What does it mean to heal?
Photo by Tim Charleston
Is there a more important, more urgent topic than emotional healing? Even before COVID-19 blindsided us and left us with peculiar feelings we’d previously never imagined, emotional healing was in desperate need for many. But how often was this vital topic ever the center of attention? Even when it was given proper consideration, how effectively was it covered? Think about the last time you came across an article, program, or exposé discussing emotional healing. Were any practical suggestions or helpful advice offered to support those in dire need?
If there is one thing nearly every one of us has in common, it is some past event which caused emotional damage and needs healing.
A Difficult Matter
Perhaps why this topic is rarely considered is because it is an extraordinarily complex issue and many who ought to know how to provide useful information are not fully aware of the complexities and procedures.
One method I have found to be extremely beneficial in understanding how it works is to compare it to its physical counterpart, the healing of our bodies. Our bodies can experience various types of injuries. There are scrapes, cuts, gashes, as well as burns, bruises, breaks, and much more. Some injuries can heal the next day while others may take years or even decades. Sometimes we are left with scars, limps, or other physical characteristics which remain as a constant reminder of the original injury.
Additionally, certain wounds require stiches, surgery, or other kinds of medical expertise simply to get us to the place where our bodies can heal. Ultimately however, it’s up to our bodies to mend themselves. The best surgeon in the world will not be successful if your body refuses to join in the healing process.
Signs of Healing
No matter how grave the injury is, there are signs indicating when healing has begun. Minor scrapes will scab over allowing the skin to grow back together. Discoloration from bruises fade as blood vessels heal and the body reabsorbs the blood. The pain from broken bones subsides as their strength gradually returns.
Often, it is easy to spot physical signs of recovery and being aware of them makes us feel better about our progress.
If only emotional healing were as easily identifiable as physical healing, it would occur more frequently and to many more needy souls.
The problem is how do we know emotional healing is occurring. There are no definite signs identifying or signaling progress. No mental bruise, as it were, slowly fading which provides assurance healing is taking place. But this is not always absolutely true.
There are signs of emotional healing. However, they can be subtle and much harder to detect because they are experienced rather than readily seen. Emotional healing changes our mentality and how we perceive the impact from that injury.
Emotional Healing Explored
There are countless ways emotional damage can be healed but since it’s impossible to cover them all, I’ll discuss one which is crucial for many.
Shame is one of the biggest contributors to emotional damage. As defined in last week’s article, shame is the culmination of all the negative things we’ve come to believe about who we were and are.
While it’s rarely the original culprit, it magnifies the force and intensity of the injury. People who’ve experienced abuse tend to question why it happened, and more specifically, why it happened to them. Was it some punishment for other acts they did? Did they somehow deserve the abuse? At some point, they begin to judge and deem themselves responsible for deserving most of the abuse and subsequent damage!
I have never had a client where this was not the case. It was even true for me.
The first step is realizing there was nothing you did to deserve it. Most abusers want you to believe that lie and will tell you all kinds of fabrications to coerce or intimidate you to believe it. This is definitely not true. Their actions were the result of their own selfish, repulsive, or disgusting desires. You were the unfortunate receiver of them.
This awareness, however, is not always an easy step. Depending upon the length of the abuse, it can be extremely difficult to accept this premise. For some, it may be next to impossible, even with the best professional help. For those who do and can accept it, the next step is where the real healing begins.
Forgive yourself for ever believing you did something to deserve the abuse.
It may seem like a simple and needless step, but it is truly vital. Forgiving yourself is a mental ointment which figuratively helps your emotional skin to grow back together. It doesn’t change or negate what happened to you and may even leave a scar. However, it will help you transform the way you think about you!
At this stage, it is not about forgiving the abuser. That is a separate issue and one which frankly needs an article unto itself. The worst thing anyone can say to an abused person is he or she must first forgive the abuser. It is cold, heartless, and ignorant of everything that person has ever suffered.
Self-forgiveness sets in motion a new approach to observing ourselves, raises our self-esteem and encourages awareness of more shame and negative self-talk. It shows us other hurtful incidents from our past initiating more healing and positive self-perception.
It also builds hope, confidence, and changes our spirits and attitudes. These are indeed the healing signs signifying the emotional healing process. Hold on to them. Cherish them. It is easy to doubt or question them, but remember this. Doubting is akin to reinjuring a flesh wound when it is almost healed. Achieving emotional healing is believing and trusting in our progress and validating the changes to our psychological perspectives.
This is not an easy process. But the rewards are enormous and specifically why I do this kind of work: guiding others on their journeys of emotional healing. The path is not always clear-cut and may involve a caring person to encourage and authenticate your progress. For many, it will be the most difficult struggle yet greatest reward of their lives.
Emotional healing is a unique process and because it’s not always apparent, it’s vital we remember our victories and progress. Changing the way we think about ourselves is precisely what it means to heal.
My thanks to Tim Charleston for the beautiful photo of my good friend Savannah Armijo. I look forward to your comments.
If you or someone you know want to find out more about how to progress on your healing journey, please do not hesitate to contact me. Fill out the contact form on the home page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you.