We want to feel better. We want to emerge from a spiritual or an emotional pain recovered. How do we do that…how do you heal? In some of my examples (that I can immediately recall), it began with the belief that the person who hurt me knew me well and therefore chose to hurt me, thereby making it pain with intent. When your pain is caused by people you know and care about, there is a necessary pause inserted in the middle of the relationship or friendship, that requires a meaningful assessment of the level of betrayal or breach of trust that has occurred.
So, what do we do? How do we heal?
This may sting a bit…
Healing is an inside job. I know, I know. If you really want to restore your peace, you must make a conscious decision that you are ready to move on. If you really want to be free, healing is your responsibility.
I have been hurt before. I have been devastated. In some instances, I have been betrayed. The aftermath of emotion ranged from disappointment, sadness, to feeling as though someone mistook my heart for a wash rag and attempted to squeeze all evidence of my life from it. The worst part about all of this is my pain was caused by people whom I loved and trusted. I was hurt, and I retreated because there are levels to healing. I had to “get over” the fact that I was hurt, which meant that I had to acknowledge that something unthinkable took place. Next, I had to re-evaluate the acquaintance. How well did I really know the person?
Effective healing also requires speaking up. Just because people have been in our lives for an extended amount of time doesn’t guarantee that they really know us. I am a firm believer that people know what we tell them. You have a responsibility to set boundaries and alert others when they are out of bounds. Passive aggressive behavior and innuendos only prolong and support undesirable or dysfunctional situations. For example, the other person may be unaware that your sarcasm or hostility is a thinly-veiled declaration of “I see you and I am tired of you.” The general litmus test is if the problem bothers you on a meaningful level, this is a signal that the matter must be addressed sooner than later. The repercussions for failure to speak up is continually tolerating unacceptable treatment without consequences.
When it comes to verbalizing your truth to the other person, understand that the other party has to be willing to participate in a discussion. In a period of estrangement, the other person may not be receptive to talking to you or anyone else about the problem. And perhaps they don’t feel that a problem exists in the first place. It is their prerogative to decide when they are “ready” to engage. It is also your right to heal without them. Sometimes healing is a solo journey once we become clear that the other person is not interested in or is incapable of healing together.
Healing is personal, and you must want to be better. Some people don’t want to be better with us. Their better is without us in their life. You don’t get to control other people by pressing an outcome. All you can do is offer an apology, an explanation, or opportunity to hear them out. I will use an extreme example of road rage- one person decides they are not going to move or yield the right of way, which means both vehicles are blocked from moving forward. If you are in one of those vehicles, are you going to spend your entire day in a standoff because you insist on being “right”, or enforcing the law? There are times that being right is expensive because it costs you so much more in the long run, and usually yields a Pyrrhic victory at best.
Think of healing as a gift to yourself and those who love you
When we refuse to heal, we sequester ourselves from the (other) people who love and care for us. Our bonds with the people who remain in our lives become strained when we only focus on associations that we lost. Whether it is verbalized or not, when we remain fixated on what or who we have lost, we show the people who remain by our side that they don’t matter as much as the absent relationship. We rarely if ever, suffer in isolation. The people who love us often feel neglected when we are engrossed in battles that we cannot win.
For example, if you have a good girlfriend who you talk to multiple times a day every day for years, and then there is a falling out, there will be casualties because of the dispute. Routines become disrupted which means it takes deliberate action to cease doing something that was previously so natural. Which means it takes extra energy and effort to be “okay” with not talking to her, accepting her calls, socializing with her, liking her social media posts, etc. This new normal takes a period of adjustment not only on behalf of the friends, but their spouses, children, remaining friends, or even coworkers.
What happens when estrangement involves family? If the feud is between siblings, parents, other siblings, children, and other extended family members are caught in the middle and are often triangulated into taking sides. Someone must decide to heal and sometimes, there is no straightforward process or definitive resolution on how to do so.
There are instances when ties are severed between a parent and an adult child. In situations where the adult child chooses to discontinue contact with the parent for (fill in the blank) reasons, some parents find this decision reprehensible. Some parents will insist on maintaining a relationship with their child believing that they have the right to do so. The parent may demand an explanation or swift resolution, while the child insists on boundaries or distance. In such situations there may be two different perspectives on the quality of the overall relationship. Many parents will profess that they did their best to raise the child, and the child may retort by saying the parent’s best was not good enough.
Sometimes, the child holds resentment towards the parent for reasons either known or unknown to the parent. There are some parents who refuse to apologize let alone consider any behavior (past or present), that would be assuaged by a sincere apology. There could be generational differences that make some parents believe that they are above reproach thus absolving them of any accountability. On the other hand, some adult children fail or refuse to consider how their own parent was raised or socialized, which may have considerable influence on their parenting, or ability to parent effectively. Some adult children never really grow up and continue to mistakenly judge the parent on an unrealistic set of terms. In such situations, perhaps the key to healing requires both parties, or even an individual to seek assistance from a qualified counselor or therapist who is trained in family conflict resolution.
The hard pill to swallow is some people will never change and if they do… (brace yourself), they changed because they were ready and because they wanted to. We must change also. Sometimes we must accept that though we never intended to do so, there have been occasions when we’ve hurt someone during the course of our lives. A lack of intent does not erase the result or outcome.
Heal, because you have other people who are doing “life” with you.
Heal, because you deserve peace.
Heal, because you no longer want to be defined by an act, or circumstance that almost broke you.
Heal, because you are done existing.
You are now ready to live.