I came to thinking recently that life is a bit like a scabby knee. Well, not life necessarily, but healing – the healing we all go through time after time throughout our lives – from broken relationships, from loss, from disappointment, from fear, betrayal, anxiety and all the other challenging emotions and events that cause us trauma. We all have emotional wounds that need nursing. And just as with a grazed knee (or in my case recently, a quite deeply cut and rather disgustingly oozing knee, post motorbike fall in Koh Phangan), if you keep your emotional wounds clean, attend to them, care for them, and give yourself the time, patience and gentleness required to let yourself heal, eventually, you will.
Eventually the raw, stinging pain and shock you first felt will subside to a dull, numbing sensation, that distracts you from, but doesn’t stop your life in its tracks. As your immune system gets to work, your white blood cells working in overdrive to protect you from infection and other external threats, a scab forms to cover your wound, making you feel safer, stronger, the pain of that excruciating initial blow having subsided.
Then, as each day passes, as your body continues to work for you, intuitively, precisely, miraculously, designed perfectly to step in at the drop of a hat to fix any imbalance, attack or malfunction that may occur within your natural internal ecosystem (your internal Universe), you feel a little better. With each cell that regenerates (the miracle of Creation in action), you begin to feel stronger, more grounded, and more able to cope with this blow that life has dealt you.
But then, one afternoon, while feeling particularly tired and low (nursing the after-effects of a rather-too-enthusiastic ‘let’s go for one drink’ night out), you bang your scabby knee against the sharp corner of a table. Your body, shocked by this brutal and unexpected attack on a recently open wound, gives you two seconds of numbness to allow you to realise what has occurred.
You grit your teeth in anticipation, knowing, innately what is to come. And then it hits you. That searing, agonizing pain, shooting through your bones and seemingly every nerve in your body. A pain so intense that the hairs on your arms stand on end. A pain so overwhelming that, childishly and foolishly, you want to cry for your mother.
In just a split second you have been brought right back to the initial site of your trauma – to the initial attack that first broke open your flesh and made you bleed.
Inadvertently you have torn open once again your still raw and painful wound, and the flesh underneath burns and stings, exposed unexpectedly to the elements (to your external Universe). The shear blow of this stops you in your tracks. You gasp for breath, feeling dizzy, nauseous, physically and mentally paralysed by shock.
But then, a voice from inside you asks: “Are you breathing?”
“Breathe”, you think. “Just breathe.” In through your nose, out through your nose. Slow, deep and silent. Close your eyes. Just breathe.
And, suddenly calmer, you realise: this is just a moment. A painful moment undoubtedly, but a moment nonetheless. It will pass. You realise that although you feel pain now, it will eventually subside. And no matter how deep your cuts, your body will eventually heal. Because you know it has the amazing capacity to heal itself.
Soon this moment will pass, be forgotten even. Then a new protective scab will form over your wound. In time, with regenerated skin cells having covered completely your naked flesh, your scabs will disappear and a scar will form. No longer will your knee be so vulnerable to injury and attack and no longer will you carry around the semi-subconscious fear of opening your wound yet again.
A scar will remain though, that is for certain. If you’re lucky, for just a few months, but it could be years, perhaps even a lifetime. The severity of the scars we bear depends on the intensity of the injuries we have suffered. But it also depends on the level of care we gave ourselves during our much-needed time of recovery. How quickly our wounds heal, and how quickly our scars fade, is in large part up to us. And this is true for injuries of the body, the mind, and the soul.
We too often ignore the emotional shocks, bumps and grazes that we all experience during life. We neglect to understand that it’s not just our physical body that is susceptible to illness, disease and trauma, but that our emotional and mental health and wellbeing too is constantly at stake, constantly challenged and vulnerable to attack.
But we all have the power to heal. And if you respect and honour your needs, physical or other, after suffering a trauma, if you treat yourself with kindness, tenderness, respect and understanding, allowing yourself to heal in your own time, at your own pace, you will be amazed at what you can overcome.
This is the path to true healing in my opinion. We must first feel pain in order to feel joy. And to really feel it. We must have the courage to look pain in the eyes and meet it head-on. We must learn to sit with sad, uncomfortable feelings, for as long as we need to before we are able to let them go. We must observe our feelings and be aware of the effects of life’s blows on our physical, mental and emotional bodies. We must learn to slow down during these difficult times when we are weakened by the challenges that life throws at us (because it will never stop). We must treat ourselves, our whole selves, with the same level of love and respect as that which we do the ones we love most dearly. We must kiss our own grazed knees better, as our mothers did ours when we were children.
Our scars may remain for a while, maybe even for life. But the knocks we receive will no longer pack the same punch if we have faith in the incredible powers we all possess within to heal and to grow. To pick up the pieces and start again. To find the lesson in every challenge that life presents.To endeavour to live a life of peace and love, starting with ourselves.