Will it ever heal?
If you’re into personal development, you’ve probably made some effort to resolve any emotional hurts or traumas you sustained in the past. As we work through them, we often get to a place where we think they are resolved only to find those same hurts resurfacing again in full force at a later time.
It’s not uncommon to feel like the same issues are being triggered in us over and over again. The time and the place may be different, but…
the original hurt at the core of it is exactly the same
– despite our efforts to heal it.
Once I attended a personal growth workshop and another participant there raised his hand. He was referencing this exact phenomenon and asked the instructor, “Will it ever heal?”
There, in front of her audience of spiritual seekers, the instructor said, “I don’t think so. I feel like I’ve worked through my stuff a million times. I’ll think it’s resolved, and then – poof – all those feelings come right back again as if I’ve never worked on them at all.”
As much as I empathize with the experience of the participant, instructor, and the millions of others of us who have had this same exact experience, I have to say that I disagree with the answer. I believe these hurts and traumas from the past CAN be fully healed and released forever.
Lets talk about how…
First, it’s important to understand why these hurts are so elusive, deep-seated, and difficult to heal.
Most of them stem from childhood, though they can also form later in life as well. They may be related to a major traumatic event, or even from subtle but powerful unspoken messages you received during your formative years.
If the messages were unspoken, it may be hard to recognize that they’re even there. There’s no one, solid thing or moment you can point to and say, “That’s the cause.” Instead, we’re left with this slimy, unshakeable feeling that’s hard to define and on the surface may not even seem to make sense.
Even if it’s from a traumatic event, it can be hard to make a connection between the original trauma and what’s impacting us today. We think, “That happened so long ago. It doesn’t have anything to do with the problem I’m having with my… [partner, boss, career, health, etc.]… today.”
Except it does.
And it’s the fact that these messages and events shaped us from a young age and/or in a dramatic way that makes them so deep-rooted and difficult to overcome.
Here are two things you need to do to fully heal these ornery past hurts and traumas:
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- Complete the Emotional Cycle
Emotions are like water through a garden hose. When the nozzle of the hose is wide open, fresh, clean water can flow freely through the hose and come out on the other side. But when the nozzle is closed or the hose is pinched off, the water cannot flow. Instead, it remains stagnant inside the hose, becoming stale and contaminated. Sometimes the pressure inside the hose even builds to the point of bursting.
The same is true of our emotions. As we move through life, we are constantly producing emotional responses to the stimulus around us. Receive a bonus at work = happy and proud. Stuck in traffic = frustrated and angry. Most of the time, we allow these feelings to flow freely through our hose, and regardless of whether they are good or bad, they are fleeting.
However, when the emotions flowing through us feel particularly bad – such as those we might have in response to a significant trauma or repeated negative message – we have a tendency to pinch off our hose.
Rather than seeing these emotions as something separate that’s flowing through us,
we may believe that having them will define who we are as a person.
We might feel afraid that if we allow ourselves to experience the full depth of our unpleasant emotions we’ll be stuck in them forever.
We might be busy being “tough,” or appearing to be tough in front of others. Or, maybe we don’t know how to appropriately deal with strong emotions when we do have them. And because of this, these emotions stay stuck inside us. They become stagnant and contaminated, and the pressure builds.
Even when we do allow some of these feelings to surface, we have a tendency to stop too soon. When someone close to us dies, we rarely think, “OK, I cried at the funeral. I should be over it by now.” We understand that the grieving process can take months, or even years, to complete. We need to give ourselves the same leeway when releasing our deep wounds and hurts as well, and accept that the process can take longer than we think.
So, the first thing we need to do to finally release our old hurts and traumas, is to complete the emotional cycle by letting the full extent of our emotions flow through us as freely as water through a hose.
- Change the Underlying Beliefs
As we move through life we develop a set of beliefs about the world and how it works. These beliefs are usually unconscious, and they are informed by the experiences we have and the things that happen to us – both good and bad.
For example, a woman whose father frequently came home from work in a bad mood, got drunk, and became verbally and physically abusive might develop some of the following unconscious beliefs:
- Men are angry and abusive
- Working makes people miserable
- The end of the day is a scary time
- It’s my job to make people feel better
- I did something to deserve this, etc…
Years later, even if her partner is a wonderful, loving person, whenever he comes home from work in a bad mood, that woman may find herself on high-alert and experiencing all the intense emotions of her childhood all over again.
However, when we take the time to explore and change our underlying beliefs, this no longer happens. Once our beliefs are truly changed, we can be exposed to the same exact circumstances that used to make us feel afraid and triggered, and feel calm and at peace – completely unphased.
If we still find ourselves reliving all those old feelings from the past, it means we are still carrying the same underlying beliefs from our past into our present.
To sum it up…
Although it does take some time and effort, even the biggest wounds from the past can be fully healed and released forever. The keys are: 1) completing the emotional cycle, and 2) changing the underlying beliefs.