What do we refer to when we talk about “doing the work”? And when, if ever, is the job done?

All of us I believe, arrive at adulthood with slights of childhood still needing to be healed. For some, the more fortunate, the wound needs but a suture or two. But many of us have suffered damage that remains problematic for decades. And the healing process can be lengthy. Self-esteem and capacity for love and trust are not easily restored.

Thankfully, there are resources for helping you mend. Therapy and interventions with compassion as the balm, can lead to healing. The goal is to reveal the experiences that scarred us when we were young, helping us to watch the scenes unfold as if in the audience of a cinema. Separated from the screen, we have perspective and can watch the characters acting in the roles they were selected to play when the film was cast. When the lights come on, we are in the present. We leave the theater and leave the movie behind.

It takes resolve because the process is not without pain. There is no anesthesia for confronting the cruelties of the past. But that’s “the work.” Sifting through the debris of the past, leaving the detritus behind, and emerging into the daylight clear-eyed about your life going forward.

The job description is challenging. Applicant is to search the past, uncovering the source of hurtful events that scarred the psyche. Reluctance to expose causes of shame and regret must be shed. Fear of ‘not being good enough’ to live your newly defined life, must be overcome.

What is thorny about the work is recognizing the various stages of the job, the plateaus, the two steps forward and one step back that mark each individual’s stumbling progress. The work does get done; but never fully ends. The job does get finished; but is never fully completed. Maintenance is ongoing, always going on.

I rely on this analogy to help me stay the course. I live in a flood zone. Without a strong levee, the water overflows into my property. I build an embankment and it works for the smaller squalls but when the big storms come, it’s not high enough. I build the wall higher, and the storms are kept at bay. But then to my dismay, a so-called super storm overwhelms the bulwarks. I go back to the builder and add to the wall, making it higher still. I’ve been safe from the floods ever since, but the wall must be maintained. Leaks can occur over time, fissures formed. We continuously inspect the wall to keep it sound.

So it is with the healing process that has salvaged me. After many years of family storms, the job is done; the wall that protects me from the floodtide of emotion and recrimination is strong. But occasionally there are times when the tides run fiercely, and the water rises dangerously high. It’s a prompt to make sure the maladaptive behaviors and beliefs of the past have been fully dismantled, the new ones securely in their place.

It’s not a full time job any longer. But the work goes on.

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