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4 Signs That Emotional Healing Has Taken Place

A man walking in the sunset..
Nature has long been hailed for its healing effects.

I recall an interview in which Jeff Bezos, of all people, once said, “There is no shortage of hardship in the world.” In context, he meant that no matter who you talk to–rich, poor, young, old–people go through difficult experiences. Some of that pain is physical, like when we feel hot or cold, when we get a headache, or when we need a root canal. And a lot of that pain is emotional, like when we feel tired, alone, angry, anxious, or stressed. Due to human biology, the environment, and how people treat each other, emotional pain is a dime a dozen.

Trauma, for its part, denotes emotional pain that exceeds an individual’s ability to cope. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who never experienced a trauma in their life. (Birth itself can be traumatic!) Frankly, some peoples’ lives have been deeply impressed by trauma, even from childhood. And everyone carries a backlog of unresolved emotions, traumatic or not, that influences their lives in both subtle and straightforward ways.

Trauma is a psychic wound that hardens you psychologically that then interferes with your ability to grow and develop. It pains you and now you’re acting out of pain. . . Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you.

Gabor Maté On Trauma

In this chapter, I elaborate four signs of inner healing that I have gathered from my life experiences and observation. If we can apply all of these to an emotional pain or trauma, the chances are that the would has been patched. On the flip side, these headings can prompt areas of opportunity that haven’t fully been exploited. 

Emotional pain is not our fault, but healing is our responsibility.

Walk In Integrity

4 Signs That Emotional Healing Has Taken Place

1. We can talk freely about it

They say the subconscious mind has no concept of time. This means that it is possible to relive years-old memories as if they happened yesterday. Words can trigger emotions, which is why talk therapy has such great potential. This is also why it can be so difficult to talk about past experiences. If we cannot talk about our past or mention a person’s name without getting emotionally triggered, chances are we still have some healing work to do. On the other hand, if we can talk about a past pain or trauma with ease and transparency, that is because a great deal of healing has already taken place.

2. We experience gratitude for what we learned and who we became

One sign of healing is that we stop seeing the painful experience as a mere misfortune and start to appreciate the wisdom and strength that came as a result. We appreciate that the experiences, as bad as they were, helped transform us into stronger, more empathetic, and more well-rounded human beings. This shift is often accompanied by a change in verbiage. Instead of thinking of things as having happened to us, we get a real sense that they also happened for us. This one applies as much to personal hardship (illness, accidents, etc.), as it does to relational conflict (abandonment, heartbreak, etc.).

3. We gain understanding of why the situation happened

At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for controlling their behavior and responses; there is no excuse to mistreat others. However, understanding why people act the way they do (i.e., empathy) can keep us from taking things personal and becoming resentful. Reality is that flaws people exhibit typically stem from flaws in their own upbringing and experiences (“Hurt people hurt people”). The more painful the offense, the more apparent malice at work, the harder understanding can be to arrive at. However, in most cases, understanding can cast even the worst experiences in a more charitable light. Some things come in pairs; empathy and healing are a prime example.

4. We exhibit a hopeful outlook for the future

Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.

Samuel Smiles

While the pessimist projects negative experiences into the future, the optimist’s perspective is aligned such that future opportunities eclipse past disappointments. Against this horizon, they are eager to move in forward in life confident that something greater awaits.

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An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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