Time Does Not Heal Anything, Perspective Does.
If you are healing from emotional trauma or grieving a loss, and people tell you to give it some time because time heals everything, do not believe them.
Time by itself heals nothing.
Many survivors of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, do not find themselves truly healed even after decades.
They may have survived the abuse. That is to say that they were successful in getting themselves out of the abusive situation, healed physically, and are able to live normal lives. They survived, but that doesn’t mean they have healed completely.
Trauma survivors often find themselves replaying the traumatic events in their minds over and over, and thus re-living the emotional trauma again and again. They often find themselves preoccupied in a constant stream of background thoughts: Why me? How can somebody do this? What if I hadn’t done that? This isn’t fair, why is there no justice for me?
They can’t be fully present in their work or in their relationships.
They often find themselves in the grips of irrational fear, sadness, doubt and anxiety, which blocks them from living a happy and fulfilling life they were once capable of living.
This experience of being preoccupied is the beginning of the healing process. Healing begins after you have successfully survived the abuse. Once you are away from the situation, place, and people that caused you trauma, then the healing process begins. The constant stream of thought, the irrational emotions are signs that your emotional body is trying to heal itself.
It is often at this crucial time, we are advised to stop thinking about it, to move on, and to give it some time. Such advice, though it comes from good intention of providing hope and getting us out of victim mentality, really doesn’t help to heal and often delays it.
Time gives you many opportunities to distract yourself from the healing process by keeping you busy in day-to-day life, and that may seem better than facing the throbbing inner pain. However, the throbbing inner pain does not go away by ignoring it, it gets worse and impacts the quality of your life negatively.
Though our physical body heals seemingly on its own in due time, it is not the time that caused the healing, it is what happened inside the body during that time that healed it.
Similarly, to heal emotionally, we need to let our emotional body go through its own process. It requires our conscious attention and active tenderness.
Emotional healing, in essence, is a search for empowering meaning that can be assigned to the traumatic experience.
As human beings, we are hungry for meaning. We are continually assigning meanings to things and events to create a sensible, reliable mental model of the world around us. The credibility of our mental model gives us confidence and creates the juice of energy and enthusiasm for living.
A traumatic experience reminds us painfully that our mental model of people and the world was inaccurate, if not entirely out of alignment with reality. Our most cherished beliefs about self and others were proved wrong. The reality disproved our trust in people, our theory that this universe is a friendly and fair place.
The shame and guilt we feel is at its root a feeling of inadequacy to create an accurate mental model of the outer world. Life does not feel worth living if it does not feel meaningful to us, as it seems to lack the ideals and principles we hold so dearly. Our gut feeling and instinct don’t feel trustworthy anymore, as we remember it leading us to the traumatic experience.
Our most crucial inner need is to have confidence in our ability to make sense of the world outside of us.
When it all makes sense, it is then that we feel capable of living out our full potential. Without a sensible model, which can explain what happened to us, and what it means to us going forward, we feel lost, lonely, scared and incapable of taking confident actions.
The constant stream of thoughts, reactivation of painful memories, is your mind’s plea for your active participation in creating a better functioning mental model. The model that will have a place for this traumatic event along with your other positive cherished beliefs, and will all still make sense.
When a meaningful model is created, the emotional charge attached to the memories dissipates, and you are healed. You will transcend the trauma, evolve to the next level of emotional maturity, and fully regain your zest for life.
To come to this point, you need a change in perspective. You need to step back from your life and look at it from a broader angle.
As an analogy, imagine looking at a painting. If you are zoomed in on a blotch of black paint, it may seem disgusting, ugly and meaningless, but when you step back few feet and look at the whole painting, that black patch makes perfect sense in the overall picture. You see how it all fits together and you know the function of that black patch in the overall beauty of the painting.
Our lives are artwork in the making, but many times we are too close to our life events. When we mentally step back and look at our lives in totality, we might interpret the traumatic event very differently.
Step back even further and look at from the perspective of your ancestors and future generations, and you will place a very different meaning to the event. Stepping back even more and examining it for the whole of humanity, you see an entirely different picture.
To heal emotionally, you need a perspective that will assign an empowering meaning to the traumatic event.
Through such a broader perspective, you are then inspired to act. You may be encouraged to fight for a cause, to start a social movement, to help someone else like you to avoid going through what you went through.
When we heal fully from a trauma, we are able to talk about it without being emotionally triggered by the memory of it. Fully healed people talk about the incident as if it happened in some past life or to someone else and not to them. They have a great deal of understanding around the event, compassion towards themselves and others and a sense of authentic peace about it. That is real closure, a true sign of healing.
A traumatic event needs empowering meaning as an antidote to heal. Finding that antidote is a process in time, but when you see this antidote, the healing happens instantaneously, in a matter of a moment.
When your mind invites you to the emotional healing process through preoccupation about the event, do not judge yourself, do not put it off with some excuse, instead accept the invitation and try to make sense of it all by taking a different perspective.
When you are genuinely committed to your healing, you will start finding resources, people, situations that will help you widen your perspective. Emotional healing is an act of self-love. Give yourself the gift of your own love through acceptance, understanding, and empowerment. You totally deserve it, and you can set yourself free.
Maithilee Samant has many diverse interests and expertise. She immerses herself in the domains of technology, leadership, art, writing, and life-coaching. In addition to holding a baccalaureate in Computer Science, Maithilee is also a certified life and career coach. Find out more about Maithilee and her work at her website.