How Do I Know If I Am Emotionally Healing?

The emotional healing will start out subtly. So subtly that you may not notice it.

When I talk to potential clients on the phone for the first time, I have a pretty standard spiel that I go through; potential client tells me a bit about why they want therapy, I tell them the modalities I’m trained in and how the office works, they ask questions and I answer them. I’m all very professional and the potential client is hesitant and guarded. Then, I get right to the heart of it: Therapy sucks. It’s messy and ugly. It hurts. And I’m going to ask you to talk about things that you don’t want to. You may even hate me for asking you to confront the dark corners of your psyche. But I promise you that it’s worth it. It is so very worth it. The emotional healing will start out subtly. So subtly that you may not notice it. But I will. And I’m going to point it out to you. Then you’re going to start noticing the changes. The changes will spiral up, one related to the other. One subtle change at a time. 

Signs of Emotional Healing

You allow yourself to feel your emotions.

When you’re in survival mode, you focus on logic and keeping busy. You know that if you slow down or take your eye off logic, emotions – both the ones that feel good and the ones that feel bad – will remind you of pain. It’s easier and less painful to keep that stuff buried. However, when you begin to heal, you recognize that it’s crucial to acknowledge and feel your emotions, even when it hurts. This means that you may also be giving up being overly busy. In doing this, you see the paradox of acknowledging and feeling your emotions, particularly the “bad” ones, allows them to be more fleeting.

You express and maintain boundaries more effectively.

When you are not emotionally healed, it’s really hard to communicate and uphold boundaries because you believe it will lead to rejection, conflict, and guilt from prioritizing your own needs. In healing, you start to learn that while you still don’t like or want conflict, rejection or guilt, you can handle them. You begin to see that you are allowed to say what you need and want and that it’s essential to speak up, even if it feels uncomfortable. This leads to healthier interpersonal dynamics and creates an environment where your opinions and emotions are valued.

You accept that you’ve been through really painful situations. 

Life can be tough and unjust, and you have been through some difficult times. You know you’re healing when you integrate those experiences into your life story rather than suppress, deny or, on the flip-side, overly accentuate your painful experiences. You acknowledge that those experiences shaped you. When you do this, you’ve taken control of your life story. 

You become more self-aware of your own reactivity.

In survival mode, everything and everyone can seem like a threat. To cope with this you adopt a defensive stance where there’s no time to think things through. (The gazelle doesn’t stop to ponder if the lion really wants to eat him.) This hyper alert state leads to lashing out, shutting down, running away, or people-pleasing. However, when we begin to heal, we develop an awareness that we do this and start to question ourselves. “Why do I do this?” or “Why do I think like this?” When there’s more self-awareness, it paves the way for self-regulation, analysis, and ultimately, taking responsibility for your actions.

You realize that healing is not linear.  

There are ups, downs, progressions and regressions. It is uncomfortable to confront suppressed emotions and memories. When wounded, you avoid them because you believe the emotions and memories will swallow you up and never let you go. However, with practice, you realize that experiencing distress is temporary and not only a normal part of the healing process, but also in life. Your distress tolerance window widens.

You no longer cling to your comfort zone.

In tandem with an improved distress tolerance, you develop a sense of confidence that allows you to take calculated steps out of your comfort zone. You are braver and more courageous. A willingness to leave your comfort zone opens you up to new experiences and people, increased creativity and strength, and keeps the personal development going. You will probably also want to make a change to your surroundings. You will want your environment to match your improved mood. 

You cope better with disappointments.

Life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, with both successes and failures. Prior to healing, disappointments can feel crushing and drain all your motivation and passion. However, once you’ve started the healing journey, you begin to realize that bad days are unavoidable, but they don’t last forever. As a result, you become less reactive to negative situations and more accepting of life’s balance.

You have more inner peace.

You begin to accept all parts of yourself; the good, the bad and the ugly. You no longer criticize yourself as harshly. This doesn’t mean that it’s a 24/7 kumbaya thing, but this new perspective allows you to forgive yourself and others, reduces the likelihood of self-sabotage and self-criticism. Outward signs of inner peace can be subtle. They look like sleeping better or singing along in the car.

You are not opposed to help.

Survivors of trauma tend to have a sense of hyper competency and autonomy. It’s no surprise. Those are the very coping skills that allowed you to survive whatever awful situation you were in. While it’s admirable to be independent, it’s important to recognize the value of help and support. The “don’t ask for help” mentality of an independent survivor may be outdated and unhelpful. As strong as you are, there will be times when you need assistance. Remember that it’s not your responsibility to carry heavy burdens alone.

If you are ready to begin the process of emotionally healing, Apricity’s therapists are here to help. The process may be uncomfortable, challenging, and filled with regression and progression, but I stand by my promise:  It is worth it.

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