Emotional First Aid
Why should you read this summary?
Rejections, failures, loneliness, and guilt are problems we encounter daily. Sometimes, we can cope. Sometimes, we suffer from so much pain. This book will teach you how to deal with these negative experiences and feelings. You will learn from stories of people who were able to heal from their emotional wounds. If you are going through a difficult time right now, this book will help you. It will give you hope and inspiration.
Who will learn from this summary?
• Young professionals
• Anyone who struggles with their mental health
About the Author
Guy Winch, Ph.D. is an author, clinical psychologist, and speaker. He started his career in full-time private practice. Some years later, he was able to publish a few psychology books. He also began writing blogs and speaking in TED Talks about mental health. Dr. Winch recently launched his podcast entitled “Dear Therapists.”
Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries
Have you ever been rejected? Was there a time in your life when you felt guilty and lonely? Were there instances where you experienced failure? Do you feel like you are not good enough? How did these experiences affect you? Did it affect your relationship with other people? Did it interfere with your work? It is okay to say “yes” to these questions. These are common hurts that people experience throughout their lives. However, people underestimate the severe effects these hurts may cause. Frequent exposure to rejection, loneliness, guilt and failure can affect one’s mental health. This will then affect other aspects of a person’s life, such as relationships and work.
In this book, you will learn how these negative emotions inflict psychological wounds. These wounds can be very dangerous when left untreated. It can pose a significant threat to a person’s mental health and personal relationships. You will also learn how to treat these psychological wounds. There are several first aid treatments you can apply. In this journey to recovery, you will learn how to deal with these wounds before they get even more painful. Are you ready to take on this healing journey?
People suffer rejection many times in their lives. All these rejections leave them feeling hurt and angry. It also affects how they view themselves and their need to belong. When rejection happens, the pain inflicted will not only affect the person. It can also affect his relationships with other people. Because being rejected is common, others think it is always manageable. However, this is not always the case. There are severe rejections that create psychological wounds. There are four specific psychological wounds created by rejection. These are emotional pain, anger and aggression, damaged self-esteem, and the need to belong. All these wounds affect a person’s mental health.
These wounds are painful for the rejected. But these wounds can also lead them to injure others. A woman named Marie always experiences rejection at work. She does not receive meeting invites. She is also often the subject of criticism by her colleagues and boss. These experiences inflicted emotional pain on Marie and damaged her self-esteem. Constant work rejection by colleagues also frustrated her. Marie’s frustration results in anger and aggression. She feels lonely like she has no friends. She also yells at her daughter and her husband. Just like a physical wound, our psychological injuries should also be treated. This is to avoid possible “infections” that might complicate it. These complications could lead to more serious mental health issues like depression.
There are first aid treatments to treat these psychological wounds. Some first aid can be used for both emotional pain and damaged self-esteem. These include learning to manage self-criticism and restoring self-worth. Marie should learn to reason against her self-criticisms. She must know that rejections are not always her fault. It may not be about her job performance. Group dynamics and company culture could also be a reason. Maybe Marie should consider getting a new job. Meanwhile, the treatment for the need to belong is renewing social connections. This treatment can also help in decreasing anger and aggression. Marie should remember her positive qualities. For example, she is a good listener. She is also a punctual and diligent person. This will help make her experiences less painful and destructive for her.
Rejections in romantic relationships are also common. A man named John has experienced a lot of rejections in his romantic life. These rejections led him to be hesitant in having new connections. It also lowered his self-esteem. John thought he was not good enough for anyone. However, our fundamental need to belong must be satisfied. To address this, John should create new relationships with other people. Perhaps his previous rejections were because of differences in personalities, interests, and lifestyles. He should try to pursue someone who has more similarities with him. Another technique to deal with rejection is desensitization. Being desensitized is when you get used to something. Julia, a sales agent, often gets rejected as part of her job. When she was starting, she felt terrible about people rejecting her product. Over time, Julia got used to it. Now, rejection from potential customers does not feel that bad for her anymore.
Desensitization can also be applied in romantic relationships. Michael had a fear of rejection. This made him hesitant to approach women. His psychologist challenged him to ask out three women at different social events to overcome this. Michael was told that accepting this challenge would make him feel differently about women’s rejection. He felt confident with this challenge. He accepted the possibility of having several rejections. This gave Michael the idea that getting rejected by women is not that bad at all. Desensitization can be used for frequent “minor” rejections. But it may be best for those who have experienced regular “severe” rejections to seek professional help.
