In his book “The 12 Stages of Healing” Donnie Epstein, the developer of the profound healing methods Network Chiropractic, Network Spinal Analysis and Somato Respiratory Integration, writes about the situations we may find ourselves in, the feelings we may encounter and some of the choices that are likely to be made in each of the different stages of healing. These 12 stages are not to be confused with the 12 steps associated with AA. In my 15 years of studying directly with Epstein, I watched the growth and development of this powerful model. In this article I would like to share from my perspective, some of the basics of The 12 Stages of Healing.
Let’s begin with Stage 1. . In Stage 1 we may find ourselves upset, frustrated, anxious, perhaps sensing that “nothing is working” in our life, job, relationship etc. In its most basic element, Stage 1 is about suffering. “Nothing ever works for me.” It typically seems there is no way out or solution to the problems we are experiencing. In short, hopelessness and helplessness abounds. There may be a sense that somehow a part of us is dying, changing or out of our control. Suffering may start when something external we associate as being a part of us is threatened or lost. Losing a job, losing our health, fear of losing our security. If we associate these things with our being, the threat of their loss may bring on the profound suffering of Stage 1. A person who feels their job is their identity, may suffer greatly when the job is lost. It does not mean they are less of a person, but “to the extent that the image of who we are is connected to these things” may determine the extent of the suffering.
While on one hand this feeling of hopelessness can trigger destructive thoughts of suicide, giving up, and neediness it can be a way to find our inner voice or true inspiration. It can motivate us to make changes in our lives. This, especially when things really aren’t working for us the way we would wish. As a result of suffering, one may leave an abusive relationship, an overbearing boss or some other situation. In order to make these changes, healthy movement through the Stages becomes necessary. Healthy movement and choices can lead to life improvement and enrichment. In a sense this suffering and hopelessness could be seen as a symptom, just like a health crisis type symptom that alerts us to make changes in our lifestyle, diet, thought pattern etc. It can be a great motivator, or not. How we choose to deal with these feelings is what makes the difference. It is easy to “whine” in stage one. However, if we are able to move beyond Stage 1 and change our perspective, we have the opportunity to make changes for the better.
The hard part about all this is Stage 1 leaves us feeling so hopeless, as if there is no way out. Prayers may be elicited, but they will more than likely be non-specific… “Oh God”. There is not even a sense of exactly what to pray for. The difficult part of moving out of Stage 1 may simply be the only way to move out of it is to truly accept our suffering as the gift that it is. According to Epstein, the only way to move out of Stage 1 is to “resonate with the rhythm of suffering,” to be honest with ourselves that we indeed are truly suffering. Emerging from Stage one may leave one feeling vulnerable, wounded our hurt. There may be a sense of breaking through. In this breaking through we may be able to look for specific remedies or solutions, a magic pill potion or healer. This is the birth of Stage 2.
I highly recommend the book “The 12 Stages of Healing” or 12 Stages workshops for anyone who is able to seek out and take advantage of a great resource such as this that will require a certain degree of honesty and self-knowledge in how the material is approached. Look for my next entry on Stage 2 soon.