Photo by Mona Lisa Samuelson
The other day, I was petting my cat, Bunny. While running my hand over her paw, her claw inadvertently scratched my finger. The scrape was minute, and I didn’t think it warranted any concern. Later that day, the scratch became tender and red, enough to justify that I take some preventative action.
This prompted me to consider how often others experienced a small nick but left it neglected, and it then turned into a serious concern. How many times has a seemingly insignificant wound deteriorated into a painfully infected abscess?
I also thought about people who suffered minor emotional injuries and because their wound was never addressed properly, they experienced unnecessary grief and pain that lead to excessive trauma and sometimes tragic consequences.
The advantage physical healing holds over its emotional counterpart, is that in many cases, we can see or feel the results. If my finger had become swollen and oozed pus, my hesitation may have worsened the outcome and required action. Because the effects of emotional wounds are not clearly visible, they can be difficult for us to detect or admit.
Injuries on our skin are, for the most part, readily detected. Those occurring internally may not always be quite as apparent. Muscle bruises and broken bones are easily detected while diseases in our blood or internal organs don’t always leave signs. When we recognize something is wrong, the next step is to take decisive action.
Emotional wounds rarely leave tangible evidence even when they instigate horrific and unbearable aftereffects. For some, their destruction is so pervasive it will continue to haunt them for the remainder of their lives.
Unfortunately, this lack of tangible evidence forces some people to deny these injuries exist or perhaps ignore the pain they frequently cause. Since we can be ill-equipped to treat these injuries, it is highly likely they can fester, intensify, and lead to more disastrous outcomes.
If emotional wounds have left behind any physical evidence, it was likely due to physical abuse that accompanied it. The scars or other disfigurations now act as reminders of those events. Depending on the severity of the episode, their recollection may prolong and increase the emotional pain we have endured from the moment those injuries occurred.
In short, there are countless ways emotional injuries happen to us and there are various intensities of their impact on us. Some traumas are mild and their impression may quickly be forgotten. Just as in a year from now, I may forget all about my scratch from Bunny’s claw. But these situations don’t lead to psychologically devastating or life-altering results.
However, some people have endured trauma from their childhood that others believed were innocent or harmless acts, yet for decades afterwards, it continues to haunt them and cause great emotional pain. These wounds may have started out as small “scratches,” but grew into blistering and overwhelming infections.
Clearing the lens
It’s important to understand what parts of our trauma can be healed and which ones may not be healed the way we ultimately hoped they would. Otherwise, we may live a life constantly haunted by these tragedies. Idealistically, complete healing of any wound would allow us to feel as if the original injury never occurred. However, this is rarely a viable option and often not a possibility.
How many times have minor skin abrasions completely disappeared while other, more substantial wounds left your skin scarred? If one requires part of an internal organ removed, it will heal but never return to its original state. Similarly, our emotional wounds vary in differing degrees. There are certain aspects of our emotional well-being that will never return to what they were prior to the incident. But that never translates into not having the ability to heal and even thrive.
If we were brutally traumatized as a child, returning to that innocence and state of mind prior to that event, is not possible. But if we were to believe that healing meant we must return to that pure, untainted emotional state, that belief becomes a deterrent and may never allow us any semblance of healing.
Someone who has lost a limb can learn to function in nearly the same or perhaps even a greater capacity than they had prior to that loss. In this same way, we find means to heal that offer us the same opportunities to become a stronger, more empowered person.
We should never accept the notion that somehow, we cannot heal from any situation. It may not be the way we see it or how we would like it to be, but if we refuse to believe our situation cannot be repaired, then we knowingly have stifled our hopes of living a full life.
What frequently blurs our vision of what healing looks like is our own perception of ourselves. One of the biggest causes of this is shame. Shame makes us doubt ourselves and convinces us that somehow, we are not worthy, or it causes us to believe lies we’ve been told about who we are and accept them as true. It causes us to question or mistrust ourselves because our shame is only comfortable when we remain in this foggy state of self-doubt.
Part of the healing process is becoming aware that feeling shame is merely a signal for us to take action and deem our healing journey a vital component to help us live an inspired and exceptional life. Be secure in the knowledge that while it may require the help of a trained professional, we never have to be chained to false notions that we are unable to heal from any difficulty or tragedy.
Next week, we will discuss insights on how emotional healing transpires. My thanks to Mona Lisa Samuelson for the beautiful picture of Bunny. If you have been struggling with emotional healing, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have counselled many through some extremely difficult situations and they have learned that healing and thriving is possible.