What Does It Mean To Be “Whole”?
“I feel broken. Like someone took a sledgehammer and delivered blow after blow, shattering me into a thousand pieces.”
Maybe you haven’t felt that broken, but chances are you’ve dealt with some feelings of brokenness in your life.
Regardless of what healing path you’re traveling, you’ve probably heard something along the lines of “becoming whole”. You may have heard people say something like, “I feel broken. I need fixed.” Or, “I feel so disconnected and want to feel connected; one with everything.”
Or maybe you haven’t heard much about these concepts, but you’re feeling broken, lost, lonely, and disconnected. You may wonder what exactly this “wholeness” is all about.
I checked out a couple definitions for wholeness, and really like this one:
“The state of being unbroken or undamaged.”
So, wholeness feels a lot like harmony, unity, oneness. It feels good and right.
The Yearning To Feel Whole
Most people are seeking to experience this feeling of wholeness in one way, shape, or form. They might not be aware that this is what they’re yearning for though. Others might desire it and actively be seeking it, but maybe they don’t feel they deserve to feel it. Or maybe they think they’ve got to do a hundred religious or spiritual calisthenics to find it.
While there aren’t any “get whole quick” schemes or secrets, there are some practical tips and insights toward experiencing this wholeness. As a society, many people want an instant fix and instant gratification. (Ahhh! I just want to feel happy!)
However, the healing path toward joy does require some inner work, for sure – and faith. If you’re looking to push a button and experience instant enlightenment or rebirth, you’re in for some frustration.
Now, before I get started with tips for experiencing this state of wholeness, let’s define this concept a bit further.
What is Wholeness?
Well, to be whole is to feel whole. To feel good. Worthy. To feel connected with yourself, others, the world, and God, however you define God. To be whole is to NOT be split apart. Think of a whole pizza, sitting there in all it’s delicious glory. Yum!
Now think of it missing pieces (because like I said, yum!). It’s now disconnected and NOT whole. Only fragments of it remain. Now, when we feel fragmented, it just doesn’t feel that great.
Some call it sin or separation from God. Others describe it as feeling “lost”, “alone”, “crazy”, “a shell of a person”, and more.
You may hear people use the terms “wholeness” and “oneness” interchangeably. It’s the feeling of fulfillment, harmony, and completion. It’s the embodiment of our spirit selves, rather than the identification with our false selves, ego, or frazzled nervous system stuck experiencing negative emotions.
It’s understanding that we were created a spirit by Spirit, and that as such – as connected to God because we are a part of God, we are at the very core, already whole.
Why Do We Feel So Disconnected? Broken?
Ah, wouldn’t it be bliss if we all just felt connected, healed, and whole? Why can’t we? Why is it oftentimes challenging to experience a feeling of being whole? Why the struggle?
Well, most gurus will say it’s because of our minds; those racing thoughts that bring us down. Christians say it’s because we walk more in the flesh or carnal nature, not realizing just how divine we really are in God.
Biologists may say it’s because we’re stuck in chronic survival mode (fight, flight, freeze) responses.
It’s likely there’s more than just one reason, but let’s begin with Truth:
We are spirits, yes, but we are spirits with a physical body and a mind.
- I am spirit.
- I have a mind. (I am mind)
- I have a body. (I am body)
This “mind” can be one thing that trips us up. It can keep us from recognizing and experiencing this feeling of wholeness. This feeling of being intimately connected with a loving God.
Now don’t get me wrong. The mind, or ego, isn’t a horrible thing. I mean, we can do so many great things with the mind. Speaking for myself, I can create, learn, visualize, and plan with my mind, and this feels good!
However, the mind can also be full of thoughts that generate negative emotions, past memories that haunt us, faulty belief patterns, and strange ideas about life. In other words, the mind or ego is a false persona that we’ve created while living on this planet, and it’s not always a reliable source of truth.
It can skew the truth and cause us to feel as if we are the negative emotions or the disconnection or the faulty thoughts… rather than who we REALLY are – which is SPIRIT.
