Each one of us in some way or another carry internal emotional wounds. Emotional wounds are hurtful memories, recollections that we keep secret but cause us pain. These wounds come from the stabbing pain of abuse, or the hurtful words of rejection, or the horror of ridicule, or the wrecking ball of someone else’s destructive behavior. They are inflicted by others through prejudice, injustice, cruelty, abuse, damaging words, and wrongful actions. Sometimes, the workplace can be vindictive and destructive.
Who carries these wounds? If an MRI could detect the emotional hidden wounds they would show up on everyone’s chart. Granted some have learned the fine art of covering up their pains with accumulated materialism, but dig through the beautiful home, the exciting vacations, the envious lifestyle, and one will find some pain and bleeding.
Here’s some advice you could give to someone who is dealing with emotional wounds. These are prescriptive measures to begin the healing process.
- Arm yourself with an attitude.
We do not always have control over what happens to us, but we do have control over what happens in us. And, what happens in us is far more important than what happens to us.
Swiss psychiatrist, Victor Frankl, who survived the atrocities of a Nazi concentration camp in World War II, described how some people responded to the cruelty, pain, and injustice that pervaded the camps. He observed that after such deplorable abuse some men sank to an animal level, lying about and stealing from their fellow prisoners. But, he wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
- Forgive the offender.
What attitude are we to arm ourselves with? The most important and needed attitude when dealing with hidden wounds is the attitude of forgiveness. Why? Forgiveness releases our pain. A failure to forgive makes one a hostage to their own hate. We don’t hold a grudge as much as the grudge holds us. Bitterness becomes like a cancer eating away at our insides. Resentment is like taking hot coals in our hands.
- Let go of the past.
The suggestion that the past can be laid to rest is often resisted. You don’t know how bad it was. My hurt runs painfully deep. I could never let go because I was wounded so badly. The misery is suffered each day.
In his book, Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old oak tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.”
Lee knew that it is better to let go of the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain. Let bitterness take root and it will poison the rest of one’s life.
- Face the future.
To let go of the painful memories we face the world again—face our future, firm and courageous. Courage isn’t the absence of fear it’s moving ahead in spite of our fear. Facing the future is to stop living in denial, pretending it doesn’t hurt. To stop trying to fake it, pretending it doesn’t exist. To stop reliving the past over and over again, pretending we can make it go away. We get in touch with where we are. We get on with our life. We face the future.
How is it that when we focus on the future, the hurts from the past will fade away? Because there is a universal law that goes into operation: When we focus on one thing it tends to cause us to forget something else. The key to letting go is refocusing. If we want to get rid of those painful memories, then we focus on the future.
- Learn to love.
Like a sprinter straining to reach the tape or a high jumper straining to clear the bar, are our efforts in loving those who have wounded us. Love is something that we work at, just the way an athlete works on his skills. Love is not a matter of emotional feeling, though that is included, but of dedicated will.
Medical doctor Bernie Siegel said, “I am convinced that unconditional love is the most powerful known stimulant of the immune system. If I told patients to raise their blood levels or immune globulins or killer T cells, no one would know how. But if I teach them to love themselves and others fully, the same changes happen automatically. The truth is, love heals. . . . Remember I said love heals. I do not claim love cures everything, but it can heal and in the process of healing cures occur also.”
When we have been wounded, and hurt by others, to love them often will be a strain. We will have to work at it. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.
By expressing love, we take off the shackles that bind us. The forgiveness is released. Now we can face the future, confidently and strong.
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