What does cultivating creative moments of healing mean?
I first learned about the concept of deliberately creating healing moments from the late, incredible Gestalt psychotherapist Mariah Fenton Gladis.
I was privileged to attend one of her workshops at Esalen where she crafted “moments of exact healing” for workshop participants (myself included) who were wrestling with pains and deep griefs.
It was beautiful to witness her work: to see how she would physically arrange group participants in ways that mirrored family of origin dynamics for the person in the “hot seat” and to have them say out loud the very thing that a person most longed to hear and what would happen emotionally after this occurred.
These exact moments of healing took place in a controlled setting under the guidance of a licensed, skilled professional. And they were profound.
But these exact moments of healing don’t have to just happen in group therapy or one-on-one therapy settings.
As I’ve come to understand and define them, cultivating creative moments of healing can also look like noticing, seeking out, and intentionally making happen the literal actions, tasks, opportunities, and experiences that provide some of what we may not have received in childhood.
These experiences of creative moments of healing can be big or small.
They can happen when you’re alone or with others.
They can shift and change or remain the same for years.
They can take effort, time, and money, or nearly none at all.
And there are as many ideas and possibilities for creative moments of healing as there are people on the planet.
But to help catalyze your thinking about what cultivating creative moments of healing could look like for you, some ideas might include the following:
- Maybe you were never provided a calming, regular, and reliable bedtime routine and evening tuck-in as a child. A reparative experience for you now as an adult in your healing journey coming from a relational trauma background could look like: Giving this to yourself! Create a calming, regular bedtime routine (maybe with a lovie and mug of hot milk) and literally tucking yourself into bed (or having your partner do this for you if you feel comfortable with them doing this).
- Maybe you grew up in poverty and were never taught how to manage, budget, and plan for your financial future. A reparative experience for you now as an adult in your healing journey coming from a relational trauma background could look like: Subscribing to an amazing budgeting software and taking their financial education courses to help you get a handle on your money, and then working diligently to logistically and financially protect yourself as an adult.
- Maybe you were never given the opportunity to feel safe, secure, and protected in your home and neighborhood. A reparative experience for you now as an adult in your healing journey coming from a relational trauma background could look like: Taking a self-defense course, installing additional deadbolts on your home doors, or even befriending your local neighborhood police officers.
- Maybe you never got to experience the fierce, wise, strong protection of a parent. A reparative experience for you now as an adult in your healing journey coming from a relational trauma background could look like: paying for re-fathering that can give you the experience of this protection in some ways, or assigning yourself specific TV shows and movies where protective, wise, loving fathers defend their children against all odds and allowing this external modeling to touch you and inspire your own inner fathering.
- Maybe you never got the experience of spacious, open-ended joyful play that is every child’s right. A reparative experience for you now as an adult in your healing journey coming from a relational trauma background could look like: Getting curious about what brings you joy, what lights up your body, and then deliberately seeking out play and fun – solo, with friends, or even parallel play with your child.
- Maybe your family was never financially stable enough to get you what you dearly wanted for Christmas one year (or all of the years of your youth). A reparative experience for you now as an adult in your healing journey coming from a relational trauma background could look like: literally buying that very thing for yourself now. (Side note: I did this this past Christmas for my daughter when I bought her a dreamy, heirloom-quality hardwood dollhouse. She and I have played with it every day since and I can’t tell you how healing and fun this feels for me!)
And this list of creative moments of healing is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg!
Why is cultivating creative moments of healing so important?
Whatever and however your own creative moments of healing look, the goal is for you to internalize these healing activities, experiences, and relationships and let them “fill in” some of your missed-out-on developmental gaps so that they can provide you with the experiences and tools to ultimately become your own “good enough inner parent.”
Ultimately, becoming your own “good enough inner parent” is THE therapeutic work – the lifelong work of most of us have to do and certainly the lion’s share of the work for those who come from relational trauma backgrounds.
Becoming your own good enough inner parent entails recognizing what you, perhaps, developmentally lacked as a child/adolescent/young adult, grieving what you missed out on, and then providing for yourself actively and deliberately what you may need and want in order to heal and thrive in your adult life now.
Again, and again for as long as it takes to nourish and safeguard the little child inside of you.
How do I know what creative moments of healing I need for myself?
You may already know some of what you need simply by reading this essay.
But if you’re stumped, I’ll invite you to consider the following prompts:
- What came up for you when you read those above vignettes about what creative healing moments could look like? Did anything resonate or prompt some ideas for you?
- What do you long for the most that your child (if you have any) has now?
- When (if at all) do you get jealous or envious of the friends and acquaintances in your life? What do you know about those jealousy triggers and what they might point to?
- When you reflect back on your childhood, what were some of the biggest deficits in your upbringing? Touch, verbal affirmation, physical safety, financial stability?
- What touches you, moves you, and makes you cry when you see a child – in real life or on TV or in the movies – receiving something (love, time, attention, play, etc) from their parents or others?
- If money were no object, what would you do to give yourself the adult equivalent of a safe, stable, loved childhood?
It would be a greater tragedy if you didn’t get to have a good adulthood now.
But as long as we have breath in our bodies, we can still consciously and deliberately work to give ourselves the most beautiful adulthood possible.
And so, doing the work to be curious about what creative moments of healing we need and then working deliberately and actively to give this to ourselves is very important work.
Particularly and especially if we come from relational trauma histories.
So if you live in California and you’d like professional therapeutic support to address and heal from your relational trauma history, please reach out to me here.
And if you live outside of California, please consider enrolling in Hard Families, Good Boundaries – my signature group coaching program designed to help those who come from relational trauma backgrounds finally get the trauma-informed, comprehensive support they need and want to live a beautiful adulthood, despite adverse early beginnings.
And now, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
What are one or two examples of creative moments of healing that you’ve provided for yourself in the past? What one or two examples of creative moments of healing are you inspired to try and give yourself after reading today’s essay?
Please, if you feel so inclined, leave a message in the comments below so our monthly blog readership of 20,000 plus people can benefit from your wisdom and experience.
And until next time, please take such good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.