or anything that reminds us of our alienated part. At this stage, we have a definite story about how things are supposed to go and get upset when they go a different way, without knowing in advance that this will happen. As we connect to the rhythm of stage 2, we begin to become aware of our different parts and polarities, and we discover that we are somehow involved in a process. We are partially responsible for our distress.
STAGE 3 – STUCK IN A PERSPECTIVE
This stage of healing involves the recognition that our distress is associated with the fact that we are stuck in a perspective. Our concepts and our physiology have been fixated. We don’t know why we are stuck or what to do about it yet. The narrative of this stage runs like this: “I am stuck in my body, my shoulder, or back or neck, or particular area. I keep getting to the same point in my healing, or relationship, or life and feel like I ‘hit a wall’. It feels like I am running in circle and keep coming to the same point. I am so stuck and frustrated. I sometime resent the little kid in me who complains that he/she doesn’t know what to do.” At this stage we just need to acknowledge that we are stuck.
STAGE 4 – RECLAIMING OUR POWER
This stage of healing is one in which we realize that the “script” determined by the above three stages no longer works for us. We are angry that we have lost our power and are determined not to let it happen again. You think, “I have had enough of this and wish to take my wholeness back. I deserve more than this. I don’t mean more than a symptom or circumstance. I mean I will no longer lessen who I am.” At this stage, our focus is no longer on a single cause or answer. It is not about our condition, it is about the courage to be ourselves.
STAGE 5 – MERGING WITH THE ILLUSION
In this stage of healing, we revisit our alienated self. We are now strong enough to own it, to merge past the illusion of self. We know there is more to our body sense or symptom than just physical pain. It seems like there is an emotion or an energy that must be recognized. We want to hold our body or part and ask it, “What do you want?” It seems as if there is a film or haze between what we are experiencing and a deeper level of ourselves. That divide or membrane is scary, but we have a sense that we must penetrate it, because it is an illusion. We know that past any potential discomfort we will be okay. We must see what is on the other side of the illusion. In this stage, we literally merge with the illusion of self, towards more wholeness.
STAGE 6 – PREPARATION FOR RESOLUTION
The alienated, traumatized, denied, or redirected consciousness or energy is moving towards discharge and resolution. We feel the tension building within ourselves as this process advances. We feel ready to do whatever it takes to get on with our lives. We have a sense that there is something more waiting for us, and also a sense that we are not yet flexible enough or knowledgeable enough, or just not enough for what is next. We feel hungry for what’s coming, but in this stage, we just need to actively prepare. The sentiment is “I am ready! I am so ready that I am determined to do whatever it takes!”
STAGE 7 — RESOLUTION
Discharge of bio-electric energy is associated with a discharge of mechanical energy. This may be a discharge of the muscular system, or a fever, coughing, sneezing, or vomiting can be forms of discharge. Crying, screaming, and laughing are also discharge phenomena. When the discharge occurs after the previous six stages, resolution can occur with the discharge. A sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, peace, and inner strength accompanies the process when resolution occurs. The sentiment is, “I am so ready to scream and not only discharge, but resolve the recurrent energy pattern distracting me from who I really am! I am fully committed to do this now. I must let go of this now!”
STAGE 8 – EMPTINESS IN CONNECTEDNESS
After the discharge we are emptied. Rather than a space of nothingness, we find ourselves in a place of possibilities. We enter into a state of gratitude, vulnerability, connection with our external rhythms, and alignment with events around us. We welcome serendipity as a natural way of life. The sentiment is, ” I do things because they feel right- not to move towards pleasure and avoid pain. I do things because it is the time to do them. I know that I will be supported by an abundant universe in my choices. I experience peace when at times my thoughts, inner noise, or static cease. I sense more room in my body for breath. I sense the rhythms within and sometimes around me. I feel gratitude for my connection to others and in a greater cosmic plan.”
STAGE 9 – LIGHT BEHIND THE FORM
From our place of emptiness and gratitude, we can truly appreciate our energetic fullness. Our inner sense runs as follows, “I sometimes feel the energy within my symptoms, underlying my emotions, within my spirit. Sometimes I feel the energy between people, and the primary organising subtle energy fields to which my body is connected. I feel the energy in people’s words, their eyes, or their being. I am more sensitive to love as a basic energy of the universe and find it all around me, and within me. I am grateful for this energetic awakening. I experience gratitude for the love within me and in the universe.”
STAGE 10 — ASCENT
We experience our union with the creative force of the universe. We transcend the limits, boundaries, language, and judgements of our existing sense of self. We gain the wisdom of knowing the oneness of all of creation during this stage. We feel as follows: “I have had moments where I have merged past the illusion that I am separate from the spirit of all of life, the essence of love, and my experience of the most Divine. I had had the experience that I am within all, and all of life is connected to me. I have experienced the grace of love as a physical and spiritual phenomenon through light, vibration, or touch. I know that I know and am humbled by this experience of the infinite element of life. I am grateful to witness this Greatness.
STAGE 11— DESCENT
We are renewed beyond our limits and sense of self and enter into the world again. We know that we are part of all we perceive and responsible for all that we know. We live without being attached to our circumstances. We love and we serve. We participate in a larger circle of life, knowing our gifts and having a burning desire to effortlessly share them with the world, in service. Our inner thoughts and desires are magically and naturally matched by our outer experience. For extended periods, irrespective of external circumstance, I can fin a place and experience compassion, empathy, love, forgiveness, and altruism. I long to serve others with the gifts of my soul. This is in how I am, when I do what I do.
STAGE 12 — COMMUNITY
We experience our involvement with humanity and recognize that wholeness comes from bringing our individual gifts into community. This occurs in our internal and external communities. We recognize that all of our choices are spiritual ones and affect all beings. Our dialogue runs as follows, “At times I recognize that we are each other’s medicine, and that first, I must be my own medicine. My life and success in life is a function of the relationships that I share with others. I celebrate and receive divergent energies and help them to join, transforming them into new possibilities and love. I seek those parts of my body and life that have become separate and invite them to join the community of self and of selves.”