Three Stage Process of Emotional Healing
Stage One: Admit
By Dave Piltz, MFT
Emotional healing is the golden chalice, holy grail, and silver bullet of therapy. For emotional healing is the ultimate outcome of therapy and a desired state by all. Millions of books, articles, workshops, videos, and YouTube videos are dedicated to teaching how to heal emotionally. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Master Practitioner, Reiki Master, Pranic I Healer, Christian, Organizational Consultant, and Neurofeedback practitioner I have a unique perspective of the dynamics and challenges of emotional healing. From my education, reading and experience I have synthesized emotional healing into a three-stage process (shown below) that pertains to each emotional hurt we experience and carry. Therefore, you can be in various stages of the process concurrently for various emotional hurts. Rarely do we just focus on one emotional hurt but on many as they tend to be intertwined.
Stage one is admitting. This may sound simple but it is a complex untangling of a web that began from birth and continues today. Another blog discussed attachment (What’s Your Attachment Style and Why?) and helps to frame some of the emotional hurts that are generated at an early age. In addition to our early childhood experiences, we can experience life events as hurtful and painful. Likewise, we can also experience those in our past and current lives as hurtful and painful. When we experience events and people as hurtful and painful, we typically do not know how to manage those feelings so we compartmentalize, minimize, repress, or stash away the feelings so to speak. This strategy of avoidance can work for years or decades, even an entire life time, but at some point, we start feeling symptoms of these emotional hurts and start labeling them as depression, anxiety, bi-polar, etc. Soon we feel like we need help managing our lives and seek help maybe through medication or therapy or both. At this point in life, those emotional hurts and pains are buried deep because life’s mission was to not deal with them but hide them. The first step of emotional healing is getting to a place where one can admit those emotional hurts and pains from childhood, pre-teen years, teen years, and adult years. The further one can go back and admit the pain; the more thoroughly emotional healing occurs.
Admitting the emotional hurts creates an awareness and an acknowledgement of what life has been like and continues to be like. This means that one needs to learn to accept those areas of their lives that has brought anger, grief, shame, guilt, embarrassment, sadness, helplessness, hopelessness, being critiqued etc. Those experiences create deep believes such as “I am not worthy.”, “I am unlovable.”, “It’s always my fault.”, etc. These deep believes creates our world view or the way we see ourselves, others, events, and our lives. We continue to live out these believes because it is too difficult to admit, fully admit that at an early age hurt and pain became part of life. Admitting means being able to face those areas of one’s life that are dark and ugly. It means recognizing decisions that didn’t work out or choices that were not healthy. This kind of admitting is hard work and deep work and is just the beginning of the healing process. During this stage of emotional healing it is important to go slowly and be patient with oneself. In addition, it is helpful during this stage of emotional healing to practice gratitude, embrace vulnerability, practice healthy nutrition and exercise, integrate self-care into daily schedules, rely on spiritual and/or religious practices, and add additional modalities of therapy such as energy work, or neurofeedback.
Admitting is not a standalone activity it is a systems-based approach to understanding the complexities of the human psyche and the emotional life. A systems-based approach is one in which there is a recognition that everything effects and affects everything else. Meaning that the emotion you are dealing with, let’s say anger, isn’t caused by one event only but influenced by that one event that sticks out in your mind, and also your health, and also your family dynamic, and also your nutrition and also your geographic location, etc. A systems-based approach means there are a multitude of factors operating at any one time which makes admitting past emotional hurts and pain complex and confusing. During this stage is it is important to take the time to untangle and create clarity around unclear and confusing emotions and associated events.
Admitting is a dynamic part of the healing process as it creates understanding, awareness, and recognition of the hurt and pain one has been holding onto that creates the patterns of how one deals with the world and others. These patterns are created to protect one from more emotional hurt and pain and blocks one from healing from emotional hurt and pain. In the admitting stage, one’s patterns are identified, highlighted and challenged as to their meaning and usefulness. As one begins to admit the emotional hurt and pain, one can begin to change their patterns into behaviors that create healthy boundaries in relationships, personal self-care and forgiveness of self and others.