The Stages of Emotional Healing

Arte Terapia

The Stages of Emotional Healing

Bodywork for Releasing Trapped Emotions

For the past two years I have been doing regular bodywork in the from of authentic movement, expressive dance, massage and chiropractic. Recently, my chiropractor introduced me to a wonderful book called, "The 12 Stages of Healing" by Daniel M. Epstein. I read the entire book in one day, as I found it so accurately mirrored my personal experience of the emotional healing process.

I share a short encapsulation of  the 12 stages. Be sure to buy the book for fuller descriptions of the healing stages. And, pay attention to the stage of emotional healing that you are actually in as it is important to surrender to the stage of emotional healing you are in as opposed to striving to reach a higher stage. 

Intuitive Mandala #42 - Shelley KlammerStage 1: Suffering

I am helpless and overwhelmed in my emotional pain.

Emotional suffering comes from the dishonouring, denying, or alienating of our authentic self. Emotional pain is part of our human condition and it feels like, "Something is really wrong. I feel like I am going to die with pain. There is no way out. Nothing works." We are trained early to avoid emotional suffering.

Stage 1 involves surrendering to the suffering we feel without trying to escape from it. If we try to avoid suffering it becomes even more intense, often showing up uninvited, at inopportune times. When you stop fighting and surrender to your emotional suffering, it will envelop you. You might feel encased in despair. 

When we are suffering it is best to just be present, without trying to think about its causes. By merging with the essence of suffering – the rhythm, the vibration, the essence of it, we give ourselves over to it. We know there is no rational way to understand it. We just have to feel it in order to heal it.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"Right now I am helpless."

"Nothing works at this time."


Intuitive Mandala #99 - Shelley KlammerStage 2: Polarities and Rhythms

There is a rhythm within me, and I am within this rhythm.

In stage one our suffering comes from having isolated certain aspects of ourselves, such as personality traits, diseased parts, painful memories, or unresolved childhood issues away from the rest of our bodymind.

We may feel shame about our childhood sexual feelings, for example, or we may have repressed the pain or guilt of a loved one's death. Suffering arises as a result of the aspects of ourselves that we ignore or deny.

In stage two we recognize that we have repressed aspects of ourselves that have a life of their own. They are frozen in time, and are out of touch with our current reality. These individual parts have separated away from the whole of who we are. 

In stage two, we have not yet claimed our inner power and we look to outside authority figures to support our healing. Therapeutic intervention is often needed in stage two. Traditional counselling and medical treatment is helpful at this stage as we seek to gather inspiration and empowerment from outside of ourselves.

As we progress through stage two we notice there is a rhythm and pattern to our suffering, and we see that we participate in it. We start to notice, "I have gone through this before. This is a pattern."

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I have polarities, rhythms and differences within me."

"I have parts within that have not talked to each other in a long time."


Intuitive Mandala #7 - Shelley KlammerStage 3: Stuck in a Perspective

I want to move ahead but I can't.

Much of our "stuckness" is automatic. Our nervous system gets locked into old defense patterns, and this locks us into a fixed perspective about life. In stage three, we recognize that old hurt or trauma is still the cause of our problems today. We feel, "I want to move ahead but I can't." We gather a sense of awareness that we are creating our troubles by staying stuck in an old perspective. 

In stage three we realize we are stuck in a perspective, although we may not yet know what that perspective is. Bodywork to remove nerve interferences, and frozen nerve patterns such as massage, craniosacral and chiropractic therapy is helpful to move blocked energy in the body.

Good questions to ask at this stage are:

"Have I seen this pattern before?"

"Do I feel my body is locked in certain places?"

"Where do I tighten my body when this pattern is active?"

"When does my breathing become shallower?"                                   

Breathe deeply and touch the stuck places in your body and declare:

"I am stuck right here."

"I acknowledge this region of my body."

"I am sorry I haven't noticed you before in a more loving way."


Intuitive Mandala #125 - Shelley KlammerStage 4: Reclaiming Power

I take my power back.

In Stage 4 we proclaim, "I am not going to take this anymore!" We have been disconnected from our inner essence, and we no longer wish to remain this way.

Key phrases in Stage 4 are:

"I want my power back."

"I deserve more than this."

"I must honour who I really am."

The Bifurcation Point

At this stage of our emotional healing, we can choose one of two paths:

  1. The most common path is to separate ourselves from suffering by actively rejecting our symptoms, our pain, or the apparent source of our suffering. We may leave a relationship, quit our job, or sell our house. We attempt to do everything possible to remove ourselves from our distress.
  2. The other path, the one less chosen, involves the thought, "I cannot continue getting myself into these situations." Rather than separating ourselves from the apparent outer source of our suffering, we assume greater responsibility for our emotional pain and start to look deeper within.

