The emotional healing process
Everyone experiences trauma at some point in their life. Healing from these experiences can be complex and difficult, and unfortunately the process is often undersupported by society as a whole. Because of this, it’s important to learn how to use all the resources at your disposal and seek the support you need.
Healing from past trauma is a journey. It requires opening up to deep and authentic emotions about your pain, feeling them fully, and then accepting and acknowledging those events as part of your story. Note that acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that you have positive feelings about something. It just means you’re not denying that it happened or that it affected you.
Please remember that the steps outlined below are general advice that some people may find helpful in this process. They are not a substitute for professional help where it is needed. However, these tips may provide you with the perspective or skills you need to help yourself along the way.
Set realistic expectations for yourself
- You will never be the same person you were before. That is not the goal of emotional healing. Trauma changes you, and healing will change you too.
- Emotional healing doesn’t happen on a schedule. It will take as long as it takes and it probably won’t be a linear process. Just as there will be hard days, there can also be easy days. Try not to judge the course and length of your recovery. Emotional healing works on its own logic.
- The emotional healing process is challenging. Having trouble doesn’t mean you’re failing or doing it wrong.
- Emotional healing doesn’t mean you won’t experience pain or difficult emotions. It is important to acknowledge and experience these feelings as part of your journey to healing.
Beginning of emotional healing
Here are some questions that can help you begin your healing journey: What are the signs that tell you you need to heal? What exactly are you hoping to change through healing? What can you do to be kind to yourself in difficult and uncomfortable moments?
- Treat yourself with kindness. Commit to being gentle with yourself. It’s easy to criticize and judge your progress, but it will only hinder you.
- Consider finding a therapist (if you don’t already have one). There is only a limited amount you can do yourself and there is no shame in seeking help from a doctor. Therapists are experienced in this type of work, and when you find one that you are comfortable with, you may be surprised at how much their guidance and support can help.
- Consider joining a support group. Support groups are a place where you can share your struggles and hear from other people with similar experiences. This can help reduce feelings of isolation and increase feelings of support, solidarity, and clarity. There are a variety of support groups, many with virtual attendance options. It might be worth looking for a support group related to your specific experience, although you may be able to find more general groups with people who share one or more identity categories with you.
More tips that can help with emotional healing
- Cultivate authentic gratitude for yourself. You have chosen to begin this journey and you have committed yourself to the hard work of improving your life. Be thankful for your efforts and proud of what you have achieved so far.
- Try not to isolate yourself. It can be tempting to hide until the healing is complete so you can come out refreshed later. This may work for some, but for many people emotional healing is more effective when they stay in touch with loved ones.
- feel your feelings Many people have become adept at not letting themselves feel the true depth of their negative emotions, whether it be sadness, anger, loneliness, or something else. Unfortunately, if your goal is healing, there is no workaround. Try to notice when these feelings surface. Then, when you are in a space that allows it, still your body and mind and try to just feel. If you don’t know where to start, paying attention to physical sensations can be a good place to start. From there you can pay more attention to what you are experiencing mentally and emotionally. Remember that nothing is permanent. Those feelings will pass.
- Mindfulness exercises can be very helpful. They encourage you to focus on the present moment, which can be difficult when fear and sadness are floating around. Try journaling, meditating, and/or doing breathing exercises.
- Engage your body. Physical exercise can also help you ground yourself in the moment. Tune in and see if your body wants to move a certain way, then follow its lead. If you can’t figure out what your body wants, try stretching, dancing, walking, running, swimming, or shaking out your limbs.
- Reach out in difficult moments. Try to find one or two close contacts who you can be vulnerable with. If you have problems, reach out to them to let them know what’s going on. You may not be able to fix it, but simply being seen and comforted by others can go a long way in preventing you from feeling alone, which can make a world of difference in the long run.
- Do things that bring you joy. Emotional healing is a difficult process, and you are likely to experience an abundance of difficult emotions during this time. Make an effort to cultivate some joy in your life as well. You can watch your favorite TV show, eat a delicious meal, take a bubble bath, make plans to spend time with someone who makes you laugh, listen to music you like, or do anything else that brings you joy.
Emotional healing is worth the effort
Healing from past events can be difficult, but it will also change your life for the better. It promotes balance in your life, improves your access to and comfort with all your emotions, helps you better understand yourself, increases your sense of accomplishment, and prepares you for ever having to go through the emotional healing process again in the future .
Do your best to talk to and think about yourself with compassion, and remember that it’s okay to seek help from loved ones or healthcare professionals if you need it. You are an imperfect being embarking on a challenging journey. It’s going to be messy, confusing, and downright difficult – but you can do it.
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