I've heard many well meaning people say, "You'll be okay, time heals all wounds." "Just give it some time and you'll be fine." The intentions of these words are good but the truth can be very misleading and even damaging. If you are one of those people who have waited and waited for time to heal your wounds STOP waiting! Time doesn't heal wounds! The only thing time does is go by. It passes. The clock ticks. The calendar turns. The sand falls. Time comes and goes, period.
If I broke my arm today and the doctor told me "you'll be okay, time heals all wounds" or "just give it time and it will heal" I wouldn't believe him. In fact I would fire him! Granted, if I did take his advice I would certainly grow more accustomed to my broken arm over time. I might learn to compensate for its limitations and pains but that does not equate with healing and we all know it. Why do we believe "time heals all wounds" when dealing with emotional hurts? Similarly we might grow more accustom to our pain, we might learn to compensate for it as we learn to live with it weighing on us. But this does not equate with healing anymore than a broken arm that never got set, treated and healed.
You want to heal from grief? Disappointment? Depression? Trauma? Betrayal? Loss? Heartbreak? Then don't let anymore time pass without doing something healing! You see, it's what we do with our time and how we address our wounds that produces healing. The trouble is we don't bleed from grief, we are not outwardly wounded from betrayal, we are not physically limited from disappointment and so we don't care for it in the same way we do a physical break. Depression and Anxiety don't cause a fever and therefore are not contagious so we just keep going to work or school in hopes that it will get better. We spend a lot of our time denying and ignoring our emotional wounds instead of treating and healing them.
The truth is our emotions need bandages, casts and surgery too. We need the healing ointment of support, love and kindness. We need the strength that can come from addressing our hurts face forward and head on. We need to know that there is education available to assist us in getting better answers, treatment and freedom from our pain. And we need to spend our time pursuing healing things in order for healing to take place. If we do not, then those wounds fester, grow, and cause infection in other areas of our life simply because they were not treated. It doesn't have to be that way. The emotional difficulty that gets addressed can go through a process of healing that if done correctly actually makes that spot in our lives stronger than it was before the break. Just like the broken arm that is treated and healed.
Much like seeking medical attention there are many different levels of therapeutic intervention. Which one do you need to do? Call that friend? Read that book? Join that support group? Say that prayer? Ask that question? Take that medication? Make that appointment? Go to that meeting? Forgive that injustice? Grieve that loss? Overcome that obstacle? Face that fear? Quit that habit? Change that thinking? Ask for help? Admit that denial? Confess that sin? Increase that esteem?
Healing is something we do, often even fight for. It is something we seek and participate in. It is not something that falls into our lap while we are allowing time to pass. Do something healing today, will you?
In my private practice I have the privilege of meeting with teenagers. Although I do not work with toddlers in my practice I have one in my home. Because of this I have been reminded once again of the amazing similarities between the two. Seriously, think about it! Both are focused primarily on what they want and are willing to go to great lengths to get it including manipulation and lying. Both are prone to emotional meltdowns and will at times show a complete inability to control themselves. Toddlers are self-absorbed and teenagers are self-involved. Both are maneuvering significant developmental milestones that are of vast importance to their emotional health and well being. Both require multiple requests from a parent to accomplish a task that isn't on their agenda. Both make statements of dislike toward their parents, their chores and the massive unfairness that seems to exist in the world.
Because of these similarities I frequently encourage parents to respond to their teenagers as they did their toddlers. It often makes for more effective parenting and decreases the emotion in the home considerably. For instance when my 4 year old says, "you're mean and I don't like you", I don't take it personally because I know she is merely focused on not getting her way. I remind her that she has the right to her opinion about me and that my primary concern is not that she likes me. And then I enforce the expectation, rule or boundary that she didn't like to begin with. I am the adult. I don't participate in the emotion. For some reason when those words are spoken by our teenagers we allow them to matter and hurt our feelings even though they are likely also focused on getting their way. We are better at seeing these "teachable moments" when our kids are little. We are more likely to stay out of the emotion and utilize those times to teach our kids more appropriate ways to respond to their anger, frustration and disappointment. But when they are teenagers I have seen parents respond in anger, hurt, blame, frustration and actually escalate the situation considerably by joining in the emotion. We jump on the emotional roller coaster with them strap on our seatbelts and prove we can ride the crazy train too! Perhaps it would be more effective to say, "I'll be right here on level ground ready to talk with you when you are finished." We are the adults. We don't participate in the emotion.
I also encourage parents to consider monitoring their teenagers much like they monitored their toddler. Now before you totally tune that out as a ridiculous call to helicopter parenting, hear me out. Consider the attention you paid to what your toddler was exposed to. The movies, the games, the people, etc… They were sensitive, impressionable and precious and we wanted to preserve that! I believe we should trust our teenagers to make good choices but I also believe we should verify that they are making good choices by monitoring their activities, media and social relationships. Afterall they are sensitive, impressionable and precious and we want to preserve that! Think about how long you allowed your toddler to be in his/her room by themselves before you wondered what they were up to. 20 minutes? 30 minutes? Silence in the toddler years often meant trouble so we checked on them frequently. Yet there are teenagers all over this country who spend hours and hours, days and days in their rooms doing and experiencing unthinkable things because nobody is monitoring their silence. If we dared to do this when they were toddlers it would be called "neglect". Is it any less neglectful when they are still learning, moving through milestones, impressionable and in need of love, encouragement and supervision?
Parents it is our right, our responsibility, and our privilege to parent, teach, encourage and love our children through EVERY stage of development. We don't get to quit because they don't like us or because they want us to quit. We are the adults. We don't get to quit when they don't please us or make us feel like we are doing a good job. We don't quit when they hurt our feelings or our pride. We are the adults. We don't get to quit just because their bodies are bigger and they think they know what is best for them. Please don't quit!!! You are the adult. Your toddler and your teenager will eventually, although not soon, thank you for it!
I have respect for their perseverance and strength.
If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to help them.
I consider it an honor to sit before them.
I consider it a privilege to know them.
Their brokeness is the most difficult thing for them to share.
And yet that is the reason they walk through my door.
There is no reason they should trust me.
There has been no safety.
I cannot know their pain.
The terror they have lived through is my worst imagined nightmare.
A horrifying dream from which they cannot awaken.
An unrelenting haunting continuation of fear and abuse that is real.
Life was twisted.
Family was demented.
Hope was obliterated.
Joy was stolen.
Purity was tainted.
Innoncence was mocked.
Love was shattered.
Trust was murdered.
Over and over and over and over and over again!
The very fact that they sit before me
in an attempt to trust again,
Is an extreme act of courage and valor.
Our paths intersected.
Broken as her words.
Counsel escaped me.
Compassion filled me.
Tearful and perplexed,
We sat in mutual sadness.
Perhaps it was in the sitting,
That her heart began to heal.