Your life has been layered with pain and trauma. But you can heal wounds from your past and move into healthy ways of relating.
In a perfect world, you would have been raised by two wonderful, caring parents, who delighted in their individuality, thoroughly enjoyed marital intimacy and marveled at the prospect of raising, shaping and enjoying their children.
While the above scenario is possible, it is sadly rare.
As you know, a more likely scenario includes two parents, having experienced their own history of trauma, who divorced or lived in emotional tension or isolation. Lacking a cohesive sense of self, your parents were likely not able to enjoy each other and subsequently were not able to fully enjoy or give you what you needed.
Your pain began early and very possibly has been layered with additional pain and trauma.
This may seem like a dark and pessimistic depiction of life, but it is sadly common. Our stories are often layered by both healthy, healing experiences and hurting, harmful ones. The brain records it all. While we will grow up chronologically, we often remain stuck emotionally. Our painful experiences of the past can cast a long shadow over our current lives.
One woman who came to The Marriage Recovery Center shared the following, quite typical, story:
“I was raised by alcoholic parents. It wasn’t just their alcoholism that hurt me, but the fact that they divorced when I was very young and my mother had a series of boyfriends. Life was very unstable. My father was in and out of my life and I was never able to rely on him or my mother. My siblings and I learned to take care of ourselves after realizing that no one would really be there to care for us.
After all that, I vowed I would never be involved with anyone unhealthy. I figured I knew how to choose someone healthy for my life, but that hasn’t been the case. I’ve had two marriages, both troubled, and now find myself in another challenging marriage. I don’t know how to be in a healthy, loving marriage. I’m not able to sort out how much has to do with him and how much has to do with me.”
Thankfully, her story does not have to end there. If your life is anything like this woman’s, healing the layers of pain is a possibility. You can heal wounds from your past and move into new, healthy ways of relating.
Let’s consider six steps necessary for healing past wounds and ways to move into a brighter, healthier future.
1. Realize that our past never has to dictate our future. While we cannot change our past, we can learn from it and we can heal from it. We must step outside our current situation and review what we are doing that keeps us stuck in our past. Then we must make choices about how we are going to heal and move into healthy relating.
2. Embrace your wounds and seek ways to heal them. As we name our wounds, fully understanding the self-defeating patterns we keep repeating because of them, we can make choices, usually with the help of a skilled professional, on how we will set out to heal our wounds. This may involve healing prayer as well as treatments for trauma such as EMDR, Lifespan Integration or Neurofeedback, to name just a few.
3. Define a healthy relationship and set boundaries for your life. Healing cannot take place when we are not in a safe place emotionally. In fact, studies indicate that trauma can become complex trauma if safety is not achieved for healing. For this to occur, we must create healthy boundaries about what we will and will not tolerate. We must learn exactly what we need to feel and be healthy. Again, it is likely that a skilled professional will help you with this.
4. Manage those boundaries. Identifying and setting boundaries for our healing is only the first step. We must then learn to manage those boundaries, guarding and reinforcing them as necessary. Again, safety in paramount to any healing process and you will need to identify risks to your safety.
5. Learn healthy communication and relationship skills. Having learned about your wounds and the best ways for you to find healing from them, you must also learn new ways of communicating and relating to each other. This begins with you but must lead to how you relate to everyone in your world. It is quite likely that professional couples counseling will be part of your healing journey.
6. Seek God’s best for your life. As important as healthy relationships are to you, God is after something greater—your heart. When He has your heart and you seek His ways, you will discover what steps you must take to ensure you are involved in only healthy, life-giving relationships. He will guide you into necessary change to create healthy relating.
If you are struggling with wounds from your past, I’d like to hear from you. Please read more about strategies for healing past wounds and explore more about my Marriage Intensives at www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com. Send comments to me at email@example.com.
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and When Pleasing Others is Hurting You. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities. You can also find Dr. Hawkins on Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Hawkins offers a free, 20 minute consultation, with requests sent to his email address at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, remember his guarantee at The Marriage Recovery Center: 3 Days To A New Marriage, Guaranteed! He is also excited to continue offering his special eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams free for you to download.