Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
Many of us have placed a lot of stock in and invested heavily in the idea of “time heals all wounds.” Unfortunately, if you have bought into this construct then you have made an uninformed purchase. Subscribing to this idea may not feel as detrimental as buying a lemon from a presumed reputable car dealer or thinking that you have fared well by allowing a shade tree mechanic to make repairs today that ultimately cost you more tomorrow and thereafter. However, relying on time to be the “be all, end all” can prove extremely costly. I do not have any quantitative data to support just how costly believing in time as the ultimate healer may be, but I can assure you that there are “many-a-couple” who made it beyond the “7-year itch” but did not survive for the long haul because they lacked effort. Others might have hoped that they may see a clean credit report 7 years post filing bankruptcy. If they have not coupled the action of paying down some of that debt with the identified time span however, their hope, sadly, would be misplaced.
If you have been duped into increasing your faith in time, like I too once was, do not feel ashamed, embarrassed, concerned or any other negative emotions; the phrase sounds really good and who buys into ideas and products that do not sound catchy? I only encourage you, however, to take a few moments, not a great deal of time, to review the thoughts I will share here to contend with the validity of relying only on time as a viable option for healing. Honestly, one of the fundamental flaws with the idea of “time heals all wounds” rests with the term “all.” All too often we set ourselves up for failure when we use such absolute terms as “all” to refer to things in a very general way; please excuse my general use of “all” in this sentence. Very rarely does the word “all” hold true when we attempt to validate the statements in which it’s used. If retailers had to rethink the idea of “one size fits all,” shouldn’t we reconsider the idea that “time heals all wounds?” Yes, we absolutely should.
From a physical health perspective, a single prick to the skin of a human by an object with the appropriate bacteria can lead to a staph infection. If we apply the logic of “time heals all wounds” in this scenario, medical science tells us that the person who received the prick can ultimately die from the spread of the infection if the wound is left untreated. In the case of an untreated staph infection, time alone cannot heal. Apply this logic to most physical health conditions and you will quickly see that time alone, is not a highly effective healer. From a mental health perspective, if a person that has experienced psychological trauma at any point in their lives chooses to rely on time alone to repair their psychological ailments, that person has no hope of true healing. Whether the hurt is physical, mental, emotional, social, or otherwise, healing can only come from time when time is accompanied by intentional action. The staph infection can not be left alone over time, it must be medically treated. The physical or emotional abuse that one was subjected to in childhood does not merely vanish with time, it manifests itself in various ways and spreads like a cancer over the course of time if it is not addressed with intentional efforts in time.
The staph infection analogy may register more to people as they are more common and are not viewed typically in a pejorative manner. Because of such, a person who has been informed that they have contracted a staph infection will likely not refuse treatment. This is not the case when in comes from healing from our mental health woes, however. Regrettably, being viewed as not having it “all” together is something that many people view as weightier than the debilitating effects of leaving mental health issues unaddressed, which are not always visible to the untrained eye. Leaning on the idea of “time heals all wounds” is the path of least resistance when it comes to wounds we do not want to acknowledge and address. Trusting in the myth that “time heals all wounds” however can force individuals to travel the course of major hardships. Let us drop the stigma and retire the phrase “time heals all wounds.” Let us instead adopt the thought, “in time, intentional efforts can help to heal all wounds.” There is good news for all those who previously bought into the magical marketing and branding of time being 100% effective in resolving hurts. While you cannot get spent time back, it is never too late, as long as you have time, to seek and obtain the appropriate help to address those wounds.
Michael Dangerfield, LPC, NCC