Each person is different when it comes to emotional pain and trauma. Some elements, such as death, affect all of us similarly, but even within that context, our reactions and the way we feel and deal with them are different. Self-healing is a process through which you acknowledge the emotional pain and trauma in your life and figure out a way to stop it from holding you back. Unlike a band-aid that can stop the bleeding and eventually the scar will go away, emotional pain and trauma is a long and slow process, and its appropriate “band-aid” doesn’t exist in a one-size-fits-all type of box. This article explores the concept of self-healing and proposes a few ways in which you can start your self-healing journey today.
What Is Emotional Pain
In a 2011 article published in the Journal of Loss and Trauma, researchers Esther Meerwijk and Sandra Weiss asserted that “a generally accepted understanding and clear definition of what is constituted by psychological pain do not exist.”
It’s an interesting study that explains the difficulty of defining emotional pain in a cohesive, easy-to-understand manner.
In the end, the authors do provide their view on a unified definition that states that “[…] psychological pain is being defined as a lasting, unsustainable, and unpleasant feeling resulting from the negative appraisal of an inability or deficiency of the self.”
Although it starts to sound a little easier to understand, it’s still far from a set of checkboxes that would answer the question, am I in emotional pain or not.
Since defining emotional pain is complex, dealing with emotional pain and trauma is equally challenging. You can’t truly solve a puzzle if you cannot describe the puzzle and how it works. Emotional pain is one of those puzzles because when you feel it, you know it’s there. But if someone asks you to describe it, you are lost for words.
In an article on emotional pain, Dr. Steven Stosny, Ph.D., explains that when you dwell on the causes of emotional pain, you will most likely exacerbate it rather than alleviate it.
It’s normal to think that if you were to find the cause of your emotional pain and thus assign the blame to that cause, the emotional pain would go away. However, self-healing doesn’t work that way. The more you attempt to cast the fault, the more you must shine a light on the pain and make it bigger. That’s the opposite of a self-healing journey and will lead to a life of resentment while the trauma persists.
How Emotional Pain Affects Us
When you suffer from emotional trauma, there’s little outside evidence about what is happening on the inside. That’s why often, people around you might brush off your emotional pain, which will make you feel even worse.
The truth is that emotional pain is not only just as real as physical pain, but many times it’s much more powerful and much more damaging.
The difference to physical pain is the clear answer to where and why. If your shoulder hurts, you get an X-ray. If the X-Ray reveals a tear, the doctor will give you an injection and immobilize your arm for a while. While both of those things will hurt, there is a plan in place to eventually remove the pain and make it all better.
With emotional pain, the cause is often unclear. With the unclear cause, the path to “all better” is not only foggy; it doesn’t even exist.
That lack of direction as to how to deal with emotional pain will only make the pain more prevalent and add a layer of helplessness to it.
When those kinds of feelings inhabit you, the mental pain will often translate into physical pain. Dizziness, headache, upset stomach, nausea, stiff muscles—those are just a few types of physical psychosomatic reactions in which emotional pain manifests in your body.
On top of that, emotional pain changes your behavior and attitude. You may find yourself angry, overeating, over-drinking, isolating or even self-harming.
This cocktail of feelings and reactions turns into an emotional tornado that keeps spinning, and spinning, and spinning. So, the question becomes, how can you get out of it?
What is Self Healing?
Self-healing is a process by which you work toward recovering from emotional pain and trauma. Although the “self” in the name is a driving force, that doesn’t mean that you must do it alone.
The self implies strong self-motivation and self-discipline, but the self-healing journey is often best accomplished alongside a supportive group. That group can be your family, friends, or professional help.
One crucial aspect of this journey is self-awareness. As in the example above, if you were not to feel the pain in your shoulder, you’d never get to the doctor, and your shoulder might remain damaged for good. Similarly, when it comes to emotional pain and suffering, you must at least be aware that it exists before you can do something about it.
Unluckily, that’s a tricky thing to do. Luckily, though, there’s a process in place that can get you there.
6 Stages of Self-Healing
As the complexity of emotional pain and trauma are apparent by now, self-healing is not straightforward. Although putting down six stages sounds simple enough, the reality is a lot more convoluted.
The stages are not an exact science; they’re not a computer program that you can run linearly for a determinate time. Instead, these stages happen differently for different people. They can last longer or shorter; they might go in this order or out of order.
The goal of the stages is to bring forward the awareness of a “possible” road to self-healing. Each person will create their own path using their understanding of where they are and where they want to be. It’s like a map, but everyone will approach it in their own way.
The idea here is to begin the self-healing process, which will scar the emotional pain and eventually remove the scar tissue. Once that has been at least partially removed, there will be new space for personal change and transformation, no longer shadowed by the effects of the trauma. The ultimate goal for that is achieving deep inner peace.
