Rima E. Bonario, Th.D., writes and teaches about personal and planetary transformation. She holds a doctorate in
Transformational Psychology and works with individuals and groups to surface and heal unresolved wounds and create lasting healing and wholeness.
To learn more about her work visit www.getSOULhappy.com or call
The SOUL of Wellness
Rima E. Bonario
I once worked with a woman who was surprised to discover that a childhood incident during which her new bicycle was stolen led to an unconscious belief that no matter what happened to her in her life it was her fault. When the incident was surfaced and the work to heal it completed, someone from her past came forward and offered to pay for damages they had done to her car nearly 10 years before. By seeking deep healing, she freed up areas she hadn’t even known were blocked.
Healing from past emotional baggage and the limiting beliefs they create is an aspect of wellness that often gets overlooked. Talking things out with a good therapist can do much to alleviate the shame associated with memories of abuse and neglect. But many of us have a gallery of “small-trauma” moments that seem unworthy of therapy despite their subtle destructiveness. Some of these moments are deeply buried and it’s hard to see the old wounds hampering our efforts to craft a fulfilling life. Or we may be fully aware of childhood hurts that haunt us but we have no clear path forward to healing and transcending them.
So what can one to do increase mental, emotional and spiritual wellness?
Each day we have countless opportunities to resolve old wounds, if we can learn to see how our present-day upsets often have roots in our past. In the course of my doctoral studies I became more convinced than ever that we are a single mind-body system. At first I considered this only from the perspective of how my thoughts (my mind) could influence my body. I embraced affirmative thinking, banished negativity from my language, and worked to uncover and reframe old, limiting beliefs so I could improve my spiritual, emotional, and physical health. In the final years of my work I came to understand how my body and the hurts it holds from past life events act as a barrier to my overall wellness and my spiritual evolution. It seems evident that no matter how much positive thinking I do, if I don’t work to root out the hidden hurts that still captivate my nervous system (albeit mostly unconsciously), I may never find the deep
peace and conscious behavior I long for.
As I have worked with my clients, and myself I have developed a process called SOULMapping™ that divides the path to healing into four areas of exploration: Safety, Openness, Unity and Love, or SOUL for short. A SOULMap™ not only takes into account a person’s history, it incorporates an understanding of how their present-day environment can trigger unhealed wounds.
Exploring a difficult past or present is hard, but your wellness is worth it. Creating a SOULMap™ is an excellent first step in revealing hidden wounds and launching a deeper healing journey.
You can create your own SOULMap™ by using a series of probing questions in the four areas of Safety, Openness, Unity, and Love as a lens through which to view your wellness (past and present). You may want to set aside a full day for this, or go more slowly, working on one area per day or week.
How safe did you feel as a child – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Consider your sense of safety around basic needs (food, shelter, money, sex) or more subtle areas like asking for what you wanted, questioning authority, or having privacy. Were family members involved in unsafe activities such as crime, undue risk-taking, or addictive behaviors? What was the emotional or energetic current in the house? Was there raging, criticism, sarcasm, manipulation, neglect, isolation, or long periods of silence?
How much openness was there in your family? How were difficult topics handled? Were there secrets, lies, taboo topics? Which parts of yourself or others were deemed acceptable and encouraged and which were discouraged or punished?
Did you feel a sense of comradery and connection in your family or were you lonely? Was there a sense of being on the same team (despite the typical family squabbles) or did some or all of the relationships in the family seem more adversarial? Did you find connection with a group outside of your family? Did you lose anyone close to you before the age of 21, through death, illness, incarceration, mental illness, etc.?
Was there an atmosphere of kindness in your household? Was there a sense that you could count on your family to be there for you in times of trouble? Did you share affection with the members of your family – giving it to them and getting it from them? How was love communicated – through hugs, gifts, praise, money, attention, food? Was love ever withheld, purposefully or unintentionally?
Taking the time to chart your SOULMap™ may shed light on challenging behavior. If you grew up without a clear sense of Safety, Openness, Unity and Love in your life, your nervous system may have become over-stimulated possibly causing it to get stuck on high (often resulting in rage, hyperactivity, hypervigilance, elation/mania, anxiety/panic, and/or high-risk behavior) or stuck on low (often resulting in depression, disconnection, hopeless/helpless, exhaustion, and/or numbness).
Once you have a sense of the amount of SOUL in your childhood, look at the questions once more thinking about your present day circumstances. Is your life a mirror of your past? Are you experiencing the same level of joy or heartache today as you did in childhood? Are you seeing unhealthy patterns of behavior emerge?
Relationships that strive to be Safe, Open, Unified and Loving provide a prime opportunity for healing by creating an environment that allows us to become settled in our body in a new way.
Some have been fortunate to find a friend, mentor, colleague or partner with whom they have a SOUL relationship. For others, it starts with developing a SOUL relationship with a healing professional such as a coach, counselor, therapist, etc.
Whichever path toward healing and wholeness you pursue, remember, it’s never too late to get some SOUL in your life.