Emotional First Aid: Healing the Invisible Wounds Within

What do you do when you are emotionally injured? Do you realise when you need emotional First Aid?

When you accidentally cut yourself while preparing your dinner, you know that you need to stop what you are doing, wash your finger and stem the bleeding. Once that’s done, you know you have to disinfect the wound and then cover it with a band-aid, to keep it from getting infected.

We know what we need to do when we get physically injured.

But do we know what to do when we get emotionally injured?

Betrayal, rejection. bullying, abandonment, humiliation, failure, isolation and neglect are all examples of emotional injuries.

If you, for example, who barely ever ask for help, finally are forced by circumstances to reach out and ask for help, only to be refused and rejected, you have been emotionally wounded.

You need urgent emotional first aid.

You need to stop what you are doing. Recognise that you have been emotionally injured and accept your feelings about the injury without judgment: whether you are angry frustrated, hurt, lost or sad…validating your emotions is the first step towards healing.

Next, you need to stem the emotional bleeding – aka rumination – promptly. Dwelling on it, rerunning the incident again and again in your mind, wastes valuable emotional energy that can be used much more effectively to start the emotional healing process. The best way to disrupt unhealthy rumination is to distract yourself by engaging in a task that requires concentration, for example, completing a crossword, even if it’s just for 3 minutes.

How do you heal an emotional injury?

  1. Talk to someone you trust: Sharing your feelings with a trustworthy friend or family member can be both therapeutic and cathartic. If appropriate, join a support group: Connecting with others who have experienced similar emotional injuries can validate your feelings and help you cope with the injury. If the emotional injury is severe or persists despite your efforts, seeking help from a therapist can be immensely beneficial.
  2. Focus on activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient rest can positively impact your emotional well-being. Writing, especially journalling, or any other creative activity can be a productive way to process emotions and gain new insights. Take care of your emotional health just as you do take care of your physical health.
  3. To avoid future emotional injury, set healthy boundaries with people who might be causing or exacerbating emotional injuries.
  4. Consider forgiving the person or situation that caused the emotional injury. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning their actions but can free you from carrying the burden of resentment.
  5. Notice emotional injury in others and reach out, a simple text is often enough: “Helping you make it through this dark phase in your life is my priority. I’m here for you, whenever you need me” or “This is a tough time for you. What can I do to help?” Helping others cope with emotional injuries is one of the best ways of learning how to cope better with your own.

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This month’s TED talk, Emotional First Aid by Dr Guy Winch, has had 13,360,748 views and more than 400 000 likes.

Journaling can be a powerful tool for coping with emotional injuries and applying emotional first aid. These journaling prompts can help facilitate emotional healing:

Describe the emotion you are feeling right now. Explore its intensity, triggers, and any physical sensations associated with it.

Write a letter to the person or situation that caused the emotional injury. Express your feelings, but this time, allow yourself to release any anger or resentment you’ve been holding onto.

Make a list of your inner strengths, skills and qualities that have helped you cope with emotional injuries in the past. How can you leverage these strengths to heal from the current emotional injury?

Write down positive affirmations that counteract any negative self-talk or limiting beliefs you may have developed as a result of the emotional injury, ex.

  1. I am worthy of love and acceptance: I recognise that rejection does not define my worth. I am deserving of love and acceptance just as I am.
  2. Rejection does not diminish my value: I acknowledge that rejection is a part of life, and it does not diminish my value as a person. I am still valuable and deserving of support.
  3. I release the need for external validation: I no longer seek validation from others to define my self-worth. I love and accept myself unconditionally. I am good enough, regardless of any rejections I may face.
  4. I let go of past rejections: I release the grip of past rejections on my emotions and thoughts. I am free to embrace new opportunities and experiences. Rejection may shake me, but it will not break me.
  5. I am not defined by others’ opinions of me: I let go of the need to please everyone or to be universally liked. I am defined by my own values and beliefs.

Journaling regularly can help you gain insight into your emotions. If you find that emotional injuries are significantly impacting your daily life, seeking support from a mental health professional is essential for further guidance and assistance.

Pay attention to yourself and learn how you, personally, deal with common emotional wounds. For instance, do you shrug them off, get really upset but recover quickly, get upset and recover slowly, squelch your feelings, or …? Use this analysis to help yourself understand which emotional first aid treatments work best for you in various situations (just as you would identify which of the many pain relievers on the shelves works best for you). The same goes for building emotional resilience. Try out various techniques and figure out which are easiest for you to implement and which tend to be most effective for you. – Dr Guy Winch

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