Are you familiar with the phrase "Time heals all wounds?" This is one I often hear people say as they try to brush aside traumas and hurts in their lives.
But it is one of the most destructive cliches, simply because it sounds so close to the truth that it is difficult to spot the big lie here.
At risk of sounding too philosophical, time is an artificial structure that we have created, much like state or country lines. (Have you ever seen a state line? I used to look for them on the ground when I was a kid.)
What I say to clients when they say "time heals all wounds" is that time doesn't heal anything, time simply passes. It is what we do with our lives while time is passing that either helps us, heals us or keeps us stuck.
In my work over the years, I have noticed that some people seem to have an ability to accept the hurts and disappointments of life and then move on. They have a certain resiliency.
Others seem to stay stuck in their pain, living as if the painful events of their lives had occurred just moments ago.
As I sought to understand the strategies of these different types of people, some interesting differences made themselves clear.
What follows are lists of strategies for how to remain miserable and then strategies for how to heal, move on, and thrive.
How to stay miserable
• Complain about the unfairness of it all. ("This should not have happened" - "How could anyone do such a thing?")
• Organize your life around the event, trauma or injustice. Make it a central theme in your life. Talk about nothing else. Bore your friends.
• Remain bitter and unforgiving. A wise friend of mine once said, "Not forgiving someone is much like trying to crush a sandspur between your fingers. You might eventually do it, but it sure is going to hurt."
• Become a victim. Give up your power to take responsibility and control over your own life.
• Play the scene over and over in your mind. Keep thinking of what you should have done or what you should have said.
How to move on, heal and thrive
• Talk about it. Many of us mistakenly believe that if we keep it inside it won't bother us. Quite the opposite is true. Remember the character -Tom Wingo in "Prince of Tides" and the damage done by not talking about the trauma that had happened in his family? Many times, getting it. out in the open can make it manageable.
• Forgive those involved. Forgiving does not condone what someone else did, it simply releases us from the pain of their actions.
• Most importantly, follow this favorite advice of mine:
"Make a place for the event in your life and then put it in its place."
It's important to remember that it did happen and it did affect you. At the same time, its place is in the past, much like a chapter in a book you have read and choose not to read again.
• If you find yourself wanting to but unable to follow these suggestions, you may want to get professional help putting the past behind you.
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