Helping people with psychological wounds, science and faith to promote a liberating attitude, peace and joy, wounded psychology

Helping people with psychological wounds

Science and faith to promote a liberating attitude towards pain

As we said in the first part of the guide, we hope that these lines will help us to recognize and better understand our own way of being and that of others. We are not determined, but numerous events of the past leave their mark. 

In this second part of the guide on psychological wounds, we will address strategies to prevent a psychological wound from becoming infected, and what to do when the wound has affected mental processes. It is about promoting health, peace and joy, also if there is a psychological wound.

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Table of contents of part two

Accompanying the wounded person

1. Healing wounds with science and faith

    Elements of a wound in Genesis

    Giving a name to the psychological wound is a key to resilience

    The psychological wound before the love of Christ

2. Changing attitud towards psychological wounds

    Four steps help to change the attitude towards psychological wounds

    Choosing to forgive and say goodbye to negative emotions

    What to say to the wounded person

    Recovering transcendence for healing

3. When to advise a visit to health care professionals

    Psychological first aid

    Detect more serious psychological wounds

    Usefulness of spiritual accompaniment

    When to suggest a visit to a specialist?

Accompanying the wounded person

In the first part we saw what psychological wounds are and how they affect the lives of children and adults. To be able to face them, we have to know that each person is unique and unrepeatable. It is not enough to have a general knowledge if we do not get to the concrete existence, to the individual history of the person seeking help.

The success of the task depends on the exercise of listening and understanding. With affection and dedication, the wounded person will succeed in retelling his or her own story, editing it, shedding light on the most positive aspects of each stage. Whoever learns to tell such a story, learns to appreciate more each moment and the stories of others, to love them for who they are, to value them, to be kind. This is the way not only to heal wounds, but to avoid them.

The first step of resilience is to know or re-discover oneself. It is necessary to recognize individual stories. To make an effort to listen and take charge of multiple details that have left their mark, the rain, the sun, thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of words, positive or negative experiences. The question is: Why is this person like this? And let the admiration and amazement of existence emerge.

It takes time, the ability to listen and above all the grace of God to enter into the intimacy of someone who is asking for help. Spiritual accompaniment, similar to psychotherapy, can be conceived as a guided visit to the interior of a person. It is a very peculiar "visit" because the one who guides is the owner of the house. From the outside, observations can be made, questions can be asked to get to know the person better, a certain light can be turned on or a door can be opened. The keys are kept by the person.

For good results, faith is necessary, as the Scripture metaphorically reflects: "Daniel was released from the pit and found to be quite unhurt, because he had trusted in his God" (Dan 6:24). In this regard, St. Cyril of Jerusalem commented: "faith closes the mouths of lions".

But the collaboration of the wounded person is also required. It is necessary to make it easier for her or him to open the doors, to recognize and show the injury, in order to heal it with the appropriate medicine, psychologically and spiritually. It is not a matter of reopening the wound, but of giving it light so that it does not continue to suffer.

1. Healing wounds with science and faith

The title of this section takes us back to Adam and Eve. We know through faith that they had an original wound that changed their lives and those of their descendants. After a traumatic event, temptation followed by a disorderly act, they began to feel shame and, without asking why, tried to hide the emotion with some leaves. Their own nature and the world around them became hostile and they experienced fear for the first time.

They did not turn to God, but fled from him and from themselves. They did not recognize the problem and tried to unload their guilt and what happened on others: Adam on Eve, Eve on the serpent....

Experience and science do not contradict the belief in that first wound. Many of his observations support it, by showing how human destinies are twisted and so much lack of goodness in nature itself: animals murdering their own offspring, tidal waves, storms.

Elements of a wound in Genesis

The elements of this original wound are found in the psychological wounds. Addressing them with science and faith implies discovering them, naming them and confronting them:

  • Recognizing the traumatic event and its psychological traces.
  • Distinguishing the negative emotions that spread from one to another: fear, guilt, shame, hopelessness, and despair.
  • To turn to God and his grace.

For greater effectiveness, it is necessary to know the functioning of mental processes, the manifestations of the main problems, the rules of human affectivity and the action of grace in the soul.

In spiritual accompaniment, as St. Josemaría used to say, without practicing psychology, one must be a psychologist. That is to say, good counselors who know about human beings because they have studied and because they pray. It is not necessary to have a detailed knowledge of the psychic world and its rules, but we should not lack the elements that allow us to distinguish and orient ourselves when necessary towards a specialist.

