A Metaphor for Healing
Emotional healing is like washing dishes. A strange comparison, yes but an accurate one. Washing dishes removes left over food from the dinnerware; emotional healing removes pain from our souls. For both of them, the longer the waste has been there, the more difficult it is to wash it away. Unlike permanently stained dishes, you can not simply toss away your soul and get another. However, the more quickly you deal with the injury, like dishes, the easier it is to take care of the problem. Yet sometimes the damage is so devastating that like a burned casserole dish it will take a lot of work and time to get it clean.
After a meal, if the dishes are washed or rinsed right away, they clean quickly and easily. However if they are left for any length of time, the food dries to the plate and it will take more effort to cleanse them. The same is also true for emotional hurts. If you deal with them at the time of the injury, you can deal directly with the source. Being open and honest about how you feel clears up misunderstandings and prevents the issue from being clouded by other factors.
However if you are unable, for whatever reason, to deal openly with the wounded feelings, they begin to fester and expand into other aspects of your life. Until it is dealt with, the hurt will not simply go away. Instead like a dish that has been left too long, it will attracted flies and eventually transmute into something icky--like mold. So do hurt feeling attract undesirable emotions like fear, anger and self doubt. None of those emotions are truly negative; it’s not being able to get past them that leads to further problems. Unlike the food that becomes the mold, the emotions are not changed, but they change the person from the inside out. Getting stuck in them only leads a person to do and say things they normally wouldn’t, which spreads the negativity to others.
So how is the cycle broken? Being honest, self aware and honoring yourself enough to speak your mind and stand your ground are ways misunderstandings are prevented. You don’t have to be aggressive or self pitying to tell another that their behavior or words were hurtful. Sometimes people don’t realize how their bad mood is affecting others. Everyone at some point has gotten so wrapped up in their challenges that they have forgotten the niceties. This doesn’t mean that they will always care. There are people who go out of their way to hurt others, mostly because that is how they deal with their own pain. However, by stating your feelings openly, honestly and with compassion, you get them out into the open. But you must remember not to take their reaction personally. It is this clearing that heals, not how the person responds. By stating your truth you are able to wash your plate clean and move on.
Yet what if you haven’t or couldn’t deal with the issue immediately or the person is no longer available? Be honest with yourself. It’s the denial of the feelings that give them power over you. If your feelings were hurt--acknowledge it. The more honest you are with yourself, the less likely you are to misdirect the feeling onto others who had nothing to do with the injury. However if you can’t for what ever reason deal with the situation or person at the time, step back and get perspective. It’s like taking time to soak the really dirty dishes, while you wash the easier ones. By the time you get to them, the dried food has softened and will be easier to remove. Emotionally you have more options: Talk to another to get an more objective perspective; it’s possible your issues could have lead you to over react. Get more information; there might be more going on than you were aware of. Consider that you were responsible; previously you could have hurt their feelings and that situation hadn’t been dealt with. Or it could simple be that both of you just happen to meet while both of you were having a bad day; in that case both forgive yourself and the other person then move on.
Yet like a burnt casserole dish, there are situations that are so traumatic that they simple can not be healed immediately. Unlike like cross words, lies or misunderstandings, these injuries usually affect the persons whole life or have happened over an extended period of time. In these cases, there are no quick fixes--no words that can alleviate the pain. The dish can be tossed, but the emotional injury can’t be. In these cases the pain is so devastating that it is forgotten or buried because the person simply can’t deal with it. Whether it’s fear or lack of self esteem, they refuses to admit they are in pain. By doing so they do not have to deal with the source of their hurt.
In the cases of childhood trauma, many children are taught to honor their parents, no matter how much damage they do. They feel that they do not have the right to be angry with the parent or to hold them accountable for their actions, simply because of who they are. They turn their anger inward. Instead of confronting the source of their pain, they become self abusive. Frequently, as they grow into adulthood, they find others who reinforce the self image their parents cultivated. The abuse continues and is eventually spread to the next generation as the off-spring inherit the abused behavior. In cases when the source is a stranger, confusion and self-doubt is added as the person questions why they were chosen--what did they do to attract the abusive person’s attention? In many cases, they can not find a logical reason, as a result they blame themselves. So in addition to the physical injuries, they take on the emotional responsibility for the actions of another. Instead of blaming the perpetrator, they feel guilty for the attack. In both instances, the longer the pain is not acknowledge, the more difficult it will be to deal with the true source of the pain.
Healing begins by acknowledging that there is a problem and finding the root source. Until that happens, only the symptoms can be addressed. But dealing with the symptom doesn’t cure anything. Cure one and another one will manifest, usually more intense than the previous. Until the true source of the injury is exposed, the behaviors and inner torment will continue. Like the casserole dish, only time, a good soak and a lot of hard work will cleanse the ick away. For emotions, the soak usually involves many tears and a good support team. Friends, family, and professionals working together to help rebuild what was torn apart are essential parts of the healing process. They are the support staff. But the head of the team is always the person and their determination to heal. Until the person makes the decision to confront the source directly, no matter who they are, and properly place the blame, they will not heal. Confrontation doesn’t necessary need to be a physical encounter, but acknowledging who is responsible. Who caused the pain? Who did the hurting? The old wounds have to be opened and the source of the pain brought into the light. Initially the process will be very painful, causing the person to want to go back into denial. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, the healing process will open old wounds and reawaken old memories until the original source is discovered. At each new level, the person learns to understand more about themselves and become stronger for it. The inwardly turned anger is eventually turned outward and focused on the source of the pain. Professional supervision will keep the healing process moving forward on a positive level. Getting stuck in the blame game will only halt you positive progression. Whether or not the other person takes responsibility for their actions has no bearing on you healing process. Like with the small hurts, honoring your truth and respecting yourself is the goal and the way to move forward. By allowing yourself to see the truth of your life without guilt, fear, or anger you see past as just that--the past. You physically survived it, now it is time to truly live through it and move forward.