Not too long ago, I had to endure a very deep emotional wound that took some time to heal and it caused me to reflect on why it took so long to heal. I thought I was over the hurt. I had processed the situation and wanted to move on without feeling the pain – but I couldn’t. It got me thinking about the different types of emotional wounds we suffer throughout our lives and in the process, I discovered a correlation that shed light on why this emotional wound was different.
Emotional vs. Physical Wound
An emotional wound is much like a physical wound in that the severity of the wound dictates the length of the healing process as well as the method of healing. For example, if I received a paper cut, it would sting for a bit but shortly thereafter, I would have forgotten all about it after the very basic of treatments. If I sprained my ankle, it may take a little longer for me to be able to walk on it with comfort – depending on how well I stick to the treatment process that is specific to that injury. If however I were in a fire incident and had all the skin on my right thigh burnt off, it would take even longer to heal. I would have to follow the specific instructions given to me by my doctor to ensure the healing process takes place and hope to have minimal scarring.
I would imagine that this last incident would be harder to forget than the paper cut. The PHYSICAL presence of the scarring will be a continuous reminder any time I touched my thigh or looked in the mirror. I may have recovered physically from the fire incident – my life may be back to normal but there will always be that reminder even though the discomfort of it manages to fade with time.
If I had a burn scar that does not feel like the rest of the skin on my thigh, I may be more protective over anything that comes close to it. It may be more sensitive than the skin on other part of my body and I may not like to have it exposed to heat of any sort as I may believe (right or wrong) that it would make it vulnerable to the temperature. These are expected responses because they are tangible.
However if we present the same hypothesis using emotional injury – it can become more difficult to address – so indulge me for a moment. Let’s say that one day, I was teased in the playground as a little a five year old child. I went home crying to my mother who reassured me that those mean older kids were just harmlessly teasing me and that my hairstyle didn’t really look like “lots of pigtails”. I may be hurt for a while but as I grow and flourish (as children do) I learn the insignificance of the incident. The memory (wound) may remain but it causes no discomfort.
On the other hand, imagine I was to find out that my 5 month old puppy was hit by a car and killed after running into traffic – it would certainly be a devastatingly painful experience – especially if it was the first time I had my very own puppy. I may not want to have a pet for a while after that incident since the memory (wound) of the (emotional) pain would still be raw. But eventually, as with a physical scar, the pain or sensitivity of the emotional wound becomes less urgent and blurs into the background of our mind.
It takes time for this to happen because both our physical body and our emotional make up must regenerate new physical and emotional components in order to keep growing, developing and in essence, living.
Imagine that I suffered the deep wound of betrayal and abuse as a teenager in such a way that it took many years to heal that emotional wound (the memory of the event and the pain it caused), the emotional scar would be pretty deep. I liken this emotional scar to the burn scars in the physical example earlier or more aptly (in my mind) to the pain and discomfort felt after having major surgery that leaves you with a large ugly scar to remind you of where you were cut open and sewn back together. After this surgery, you may feel glad that it’s over and want to get on with your regular life but the wound will not let you. The wound HAS TO take the time to heal. The stitches HAVE TO be removed, the wound HAS TO be treated, the pain HAS TO be soothed. It takes time. A long time. And there is no choice.
Suppose then that some years after that surgery, (you know, the one with the large scar, where the skin is still numb and sensitive to the touch) you have a car accident that has some piece of metal rip right through that same spot – right through the scar, how do you suppose that may feel? What do you suppose the healing process would be like? How do you suppose you would feel following this healing process?
And how would that translate for an emotional wound of that magnitude? For me, when I actually experienced an emotional would of this magnitude, the time that it took to heal seemed even longer than the first time. But it really wasn’t. We may find that it only seems that way because we do not want to have to go through it all over again. We want to get to the good part – the “I am okay again” part.
A More Recent Wound
That is what happened to me that caused me to write this article. I had both the extreme physical AND emotional wounding at the same time. At a time like this – it helps to know who God is in your life.
However, what started me writing this was a revelation I had regarding this new emotional would which I received at the location of an older emotional scar that I believed had healed. So when this new wound dug deep into the scarred location, I experienced the shock of it and since it was familiar, I thought I should be able to brush it off. I thought the wound would heal quickly and I would be able to get on with things as if it had never existed.
But I was wrong. That’s not the case. Not at all. It STILL takes time to heal. How annoying!
The difference is that this time round, I knew how to dress the (emotional) wound, I knew which ointment to put on it, I knew which vitamins helped heal it and I knew that I would survive it. But what I realised also was that I can’t just ignore its existence because it is familiar. I STILL have to treat it with the same healing balm. Whether I like it or not.
I also chose to learn from it, as with all experiences in life – especially the unexpected shocks to the system. It is of great importance to be able to remember what you have already survived in the past in order to move forward in life.
Remember when you thought you could not make it through that last difficult time? Remember that you did. Remember HOW you did. And most of all, remember that we are human, with human feelings and human bodies and that if we treat ourselves well, we will be of better service to others.
Originally written: 2010 All Rights Reserved © A.V.Powers
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