Emotional healing is an organized process which goes through four distinct, orderly phases similar to physical wound healing where missing cellular structures and layers of tissue are replaced.

The four, often overlapping, phases of physical and emotional wound healing are Shock/Hemostasis, Inflammation, Proliferation/Rebuilding and Remodeling. There are tools that work best for each phase, as well as gifts to be gleaned from each phase of the process.

  1. Shock/Hemostasis

In the hemostasis phase of physical wound healing the flow of blood stops and vessels constrict and seal themselves off, forming a clot to stop bleeding. Emotional wounds elicit a similar response from us: we may go into shock or denial of what has happened; or shut down because of the trauma. Healthy responses during the initial phase of emotional healing include:

        Face and acknowledge the pain. Recognize the impact the event had on you so you can deal with it and heal. Be sure to not avoid the issue or suppress it, because emotional healing requires brutal self-honesty.

        Grieve for your loss. You may have lost someone, or your trust was betrayed. You may feel falsely judged or accused, or even abandoned. By grieving that loss, you are creating space for emotional healing to follow.

  1. Inflammation

Just as the second phase of physical would healing is marked by inflammation, the second phase of emotional healing is marked by a period of inflamed emotion. You may experience waves of anger, sadness, rage, blame, shame or indignation as you review the hurtful event. During this time, you may have a strong need to express your feelings and emotions to sympathetic others. You may look for validation of your feelings. Heck, you may even want to lash out in revenge!

This is a critical phase for emotional healing: too much inflamed emotion and rehashing of the situation can hold you back from the healing process; too little emotional response can indicate prolonged denial and confine you to the victim role.

        Accountability: Take time to review the event from a non-judgmental perspective.  What went wrong and why? Were there any red flags you ignored? How did you contribute to the outcome? What could you have done differently? What did you learn from the experience?

        Forgiveness: Forgiving is not surrendering to the wrongdoing of another; it is a letting go of the bitterness you feel toward them. Anger and bitterness poison you and need to be released so you can fully heal. Perhaps you need to forgive yourself for things you did or said. If so, recognize that you can only do the best with what you know at any given time, and forgive yourself for not having known or done better. The choice to forgive is always difficult, but only this decision will bring genuine emotional healing.

  1. Rebuilding

In this important phase of physical healing also known as proliferation, the wound gets rebuilt with healthy tissue. Likewise, this is the phase in emotional healing where you get to choose new, healthy responses and coping mechanisms to the challenges life may send your way.

It is an exciting time of exploring new resources, finding new tools and integrating them into behaviors and strategies that can propel your emotional resilience to a new level. During this phase, choosing healthy responses to challenges will build elasticity into your life; fear-based or angry responses will delay your progress.

        Responsibility: Accept responsibility for your life, and recognize that your life is ultimately the only life you are responsible for. Know that nothing another says or does to you, can change in any way the truth of your inner being as you know yourself to be. Recognize that winners stand back up when they get knocked down; losers don’t… and choose which you want to be.

        Dare to dream again: Who would you be without this emotional setback?  What would you do? Then start taking steps toward these goals to move you out of the stagnation of woundedness, propelling you towards emotional healing and a vibrant life.

  1. Remodeling 

In this final phase, physical wounds are closing and may appear healed on the surface, although it will take some time for tissue at all levels to become strong and less sensitive.

In emotional healing, this phase can be challenging because people may see you as fine, not realizing that you still feel very sensitive or tentative. This is the phase where you get to put your new goals, strategies and boundaries into action. It is important to remain vigilant and avoid falling into the same pitfalls as before. Protect your emotional boundaries until you feel stronger and more resilient.

It is up to you to train people where your new emotional boundaries are, and how to treat you. Each time you respond to a challenge in a different, more empowering way, you will find yourself strengthened by the experience. Know that your new boundaries will be tested and you have the authority to enhance your coping strategies, reinforcing your emotional boundaries for long-term thriving.

        Maturation: By progressing though each of the three previous phases and integrating the wisdom of the experience into your life, you reach a new level of emotional resilience and maturity. By appropriately tending to your emotional wounds, you will renew yourself to live an empowered life.

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