This is what happens with many medical knowledge. It is known that a pain in the abdomen, in front, below and to the right, which lasts more than three hours, can be an appendicitis. That is enough to advise an urgent visit to a surgeon, even if it is not known that the site of the pain is called iliac fossa and more specifically Mc Burney's point.

Giving a name to the psychological wound is a key to resilience

A first objective is to give a name to the difficulty and a story to each wound or scar. To know what causes stress and robs peace of soul and body. Knowing how to cope with the situation, in order to have a happier and more meaningful life.

It is about achieving greater resilience/strength in the aspects we mentioned in the first part, particularly emotional and spiritual.

A friend told me that, when he was a child, his grandfather always told him about his confrontation with a big bad wolf in the forest, to explain a huge scar on his chest. In reality, it was the scar from a heart attack operation, as his mother revealed to him. But the fact remains that every wound needs a story: we know and accept reality or we give way to fiction.

Parts of that "story" are conscious and easily remembered. Many others occupy a place in the mind called the unconscious. It is from there that the pain of trauma arises. In the unconscious some desires are repressed, emotions are buried, wounds are dusty and dirty. For this reason, in the task of formation, a key objective is to make the unconscious conscious, as Karol Wojtyla wrote. That is a goal of accompaniment and the beginning of healing.

A wound, even if it heals, can grow and become more noticeable, like the scar on trees. But those marks do not prevent the tree from going upwards, towards the sun. Those past traces make it more beautiful and unique.

The problem happens when the wound is denied, hidden or sleeps buried and not faced. It happens as with a skin injury, that if it is not clean it is difficult to heal and it is not uncommon for it to become infected. In psychology, an infected wound gives rise to personality disorders. It produces "masks" that hide the splendor of the real person, in the eyes of oneself and the spectator.

The tragic story enclosed, more or less willingly, can become a prison. Denial does not diminish the pain, but reproduces it in time and out of time, in the form of rage and disproportionate reactions.

The psychological wound before the love of Christ

If we move from Adam and Eve to Jesus Christ, we see the difference in the way we deal with what happens. Scott Hahn comments that Adam, after the wound, does not ask God for help and does not want to die. Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Olives, in the face of the anguish caused by the imminence of his passion, asks God for help and is willing to die.

Many wounded people have lacked since childhood someone to trust them, to show them unconditional love and respect for who they are. For this reason, when faced with an adult who shows difficulties of resilience in overcoming his or her past, it is all the more important to make up for these deficiencies with an attitude of welcome.

Everyone, including children, needs to be believed in and understood

For this reason, when something from others catches our attention, such as an anger, a sign of aggression, a lack of respect, etc., we should ask ourselves:

  • What could he/she be feeling?
  • What might he/she be wanting to do, or what does he/she need?
  • What is he/she trying to tell me?
  • Why is he/she reacting in this way?

Spiritual advice and, more than words, the attitude with which we listen to the person, welcome him, reserve time for him, respect him, guide him, tolerate his instabilities, etc., will tend to reinforce that God continues to be Father, that he never rejects us. We must help to deepen our faith, to begin again with hope, which frees us from ghosts and fears. To turn to the Holy Spirit, divine physician, and ask for his gifts, which are like the wind that inflates the sails and allows us to continue sailing, even if we have lost the strength to row. He knows better than we do even the unconscious.

In the perspective of faith, God is the best of fathers and the "safest base" for exploring the world. He more than satisfies our psychological needs for belonging, love, respect, trust and recognition. But for someone to access this truth as something real in his or her life, in addition to the grace of God, it is necessary to heal the wounds that have damaged the attachment. It is not enough to know the theory; it is necessary to be able to feel it.

With these ideas, the wounded person is accompanied, so that he/she may recover the sense of divine filiation. Even if there are many problems in one's own family, "in the church of Jesus Christ no one is an orphan," wrote Scott Hahn.

2. Changing attitudes towards psychological wounds

As already mentioned, the first step in dealing with wounds is to acknowledge them. In some cases also to express and release anger, to cry for the first time, to feel what we need to heal.

It is useful what in psychology is called verbalizing: to talk about what has happened and what we feel. Trying to put into words or even in writing what is happening or what has been experienced. This exercise makes it easier to distance oneself from the traumatic event and to see it objectively. The painful experience will always be subjective, but it is possible to analyze it from the outside. The first step is to know and accept that you have been a victim, then you will make an itinerary to get out of that state.

