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Resilience and Growth
Resilience and Growth

Choosing to Face Our Pain 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Juneteenth (United States) 

Psychotherapist Resmaa Menakem connects our individual healing from trauma with our communal healing from racism and other social ills. He describes “clean pain” as that which is faced and transformed instead of denied:  

Healing trauma involves recognizing, accepting, and moving through pain—clean pain. It often means facing what you don’t want to face—what you have been reflexively avoiding or fleeing. By walking into that pain, experiencing it fully, and moving through it, you metabolize it and put an end to it. In the process, you also grow, create more room in your nervous system for flow and coherence, and build your capacity for further growth.  

Clean pain is about choosing integrity over fear. It is about letting go of what is familiar but harmful, finding the best parts of yourself, and making a leap—with no guarantee of safety or praise. This healing does not happen in your head. It happens in your body. And it is more likely to happen in a body that can stay settled in the midst of conflict and uncertainty.  

When you come out the other side of this process, you will experience more than just relief. Your body will feel more settled and present. There will be a little more freedom in it and more room to move. You will experience a sense of flow. You will also have grown up a notch. What will your situation look like when you come out the other side? You don’t know. You can’t know. That’s how the process works. You have to stand in your integrity, accept the discomfort, and move forward into the unknown. [1]  

Richard Rohr considers the effects of trauma in individuals and social systems:  

When people at work, in our families, in politics, or in the church seem to be completely irrational, counterproductive, paranoid, or vengeful, there’s a good chance they’re acting out of some form of the survival mode, which can be triggered in many ways. Persons with trauma deserve deep understanding (which is hard to come by), sympathy (which is difficult if we have never been there ourselves), patience (because it’s not rationally controllable), healing (not judgment), and, frankly, years of love from at least one person or animal over time. 

Could this be what mythology means by the “sacred wound” and the church meant by “original sin”—not something we did, but the effects of something done to us? I believe it is. It’s no wonder Jesus teaches so much about forgiveness, and practices so much healing touch and talk. [2] 

Menakem emphasizes the possibilities for liberation created by the settling of our bodies:  

We need to join in that collective action with settled bodies—and with psyches that are willing to metabolize clean pain. I can’t stress this enough. Bringing a settled body to any situation encourages the bodies around you to settle as well. Bringing an unsettled body to that same situation encourages other bodies to become anxious, nervous, or angry. [3] 

[1] Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies (Las Vegas, NV: Central Recovery Press, 2017), 165–166.  

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, introduction to Oneing 9, no. 1, Trauma (Spring 2021):  18. Available in print and PDF download.  

[3] Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands, 238. 

Image Credit and Inspiration: Angelo Pantazis, untitled (detail), 2018, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. We continue down our pathways, step by step, through both the drying and the greening seasons

Story from Our Community:  

I am anticipating that 2024 is going to be a painfully sad year for me. My husband of almost 25 years has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and my dog of 18 years is going to be put to sleep soon. My heart is very heavy with the thought of losing them both. I know I will need the strength of the Holy Spirit to get me through the pain of this loss. As I read about the theme of radical resilience, I’m grateful that CAC continues to offer messages of hope and encouragement during this time.  
—Geri L. 

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