Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace
When I graduated from college in 1971, the parts of me I showed to the world embraced the hippie, anti-establishment ethic of the day and helped me come across as carefree and uninterested in traditional routes to “success.” Just beneath those parts, though, I was an anxious mess. Due to an undiagnosed case of ADHD, I had been a poor student throughout my academic career and had heard frequently about that from my driven, highly successful father’s critical part. I was supposed to follow in his footsteps to become an accomplished physician. Instead, I was doing manual labor, hopping from painting houses to pounding spikes on the railroad, pretending to enjoy that life. All the while my inner critics were echoing my father at his worst. At my core I felt like the lazy, stupid loser those words conveyed. I had no idea what to do with my life.
Then I heard about Transcendental Meditation and did the weekend initiation. I found that with my mantra I could enter a state of peace and calm that I’d never felt before. I also felt a reassuring connection to something larger and was guided to the career path that I’m still on, 50 years later. I practiced TM devotedly for the next 10 years, until my clients started teaching me the basics of what has come to be the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model of psychotherapy, and I recognized the fear, worthlessness, and emotional pain carried by parts of me I needed to heal. I actively shifted to help those parts rather than avoid them.
For many years, Gabby Bernstein was dismissing her own exiled pain- and shame-filled parts through obsessive work. This bypassing through achievement and spirituality seemed (and probably was) better overall than her earlier drug and alcohol addiction, but it was no less a way to run from her exiled emotions. As she writes in this courageous book, “While I put down the drink and the drugs, I was still acting out in addictive ways in efforts to control the unconscious impermissible feelings that I couldn’t possibly face. ‘Wow, Gabby, you get so much done!’ or ‘You’re so impressive!’ It was not only socially acceptable to be a work addict, it was something people admired. . . . I thought, This is who I am. I’m driven, I’m a worker, and I have an important job; I’m helping so many people. I thought my behavior was healthy, but deep down it was just another addictive pattern ‘protecting’ me.”
The success story Gabby was telling herself (and that everyone around her was telling her) kept her going and ignoring many signs from her body that everything wasn’t so rosy, like TMJ and chronic gastrointestinal issues: “Buried beneath the successful story I’d created about my life was a terrified little girl.”
I have now found buried beneath my own success story several little boys whom I’d left frozen amid past scenes of humiliation and loneliness, and I expect I’ll find more as I keep examining the ways I’m still driven or distracted. To find and face them isn’t easy; in fact, it can be the hardest work of your life. For Gabby, things shifted when she began to realize that the parts of her pushing her success story had created an unlivable life and began to wonder why. The answer she got when she asked inside was that she had been traumatized in ways that she had minimized or denied altogether.
We are fortunate that, in the past several decades, a number of effective approaches to treating trauma have evolved, and Gabby became so committed to that healing path that she tried most of them, including the work on physical pain of John Sarno, Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, the wise perspective of Dan Siegel, as well as EMDR, tapping (EFT) and acupuncture, medication, and self-compassion. At some point, Gabby’s therapist started using the approach I developed, and I am very honored that the final chapters of this book movingly describe her IFS journey.
She found that she could honor the addictive, controlling, and rageful parts of her that had tried to protect her from feeling her pain. She could reassure them that, while she needed their services when she was young, she could handle that pain now, so they could relax. When she could love instead of disdain those protectors, they softened and became useful advisors rather than extreme automatic reactions. She could also witness where her hurt and scared exiles were stuck in the past and bring them back home to her loving presence.
For me, the following statement from Gabby reflects a depth of appreciation for my life’s work that is very moving:
“For years I judged my protectors and couldn’t even acknowledge my exiles. Today, with my newfound compassion and love for all my parts, I can easily forgive myself in the moment, notice the part, and turn to my resourced Self for support. Working with parts is a daily spiritual practice that changed my life forever.”
Reading this book may not be easy for you because, like Gabby, you may begin to wonder why, with all the spiritual work you’ve done, you still have problematic impulses and behaviors. You may also find that your protectors mount a successful campaign to discredit the book or Gabby herself so you won’t have to wonder. Exploring exiled pain or shame isn’t for everyone.
In short, this book is an act of extreme courage. In being so vulnerable and honest in these pages, Gabby risked disaffecting her audience and her fellow spiritual leaders. But once we heal our burdens and access Self, we can’t keep pretending. My hope is that this book inspires the spiritual world not only to heal our inner exiles, but also to change our society so there are fewer external exiles.
— Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D.,
founder of Internal Family Systems therapy
Introduction: The Truth about This Book
Chapter 1: Willing to Become Free
Chapter 2: Become Brave Enough to Wonder
Chapter 3: Why We Run
Chapter 4: Hiding behind the Body
Chapter 5: Speaking the Unspeakable
Chapter 6: Don’t Call Me Crazy
Chapter 7: Love Every Part
Chapter 8: Freeing What’s Frozen
Chapter 9: Reparenting Yourself
Chapter 10: Happy Days Ahead
About the Author
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|Epub||May 13, 2022|
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