The damage of a wound can be serious, but usually the ability to change one's attitude remains. Viktor Frankl verified this in the concentration camps. He realized that people can lose the ability to work or contribute to the world, to realize what he called creative values. They may be very limited in the exercise of experiential values, or the ability to admire a work of art, beauty or love. But there always remains the possibility of changing one's attitude, even in the face of the most adverse fate.

Many years later, Edith Eger will tell how this discovery changed her life: "Over time I have learned that I can decide how to react to the past. I can feel unhappy or hopeful. I can feel depressed or happy. We always have the possibility to decide, the possibility to have control."

A different attitude enables resilience, or the ability to restart and promote strength: to resist, attack and persevere. It is to see what has happened with a different nuance, to face the future with hope.

Four steps help to change the attitude towards psychological wounds

  • Train attention: it is the door of the mind and as simple and complex as being in what I am where it is convenient for me to be. We notice its lack when we forget people's names, when we pass by a meal without hardly realizing what it was, when prayer is filled with distractions, when we ruminate on work ideas in times of rest or at home, when we judge harshly and without reflection, when we are overcome by the continuous urge to check WhatsApp or e-mail... A synonym is the ability to be amazed at the ordinary. It deepens the attention and delays the interpretation, before the surprise and novelty of what we see, like children.

        Healthy, joyful and kind attention has these characteristics:

        - It is directed primarily toward the world (not toward one's own mind);

        - It is focused on novelty (not on the experience of a threat);

        - It delays judgment of others and tends to be positive.

  • Cultivate emotional resilience: quick emotional responses are usually not the most appropriate; controlling them gives peace and joy. As emotions are contagious, trying to be cheerful and see the positive leads to experiencing more emotions of this tonality throughout the day. Adversity is better dealt with and the positive tone is regained sooner after a failure.

        The instinctive emotional responses, often negative, are contrasted with:

        - Gratitude

        - Compassion

        - Acceptance

        - Meaning

        - Forgiveness

  • Gratitude allows us to see the good in spite of the wounds or ills suffered. Compassion leads to understanding others and their pain; it allows us to understand that when someone does not express love they may be asking for help. Accepting limitations leads to creativity: accepting them in oneself, in others and in situations. The search for meaning gives a reason to live and transform the world: who I am, why I exist and what for. One can be a woman or a man, with a specific role in society and in the family: father, mother, son, brother… What cannot be missing is to be someone who loves and serves. Forgiveness makes us recognize that we are imperfect surrounded by imperfect people, and makes it easier for us to heal any wound, as we will see.
  • Activities that include body and soul: not to remain in superficial experiences, but to deepen the meaning of life. For a Christian, prayer is a stupendous means, as well as serene participation in the sacraments. Every practice of piety is transformed into a moment of peace.
  • Achieving healthy habits: many aspects, from taking care of body weight, to quitting smoking or being less sedentary, give a boost to the way we face life's problems.

Each of these steps can be trained from first thing in the morning, trying to bring to mind thoughts of gratitude: to God, who has given us another day, and to so many people for whom we can feel affection and appreciation. This is the best way to face the day and its challenges.

In a practical way, it helps to have frequent contact, if possible daily, with nature, or with some activity that shows beauty, such as listening to music. You can make the effort to go for a walk alone, trying to concentrate on how much you see, or better yet with someone else.

Even surgery wounds heal better when patients have a beautiful view from their hospital beds. Music and beautiful images decrease anxiety and pain in patients who require painful treatments. Sunlight decreases the stress of life.

All this focuses us on the most important thing in the life of a Christian: there is a God who loves me. This makes it easier when we return home after work to see each and every one of those who live with us with new eyes, as excellent people.

Choosing to forgive and say goodbye to negative emotions

And this God is able to forgive, which is what we often ask of him: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".

Forgiveness, as part of emotional resilience, is facilitated by considering that the other may have acted out of ignorance. So often this is what happens to parents, who have tried to do the best they knew how.... It is also easier to forgive if we think that there may be misunderstandings, that the person who perhaps offended us did not really mean to do or say what he said or did, that those who hurt us unjustly are more unfortunate because they will have to carry the evil of their actions for the rest of their lives, etc. But above all, forgiveness is easier if we find a meaning to the adversity or the harm suffered.

It is convenient to remember that forgiveness does not last an instant. But the decision to forgive does take a moment, and that is the most important thing. The change of attitude lasts a lifetime and is continually updated with the memory. In this way, one stops ruminating about what happened, which easily triggers anxiety and depression.

As it is a decision, it is possible to forgive before the other person asks for forgiveness and even if he/she does not ask for it. Some suggest writing what happened in an imaginary letter to the person who has somehow offended, reading it as if he/she had already received it, and tearing it up.

