A popular proverb says that “time heals all wounds”, that sometimes you just have to let time pass, holding on stoically day after day, for the wounds to heal. But this belief can convey a wrong idea: that we don’t need to do anything and wounds will heal on their own.
That’s not true. Or at least not entirely.
If we do nothing, if we do not learn from this situation, it is likely that the wound gets closed in a superficial way and will re-open at the slightest touch. So, often, when we think we have already overcome a problem and can finally go on, pain comes back, as intense as the first day.
Emotional wounds need treatment too
When we get a physical wound, we know that we have to disinfect it to cure it. However, we believe that emotional wounds need less care and that heal by themselves. But that’s not true. Even emotional wounds deserve attention.
In fact, the only thing that makes time is allow us to immerse ourselves in the daily routine, plunges us into the concerns and responsibilities of everyday life, so that in our minds we put aside the loss, the failure or the suffered problem. But this does not mean that the wound will heal.
In this regard, a study conducted at Harvard University is particularly enlightening. These neuroscientists asked people who had suffered a trauma to hear a description of what had happened to them while their brains were analyzed.
Thus it was discovered that living once again the painful experiences activated some areas of the brain, particularly the amygdala, which is the core of fear, and the visual cortex. At the same time, it produced the deactivation of Broca’s area, the brain area responsible for the language.
This means that when people experience a trauma, if don’t turn it into a narrative experience (which means being able to accept what happened and find it a place in the autobiographical memory), this will be experienced again as if it were a real situation and, therefore, it continues to cause pain.
Therefore, although in some cases it may be appropriate to go back to the daily routine to take a psychological distance from the problem, in other cases the best way to deal with the painful situation is to take a break and look for new horizons that allow us to reflect about what happened, find it a meaning and move on, seriously.
Heal hurts, but pain helps to grow
When we put a disinfectant on a recent wound it burns and hurts. But we are aware that we have to suffer a bit to avoid greater problems. Nevertheless, normally we prefer not to concentrate too much on emotional wounds because we think that if we ignore them, they heal by themselves.
However, there are wounds that need special care. And that means:
– Do not repress emotions, pretending that don’t exist. Instead, we must be aware of what we hear and try to understand why we feel that way. Giving yourself the freedom to express what you feel has a huge cathartic power. In addition, suppressing emotions doesn’t make them disappear.
– Accept what has happened, however difficult it may be. Although in many situations, especially when there is a loss or a failure, our first reaction is a denial; it is important to overcome this stage as soon as possible, because denying what occurred will prevent us from healing. This means that instead of looking the other way, you need to focus on what happened, to assimilate it.
– Stop trying to find the meaning and search for the lesson. In life, can happen things that seem unfair, to which we can’t give a meaning. So, instead of insisting to ask why, something that keeps us at a dead end, we can ask ourselves what we learn from this experience, how it can help us to be stronger.
How to know when a wound has healed?
The answer is very simple: when you can talk or think about what happened without suffering. This doesn’t mean that in these moments you won’t feel emotions like sadness and nostalgia, but that these won’t harm you anymore, because will come wrapped in a veil of gratitude.
Rauch, S. L. et. Al. (1996) A symptom provocation study of posttraumatic stress disorder using positron emission tomography and script-driven imagery. Arch Gen Psychiatry; 53(5): 380-387.