The first and most important step in the healing process is facing the truth.
You will never be able to heal if you refuse to acknowledge the fact that you are hurting; pretending negative things never happened or pretending you are not affected by them just keeps you in a place of denial and prevents you from feeling the peace and freedom that healing can bring.
We all have certain traumatic events that have happened in our lives. Although these events were not our fault, we did nothing to deserve them and we had no control over them, we have to take responsibility for the fact that we do have the control now. We can choose how much we let the past affect our present lives and current happiness.
The past may have shaped us into who we are, but we have the power to change and better ourselves. It starts with acknowledging the wounds and facing the underlying causes of them.
A traumatic event is any physical, mental, emotional or spiritual event that prevents the psyche from continuing on in the same way it did before the event occurred.
There are many traumatic events/scars that may need healing, including (but not limited to):
Sigmund Freud described this as “Repetition Compulsion”.
An example of Repetition Compulsion would be someone who repeatedly finds themselves in an abusive relationship.
We end up doing this without realizing it; recreating the past trauma is not what we consciously want, but we do it subconsciously in order to try and change the outcome this time around, thinking that will be the key to healing the scar. However, it just ends up adding more pain to it.
True healing takes time and patience, but can be achieved through actively taking certain steps:
At the time of your wounding you formed certain beliefs about the event based on what you were able to perceive at that time. But because you were younger (and especially if the event happened during childhood) you had a more limited understanding of your life and environment than you do today. The beliefs you developed then, however, are the ones you are holding on to now; this means that when an emotional trigger occurs in the present day and reminds you of the wound, you subconsciously view it in the same way and with the same understanding that your younger self viewed and understood the original trauma. You become trapped in your past and force yourself to feel those same emotions over and over again.
Now that you are older, though, you have the capability of looking at the event differently. You are able to view it from perspectives that your younger self wasn’t able to grasp and therefore you can begin to understand it in a different way.
The next time an emotional trigger brings you back to that original event, instead of reliving it from the point of view of your wounded self, try to look at it observationally with your current adult mind. This allows your present day self to integrate with your wounded self and begin a healing relationship between the two. It will also start to give you distance and space from the trauma. Emotional triggers will always occur, but now you can start to face them with your current understanding as supposed to facing them with the limited understanding of the person you were when the trauma took place.
Now that you are beginning to look at your wound with new understanding and from a present day mindset, you will find your reactions to emotional triggers starting to change as well. There will be times when a trigger occurs and you react the way you usually do, with the emotions of your wounded self coming back up. But there will also be times when a trigger occurs and you react as your present day self, observationally and rationally. Your reactions will be varied and mixed; this is because you have now started to introduce your past and present selves and they are both fighting for control over your emotions.
As you become more aware of the difference between your past and present self, you will be able to tell which version of you is reacting. And when you can tell which one is reacting, you can start to choose which version of yourself you want to face the trigger with. This helps you gain control and gives you power over the wound, as supposed to letting your wound continue to have power over you.
Reflecting on the traumatic event is going to hurt. It will bring up a lot of pain that you have worked hard to suppress. It is going to be uncomfortable and cause a lot of wounds to re-open. But don’t resist just because it hurts and don’t force yourself to go numb in order to avoid the pain; working through the pain is the only way you will ever heal.
We tend to think that if we avoid addressing the pain it will protect us from ever feeling it again, but all the avoidance does is prevent us from moving forward and getting out of the past. We become stuck and are unable to heal, which leaves us even more susceptible to experiencing pain and more likely to develop and repeat self-destructive habits. If you resist the pain, you resist the healing. So, force yourself to be brave and face the pain head on; it’s the only way you’ll get better.
Whatever emotion you’re feeling, allow yourself to feel it fully. Having an emotion, no matter what emotion it is, means that you’re no longer numb; this is a good thing. By giving yourself permission to actually feel, you are giving yourself the validation, love and attention you needed when the wound first occurred.
Sometimes a lack of validation, love and attention may have been the cause of the wound in the first place, or it may have deepened the wound when you tried to tell someone about it and were met with indifference. Either way, you now have the chance to give yourself what you never received.
When you look for someone else to validate your feelings you give them power over you and keep yourself pinned as a victim. But by validating yourself you start to take back the power; you become the source of your own love and healing and the wound itself starts to lose its power over you.
Healing takes time. The longer that you have suppressed the wound, the longer it is going to take to address and heal it. The journey will be long and will have peaks and valleys; there will be days when you feel great and as if you’ve finally conquered the past, and then there will be days when you feel as though you’ve regressed. However, every time you fall back and force yourself to continue, you get back up stronger and with more of you in tact. It’s like a muscle that you tear down in order to build up stronger, the pain is inevitable but it means that something good is coming.
It’s incredibly important to not stop the healing process once you’ve begun. When you open the wounds but don’t follow through on healing them, they cause even more damage. So keep actively trying to get better and look for healing. Never put a time limit on healing, but instead remain patient with yourself and with the process.
The entire healing process is about learning; not just learning from the past, but also learning about yourself, your emotions, reactions and what you are capable of. See each day as an opportunity to learn something new and be grateful for each lesson. Learning means you are growing, and growing means you are healing. Don’t settle for complacency but keep striving to learn more about yourself. Challenge yourself and be proud of yourself for starting this journey. And as you begin to feel yourself heal, share what you have learned with others.
THINGS TO REMEMBER DURING YOUR HEALING JOURNEY:
– Be brave and allow yourself to feel.
– Don’t blame yourself for any abuse you may have faced. You did not cause it and did not deserve it.
– See each day as an opportunity to grow.
– When you reflect on past wounds, try to look at them from different perspectives. If another person was involved, try to understand what was happening in their lives that might have caused them to act in a certain way.
– Try to forgive others & yourself.
– You can’t change the past, but you can change how much it affects you now.
– Be kind and compassionate towards others; everyone is facing a similar struggle.
– Look for other people that can relate to what happened in your life and understand what you are feeling.
– Don’t fall back into self-destructive habits; break the cycle and continue pursuing healing.
At first it will be difficult to talk about what happened, but it is one of the best things you can do when looking to heal. Find someone you trust, whether it be a close friend, family member or counselor, and share with them your story. Don’t look to throw your burden onto them, but just verbalize your past and what happened.
The first few times you do this, you may react in an unexpected way; you might start trembling or shaking in anger or fear. But the more times you do it, the easier it becomes. As the healing starts to take over, you will start to become freed from the past. It will start to feel like you are talking about someone else’s life all together because the wound will no longer have control over you.