Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden. It is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken”. C.S Lewis
An emotional wound is a type of trauma that is associated with a negative experience or set of experiences that causes pain on a deep psychological level. It is similar to that of a physical wound in that it activates the same part of the brain (anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex) when physical pain is induced. Also, when emotional pain heals, it leaves behind a scar just as a physical wound, which is most likely not going to hurt again unless it is not properly treated. In which case, the wound can re-open or even get worse.
Emotional wounds can start as early as childhood and is likely to be inflicted by people close to us such as family members, a lover, mentor, friend or other trusted individuals. When we are born our emotional body is completely healthy until maybe around the ages of 1 -3 years. According to Erickson’s stages of development, infants/ toddlers between this age group are likely to develop a sense of shame and doubt which is birthed through punishing or rewarding a child’s behavior based on parental desires. And since emotions are infants’ first language of communication with parents and play a key role in parent-child dyad it makes sense that emotional wounds are likely to occur during these phase. However, the onset of these wounds are not limited only to childhood as it can start at any stage of development be it be adolescent, early, middle or late adulthood. Life experiences such as loss of a loved one through death or relationship break-ups, verbal or physical abuse (including sexual abuse), rejection-particularly that which is experienced in early childhood due to uninvolved parenting as well as lack of affection or independence are some of the indicators of emotional wounds. These wounds can manifest itself in anger, hate, envy, sadness, fear as well as overwhelming sense of self-negativity and almost permanent feeling of inadequacy that no matter what “I do I am not good enough”.
Important to note is that we grow up with adults who already may be predisposed to a mental disease or emotional wounds which have a contagious propensity. And because children are naturally inclined to model behavior of those around them, we learn to be emotional according to the emotional energy in our homes and our personal reaction to that energy. However, to heal our emotion wounds becomes our responsibility as we grow into adults.
In order to heal ourselves from this pain we need to firstly, honour the pain without dwelling on it as it has partially contributed to the persons’ that we are today. To fully accept and love oneself involves embracing both the good and bad parts of us. Instrumental to healing is having time to reflect on our experiences before we rush into closing a chapter. Premature “moving on” is particularly prevalent when romantic relationships end. We don’t give ourselves enough time to grieve the process instead we enter the next relationship with emotional wounds and baggage from the previous one. Rushing or running away from introspection does not fix things, instead it accumulates problems. Hence, it is imperative to find a trustworthy person that we can be emotional vulnerable with and talk about our wounds. The more we talk about our wounds the less pain we feel over a period of time. Alternatively, professional help is available through consulting psychologists/therapist. Most of us have rejected therapy because of the false notion that it is strictly for people with mental illnesses or “crazy people” as labeled in our societies; or something that is associated with status or a specific group of people. However, emotional wounds and life experiences are not exclusive, it happens to most of us if not all, including the most powerful people such as the leaders of the world. And it is from our emotional wounds that we relate to the self and the world. Let us seek help and become emotionally healthy individuals that fosters healthy relationships with children, colleagues, friends and family members.
Justine /Oaës bi-weekly articles
- Justine /Oaës can be reached at email@example.com