When we get a bad cut on our arm, what do we do? Our instinct is to clean it up, bandage it, get stitches if needed, and tend to the injury with care as it heals. Physical first aid comes quite naturally to us, but the same self-compassion is not often seen with emotional injury. If one was to treat the cut on their arm similarly to the way emotional injury is often treated, they would let the cut get dirty, infected, and extremely painful before getting medical attention. We often see this lack of emotional first aid through avoidance behaviors, denial, assuming the worst, overgeneralizing, and other cognitive distortions ultimately leading to psychological pain.
What would it look like if we were to start treating emotional injury with the same care that we give to physical injury?
Self-compassion and self-care: These are very hot topics that we see more and more on social media, at school, or in the workplace, but the missing piece to these discussions is how to make them work in our own life. Self-compassion is being willing to give yourself grace when things are hard, finding safe spaces to feel whatever feelings may exist, and giving ourselves the love we are all worthy of. When I have struggled with self-love, I often take the time to look at some of my favorite childhood photos of myself and ask, “how do I want that little girl to be treated?” Usually I identify wanting love, respect, attention, and care for the little girl I see. Then I remind myself that the little girl in the photo is me, and I still am deserving of such care. Other forms of compassionate self-care may include pampering one’s self, engaging in something you are passionate about, resting when you’re tired, and finding a bit of fun throughout the day.
Emily Salomon, LPC, NCC