Or, if you’re like me, you can spend your life “hiding in your mind”, cutoff from your body or emotions. Not wanting to feel because you started associating feeling with painful emotions as a child. But more about that in another article.
In reference to the psyche, I am not my thoughts or beliefs, and neither are you. I think and I have beliefs, but they do not define me. They are separate from my true self, which is spirit. That part of me that is from another spiritual realm.
What Does It Mean To Be Fragmented?
In some spiritual or psychology circles, you’ll hear talk about being fragmented. To be fragmented means to be broken into pieces. Synonyms include shattering, being cracked apart, or imploding. How many times have you heard people say they were broken? Ripped apart by something?
Our minds or egos do a great job at helping us feel fragmented. From the time we were little ones, our minds have been helping us chip away parts of our true selves. Let me explain better.
So, let’s say when I was four, I experienced the trauma of my parents’ divorce. At four years old, my psyche and nervous system had no idea how to process the pain I felt due to that trauma. So, my mind/ego got busy doing something that it thought would protect me. (think coping mechanism)
It took the pain I was experiencing and stuffed it deep into my psyche. Out of sight, out of mind, right??
And let’s say this helped me at the time, but just because the pain was out of mind doesn’t mean it disappeared. Rather, that suffering lodged deep within my energy body (because the body is made up of light energy particles) and the thing is, that “pent-up” energy will stay there until I process and integrate it.
It remains stored in my body at the nervous system level because I just didn’t know how at the time to feel, deal, and release it.
Now, this “stored trauma” as I call it doesn’t’ usually affect us too much until we become adults. And so begins the blowing up of an “emotional balloon” that’ll get bigger and bigger through the years, eventually getting to a point where it will pop – which usually means hitting a rock bottom emotionally (tapping out, breakdown, dark night, etc.)
Now, along with the stuffing of that pain, I likely experienced some negative thoughts about myself or life growing up too. Thoughts like, “I’m not worthy” or “I’m not good enough” or “No one likes me” or “It’s my fault”.
Now, there’s a whole lot of this type of thinking going on in the world. Just look at the stats on anxiety and depression. It’s alarming. It’s disheartening. Surely, we can all relate to feeling flawed at times, or anxious, or even sad, but these feelings can become extreme and cause you to feel void of love, empty, hopeless, and so on.
And I get it: We don’t want to feel this way, but most people I know that do feel this way aren’t sure how to STOP feeling this way. They’re stuck. Their nervous systems are on overload mode, stuck in chronic survival mode. They’re numbing out with alcohol or drugs, or some other addiction. They’re miserable, simply existing day to day in the mundane – wanting more, wanting to feel whole, but not knowing how.
Why Is Integration So Important?
Not everyone understands what integration means or why spiritual or mental health people talk about it. Integration is the exact opposite of fragmentation. It’s calling back those parts of you that have split off over your lifetime and “integrating” them into your psyche or energy field.
It’s releasing the stored shock or trauma.
You see, your mind and your body say “Oh, wow, this hurts! This feels awful! I don’t want to feel this!”
So, you split from it. Your psyche fragments, and your body stores it… and this leaves you feeling less whole. Feeling broken, ashamed, fearful, and more.
Descending To Ascend
When someone comes to me struggling with something, I tend to help them remember that they are more than just this human flesh. We learn from a very young age to live life based upon our five senses as a physical body. However, we’re not usually taught that REALLY, we are spirits. We’re part of a Divine Intelligence. We’re human and we’re divine, as I heard it put recently, “We’re simultaneously gods and food for worms.” A bit graphic, perhaps, but it paints a good picture of our non-duality.
We’re mind, body, and spirit; all in one!
So, whether it’s me struggling, or someone else, my aim is to think about where my attention has been. Have I forgotten that I am spiritual in nature? That there is a God who created me and is interested in me living life with peace, love, and joy?
Am I connected with my body and its sensations? Or have I disconnected so I don’t have to feel?
