What Does Healing Look Like?
By: Holly Smith, MS, LMHC | Therapist
We use the word “healing” frequently to discuss physical injuries. Once a cut, scrape, or break is “healed,” we know how to recognize it. The skin has developed scar tissue or the broken bone is strong enough for the cast to come off. What about emotional injuries or mental illness? How do we know when we have healed from a traumatic event or heartbreak? Embarking on an inner healing journey can be confusing but because trauma is a universal experience, everyone has something to heal from.
Here are 5 ways you know you are healing:
- The traumatic event doesn’t interfere with your day to day life. During the initial stages of crisis recovery, survivors are often consumed with memoires, flashbacks, and intense emotional highs and lows. The event becomes the focal point of decision making, relational interaction, and behavior. When memories no longer dominate your life, and you don’t spend as much time analyzing and thinking about it, healing is occurring.
- You now take power from the trauma instead of it taking power from you. Feeling drained and overwhelmed by a traumatic event is a normal part of the crisis response. When you notice that you are using the trauma to help others, inspire yourself into healthy action, or feel you have ownership over your story, you are healing. The traumatic event no longer defines you.
- The emotional scar tissue stands up when tested. Our emotional healing process is similar to our physical healing process. Once injured, we develop stronger scar tissue in that area as it heals. When you find yourself challenged, doubted, or even hurt again and it doesn’t take you back to a crisis state, it is an indicator that you are stronger than you were before.
- You don’t cling to old, destructive patterns anymore. The first response to a traumatic event is usually falling in to old coping mechanisms that may numb, help you avoid, or detach from an experience. Although these are effective, they aren’t healthy and truly keep us from healing. When you find you don’t need these old habits, and choose healthier ones instead, parts of you have healed.
- You have found an inner peace. Some would call this forgiveness. It usually occurs unintentionally by simply processing your feelings. Having a neutral or non-activated response to things that used to send you into a tailspin means you have let go. It is what it is and you accept it without emotional anguish.
We are incredibly resilient human beings and can heal from things thought impossible by many. In some ways, the ones that hurt us are our teachers. Dr. Wayne Dyer says that these teachers are there to help us learn how to choose peace when our buttons are pushed. In the end though, we always heal. The question is, are you going to hide your scar or wear it like a medal?