What are 6 Proven Ways to Approach Emotional Healing?
If you found this article, you are likely in search of emotional healing. And, you are probably asking yourself, is it even possible. As I will explain, yes—emotional healing is a very real possibility if we take deliberate actions to tackle our pain instead of numbing it.
Yoko Ono said, “Nobody’s life is a bed of roses. We all have crosses to bear, and we all just do our best.” The reality of life is that it is not a bed of roses, but at the same time, neither is it a bed of thorns.
We all experience lows and highs. It’s like the ocean’s vastness, and we are passengers on a boat adrift, sometimes experiencing smooth sailing and at other times rough seas.
These varying emotions and situations contribute meaning to life and make it complete and whole. What then happens when life doesn’t go on as well as we hoped and planned? How do we process and cope with painful emotions?
Let us begin with the story of a notable celebrity who, due to the pressure and challenges he faced at a young age, engaged in drinking and drug use to numb his pain, but eventually came to terms with his situation and learned to handle it healthily.
This article is based on an episode of Passion Struck with John R. Miles. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform.
How Robert Downey Jr. dealt with pressure, stress, and emotional healing
Robert Downey Jr. was born in New York to an actor and filmmaker, Robert Downey Sr., and actress mother, Elsie Ann. He started his acting career in 1970 at the young age of five, with his acting debut in his father’s film titled ‘Pound.’
Growing up, he would go on sets with his father, and it was from that tender age that he started to develop an interest in acting.
However, something else was getting his attention at this young age. Downey’s father started exposing him to drugs at the age of six, and from then on, drug use became somewhat of an emotional bond between them. He noted that he and his father doing drugs was like an expression of love for him.
As Downey grew in age and advanced in the profession, he began to gain fame and recognition. However, the pressure of measuring up to expectations and stardom at his young age impacted him greatly, and to cope, he began to engage in harmful activities.
He would spend most nights abusing alcohol and fervently scouting for hard drugs. This habit started in his early years and carried on into adulthood even after getting married. Whenever he was stressed or faced a difficult challenge, he would abuse alcohol and drugs with his buddies.
Downey Jr. was arrested many times in the summer of 1996 for odd and reckless drug-fueled behavior. One incident had police stopping him for speeding and discovering he was intoxicated. He also had heroin and cocaine on him as well as an unloaded .356 magnum gun in his passenger seat.
Downey Jr. bounced in and out of rehab for addiction in state institutions around California for the following few years. He was sentenced to three years in state prison in 1999 and served 12 months before being paroled. He was arrested twice more in the next eight months before being sentenced to six months in rehab at Wavelengths International, one of many court-ordered addiction treatment facilities he visited over the years.
This period in Downey’s life was his lowest point of addiction and the time when he lost everything. Hollywood considered him a pariah and a laughing stock. His wife left him and took their son. He was sacked from his role as Larry Paul in the Ally McBeal sitcom and had plunged into massive debt. It was at this point that Downey finally made the decision to quit drugs and alcohol for good.
We all experience lows and highs. It’s like the ocean’s vastness, and we are passengers on a boat adrift, sometimes experiencing smooth sailing and at other times rough seas. – John R. Miles
Two years later, after spending time in rehab and undergoing emotional healing, Robert Downey Jr. began making a comeback and jumped back into his acting career. He had remarried by this time, and with support from his wife Susan, yoga, and his renewed career to keep him busy and focused, he overcame his addiction and stayed sober.
Since then, in 2003, he has maintained sobriety. His acting career has thrived, leading to his greatest triumph — starring as Tony Stark in Marvel Studios’ Iron Man and The Avengers film franchises.
I used Downey’s transformational story because it conveys several questions that we will tackle:
- Why is it essential that we experience pain?
- Is it okay to feel sadness?
- Why do we handle pain in harmful ways and numb our feelings?
- What is the right way to approach emotional healing?
Why is it essential that we experience pain?
