Emotional healing isn’t easy, but it will change you for the better. Here’s how.
Before you can heal an emotional injury, you first have to accept it. Too often we reject our emotional injuries and hurt feelings as if they were needless interruptions—unwanted, beside the point, and interfering with our progress.
You may understandably want to hurry past them to get on with your life. But what if your injuries were crucial to your maturation? What if they were important building blocks in your unique identity?
Your particular emotional injuries help define your individuality. Tolstoy said that happy families are all alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The same is true of us as individuals. The ways in which your emotional injuries affect you become an important part of your one-of-a-kind individuality.
Emotional injuries also help soften that self-centered part of us that wants above all to be special and in command. This egoistic part lives in fear of anything or anyone that doesn’t serve its shortsighted goals of pleasure and control.
It sees life as exclusively about power, possession, and protection. It blames and judges everything and everybody, guarding its entitlements by keeping everyone at a distance. Sometimes it takes an emotional injury to get through its defenses.
What Truly Matters
Emotional injuries, such as hurt feelings, betrayals, and losses, reveal what truly matters to you. An emotional injury can connect you back to your heart, if you’re willing to let it. Your vulnerability drops you down into your deeper nature and into more genuine relationships with others. If allowed, your emotional injuries will open you into a more meaningful and deeper experience of life than any control-obsessed ego could ever imagine.
Any kind of healing process, physical or emotional, is governed by nature. Nature sees injury as a serious threat—whether you’re an animal, human, plant, or tree, and it spends energy and resources to make sure the weak place is made strong again.
For instance, a tree lays down extra whorls of bark around injury sites, taking itself seriously enough to expend costly growth on strengthening repairs.
In human terms, we repair ourselves with whorls of time, experiencing our feelings, taking them seriously, and honoring our vulnerability in the moment. We also heal ourselves with words, by talking it out with someone.
All our obsessive thinking and circular talking are like the swelling and inflammation that follow an injury; it may look like it’s making things worse, but the body and mind are intent on a thorough healing, not a quick fix. Nature takes its time in rebuilding our bark.
Unfortunately, our control-obsessed ego has given us the idea that spending time to process emotional injuries is almost pathological. Many times people with emotional injuries are encouraged to shake it off and move on. It’s as if we have a morbid fear of getting stuck in emotional pain and never getting out.
We do the same with loss and grieving, feeling pressure to quickly return to life as normal. After all, who wants to experience grief? But the deeper question is, who wants to be incapable of grief?
The key to successful emotional healing is to accept that you probably won’t be the same afterwards. The more you fight against this truth, the longer you may take to heal. You’re better off accepting that emotional healing usually leaves some scars. Healing is not like a magic eraser. The goal shouldn’t be to act like it never happened to you.
We don’t need to find meaning in a broken bone or cut finger, but broken hearts and deep disappointments seem to ask us to accept our pain and find some greater meaning in the experience. That’s a tall order when the injury is deep, but it seems to be our uniquely human way of healing.
I think of emotional injuries as initially unwelcome guests that over time teach us a lot about ourselves. Our challenge is to find a way to have a good relationship with them even though they cause us pain.
Emotional healing can take a long time, and even then it won’t be like it never happened to you. You’ll be changed by it. But it’s totally up to you to decide if you will be changed for the better. It’s an enormous act of maturity to be willing to feel the hurt and integrate it into your life, instead of railing against it.
The challenge is to find meaning in your healing process. You do this by making it a conscious, deliberate focus of your life, giving it the time and thought necessary to slowly build up patches of wisdom and compassion around all the hurt places.
Just like the tree, there can actually be more to you after an injury, but only if you take your healing seriously.