Life is not just about love and happiness. Pretty flowers, sunny days, and colorful rainbows are not the only things we get to see in our lives. Work pressure, stress, anxiety, heartrending situations, gruesome injuries, and suffocating, depressive emotional trauma are as much a part of life, as are the enchanting smiles and the joyous laughter. But knowing this does not make facing these situations any easier.
One wouldn’t be wrong to say that life’s not about roses and lilies. It’s got thorns and stones, with occasional fireballs thrown in too. But, again, life is not about jumping over those thorns and dodging those fireballs. It’s about getting pricked, hurt, and burned and still looking for those roses and lilies.
Seems impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. To get past the hurt we face in our life journeys, we need to come to terms with a few life truths.
At some point or other in our lives, we all get hurt. A dear one might say to us things that tear us apart, a loved one might do something that breaks our heart, or some other beloved might depart from our lives, leaving us hollow and sad. These instances happen in all our lives, irrespective of where we live and what our backgrounds are. Such situations don’t come our way because we are weak or fall short of some ideal. These hurts and heartbreaks aren’t our weaknesses; rather, they prove that we are human.
The first step to healing is to acknowledge that you are not alone in this world with your wounds. There are millions of others around the world who are facing similar wounds and defeating them day after day, night after night. Acknowledging this first fact of life will teach you to stay away from self-pity. Falling into the trap of self-pity is detrimental in two ways. One, you alienate yourself from your loved ones because you always see yourself through the victim glass. And two, you never get over the hurt caused to you. In short, you never heal.
Self-pity and constantly viewing yourself as the victim will glue you down more firmly to whatever caused you pain in the first place. Acknowledging that you are not alone and there are many others who are battling similar situations—or even worse—can set you free from the victim whirlpool.
The second most important step towards healing is to accept that your hurt is real, and it is normal and human to feel hurt. Many people tend to deny the feelings of hurt and instead lock their emotions away. These locked emotions fester in our minds at the subconscious level and affect our day-to-day dealings in life and our relationships with people around us. What we need is a way to let our emotions out of our system.
Letting go of hurtful and sad feelings is a two-step process. First, you need to accept that it is alright to be sad; it is human to be angry, hurt, frustrated, or depressed. These are natural human emotions. So you must learn to accept that it is fine to be vulnerable at times, it is only human. Second, you need to find a tangible, physical way to let go of these emotions. Suppressing and bottling up your sadness, your anger, or your depression will only lead to further heartache. When you push your emotions to the back of your mind, they do not wander away and disappear from your life. In fact, they are just incubating in your brain cells for a suitable time to jump back at you with full force.
Ignoring your emotions is not the solution. And neither is psychoanalyzing them to great detail. Thinking them over again and again only makes you relive the hurtful experience every single time. You run your emotions around in a vicious circle with no way to let them out. These feelings of sadness, grief, or even anger grow exponentially to alarming levels when you put them in these repeat cycles. Then one day, when you are least expecting it, they burst forth from your heart and potentially hurt you further and also those around you.
Instead, give them a way to get out of your system. We have established that there is no escapism when it comes to emotions. So think of ways to let them out. Keep a journal, a diary, or even a kind of vision board. These can give you real, concrete ways to express your emotions safely. Write or express your emotions in as much detail as possible. This is decidedly not going to be easy. Writing your feelings down or sticking them up on a vision board can seem to make you relive the experience and turn you miserable. But remember, it is important to channel your feelings out through some kind of medium, otherwise you will be reliving those horrors for the rest of your life.
All the emotions we feel, big or small, happy or sad, are all stored in the emotional control center of our brains. When an emotion or a thought finishes, it is supposedly removed from the cell storing it. The memory of the incident might remain, but the feeling associated with it is rubbed off. It is this finishing that we must aim for through our above-mentioned activities.
A feeling that stays in our mind stays in our body. That is to say, it begins to affect the functioning of our body in one way or the other. Our body’s biological functions, the organ systems, all get affected simply because we have let our feelings remain within us. After a time, our bodies will be under the control of these very emotions that are nothing but distressing and painful. Giving them a channel to move out now becomes even more essential.
Some might argue that thinking about these feelings, the incidents that led to the hurt, so on and so exhaustingly forth, will give you valuable wisdom. This wisdom is what will enable you to overcome or avoid similar scenarios in the future. And this is indeed true. But, excessive reflections will make letting go of the past that much harder. We need a way to stitch up our wounds and make the pain go away. What we do not need is to deepen the scars or numb the pain.
Hurtful, painful situations, both physical and emotional, will leave their scars. This is a reality. There can never be a scar-free existence. A life without troubles and its accompanying scars would mean one is as inanimate an object, like a piece of wood or a stone. This is unrealistic. An impossibility. The existence of these scars is proof of us being human. Learn to accept that your scars are a part of you. In a way, let your scars define you. Not because of the way they make you and the people around you feel, but as a testament to the fact that you went through something life-changingly traumatic and yet came out the other end, stronger and more resilient than before. Be proud of your scars, for they are proof of what life has taught you. Do not shun or shy away from the feelings of hurt within your heart. Instead of feeling embarrassed of your scars, embrace them and feel the difference. Remember, each scar you receive is like a jewel in your crown of life experiences. You are wiser, more mature, and more capable of handling things only because you experienced those very scars, however painful they might have been.
