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Emotional Wounds: Bandages, Baggage, Balms and Blessings

Sep 11, 2008
We are often taught to ignore and bury our problems and upsets and to 'be strong.' This is a temporary solution for distress that has serious drawbacks. Learning to identify and to release our feelings are much better ways of handling them. Varieties of self-treatment methods enable us to do this, with excellent results, including the release of anxieties about having problems in the first place.

Bandages

I was taught in medical school in the 1960s that psychological wounds, like physical wounds, are often best handled at the time of emotional injuries by bandaging them, ignoring them as best one could, and carrying on with life. This was then, and continues to be now, the prevalent attitude of the majority of people.

Most of us develop habits of doing just that from childhood, both on our own and with the encouragement of family, friends and other authority figures. We cover over our wounds, burying them in our unconscious mind, and do our best to ignore them, or better yet, to totally forget them.

In childhood, this may be truly helpful. When we have only a limited understanding of the world, and limited coping abilities, it far less painful to bury our hurts than to suffer with them.

'Billie' started out in life a bright and cheerful girl with lots of curiosity and good energies. She had the misfortune to be born into a family stressed by her father's limited earning capacity and her mother's chronic depression, which was self-medicated with whiskey. Billie suffered neglect and the abuse of her parents' violent arguments. She learned to grit her teeth to remind herself to be silent, lest she draw the angers from between her parents to herself. She also suffered from frequent criticisms from both her parents, never seeming to be able to do anything that would gain her their praises. The best she could manage was to draw the least attention possible to herself.

Baggage

As adults we have far better coping mechanisms for dealing with hurts. However, at that point we already are in the firm habits of burying our hurts and running away from them. These habits are so much a part of ourselves that we don't even know they're there.

The problem is, when we bury our hurts, we end up carrying them around with us in our unconscious mind. Through the years, we may accumulate enormous collections of such buried emotional baggage.

A buried hurt is like a festering sore. It sits in an internal trash bucket in our unconscious mind and exudes negative energies. The unconscious mind senses these as warnings about having been hurt in the past and remains alert lest we be hurt again in the present.

The unconscious mind then keeps us away from anything in the present that is similar to the warning signals it is getting from the buried hurts. In milder cases, we may have aversions for occasional foods, people and places with which we had negative experiences - often without conscious awareness we are doing these things for those reasons. In moderate cases, we may generalize from hurts in a specific situation and then we avoid anything similar to the original trauma. People who had an abusive parent my avoid relationships in their present lives with anyone of the same sex as their abusive parent. In severe cases, people may respond to the approaches of a person of the same sex as their abusive parent with stress reactions. This is called a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is often in our most intimate relationships that these buried issues become apparent. A colleague at work, a close friend or a life partner may stir the buried hurts in our inner buckets and be utterly blindsided by our inappropriate responses. The behaviors of people in our lives today trigger us to respond with feelings that have been buried in the past.

It is at this point that many people will seek me out for psychotherapy, as they waken to the fact that they are not behaving rationally but don't fully comprehend why this is happening. Others come with requests for psychiatric medications, thinking they need stronger bandages.

Billie suffered from frequent, severe tension headaches. She knew they were set off by stresses in her life, but could not figure out how to not get stressed when she was confronted by any criticisms from her boss, her fiends or her boyfriend.

Balms

Varieties of treatments are available to help with these sorts of problems. Each has its benefits and limitations.

Medications are the quickest 'fix.' They require the least efforts on the part of family physicians, psychiatrists and people who just want to be free of their symptoms, but have little sense of the emotional baggage that may be contributing to the symptoms. Not only do then not address the underlying problems, they also carry risks of side effects, including fatalities. It is a little publicized fact that over 100,000 people die annually in the US from medications that are properly prescribed and properly used. Pain medications contribute to significant numbers of these deaths.

For those who are willing to take the reins of their lives into their own hands, there are many helpful approaches. The most popular today is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This can include relaxation exercises to reduce tensions; imagery exercises to reprogram the mind to not respond in the present with reactions from the past; and developing more constructive plans of action to handle inappropriate responses. CBT is a methodical approach for developing better habits to deal with buried hurts, but a rather slow one. It can take many weeks and months to make modest progress in changing one's habits of reacting to stresses that trigger unhealthy responses.

Many varieties of complementary/ alternative therapies are available for addressing problems. Some are symptom-based and some are person-based, and the 'how' of the therapist administering the therapy may determine which approach is taken. For instance, acupuncture, homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, hypnotherapy, massage and relaxation techniques can all be offered as doorways to transforming one's life, or as balms for particular symptoms.

Billie explored acupuncture because it has a good reputation for alleviating pain, but her acupuncturist was a physician who had only been on several weekend courses and used the needles much as he used medications - i.e. to alleviate the symptoms. Relaxation exercises provided temporary relief when she had the headaches, but they kept coming back, often at stressful times at work when she was unable to use these methods.

WHEE: Whole Health - Easily and Effectively finally provided permanent relief, with the release of fears, angers and hurts that had been buried since childhood.

Blessings

As we learn to deal with our physical and emotional pains, we often grow wiser in the process. We come to realize that our body is an intimate part of our whole being. When we have symptoms and illnesses, we learn to ask, "What is my body telling me about stresses and disharmonies in some part of my life?"

Many therapies end with the release of symptoms and problems. WHEE teaches how to install positive feelings and awarenesses to replace the negatives that have been released.

As she learned to listen to what her body was telling her, Billie came to understand that when she was clenching her teeth she was unconsciously 'biting her tongue' to hold back from sharing her feelings of anger and frustration and telling people off. She learned to use WHEE on her negative feelings and was then able to prevent her headaches and other pains from recurring

As we use self-healing methods, we can also come to understand how to nurture ourselves and to be more considerate of our physical and emotional needs. With continued practice, we even free ourselves of the fears about getting upset.
About the Author
I'm a wholistic psychiatric psychotherapist, with a passion for teaching self-healing, bodymind and personal spiritual awareness. I authored Healing Research, Volumes 1-3 and many articles on wholistic healing. I am editor of the International Journal of Healing and Caring http://www.ijhc.org, a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine; and appear internationally on radio and TV.
See More by and about Daniel Benor, MD
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