We have all experienced hurt in our lives, both physical and emotional. While our physical body largely goes into automatic healing mode whenever it perceives an injury, our emotional selves are sometimes left to flounder with untended wounds because the process for healing is not as automatic. Some of us are influenced by certain cultural values that can actually undermine the healing process. Like our physical body, there is a specific context of relational components that must take place in our emotional state of being in order for the emotional healing process to take place. Since an important part of all healing is based on relationship conditions that support recovery, this makes understanding the nature of healing extremely important so we can effectively apply it to emotional wounds.
There are 4 behavioral responses on a cellular level that occur in response to injury. They are as follows:
- Atrophy – Decreasing the function of cells
- Hypertrophy – Increasing the size of cells
- Hyperplasia – Accelerating the replication of cells
- Metaplasia – Replacing one tissue type with another
When we use our biology as the lens to look at the conditions that help facilitate emotional healing, we see that the same things we need physically also need to be applied to healing psychological wounds. Here are some things we can learn about emotional healing from our biology. This is not meant as any kind of complete recipe for healing. It is only to point out that our biological systems tell us what we need to know to make the psychological process healing work.
Atrophy – Decreasing the function: Taking the appropriate time to deal with emotional hurt is important. Some of us have the impression that it is best to just push it out of the way and soldier on. While this may be necessary depending on the immediate situations in our lives, pushing emotions down long term strangles the healing process. We need to afford ourselves the appropriate time to rest in order to devote the energy the healing process needs to move forward.
Hypertrophy – Increasing the size: It is important to realize that emotional wounds increase our sensitivity. This is how our psychological system communicates that issues need attention. We have to recognize that we are in a more vulnerable state at this time. Exposing ourselves to challenges that we would otherwise be able to handle with ease may now be overwhelming. As we heal, this will change. Until then, we need to be careful about the situations we expose ourselves to.
Hyperplasia – Accelerating the replication: When we allow ourselves the right conditions to heal we minimize the overall pain that can be generated by emotional wounds.
Metaplasia – Replacing one tissue type with another: If the conditions are right to go through the process of emotional healing we can also find that we can be changed positively by the experience. In the long run, we can be better adapted to deal with issues, or become a valuable source to help heal someone else suffering from the same type of wound.