Our technology now allows people to form more human connections. For instance, you can be friends with someone who is on another continent. You can call a parent who is hours away from you. Despite this, people experience severe loneliness. The primary cause of loneliness is not the number of relationships. Instead, it is the quality of our connections. It is when we see ourselves to be socially or emotionally isolated. For instance, you have many friends. Other people might say you are not lonely. However, you still feel alone. It is because your friendships are not that deep. They are not there for you during the hard times. Loneliness can affect both mental and physical health. It can cause mental disorders like depression and sleep disturbances. Loneliness can also manifest physically. It can affect people’s cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems.
Studies showed that recalling memories of loneliness can negatively affect our mood. It results in a negative assessment of one’s current social support. In other words, past feelings of loneliness can still make you lonely. It does not matter if you currently have strong social support. Loneliness also creates psychological wounds. This makes escaping loneliness more challenging. First, loneliness pushes a person to develop painful misconceptions. Lonely people have a more negative evaluation of others. They are also more likely to view their interactions with friends and family negatively. These misconceptions would then lead to self-defeating behaviors. These are actions to protect one’s self and avoid possible negative experiences from other people. Lonely people view social interactions to be negative. They tend to avoid it or become less responsive when they interact with others.
To treat this, lonely people should challenge their negative perceptions. Jennifer is an attractive woman in her mid-thirties. Her stunning beauty could easily attract any man’s attention. However, Jennifer has never been in a serious relationship. It turns out that Jennifer’s appearance had gone through a significant transformation. She had lost eighty pounds four years ago. Jennifer shared that no man dared to talk to her when she was bigger. Now, she gets a lot of attention from them because she has lost weight. The loneliness she felt created painful misconceptions about herself. This makes it hard for her to develop new relationships. To help herself, Jennifer must fight these damaging misconceptions. She believes that men only date her for her appearance, not her personality. This misconception makes her act uninterested in dates. Jennifer can learn to give the benefit of the doubt. In other words, she should think that men can like her for her personality too. By doing this, Jennifer is challenging her painful misconception. It will also let her be more open and show more interest in dating.
Guilt is a feeling that indicates you did something bad to yourself or others. It allows people to maintain their standards. For instance, you want to be fit. But you have not exercised for the past few days. Guilt will urge you to go to the gym. Guilt is also present to keep relationships intact. Suppose you hurt your friend with your words. You apologize because that friend means a lot to you. And you want to keep being friends with them. When there is guilt, people usually assess their behavior and fix the situation. When resolved, guilt usually disappears. While it is beneficial, guilt can also create psychological wounds. Unhealthy guilt is linked with relationships. There are three primary forms of unhealthy guilt. These are unresolved guilt, survivor’s guilt, and separation guilt.
Unresolved guilt persists due to an ineffective manner of apologies. It remains unresolved because of the severity of harm caused. Survivors’ guilt is complicated to handle. With this type of guilt, there is no behavior to correct and a relationship to fix. This guilt comes from questioning one’s survival when others die. Separation guilt is felt when there is a need to be separated and leave special people behind. There are two psychological wounds that these guilts may inflict. These are self-blame and broken relationships. But there are first aid remedies that can be done to treat these wounds. The first treatment is to give an effective apology. It is an effective measure to fix broken relationships caused by guilt. Another one is self-forgiveness. Practicing self-forgiveness can help lessen self-blame.
Lastly, people who experience survivor and separation guilt should consider reconnecting with their previous relationships and hobbies. Their guilt traps them in the past that they forget to live their current lives. Thus, spending time with their hobbies or loved ones helps with the pain. Pam has unresolved guilt for lying to her parents. She used the money for her college tuition to do different vices. She ended up not graduating, which hurt her parents badly. It affected her relationship with them. She was feeling incredibly guilty, and she wanted to resolve things. Pam did this by applying the three important keys to effective apologies. She began by stating her regrets for what she did. Then she said sorry. Lastly, she requested her parents’ forgiveness. Pam also applied critical components to effective apologies. First, she validated their emotions. She stated that her parents’ anger was understandable. Second, Pam offered to compensate for what was lost. She promised her parents that she would return to school and personally fund her tuition.
Lastly, she acknowledged the expectations that she failed to achieve. However, despite Pam’s efforts, only her mother forgave her. Her father was so hurt that it became difficult for him to forgive her. Because of this, Pam still feels guilty. The next step is for her to deal with her unresolved guilt by self-forgiveness. Pam must begin by understanding the severity of her actions. There is a need for her to take responsibility. After doing so, she can work on listing down ways to avoid committing the same mistakes in the future. Here is an example of survivor’s guilt. Max lost his wife in a car accident. He was supposed to do the grocery, but her wife went to do it for him. She never made it home after colliding with a truck. After his wife died, Max felt dead inside. He was unable to properly take care of his children. Max realized that he must overcome his guilt. He did it by reconnecting with his life. He focused his time on taking care of his children. He realized that allowing his guilt to overpower him would not be helpful. It could make his children feel that they had lost both of their parents.