At the beginning of Stage 4 we feel anxious, irritable, or angry without knowing why. We are aware that we are stuck in a perspective, but we have not removed enough interference in our body and nervous system patterns to reclaim our power. We are still feeling too powerless to reclaim our true identity and selfhood, because our system has not made the full commitment to, "I won't take this anymore. I deserve more than this." 

We realize that we have dishonoured our authentic self/inner essence in some way. We might say, "I have to change emotionally, but I don't know what to do." At this stage we can trust that change will arrive when our bodymind can heal enough to accommodate that change.

As we progress through Stage 4, deep self-respect emerges. The statement,"I just have to do this now" is expressed without the angry charge we experienced in earlier stages.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I take my power back."

"I honour my total being."

"I reclaim my wholeness."


Intuitive Mandala - Shelley KlammerStage 5: Merging with Suffering

I welcome all my parts and experiences.

The fifth stage of healing involves merging with the fears, pains, illusions and concerns behind our suffering. At this stage we are called to confront every aspect within from a place of strength, and a sincere desire for wholeness.

Separation from your light or your dark will produce suffering. With merging, the parts of our nature that are the most alienated, disliked, or ignored are integrated into the rest of our being.

Merging, and becoming intimate with our shadow self is generally not supported or practiced in our Western culture. Stage 5 involves revisiting the places where our suffering began, and experiencing the merging process with a stronger sense of loving presence than we had in the past. 

Merging with our suffering is not encouraged by symptom-oriented doctors, psychologists, and traditional practitioners, who advocate moving away from the chaos of suffering and toward restoring "order" through drugs, surgery, behaviour modification, body manipulation and psychoanalysis.

To heal emotionally, we must look at what is behind our emotional chaos and invest our energy in getting to know it better. In stage five, we join with our discomfort and discover what it has to teach us.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I welcome all of my parts and experiences."

"I join with my inner family."

"I merge with my shadow self."

"I merge with my goodness and light."

"I embrace every aspect of my being."


Intuitive Mandala #44 - Shelley KlammerStage 6: Preparing for Resolution

I am ready. It is OK to let go.

Stage 6 is both an action and a transitional stage. At this stage our bodymind must become more flexible so we can discharge trapped perspectives, memories, old information, energies and patterns. The aspects of our being that are no longer able to adapt to our new sense of self must be released.

The emotional release will occur in its own right timing, at the discretion of our innate wisdom, and when our nervous system becomes more free of interference, and our bodymind becomes flexible enough to accommodate a major change. At this stage we have become stronger in our ability to be present to our emotional pain. 

Now is the time to prepare for a major emotional discharge. Understanding that there is a buildup of tension that must be released – and that the dissonant or alienated body rhythm must resolve itself, we need to make lifestyle modifications to health, good eating, exercise and bodywork.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I am flexible."

"I am building momentum."

"I am ready."

"It's OK to let go!"


Intuitive Mandala # 54 - Shelley KlammerStage 7: Resolution

I release that which no longer serves me.

The increased buildup of long-held emotional tension results eventually in an involuntary discharge. We might cry, throw up, sneeze, laugh uncontrollably, or get sick with a fever during the emotional discharging phase of healing.

The goal of modern medicine is to control or eliminate all discharge so as to get back to "normal." When we medicate to avoid discharge, emotional resolution cannot fully occur. 

When we are out of control, we are usually considered sick. Donald M. Epstein shares, " I have found that healing involves a resolution of dissonant rhythms and the release of trapped energy. Resolution occurs though discharge.

Discharge refers to the release of energy or tension. Discharge may involve the release of trapped energy, repressed or ignored information, or toxins on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. Releasing often includes a temporary loss of control. 

Any aspect of our "self" that no longer works for our highest good will be discharged by our innate intelligence. The bodymind may want to eliminate anything (food, lifestyle, habit) that no longer serves its higher good. Some relinquishments may seem involuntary such as the loss of money, relationships or material possessions.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I am."

"I release that which no longer serves me."

"I come to resolution."

"Oooh, ahhh, whoosh!" Instinctive, sound expressions of release that push energy out are appropriate.

Intuitive Mandala #94 - Shelley KlammerStage 8: Emptiness

I experience the fullness of my emptiness.

