Does time heal all wounds? The short answer: no. Does time heal some wounds? I would say, in a sense, yes. It’s really our brains that do the healing over time. When it comes to emotional/traumatic wounds, I compare the brain to the body. If we get a minor injury to our bodies, like a scrape or a bruise, our bodies heal themselves over a relatively short period of time. If we have a more major injury, we might have a scar or pain for a long time and even need intervention, such as stitches or a cast, to help us heal.
Why Can’t I Just Get Over it?
Some people wish they could just ‘get over’ certain memories and even criticize themselves for continuing to be affected by certain events in their past. Why can’t we just ‘get over it’? I talk about how the brain makes sure we survive. If something life threatening happens to us, our brains hold onto it and trigger those memories as a way to make sure we avoid the situation again. Similar experiences can happen with emotional trauma especially from our childhoods. Why? Take into consideration that as children we are so dependent on our parents that, if we were abandoned, we might not survive (especially in caveman times when there were no social policies in place that attempt to take care of children who are abandoned). This is another kind of event that the brain holds onto to help us survive.
How Do I ‘Get Over’ Certain Memories?
There are multiple treatments or therapies that are specifically used to help people decrease the ongoing impact of certain memories but the one I use the most is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR. I believe that EMDR helps the brain ‘heal’ disturbing or traumatic memories much like stitches or a cast help support the body to heal. EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro, who was a researcher at the time, and discovered that pairing rapid eye movements, like those that happen during sleep, with negative feelings decreased the intensity of her negative feelings. Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, is the period of sleep when we most often dream. Our dreams often have content from our lives and minor issues can sometimes be resolved through dreams. It seems possible that our dreams try to resolve bigger issues for us but cannot, hence why higher intensity traumas often cause recurring nightmares that never end well. It is theorized that this is related to why rapid eye movements during EMDR helps decrease the intensity of our feelings (and often neutralizes or causes us to feel positive feelings) associated with traumatic or disturbing memories. It seems that, when we pair rapid eye movement with a disturbing memory while awake and able to access the conscious or logical part of the brain, that we can take much more disturbing memories and do the same thing that dreams do for us while we are asleep.