There is a famous quote by Hemingway that goes like this: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong in the broken places.”
But, actually, that is just the first line of a longer quote; a deeper assessment of brokenness and its inevitability. The rest of the quote: “But those that will not break, it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
It is interesting that Hemingway used the word ‘many’ and not ‘most’. I think he chose ‘many’ because everyone will feel the pain of brokenness and trauma. But…. just because everyone will feel the pain of a fractured soul and life, not everyone, not even most people will do the work it takes to heal or attempt to “fix” the fracture. In Hemingway’s assessment, brokenness is a given. It’s impartial and inevitable and impacts the best among us: the good, the gentle, the patient…and in a way that’s an uplifting thought.
There can be comfort knowing that we are never alone in our experience of brokenness even if our details feel unique. We all have it. Broken parts. Soul pain. We have a mixture of small disappointments, horrible experiences and for some, epically tragic trauma.
The pivotal shift is learning how to transform brokenness into strength. True health and freedom happens when we learn to convert this pain into something useful to us in our lives instead of letting it destroy our vitality, hope and wonderment of life.
In his book, “The Book of Awakening”, Mark Nepo also addresses the issue of brokenness when describing a Tibetan myth that requires all ‘spiritual warriors’ to possess a broken heart in order to achieve enlightenment and gain entry into the world of wonderment and mystery. In other words, in order for a ‘spiritual warrior’ to gain the wisdom and empathy necessary to help others heal and to heal themselves, the warriors must experience brokenness and feel its bitterness. Bravely. Unapologetically. Up close and personally. In that way, again, brokenness can be viewed as a positive thing; should be.
When I became a therapist, I was called to hear people recounting stories about trauma and shame in their lives; suffering and brokenness. I was trained to become a safe haven, a sort of soul container, for their experiences and emotions. I was prepared to feel their pain in order to help them move past it with a different perspective. Or to live with it without the pain having so much power.
Some of these stories were about things that didn’t seem obvious at first blush to be related to sexuality like the gut wrenching trauma of losing a parent to a chronic illness or the incredible stress of raising a teenager with special needs. Other stories were clearly within the world of sexuality with examples of sexual assault and the pain of a decade of sexual rejection by a spouse. It wasn’t long into my practice, however, that I realized that ALL trauma, all brokenness effects our sexuality and our relationship with ourselves and, conversely, our sexuality, our essence, influences how we experience trauma. I knew if my clients were going to thrive in their sexuality and in their lives, they were going to need to embrace the broken parts and learn to see the inevitability of trauma. This then leads to seeing the beauty and strength within those fractures. This is a deep level of healing that Hemingway said most do not do the work to achieve.
I wasn’t going to have that happen.
But I get it. I get why this sounds like horseshit. Before this work, I would have hated this sort of article. No way you could convince me that there was beauty in losing your child or that I could find wonderment in the heartache of the love of my life dying unexpectedly. That shit is AWFUL. Tragic. NOT. SUPPOSED. TO. HAPPEN. If you weren’t going to be impressed with my high level of trauma I had ‘survived’ then I wasn’t interested. I wanted you to see my strength for ‘getting through’ it. I wanted you to feel sorry for me because of the raw deal I was handed. I went to great lengths to hide the fractures. But man were they there. Seeping. Weeping.
Pain sucks. Trauma stings. We are wired to avoid pain at all cost. So once you experience it to any degree you learn survival techniques. Attacking. Retreating. Avoiding. Attaching. We all have a slew of things that we cultivate in order to fool ourselves that we are protected from the pain of future shitty circumstances.
We do this because we want to feel safe. And free from the pain of hurt. Agony. Suffering.
We shut down parts of ourselves. We set boundaries. Or we loosen all of them. We look for control. Anyway. Anyhow. Any length.
Because we think that our vulnerability is our weak point. Our entry into that dreaded pain.
But safety and vulnerability are the key to an authentic life and a vibrant sexuality.
So shit. What do you?
You need to feel safe in order to feel vulnerable so that you can live fully. To find happiness, to be fulfilled, to connect fully with yourself and with another, you MUST open to vulnerability. To feel vulnerable, you must feel safe.
And here’s the thing….to feel safe, you must look at the broken parts differently than you do right now.
I can say this because I know it now. I’ve lived it. I’ve worked through that incredible agony of embracing the notion that my broken parts are beautiful.
I spoke with a dear woman, who is potentially a new client, this morning. When I asked why she was wanting to start work with me now, she said ‘I see your FB live videos and read your articles and you look so happy, so sexy and having such a fun life. I want that too.’ That is such a lovely and beautiful response. I was bursting with happiness because I want others to feel like I do and I want to share and teach how I got here.
But I also paused because, although I am all those things she described, I wanted her and all of you who follow me, read my articles or who work with me, to know I have brokenness too.
And I want you to know that it is possible to be blissfully happy, feel deeply sexy, be connected authentically to your soul and others in your life and also have beautiful broken parts. And actually….it is freeing to learn that those broken parts serve your happiness, fuel your sexiness and are the avenue to your deep connections with others and yourself.
I’ve lived through shit. Epic level, Dateline worthy trauma. Recently. I will be sharing the details of my recent story at some point but not yet. It is too close and I am still sifting through the lessons and wonderment of it all. But I am looking forward to sharing it with you. Of sharing my story, what I’ve learned and how I got through it so that you can read it and think “Fuck…her too? Wow….even her?”.
Because yes, me too. And of course, even me.
This is a Two Part Series. Part 1 is the ‘why’ and, tomorrow’s article, Part 2, is the ‘how’.
You can become a modern day ‘spiritual warrior’ like the Tibetan myth and realize that our heart break, our suffering, our traumas can be the doorway to our enlightenment and wonderment. Please join me. Life on the other side of this is beautiful.
Let me know what you think about brokenness. Are you ready to share your journey of healing?
Please join in on the conversation in the comments on my FB page and within the comments on my website. Email me questions and your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’ve made this a private email that none of my team members read. I read all of my emails and answer them personally as soon as I can. I love hearing from you.
*Photo Credit Philip D Studios