Why is it that most people can tell if a cut is deep enough to require stitches or what to do when someone breaks a bone, but have little to offer when it comes to treating emotional injuries such as the disappointment of failure or the pain or rejection? According to psychologist Guy Finch, we greatly favor our physical well-being over our emotional health even though we sustain psychological injuries much more often than we do physical ones, and they can be just as damaging.
Finch suggests that there might be an evolutionary explanation for this. For most of human history, our focus as a species has been on the bottom layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: keeping alive, seeking food and shelter, and staying safe. In that context, it has only been relatively recently that we’ve achieved the level of industrialization and development that affords us the ability to pay attention to our emotional needs.
The heavy legacy of this is that many people still consider feelings as superfluous, or worse, a sign of weakness. When we suffer an emotional injury many of us tell ourselves to shake it off and just move on. Unfortunately, this often comes at a heavy cost to our overall well-being and longevity. Learning how to deal with the disappointment of not keeping up with our resolutions, will help us to better stick with them!
Go deeper: Watch Finch’s excellent Ted Talk - “How to practice emotional first aid”; read his book: “Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts”; or listen to his captivating podcast with Lori Gottlieb called Dear Therapists.