When Healing Hurts While It Helps
“Things might get worse before they get better.”
I remember when my best friend said that to me a few years ago. I hadn’t yet discovered reiki, but I had just started down a bread crumb trail of changes that would eventually lead me to it. This is also something I have said to my reiki clients when I know that they’re at the beginning of a healing journey or just taking the first steps toward a big change and using reiki energy healing as part of that process.
It’s not a fun message to hear or deliver, but it’s sometimes true. When it comes to reiki, most people, most of the time, experience the sessions as something gentle and relaxing. They primarily feel progressively better during and after sessions. Occasionally, though, the healing process temporarily surfaces some pain and discomfort along the way.
It can happen on a physical or emotional level. For example, I recently worked with a client who had been having some back pain due to tension from work stress. She reported that during our reiki sessions, the pain would become worse for a few minutes before her back relaxed and the pain was reduced afterwards.
One of my own examples of this “worse before better” phenomenon comes from a time when I was receiving a lot of reiki in a short period, and I spontaneously began to recall a horse accident I had as a child. Suddenly on the reiki table, I became aware of that memory that I had avoided thinking about for years. In the days that followed, it became clear to me how much had unfolded as a result of what at the time seemed like a relatively minor incident. I wasn’t seriously injured, but I did develop an immediate phobia of horses that had a lasting impact.
For a few days following my reiki sessions, I experienced all of those childhood emotions I had been avoiding. I relived past feelings of disconnect from my family of horse lovers, and a sense of isolation from those who didn’t grasp the depth of my fear. My intense childlike love for my horse had turned into feelings of loss and betrayal for hurting me. The worst of it was the guilt I felt for not being able to overcome my fear and continue to appreciate such a beautiful and generous gift - one that many children beg for - from my parents.
All of those sad and lonely feelings I had been avoiding weren’t really being avoided at all, up until then. They were just silently living in my body and my psyche, unconsciously creating more experiences of isolation, betrayal, guilt, and shame until I finally became aware of them enough to re-live and release them.
Among reiki practitioners, it is commonly known that people sometimes experience what is called a “healing crisis” following a particularly powerful session. As the body begins to detoxify and release what it no longer needs, people may experience flu-like symptoms, fatigue, diarrhea, headaches, and other symptoms temporarily. In most cases, these are not a cause for concern. (Although they are a cause for drinking more water, getting extra rest, and going easy on yourself; and of course, you should always listen to your body and seek medical care if you need it.)
In my example, my memories were something I was able to process on my own in a relatively short time. You may find that energy healing surfaces memories that would benefit from counseling. Or that a session makes you more aware of physical pains that could require some other kind of intervention. Something like reiki can sometimes work indirectly by being the light that illuminates the problem and suggests a complementary solution.
I don’t write this with the intent of scaring anyone away from energy healing. I almost titled this post “When Healing Hurts Before It Helps,” but I changed Before to While because the difficult feelings that may occur along the way aren’t usually a hurdle; they’re usually a step toward halting the process of repeating our same pains. As I’ve said, in most cases, reiki is relaxing and enjoyable both during and after the session. Occasionally, it gets a little more complicated. But even when the process isn’t totally easy and enjoyable, it is, in my experience, worth it.
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