Failure is part of life. It is with failure that people try and learn things. People’s response to failure is important in achieving success. How people deal with it is also vital for their well-being and happiness. While failure disappoints, it is also highly educational. It can help a person grow by using it to know what to improve in the future. But failure also creates psychological wounds. There are three specific wounds that it can cause. Failure can damage one’s self-esteem, decrease motivation, and create pressure. First, failure affects self-esteem by making people feel less of themselves. Someone who has experienced failing an exam may think of themselves as stupid. They may also find the subject more difficult. This would make them feel less confident and doubt their abilities. Failure creates negative generalizations of one’s capabilities. These generalizations are more dangerous than the failures that caused them. Generalizations can affect one’s self-worth and well-being.
Second, failure can make a person less motivated. The fear of experiencing another failure discourages them from doing their best. As a result, people would already guarantee an unsuccessful result. They will not think that failure is because of their lack of effort. Rather, they would use this as confirmation that success was indeed impossible. Minor failures that we encounter daily can be manageable. For example, Carl failed to drink his vitamins today. This failure would not necessarily result in Carl feeling less capable of drinking vitamins. This would not also decrease his motivation to drink his vitamins again. However, if the failure is essential to us, its wounds should be treated. When ignored, these wounds may get worse. It can result in psychological complications. There are first aid treatments that can be done to treat these wounds. Some treatments can aid both damaged self-esteem and lack of motivation. People who experience failure can do two things. They can get emotional support and practice regaining their control.
To lessen performance pressure, you can learn how to own your feelings. You can also apply techniques for managing performance pressure. When these first aid treatments are ineffective, it is best to seek professional help. Heather has been a good-performing employee. Her performance is motivated by her goal of getting a promotion. However, it was her colleague that got promoted. This news damaged her self-esteem and lessened her motivation at work. It made her question her skills and abilities. She thinks that there is no more point in working hard. There are two things that Heather can do to regain her self-esteem and motivation. The first is to find good emotional support. This support group should empathize with how she feels. They should also help her point out the lessons from the failure she experienced. Another thing that Heather can do is focus on what she can control. This would lessen her demotivation because it removes the feeling of helplessness.
To do this, she must identify the single incident of her failure. In her case, she did not get the promotion. The next step for Heather is to list down the things that led to this failure. Lastly, she should identify which of these factors are within her control. This could include her lack of connection within the company and her lesser years of experience. Heather considers both uncontrollable factors. To address these, she should turn them into controllable situations. First, Heather should start thinking that her lack of connection is not out of her control. She can find ways how she can create more connections with her workmates and superiors. Second, Heather has lesser years of experience compared to her colleagues. But she should realize that experience is not based merely on years but skills. She can control this by continuously developing her skills to fit the role of the position she is aiming for.
Here is another example. After several years of being a housewife, Maddie decided to return to office work. Due to her extensive background, she has been invited to three interviews. But she failed in all of them. Maddie shared that in the first interview, she had a headache which led to her poor performance. On the second interview, she woke up late and did not make it on time. In the third interview, she shouted at the office secretary due to irritation. All these resulted in her failure to get the job. To treat this, Maddie must learn to own her feelings. She needs to acknowledge the fear and anxiety that she feels. It is normal to feel these emotions given her long career break. However, hiding these emotions will only lead to self-destructive behaviors. When we own these feelings, we find a better way to deal with them. Where failure goes, anxiety and fear may follow. It is essential to share these struggles with friends or family members who understand. This can help the person avoid self-destructive behavior. People can also express themselves through journals or blogs.
In this book, you have learned about the different psychological injuries you might experience in your daily life. First, you learned about rejection. Rejection can cause emotional pain, anger, and damaged self-esteem. To heal from rejection, a person should learn techniques to manage self-criticisms. Renewing social connections is also one way to help manage wounds of rejection. Second, you learned about loneliness. Loneliness can create painful misconceptions and cause self-defeating behaviors. To treat this, people should learn to challenge their negative views. From there, they can take small steps to get better. Third, you learned about guilt. Three unhealthy guilt stems from our relationships. These are unresolved guilt, survivor’s guilt, and separation guilt. Guilt can lead to self-blame and broken relationships. To heal from guilt, people should learn to make effective apologies, forgive themselves, and reconnect with their current lives.
Fourth, you learned about failure. Failure affects self-esteem, decreases motivation, and creates performance pressure. People should get emotional support, regain self-control, own their feelings, and manage pressure to recover from failure. You can free yourself from loneliness and guilt. Your failures and rejections can be your building blocks to success. Remember that there is always help and hope for the pain you experience.