“Time heals every wound”, they say. However, the truth is that time does not heal wounds, it is we who must heal over time. Thinking that time is a guaranteed solution to our problems, conflicts and suffering generates a passive attitude that ends up feeding a state of abulia in which frustration, dissatisfaction and pain grow.
A study conducted at Arizona State University found that even though we have the ability to heal from traumatic events, many of the significant life altering events continue to affect us several years later, so many people take much longer than expected to recover. .
Therefore, leaving our emotional healing in the hands of time isn't exactly the safest or smartest choice we can make. And there are several reasons that support it.
Why doesn't time heal all wounds?
1. Pain tends to get worse before it gets better
Thinking that time heals everything is tantamount to believing that emotional healing follows a linear process in which pain gradually decreases as the days go by. But those who have suffered a painful loss know this is not the case.
The first few days are usually not the worst because when the blow is too strong, defense mechanisms such as denial are activated to protect us as they act as a sort of "emotional anesthesia" during the first days or weeks. When their effect begins to wear off and we realize the extent of what has happened, the contained pain regains strength and can hit us with greater intensity than at the beginning.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the suffering worsens weeks or even months after the painful event. Furthermore, the intensity of the pain we experience throughout that time is extremely variable, so that the "good" days are interspersed with "bad" days. Those emotional ups and downs are part of the process.
2. Not all of them improve over time
As a general rule, 18 months after a significant loss, most of the more intense symptoms characteristic of pain tend to subside, from general sadness to insomnia, anger, anhedonia or nightmares. But this rule doesn't apply to all people.
There are those who go through a complicated period and get stuck in pain. In the case of unprocessed grief, for example, we get stuck in one of the stages because we can't emotionally process the loss. Our inner world does not rearrange itself to accept what has happened, or because reality creates feelings that are too overwhelming to manage or because we believe that letting go of the pain is a betrayal of the person who abandoned us.
Therefore, although we all have a natural inner healing power, each case is different and it is not always possible to move forward without the help of a professional who can channel maladaptive emotions and ideas. We can become very resilient, but it is also important to be aware of our limitations and to understand that the passage of time is not a guarantee of healing.
3. Time passes very slowly when we suffer
Time may be an objective measure for some, but for sufferers it becomes extremely subjective. When we are sick, for example, time passes very slowly. The minutes we have to wait for the drugs to take effect seem like an eternity.
In fact, neuroscientists at the University of Lyon have found that pain and negative emotions alter our perception of time, making it flow more slowly. These researchers point to the anterior insular cortex, an area of the brain that integrates body pain signals but is also a critical component involved in the integration of pain, self-awareness and the sense of time. They suggest that time estimation and self-perception can share a common neural substrate and that when we feel bad, we focus too much on ourselves, which contributes to the impression that time stops.
Therefore, to say that time heals every wound is an understatement. When you suffer, the minutes seem like hours and the hours turn into days that pass slowly. For this reason, when adversity knocks on our door, we seem to be victims of a tragedy and we think that the pain will never end. Our perception of time is altered.
4. Time leads to resignation, not healing
Wounds of the soul do not heal like those of the body, at least not always. Sitting and waiting, doing nothing to process the pain or trauma, does not lead directly to healing, but rather to quiet resignation.
When time passes and the pain does not vanish because we do not elaborate what has happened, a stoicism is established that has little to do with the growth that occurs after the trauma but is more similar to the learned helplessness and the conformity of those who have surrendered .
Time can help us tolerate pain better because we get used to its pangs, but it doesn't necessarily help us overcome it and emerge stronger or with a new vision. In fact, in many cases it can sink us into anhedonia and depression, making us give up self-healing.
5. The trauma is timeless
Neither does the trauma occur immediately nor does it have an expiration date. A study conducted at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences revealed that 78,8 percent of seriously injured soldiers showed no signs of trauma within one month of the event, but these appeared about seven months later. In late-onset trauma, for example, the emotional impact remains apparently inactive but can manifest itself later.
Likewise, intrusive traumatic memories can persist long after the triggering event has passed and are just as sharp as when we went through the original experience. In the case of flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive thoughts and images, our brain does not differentiate reality from memories, so the pain and suffering we experience is very intense.
Until we process these experiences and integrate them into our autobiographical memory, we won't be able to subtract their emotional impact, so they will continue to hurt us almost like the first day.
In any case, it is difficult to know when we will recover from a painful event. Even though we know that suffering hurts, it doesn't hurt the same for everyone. Therefore, emotional healing is a personal journey of ups and downs.