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4 Signs That Emotional Healing Has Taken Place

A man walking in the sunset..
Nature has long been hailed for its healing effects.

I recall a conversation in which Jeff Bezos, of all people, once said, “There is no shortage of hardship in the world.” In context, what he was saying is that no matter who you talk to–rich, poor, young, old–people go through hard experiences. Some of that pain is physical, like when you break your leg or have a chronic health condition. A lot of that pain, however, is emotional. Due to human biology, the environments we live in, and the malice we experience from other people, emotional pain is a dime a dozen.

Trauma, for its part, is a particular kind of emotional pain that far exceeds our ability to process it. Trauma, unfortunately, is also not uncommon. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who never experienced a trauma at some point in their life (Sometimes even birth is traumatic!) We all carry a backlog of unresolved traumas and emotional issues that influence our lives in subtle and unsubtle ways. Some peoples’ lives and development have been deeply influenced by trauma, even from childhood.

Trauma is a psychic wound that hardens you psychologically that then interferes with your ability to grow and develop. It pains you and now you’re acting out of pain. . . Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you.

Gabor Maté On Trauma

In this article, I share 4 of the most notable signs of emotional healing that I have gathered from my life experiences and observation. The list is nowhere near exhaustive, but it is something that helps me gauge how much healing work has been done, and how much remains to do.

Emotional pain is not our fault, but healing is our responsibility.

Walk In Integrity

4 Signs That Emotional Healing Has Taken Place

1. We can talk freely about it.

They say the unconscious mind has no concept of chronology. What that means is that it is possible to relive old memories as if they happened today. Words often act as a trigger. This is why there is great potential in talk therapy. It is also why we would often much rather not talk about our unresolved issues. If we cannot talk about an experience, or mention a person’s name who was involved in a situation, without getting choked up or emotionally triggered, it is likely that we still have some healing work to do. On the other hand, when we can talk freely about it, it is likely that a great deal of healing has already taken place.

2. We experience gratitude for what we learned and who we became.

One sign of healing is that we stop seeing the painful experiences as a mere misfortune, and start to appreciate the wisdom and strength that came as a result. We appreciate that the experiences, as bad as they were, helped transform us into stronger, more empathetic, and integral human beings. This shift is often accompanied by a change in verbiage. Instead of thinking of things as having happened to us, we get a real sense that they also happened for us. This one applies as much to personal experiences (illness, accidents, etc.), as it does to our relationships with people (abandonment, heartbreak, etc.)

3. We gain understanding of why the situation happened.

There is never an excuse when people mistreat others, but understanding of a situation’s causal factors is one evidence that healing has taken place. Reality is that the flaws people exhibit are often the result of flaws in their own upbringing and life experiences (“Hurt people hurt people.”) At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for controlling their behavior and responses. However, understanding why people act the way they do can keep us from taking things personal and becoming resentful. When understanding takes the place of resentment, better mental and physical health outcomes ensue.

The more painful the experience, and the more apparent malice at work, the harder understanding can be to achieve. However, in most cases, understanding can help us interpret even the worst of our experiences in a more wholesome manner.

4. We exhibit a hopeful outlook for the future.

When we lack hope, it is difficult to heal, because painful memories consume so much of our thought life. A painful past, which became our present, promises to become our future. When we have hope, letting go of the past is a second nature, because we trust that something better can take its place, and that opportunity is the thing that we focus on. When we have hope, we are eager to move forward in life. Future possibilities override past disappointments.

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An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of our lives. I got my B.S. from Georgetown University and my M.A. from The Ohio State University.

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