If you’ve ever been through a traumatic experience like the death of a loved one, the loss of a deep romantic relationship or the loss of health or mobility, you know what it’s like to go through emotional pain. It’s the kind that knocks you five ways till Sunday, leaving you a crumpled ruin, cowering in the corner with tear stained cheeks. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like.
This article is going to detail how to heal from emotional pain. I will be relying on my own experience with healing. Believe it or not, everyone can heal from emotionally painful experiences, with patience, time and guidance. The power we unlock when we heal our emotional scars knows no limits.
So read on if this is something for you.
How Emotions Work
Emotions are a complex and fascinating subject. To start off, we need to define them. I love the definition given by Eckhart Tolle in “The Power Of Now”; which is: emotions are the intersection between body and mind. Isn’t that cool? Emotions are where our thoughts and dreams intersect with our physical body, our cells, tissues, organs and biochemical pathways.
In other words, emotions are our thoughts made matter. Every thought we have comes with a corresponding chemical change (matter). Some thoughts produce more drastic changes than others, but they all produce a change in our body chemistry. That’s why I write that our thoughts become our reality.
Emotions are our guides. In the book “The Social Animal” by David Brooks, he writes that emotions are the “scouts” we send out into the world. It’s their job to weigh everything we experience and assign a value to it. We then make choices (mostly unconscious ones) based on the value assigned by our emotions.
In this way, the decision-making process is fundamentally an emotional process. Logic and reason are seated within emotion. There is no such thing as a fully logical human; like Spock from Star Trek. Nor would you want to be, unemotional people are psychopaths. Spock is a psychopath.
Emotion powers and informs our decisions. And this isn’t just my opinion, you can read this article of mine for a little more on that.
So if our emotions are the guides of our choices, it makes sense that any experience which changes the emotions we experience, changes the choices we make.
Herein comes trauma.
How Traumatic Experiences Change Us
For a broad and brief overview on trauma you can read this article of mine.
A traumatic experience is one which stresses us to the point where it negatively alters our emotions and pins them to that state. And since our emotions are the intersection between our minds and bodies that means that by altering our emotions trauma also alters our minds and bodies.
For example, experiencing hunger is a stressful event, but not traumatic. However, if the hunger is prolonged into starvation, that can be a traumatic event. Research shows that prolonged starvation changes the brain in negative ways.
This makes perfect sense. If a person has experienced starvation once, then he or she might experience it again, so our emotions ensure that our minds and bodies change in order to expect starvation, so that we can better handle it should it ever present itself again.
We evolved to be complements of our environment. This is an evolutionary mechanism which has been sharpened and honed by billions of years of evolution on this planet. It kept us alive in the wild world. It still does.
A being which is capable of learning from its environment and remembering at a visceral (emotional), instinctual level will be more likely to survive and procreate than one which remembers at the intellectual, reasoning level. Emotions are quick. Reason is slow.
All trauma comes with an emotional component. I would argue that all trauma originates in our emotions. And since our emotions are always running in the background, guiding our choices, that means that trauma causes us to make different choices than we would make if we were healthy.
What Traumatized Emotions Cause Us To Do
Traumatized emotions can get us to make all sorts of choices which go against our health, well-being and happiness. They can cause us to gravitate towards hurtful, toxic relationships. They can cause us to hurt ourselves or others physically and/or psychologically. They can cause us to be unreliable at work or flat-out make it impossible for us to find sustaining, meaningful work (I know what that’s like). They can cause us to be sick. They can even cause us to be poor.
Why is it that trauma can cause all of these challenging life circumstances for us? Because we are always choosing! We are the result of our choices. And since trauma alters the choices we make, we can be sure that if there’s a situation in our life that keeps presenting itself over and over again, it’s because we’re making the unconscious choices which lead us there.
That’s why patterns repeat themselves in our life circumstances. It’s our unconscious choices which lead us to encounter situations which fit into the pattern of our emotional scarring.
Remember how a person who has starved has a body and mind which expects starvation? Well, the same thing can apply to relationships. Our romantic relationships, our relationship with money, food, health, work. All of our relationships are mediated by emotions and if our emotions are traumatized we are going to make choices which manifest the same traumatic events over and over again.
These patterns will keep showing up in our lives until we develop the Presence required to heal our emotional scars and make different choices.
We are all on our own journey of healing.
How I Got (Some) Of My Emotional Scars
Parents mess their children up. Most of them don’t mean to, like mine. Parents have their own emotional traumas which they pass on to their children unconsciously.
My parents passed on to me a belief that I wasn’t worthy of love unless I achieved great success in a technical profession. They did it without knowing what they were doing. It wasn’t their fault and I am supremely grateful for having my mother and father as my parents. They gave me everything I needed to succeed.
However, to some extent my parents believed that a person isn’t worthy of love unless one is a success. This motivated them to achieve things in life. So, naturally, they passed the same belief onto me, because it worked for them, to an extent.
So from the time I was a child until I was a young adult I slowly developed a belief system that revolved around me having to prove something to the world before I would be worthy of being in it. That was my own emotional scarring which I didn’t know I carried.
From the time I was a child I competed with others. Most of the time the competition took place only in my head. I would compare myself to my peers in every way imaginable. Whenever I found I didn’t measure up, I would get sour and miserable, doubting myself and my abilities. It happened quite often.
I believed I had to prove something to the world before I became an acceptable human being. Before I was worthy of being loved.
This belief system drove me to work in some great institutions with some great people and to achieve worthwhile professional accomplishments.
While this happened I didn’t know that I was setting myself up to experience the greatest sorrow of my life, as the result of my choices.
My Trauma Led Me To Heartbreak
From my early to mid twenties I was in a loving romantic relationship with a wonderful person. It was a real romance; with everything that came with it: the elated sense of wonder, the starry eyes, the complete and utter sense of mutual romantic abandon. We loved each other as we were. It was the real deal
We were in love.
Yet… in the background of my mind, the belief remained.
“You are not worthy of this.”
“You must accomplish in life.”
“Everything comes secondary to your accomplishment.”
“Even this relationship.”
Naturally, as time went on these emotions mellowed out.
So over the course of our 5-year relationship I steadily made the choices which led me away from that love. I was convinced a life of love surrounded by friends and family was secondary to my professional accomplishment. I steadily chose to drive the relationship away, convinced I needed to achieve professional greatness before I could love and be loved.
Ultimately, the relationship ended. It wasn’t all my fault, we both contributed to it’s end.
But I had done my part in ending it. And it was only when my heart lay in tatters when I realized how much the relationship had meant to me. It was in the middle of the pit of pain, of losing a relationship which meant more to me than any form of professional accomplishment, when I realized the gravity of my mistake.
Why had I made these ignorant choices? What had driven me to push away the relationship which taught me that I was worthy of being loved romantically? Why had I pursued the illusion of professional success over the richness of love?
That was when I came face to face with my trauma.
How I Recognized My Trauma
I went to a therapist a few times. It didn’t help. I knew what I had done. I knew I had played a role in ending the relationship. The therapist had nothing she could show me, because it was all clear before me.
I was guilty of ignoring my heart.
Until my heartbreak I had made these choices unconsciously. I had followed my trauma’s orders, unquestioningly. I had pursued the phantom of “professional success” and laid my real, genuine happiness at its feet as a sacrifice. All without being aware of it. All in ignorance.
Until it crescendoed with the shattering of my heart. Every choice of mine had led me to that moment.
The lesson my parents had passed on to me became clear with my heartbreak: I had to remember that I was worthy of being loved as I was. We all start off life knowing that, but we forget it along the way. Life can make us forget with all the hits we take, but we never fully forget.
So I bought a book called “Getting Past Your Breakup” by Susan J. Elliot. The book talked about how by healing the emotional wounds revealed by the breakup I would unleash tremendous transformative power. If I followed the therapeutic steps outlined in the book I would not only emerge from the pain, but I would emerge better in every way.
How I Began Healing My Trauma
The book told me that the pain I was feeling was not a sigh of weakness. It was a sign of humanity. Because only someone who loved with everything they had could experience such tremendous pain after losing a relationship.
I’ve noticed that the deeper the relationship, be it with a person or an activity, the deeper the trauma that is revealed through our choices.
