• Something to Think About: Healing old hurts

a young woman looking at her phone messages looking sad and hurt
Dr. Amit Sood says, "Revisit old wounds to heal them, not open them afresh."

Dear friend,

In the soil rich with fear, selfishness, greed, and ignorance, the seeds of unkind words and actions sprout. Such seeds, when they get lodged in a vulnerable mind, give birth to saplings of hurt. These saplings are initially weak. Your ability to reframe the situation—to focus on what went right within what went wrong, find meaning, and accept the situation for what it was—can prevent the saplings of hurt from taking root. I wish I were that wise.

Instead of launching a fresh, mature perspective, my mind feeds the sapling. In thinking of how the hurts could have been prevented, I focus less on what I learned from them and more on whom to blame. I lament the event, get angry, and think of ways to exact revenge. Ruminating on past hurts, I make my life miserable. I could do better than that.

I can learn from the ethics of good reporters and historians. A good reporter communicates all aspects of the truth, fairly and in an engaging fashion. Historians are reporters of the past. A good historian helps us understand the past, without needing to commend or condemn it. Good reporters and historians try their best not to be biased. I should look at my past with their eyes.

When I study human history, I get a recurring feeling of humility. I learn that even the best intentions and efforts fail, and that chance is tremendously powerful. Every person acts under unique constraints. Every action has unintentional and unpredictable consequences. Maybe the person who hurt me acted in innocent ignorance rather than the vicious intention that I assumed.

I should look at my past as historians look at human history. I should zoom out of my experience and try to see it in totality. If I can do that, I will see not only the hurtful words and actions but also their origins in underlying suffering, self-defense, and ignorance. I will truly and deeply find gratitude for the right within the wrong, develop compassion toward people hurt by the wrong, and have a lower threshold for acceptance. With this mind-set I might find greater meaning in the experience and give forgiveness a chance.

As a result, I will stop watering the hurts, so they will stop at the sapling stage and not become large trees with complex root systems and countless additional seeds that spawn fresh saplings.

History is humility packaged as a true story. Become a true historian of your past, with an intention to understand and heal. This perspective will help you cherish the happy moments, learn from adversity, and be grateful for both.

May you cherish the happy moments, learn from adversity, and be grateful for both.

Take care.

Dr. Sood 2

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.

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