Understanding the Emotional Phases of Recovery

Research has shown that emotional trauma can be stored in the body, leading to physical symptoms and health complaints. For instance, individuals with chronic pain often have a history of trauma, and the pain they experience may be connected to their body’s response to the trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also associated with greater physical health problems, including pain and fatigue.

To release stored trauma in the body and alleviate physical symptoms, various therapeutic techniques can be effective. Yoga, for example, has been shown to be a complementary therapy for individuals with PTSD, reducing symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and hyperarousal. Meditation has also proven beneficial in reducing PTSD and trauma-related symptoms. Somatic therapy, which focuses on the body’s physical sensations and experiences, has shown efficacy in treating trauma-related symptoms.

The Five Stages of Emotional Healing

The stages of emotional healing provide a framework for understanding the emotional journey that individuals go through during the recovery process. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first introduced these stages in her book “On Death and Dying” in 1969, and they have since been applied to emotional healing as well. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

  1. Denial: In the denial stage, individuals may refuse to acknowledge or accept that they have experienced emotional trauma. They may try to push their feelings away or downplay the severity of the situation.
  2. Anger: Once denial fades, individuals may experience anger towards themselves or others for the trauma they have endured. They may feel frustrated, helpless, and resentful.
  3. Bargaining: In this stage, individuals may attempt to negotiate with themselves or a higher power in an effort to undo the trauma they have experienced. They may seek ways to fix or reverse the situation.
  4. Depression: As individuals realize that they cannot undo the trauma they have experienced, they may enter a stage of deep sadness, grief, and a sense of hopelessness.
  5. Acceptance: The final stage involves accepting that the trauma has happened and shifting focus towards healing and moving forward. It marks a crucial turning point in the recovery journey.

The Process of Emotional Healing: Seven Steps

The process of emotional healing can be broken down into seven key steps, offering individuals a clear path to follow as they navigate their recovery journey. These steps were first introduced by John Bradshaw, a prominent therapist and author, in his book “Healing the Shame That Binds You.”

  1. Awareness: The first step in emotional healing is becoming aware of the emotional pain and trauma that needs healing. It involves recognizing the feelings and behaviors that cause distress and identifying the source of the trauma.
  2. Acknowledgment: The second step is acknowledging the pain and trauma, accepting that it is a part of one’s life. This involves admitting to oneself that there is a problem and taking responsibility for one’s own healing.
  3. Acceptance: The third step is accepting that healing is possible and committing to the journey. It requires letting go of doubts or fears about the healing process and trusting that it is possible to move forward.
  4. Feeling the Pain: The fourth step is allowing oneself to feel the pain and trauma without judgment or avoidance. This involves experiencing the emotions and sensations that come with the trauma, even if they are uncomfortable or painful.
  5. Grieving: The fifth step is acknowledging the losses that have resulted from the trauma and allowing oneself to grieve them. It involves recognizing the things that have been lost as a result of the trauma, such as trust, safety, or a sense of self, and mourning these losses.
  6. Forgiveness: The sixth step is forgiving oneself and others for any harm caused by the trauma. It requires letting go of anger, blame, and resentment and finding compassion and understanding for oneself and others.
  7. Moving Forward: The final step is making a commitment to move forward with a new sense of purpose and direction. It involves creating a vision for the future and taking steps to make that vision a reality, such as setting goals, seeking support, and engaging in activities that promote healing and growth.

Signs of Emotional Healing

As individuals progress through the stages of emotional healing, they may begin to notice signs of progress and growth. These signs indicate that the healing process is taking effect and that positive changes are occurring.

  1. Increased Self-Awareness: Emotional healing often leads to greater self-awareness, allowing individuals to better understand their emotions, thought patterns, and behaviors. This increased self-awareness can help identify and change negative patterns, fostering greater self-acceptance and self-compassion.
  2. Improved Relationships: Emotional healing can have a positive impact on relationships, as individuals become better able to communicate their needs and emotions and develop greater empathy and understanding for others. As individuals heal from past emotional wounds, they may find their relationships becoming more fulfilling and positive.
  3. Greater Resilience: Emotional healing can contribute to the development of greater resilience, enabling individuals to bounce back from challenges and adversity. As individuals work through past emotional trauma, they may develop stronger coping skills and a sense of inner strength and resilience.
  4. Improved Physical Health: Emotional healing can also have a positive impact on physical health, as it reduces stress and enhances overall well-being. Chronic stress and emotional trauma have been linked to various physical health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders. By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, emotional healing can help prevent these negative health outcomes.

Releasing Emotional Blockages

Releasing emotional blockages is a crucial part of the healing process, as it allows individuals to move beyond negative emotions and experiences that may be holding them back. Several techniques can help release emotional blockages:

  • Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can increase awareness of emotions and thought patterns, fostering self-acceptance and self-compassion. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and body scans enable individuals to release emotional blockages, promoting relaxation and stress reduction.
  • Journaling: Writing about emotions and experiences can be a powerful way to release emotional blockages, gaining clarity and understanding. Journaling helps identify patterns and triggers, fostering self-awareness and self-reflection.
  • Therapy: Working with a therapist provides the opportunity to identify and release emotional blockages through various therapeutic techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy, somatic therapy, and EMDR therapy. These therapies help process past trauma, identify negative thought patterns and behaviors, and develop healthier coping skills and strategies for managing emotions.

