What Does it Take to Heal Emotional Wounds?

Warning Signs of Emotional Breakdown Image.

We’ve all experienced something we thought we’d never recover from, a deep emotional wound that may have untethered us from all that once felt safe and familiar.

Whether you’ve experienced heartbreak or other deep emotional pain, such as losing a loved one or the ending of a career you thought would last forever, let’s face it: heartbreak, no matter what form it comes in, sucks.

Emotional wounds can leave us reeling for answers, closure, retribution, an apology for how we think someone might have wronged us, or anything else that might help alleviate the oceanic pain and turmoil that seems to plague us during every waking moment.

However, as we grapple through the initial darkness and confusion of whatever event has created such a deep psychological wound, we often find ourselves mired in uncertainty and self-doubt. 

The closure we so desperately seek never seems to come, which can leave us in a state of shock and despair.

Healing emotional wounds is possible

The good news is that most people eventually recover and heal from their emotional scars. However, recovery doesn’t happen overnight. 

It’s important to practice patience and self-compassion and avoid setting unrealistic expectations as you navigate the healing process.

Grief rewires the brain

There’s much evidence to suggest that grief rewires the brain. 

For example, heartbreak, separation, job loss, and loss of support systems are all grief-inducing experiences, although, unfortunately, they are not as widely accepted as other forms of grief.

That said, when we experience deep emotional pain, it can often feel like we may never return to our old selves, and this feeling may be true for many of us.

For example, studies show that trauma changes how people think and behave, but that doesn’t always mean these changes have to be bad; they can undoubtedly be challenging or make our lives different from what they once were, which may require a level of adjustment and, in many cases, treatment to help us along.

Emotional scars can wound us, but they also increase our capacity for resilience, self-compassion, patience and understanding, so in that sense, change can be positive.

What does it take to heal emotional scars?

In addition to psychological therapies, research shows that specific self-management strategies can help people heal from emotional wounds that may be holding them back and limiting their potential.

These strategies include the following:

1. Understanding and accepting that setbacks are normal and are part of the recovery process

Motivational speaker Les Brown once said, “A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

Setbacks are expected during the healing phase and can teach us what works and what doesn’t.

In addition, experiencing a setback during recovery from emotional wounds can help us assess what we could have done better and how to apply ourselves in the future. They help us lean into our most authentic self, enamoring us with the tools and self-compassion to heal any pain that may have been buried deep inside.

Mental health professionals say that instead of avoiding setbacks, people must get curious about any mishaps during their recovery and what they can learn from them, which can help them move forward toward greater healing and self-love. (8 Tips for Healing Emotional Wounds, PsychCentral, Sharon Martin, LCSW, March 22, 2019.)

2. Seeking help and support from other people

family holding hands together

Reaching out for help and support can be tricky, as being vulnerable with our loved ones (and strangers) can be challenging, even for those who find it relatively easy to open up about their feelings.

However, healing cannot be done in isolation; we need the support and compassion of others to help us along the way.

It can be challenging to ask for help, especially if people have betrayed your trust in the past.

However, leaning into a support system can help you make sense of your experiences and provide the warmth, guidance and support to help you heal past wounds so they no longer have so much power.

Many psychologists believe that asking for support is another form of self-care and can help individuals overcome shame and inadequacy.

3. Taking small steps towards healing

Healing emotional scars can take time.

However, unsurprisingly, most of us are tempted to rush the recovery process, hoping it will somehow take away some of the more unbearable emotions; “the quicker these feelings are gone, the better” is often the thinking behind this logic!

All this is expected, and as many will agree, it’s no fun dealing with constant feelings of rejection, sadness, numbness or anger. 

However, “the only way out is through” when it comes to lasting recovery from painful emotions. To truly heal from emotional scars, we have first to experience them in their entirety before they can be released.

Although we cannot rush this process, we can take whatever feelings and emotions come our way in small, manageable steps.

Thinking about life after a traumatic event or profound heartbreak can be frightening, but taking things in small, bite-sized chunks (including your thoughts and emotions) will give you time to acclimate to your new reality.

The same goes for any change when making adjustments in your life. You may find it helpful to make lots of micro-changes over a longer time instead of one large, drastic upheaval that may cause you to be further overwhelmed.

Small, manageable shifts in thinking and behavior allow us to dip our toe into the water and get a feel for the changes we want to make without jumping in head first.

4. Practicing patience and self-compassion

Patience and self-compassion are vital aspects of recovery; these qualities can help you reflect on how far you have come and may motivate you to keep going when times get tough. Research shows that practicing self-compassion can also reduce depression and anxiety symptoms, while increasing optimism, resilience, and self-esteem.

