Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other topics.
When I was in my early 20s, I realized that that I carried a lot of fallout from childhood bullying, neglect, and emotional and physical abuse into adulthood. I struggled with low self-esteem, emotional pain, and anger. Journaling, bible study, and my faith in God helped me to cope with these challenges. I was also involved in Celebrate Recovery and had many supportive friends.
Sometimes I wonder how much I have really healed from my past. How do I know if I have overcome the effects of the trauma I suffered? How do other people know if they have recovered from the effects of trauma such as sexual assault, witnessing domestic violence, poverty, and dealing with loved ones with substance abuse? There are several signs that healing has taken place and is ongoing.
Signs of Healing
When we call out to God, He binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted and heals us (Psalm 147:3, 107:19-20, Jeremiah 17:14). Jesus bore our sins on the cross so that we can die to sin, live for righteousness, and heal (1 Peter 2:24). We can become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:22-24). Healing is a process and not a one-time thing.
Sometimes life will open an old wound and we need to go through a recovery process again. This state is usually temporary, however, and we can bounce back. Here are some signs that significant healing has taken place in us.
We challenge negative thinking about ourselves
When I was growing up, my parents and peers told me I was ugly, stupid, and stinky. I came to believe that I was an inferior being who did not deserve love and respect. These messages became recordings that constantly played in my brain. As a result, I suffered from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
The recordings are different from what the Bible tells me. I learned that I was a beloved child of God redeemed by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When I hear a recording start to play, I can challenge it with scripture that describes how much God loves me.
We recognize and acknowledge that harm was done
We tend to handle our emotional pain by stuffing it deep down in our minds and denying that it exists. This action keeps us stuck in the mire of anger and emotional pain. Instead, we need to face the fact that harm has been done and understand how it affected us. This is usually the first step to healing.
We can forgive and let go of the past
Bitterness and wanting vengeance will keep us stuck on our pain. Forgiveness, on the other hand, helps us to let go of the toxic emotions that hinder our recovery.
Reminders of our past no longer trigger hurt and resentment
Telling the story of my dysfunctional family no longer triggers feelings of anger, bitterness, and emotional pain in me. It is almost like I am writing about someone else. When I do not react negatively to people who hurt me in the past, it tells me that I have forgiven them and moved on. If I am triggered, I interpret it as a warning that I need to go through the forgiveness process again.
We think of ourselves as survivors instead of victims
When we think we are victims, we focus on all the hurt and pain in a state of helplessness and anger. We also tend to feel sorry for ourselves. When we consider ourselves to be survivors, however, we have conquered the negative impact of our trauma and put it behind us.
We are resilient in times of trouble
When we are broken, we are more vulnerable to being hurt by others. Unresolved emotional pain can be triggered when offenses occur, making us oversensitive. We may misinterpret people’s words or actions as meanness or rejection even though people did not intend to hurt us. When we have experienced healing, however, we can overlook most slights. We can manage and control our emotions. Major offenses can hurt for a little while but we can process them by facing them and forgiving the perpetrators.
When we make mistakes or experience failure, we should not waste time on self-blame and self-criticism. Another sign of healing is that we can have self-compassion instead of beating ourselves up. We can clearly see and admit our faults and recognize elements of the situation that are not our fault. This skill is not easy to acquire but can be accomplished with God’s help.
We have healthy relationships and a good support system
Brokenness can lead us to make poor decisions in our relationships. We may be driven by emotions such as a desperate need for love or fears such as being alone, rejection, or being hurt. When we are whole, we can set boundaries in our relationships, and limit contact or disconnect from toxic people. We can have compassion for their weaknesses.
When we are troubled, a good support system can help us process our emotional pain and make difficult decisions. Loved ones, friends, and wise advisors such as pastors and mental health professionals can provide us with a sounding board and gentle guides, when needed. We must be selective, however, to ensure that these people are wise and discreet.
When I see signs of healing in my own life, I feel encouraged that I am the right path. It fills me with hope that I can conquer the challenges that remain. I can pray with confidence that God will answer me and help me recover from life’s challenges. Recovery is a process and we will fail from time to time. It is possible, however, to live our lives without the emotional turmoil, poor decision-making, poor self-esteem, and other fallout from past trauma.
The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version
Trauma Is Not a Life Sentence, Desiring God, Paul Maxwell
12 Signs of Healing from a Toxic Childhood, Psychology Today, Peg Streep
5 Steps to Heal from a Painful Childhood, ibelieve.com, Kelly Canfield
Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on April 26, 2020:
This is wonderful. I too have healed from childhood trauma, PTSD. It was a long journey to wholeness, about 18 years. I had to come to knees in faith and cry out to God and open myself up to His help. I've been a Christian for 41 years but it still took a long while to heal. I finally began to turn it all over to Him and I made a slow but steady ascent out of the abyss of pain. I do make sure I stay away from triggers. Satan would love to pick the scab off and have his way. My life and your life give people hope as they see the demonstration of God's power in our lives. God bless you.