Healing Time

The healing time for emotional trauma is highly variable, depending on factors such as the severity and duration of the trauma, the type of trauma, and the level of social support. While some individuals may experience healing within weeks or months, others may require years of therapy and support.

Research published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress highlights the significant impact of social support on the healing process. The study found that survivors of interpersonal violence who reported higher levels of social support had lower levels of PTSD symptoms and were more likely to experience growth and resilience after their trauma.

It is important to note that different types of trauma can impact healing time differently. Complex trauma, involving repeated and prolonged exposure to traumatic events, may require more time to heal compared to single-event trauma. Childhood trauma, in particular, can have long-lasting effects on emotional well-being, often necessitating ongoing support and therapy.

Ultimately, the healing time for emotional trauma varies greatly from person to person and depends on the circumstances of their trauma. Seeking support from a therapist, support group, or trusted loved ones is a crucial step in the healing process.

Starting the Journey

Embarking on the journey of emotional healing can be challenging, and it is essential to acknowledge that healing is a process that requires patience and self-compassion. Here are some additional details that can aid in the process:

  • Seek Support: Seeking support is a crucial step in the healing journey. A licensed therapist or counselor provides a safe space to process emotions and develop coping strategies. Support groups also offer a supportive environment where individuals can connect with others who have experienced similar traumas and share their experiences.
  • Practice Self-Care: Self-care is an integral aspect of emotional healing. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation and well-being helps individuals manage their emotions and reduce stress. Exercise, meditation, and creative pursuits like writing or art therapy can aid in processing emotions and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Be Patient: Healing from emotional trauma takes time, and it is essential to be patient and compassionate with oneself. Recognize that healing is not a linear journey, and setbacks may occur along the way. Grant yourself grace and acknowledge that healing is a process.

Emotional Reset Techniques

An emotional reset is a valuable technique that individuals can use when feeling overwhelmed by their emotions. Deep breathing is one effective strategy for an emotional reset. By taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, individuals can slow down their heart rate and promote relaxation. Mindfulness meditation is another technique that can be employed to reset emotions. It involves focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment. Physical exercise also serves as an effective way to reset emotions by releasing endorphins, natural mood-boosting chemicals, and providing a healthy outlet for pent-up emotions.

Stages of Emotional Hurt

While emotional healing involves moving through stages of healing, emotional hurt can also be broken down into stages. These stages are a framework for understanding the common emotional responses individuals may experience after a traumatic event. The stages of emotional hurt are closely associated with the Kübler-Ross model of grief, originally developed to describe the stages of grief experienced by individuals who are dying or have lost a loved one.

The stages of emotional hurt may include:

  • Shock: The initial response to a traumatic event may involve feelings of numbness, disorientation, or a sense of being disconnected from reality.
  • Denial: In this stage, individuals may struggle to accept the reality of the traumatic event, experiencing feelings of disbelief or denial.
  • Anger: As the reality of the situation sets in, intense feelings of anger or frustration may arise. This anger can be directed at oneself, others, or the situation itself.
  • Bargaining: Individuals in this stage may attempt to negotiate with themselves or a higher power, hoping to change the outcome of the traumatic event.
  • Depression: As the initial shock and anger subside, deep feelings of sadness or depression may emerge. This can involve a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, or despair.
  • Testing: During this stage, individuals may begin to explore new coping strategies or seek support from others as they try to come to terms with the traumatic event.
  • Acceptance: In the final stage, individuals begin to accept the reality of the traumatic event and start moving forward with their lives.

It is important to note that not everyone will experience all of these stages, and the order in which they are experienced may vary. Additionally, the stages of emotional hurt are not a linear process, and individuals may move back and forth between stages as they work through their emotions and heal from the trauma.

Understanding the stages of emotional hurt can be a helpful tool for individuals struggling to cope with a traumatic event. By recognizing and working through these stages, individuals can begin to heal and move forward with their lives.


In conclusion, emotional healing is a complex and multi-step process that involves understanding and addressing emotional trauma. Emotional trauma can be stored in the body, leading to physical symptoms. However, it can be treated through various techniques such as yoga, meditation, and somatic therapy. The five stages of healing – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – provide a framework for understanding the emotional journey of healing.

The process of emotional healing can be broken down into seven steps – awareness, acknowledgment, acceptance, feeling the pain, grieving, forgiveness, and moving forward. Signs of emotional healing include increased self-awareness, improved relationships, greater resilience, and improved physical health. Releasing emotional blockages is an important aspect of the healing process that can help individuals move past emotional trauma and achieve greater well-being. Emotional healing requires patience, self-awareness, and a commitment to the healing journey.

Remember, emotional healing is a deeply personal journey, and each individual’s experience may differ. Seeking professional guidance from a therapist or counselor can provide invaluable support and guidance throughout the recovery process. With time, patience, and self-compassion, it is possible to heal and thrive beyond emotional trauma. Call today at 614-705-0611.