We live in a world that constantly promotes a feel-good culture and suppresses sadness. We are always told to try to stay happy, no matter our personal circumstances.
While we are meant to avoid situations that can cause us pain, there are certain times when things are beyond our control, and emotional suffering becomes inevitable. At times like this, we need to be able to look past the pain and turn that suffering into resilience and growth through emotional healing.
Whether it’s due to their potency or a lack of the ability to handle them, emotions can be challenging to manage. Numbing out painful emotions is what some people do to cope with these emotional situations.
They engage in destructive behaviors like drinking and taking drugs, and unhealthy behaviors like over-working, emotional eating, and excessive binge-watching, hoping that these will take the pain away. The only thing these harmful activities do is ease the pain for a little. But over time, it only worsens when it returns.
Knowing that pain and challenges will always be a part of life, it is vital to understand how to give your painful emotions full expression and deal with them in healthy ways that can make you stronger and even better because of the situations.
I recently interviewed Susan Cain about her new book, “Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole.” In our discussion, Susan explored the bittersweet state of mind and how it is the silent force that enables us to transcend our individual and collective pain.
Susan emphasizes that if we don’t acknowledge our own sorrows and longings, we can inflict them on others via abuse, domination, or neglect. But if we realize that all humans know — or will know — loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other. And we can learn to alter our own pain into emotional healing through connection, transcendence, and creativity.
Allowing yourself to be unhappy does not imply wallowing in self-pity. Choosing sadness has several advantages, and it primarily enables you to accept the reality of your current feelings — which is the first step toward processing the emotions.
Why is sadness a great form of emotional healing?
As earlier mentioned, having times when we feel pain and sadness is a natural and inevitable part of life. But asides from just having to cope with these times, we need to realize that there are social and psychological benefits to them. The following are some of these benefits.
Sadness can connect you with others
According to a 2018 research from New Ideas in Psychology, sadness encourages others to treat you with empathy, thus providing you with care and compassion when you need it most. 2015 research on social motives and preferences for group-based sadness found that expressing sadness can create a shared sense of values and bring people together. This helps to unite people and ultimately leads to a world filled with compassion.
Sadness helps you process complexity
According to the same 2018 research, when the melancholy state compels you to disconnect, you’re experiencing a protective mechanism designed to keep you safe during a vulnerable period. When you’re feeling low, some alone time may assist your body and mind reduce unneeded stimuli. This can allow you to process deep or complex emotions.
Sadness is a natural part of grieving and can inspire growth
Sadness is a component of grieving, the normal response to and managing loss. Experts say sorrow may be a stage in the grief cycle that fosters contemplation. This means that melancholy might actively assist you in making sense of the intense feelings of sorrow.
Sadness is also linked to post-traumatic growth, which can occur due to adverse life situations. Post-traumatic growth may result in a more robust spiritual sense or a determination to effect positive change.
Sadness can lead to more satisfaction
In some cases, sadness can be a symptom that something in your life, such as a relationship, a job, or a decision, isn’t working out. When this happens, you must take time to ponder how the sadness could be pointing you in the right direction. Tuning in to that feeling can be the first step toward making a much-needed change, which will ultimately help you get more satisfaction out of life.
Why do we handle pain in harmful ways and numb out our emotional healing?
Due to their inability to effectively handle their sad emotions, some people engage in emotional suppression. As the words indicate, this is an act of suppressing or numbing out one’s emotions.
This is a very unhealthy way to deal with one’s emotions as it prevents one from processing a traumatic experience and getting healed, causes more distress, and impacts one’s health negatively.
To suppress their painful emotions, people could engage in excessive drinking or take drugs. According to Dr. John Mendelson, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, alcohol works by flooding the brain with dopamine and creating feelings of euphoria. It also inhibits judgment and memory, and together, these effects can temporarily relieve feelings like sadness and stress.
He, however, adds that “when the alcohol wears off, and the negative emotions come rushing back, you may feel even worse than you did before.”