When grief sets in and transforms into long-lasting emotional pain resulting from trauma, your first reaction is to deny it. That is not uncommon, and it applies to almost everything that gives us discomfort. The first reaction is to pretend it’s not there in hopes that it might, in fact, not be real and it will go away.
Some people never leave this stage and spend their entire lives stuck in denial. They might deny that an abusive relationship exists because there can’t be any pain if it doesn’t.
Self-awareness and getting a sense of self-esteem is a way for people to start getting out of denial. By honestly examining what you fear might happen should you stop denying, you begin to open the door for leaving this stage.
When you no longer deny reality and understand that something is genuinely happening to you, the next thing that usually follows is anger. “Why me?” “Why is this happening?” “How can they let this happen to me?”
Those are questions that you ask in anger because you are upset at your suffering. Anger can manifest outwardly toward others or inwardly toward yourself. You might become vicious with other people, or you might self-harm.
Whereas anger is an essential step in the self-healing journey, spending too much time in anger might result in long-term resentment. The critical part is observing the anger, expressing it healthily, but being prepared to let go of it.
The next usual stage is bargaining, which is your way of trying to find a quick fix. It’s an “if only” kind of solution.
“If I do this, maybe he won’t do that, and so I won’t feel this way anymore.”
“If you come to counseling with me, I won’t file for divorce.”
“I only need to be lucky this one time, and things will turn around.”
“Please, God, if you can, just give her one more month.”
Bargaining is an attempt to regain control that has been lost. We often feel that nothing comes for free, so if we offer something or invoke something, we might get back an alleviation of pain.
You might find yourself bargaining for love, time with a loved one, financial security, or so many other things. This transitory natural stage provides a temporary escape out of denial and anger while the person in pain can adjust to the reality that is starting to set in.
Depression sounds like it could be one of the effects of emotional pain. To some extent, that’s true, but in the context of your self-healing journey, depression signals the beginning of acceptance. On the cusp of acceptance, there’s still resistance; you’re not yet entirely over the hurdle, but you’re close.
During this time, some of the effects of emotional pain exacerbate. You may feel intense sadness, difficulty sleeping, loss of motivation, inability to focus, and a general feeling of loss of self-worth.
Although the depression stage sometimes feels like it will last forever and become the ultimate end-point to that journey, it is also a transitory yet necessary phase.
At this stage, it’s essential to have a trusted group with whom you can feel comfortable expressing your feelings and discussing them without judgment.
It’s not easy to predict how long the depression stage will last, but by practicing daily feeling and expressing your emotions, you can ensure a smoother transition out of it.
The acceptance stage marks the point when you finally understand and accept the reality of the pain or trauma, and that reality cannot change. It means that you have been able to detach yourself from the claws of the past and everything that you regret about it. Similarly, the future doesn’t scare you anymore, and you are ready to move forward.
Note that acceptance doesn’t mean that you are “okay” with the loss, although its name might suggest it. You may never be “okay” with your mother not being alive or your spouse cheating on you. What matters is that you accept those realities for what they are, and you can move on without being paralyzed by their mere existence.
Acceptance is your ability to learn how to live with the present and how the present looks like. It is a process, though, and not the means to an end.
Last but not least is forgiveness. Although acceptance gives you the freedom you need to unclench yourself from the claws of emotional pain and gain the wings you need to fly, resentment toward the cause of the pain might not disappear completely.
Think about a spouse who abused you or a man who hurt someone you love. Although you have accepted the reality, you may still hold a grudge toward those people.
When you truly forgive, you finally free yourself. That freedom is a bonus on your self-healing journey because it genuinely seals the grip that the person or event has on you.
Note that forgiveness cannot happen until you remove yourself from the cause of emotional pain and you go through the different stages of grief.
In other words, don’t mistake forgiveness for bargaining.
“I’ll forgive him and give him another chance. He promised it wouldn’t happen.” That’s not true forgiveness; it’s just another way of negotiating your emotions and giving control away.
Begin Your Self-Healing Journey
Emotional pain is one of the most difficult ailments that can affect you, and it’s extremely difficult to defeat. That’s mainly because ordinarily, you might not even be aware that it happened. You feel the effects but understand none of the causes.
That not only creates frustration and additional anxiety, it also blocks your way to breaking its chains.
Therefore, understanding the self-healing journey and going through those stages is critical for removing yourself from that emotional pain and moving on with your life.
It’s a tough and challenging road, but one that, once taken, will drive you to freedom.
Other Resources on Self-Healing
- 7 Ways to Heal Your Body by Using the Power of Your Mind, Backed by Science
- 10 Tips for Emotional Healing
- How To Emotionally Heal Yourself?
- Healing: 5 Steps To Transforming Emotional Pain
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- Are you currently living with emotional pain or trauma?
- Do you recognize yourself in any of the six stages of dealing with emotional pain?
- If you’ve defeated emotional pain before, how do you feel now?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!