• Elizabeth Harvey

The Healing Work of Integration

Updated: Nov 19


A circular mandala of red, yellow, and green tomatoes on the ground
Tomato Mandala

Sometimes in the course of life, we experience difficult or even tragic events that seem to shatter us. Or we share ourselves with someone and parts of us become hurt through painful relationship experiences or losses. We are then faced with a choice (which is not always conscious). Do we cut off or block those hurt parts of our self, never to face them again? Or do we begin the slow, sometimes difficult, but ultimately rewarding process of reclaiming those parts, nurturing them, and inviting in healing? The latter can help us move towards wholeness and a renewed sense of living fully.


In addition to our inner world of thoughts and feelings, our physical surroundings and activities can give us clues about parts of self that need to heal. Are there places, spaces, activities, or belongings that have negative connotations? Are they triggers for anxiety, dread, sadness, or shame? When the time is right, with care and gentleness, these hurt places can be approached, allowing you to reclaim valuable parts of yourself and possibly to release aspects of your life that no longer fit.


In a similar way, certain experiences, people, places may make a forgotten part of you come alive. Follow that impulse!


The work of integration may occur as we walk the path of grief, heal from trauma, or make sense of the multiple identities we’ve embraced on life’s journey. All parts of you are valuable. Notice the opportunities for the healing work of integration as you consider your heart, your soul, your body, physical reality around you, and your activities.


Activities in nature or the garden can be a way to explore this concept, and opportunities for this may naturally appear. For example, an unexpected early frost hit my garden hard when there were still many tomatoes left on the vine - what a metaphor. Making the tomato mandala pictured was a way of reflecting on changing seasons, changes in my life, and also expressing gratitude for the harvest from the garden throughout the year before the frost.


Therapy is also a good place to begin a more intentional path of exploring what integration means. Ideally, a therapist can provide a safe place to consider painful experiences, and an accepting environment to set a tone for nurturing the hurting parts of self. If this concept resonates with where you are in your life, consider finding a trusted helper and starting a conversation about what it might look like to embrace wholeness for yourself.



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