Does Time Really Heal All Wounds?

By: Deji Adefila Snr.

The verdict was out, she would be fired and risk legal action from some of the victims.

Nkiru could not believe her eyes as she read the email from management over and over again. She had just lost a job that meant everything to her. Her job as Head of Finance was not just a job as far as she was concerned; it was an anchor on which she hooked her life. She had given ten good years of her life to this job, working day and night (literally at times). The pay was good, but more importantly, the distraction of consistent hard work took her mind of depressing thoughts. And now, in a flash, she had lost it all, the rewarding salary, the sanctuary to resume at, every day, sometimes including Saturdays and Sundays. It was all gone, just because of some ‘stupid’ complaint by some lazy workers!

Nkiru was a no-nonsense boss who got things done whenever she set her mind to it and she did set her mind to practically every task before her desk, meaning she got practically everything done.

But she drove a hard bargain and rubbed people off the wrong way. She was brilliant, hardworking and highly resourceful, reasons she got and kept this job for so long. But her people skills were nothing to write home about. The MD had received so many complaints, including mystery emails complaining about her work ethics but he did not take them serious until a series of high profile resignations in the office were traced to her abrasive work style.

To be fair, a management consultant was invited to audit the operational efficiency of the firm vis-a vis staff morale and potential productivity, and at the end, most fingers pointed in her direction as a major cog in the wheel of the company’s progress. She had to go, and so she was let go.

Many organizations have ‘an Nkiru’, that one person, male or female, that is exceptionally good at their job but terrible at human relations; and the higher such people get promoted, the more difficult they make life for subordinates and even peers.

But, could the company have handled the matter differently? Could Nkiru herself have handled the series of complaints differently? Was she just a difficult person to work with or did events create a mini-monster out of her?

Nkiru was the only child of her parents, who had both died in an auto-accident when she was fourteen. After a family meeting, she had been adopted by her mother’s junior sister, Aunty Hope and so she came to live with Aunty Hope’s family in Lagos. That was when her real nightmares began. Rather than give her hope to recover from her tragic loss, her new lodging proved to be a source of daily depression as Aunty Hope’s husband took advantage of her in several ways including sexual harassment and rape. Too afraid to report for fear of losing her only accommodation, school fees and everything else she owned, she kept quiet, and anger became her coping mechanism. Anger at herself, at Aunty Hope’s husband, at God for taking her parents suddenly and harshly and at the world for not protecting a young innocent girl, and finally at Aunty Hope for marrying this monster of a husband. Her anger boiled within her but she coped with both her sadness and the anger with extreme devotion to her academic studies, and in no time she had graduated in flying colours in Accounting from the university. A graduation dinner was held and it was that night that she got her pound of flesh back from Aunty Hope’s husband. She poisoned the drink she gave him and he died a painful death. Nobody ever discovered it was her. She felt an initial sense of justice, but days later the thought of having committed murder began to struggle with the first commandment, thou shall not kill.

Yet again, she handled this pressing feeling of guilt with her latest coping mechanism, hard work! Fast forward, Nkiru became a full blown adult who was very good at everything except relationships. She could barely manage a deep exchange of laughter with a fellow woman much less with a man. In fact, as far as she was concerned men were scum (except her late father, God bless his Soul!). In all of twenty years her longest relationship had lasted three months and at some point she decided to call it quits with romantic relationships and simply get married to her job. But the anger within her did not go away.

In other words, Nkiru had become a victim of emotional trauma, or better put, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although the incident or incidents that triggered her emotional trauma had since gone, time did not heal the unintended consequences.

There are millions of Nkirus out there, and while unresolved emotional trauma affects both sexes, women are more afflicted by this ailment. Unresolved emotional trauma often leads to self-sabotage in our relationships, leads to withdrawal symptoms from life, could lead to depression and depressive thoughts and actions and in many cases leads to suicide.

I have met many junior managers who could not move higher because management simply doesn’t trust them to be good leaders, whereas they are excellent at their job. Some are still mourning the death of a loved one that occurred 30 years ago, others harboring a feeling of vengeance against a person long gone from their scene.

The list is endless of what could cause your emotional trauma.

Coping mechanisms, as the word implies can only help you cope in the interim. Like a physical wound, psychological wounds leave scars, scars that trigger actions we may regret at work at home or even at play.

Is there hope for Nkiru? Are there tested and trusted modalities and protocols that can save her from self-sabotage and offer healing at a deep rooted level, which we call the cellular level?

Yes! There are.

The first step however is to jettison the old adage which says ‘Time heals all wounds’.

No it doesn’t.

Time, at best, is also a coping mechanism. Forgetting consciously doesn’t mean your body (emotional memory) has forgotten.

Deji Adefila Snr.

Deji Adefila is a guest contributor on our blog. He is writing under a pseudonym and will be contributing regularly as we all make our way towards healing on all spheres.

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New podcast out tomorrow, do stay tuned. We will be discussing Sibling Dynamics...