Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Emotional Healing

People react to life's ups and downs in different ways. While some are more stable in their reactions to negative stimuli, others are more labile in their responses to unpleasant things that occur in their lives and are endlessly riding an emotional roller coaster. In time, their responses can become rather fixed and a permanent facet of one's personality. Some, on the other hand, show few emotions and go through their days like a colorless canvas or a soundless instrument because they may have suffered great trauma at some point and to protect themselves from further hurt they bury unpleasant memories associated with that trauma deep within so that they won't overpoweringly intrude into conscious thought. There are still others who use emotions to get others to give them what they think they need in a rather childlike, manipulative fashion because they are too fearful and unable to get their needs met in more adaptive ways. Life has taught them not to trust and so people with a poor sense of self almost never learn to trust themselves enough to think clearly through problems toward resolution and need to engage outside parties with dubious abilities to get them through whatever crises they're going through.

Another way to deflect severe anxiety brought on by negative precipitating events is through busyness. If there are enough things that one can do throughout the day to avoid unpleasant thoughts related to unresolved problems, then it is possible to keep them at bay by moving really fast 'doing things,' which helps protect the mind from the intrusions of unwanted memories. It is normal to experience anger, sadness, fear or any other negative emotions that come our way. It's the inordinate focusing in on them that keeps us bound to negativity and it is that which often blocks emotional healing. When we learn to practice 'centering' ourselves we learn to block the emotional arrows that fly at us so that the hurt doesn't penetrate as deeply into our daily lives and as time passes it becomes easier to deflect them and the hurt lessens as each day goes by.

There are times though when we are pushed to the limit emotionally and physically. Knowing how to deflect the smaller hurts keeps us less stressed so that we have the energy to deal with the really big ones when they come along. Even the seemingly most stable among us are not immune to major losses since they can intrude upon us without warning and act like a huge psychic wrecking ball and at some point, even the most resilient of us can succumb to them and be brought down to their knees. Our emotional houses that we have so carefully constructed and kept tidy can almost instantly be torn to the ground by uncontrollable events and we can find ourselves sitting in dust and ashes, forlorn and seemingly without hope. We may even accuse ourselves undeservedly for being responsible for them, making the memory of the loss even more difficult to bear. These unexpected events may even influence some to attempt suicide in order to escape the emotional pain brought on by severe trauma. Think of those who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, who have lost a child, beloved parent or spouse, or those who have been victimized by a natural disaster or may be living in the crossfire of violence, as in a war. These can be too overwhelming to deal with and so immediate and continuing help from an outside source is necessary in order to salvage their lives.

Yet, even in the most extreme cases of trauma we stand in awe and wonder at the remarkable ability we humans have to adapt to sudden change and to survive and recover from even the most devastating events. If we are able to learn the lessons that chance occurrence places in our paths we can overcome not only the small upsets but also the larger ones that happen to come our way. They may lead us to question our limits and take stock of our emotional integrity. They may help us to develop close friendships and devise new coping strategies for each new psychic assault that causes us to reel in despair. We may find ourselves returning to the faith of former years with a renewed enthusiasm, developing an entirely new spiritual anchor or maybe just discovering a quiet place within where we are able to ride out the storms that we encounter from day to day.

There are many things that we don't have much control over but there are also many things we can do to help moderate our reactions to difficulties and hardships and to protect ourselves we need to have a full range of weapons in our emotional arsenal to fight off negativity and assaults on our stability. In my opinion, developing a sense of spirituality is essential if we want to optimally survive the battles we so often encounter. This may include the contemplation of an impersonal higher power that at times intervenes in our world but it may also include finding needed answers in a moment by moment walk with one's inner Self or God within. It can also be just the process of finding that quiet place deep inside us or learning effective coping strategies that push us on to not only survive, but also to flourish. For many, those strategies can be found in traditional religion but for others it can be in the internalization of a combination of spiritual teachings and positive self-affirmations. None of us are completely impervious to emotional difficulties since even the strongest among us can be floored when undesired events conspire to strike and unravel us, but the fact that the human race has survived for as long as it has is a testament to the tenacity and flexibility of the human spirit to cope in an imperfect world and each of us has that same spirit as an inheritance and helper.

Art by John Stewart 'The Calm Before the Storm

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