Healing as a Subversive Act


Healing as a Subversive Act


You might need to break the “rules” in order to fully heal yourself. Learn how healing is a radical act—one that might rock the boat in your life.

Healing is powerful. We do it to help ourselves and to make our lives feel even just a little bit better day to day. And when we change our patterns to be more loving to ourselves, we can’t help but become more loving to others, the land, and to our community. When we stop the cycle of certain intergenerational patterns related to trauma and pain, we heal not only ourselves but our ancestors and the future generations that come into contact with us. Healing is a powerful process, but we often encounter resistance when we choose to heal. As physician, author, and trauma expert Gabor Maté puts it, “Healing is a highly subversive act.”

Healing in a Broken World

Healing can be political. A woman’s rage, for example, can often be held with as much fear and derision as a man’s vulnerability. Trans and nonbinary people may find the simple act of existing perceived as a radical act. Being honest about what we’ve been through, who hurt us, and how we weren’t supported by the powers that be is often challenging for the social systems we live within. Healing can rock the boat.

In Gabor Maté’s new book The Myth of Normal, he explains how difficult it can be to become healthy and whole in a society that is so disconnected, traumatized, and “insane.” It is an incredible challenge to be healthy in an unhealthy society. When we’re working hard to function in a dysfunctional world, healing can disrupt those old forms of functioning, and that can be scary.

This is also true within our family systems. We may have conscious and unconscious loyalties to people, habits, patterns, or unspoken rules within our families. Maybe we come from a long line of people pleasers, and it would be shocking if we started standing up and saying no. Maybe we resist accessing our anger against our parents because we also know how much they suffered and that they tried their best. Becoming happy could disrupt the role of “failure” we play within our family so that other family members can succeed instead—or avoid focusing on their own failures.

Rest as a Part of Healing

In her book Rest is Resistance, Tricia Hersey explains how powerfully rest plays into this subversive perspective of healing. For her, rest is the radical reclamation of one’s body from capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. These systems prefer that we work so hard that we disconnect from our bodies, our spirituality, and our inner knowing.

When we are able to connect to these things through rest, we wake up, becoming conscious of what doesn’t feel right in our bodies. We can reactivate our empathy, our ability to witness difficult truths, and our capacity for positive change, both individually and on a systemic level.

The Internal Aspects of Healing

The troublemaking qualities of healing can also show up in our inner worlds. Just as we each have cultural, social, and family systems that we must find ways to fit within, we also have internal systems. Our brains are excellent at adapting, at functioning in the conditions we’re faced with. This can mean that our systems want to hide certain memories or emotions for us so that we can keep going.

In order to function and feel relatively safe, then, many of us have traded in authenticity, self-connection, and our capacity for rest. Sometimes we have to disrupt this functioning in order to find the wounds we need to feel. We can’t heal what we can’t feel, after all. Living more fully and authentically can feel risky to those parts of us that just want us to be safe.

As difficult as it can feel to do this work, however, it’s also deeply natural. Our systems are wired to heal, to correct imbalances, and to adapt. We have the capacity to make powerful changes within ourselves that can have a positive impact on our outer world as well. Sometimes we need another person—a friend, loved one, therapist, or healer—to help us see the patterns that need tweaking and work with them gently enough that the entire system can shift with us.

We will encounter resistance when we start changing, but we are also working with the energies of hope, compassion, and the desire for a different kind of life. Healing isn’t always easy, but it’s also what we are meant to do, and every time we work to heal ourselves, we are healing our world at the same time.

Shall we break a few rules to make the world a better place?

Learn how a feeling of safety allows us to heal.


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Healing as a Subversive Act

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