As mentioned, recovering from emotional wounds takes time – there may be days when you take one step forward and two steps back, and that’s all fine, so long as you are gentle with yourself and keep moving steadily forward.

5. Engaging in a self-care routine

Woman smiling in the mirror outdoor

Self-care has become a buzzword in recent years. You’d be hard-pressed to read an article or scroll through your social media newsfeed nowadays without hearing the term at least a few times, and for a good reason!

Healing emotional wounds can take a lot of time and energy – your reserves may be limited and fluctuate as you undergo the transformation process.

Therefore, you must pay extra attention to any physical or emotional symptoms you may experience, such as aching muscles, exhaustion, fatigue, anxiety, and so on.

These are all signs that you may be overdoing things and need to slow down.

It may be helpful for you to remember to treat your emotional wound like a physical injury; make sure you eat well, get lots of rest, stay hydrated and set healthy boundaries with loved ones if need be.

6. Reminding yourself that healing is possible

Emotional recovery can be a messy and unpredictable process. Some days will be easier than others, and when you think things might be improving, another wave of sadness, anger, guilt or regret rears its ugly head.

You may wonder whether these feelings will ever go away so you can find happiness and peace again.

It’s essential to remind yourself that healing is possible and that if you have managed to overcome other challenges in your life, you can overcome this difficult period too.

You may find it helpful to reflect on how far you have come and what you have learned throughout your recovery, which you may decide to use as a catalyst for further growth and development.

Fortunately, there are various ways to heal emotional scars, and recovery is possible with the right care and support. However, if you’ve been hurting for a while, feeling emotionally stuck, or feelings such as sadness, guilt, and rejection aren’t alleviating, you should seek professional help. 

Speaking to a professional about your concerns

We all need a little extra help from time to time, to overcome life’s bigger challenges. If you’re feeling emotionally stuck, speaking to a professional can provide the additional tools and resources needed to help you fully heal and relieve any unpleasant symptoms you might be experiencing.

Seeing the wood for the trees can be difficult when we feel defeated, broken or overwhelmed with negative emotions.

However, various treatments can help you see beyond the dark veil of negative emotions, helping you to reframe your experiences in a more positive light and better manage painful feelings and emotions that may have held you back.

In addition, specific treatments and therapies can help you understand how your experiences may have affected you and teach you healthy coping skills to help you heal emotionally.

Treatments for healing emotional wounds

In some cases, trauma treatments will be necessary to help heal emotional wounds and improve a person’s mood and overall symptoms. 

Some of the most common trauma treatments include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can benefit those with unhealed trauma. CBT is a talk therapy that helps clients to reframe their traumatic experiences by changing unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and ideas about the event.

In addition, CBT helps people modify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors that may hold them back or lead them to unhealthy coping patterns such as substance abuse or other destructive behaviors.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an interactive treatment where clients can focus on the present instead of the past, teaching them healthy coping skills and relapse prevention strategies.

Eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is a renowned trauma treatment developed by American psychologist Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. 

EMDR uses side-to-side eye movements (bilateral stimulation) and other movements to encourage a person’s traumatic memories to ‘unfreeze’.

This treatment encourages any ‘trapped’ memories to release from the body and nervous system that may have been buried deep inside, alleviating any unpleasant symptoms a person may be experiencing, such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and avoidance behaviors.

Studies have shown that EMDR is an effective treatment that’s been found to reduce the symptoms of PTSD, allowing individuals to heal from the emotional distress and harrowing symptoms often experienced after a traumatic event.

Other trauma treatments

Other effective trauma treatments include:

Treatment at Tikvah Lake Recovery

Tikvah Lake Recovery provides personalized treatment to clients with a wide range of mental health issues, including various addictions, anxiety, depression, and trauma.

Our experienced team of mental health professionals provides a trauma-informed framework for treatment, addressing each person’s unique needs, preferences and recovery goals.

Each of us experiences trauma differently. Therefore, we offer personalized mental health treatment to clients that treat the ‘whole’ person, not just their symptoms.

A person-centric approach to treatment is often the most effective, with holistic treatment programs producing the best outcomes for those in recovery.

We understand that recovery is a lifelong process, and we are here to guide you every step of the way.

Contact an admissions counselor today for further advice and support.

Additional resources

  1. 8 Tips for Healing Emotional Wounds, PsychCentral, Sharon Martin, LCSW, March 22, 2019
  2. How to Recovery When Life Crushes You, Psychology Today, Sean Grover, LCSW, June 16, 2017

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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