I direct people to just slow down and stop. Stop talking. Stop playing the victim. Stop doing what you’ve always done that gets you in these jams.
Close your eyes and go within.
Rather than running from here or there trying to fill the void or soothe the pain with food, sex, booze, drugs, people, fame, money, etc., we’ve got to descend to ascend. You get that?
Dive deep into our depths to see what’s going on there. In other words, take time to do some real and raw soul searching, because it’s there we will get some insight as to how to go about becoming more whole. (And, less sad, angry, lonely, anxious, etc.)
But How Do We Become More Whole?
How I wish there was a simple answer for this question. “Just be happy.” Have you ever heard that? Yeah, that works about zero percent of the time. Tell that to someone who is going through a gut-wrenching divorce. Or just lost a loved one. Or got diagnosed with something serious. “Just be happy” is not what they need to hear, for sure.
So, how do we experience life embodying wholeness? Feeling whole? Happy? Content? Loving ourselves?
Well, there are many paths to wholeness, or what some might call enlightenment, salvation, or holiness. I don’t believe there’s just one path, though some religions will tell you that. In fact, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world, with most of them working toward becoming a healed, whole, loving person by aligning or pledging allegiance to a Higher Power.
My best answer is, “it depends”.
It depends on your life, how much trauma you have endured, where you live, your resilience, what you do, what you don’t do, choices made, and so much more.
My advice is to find a healing path or several that you resonate with, and actually practice them. There are paths and tools you can use to dive deep into your psyche and deal with what’s hidden there. There are somatic experiencing tools that can help you get in touch with your body/emotions/sensations.
There are also tools that you can use to become more in tune with your spirit self and God, however you define God.
This is the thing. We are a diverse people. People in Africa have a different way of life than we do here in America. A different past, different beliefs, and so on. Their path toward feeling more whole may be different than ours, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I hope that we’ll stop judging others and let them find their path, while we find and commit to ours.
I’ve experienced more healing and wholeness through the years using various tools, techniques, and paths. I’ll list a few here that I resonate with, but feel free to go on your own spiritual journey seeking yours. Take what you can and leave the rest, without judging.
- Mindfulness, Meditation, and Prayer
Surely, you’ve heard about mindfulness and meditation, as these tools have become more popular around the world. And, rightly so. They’re powerful when you take the time to practice them. Mindfulness is simply being mindful in the present moment, each moment. It’s NOT staying in the past or future thought-wise.
Meditation is an ancient tool where you sit in silence, and go within, focusing on your breath. Granted, there are different types of meditation, such as Vispassana or Zen or Transcendental. The key is to commit to a practice of daily meditation, even if it’s for 15 minutes.
Prayer is another way you can work toward healing and wholeness – and a closer relationship with God. There are various ways you can pray. I like to sit in silence, close my eyes, and contemplate God’s greatness. Contemplative prayer. Not talking to God, but just being with God…adoring and listening.
These techniques and practices are far more powerful than many believe. And, it’s one thing to learn about them, but another to actually practice them regularly. To take the time to leave all else aside (work, phone, TV, etc.) and breathe. Relax. Cultivate a deeper relationship with God.
I challenge you to do all of these things daily and watch how your life changes. Commit to it and do it whether you feel like it or not. For me, I like taking the time as soon as I wake up and come 6 or 7pm. It’s a practice that wasn’t easy to cultivate, but well worth it.
- Do The Inner Healing Work
My background is mental health, so doing the inner healing work is big on my list. I work with plenty of people who have major emotional issues, but have never taken the time to do any healing work. They’ve never seen a therapist or maybe hit one or two sessions. They’ve never really even read a book about going within to deal with the shadows lurking there. They’re getting up each day basically thinking and doing the same things they did the day before. Over and over. So, they’re never creating anything new that’s better…they’re stuck in the old..the programs or faulty beliefs.
Some aren’t aware of how helpful this work can be. Others are stuck in a victim mentality, thinking it wouldn’t help anyway. Others say they can’t afford counseling. Others just won’t make the effort, like buy a book or go to the library to see what’s there.
