11 Essential Stages Of Emotional Healing And Next Steps To Take

Everyone, at some point, has to go through an emotional healing process

Once you decide you’re done pretending everything is good enough in your world, you’re ready to move past the first stage of emotional healing. 

No one would consciously choose to stay in stage one.

It’s meant to draw your attention to something you’d rather forget.

As resourceful as it is at finding distractions, your brain keeps reminding your that your pain is real. 

It’s up to you to commit to the healing process — even though it exacerbates the pain for a while. 

What Is Emotional Healing? 

Emotional healing begins with acknowledging you have unresolved emotional pain. It transitions to the rest of your life with peaceful acceptance, transformative shifts, and purposeful action. 

You’re about to learn more about the steps to healing emotionally. Read through them carefully before you acknowledge where you are now. 

How Do You Process Emotional Pain? 

Healing emotions is hard work. No one would undertake it unless they had reason to believe the payoff would make it worthwhile. 

Nothing happens until you first admit to yourself that you’re hurting and allow yourself to feel without trying to escape or numb yourself to it. 

Emotional pain can come from any of the following: 

  • Rejection
  • Abandonment 
  • Betrayal
  • Loneliness
  • Guilt
  • Toxic beliefs
  • Loss 
  • Trauma
  • Failure 

11 Stages of Emotional Healing 

If you can pinpoint the cause of your emotional pain, it’s easier to understand what you’re going through.

From there, you can recognize what you’re doing to avoid the pain and use that awareness to choose something better. 

1. Awareness

Avoidance can take many forms: 

  • Substance abuse
  • Stress eating
  • Binge-watching TV/movies
  • Risky behavior
  • All-consuming projects

Whatever helps you avoid dealing with emotional pain you’ll likely hold onto and look forward to throughout the day as the one time you can escape the intrusive thoughts (at least for a little while).

It might feel therapeutic, but on a gut level, you know it isn’t.

When you become aware of your avoidance, you can move to the next step. 

2. Honesty

Here’s where you take stock, not only of your default avoidance techniques but of the emotions you’ve been avoiding. It’s the worst. 

The more aware you are of how you’ve been pushing things to the back, the more you see the need to let go of your avoidant behavior — especially the most costly ones. 

If alcohol is on that list, you might admit to yourself, at this stage, that you’ve become dependent on it, and you no longer trust yourself to be the one in control. 

3. Expression

At this stage, you confront the emotions you’ve been trying to escape by putting them into words — written or spoken. If you have a journal, you can write about what you’re feeling and why. 

This is also an excellent time to talk to a counselor. Sometimes, you don’t see what’s going on inside you until you hear yourself saying the words. 

The process doesn’t stop here, though. If anything, this opens the door to the next stages, but you still have to choose to walk through. 

4. Staying with Your Emotions 

At this stage, you allow yourself to simply feel what you’ve been trying so hard (for so long) not to feel. No numbing allowed.

It would be worse than awareness — because you’re deliberately subjecting yourself to something you’d rather not feel — but at this point, you want to heal more than you want to escape. 

It’s not the same as wallowing, which typically involves self-pity. Think of it as active listening for your emotions

If it gets too much (and it often does), the next stage becomes necessary. 

5. Regulation

This stage is a response to the above-mentioned overwhelm. It often takes the form of self-care and can include any of the following: 

Regulation is all about providing a safe, calming space to process painful emotions without resorting to avoidant or numbing behavior.

6. Reflection 

When you’re able to process your emotional pain, you’re better able to reflect the attending emotions through an expressive medium. 

Create visual art or write stories incorporating the process you’re going through. Learn how to make blackout poetry or to write poetry of your own. 

Reflecting on what you’ve made can also help you create a new narrative for what you’ve been through and where you want to go from here on out. 

7. Clarity 

At this stage, you finally see an opening in the clouds. You see a way out of the pain, even if you still have to go through it. You begin to see what actions you can take to take back control and change your life for the better. 

You see your situation and your choices more clearly now. Your life and what you’ve been through starts to make sense. And you see what you can make of it. 

8. Action 

With clarity often comes decisive action. Now that you can see a way forward, you begin to take steps toward the light at the end. 

You want to heal, and you’re willing to do what it takes to get there. How that looks will depend on your unique situation, but purposeful action generally includes the following: 

  • Replacing destructive habits with constructive ones
  • Setting goals and taking consistent action toward them
  • Learning and trying new things 
  • Rebuilding relationships and forging new ones
  • Starting a new hobby or passion project

9. Shift

With action comes discovery. At this stage, you realize new (or forgotten) things about yourself and what you’re capable of. This often leads to a shift in your thinking and a different perspective on your past and present. 

You run across something that triggers a memory or that challenges your beliefs about yourself and your world. At that point, you’re left with a choice: 

  • Take the “red pill” and follow the trail. 
  • Take the “blue pill” and stay in your comfort zone. 

10. Transformation 

If you choose to follow the trail signaled by your new realizations, you’ll begin a transformation process that will challenge you in more ways than you expect. 

Self-care is as critical as ever at this stage, if not more so. Transformation takes energy. This stage brings changes in your perspective and in how you engage with the world. 

What you once thought was a reasonable response to stress you may now recognize as maladaptive and choose to replace it with something better. 

11. Gratitude 

As you see the positive effects of your purposeful action, and as you take stock of what you’ve learned throughout the healing process, it’s natural to feel gratitude. 

You can acknowledge what you’ve been through and why and take responsibility for your part in your own suffering without dwelling on self-recrimination or regret. 

Every day brings new things to be grateful for. And now that you’re no longer numb or hiding from emotional pain, you can see the beauty around you and enjoy it as much as you’re meant to.

What Is Emotional Healing Therapy and How Can It Help You Move On? 

It’s not enough just to know how to heal emotionally. And you’re not alone if you need help moving through the process described above. 

Chances are your connections to people who enrich your life will have more to do with your healing than your personal strength or determination to move on. 

Emotional healing therapy acknowledges this and helps you fully and consciously explore each stage of the process with the help of an empathetic and intuitive guide. 

Emotional healing therapy is a method that involves letting go of stuck emotions like grief and anger and overcoming them by releasing them mentally and physically. 

A therapist asks deep questions related to your initial memory of a negative experience or trauma and invites you to recognize the lesson you learned from the experience. By receiving the lesson, you can let go of the negative emotions you hold onto about it.

How Do You Know You Are Healing? 

As you move through the process and get closer to peace, you’ll notice the following signs of healing: 

  • Renewed interest in and enjoyment of your surroundings
  • A positive outlook on your present
  • Enthusiasm about your future

If you’re enjoying life more now, and feeling grateful for the good in your life and the progress you’ve made, trust that your emotional healing has something to do with that. 

Where are you in the stages of emotional healing?

Now that you’ve looked through these 11 stages of emotional healing, which one sounded most like where you are right now? 

And what will you do this week to help yourself move on to the next step?

Emotional healing begins with you deciding you want something better than a life spent escaping or numbing yourself. 

If you’ve read this far, you’re ready to take responsibility and take necessary action. May every step bring you closer to the life and the healing you want.