Three points about healing have become clear to me after thousands of hours of working with people who have suffered both common and unimaginable emotional pain. The first is that human beings have an extraordinary capacity for healing all kinds of emotional wounds.
The second truth I’ve learned by working with those who have suffered is that the most important element in overcoming emotional pain is a healing identity.
People with healing identities focus on their resilience, strengths, and desire to improve their lives. They do not give in to thoughts of damage, unfairness, bad moods, blame, or victim identity. They certainly have such thoughts and are occasionally engulfed by the power of them, but for the most part they resist the impulse to indulge them. Instead, they keep focused on their desire to heal and improve.
The third point about healing is that it seems to require at least an implicit understanding of the nature and purpose of painful memories and how they play a crucial role in emotional wellbeing. That purpose has nothing to do with the past. Rather, memories of pain serve to keep us safe in the present. Those with healing identities keep focused on making their lives better in the present and future.
Painful memories come equipped with a built-in healing mechanism, as long as our efforts to keep safe do not violate deeper values. For instance, pain that results from death of a loved one runs a natural healing course, unless we try to protect ourselves from loss by withholding love from others. The violation of the deeper value of emotional connection keeps the memory of loss painful. But once we allow ourselves to invest value in other areas of life, the memories of the lost loved one become pleasant reminders of enriched life experience. In other words, over time painful memories activate the powerful human capacity to heal, improve, and create value.
When we disrupt the natural healing process by focus on damage, unfairness, moodiness, blame, or victim identity, painful memories often cause depression, obsessions, resentment, anger, addictions, abuse, or violence. That is why it is so crucial to identify with your deepest longing to heal, improve, and create value.