But we can learn from movies and books. That’s because film and fiction characters open our eyes to the world of wounds. Often, fictional characters enter scenes damaged but heal during the final act.
Recently, I got hit with a bad wound. As a result, I grew colder, harder hearted—my thoughts shelled within a defensive wall. And it frightened me. But I duped myself to believe the emotional shield safeguarded me. But emotional shields don’t protect anyone; they maim. And they thwart us from reaching our goals.
My goal was now to overcome my wound.
So, I sought guidance from the writer’s Emotional Wound Thesaurus. Within the thesaurus, I learned to never discard traits such as trust, friendliness, kindness, and forgiveness. These traits help us realize our dreams.
Then I quizzed my boyfriend how to heal my emotional wound. He wisely said to ponder positive thoughts, to pray for foes, and to read spirituality. So, I did. And my psyche then drifted back to its cheerful state, but this time a touch wiser and thicker-skinned.
Thus, I succeeded in setting aside my emotional shield. Now, I seek to heal the wound. I’ll do so by scouring self-help and spiritual books, and by getting fit and healthy. I’ll use compassionate self-talk to soothe myself, not unlike an unconditionally loving mother. Most of all, I’ll dwell on only kind thoughts about my foes.
And I’ll go to the movies—to study how characters heal their wounds. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi explore character emotional wounds in their book The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma:
- We love to watch a character struggle with their wound: “By sharing a character’s experiences, [readers] get an intimate glimpse into how others wrestle with difficult situations, moral dilemmas, and the disruptive nature of change” (location 226, 3%).
- We all have wounds: “Deep down, each of us is a bit damaged. We’ve all suffered emotional hurts and are looking to heal” (location 226, 3%).
- Wounds attack our spirit and thwart our goals: “Wounds damage our characters’ self-worth, change how they view the world, cause trust issues, and dictate how they will interact with other people. All of this can make it harder for them to achieve certain goals” (location 262, 3%).
- Worse, characters wrongly blame themselves for their wounds: “Caught in a vulnerable state, the character tries to understand or rationalize his painful experience, only to falsely conclude that fault somehow lies within” (location 269, 4%).
- This self-blame serves as the lie: “Once the lie forms, it’s like a fungus releasing toxic spores. This false belief seeds itself deep into the character, damaging his self-esteem, sabotaging his confidence, and creating … fear …” (location 292, 4%).
- The lie “causes him to hold back, making it difficult for him to love fully, trust deeply, or live life without reservations” (location 277, 4%).
- The lie builds a brutal emotional shield: “When emotional shielding goes up, it transforms a character, creating damage that must be undone for him to find his way back to a life of balance, happiness, and fulfillment” (location 443, 6%).
- This shield doesn’t protect, it destroys: “What makes this shielding so damaging is that it consists of character flaws, self-limiting attitudes, skewed beliefs, and dysfunctional behaviors—all of which the character eagerly adopts to block anyone who might wish to hurt them” (location 321, 4%).
- This shield replaces our strengths with faults: “In light of a wounding event, certain positive attributes may be labeled as weaknesses, such as being too friendly, too kind, or too trusting. When emotional shielding goes up, these traits are replaced by others (flaws) that will do a better job of keeping people and the pain they can cause at a distance” (location 350, 5%).
- But healthy coping lets us lick our wounds: “Not all personality changes resulting from a wound will be negative. Lessons are learned during any good or bad experience, and they can lead to the character also embracing helpful traits …. Positive attributes also form when the character is coping with the wound in a healthy way” (location 357, 5%).
- Healthy healing involves self-care: “Showing your character taking better care of her health (by eating properly, getting more sleep, improving her hygiene, and exercising) will let readers know she’s activity trying to improve” (location 602, 8%).
- And healthy healing involves learning, creativity, and connection: “Another positive change may involve joining a group, connecting with nature, reading, journaling, or pursuing creative outlets. Seeking education and other forms of self-improvement are also good signs that a shift is taking place in the character’s mind” (location 602, 8%).
At university, I braved a lot of abuse. I might’ve developed a damaging emotional shield. Instead, I trained martial arts, began bodybuilding, and started a spiritual quest. I starred in a documentary film. And I made an advocacy piece for an academic conference. These acts all nursed the strength to cope.
So, when your real-life story leaves you wounded, study films with happy endings for healing tips.