8 steps on a journey to healing

Frances Goodall, EFT trainer;Wellbeing coach

Published in JHH15.2 – Healing Journeys

I am a therapist, coach, trainer, speaker, mother and the author of You can heal chronic illness: the lotus process, 8 steps to health and happiness. Over five years, aged 19 to 24, I went from housebound with chronic fatigue to running half marathons, and later having a son who is now five. I’ve since spent a decade dedicating my life to supporting hundreds of women recover their health. I am a master emotional freedom technique trainer and advanced practitioner (AAMET Accredited), a Gupta amygdala retraining coach, and a health recovery coach specialising in supporting women to heal from chronic illness.

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This article is a summary of my book You can heal chronic illness the lotus process: 8 steps to health and happiness. May it provide a roadmap for you or your clients, friends or family members for taking the journey from illness to health. It is based on the experience of my own journey from five years of disabling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to vibrant health, and on those of clients and women in our Women’s Wellness Circle community. I believe we all have vast potential for healing ourselves physically if we follow all these steps, many of which I have no doubt will be familiar to you already.

Step 1:Acceptance and surrender

The first stage of healing was to accept what is, for now. The more I could let go into surrender and acceptance, and practice gratitude, the more I was able to build a strong foundation to support a health recovery path.

Many times over the last decade in my work with clients, and in my own journey to health before that, I have witnessed the power of accepting what is, just for now. Once there is acceptance and peace about what is, the body and nervous system relax and our health can start to improve.

It is said that ‘what we resist persists, what we accept can change’. To truly reach acceptance there may be a need to work through grief, anger or frustration first, and that’s okay too, in fact it is often a part of the process of moving to a deeper acceptance and surrender.

Step 2: Belief and commitment

This step draws on the power of belief and commitment to support recovery, and offers some tools to help in those moments of fear and doubt to return to a more resourceful place. Taken in the right way, this step is a foundation to a steadfast and gentle commitment to your healing.

Belief in one’s ability to heal is a powerful support for physical healing, and for commitment to a path towards wellbeing: a belief that it is possible to heal chronic illness: the belief in keeping going, and getting back on track when doubts come up, and to believe they can be worked through.

In order to heal, I had to believe it could happen and believe in the process or techniques that support the process. I have done this and, having supported hundreds of people in one[1]to-one and group settings, I believe others can too.

It was almost nine years ago that I became completely disabled with MCS and CFS. I have been fully well for three years and enjoy a full work, family and social life.’

Susan, US

It’s absolutely possible to recover and put it behind you and start afresh. I know this, because I did it myself.’

Zara, UK

Step 3: Self-care and resources

I had to learn to look after myself with compassion on a daily basis and follow my joy. I now recommend that before breakfast people use the five-minute energy medicine routine of Donna Eden (available on YouTube) followed by a morning meditation.

I found I had to take regular breaks throughout the day to relax my nervous system, regularly pausing to mindfully embrace ‘the now’ and integrate into my life. There are many meditation exercises to choose from that can bring us back to ourselves when we need some fresh resources to support our healing. First we have to feel worthy of being well resourced.

Other self-care practices became daily routines for me – eating well, good sleep habits and movement such as yoga, chi kung, or walking in nature. This was all part of learning the art of self-love and exploring the creativity that supports healing.

For me and many of my clients this part of the journey to health has been foundational. By setting up life routines and practices we begin to calm the nervous system and bring about an optimal state for healing.

Step 4: Community and support

We are social animals and external support systems help us to thrive. We need community, relationships and loving support to enhance our healing path.

I have learned that for many of us, being able to ask for help is a crucial step on the recovery journey. To expand our social network and make contact with people calls for the confidence to let love in, as well as give it out. I remember a friend of mine telling me quite assertively that I needed to learn to ask for help and be open to receiving it. She told me it was actually a gift to her, because she really longed to help me. Having this kind of support, even when it meant being authentically challenged, helped me confront some core patterns that I had needed to change.

With this in mind I encourage clients who don’t have support in their lives, to go out and find it. Depending on the severity of the illness, this won’t be an easy step, but isolation and loneliness will only make it even harder to heal. I get people to find whatever support and connection they can, even if initially it has to be primarily online.

This step also touches on the value of different kinds of relationship, exploring sexuality, women’s and men’s circles and the support of therapists, in the course of the healing journey. It’s also about feeling worthy of getting support and validation from a community that can help you navigate all the steps of the journey.

Step 5: Overcoming blocks to healing

In this step, we cover the kind of personality types that might have been a part of what led to you becoming unwell in the first place, and can hinder your recovery journey. In addition, we will be working on overcoming the roots of certain traits that are out of balance or unsustainable, while honouring and harnessing the positive qualities and gifts of your personality. This will support you to be in balance, even if you still have these tendencies as part of who you are. We will also be delving into other unconscious blocks to healing and how to overcome them.

