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The 3 Components of Healing

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Healing pain isn't easy. And, because of that, in my work, I meet incredible people. I meet people exploring growth (which comes with all the discomforts we all prefer to avoid), working hard at healing, and, wow, are they brave.

So, when someone comes to me, sharing all the ways they are courageously experimenting with the healing realm, and I tell them to rest, it's not uncommon I get a blank incredulous stare. How can I move myself toward healing if I'm resting??

This is where I lean into the incredible knowledge and guidance of my teacher, Neil Pearson, for his brilliant offering of the "Three Components of Healing". I still remember when I first learned them and I felt my entire type A body mind object when he mentioned respite (see below). But, then, as I worked on my own personal healing and supported others in their journey as well, I began to experience it's power. Now, I can't deny how right-on he was.

Before I present the 3 components of healing, I'll start by saying a few words:

  • Each component is just as important as the other; people who engage with all three aspects of healing do better

  • You might find that one (or more) of these components has not historically been a part of your life in general. That's okay! This is another way healing asks us to be mindful of how we care for ourselves, and also asks us to try out new things. The idea is to curiously explore, what actually helps?

  • One (or more) of these components might inspire some resistance. If that's you, that's okay! Explore the resistance. Why is it here? What is the fear? An exploration of the resistance can also be fruitful.

So, here we go. Enjoy!

The Three Components of Healing:

1. Challenge

Challenge means doing something that feels like it pushes you that is in the service of healing. In my experience, this is the component people are most familiar with, although that's not always the case! Things that fit in the challenge category are often skills or strategies we have picked up along a healing path that we are told (or have experienced) help us heal. They require some effort, and might even make us a little uncomfortable. Examples could be:

  • Creating a graded exposure plan for getting back to movement you love

  • Taking up journaling about your thoughts and feelings

  • Practicing yoga or another mindfulness based practice regularly

  • Exploring setting boundaries

  • Working with a therapist

2. Calm

Calm means doing something that brings ease and rest to your body, mind, heart, or spirit. This is the juicy feel good side of healing. Calm is nurturing, and also still efforted, meaning, we make a conscious effort to do something that shifts our state towards safety, calm, and ease. Examples could be:

  • Taking a bath with your favorite essential oils, music, and lighting

  • Taking a walk in nature, mindfully connecting with the earth through your senses

  • Practicing deep breathing or other soothing breath practices, "longer, smoother, softer"

  • Practicing progressive muscle relaxation

3. Respite

Respite is a period of rest from the effort of healing. It short, it means we just aren't "working on" anything. And although we all want pain and other chronic symptoms to go away, it literally means we let go of trying to make that happen. Respite can take many forms, but the underlying current is that we stop trying to fix. For some of us (or at certain times in our lives or days) this might look like allowing time for joy or play. At other times, it might simply be allowing time for straight up checking out. Examples could be:

  • Watching the steam rise from your tea in the morning (one of my personal favorites!)

  • Playing with your pet

  • Staring at the clouds going by

  • Taking a pause to feel the awe of a naturescape

  • Taking your eyes away from your screen

How to Bring All 3 Components into Your Life:

Learning about the 3 components of healing is a strong start, but actually bringing them into your life is the most important step. Below I'll highlight a couple pointers for how you might do just that. Remember, you won't always get it right (what you thought was calming, might actually be challenging, and what you thought was respite might actually be calming), but keep exploring and trying it out. With time, you'll find a groove with these 3 components, and I feel confident you'll quickly learn how truly supportive they are.

Some ideas for getting started-

  • Brainstorm a list for each component so you have some ideas on the ready at all times (and don't have to work so hard at it day to day)

  • Try to engage with one thing from each component each day

  • If you miss a day, don't worry! Remember self-compassion.

  • As you continue, you might notice that certain days call for more of one or the other; follow your intuition!

  • Encourage yourself by acknowledging that each of these components is actually in the service of your healing; they all help you take steps forward in healing, even if you're taking a break

  • Celebrate the fruits of your labor, when they happen

  • And, remember, you can reach out to us anytime for support by joining a live class. We arrive 10 minutes early if you want to chat. We're here for you.

Stay curious!


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