I express my emotions through art. After a painful experience, my journal pages resemble a mishmash of colors and words. But not everyone wants to turn to art or writing to handle their emotions. For those of you who find writing things out difficult or unhelpful, simply talking things over with a professional or even a trusted friend can be a huge help. The base motive is the same. Give your body ways to let go of the past and concentrate on the present. In our struggle to learn from past experiences so we do not repeat the same in the future, we ruminate on our emotions and let them grow instead of letting them go.
A wise man once said that hurt and anger stem from the past. Fear and worry are for the unseen future. When we let these emotions take control of our lives, we entangle our hearts and minds in a past that we can never change and in a future that we are not sure will arrive. And in all the jumbled mess, we miss out on experiencing the joys in the present.
Let us pause here for a moment and ponder how truly profound that is. Letting go of past wounds and not worrying about the future are two of the most difficult tasks a person can undertake, but reminding ourselves that it is our present that needs our attention can be the key to real peace. What we need is not an erasure of our feelings but a closure to our emotions. And it is indeed true that the more we avoid addressing our emotions and taking charge of them, the scarier it becomes. Each passing day that we ignore addressing our feelings and instead choose to immerse ourselves in self-pity and depression is like adding a step to heights we need to scale to overcome those emotions. The more we avoid them, the higher the ladder goes. Just thinking about our past experiences will not make them go away, unless and until we take practical, concrete steps to ensure they are truly out of our system.
Suppressing or distracting yourself with food, shopping, or movies will not work in the long run. They might help you disengage from your feelings and get your attention elsewhere for some time, but that is exactly how they help—for just some time. If you cannot face your feelings, you can never truly heal.
Get to know your feelings, immerse yourself in the experience, and come out wiser and stronger. This is true in the physical world too. Have you ever seen or read about an old-fashioned chimney sweep? Or the drain cleaner? Can you imagine their work getting done without them getting dirty?
Emotions are no different. If you wish to heal, then however unpleasant, you will have to plunge and lean into your emotions to clear them out of your system. Again, make use of tangible, real, and safe ways to let them out. This will help you grow and learn from your experiences and make you more resilient.
Once you have conquered your feelings and let go of emotions that trouble you, find your purpose. In every instance in our lives, even in the curveballs that life often throws at us, there is always a positive, a benefit, a silver lining to look for. Look for something—anything—positive that you can infer from a situation. However tiny the benefit, let your heart concentrate on that one positive that is going to come out of it. This is not you ignoring the hurt, instead it’s you looking for ways to make that hurt your own. After you have let your feelings out, immerse yourself in whatever goodness the situation gives you.
This is the power that tangible release of emotions can give us. And never forget to look for your very own silver lining. That one positive can become your motivation to look ahead into a brighter future and help you truly enjoy the here and the now.
You have experienced and handled your emotions, taken the first step to heal your wounds, and searched for the motivation for a happier future. Now is the time to forgive. Forgiveness is the key to finally closing the chapter and shutting the door. And this one step is the hardest of all.
Do not let the act of forgiving become a validation of the action that led to your hurt, or some form of disrespect to the experiences you have had. No, instead let forgiveness become your own gift for yourself. Forgive the person or people who have hurt you—not for their sakes, but for your own. When the person hurting us is a dear friend, a close family member, or anyone we hold dear, then feelings of “how could you do this to me? I will never forgive you!” are a common occurrence. But once you have crossed the aforementioned first, second, and third steps, forgiveness becomes a tad easier.
Many people make the mistake of making forgiveness the first step. When you haven’t dealt with your own feelings of hurt and betrayal, anger and sadness, there is hardly a way you will successfully and truly be able to forgive the person who caused it in the first place. It is impractical and impossible to accomplish. But once you have accepted your feelings, given them a way out, and looked for positivity in the situation, you will be in a far better situation to forgive the person and move on. Forgiveness will allow you to finally heal and embrace your hurt in the truest sense.
As humans, we are innately programmed to run from situations that give us pain, wound us, and give us grief. Running away and burying our heads in the sand will not solve the problems, nor will it allow us to heal. If we run away from one issue, we’ll run away from many more in the future. That is what will come to define us. Experiencing pain and grief is not our weakness; rather, running away is. Truly acknowledging our feelings might make us feel vulnerable, but we mustn’t overlook the fact that through it all, we are working to be stronger and more irrepressible by our emotions. Our inclination or inborn trait to feel hurt stems from our very human need to love ourselves more.
Healing from your wounds is not a thing to be ashamed of. It is not something to hide. It is what gives you leave to love yourself and take pride in your experiences. With each healed scar in your life, you are indeed adding a feather of wisdom to your repertoire.