Steven Stosny, Ph.D states that there are three clear points that are evident with people who have suffered unimaginable emotional pain, such as emotional infidelity.
The first is that human beings have an extraordinary capacity for healing all kinds of emotional wounds. The second truth is that the most important element in overcoming emotional pain is a healing identity.
Stosny further states that “people with healing identities focus on their resilience, strengths, and desire to improve their lives. They do not give in to thoughts of damage, unfairness, bad moods, blame, or victim identity.” Instead, they keep focused on their desire to heal and improve.
The third point about healing is that it seems to require at least an “implicit understanding of the nature and purpose of painful memories and how they play a crucial role in emotional well being.” In other words, memories of pain serve to keep us safe in the present.
Those with healing identities keep focused on making their lives better in the present and future.When dealing with Doug’s emotional infidelity, I had to force myself to maintain a healing identity. It was difficult to do because it’s only natural to have emotions contradictory to this type of identity, especially immediately after discovering the affair. It was my ability to let go of resentment and to focus on my strengths and desire to improve our marriage that carried me through.
Apparently, “painful memories come equipped with a built-in healing mechanism, as long as our efforts to keep safe do not violate deeper values,” says Stosny. For instance, pain that results from death of a loved one runs a natural healing course, unless we try to protect ourselves from loss by withholding love from others.
The violation of the deeper value of emotional connection and love keeps the memory of loss painful. “But once we allow ourselves to improve ourselves in other areas of life, the memories of the lost loved one become pleasant reminders of enriched life experience.” In other words, over time painful memories activate our abilities to heal, improve ourselves, and create value in our life.
The trick in all of this is learning how to develop a healing identity if it is not an attribute that you currently possess. I believe that it can be accomplished, and it my case I did so by focusing primarily on myself and my strengths, and my desire to save my marriage.
When confronted with emotional infidelity, if you interfere with the natural healing process by focusing on damage, unfairness, moodiness, blame, victim identity or painful memories this will often cause depression, obsessions, resentment, anger, addictions, abuse, or violence. That is why it is so crucial to identify with your deepest longing to heal, improve, and create value.
Here’s a video with Dr. Stosny that may be of interest to you: