7 Ways to Heal Your Old Wounds
Old wounds are just that – old. Some came at about one, two, or five years ago and most probably entered your psyche 10, 20 or 30 years ago depending on your age. Yet the emotional milieu these wounds came with and the meaning you’ve ascribed to them likely make them appear as very recent, very relevant, and very reliable sources of information about you and your life.
Though they exist as a well-intentioned mechanism in your system and psyche, meant to protect you from similar unpleasant experiences in the future, the only thing these old wounds reliably protect you from is living your best life. So here are seven ways you can begin to heal old wounds and move one step closer to living your best life (whatever that means to you!)
1. Talk to Someone Who Will Listen Without Judgment
Just like physical wounds, our emotional wounds often benefit from immediately being covered and wrapped in gauze. But after some time has passed and the natural healing process has taken effect, it is advisable to begin to let the skin breathe, and open up the wound to air. In similar ways, the stories and memories of our emotional wounds need their fair share of “air time”. We need to talk about what happened, how we felt, how it affected us, and any and every detail that lives on in us until this very day.
To the extent that your story has been kept hidden and untold, it continues to live on in you in very real ways, affecting your every thought, word, and action. To release yourself of its grip, you’ve got to find a confidante, or two, or three, and share it. Start by choosing someone you trust and sharing just a few pieces of your story. Then share a little more… and a little more… and a little more.
2. Feel it, the Thing You Don’t Want to Feel
Unmet feelings, over time, become wounds and scars that reflect the trauma we’ve experienced. Maybe you lost someone you loved at a very young age… maybe they were there physically but “checked out” mentally and emotionally… maybe you were teased or bullied for having a certain hairstyle or not having the “right” clothes… maybe you misinterpreted a bad grade as a sign that you weren’t smart or capable…
We’ve all got scars, and whatever yours are, they arise from an emotional experience that you didn’t fully process as it happened, hence causing some breakage in your self-identity or scarring in your world-view. When we avoid our feelings, it makes them appear more solid and more intense. Perhaps you were too young to understand what was happening… maybe you felt afraid or unsafe to feel unpleasant emotions that came up… maybe you unconsciously inherited your family’s un-accepting attitude towards feelings… or maybe you simply grew up in a world (the same one as us all) which often says ”crying is weakness”, “just be positive”, or “don’t feel that way”. Whatever the season or reason for your unpleasant emotions not being given their fair share of attention, you’ve got to feel them to heal them.
Feelings, as they say, are just visitors. You can let them come and let them go. In order to let them come and go, you’ve got to feel them. It’s when you ignore and don’t address their reason for being that these weekend AirBnB visitors become multi-year rentals or even permanent tenants. Healing and growth don’t always feel good, but trying to always feel good does not help you heal.
3. Stop Playing the Shame Game
Many of the old wounds we carry in our psyche exist because there was some element of shaming (usually yourself) to what happened. Whether it was a mistake you made that made you feel incompetent, a situation you experienced that led you to feel inferior, or a choice you made that no one else approved of, it’s likely that you’re continuing to carry shame around what you did, what you want, and/or who you are.
Let’s be honest, our media, school systems, and society at large doesn’t really encourage imperfection, embrace forgiveness for past mistakes, and tell you you can feel okay about yourself if you pursue actions and desires that are outside the “norm”. And that’s all the more reason why you’ve got to do it.
Even if the current societal norm is to feign perfection, judge based on past mistakes, and ignore personal desire at the risk of appearing different, you’ve got to choose differently. You’ve got to choose to stop playing the shame game that keeps your wounds alive and to try playing the self-compassion game instead. Shame is not a motivator. Self-compassion is.
4. Stop Playing the Blame Game, Too
Take some time to go inside and to reflect on what happened in that situation that continues to hold space in your mind, heart, and soul. Not from a perspective of judgment and criticism, but from the point of view of compassion and curiosity. Just as with physical wounds, you’ve got to keep your emotional wounds clean if they are to heal. The dirt that often gathers on your wounds, it turns out, is a close cousin of shame named blame.
When you direct it at someone else, blame leads you into a very disempowering place of pointing the finger at something or someone outside of yourself, preventing you from seeing the part you play and taking any positive action in a situation. When you direct it at yourself, blame keeps you feeling wrong, bad, or inferior in some fundamental way. It paralyzes your muscles of compassion and prevents you from taking responsibility for the part you may have played.
Did you know that you can take responsibility for your part in something without blaming yourself for it? You can. And it all begins with going inside and asking questions like “What happened and why did it [bother, anger, frustrate, sadden, etc.] me so much?” and following by flexing your self-compassion muscles while giving your self-criticism and self-blame muscles a break. Sometimes you don’t need a new strategy for being hard on yourself– you just need self-compassion.
5. Talk to A Therapist, Healer, or Coach
We Soulaia women – we’re strong, fierce, and committed to being the best version of ourselves. This is the case with many women of our era; that fierceness and strength often comes with an “I can do it all myself” attitude. And let’s be honest, while this “I don’t need anything from anybody but me” attitude serves us well sometimes in our lives, it serves us less well at other times. The thing about wounds, as hopefully you’ve started to gather from points one to four, is that unless they are seen, heard, acknowledged, and felt, they don’t go anywhere. So long as your wounds don’t go anywhere, you don’t go anywhere… your life doesn’t go anywhere… at least not anywhere you’d like it to!
6. Be Present, IF Only for A Moment
The belief that we’ve got to do something in order for change to occur, it turns out, is a false one. The truth is that it’s this very notion of needing to undo and redo, and of needing to be in go-go-go mode rather than in be-here-now mode that keeps us in a cycle of being clouded by our mind’s persistent chatter and ignoring, rather than listening to and feeling, the very feelings that underlie the chatter.
Have you ever heard someone repeat the same hurtful story multiple times, continuously reliving their breakup or other perceived failure or hurt? Although the event is long gone, it’s as if they keep breaking their own heart, again and again, by repeating the story. So for just a moment, see if you can relax. Take a breath. And pay attention to what is happening inside you right now. Sit with what hurts. Sit with what angers. Sit with the thing you don’t want to feel. No need to figure out what to do about it and how to make it go away. Sit, observe, and watch as it moves all on its own. In the present moment, where you aren’t resisting things as they are, there isn’t anything wrong, and there aren’t any wounds to heal. Which takes us to #7-
7. Know That You Were Never Broken or Wounded in the First Place
You were made in the likeness and image of God or whoever/whatever you believe in. And from that perspective, there is and never was anything wrong with you, and there is and never was anything that needed to be healed. Often times you get so busy trying to create the best version of yourself that you forget that you are already whole and already complete… that the you you already are is enough. So as you dabble in points one through six, go ahead and “try on” this set of beliefs: “My wounds are a part of the perfection that is me,” “Who I am is already enough,” and “What if – after all this time, there was really nothing that I needed to heal…”
Which “wound” are you opening up to air? Which are you ready to feel? Which are you not yet ready to feel? And which, if any, are you placing in the “this was never a wound in the first place” bucket? Let us know in the comments below!