Forgiveness is a voluntary and free choice that cancels the most negative emotions that accompany the wounds. Anger, hostility, feeling like a victim, etc., easily lead to depression and anxiety. They produce sleep problems, increase stress which in turn generates cortisol and favors diseases of all kinds, such as tumors, hypertension or heart problems.

Considering oneself a victim for life is a defense mechanism, but harmful. It favors low self-esteem, not loving and respecting oneself and not facing one's own pain in order to growth. Edith Eger confirmed it well in her own life, and that is why she stated: victim "is someone who puts the focus outside herself, who looks outside for someone else to blame for her current circumstances or to determine her goals, her destiny or her worth".

With forgiveness I can live healthier and happier. It is a gift we give freely to another person who has harmed or offended us, but it is above all a gift to ourselves. It is letting go of a weight in order to fly light. It is to pray for those who have made enemies. It makes us regain our courage and confidence with a healthy and joyful pride: "I can say forgive me as we forgive those who offend us".

As it is a choice, there is room for mixed feelings. This was expressed very well by a girl from a northern European country, a medical student and a Catholic. One of her professors made life impossible for her because she was a Christian... And she prayed, with some compunction, in this way: "Lord, I pray to you for Dr. X, and I wish him to go to heaven; but please, I ask you that we do not coincide there". I think that this was an authentically human forgiveness.

Whoever has been practicing the other attitudes, gratitude, compassion and the search for meaning in life, concludes with forgiveness. If we understood everything, we would forgive everything. And although in this world we are far from understanding everything, with the grace of God and the light of faith, it is easier. In this way it is not the wound, nor anger or rancor that guides our life, but the highest of the meanings.

Forgiveness is not forgetting the wrong, nor allowing injustice or crimes to continue to be committed. It is not denying that something bad has happened or letting someone hurt us. Nor is it avoiding the legal consequences that can result from a wrongdoing, or wanting a criminal to be released from prison at all costs.

We must not forget that forgiveness of others requires forgiveness of oneself. The most difficult part of overcoming trauma may be to accept oneself. Sometimes it will be necessary to work especially on this and perhaps say: "I forgive myself, because God has forgiven me".

With this key attitude, hatred, which causes so much harm, is overcome: "Hatred is like an acid, which, just as it destroys the object on which it is poured, damages the vessel in which it is kept" (Eppie Lederer, quoted by Fernando Sarráis). And the danger can be transmitted from generation to generation, since emotions are contagious. Parents have the responsibility to avoid these risks, taking on their children the arguments of their siblings, their grandparents; or a group that is hated within the family.

What to say to the wounded person

A wounded person needs to be reinforced in his or her courage. If it is important for everyone to be told the good things or to highlight what we have done well, it is even more important for those who have suffered the pain of trauma. Simple phrases like this always help us:

  • How nice to see you!
  • Of course we can talk, as long as you want us to.
  • I understand and share your grief.
  • Your experience in grief will help you to help many others.

The attitude that encompasses all of the above is to find meaning. And to realize that this meaning is not in the past or in the future, but in a present of love. Every attitude, including forgiveness, in order to be authentic, must have a meaning, which can take time to arrive: it is never possible to impose it from outside, but it is discovered or received and accepted as a gift.

This is the starting point for the four pillars of happiness as described by Emily Esfahani, inspired by Frankl. The first is the sense of belonging: every person needs to love and be loved, someone who affirms his or her value even before birth. The natural setting is the family that welcomes children and accompanies them in their growth, reaffirming their self-esteem.

The second is more related to the ultimate meaning of life: the purpose, project or mission that guides one's steps. The third is transcendence: going out of oneself, opening oneself to others and to God, giving space to silence, to have transcendent experiences.

The fourth pillar is narrative: the way in which we tell our own life story, with what has happened, including traumas and conflicts. It means knowing our history and coming to terms with it, knowing that, without changing it, we can interpret it in a different way with a more positive attitude. I would translate it as leaving the past in God's merciful hands, the future in His providence, and concentrating on the present, which is the love He has for us.

A necessary attitude to build a more secure personality is acceptance and hope. So many young people who have suffered major wounds can acquire the strength to rise again, if they are given security, as Boris Cyrulnik says.

What is needed in many countries is an education that is more open to contemplation, to art, to beauty, to goodness..., that opens the doors to the transcendent sense. Cyrulnik sums it up in helping to have fun with what is learned and what is done, and slowing down, as opposed to a demanding educational activism that only looks at the results and material successes. Music, painting, theater and other art forms, and sports facilitate healing.

