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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Healing After a Fall

by Paul Chen

When Theresa Ward took the stage to tell her story in June (see the preceding article), she was alone, literally and figuratively.

All the other storytellers that evening told stories of victimization, of enduring abuse, of witnessing murder, of being kidnapped into the sex trade. But as Ward put it, “There is no version of this where I’m anything but the villain.”

Why get up in front of a packed theatre and tell the world about how awful she had been? “To heal,” says Ward, a communications consultant.

“When you don’t out yourself, when you don’t admit your mistakes, or when you don’t share them enough, then shame has a way of growing,” she says. “They say time itself heals all wounds, but I think it has to be more than time.”

But couldn’t she just tell a few friends and family members? Ward’s immediate response: “You’re forced to just tell one version,” she says, “and I think there’s an accountability there where I’m not going to tweak that version depending on whom I’m telling it to.”

Ward ended her story by referring to new adventures of personal evolution. In the five years since the events in her story took place, Ward has worked hard at self-improvement. Much of her activity is learning from others, and in particular, from Brené Brown. She also mentions a favourite podcast, Where There’s Smoke, which, according to the podcast’s website, “explores self-development through the filter of current events, sports and pop culture.”

In terms of practice, Ward cites two. The first is falling on her sword. Ward claims that she’s just as apt to make mistakes today, but the difference is that she doesn’t try to hide them.

“It feels most important to practice it in the professional sphere,” Ward says. “To leave room for other opinions and other interpretations is an impactful practice, because you let other people feel like they have a place at the table . . . It seems like a win-win if you just start with a level of humility.”

Share your imperfections. Be willing to admit your mistakes. Ask for forgiveness even if you’re not guaranteed to get it. ~Theresa Ward
Also in the professional realm, Ward will soon speak to a corporate audience on “The Wisdom of Being Wrong.” Asked by a business associate to speak on anything she wished, Ward had a hard time picking a topic. Her colleague prompted: “Pretend you’re about to go on a year of a silent retreat. What is the last thing you would want to say?”

That broke Ward’s mental barrier: “Share your imperfections,” she says. “Be willing to admit your mistakes. Ask for forgiveness even if you’re not guaranteed to get it.”

The second practice is one that won’t surprise any Natural Awakenings reader, but it did surprise Ward: yoga. Given her adrenaline-junkie past and her self-described Type A personality, Ward had perceived yoga as “too slow, or too boring.” But given the events of her story — a broken back and a betrayal of a friend — turning to yoga seemed inevitable.

“There was a very strong connection between what was going on in my body and what was going on in my mind and my heart,” Ward says. “There was such a physical restriction, and I think that impacted the decisions that I was making and the things that I was feeling. So . . . as my body healed, and my mind and my heart were growing and healing at the same time, yoga seemed like a really natural way to continue incorporating how those things fuse together.”

These days, Ward is paying it back by helping spread storytelling skills in the service of personal evolution. One of her clients is REEL Experiences, an organization that, according to the company’s website, “taps into the wonder of your favorite movies to give you a new way tosee yourself, as well as the people you love, work and play with.”

Ward facilitates sessions for the company. “It’s about seeing deeper inside of your colleagues than you typically would,” she says. “If employees and teams can learn to see each other better in the workplace . . . that just makes us better humans anywhere we walk through the world.”


Image: Mauricio Graiki/

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