Sunday, October 28, 2012

Invisible Wounds


Many people carry invisible wounds that, when untreated, can impact the quality of their lives. Invisible wounds are often the result of betrayal, abandonment, neglect, and trauma that many people go through. This is different from usual disappointments when life doesn’t go our way or when dealing with the general stressors of life. Invisible wounds often come from victimizing life experiences or painful losses. They can result from the loss of important relationships or situations that fall outside of the acceptable norm of how a human being deserves to be treated. Being a victim of a crime, rape, incest, loss of a loved one, being bullied, domestic violence, painful break ups, extreme financial problems, political oppression, war, and devastations from climate change are examples of situations that can leave invisible emotional scars on people’s psyche.

People who are carrying invisible wounds might complain about one or more of the following: isolation, unhappiness, not feeling motivated, insecurities, low energy, disorganization, frustration, lack of interest in most things, irritation, sleeping disorders, feelings of emptiness, fear, panic, rage, and suicidal thoughts. These are often symptoms of untreated emotional wounds.

Numbing is often how people escape the pain of their invisible wounds. Distraction from emotional pain through numbing one’s self does not help with the healing of invisible wounds. Numbing can include being a workaholic, over eating, alcoholism, using illegal drugs, compulsive sex, watching too much pornography, overspending, and gambling. These unhealthy behaviors that many people use to numb themselves become additional wounds. The vicious cycle of having unhealed wounds and using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with one’s wounds cause more suffering and probability of more acting out behaviors to cope. This cycle is the enemy, and the way out is to go within.

Having invisible wounds can impact how people value themselves and affect their self-esteem. In the shadow of low self esteem, people can make negative life choices and refrain from living a productive life. Just like an untreated physical scar can turn into a serious infection, an untreated psychological wound can also create a painful mess in people’s lives. Ignoring one’s pain is never a good idea. Working on issues that has left painful traces is essential and can lead to a better life.

Everyone’s pain is unique, and no one deserves to suffer in silence. Reaching out and asking for help is a courageous act that people can do in response to their emotional pain. Often, invisible wounds can become conscious by paying attention to our painful feelings and our dark thoughts. By going within and feeling our feelings, we can get to the center of our wounds. Once there, we need a caring listener to hear the story behind the wound and provide us empathy. Being heard and receiving empathy is an important part of the healing process. Having support in understanding our emotional pain is important too.

We can also turn to a journal and write about our pain. Writing about our painful experiences and making emotional discoveries about them is a powerful healing tool. This work needs to be done in the context of psychotherapy and with the support of a trained mental health therapist. Counseling can help people learn how to contain and work with their raw emotions in order to avoid getting overwhelmed by them. It helps people transform these intense emotions to new emotions that are not associated with their unresolved issues and wounds. Counseling can also   lead to a more rational thought pattern and change dysfunctional thinking.

People who I have helped grow and heal from their invisible wounds, often share with me a renewed sense of self and feelings of aliveness.  Participating in counseling with a seasoned licensed mental health professional that you feel comfortable with can be a good start for your healing process.

For more articles by Dr. Payam, please click on the following link:

© Dr. Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Psychotherapist), in private practice in West Hollywood, California.

He is the author of Fruit Basket: A Gay Man’s Journey. In his book, Dr. Payam Ghassemlou writes about the psycho-spiritual journey of a gay man named Javid, in which he struggles with homophobia and having a life purpose. Available on Amazon