Recovering transcendence for healing

With a transcendent meaning, one matures, overcomes conflicts and learns to serve and love. I will exemplify this with a story from War and Peace. Natasha, a young girl saddened and depressed by the death of the prince she loved and with her jealousy boiling towards another suitor, begins to take care of her sick mother. This is how Tolstoy comments on the scene:

The wound that had torn half a life from the countess [the mother] brought Natasha back to life. Strange as it may seem, a moral wound produced by a tearing of the spiritual being heals little by little the same as a physical wound. And just like a physical wound, when it seems that its edges have joined, a deep moral wound heals from the inside, thanks to the force of life that struggles to come out. This is how Natasha's wound healed. She thought her life was over.

 But suddenly, the affection she felt for her mother showed her that the essence of her life - love - was still alive in her. Love was reborn and, with it, life. Prince Andrey's last days had united Natasha and Princess Maria [Andrey's betrothed and the cause of jealousy]. The new misfortune brought them even closer together. Princess Maria postponed her departure and during the last three weeks she cared for Natasha as if she were a sick child. The days the latter had spent in her mother's room had exhausted her physical strength.

One day the princess observed that Natasha was shivering with chills and took her to her room, where she laid her in her own bed. But when, after drawing the curtains, she was about to leave the room, Natasha called out to her. -I'm not sleepy, Marie, stay with me. -You're tired, try to sleep. -No, no. Why did you take me out of there? Mom can call me. She's much better. She spoke normally today," replied the princess.

Natasha, lying on the bed, examined Mary's face in the half-light. Does it look like him? -Yes and no. She has something special, something strange; new and unknown. But she loves me. What does her soul feel? Only good things. But how does she think? How does she judge me? She is lovely. Masha, she said, timidly drawing the princess's hand to herself, Masha, you don't think I'm bad, do you? Masha dear, I love you very much. I wish we were real friends.

And embracing her, he kissed her face and hands. The princess felt both ashamed and happy about this expansion. From that day on, that exalted and tender friendship that only exists between women was established between them. They kissed each other at every moment, exchanged affectionate words and spent most of the day together.

The change of attitude rejuvenates the person. No matter how serious the wound, "the key that gives us back our freedom is ours", in another phrase of Edith Eger. We cannot decide on the past, to have an existence without any pain, but we can decide to look to the future and stop being "our own jailers".

3. When to advise a visit to health care professionals

For a small cut or scrape on the skin, it is usually not necessary to visit a doctor. The wounds of everyday life that we mentioned, the most common in the affective and psychological field, such as feeling rejected at some point, or guilty or failed, do not usually need a specialized intervention.

Psychological first aid

It is enough to have at hand some disinfectant and bandage them, which, by analogy, will be to recognize the problem, give it a name, talk to someone about what happened, use good humor, make an effort to be optimistic, cultivate positive affections, confront fears... And of course pray, go to see Jesus in a church, use holy water, receive the Eucharist or go to confession, etc.

This "first aid", which can be applied by the person him/herself, is necessary to reduce pain and to prevent wounds from affecting deeper structures.

There is, however, a practical difficulty. Almost everyone can easily distinguish a wound that needs stitches from one that only requires cleaning. On the psychological level, the differences are less obvious. And leaving a feeling of guilt or loneliness without the proper dressing can lead to damage similar to not recognizing a fracture in time.

This is why, when in doubt, it is useful to consult an expert. The most important wounds, which have not healed and affect the psychological dimension, require the intervention of specialists.

Detect more serious psychological wounds

The sooner these types of wounds are detected the better, because if they become chronic they give rise to personality problems that are difficult to reverse. These alterations in the way of being often lead to other psychological problems.

Specialists can be physicians, psychologists, psychotherapists, coaches or professional counselors, trained to delve into the realms of the psyche. In some cases, a professional may advise the use of medication to reduce the manifestations of anxiety, depression, hyper-reactivity, lack of sleep and other physiological factors.

It is suggestive to consider these symptoms as simple alarms of something deeper; but these alarms sometimes paralyze and transform themselves into fire, earthquake or paralysis. That is why it is convenient to control them.

There are numerous relaxation techniques and breathing exercises that are effective in reducing tension. Mindfulness is also used as a kind of contemplative therapy that seeks to regulate emotions. Although it is important not to confuse it with Christian prayer, this method can help to focus on the present and promote serenity. However, if these emotions have been dysregulated for years, it will be more difficult to channel them.