There are various ways to “do the healing inner work”, but the gist of doing it is to start digging to see what’s going on in your psyche. What shadows are lurking? What pain have you stuffed deep? What trauma have you endured, yet never talked about or processed? You tucked it deep, deep, deep and it’s stuck there affecting your mind and energy body.
Carl Jung talks about making the unconscious conscious. You’re going inside in the dark and shine light on those parts of you that you’ve fragmented. The parts of you that are hurting. Ashamed. Fearful.
That wounded little boy or girl. That angry little boy or girl. That part of you that you’ve lost sight of.
You might hear of this work being called “inner child” or “shadow” work. I’ll say that John Bradshaw’s inner child work helped me a lot. Check out his books and videos on YouTube.
Consider making a commitment to go within and start doing the inner healing work, with a therapist, on your own, or both.
- Get In Touch With Your Emotions
I spent most of my life in my head. I started at a very young age disconnecting from feeling emotion, but not consciously. As a result of experiencing chronic stress and trauma, I “shut down” emotionally. Repression was my best friend, at least until I had a few “aha” moments.
After accepting that I had “high anxiety” for decades, I decided I wanted to change that wiring. This led me to Somatic Experiencing by Peter Levine, which is radically changing my life. I’d made a decision to stop the “shut down” response, that basically had me isolating and calling it “I’m an introvert”. I started working with a Somatic therapist who is helping me re-connect to my body, emotions, and work through stored trauma. It’s life altering and I’ll be posting more about all that work soon.
- Get Into Nature
Nature is healing, so if you’re not getting out in nature regularly, I encourage you to do so. Just get out there and take it in. You don’t have to “do” anything. Just sit or walk and observe the awesomeness. Hear the sounds, smell the fragrances. Feel the oneness that nature can model for you.
- Get Comfy Spending Time Alone
If you can’t spend time alone, this may indicate that you’ve got some codependency traits running in your psyche. Learn how you can love to spend time with yourself, alone. If anxiety is getting the best of you, reach out for help from a therapist or start going to support group meetings. Read books and educate yourself on overcoming codependency. When you can really begin enjoying your solitude time, your anxiety will decrease, and your joy level will increase.
- Commit to the Path
To become or embody more wholeness, it’s going to take a commitment to your spiritual path. I understand that many people have a tough time committing to anything. It’s easier to go through each day just doing what’s easy or the routine. For some, it’s easier to remain miserable, stuck in their pain.
The monotony of waking up each day feeling blah, sick and tired of the mundane just sucks. Let’s just agree on that. Sure, life can become routine, but each one of us has the power to make some changes. If you’re really wanting to read an excellent book on experiencing change, check out Joe Dispenza’s book, Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself. Oh my, I really admire Dispenza’s work. Check it out.
I encourage you to COMMIT to growing and evolving no matter how you’re feeling. There will be days when you won’t feel like meditating, praying, “doing the work”. Do it anyway, as consistently as you can. I don’t mean become rigid and beat yourself up if you miss a day or two or three or your “work”. Be easy on yourself, but don’t give up. Don’t just fall back into your old ways, unawake or numbing out or running.
It doesn’t matter to me what your path is. It could be Buddhism, Christianity, Shamanism, Hinduism, Islam, Catholicism, Judaism, etc. Whatever resonates with you, be consistent with your path and your practice. Each path will be unique to you, as it is for me. Don’t try to force yours onto others; let them be and love them on their path.
Keep in mind that feeling whole doesn’t mean you’ll feel happy 24/7. Accept the reality that as a human, you might feel mad, sad, fearful, etc. at times. Accept these parts of you too. You’re not going to get stuck in those emotions, but you’ll accept that they may come at times. Observe them, and remember who you truly are under those emotions.
I’m going to close with a quote by Carl Jung:
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
My hope is that you will commit to your path toward wholeness, whatever that path is. If you need help, reach out. If you want different results, do something different. I assure you that the inner healing work is worth it!
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.