I worked through the exercises in the book, it took me a couple of months. They brought up deep feelings of joy as well as sadness. Joy for what I had lived together with the other person. Sadness at losing what we had. It was like being a cast away in a stormy sea, flailing for something, anything which could prevent me from going under.
Some days I remained afloat, drifting aimlessly across the vast oceanic expanse of emotions.
Other days I would be pulled under, walloped to within an inch of my life.
But slowly, as time progressed and I did the work, the emotional storms became fewer and weaker. I began seeing the light at the far side of the storm.
Until one day I knew I had made it through.
What Healing My Trauma Unlocked
Unstoppable, raw, creative, power.
Because I knew I had survived the abyssal depths of my emotional despair. I had made the choices which lead me there. And I had made the choices which lead me out.
Compared to that, what could life throw at me? What choice could I make which would hurt me more?
I quit my job shortly after. It was scary, but by then I knew, emotionally, that it was tiny scary. It wasn’t big scary like what I had left behind.
I changed my career. Again, it was tiny scary. My emotions knew what real fear was.
I had made the mistakes which led me to my darkest depths. I had faced the consequences. I had been tempered by the pressures of heartbreak, not solidified and made brittle, but made flexible and adaptable.
Had I chosen to bottle up my pain, to leave it unaddressed and unhealed (like most do, especially men), I would have never discovered this primal power within me. I would have made the same mistakes again, suffered again, until the lesson I had to learn was learned.
That I was worthy of being loved as I was.
And nothing else mattered.
As long as I loved myself I could make mistake after mistake until I hit it right. It didn’t matter. Because my emotions knew that all love starts with self-love. I was through with conditioning my love to my success. I had already paid that terrible price.
So I started loving myself.
And when we love ourselves a universe of possibilities opens itself to us.
How You Can Heal Your Trauma
I was able to heal my trauma without professional help mainly because of one reason: it was fresh.
Instead of burying the trauma I experienced when I lost the relationship I delved into it. It didn’t happen immediately, I needed some time to allow the trauma to be before I started healing it, about a year. But since the trauma was still fresh I could explore it and work with it. It was like a living, pulsing, tangled knot within me which I would probe, and every time I did I would release it just a little more. And I would cry.
But slowly the knot released.
I believe people are capable of healing ourselves of trauma when it’s so obvious. We can write (the instructions in the book were mostly writing). We can dance. We can do art. The trick is to feel our emotions and to express them in some form in the material world. I don’t know why it works, but doing so allows us to clear out the stagnant emotional energy. That’s why I would cry, there was pain which needed feeling. Once I felt it, and acknowledged it, it would dissipate.
What If Trauma Isn’t Fresh?
Most people who carry trauma (which is most of humanity) don’t even know they’re carrying it. It has been with them for so long that it has scarred over. It’s no longer a pulsing knot, but a knotty root, encased in a shell of coping mechanisms.
For people who are in this group I recommend seeing a trusted professional. And I don’t mean a medical practitioner. I mean a trusted traditional healer. They’re out there. And some are incredible at what they do. Like Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova. She focuses on healing birth trauma. Her method is safe and gentle, it engages the body and the mind (because emotions are the intersection between body and mind). This is her website.
There’s also Gabor Mate, bestselling author of “When The Body Says No”. He has pioneered a therapeutic method known as “compassionate inquiry” which gently unveils the unconscious dynamics which run our lives and how we can liberate ourselves from them. Here is his website.
There are many others, but these are the two I know about (and trust) the most. Their results speak for themselves and their reputation as kind, gentle and compassionate healers precede them.
What Would You Heal?
I hope you’ve found this article informative. I began this website to, among other things, share my journey to empowerment with readers, so they could see what they themselves are capable of. I practice everything I write about.
If healing trauma isn’t something that is for you yet, then there is no harm done. You now know that there are resources available and that you are not alone. Healing is possible, when you’re ready.
If you are open to exploring different healing modalities which have been proven to work I hope this article can point you in a helpful direction.
We are all capable of great things. This includes healing our past hurts. In fact, it’s by healing our trauma that we unlock tremendous creative potential. Healing allows us to rise to our true potential.
I wish you all the best.
To our wealth and success.