Healing versus growth: can you have one without the other?

Healing and growth seem like very different things. And yet we can't effectively do one without the other.

The words healing and growth get thrown around a lot, in so many different contexts.

So much so, that these concepts feel convoluted and confusing. (At least that’s how feel after 15 years of healing and 5 minutes on the internet 🤦‍♀️)

While there are many different ways of doing healing and growth work, that’s not the same as knowing what it means to do each one.

When we have that knowledge, we:

  • Know which one we need to now
  • Can decide what kind of support we need
  • Stop spinning in our inner work

And you need both to make sustainable change in your life, whatever you’re yearning for.

Let’s explore the difference.

Healing versus Growth

We all come to inner work through pain of some kind. In my case that was physical pain through chronic illnesses and emotional pain through relationships continually not working out.

Your pain, your motivation, will be unique and personal to you.

And, whatever that is, in our frustration for something different, we start on either a healing or growth journey.

Traditionally, healing has belonged to the space of therapists and growth sat in the coaching space. And they didn’t really cross over.

But I think that split misconstrues what healing and growth really are. 

I believe the two are inextricably linked. Two sides of the same coin that go hand in hand with each other.

If you’re on a growth journey, you’re also on a healing journey and visa versa.

Because after being on a healing and growth journey for 15 years, this is what I have come to realise:

Growth is increasing our capacity to stay with inner discomfort.

With the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations and reactions that arise in our body. To sit with “itchy feelings,” with pain, and not react to them.

And in not reacting to them, we can observe whatever is fueling that reaction.

This applies to everyone, no matter what the job description. It applies to us as parents, leaders, friends, colleagues, partners, neighbours, passengers. It applies to every role we play in our lives.

If we want to change something, if we want to grow, then in some way we need to build the capacity to not follow our instinctive reactions to get annoyed, to withdraw, to yell, to criticise, to doubt, and so on.

Growth is expanding our body’s ability for holding tension and not reacting to it.

And that takes effort.

Our bodies and ego’s are wired to react defensively to anything that seems dangerous. That’s not just physical danger, but anything that compromises our attachment to anything that matters to us, our identity, sense of belonging, our relationships, and so on.

Building capacity takes intentional effort and practice.

The more we grow, the more we are able to observe whatever is fueling those reactions.

We can observe the underlying thoughts, feelings and sensations.

In observing them, we learn more about them. More about their fears, their worries, their anger, their sadness.

Which opens the door for healing to happen.

In healing, whether our body, our heart, our mind or our spirit, we bring compassion and acceptance to whatever lies beneath. We acknowledge the pain that sits there, and create a container for healing to happen.

And when healing happens, our ego and inner defensive system don’t need to work so hard to protect us. We notice our reactions change, and that we feel able to pause and react to the same situations as before, not from this place of pain and protection, but from a grounded, intentional place of empowered choice.

Can healing happen without growth?

Good question.

I don’t think so.

I remember the first time I realised I needed a therapist. I was terrified. I was immobilised. My body wouldn’t let me make any calls, do any research, I couldn’t do anything to reach out and get a therapist. But in noticing those sensations, that stuckness, I saw I could ask someone else for help.

I could ask a friend for a recommendation (something my Self-Preservation 7 ego allowed me to do). When he gave me a name, that opened the door to me finding a therapist who I trusted enough to be able to sit on her couch.

Even in something as small as asking for help, we have to grow our capacity for feel vulnerable in that moment, which gives us the opportunity to heal whatever fears lies beneath those sensations and vulnerability.

In short:

Growth = increasing our capacity to stay with discomfort

Healing = tending to unmet needs and unprocessed emotional wounds

There are a myriad of ways to do healing and growth, but sustainable change requires both.