How to know if you have healed (enough)
Many people begin healing their pain by seeking wisdom, understanding themselves better, and accepting themselves. But their journey never ends. A person traumatized by an event continues to work on his/her trauma all through life. A depressed person embarks on a never-ending search for the perfect state of non-depression. I find this approach doomed to failure.
Healing is an imperfect process. Healing begins with recognizing our incompleteness and ends when we are comfortable with that incompleteness. Once healed, we continue to remain incomplete. Healing does not remove problems from our life — it merely helps us:
- Move away from our problems (not everything can be solved)
- Resolve and change things to a new state (resolve or restart)
The reason some people never heal is because they evaluate their healing in a flawed manner.
Healing is not always repair, it can be choosing a more natural state
We are works in progress. As we grow, we leave parts of ourselves behind. When we find that we have ‘lost’ a part of ourselves in healing, we believe we are still unhealed, which can be a mistake.
Children lose milk teeth so they can grow permanent ones. Babies give up soft skin and flexible joints so they can grow sturdy, muscular ones. Having milk teeth or soft joints are not wounds to be healed, they are just different states. Healing does not always mean advancing to a higher version of your previous self, it may just require shifting yourself to a new, more natural state.
Don’t evaluate your healing against someone with a different wound
Everyone is on a different life path with their own challenges. Everyone is working on healing wounds that serve as crutches they need to shake off. It does not make sense to compare yourself, a person struggling with math, to a person who is natural at math and struggles with poor communication. You might be a financially poor person with a healthy life- it would be incorrect to compare yourself to a rich person who relies on drugs and caffeine to work 20 hours a day. Since there is no one out there with the exact wounds you have, comparison doesn’t help.
Wounds are to be judged by your perception, not others’
Let me give an unusual example- many decades back, there was an influx of literature on abuse in the media. Upon reading this, many men and women re-evaluated their childhoods and accused their parents of childhood abuse. When they had been children, they had never felt it as abuse (they had accepted it as normal), but when they grew up, they evaluated their own childhoods through others’ eyes and ‘discovered’ wounds that they ‘should have suffered from’. As present day adults, they were well-settled, but in the process of educating themselves, they decided to feel wounded.
Move towards self-awareness, but beware of self-delusion. Education should help you evaluate your life through your eyes, not through others’.
True wounds exist in the present, false wounds exist in the past
Going back to the example above, the adults in the story were happy and settled. If they had suffered trauma, it would have been justified to revisit past wounds. However, as happy adults, the only reason they revisited their past was to validate their education and new self-awareness. This is a perfect example of ‘the idle mind becoming a devil’s workshop’. Since they had no specific problems in their life, they could not use their education to solve genuine problems. So they used their new-found knowledge to find ‘false’ problems to solve, creating a lot of suffering for themselves and others.
Others can project their wounds onto you
A good example of this is seen among over-cautious parents. A child who got bored in class 20 years ago got a scolding and a lecture. After around say, 4–5 years, the child actually found something he/she was interested in and did well at school.
Today, ‘educated’ parents rush their children to therapy, where they are diagnosed quickly with ADHD and given enough drugs to kill an elephant. The drugs don’t actually improve the kid, they shut down the ‘boredom-inducing system’ and also what remains of the child’s creativity. People are afraid to leave kids to their own devices any more, these kids are treated with their parents’ devices.
Bringing up children is partly a waiting game — the child has to grow at its own pace. When parents become impatient, they encounter fear and anxiety. When their child doesn’t grow fast enough to soothe their fears, they project it onto their children and label their kids as disabled.
We see this in relationships and marriages too. It was natural for people to be different a few years ago, it was natural for couples to fight. One partner usually became a more flexible partner, and the other a less-flexible directional one (irrespective of gender). This flexibility differed by area based on each partner’s strengths. Today, with both partners being told that they need to agree or divide everything perfectly, they ‘project’ wounds of relationship abuse onto each other. They rush to pre-marital and post-marriage therapy.
A bully at high school tripping you down the corridor is a high school grudge, it need not become post-traumatic stress syndrome. Being bored with grammar does not mean ADHD, it might mean you need to take a creative writing class. Fighting all the time does not mean your partner is abusing you, it might just mean you are incompatible. A new mother wanting to be alone with her baby might mean just that, not post-partum depression.
I am not commenting here on the validity or seriousness of psychological disorders. But psychology is becoming a bit like selling soap. You might need to bathe just once a day, but by showing you ads where microbes keep crawling all over your skin each time you shake hands or kiss, you are trained to use and buy more soap…or mouthwash. By constantly showing you examples of how you are doomed to unhappiness unless every single thing in your life is perfect, you are urged towards finding new problems and more therapy. With healing becoming a business, wounds become reduced to ‘creating a need in the market’.
If we don’t learn to be patient with ourselves and others, we shall continue to discover new wounds. As long as we search for proof that we have (completely) healed, we shall never heal. A healed person is not complete, he/she has discarded those wounds that serve them no more, and chosen the wounds that he/she can handle. Once you can handle a part of yourself, it ceases to be a wound.
When you rely on someone outside you — it might be your friends, a role-model, your parents, your spouse…anyone, to understand why you are flawed, you create false wounds. These false wounds can never be healed because they aren’t your wounds, they belong to someone else. True wounds are found through introspection, not through comparison.
Emotions are natural — both the ups and downs. The moment you divide emotions into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, you create wounds. The only way to be constantly, everlastingly happy is keep yourself pumped up through drugs and alcohol or by going insane. For everyone else, it is normal for emotions to go through a down cycle to help the body recharge. This down cycle is not a wound — it is how we remain physiologically and mentally stable.
It is okay to be happy and unwounded. Others’ discomfort with who we are does not mean we are flawed or wounded. We need to judge our happiness and pain by our own standards, not those of society. We will find your deepest joy when we see pain and obstacles as challenges to help us grow, not as wounds that need constant healing.
This article is related to my earlier post: