The Scars You Can’t See

When people look at me, they probably see someone that is educated, smart, successful, and confident. All of these are true, but what they do not see are the scars. Not scars on my body, but in my body. Sure, I have physical scars on my body; one on my shin when I fell on a rusty nail, a scar on my pointer finger where I gouged an inch of skin away, and scars from surgeon’s with multiple surgeries – some elective, others not elective, but necessary to remove the cancer.

The scars that other people do not see are the scars inside me – the emotional scars. Scars so deep even a body scan does not show them. Being born to a mother who was incapable of bonding with her infant. The scars of having a narcissistic father uninterested in his children. Scars left by parents who were too interested in their own lives that they did not notice the changes in me when my brother started sexually abusing me. The scars left from the feelings of inferiority, worthlessness, and rejection. 

The scars left from an emotionally vacant husband who turned physically abusive.

These are the scars that others judge us by, through not understanding why those of us scared act the way we do, why we have trouble trusting people, why we have limited social groups. These are the scars that rarely receive understanding, or empathy.

Now, I do not share my scars for empathy, sympathy, or understanding as I have worked to address my scars, healed the scars left unseen. These scars no longer hurt me. But, there are many people walking around with these unseen scars. We bump into them on the street, in the elevators, and in the workplace. They have behaviors and interactions that may seem odd, so people do not understand.

I understand. I understand the emotional unseen scars. I also understand the process of healing these scars, so they no longer are felt. When the events that left the scars happened, or are happening, everything a person is seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling are stored with those events. Those senses get triggered resulting in behaviors that the individual has a hard time understanding. The individual may get angry, may be depressed and withdrawn, have nightmares or flashbacks, or may feel the need to run away. It may feel hopeless. There is hope. There is hope not only for healing the emotional unseen scars. There is hope in living the life you want. Being free of the scars that other’s cannot see.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a type of therapy that effectively heals the unseen scars. EMDR takes the emotional pain away from the scars, so the scars no longer have any power in your life.

The Importance of Praise

We all like to receive praise, especially when we have accomplished a task or completed something that was new for us; children feel the same way about receiving praise. 

Children particularly like to receive praise from their parents. It is important for parents to praise children, so that they are able to repeat the task, chore, activity, or assignment.

Our brains are a pattern seeking muscle. It seeks to find the pattern in order to receive the praise again. This is why praising is vitally important to a developing child. Our role as the parent is to make sure we are praising in a way that allows the child to repeat the task, chore, activity, or assignment that received the praise in the first place. We can accomplish this by using labeled praise instead of unlabeled praise.

Unlabeled praise is when we say, “good job”. As the brain is making a pattern, the praise of good job is not “attached” to anything, so the brain is unable to repeat the pattern. Additionally, when someone makes the statement “good job”, this means that the person approves of what was accomplished. For children, we want them to be self-approving instead of others-approving. We want our children to be satisfied with what they are accomplishing and not seeking the approval of others. This is where labeled praise becomes invaluable.

For the brain to make a patterned memory the parent should always label, or identify, what the child has accomplished. When this kind of statement is made first, then followed by a “tag” line, the brain is making a memory in order to repeat the same behavior that received the praise. Using labeled praise such as, “you were able to put all the blocks away, you did it”, “wow, you knew exactly what to study to make a good grade on your test, you did it”, or “you put the dishes away without being asked, wow, you are amazing”, gives the brain a memory or pattern of behavior that will receive praise again.