3 Reasons to Hold Hope for Healing Emotional Pain

Some people come to therapy feeling totally hopeless. I understand. They have been suffering for years, sometimes decades. They have tried many therapies. They have tried multiple medications that either didn't work or had intolerable side effects. No matter how hopeless someone feels, I always hold hope for healing for the following three reasons, all grounded in science.

1. The brain changes from birth to death.

Research shows that the brain rewires at any age. Norman Doidge, MD, author of The Brain that Changes Itself, says, “The brain is a far more open system than we ever imagined, and nature has gone very far to help us perceive and take in the world around us. It has given us a brain that survives in a changing world by changing itself.” Doidge continues, “After the initial critical learning period of youth is over, the areas of the brain that need to be 'turned on' to allow enhanced, long-lasting learning can only be activated when something important, surprising, or novel occurs, or if we make the effort to pay close attention.”

It just so happens that fully releasing a deeply held emotion is an important, surprising, and novel experience. This connects directly to the second and third reasons I always hold hope for healing...

2. The transformational power of core emotions!

Processing emotions through the body where emotions live is a transformational and profoundly healing experience. Traumas lead to unprocessed emotions that live in the body and adversely affect the mind. Buried emotions can be safely liberated using knowledge, skills, and techniques. When we find a safe space to name and fully experience the core emotions that underlie our depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of buried emotions, we come out the other side transformed by the experience.

But experiencing core emotions is no easy task. Emotions are powerful and frightening at times, and without any education to make them more manageable, most of us avoid our emotions with protective defenses. The Change Triangle explains more about how emotions work in the mind and body. I’d encourage you to learn everything you can about emotions to help you gain the courage to name, validate, and process them.

Having the courage to process emotions brings me to the third reason that I always hold hope for healing the mind and body. 3. Good relationships heal.

How incredible to imagine being accepted for who we are with our needs, emotions, flaws, and virtues, all safe to own and share. When authentic relating and deep emotional experiences are shared and the experience is positive, we are forever changed by that experience.

Infant-mother research, attachment research, and interpersonal neurobiology show how sensitive, in tune, and connected we humans are to one another. We’re wired for connection. Both connection and disconnection change us.