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Measuring Healing: Big Progress in Micro Moments

I've said before that healing isn't really a destination. You don't end up landing with both feet in the middle of a big circle with an X marks-the-spot, throw your hands up and spin around while you celebrate all the work you've done, and then walk away healed and whole. Healthily ever after.

But we don't live in a fairy tale and if you ever come across a large circle with an X in it, I'd advise you step around. I wrote a blog post about the healing journey if you're interested in more about what the journey looks like and what the keys are to getting started, but today we're talking about measurements of healing and growth. I'm more of a "winging it" kind of person. I can get by without measuring or trying to quantify my healing, but for some, they need to see some tangible evidence of progress to keep going--especially in the early stages.

Unfortunately, there's no secret formula where you can plug in information and have your healing journey plotted on a graph for you to monitor your progress and make adjustments. So what do you do when you're looking for something to give yourself some evidence that you are actually healing?

You look for the small things. You make an intentional effort to be thoughtful and reflective about the everyday situations in your life and how you handle them. You look for differences--especially around triggering or challenging situations. It will be different for everyone, based on your particular traumas or what you're healing from. For someone with attachment or abandonment issues, a small thing might be not having a panic attack when the person you've been dating for 2 weeks hasn't texted you back within 15 min. Maybe this time you start to get panicky and into that state of despair about what the lack of response could mean, but then you remember that you're the one with the issues here and that it's not unreasonable to have not heard back in that time frame. So you go on with your day and you try to your best not to be obsessive about it (even though you do a little still). That's progress. Healing.

Or maybe your healing is around codependency and the feelings of needing to take care of everyone and everything. Maybe you turn down a very lucrative job offer because it's not worth the peace that you've worked so hard to create in your life. Healing.

Other examples could include things like seeing a doctor for the first time in your adult life to address some of your mental health needs, walking away from an argument and communicating that you're not in the mental space for productivity, instead of punching a wall or screaming at your partner, or even something as simple as recognizing after the fact that your road rage when someone accidentally cut you off in traffic was way out of line. It could be apologizing to your partner, or recognizing that there may be other ways of looking at any given set of circumstances and opening yourself enough to at least consider alternatives. It could be having a really hard day and instead of a drink (or 5) when you get home, you crawl under your weighted blanket and just let yourself be sad for a bit. Healing.

Recognition. That's how you can measure where you are on your healing journey. How are you responding to the world around you? And how do you want to be responding? The gap is the journey. The more you see and recognize and call out those moments of change, the further you get to the other side of your journey (notice I didn't say "end"). Once you recognize those moments, you'll start to notice other areas of your life where you can apply that same kind of healthy action. It will also get easier.

I would be remiss to talk about all of this without some suggestion of how to go about spotting those moments. It certainly can be hard at first. I've suggested before and will always suggest a journaling practice. It doesn't have to be rigid or specific. Just buy a journal and a pen. Write in it. The starting point for my practice was a gratitude journal. At the start of each entry, I would write the word "Gratitude" and then just start writing things I was grateful for. Anything. Everything. Concepts, tangible things, people, places. Random as random can be. Strive for 7-10 things a day.

Perhaps the other prompt could be "Opportunities", as in opportunities to do or respond differently. A coworker snaps at you on the salesfloor in front of other employees for something you didn't do. Do you tell him to go fornicate himself? Or do you recognize that it says more about his insecurity than anything about you and walk away? Neither is wrong, but one represents healing. It's an opportunity either way.

Don't pressure yourself to have opportunities that you can recognize every day, or every time you journal. Sometimes you won't have it in you to be that reflective. But the more you can be, the more you will start to see in the moments and not have to rely on the reflections.

Healing is messy. And scary.

But it's also beautiful, and empowering.

I'm getting a song lyric right now... "...the road goes on forever, and the party never ends."

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