The Emotional Healing Process
Everyone experiences trauma at some point in their lives. Healing from those experiences can be complex and difficult, and unfortunately, the process is often under-supported by society as a whole. That’s why it’s important to learn how to use all the resources available to you and seek the support you need.
Healing from past trauma is a journey. It requires opening yourself up to deep and authentic emotions about your pain, feeling them fully, then accepting and recognizing these events as a part of your history. Note that acceptance does not necessarily mean that you have positive feelings about something. It just means that you don’t deny that it happened or that it had an impact on you.
Please keep in mind that the steps listed below are general pieces of advice that some people find helpful when engaging in this process. They are not a substitute for professional help in cases where it’s necessary. However, these tips may offer you the perspective or skills you need to start helping yourself down this path.
Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself
- You are never going to be the same person you were before this. That isn’t the goal of emotional healing. Trauma changes you, and healing will also change you.
- 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 may also be easy days. Try to keep from passing judgment on the trajectory and duration of your recovery. Emotional healing works according to its own logic.
- The emotional healing process is challenging. If you’re struggling, that doesn’t mean you’re failing or doing it wrong.
- Emotional healing doesn’t mean that you won’t experience any pain or difficult emotions. It is important to acknowledge and experience those feelings as a part of your path toward healing.
Beginning Emotional Healing
Here are some questions that may help you start your healing journey: What are the signs that tell you that you need to heal? What specifically are you hoping to change by healing? What can you do to be kind to yourself during difficult and uncomfortable moments?
- Treat yourself with kindness. Commit to treating yourself gently. It’s easy to be critical and judgmental of your progress, but that will only hinder you.
- Consider finding a therapist (if you don’t already have one). There’s only so much you can do on your own, and there’s no shame in seeking help from a medical professional. Therapists are skilled in this kind of work, and if you find one you’re comfortable with, you might be surprised by how much their guidance and support can help.
- Think about joining a support group. Support groups are a space to 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 wide variety of support groups available, many with virtual attendance options. It might be worth looking for a support group related to your specific experience, though you may also be able to find more general groups with people who share one or more identity categories with you.
Other Tips That Can Help With Emotional Healing
- Cultivate authentic gratitude for yourself. You chose to begin this journey, and you committed to the hard work of improving your life. Be thankful for your efforts, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far.
- Try not to isolate yourself. It can be tempting to tuck yourself away until you finish healing so you can emerge renewed later. That can work for some, but for many people, emotional healing is more effective when they stay in contact with their loved ones.
- Feel your feelings. Many people have become skilled at not letting themselves feel the true depth of their negative emotions, whether it be sadness, anger, loneliness, or something else. Unfortunately, there’s no workaround if your goal is to heal. Try to notice when those feelings are coming to the surface. Then, if you’re in a space that allows for it, quiet your body and your 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 begin. From there, you can pay more attention to what you’re experiencing mentally and emotionally. Remember that nothing is permanent. These feelings will pass.
- Mindfulness practices can be really helpful. They encourage you to focus on the present moment, which can be tricky with anxiety and sadness floating around. Try journaling, meditating, and/or breathing exercises.
- Engage your body. Physical movement can also help ground you in the moment. Tune in and see if your body wants to move in 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 during hard moments. Try to find one or two close contacts you can be vulnerable with. When you’re struggling, reach out to them to let them know what’s going on. They may not be able to fix it, but simply being seen and comforted by others can do a lot to help you feel like you aren’t alone, which can make a major difference in the long run.
- Do things that bring you joy. Emotional healing is a tough process, and you’re likely to experience a plethora of difficult emotions during this time. Make an effort to cultivate some pleasure in your life too. 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 sparks 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, increasing your access to and comfort with all your emotions, helping you better understand yourself, increasing your sense of fulfillment, and preparing you in case you ever need 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 medical professionals when you need it. You are an imperfect being embarking upon a challenging journey. It will be messy, confusing, and downright tough — but you can do it.
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