Six vital ways to find emotional healing
The only way to effectively handle your emotional pains is to first accept them and not deny that they exist. Accepting them allows your feelings to be what they are without judging or trying to change them.
Acceptance simply means being aware of your emotions and taking them for what they currently are, knowing that they won’t last and that you will get better on the other side of them.
Recognize that accepting emotions does not imply that you have to be continuously miserable or in pain. It also does not imply that you keep terrible emotions inside or force yourself to experience emotional distress.
It simply means letting go of your attempts to control your emotions and recognizing that feelings cannot damage you, but the things you may do to try to get rid of emotions, such as drinking, can.
The following are some details on approaches to effectively handling your emotions.
Cry when you feel the need
Christian Nestell Bovee once said, “Tears are nature’s lotion for the eyes. The eyes see better from being washed by them.” Indeed, we can view things differently and deeply after having an experience that made us shed tears.
Crying is the body’s natural process of physically expressing an intense feeling of sorrow. So, when the situation prompts those tears, find a comfortable time and place to let them all out rather than holding them in and trying to numb them.
Expressing sadness by crying can also help those around you recognize that you’re experiencing grief and prompt them to give their support and understanding.
Have a sincere conversation with yourself
A meaningful way to express your feelings in sad times is to have a deep, honest talk with yourself. You can effectively do this by journaling your deepest thoughts. This will help you better understand why things happened the way they did, draw lessons from the situation, and recognize the best ways to grow through it.
Talk to someone
Besides talking to yourself, talking to someone else, be it a friend, family member, or even someone you’ve just met, could go a long way in helping you clear your head and lighten the weight of the emotions you’re feeling.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
The arts of mindfulness and meditation go a long way in helping you heal well. In both meditation and mindfulness, you will be able to consciously choose to pay attention to what is happening in each moment without judgment.
This will help calm your mind and train your focus on the things within your control, ultimately enabling you to be at peace through your pain.
Seek professional help
The decision to quit abusing substances and alcohol is the most challenging step. Once you decide, you can follow up your decision with intentional action. Your decision to quit alone will not be enough because your brain has been wired to a habit of drug and alcohol abuse.
You will need support in the form of rehab or therapy. So, take prompt action in seeking these relevant professionals, and you can be assured of a definite process to total recovery.
Keep a broad perspective
Life is diverse and several moments connect in ways that you could never imagine. Keeping a broad view of life will enable you to realize that some of the painful situations you experience could lead to some of your biggest lessons and eventual success.
So, learn to always keep your head up high and hope for better days while you experience today’s challenging situations.
Why our emotional pain is never wasted and will lead us to grace
In the words of Bob Goff, “Our pain is never wasted, for what brings us to tears will lead us to grace.” Having sad times is a natural part of life that could affect us, depending on how we approach it. As I explained in Passion Struck episode 19 on Applying the Power of Choice, you can always choose how you respond to every situation in your life. Every one of the choices we make shapes our experiences and brings us to where we are in our life
Also, keep in mind that the aim is not to get rid of the emotion but to allow yourself to fully feel it. So, ensure that whatever activity you choose to engage in is to the end that you can express your emotions.
So, the next time you feel like putting up a tough appearance and numbing your emotional pain, take a deep breath, remember everything you have just learned, and give full expression to that emotion. Only then will you be genuinely healed and grow to be a better version of yourself from experience.
I wish you strength, clarity, and peace to guide you through the painful days that occur along life’s journey.
- Read my recent article on why the real prisons exist in the mind and what we believe.
- Are you having trouble prioritizing yourself? I discuss where you invest your love; you invest your life in Episode 104
- I explain why materialism is impacting your success and happiness in episode 96.
- Do you know the science of healthy habits? I explore this in-depth in Episode 108.
- Suppose you missed my interview with Jen Bricker-Bauer on Everything is Possible. Don’t panic! You can catch up by downloading it here.
- How do you strengthen your relationship with your best self? Explore episode 110.
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