Wounds that Don't Heal
Experiencing Joy Despite Our Emotional Wounds
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | October 4, 2021 (edited March 15, 2022)
Emotional wounds scar our existence. They hurt but we can learn from the pain and still experience joy.
We march through life, bumping into unforgiving walls that bloody and bruise our tender hearts. I have kind memories of childhood, loving parents that protected and taught. Most of those early years have vanished from my memories. Yet, oddly, even in my later years of life, I remember instances when life wasn't so wonderful, feelings still raw from childhood mishaps. The emotional bruises that seared reminders of vulnerability forever in memory.
The painful memories, perhaps, are a blessing, Perhaps, the significance of painful embarrassments or great disappointment were so foreign that they registered as important. Many children aren't so fortunate.
"It has been said that time heals all wounds. I don't agree. The wounds remain. Time - the mind, protecting its sanity - covers them with some scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone."
Wounded as an Adult
Not every wound is from childhood. We experience loss and disappointment as adults. These painful swats often stun, leaving us grieving and wincing in pain. Time softens the blow; but the wounds remain. On occasion our thoughts drift back and feel the pain afresh. We remember the hurt, feeling, once again, the agonizing pain.
Those painful memories lodge in our brain, perhaps serving an adaptive function to protect from repeat encounters. We carry these accumulating hurts. We privately bare the burden.
Trudy Govier warns of vulnerability of forgiveness and healing wounds. "When it leads to reconciliation, forgiveness can be risky precisely because it heals old wounds and enables us to go forward again. Implicit in this healing is our trust that the one we forgive is genuinely sorry for what he has done and genuinely committed not to do it again" (1998). The wounds serve as a protecting warning. "Don't do that again," they scream.
Emotional Wounds are stressful events that caused emotional trauma that can't be easily dispelled. This negative experience (or set of experiences) causes pain on a deep psychological level.
Positive psychology buffs suggest that we can let go of these memories. They suggest that we stubbornly choose to hold onto them, allowing the past to haunt our wellness. I'm not so certain that abandoning emotional wounds is a simple act of will. Freeing the emotional demons, for many, seems impossible. The damn things just keep coming back.
I've found that while we may not be able to completely delete memories from the hard drive of our minds, we certainly can dilute and mold them. While past hurts may bubble to the surface, uninvited, and unwanted, we can mitigate their influence by shifting attention.
Significant events remain in memory and occasionally resurface. We can mitigate their impact by diverting attention to positive and joyful aspects of our lives.
Healing Wounds are No Longer the Focal Point
Many lost souls treasure their hurts, routinely shuffle through them, blaming the past for their current depravations. They poke and prod at the wounds, wondering why they still bleed. Their wounds are the focal point of their lives.
Martha Beck wrote that "repeatedly telling a sorrowful story only lights up your brain's pathways of suffering, so you're essentially experiencing the tragedy over and over" (2019).
The scab of an insignificant injury will leave a scar if constantly picked. Many of the wounds that refuse to heal may be of our own doing. We have pulled them up, mourned over them, built woeful stories around them. The original hurt that might have drifted into forgotten pasts now lives on, haunting our present, commandeering our emotions. We may need treatment beyond the natural healing powers of time.
Honoring Feelings or Stewing in the Past
Feelings are important. They often prick our consciousness with a healthy reminder, warning of potential danger. Learning involves feeling and emotional memories provide guidance. We must determine whether we are honoring the wisdom of our feelings or destructively stewing in them.
Beck suggests evaluating if:
If these statements ring true, she suggests, you are wallowing in your wounds, not honoring feelings.
Tips to Aid Healing
Healing is a long process. In some ways never complete (those memories linger). Yet, we are not helpless. There are avenues we can take to lessen the pain and speed recovery.
Most significant change is achieved through small, almost imperceptible steps. We face the right direction and shuffle forward. Healing is a practice of patience and persistence.
Life Improves Before Healing is Complete
Life enjoyment doesn't wait for the past to be completely wiped clean. Small improvements invite new joys into our lives. The past may still aggravate and bring sorrow but new joys begin to take hold, freeing us from the stranglehold of the trauma and wounds. We must find the simple joy of simply being.
We must begin the journey of healing with an understanding that recovery is not linear. There will be positive leaps, and disappointing backward slides. We must prepare for these setbacks, planning contingencies to lift and support.
We need help on healing journeys. Beck encourages finding the empathetic other. "If you've suffered deeply and no one knows, by all means, find an accepting, empathetic person to talk to. You'll feel a wave of pain, followed by ease, lightness, and freedom" (2019).
Burdens can be shared and lightened.
A Few Words by Flourishing Life Society
None of us travel through life without incurring a few wounds. Learning to manage the pain, heal when possible, and continue forward in a flourishing manner is essential for well being. Each path to healing varies. Find your path. Partake in the joy.
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