I often refer to it as walking towards the fire.
It’s when we go towards situations that scarred us in the past.
It’s when we take a chance and risk being triggered.
It’s when we put ourselves in the line of fire.
It’s when we face our deepest fears.
Here’s an example: If I stood up on stage as a child and told a joke but was humiliated and mocked, I would be putting myself in the line of fire again if I decided, as an adult, to take a stand-up comedy course. I’d be back on stage, under the spotlight, and the potential would be there for me to be mocked and humiliated, thereby reliving the painful experience of my past and triggering an old wound.
Or if someone broke my heart when I was younger, I would be walking towards the fire if I went dating again. I would be putting my heart on the line again, risking getting hurt.
Or if I was told as a child that I couldn’t sing and my voice was mocked, I would be facing my fears if I joined a choir and chose to sing in a group, even more so if I chose to sing a solo. I would be risking hearing the same hurtful words again, being told that I couldn’t hold a tune or even a note, being told that I was rubbish at something I enjoyed.
But, dear Reader, this is how we heal – by walking towards the fire, by putting ourselves in the same situations that wounded us in the past, by exposing ourselves to the same triggers, by making ourselves vulnerable, by facing our fears.
With one rather important caveat: if we walk towards the fire in the same condition as when we were younger – feeling like a vulnerable child, feeling insecure, unsupported, lacking in confidence and self-esteem, fragile and petrified about what others think of us, we probably won’t heal. In fact, we may re-traumatise ourselves. We may get hurt so badly, in the same place we were hurt as a child, that we never want to venture out again. We may never tell a joke, date, kiss, dance or sing again.
No, the healing comes if we are able to relive our past traumas or walk towards those fires as our adult selves, our mature selves, our recovered selves – not perfect but with a reasonable degree of healing under our belts. With healthy foundations of self-love, self-care, self-esteem and self-confidence, with a strong emotional core, and with some good support around us.
If we can do this work on ourselves first and get the support we need, then we can walk towards the fire knowing that whatever happens, we’ll be OK.
And this, dear friend, offers us the most incredible opportunity to heal our early wounds and grow into the person we were always meant to be.
I did this last weekend.
I walked towards the fire.
I stepped far out of my comfort zone and into a situation that had triggered me and hurt me in the past.
But I did so with strong foundations, in a safe space and surrounded by supportive people.
And it was a true gift. A revelation, in fact.
One of the best opportunities for healing I’ve had in a long time.
I was on a singing, sound healing and painting retreat in the New Forest with the wonderful Sarah Warwick and a small group of lovely, supportive people.
It may sound idyllic, but singing has mixed memories for me.
I used to love singing as a toddler. I’d sit in the back of the car (apparently), singing away to myself, making my own music, not a care in the world.
But then the cares developed, and they multiplied.
At junior school, there was a choir incident that knocked my confidence. My memory is sketchy but I recall being asked to leave, I think because I was laughing, but maybe I thought it was because of my singing too.
Around that time, I was given a label by those around me, a label that read: Katherine can’t sing. Incidentally, my mother was given the same label.
It was relayed to me as fact that the musical talent had been reserved for the male members of the family – my dad was a successful, semi-professional jazz musician who played the guitar and banjo and sang for more than half a century. The Beatles supported Dad’s band, The Merseysippi Jazz Band. They won a BBC Jazz Heritage Award, they played in America every year, at Wembley Stadium and with Louis Armstrong. Some act to follow! My brother sang and played in bands too.
Yet, it was said that I couldn’t sing. I had other talents but singing wasn’t one of them. I could only sit in the audience and watch.
So my singing was reserved for karaoke, which I absolutely loved and continue to love (we had karaoke at our wedding) but I would only ever do karaoke as a duet or as a group, too scared to go it alone.
Despite my shaky confidence and challenging experiences, the desire to sing stayed with me, hovering beneath the surface for many years and then emerging more strongly after I began my personal development and healing journey some 20 years ago. Over time, it became impossible to ignore.
As I reconnected with my true self and true spirit and as I grew in self-esteem and confidence, I dared to sing. I joined a few choirs in London, generally hiding amongst the stronger voices, and I am now singing in two choirs here in Dorset, The Funky Little Choir and The Funky Little Beach Choir, still a little low on confidence but doing it anyway.
I signed up to Sarah’s singing retreat because I know that singing is one of my paths to healing.
I was right.
Two momentous things happened on the singing retreat:
1) I courageously stepped into the middle of a group of people I’d only just met and composed a tiny song with melodies that everyone could join in. My song went like this:
Woman on the verge.