Stage 8 is a stage of emptiness, vulnerability, and new possibilities. Emptiness is the portal that leads to higher states of awareness. After the discharge of stage 7 there is calm and lightness. The feelings of emptiness and aloneness can feel strange and uncomfortable, but it sets the stage for deeper spiritual exploration.

In stage Seven, we have released much of the armour and distractions from our natural wholeness. Now we emerge feeling raw, and vulnerable, without usual reference points. We may feel lonely, but our emptiness leaves room for new possibilities and connections. 

In Stage 8 our perspective expands. Praying, toning, yoga, self-nurturing and intimate contact helps us deepen into our internal rhythms, and a sense of integrated newness. 

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I wake up to rhythms of wholeness."

"I take counsel within myself."

"I experience the fullness of my emptiness."

"I reunite with my whole self."

"I trust my rhythms."


Intuitive Mandala # 142 - Shelley KlammerStage 9: Light Behind Form

"I experience my energetic connection with the world."

Stage 9 begins the transcendent stages of the emotional healing process. We begin to perceive spiritual light behind all physical forms. Gratitude and awe accompany this stage and old buried trauma will continue to clear in this spiritual light. 

We discover that we are more than just our physical sensations. We know there is a force or an intelligence that flows through us that can potentially change our life forever. We sense that we are part of a larger energetic reality, as compared to merely a physical reality.

In Stage 9 we feel warmth, light and vitality. This tingling of spiritual energy often accompanies the transition to a new reality. For some, the experience of this spiritual energy or vital force feels like a wave or pulsation moving through the body. These wave-like pulsations in parts of the body, or in the entire body, can follow the emptiness after an emotional release.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I experience my vital spiritual force."

"I experience my inborn intelligence."

"I experience my energetic connection with the world."

"I am grateful."

Intuitive Mandala #77 - Shelley KlammerStage 10: Ascent

I am One.

In Stage 9 we experienced being filled with energy. In stage ten, rather than the universal intelligence expressing itself through us, we become one with this intelligence.

Because we have spent most of our life being trapped in patterns of "alienated wholeness" or "non-accessible wholeness" we finally meet the unrecognized wholeness of our being.

In Stage 10 we become connected to the field of Universal Consciousness, and we are open to the knowledge, wisdom and inspiration this field contains, which may be artistic, scientific, religious, or philosophical.

Sometimes this process is considered channelling, as we are no longer isolated to our normal thinking self. Our "self" now includes other realms of possibility.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I am One."

Intuitive Mandala #55 - Shelley KlammerStage 11: Descent

I illuminate all my experiences.

In Stage 10 we understand that our lives are no longer what they used to be. In Stage 11 we descend back into our human lives with new spiritual perspectives, more energy, and greater understanding. We engage in our human relationships, earn a living, cook meals and take out the garbage while staying connected to Source. 

The basic lesson of this stage is to sustain gratitude and remain in awe of the miracle of life while we perform our daily activities. To the degree that we are able to function from our true self and to our natural internal rhythms (as opposed to reacting to the alienated, dissonant aspects of our nature, as in the earlier healing stages), we can serve as powerful agents for healing and service in the world.

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I express my divine gifts."

"I illuminate all my circumstances."

"May it be on Earth as it is in Heaven."


Intuitive Mandala #162 - Shelley KlammerStage 12: Community

I give my gifts and receive the gifts of others.

In Stage 11, our "I am" consciousness is reestablished as a new and expanded sense of self, and we move into our relationships with others no longer tainted by, or attached to our emotional past.

We are filled with love, light, intelligence and goodness. In Stage 12 we find that our ultimate healing is associated with our active participation in human life. We maintain ongoing loving communion with our wounds, joys and sorrows .We also fulfill our outer tasks in life with joy. 

In Stage 12, we come to true community when we have emotionally healed enough to share our gifts and all the wisdom we have gained in our own emotional healing journey. 

Breathe deeply and declare:

"I give my gifts and I receive the gifts of others."

"I find the gifts I have denied myself and I give my gifts to others."

"I am one with the web of life."

"My circle of love and learning expands just perfectly."


Inner Child Therapy Worksheets - Expressive Art Workshops

Explore Emotional Healing through Art and Writing

Welcome to fee-based access to my therapy worksheets. Enjoy 30 art and writing worksheets that I use in my private practice to support you to slowly release your emotional pain in safe, powerful and wisely structured ways.

View Course…

Deixe uma resposta

O seu endereço de e-mail não será publicado. Campos obrigatórios são marcados com *