That person does not exist anymore, which is why you’re only getting so far.
When we get hurt physically, we know our bodies need time to repair.
When we break a bone, we know it can regenerate and heal itself. We imagine that best possible outcome is returning to normalcy, perhaps a bit weaker where we were injured, but generally similar to how we were before.
Emotional healing is absolutely nothing like this.
We only think it is,which is why we get so stuck.
When you get hurt emotionally, your desire is pretty much always to go back to how things were before the traumatic event. Maybe a little more jaded, a bit more skeptical, but generally, to return to your former state of mind is the overall goal when you’re going through a hard time.
You think that retrograde growth is the solution, because the problem is that someone or something else came along and threw you off your path. The return, you assume, is to get back to that person you used to be.
Except that is not the goal, because that person does not exist anymore, and trying to force yourself to be them is why growth, and change, are futile.
When we go through massive change in our lives, we are often also dealing with a process of positive disintegration, which is what happens when we essentially see our old self-concept completely collapse, and a new one has to be created in its place. The term uses the word “positive” because the process is supposed to leave us better than we were before—that’s the objective.
When we get hurt, we are often facing a barrage of unfamiliar feelings, and an unknown future. Because of this, we cling to what’s familiar, which is the past. As we interpret it to be a safety net, we conveniently wash over the fact that it was not as great as we remember, because if it was, we wouldn’t have ended up at rock bottom in the first place.
We want to return to how things were at the beginning of the relationship, when we were “so in love.” Yet things really weren’t that good initially, which is why they got worse. It ended for a reason. We want to go back to how we felt before, so carefree and trusting. But all those times you thought you had it figured out? You didn’t, which is why you made the mistakes you did.
You do not want to go back to what you were before. You want to become someone entirely new. Rather, you need to become someone entirely new. That is why you are not healing yet.
Your old self does not exist anymore.
This is not because someone came along and destroyed them. This is not because some unfair life circumstance cropped up and derailed you. This is because self-reformation is a natural and healthy process of being human.
In the same way that we shed cells, skin layers and even hair follicles, our minds also shed identities, concepts we had of who we were, when others were mostly telling us who to be. Over time, when our old self-concept can no longer handle our current circumstances, we are compelled to transform.
How you respond to this depends on how you look at it.
You can see it as a misfortune, or as an incredible opportunity to not only become better than you’ve ever been before, but maybe exactly who you’ve wanted to be all along.
Letting go of your old self does not mean you are letting go of your old dreams. It does not mean you are giving up on everything you wanted to have. It means you’re ready to become a person who is actually ready and equipped to give it to yourself. Returning to your old self is not the way you’ll arrive, which is why you’re standing here now.
Things are never as good as we remember them in retrospect.
In the same way that dwelling on potential future events can give us a sense of escape, the past is likewise so far removed from us, we are free to fantasize and reimagine it, piecing together vignettes that give us the feeling we want to have. We want to think we had it all together, we want to think that feeling good is possible, and we want to believe that we can feel that way again.
Yet when we are constantly trying to return to who we used to be, to fit our new goals into our old lives, we almost always end up with conflicting, self-sabotaging behaviors.
You have to radically transform your self-concept.
Until you do this, you are not healing, you are just recovering.
Recovering is mending the hurt but not learning the lesson. It might mean you’re over what happened, but it also means that you haven’t fundamentally changed your beliefs and behaviors so that you never end up where you were.
As long as you are trying to return to who you were before, you are completely missing the point. You are setting yourself up to fail again, and again.
You didn’t know better then. You didn’t know what love was, you didn’t know who you were, you didn’t know what you valued, you didn’t know how you liked to dress, how important it was to be responsible.
You did not know, but you know now.
If it seems too daunting to revolutionize your identity, realize that you’er already doing it. It’s already happening. All of the lessons you have learned from getting hurt will become the wisdom you extract to build this new version of yourself.
This new person is not someone who is giving up on or letting go of what you really want. They are someone who is actually, finally, able and ready to give it to you. That’s why they are here, that is why your old self is gone.
The person you were before is not the person who had all the answers.
They were not as happy or as well-off as you want to believe.
Romanticizing that past self is like grieving for the dead — it might make you feel better temporarily, but it will do nothing to bring them back.
You cannot try to keep forcing yourself into a version of yourself that you have outgrown.
Instead, you have to imagine and then step into a completely new person, someone who is who you have wanted to be, someone who is ready to build the life you really want.
You have not been healing because you have been trying to restore your old self. Really, it’s time to shed them like a layer, and allow someone new to be born.