Wants to Fly.
Now imagine those four lines sung in different harmonies by eight people. It was an incredible, empowering experience, given my fraught relationship with singing in public and my fears of being mocked (nobody mocked me – I received only praise and encouragement).
The second breakthrough came the next day when we did some toning in a circle. I’d never done this before. Basically, you hold the same note as a group, singing to oooh for the entire breath, then you move up and down the scale, holding other notes, in unison.
Well, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold the note steady. My voice wobbled all over the place and I felt stupid, foolish, like I didn’t know what I was doing. A big lump formed in my throat. I started to cry. I wanted to run away and hide (a familiar feeling from my past).
But I didn’t run and hide. I stayed in the circle.
And the group gave me space to share what was going on inside – to share the pain, to share the memories, to share how small and scared I felt. And with the sharing came the healing.
I had been hugely triggered. I had relived a painful experience from my childhood, singing in public, exposing myself to potential ridicule.
But I had healthy foundations, emotional resilience and I was in a safe space with supportive people.
So not only did I survive the experience but I thrived through it – I had what felt like a massive breakthrough.
I even emerged from that retreat thinking that I want to write songs, which is an astonishing development given my early relationship with music and singing.
This healing is a gift, and it’s a gift that’s available to you too.
Whatever your particular fire, you can walk towards it and heal.
It may be public speaking, singing, painting, dancing, writing, multiple arithmetic, telling jokes in public, or dating.
Whatever makes you want to run for the hills, that’s your own particular fire.
Once you’ve identified your fire, you can take the following steps:
First, lay your foundations. Make sure you are in a good place emotionally, with a reasonable level of self-awareness, self-esteem and healing behind you.
Secondly, check you’re not going off too soon, before you’re ready. Make sure you have step one – your solid foundations – in place first.
Thirdly, gather some good support around you. Line up people you can trust and lean into.
Fourthly, walk towards your fire.
And fifthly, experience your breakthrough. Savour and celebrate it.
Now when I say breakthrough, please know that it may hurt. It may be messy. But if you have followed the steps above, you will be fine and you will heal and grow. And this breakthrough will pave the way for another breakthrough and then another.
The pain, provided you can manage it, will be your greatest gift.
Here’s a practical example of the above:
You are scared of dating because you’ve been wounded before but you take the first three steps above and then you walk towards the fire – you go on a date.
As it turns out, the other person isn’t too healthy (we can’t always spot this from afar – give yourself a break) and they disappoint you or reject you or dismiss you or ghost you or let you down in some way.
This hurts, but it doesn’t hurt anything like that initial rejection, that early wound, because you have built your foundations and you have a great support network. You bounce back in two days and realise you’ve grown from the experience, so you date again and this date isn’t great either but you learn something more and after a few more dates, and perhaps a relationship that doesn’t work out but feels like a positive experience, you strike gold.
And you wouldn’t have struck gold if you’d decided to stay home.
You wouldn’t have struck gold if you’d chosen to avoid the fire.
Just like I wouldn’t have struck gold and healed some of my deepest singing wounds if I hadn’t booked onto that retreat.
Incidentally, and because I’m running a retreat myself in October and I know how hard it is to invest in ourselves, this is what happened to me before the retreat.
I saw it in my inbox and felt excited. It spoke to me.
Then my fear kicked in – I can’t afford it. It’s not really for me. I don’t like this bit or that bit etc.
Then my recovery kicked in – Go, Katherine. Give yourself this gift.
I paid up.
Then the doubts kicked in – I wish I wasn’t going, I can’t afford it. I want to stay home with my husband and pup etc.
But I went and I had a breakthrough.
I offer breakthroughs on my retreats, if you’re in the market for a breakthrough yourself.
Because as I experienced this past weekend and as I’ve seen on the eight or nine retreats I’ve run so far, there is something incredibly powerful about being seen and heard, being witnessed, crying with others, being hugged and reassured and accepted for who we are.
There is something so powerful about working through our issues in community, in relationship with others.
As I always say, our hurt happens in relationship and our healing happens in relationship too.
We can heal together.
I send you strength, courage and support as you prepare to walk towards your fires.
Events & Resources
Download Chapter 1 of How to Fall in Love on my website here: www.katherinebaldwin.com or explore the book on Amazon here.
For coaching and online courses and retreats, go to www.katherinebaldwin.com or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer free discovery calls.
To explore the Love Retreat in Turkey this October, go to https://www.howtofallinlove.co.uk/love-retreat—turkey.html or email me on email@example.com
To donate to this blog and support my writing, click here.