For an example, I am going to use a healing I did in my own life last weekend.
I was badly in need of alchemy. I needed to transform a negative emotion into something positive. I am by no means 100% healed, but it’s a step in the right direction. This is something no therapist has been able to give me!
I have struggled with emotions surrounding my cousin’s death since 1991. She died in a house fire. On Thanksgiving. My uncle died two weeks later of an unrelated health problem. Needless to say I have been triggered by fire, smoke, and Thanksgiving ever since.
In addition to being a life coach, I’m also a journalist.
I left my home Saturday with only intentions of running errands and no intention of being a journalist in that moment. But I saw thick, black smoke a mile or so away. It ended up being a two-alarm fire. Before I knew this, my journalistic curiosity got the better of me. I arrived on scene despite feeling triggered. I thought I may just snap a photo and run, but then a bystander yelled at me from across the street, ‘The flames are over there!”
Now I had to go in deeper to look for the full story.
Someone had seen me with my branded news vehicle. So I wandered in until I found people gathered around a burning building. Smoke was everywhere. I could feel my chest tightening. The smell was pungent; nothing smells like a fire. Once you’ve been near one you take the smell with you. I walked until I found some people. They assured me everyone got out alive. This made me happy, sad, and jealous all at the same time.
I knew I would have been inconsolable if the person in that apartment had died.
I’ve learned over 27 years that I badly want every fire victim to survive. I don’t want more deaths like my cousin’s — but I will always wish she’d been one of the lucky ones. So I left, feeling triggered, feeling choked up. I needed to do my job but I needed to cry too.
I did my job. I didn’t let the tears flow. I tried, but they evaporated somewhere within me in a broken space that needs healing. That dry space just needs a little precipitation now and then. Not much.
I went to Ulta after the fire. I bought Zoella body spray to douse the smell of smoke. I bought the moisturizer I needed. (It was my original errand running plan that day).
It seemed fitting to stop at Firehouse Subs! Not even kidding you. As soon as I walked into that place I felt healed. I felt like I was standing within a tangible homage to hero firefighters. I realized I can inhibit a space in which I can feel pain and gratitude at the same time. I faced a painful trigger and then rewarded myself with positives.
It wasn’t the first time I tried to face a fire and turn it into something positive.
In college radio, at KOHL in Fremont, California, there was a fire in the hills behind our station. This was at Ohlone College, itself built into the side of a hill with what felt like 10,000 steps. I stubbornly refused to leave the radio station the night those hills were on fire. I loved radio and I refused to let a fire take away one more of my loves.
I watched that fire come to the crest of that hill behind me that night like it was coming at me and then I watched it change course. I felt victorious! That fire wasn’t about to take my radio show away from me!
The next morning I realized what an idiot I was as I couldn’t breathe and felt sick from breathing in so much smoke from the night before. But I felt like I’d taken something back from that house fire in 1991. I felt like I was less powerless. Fire couldn’t take two of us, now could it? Those would just be cruel odds? (I didn’t have the best thinking at 18 years old).
Last Saturday’s victory of being able to cover a fire as a journalist allowed me to feel empowered once more. I can never have my beloved cousin back, but I can let go of some of my baggage. I can keep recovering pieces of myself back from 1991 and that is a beautiful thing.
I understand now I’ll never be completely healed, neither will my family.
Start a fire near me indoors and you’re dead to me. The current fires in my home state of California (Woolsey, Camp) are heart wrenching and I can only stomach slight bits of the coverage. Self-care is censoring that type of news right now. I’m still healing from one person I lost 27 years ago. I can’t imagine 79 dead and 700 still missing. (At the time of this writing). The level of trauma being left behind on that burned and scarred map…it’s overwhelming. There are literally thousands of people like me who will heal slowly and forever from these fires.
If that is you, you will find your healing in time. Now isn’t the time to begin to perform the type of self-alchemy that took me years to get to. When I say you will find your healing in time I stress this “time” is measured in decades, not months. We all heal differently. Each path to healing will be unique. The beginning stage of grief work isn’t the time for this.
My above examples of myself are a bit extreme in that my story is deeply emotional and traumatic. This also comes after years of professional therapy. Please DO seek professional help if you are being triggered by fresh traumas. Life coaching is NOT a replacement for proper mental health care.
The type of alchemy I can do to turn your negatives into positives are:
(Axamples bullet pointed)
*Fear of taking a leap of faith (or any fear holding you back)
*Getting rid of the negative voice in your head that says “you can’t” do what your heart desires
*Changing horrible self-talk into a positive, life-affirming, GAME-CHANGING way of life
*Learning to train yourself to think more positively in daily life
*Turning off life’s biggest distractors so you can have more creative time
*Stop telling yourself you’re “not creative” and become the artist you were meant to be