Some appeared in the last ten or twenty years, and depending on your age, most likely made their way into your mind in the last three decades or so. While the emotional context in which these wounds occurred and the significance you have attributed to them may make them seem fresh, pertinent, and trustworthy, this is not the case. While the protective mechanisms in your body and mind are designed to keep you safe from reliving painful memories, the one thing they consistently prevent you from doing is moving forward and making the most of your life. To help you start the process of mending those scars and taking the next step toward your best life (whatever that may be for you), here are seven suggestions.
Emotional wounds, like physical ones, are helped by being bandaged as soon as possible. Just as it is best to begin letting the skin breathe by opening the wound to air once some time has passed. Emotional traumas become scars unless the natural healing process is allowed to take effect. The experiences and memories that caused us emotional pain also merit adequate “air time.” Sometimes we need help to share our experiences, and our emotions, the ways in which we were changed, and any other relevant anecdotes that continue to resonate with us now.
However much of your past has been kept buried and unsaid, it is still very much alive and well within you, influencing your every move. When they are buried too deeply, you may be oblivious to the impact they are having on your life at the present time. You’ll need outside assistance in order to spot them.
You will need to talk about it with a trusted coach in order to free yourself from its hold. Choose a reliable, certified, and friendly Coach and start by telling them a brief summary of your life. Give a little more, and then a little more, and then a little more. In her many years of practice, Meira Golbert Bar-Lev has helped countless people overcome the intangible wounds caused by emotional abuse and trauma or phobia.
Scars and wounds from unhealed emotions reveal the depth of our past trauma. Perhaps you experienced the untimely death of a loved one. Maybe they “checked out” emotionally and cognitively but were still present physically… Perhaps you never quite fit in because you never quite had the “correct” hairstyle or wardrobe. Perhaps you took a failing grade as evidence that you lacked intelligence or potential. Any sort of wounding in one’s sense of self or worldview is the result of an emotional experience that wasn’t properly processed at the time it occurred, and hence leaves a scar. We give our emotions more substance and intensity when we suppress them. Maybe you were too young at the time to realize what was going on… Perhaps it was because you didn’t feel secure enough to express the negative feelings that surfaced… Perhaps you were brought up with the idea that showing emotion was a sign of weakness, or that you should try to force yourself to think positively and suppress negative emotions, or that you shouldn’t allow yourself to feel the way you do. It doesn’t matter when or why you’ve been avoiding feeling your negative feelings, you must uncover them and experience them in order to heal from the past.
Emotions, as the saying goes, are transient guests. Unwanted fears like people can come and leave as they choose. Experiencing those old emotions is the only way to open the door and allow them to pass through. Just as Airbnb guests staying for the weekend can turn into long-term lodgers if you don’t address their overstay. It’s important to remember that the process of healing and maturing is not always pleasant and that forcing yourself to feel good will hinder rather than aid your recovery.
An element of shame (typically your own) is present in many of the old scars we carry in our psyches. It’s possible that you’re still carrying shame associated with what you did, what you want, and/or who you are from the past. This shame may stem from a mistake you made that made you feel inept, a situation that made you feel inferior, or a choice that nobody approved of. Let’s be honest: our media, schools, and society at large don’t exactly promote the values of accepting one’s own humanity despite flaws, forgiving oneself for previous misdeeds, and telling oneself it’s alright to feel good about acting on urges and impulses that aren’t the “standard.” And that’s why you need to do it even more. You have to make a decision that goes against the grain of society even if that means pretending to be perfect, passing judgment based on past failures, and putting professional success ahead of personal fulfillment. You have to make a conscious decision to switch from the shame game (which only serves to keep your wounds alive) to the self-compassion game. Guilt is not an inspiration. Compassion for oneself is.
Get in touch with your inner self and think about what transpired in that experience that has stuck with you. Not with harsh criticism and condemnation, but with interest and understanding. Cleanliness is essential for the healing of both physical and emotional traumas. Turns out that guilt, a close relative of shame, is the dirt that settles on your wounds. When you point the finger at someone else, you enter a very disempowered state, one where you can’t perceive your own role in the situation or take any good action because you’re too busy trying to make them feel bad about themselves. The internalization of blame keeps you feeling flawed, bad, or inferior. It weakens your capacity for empathy and stops you from accepting whatever responsibility you may share in the situation. To assume responsibility for one’s actions without simultaneously placing blame on oneself is a concept you may not be familiar with. Yes, you can. And the first step is to look inward, asking oneself questions like “What happened, and why did it [bother, irritate, frustrate, sadden, etc.] me so much?” and then following that by exercising your self-compassion muscles while resting your self-criticism and self-blame muscles. Self-compassion is sometimes more helpful than learning to be less critical of oneself.
In all likelihood, you are a person of great strength, intense determination, and unwavering dedication to improving yourself. Many modern women share this “I can do it all by myself” mentality because they are feisty and strong. Let’s be honest: there are occasions when a “I don’t need anything from anybody except me” attitude is helpful, but there are also instances when it can be detrimental. As you can hopefully tell from points one through four, wounds don’t heal unless they are exposed to light, air, and human contact. As long as the wound is unhealed by covering it up, your trauma won’t heal either… So nothing ever happens in your life… not in the places you’d like it to!
It turns out that the idea we have to make self-change occur is mistaken. The truth is that we get stuck in a loop obscured by the mind’s incessant chatter and dismissing, rather than listening to and feeling, the very feelings that lay behind our internal dialogues. It is because we believe we need to undo and redo things and be in go-go-go mode rather than be-here-and-now mode.
Have you ever known someone who would constantly rehash a painful experience, such as a failed relationship, bereavement, loss of income, or other disappointment? It’s as if they keep breaking their own heart again and over by rehashing the story, even though the event itself has long since passed. They are trying to unwind from the underlying stress of it, even if only momentarily.
Just stop and catch your breath. Pay close attention to your current emotional state. Focus on being present with the pain. Just be still with your rage for a while. Acknowledge and accept the uncomfortable emotion. There’s no need to try to fix it or get rid of it. Just sit back and watch as it begins to dissipate on its own accord. Nothing is wrong, and there are no wounds to heal, in the here and now, as long as you are not rejecting the way things really are.
So, let’s move on to point #7.
You were created in the image and likeness of God. From that vantage point, there isn’t anything wrong with you, and there wasn’t anything that required fixing. It’s easy to forget that the person you currently are, in spite of any flaws, is worthy just as you are. Consider “trying on” the following set of beliefs as you experiment with points 1-6:
“My wounds are a part of the perfection that is me,” “Who I am is already enough,” and “What if – after all this time – there was truly nothing that I needed to mend…” I only needed to find the underlying issues and find the correct perspective on them to accept myself as whole and complete.