Does Time Heal All Wounds?
This used to be one of my favorite sayings. "Time heals all wounds." I would hold onto these four few words dearly, faithfully reminding myself of this phrase when I was grieving over the sudden death of my father 18 years ago. Many people I know today also quote this phrase as a way to soothe themselves when they are experiencing something very emotionally painful.
But over the years, as I have learned more about the nature of the mind, I discovered something very interesting. Time actually does not heal all wounds. In fact, the only wounds that can heal over time are wounds on the body. You get a cut, and over time, your body's magnificent natural healing process takes place without you having to tell it to do anything. It just knows what to do, and after some time, voila! Your skin is healed.
I wish it were that easy for the wounds of the heart to heal, just with the passing days, weeks, months and years. We could go about our daily life, not having to think about the painful past, and voila! One day all of that drama and trauma and turmoil in our mind would be healed and we would be as good as new. But, the truth is something very different. The mind actually does not have that capacity to heal the painful emotion automatically on its own like that. The mind, however, does have a mechanism to deal with painful emotions. It just covers them right up. The mind cleverly does this in numerous ways from distracting oneself with too many things to do, to jumping from relationship to relationship, to becoming absorbed in a hobby, sport, or spirituality, to becoming a workaholic, to becoming over involved in someone else's life, to being a volunteer, or a super helper to your kids, grandkids, and other family members, to drinking alcohol, smoking pot, or using other substances, to overeating, to gossiping, or criticizing others, lying, stealing, or doing crimes, and the list goes on. This is how the mind does what it is so expert at doing - avoiding pain. And the best part is that we don't even realize that our mind is doing it. Why is that? Because we always have a good reason to explain why we are doing what we are doing. We never will think for a minute that the reason we are doing what we are doing is to avoid our painful past. Okay, maybe for one minute we might consider that thought, but that's it. Then we get on with it, and keep on doing what we are doing. Life is short. You only live once, so time to get on with it, and enjoy, right?
One thing for sure is that our mind will always keep us busy, inventing newer and greater things for us to do. Chasing happiness and avoiding pain at any cost. Underneath it all, our mind is just trying to distract us from our painful feelings so we don't ever really have to feel them. I guess it's a good thing. It's a protective measure of the mind to keep us safe from feeling something painful. While that is definitely true, the problem is that we can go on running like this for the rest of our life. Really. I've seen it happen. I used to work with people who were dying, on the very last days of their life. It was amazing to see all of the painful emotions that they had been holding on to sometimes for decades, that came cascading out when they were on their deathbed. I always used to wonder how their life would have been different if they had embraced and processed their painful past, instead of ignoring it?
By ignoring our feelings what happens is that we think we are "over it." In a way, we have convinced ourselves that we are happy. That all is well and good. For the time being, at least. However, inevitably, something happens in life to trigger us. It may not happen today, or tomorrow, or next week or next year. It may not happen in five years, or ten years. It could be a very long time from now that our old emotions get triggered up. But one thing for sure is that it will happen. For example, out of seemingly nowhere, we become very angry at our inconsiderate neighbor, we feel rejected or unloved by our cold partner, we feel unappreciated by our demanding boss, we feel disrespected by our selfish son, or neglected by our distant sister. All of these feelings are real, I don't doubt that. But have you ever really questioned their source? Where did these feelings come from? It is clear who triggered the feelings, but the feelings were inside of you. How did they get there? Were you born with these painful feelings, or did something happen in your childhood to make you feel unloved, neglected, rejected, or unimportant? What I'm getting at is that the painful feelings from childhood are unprocessed and they are the cause of your current emotions today. When a similar situation arises as an adult that resembles our painful childhood experiences, then our childhood emotions get triggered up and we think, feel, and act from that place. From the place of a hurt, small child. And no one likes to be like that or feel like that. But that is what is going on.
So, while we've got this chance, we should take it to heal from the past. It can only happen if we go back and revisit those painful childhood memories and work through them, advisably, with a therapist as your guide. It will be painful, but it will be well worth it in the end. For you, yourself can heal your own wound. Not time. Time is there to support you as you explore your past so you can be peaceful and happy in the present.