Towards the end of my recovery journey from ME/CFS in my early 20s, I realised that I had a tendency to want to keep the peace at all costs; even if my own health had to be sacrificed. In starting to change it, I noticed a big shift in my energy levels and my health. At this time, I was living in a house that belonged to my mum where we were renting out a room to someone who we needed to move out, but I always found a reason not to mention it and kept delaying telling him, because I was scared of upsetting him and losing our pretence that all was well. I realised I needed to fundamentally change my behaviour and be more honest and authentic with people, even if that might lead to conflict or be difficult for them to hear. For me this was a real key for getting well and staying well.

We need community, relationships and loving support to enhance our healing path

This step is about getting clearer on our personal inner blocks to recovery, and how to self-compassionately approach important obstacles on our healing path. It’s a step that calls us to explore personality traits, unconscious blocks and the possible secondary gains of illness, and how to overcome them.

There is power in finding a purpose for being well that can help maintain focus

Step 6: Purpose and authenticity

There is power in finding a purpose for being well that can help maintain focus and commitment to our healing path. Most of us have a longing to contribute something to the world. Finding an authentic purpose bigger than our small self, and learning how to show up as our authentic self is a key to human flourishing.

A purpose can provide the inspiration to keep working to make the inner shifts so often required for a full and lasting physical healing. So I ask these questions to help reveal a sense of purpose:

  • what do you love?
  • what inspires you?
  • what are the wider causes you feel passionate about?
  • imagine being towards the end of your life; what do you want to have accomplished? Who do you want to have been?

There was a time during my recovery journey where I felt really selfish because I was spending a lot of time doing inner work and meditation to recover. Eventually I realised that I wouldn’t be able to help others unless I healed myself first. With this in mind, my personal mantra, ‘be selfish so I can be selfless’ enabled me to devote enough time to my healing.

In my work with people, I see that when they find a sense of purpose it helps them stay committed to their journey back to health. It helps pull them along the healing path to where they need to be. For instance, I have worked with younger clients who wanted to start a business that would express their personal passion. This focus helped them persist with all the steps to becoming well. In addition, I’ve worked with grandparents who longed to be with their grandchildren more, and this has been a wonderful source of inspiration for keeping going, and for following all the steps to get there.

Living your unique purpose in life, and following it with authenticity, is a key to moving towards the health we all deserve. Purpose can be big, or small and simple. What matters is that it is in some way a personally meaningful contribution to others or the world. Authenticity is the discovering of your purpose and how you express it in all areas of your life.

Is our past our past? Have we truly left it there, or do we bring it with us as painful memories, thoughts, conditioned responses and body armouring? If we honestly ask that question the answer is that we do indeed bring the past into our present life. This step may require working with emotions, having an understanding of trauma, and knowing how work with inherited trauma.

Fortunately, we do not need to resolve all of our past baggage to heal physically! However, I believe that a full and lasting recovery often requires at least a gentle exploration of where our patterns and conditioning come from, so that new resources to our younger unhealed part. Trauma and suppressed emotions can later manifest as a chronic health condition. For example, when I was healing from CFS and in the final year of the illness, I was doing pretty well until I went to see my father. Within a day of being there, I began feeling really unwell and was barely able to get out of bed for days. Lying there in despair I suddenly felt that through these horrible symptoms my body was calling to me to be really authentic with my dad for the first time: to talk about how painful it was when I was a child and he split up with my mum, and what had led up to it. Thankfully, he had recently been in therapy himself and so he was open to talking about it.

Once I realised this was what I needed to do I found the energy to go out for a walk with him and from the start I brought up the topic. Sitting together on the cliffs looking out over the sea, as he told me more about his story, we both ended up crying and connecting. This was a beautiful, healing experience and a moment of reinforcing the link between mind and body – I felt so much better physically once I’d spoken my truth and been heard. I left feeling so much healthier and happier, and as though a layer of what was needed for me to recover had been resolved.

Of course it’s not always possible for us to have these conversations with the people who have had a big impact on us. But a therapist’s support can really help us do the necessary work.

Step 8: Sustaining health and wholeness

Even once you’re fully well it is vitally important to sustain the health that has been regained, by keeping up a self[1]care practice, and to be aware that unhealthy old patterns may return as you rediscover the energy to start over[1]achieving or over-giving again. Ongoing personal growth and development is the key to retaining this sense of embodied, connected, courageous and present wholeness of self.

If you want to find out more about the author’s work go to www.womenswellnesscircle.com or www.francesgoodall.com. You can find her book on Amazon.