Growing up in an alcoholic family, I was encouraged to not notice, speak to or feel my pain. And my pain was immense and unbearable. Because of how I’m wired and the sort of soul that occupies me, my natural inclination is to notice, speak to, and feel e v e r y t h i n g. This has morphed into a gift, which has fueled and supported my intimate work in relationships and most especially my work as a therapist. But as a child, my emotional awareness was unwanted and often punished. Consequently, I learned that my pain was not only painful, but also a personal problem which over time, began to seem like a character issue - something that made me unlikable. So I took it all underground and turned my pain into a quiet but virulent self-hate that mostly remained hidden.
Many years of therapy have helped me heal that self-hate. In particular, IFS (Internal Family Systems) has been a deeply, profoundly healing agent. IFS states at the outset that “all parts are welcome”, and that welcoming invitation includes and embraces even the parts that are full of hate, criticism and shame. As I was encouraged to turn toward those unlikable parts with curiosity and openness, significant changes began to happen. Initially there was a softening that came with the curiosity. This softening relaxed me and let me get interested, which was so dramatically different for my system that had been pushing away and exiling all that painful feeling for decades. The softening and interest brought me closer, so that I could touch my pain again. And I'm not going to lie - it feels pretty bad to touch that pain. But touching my pain allowed me to begin to notice it and care for it in exactly the ways it needed. I started to get friendly with the dark matter inside of me, and I began to nurture it. And this, my friends, is what healing is: caring for what hurts. My mission in life now is to continue to turn toward my pain with care. My greatest wish is to teach my children and loved ones how to do this, and to propagate the softening, curiosity and care that begins and sustains our healing journeys.
To heal? Turn toward your pain.
Written by Jessica Sorci, LMFT