There are also medications. The idea is not to use a drug that "anesthetizes", which is unlikely to happen successfully and permanently, but to facilitate understanding, to distance oneself from what has happened and to take back the reins of life. Medication in itself does not heal the wound, but it can help.

Usefulness of spiritual accompaniment

Spiritual accompaniment, on the other hand, will always be useful for wounds. So often it is not a matter of offering a remedy, but of welcoming, listening, sympathizing and accompanying. This implies recognizing one's own barriers or thoughts, more or less conscious, such as: "I will not be able to help", "I am not sure if I will bother", "I do not see clearly what to do", etc.; and encouraging the following dispositions:

  • Acknowledge the other person's suffering. To get out of one's own vision and grasp the other person's pain, even if it seems small or exaggerated.
  • To admit and validate suffering and that a subjective experience of pain has taken place: it is valid not only for you, but I also accept it and see it, and I understand you. Do not hastily blame anyone, but the situation; and focus attention on the person who is suffering, not on those who have made him/her suffer.
  • To affirm the intention to help, even if we feel that perhaps there is little we can do, that we are not capable or that it will not do any good. Listening and understanding with an open and compassionate attitude is possible.
  • Diminish the pain: the doubts of being able to do something may push us to not want to take charge of the "case". But we forget that there are no "cases". There are daughters or sons of God who have come to us. We are always capable of compassion, which is sharing the pain and therefore diminishing it.

Once these guidelines have been established, we are in a better position to continue with the topic.

When to suggest a visit to a specialist?

We have already said that after three hours of pain in the iliac fossa, almost anyone will recommend going to an emergency service. I think that there is also a time limit, although less stable and universal, to put more means in front of a psychological or spiritual pain caused by injuries. It will depend on the type of pain, whether or not it is constant, whether or not it prevents normal activities, and how much it affects normal tasks and interpersonal relationships.

If there is a persistent low mood, lack of interest in what you used to do, background "nervousness", pathological feelings of guilt, repetitive thoughts, sleep problems, a good time frame is two weeks. This is the time limit that is usually set for depressive symptoms: a low tide, in Frankl's expression, cannot last longer.

There are also urgent reasons to see a doctor, such as physical self-injury, in an attempt to mask psychological pain. Or more obvious symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessiveness..., or more serious symptoms such as delirium.

An empathic relationship always helps. It is the framework for delving into the traumatic experience and favors integration or emotional regulation.

Conclusions on psychological wounds

In March 2021, the huge ship Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking the maritime flow. To get out of that situation took days, a lot of effort, the help of several external tugboats and waiting for the high tide to come in again.

A psychologically injured person navigates with difficulty and will have to be accompanied with patience. She may be completely aground and will need a team of qualified people to help her get back afloat. It will almost always be possible to count on your own effort, however small it may seem: even the large ship mentioned had its engines running and was doing what it could. The captain was not left to ruminate on his own or others' guilt.

It would have been better if the ship had not run aground. Care must be taken to prevent injuries, especially in children, and to provide first aid in the face of the inevitable daily disappointments. It is useful that whoever accompanies another person in his development has notions of psychological first aid, since they accelerate healing. These measures of help do not exclude the need to go to a specialist if the damage is serious or persistent.

Spiritual accompaniment is a privileged means of coping with trauma. Strengthening this human dimension implies going out of oneself, searching for the positive and for meaning, for a life full of significance.

The spiritual person understands that many aspects of life and the world cannot be changed. He or she does not remain stranded, but tries to improve, to serve more and leave a happier world. From forgiveness, she stops to think about what she herself could change.

Virtues have the strength of many tugboats. Faith, hope and charity support our identity, encourage us to act with autonomy and make our self-esteem shine in the love of God. Each Christian virtue supports us to keep sailing. Humility helps us to recognize our own condition and to be grateful for the many gifts we have received.

It is also to be hoped that the channels will be widened and the harbors enlarged, so that life may be more bearable. We need coherence that removes dangerous obstacles and counteracts the reification of the person, the culture of rejection of which Pope Francis speaks, that "poisonous spirit of the disposable" (Amoris laetitia, no. 153).

Each and every one of us has our own responsibility. We can all be a balm, a bandage and not bring anyone down, if we take special care with our gestures and language. Let us smile. Let us be empathetic. Let us look for the positive in our speech and in our judgments. Let us remember that words have the power to hurt and to heal. And let us make an effort to listen more than to speak.

Wenceslao Vial

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