Hands up who’s never been hurt? Yeah, I thought so. It’s probably fair to say that anyone over the age of ten or so, carries some emotional scars. Some are just that: scars. Other hurts continue to plague us, and often at the most inconvenient times.
If you listen to some spirtual gurus, you’d think that they’re always calm and content, meditating, grateful, and in balance. You get the impression that unless you’re all these things, you can’t possibly be spiritual, experience deep insights, or heaven forbid, feel joy and fulfilment.
In reality, everyone goes through phases of darkness, anger or mourning, and we all occasionally battle ghosts from the past. It’s not just possible, but essential, to continue the journey towards greater self-actualisation and happiness through all of this. Postponing it “until you’re ready”, meaning until you’ve come to terms with absolutely everything in your past and your current life, is unrealistic and means you’ll probably never start.
Before I say anything else, here’s a disclaimer. Self-Care is important and can heal a lot of hurt. However, if you are seriously traumatised, it won’t replace a professional therapist. I just want to be completely clear on that! What I’m suggesting here is beneficial and can help you move on. In more severe cases, it can be used in addition to therapy, but it can’t replace it.
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Acknowledge the pain
There are so many ways in which we experience emotional pain. Some of it is temporary: The break-up of a relationship, a difficult time with family or at work, simply feeling under the weather or having “the blues”. Other hurts are more serious and can taint our lives for months or even years.
The most important step is to acknowledge that you’re in pain. And just because you know someone who’s been through worse, doesn’t mean that your pain is somehow not justified. If it hurts, it hurts. Sometimes there isn’t even a tangible reason. Allowing yourself to authentically feel your emotions can be such a relief, it’ll help you get through it much faster.
Emergency care for the hurt self
When the pain is acute, or your mood simply very low, it can be a challenge to take care of yourself in even the most basic ways. If that’s the case, it’s another thing for you to simply acknowledge. It’s okay, it happens, and it’s temporary (nobody stays at rock bottom forever!).
Establish an emergency routine, doing only what’s absolutely necessary, such as sleeping and eating regularly. Take your time. You don’t always need to actively work on something in order to process it; your mind and soul, especially the subconscious, does a lot of that automatically. You just need a little patience, and allow yourself time to rest.
Nourishing the soul
The challenges we face are manifold and everyone’s got their own approach to dealing with things. You’ll find what works for you. What we all have in common is that we heal better, faster, and more cleanly if the outside conditions help with the process.
Here are a few things you might consider.
- Create space. Numbing yourself with work and other activities might be tempting, but in reality it only postpones the time when you’ll have to face your pain. It’s wiser to create space, pockets of time when you’re allowed to do whatever you feel like, including go to pieces.
- Be comfortable. Small things can make a huge difference, and physical comfort is infinitely, well, comforting! Wear soft woollen socks, curl up in your favourite armchair, sit by the window or near the fireplace with a good book, enjoy fresh bed linnen. It’s easier to heal when your body is relaxed.
- Do nothing. You don’t always have to do stuff. You’re a human being, not a human doing! Spend a day or a weekend, or at least one evening, without any particular plans. See what comes up for you, from deep inside. Cry if you must, get creative if you feel like it, but don’t feel like you “should” do any of these things.
- Spend time in nature. Never underestimate the healing powers of nature. I recently saw a documentary which explained the chemistry behind the relaxing effect a forest has on us. Nature can calm and soothe you, and a walk in a green place often effortlessly drops an idea or solution into your brain.
Caring for the hurt self is not only possible, but necessary. Have patience and be gentle with yourself, and you may experience a miracle.