Slow is Fast: Slowing Down to Allow Deeper Healing

Natalie Chen, LMFT 128940 on Aug 01, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

Something that I hear very often in my practice is “Can I just be healed already?” or some variation of that. It’s SUPER understandable! Most of us have been carrying our wounds for years or even decades, and even if we might recognize our patterns, the cues that cause us dysregulation, our habits that we don’t like or want anymore, we just want something that feels more free or more in line with the person we are or are becoming right away. I get it. I’m also going to be really annoying (and other clinicians might disagree with me) and say that in order to bring about real and deep healing, we gotta take it slow.

One of my professional mentors reminds me all the time that “slow is fast,” meaning that it is actually far more efficient and overall faster if we take healing really slowly. If we allow new ideas and patterns to sit with us for a while, if we don’t force anything, and if we remain open to healing and newness, the impact can be far greater than trying to rush ourselves along to what our perceived “end place” must be.

I want to be really clear that I am not saying we have to wait forever to get some relief of our suffering. I do believe we can pursue some alleviation of the intensity of suffering, of pain, of discomfort to some degree in the short-term, but I also firmly believe that in order to bring about lasting, deep, transformative peace and restoration we have to be patient and intentional.

Another note I’d like to make is that allowing ourselves to take our healing slow is incredibly honoring to ourselves and to our stories. In a society that teaches us that our value is in our doing, our producing, our achieving, divesting from this narrative and telling ourselves that we are enough for ourselves, we are the love of our own damn lives, that we are patient in the telling of our stories and the creation of new paths, new norms, new narratives, new values — it’s extremely radical. This is especially true for folx who have experienced intentional marginalization and oppression societally. Divesting from the idea that in order to have value we need to be productive is beautiful, radical, and revolutionary to call out that bullshit and give yourself time and space to find beauty, safety, healing, and joy in your life.

I’ve diverted a little bit at this point (welcome to a conversation with me) and would like to again highlight how TRULY letting ourselves slow down allows deeper, more long-term, overall faster healing than “quick fixes” (which I will argue do not exist beyond a surface level):

We have likely learned a LOT of ways to survive that are no longer serving us: shrinking, people-pleasing, dissociating, quickly angering or criticizing ourselves or others, pursuing perfection at many costs, isolating ourselves from others — the list goes on and on. For most of us, these patterns are decades old and likely linked to a sense of survival and safety for us. This is NOT coming from a cognitive place MOST of the time. Our precious brains care deeply about maintaining our sense of safety and survival above all else — we can’t just think our way out of something rooted so firmly as a pattern in our lives. Allowing ourselves to take the time to trust and practice new ways facilitates the neuroplasticity and true settling in of new paths to safety and survival.

Rushing towards what we think being “healed” looks like could miss some vital part of the process that teaches us that maybe we were never broken and provides an intense opportunity for self compassion that most of us are deeply needing and deeply lacking. Is wanting to be healed coming from a place of deep self-love? For some of us, absolutely. For others, it is seeking alleviation of suffering (which is critical). For others, it is coming from a place of “If I am healed, people will like me better; I will be more productive at work,” etc. Instead, we can approach our healing with patience and curiosity to see what other opportunities are present to promote peace and safety within ourselves and our relationships.

Present within the process of facilitating peace, restoration, and healing is the opportunity to recognize and sit with our pain. It is extraordinarily honoring to have someone witness our pain, honor the pain, and not force us out of it before we are ready. There is a sacredness in grief (actual, perceived, and ambiguous) that must be felt to move out of it.

The invitation for all of us is to take things slow. What am I experiencing right now in my body? What feelings, sensations, emotions, images, thoughts am I experiencing? Can I tolerate them? What is the need underneath it? Can I allow myself to sit with it and take things slowly as I find new ways of seeking safety, peace, empowerment, and wholeness?

Slow is fast, and slow is honoring to ourselves and our stories. It is divesting from the capitalistic idea that our value is in our productivity or palatability as defined by colonial values. It is radical, it is powerful, it is transformative.

I wish you ease and slowness.

In the words of one of my life’s loves, gorgeous poet Tonya Ingram, “Be patient with the blooming of your heart.”

**I am aware that the phrase “slow is fast” has been used in a few different contexts and the version shared here is not associated with the others you may find.**

Natalie Chen is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Palo Alto, CA.

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