When I was completing my master’s program in library science one of the first classes we took was on information literacy. For those that may not know information literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, and apply information to the day-to-day needs of your life. It can range from knowing how to locate a Dr for a physical challenge to writing a research paper on the history of WWII. I was so surprised that the first step in being information literate is the acknowledgment that you actually need the information and making the decision to go find it. I mean that seems so obvious, right?
Of course, you need the information. Why would you look if you didn’t need it? But as I considered that step I began to realize why it was included. It was amazing how many people didn’t realize that they were missing information. They would have a problem but they wouldn’t connect that there may be a solution to that problem if they would just look for it. Or even looking just to make things better. Why? Why wouldn’t they look? I mean the answer is right there! LOOK!
But they just never decided to look. They didn’t believe the solution was possible. Or that the solution was something THEY could do. Or even that there was a problem at all. The solution was always either not real, too hard, or not necessary. So they didn’t look. They just sat with their issue and coasted wondering and complaining about how they didn’t like whatever it was.
Our choices are often the first step in doing or being anything. Including; the first step to healing. There are two critical decisions I think of when it comes to healing. In fact, they are the same two decisions that we have to make when we do, or not do, anything. The first is the decision to heal, to recognize that it is needed, and decide on purpose to do it.
The second decision is the meaning we assign to it. See we are normally operating on autopilot, so a decision is always needed for anything that requires us to shift - especially when we don’t know-how.
I want to talk about those two decisions because, without them, healing can’t happen.
So the first step is always deciding what we want to do. That we can do it. And that it’s worth it to make a shift.
Like any change; healing is only done through deliberate intention because healing can be uncomfortable. It’s often something people say they want until they remember that. Healing requires something from you. It demands honesty, vulnerability, and sincerity. It is not a light shift. In fact depending on the depth of healing that needs to happen it can actually be a little painful. Or a lot painful.
Purposely deciding to do something that we know is going to be uncomfortable is difficult. We work hard to avoid uncomfortable in life. Modern society allows us to easily hide from the uncomfortable of life. And yet, it’s uncomfortable that helps grow, evolve, and become all that we want to be. That first decision requires a recognition that you need to heal, change or grown. That you aren’t ok right now as things are. Something must change. Something has to shift. You might even not know what but you know you can no longer live as you are right now.
That decision is fueled by the hope of something different and the exhaustion of what is now. It is sustained by the faith that it’s going to lead to a better tomorrow.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking this doesn’t apply to you - we all have something to heal. We all have something that needs to be loved, seen, forgiven. Maybe it’s something physical. Perhaps what needs to heal for you is a past. Or a relationship. And just like information literacy, you have to acknowledge that you need to heal and then make the decision to do it.
The second critical decision in this is in deciding your meaning. We forget that we actually have control over this. We forget that we are doing this all the time...for everything. Our brains are meaning-making machines. It’s what we do. And thank God because without meaning there is no purpose. And without purpose, there is nothing to live for. Our brains create meaning so effortlessly that we don’t remember all of those meanings are choices.
When something happens in your life, YOU are the one that decides what it means.
YOU provide yourself the why. It’s not preordained as fact. It’s a belief you have about what happened. You have the right and privilege to decide. What’s the reason for physical healing? Or the emotional?
You get to determine WHY anything that has happened, happened. And the reason why you get to make that choice is because there isn’t just one why for anything.
At 3 my son was diagnosed with autism. I remember crying through the follow up of his evaluation. I remember going through the process of denial; proclaiming that he didn’t “act” like someone with autism. Naively thinking that I knew enough about it to discredit reality. I spent months not being able to do anything about it. Looking back I was grieving the loss of a child I never had. And I spent my time asking myself why. Why was this happening? Why was it happening to my son? Why to me?
It’s when we are in that place that the first decision becomes important. I needed to decide I had to heal this pain. And then one day, I did. Because I realized that I couldn’t do this anymore. I was doing nothing to help myself. I was doing nothing to help my son. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even READ about autism without becoming overwhelmed and crying. I was no good to anyone from this place and if I continued I would have sunk and taken my son with me.
I decided that I couldn’t let these feelings control me anymore. I had to find SOMETHING positive in my son’s diagnosis so I could show up for him. So I could love him the way I wanted to. I needed to find a REASON, and meaning and purpose for the autism, for our EXPERIENCE in all of this.
Then one day I realized I was learning the power of personal perception through Jack’s experience. I was understanding on an immense new level what it meant to say that someone sees the world differently than me. And that realization blossomed into a powerful meaning in my life. Instead of getting stuck in grief and victimhood, I was able to choose a meaning that propelled me into opening new doors that otherwise may have stayed shut. And that wasn’t even the only meaning I could have believed in, there were many others. Again, our brains are incredible at creating meaning for us and NONE of them is the only right one.
And both of these decisions are important to the process of healing because like the first choice without it, we won’t do anything. We might decide that the reason something happened is because of someone else and so we don’t have anything to do. We might decide that the reason something happened is because we are unlucky, and that’s just the way life is. Or maybe we decide we are being punished and so we deserve whatever we are dealing with.
So many reasons to pick from.
The reason you choose means everything about how you will act, think, and feel about whatever it is you are living. For me to be able to see my son’s autism as a teaching experience and deciding for it to help me be more empathic has an enormous impact on how I show up in the world instead of deciding that life is just unfair and there isn’t anything I can do about it. I am one person with one meaning and a completely different person with the other.
I needed to make both choices to create what was going to work for me. These decisions are the difference between coasting through life on autopilot and living life to the fullest, at your highest level. When we choose to let things just be as they are we miss the opportunity to create not just an ok life, but a magnificent one. If you don’t take the time to remember that you can always make a new choice on what something means and then choose to do something different about it you can’t heal. Making the decision to look at and love the things that have hurt you in your life and choose a meaning around those things is when powerful healing happens. And that healing gives you the opportunity to create a really beautiful life.
Check out the video on this topic on my YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/4a6hMi6DrAI