Time Can Heal or Harm: Depending How It Is Handled

By Ken Wells - 08/27/2021


Series Two; Blog Fifty-Nine

No one heals overnight from a deep relational hurt such as betrayal. We are not robots! In therapy when I experience a couple dealing with betrayal who seem too quick to forgive and forget, I always try to slow the process to help them embrace the reality of impact from betrayal. I tell them it takes time for both the betrayer and the betrayed to experience the hurt and pain that was inflicted by infidelity.

The passing of time is necessary for healing and forgiveness to be experienced. However, time alone is not enough. The word time can have different meanings in relationship to healing. Biblically, time can have at least 2 different meanings. There is chronos and kairos time. chronos refers to a specific amount of time, such as a day or an hour. kairos refers to an opportune moment in time. In archery, kairos denotes the moment in which an arrow may be fired with sufficient force to penetrate a target. In weaving, kairos denotes the moment in which the shuttle could be passed through threads on the loom. Both are examples of a decisive act predicated on precision.

In relational healing, both chronos and kairos time are important. chronos, quantity of time, is necessary for wounds to heal, both physically and emotionally. It takes time to work through the pain and carnage that betrayal creates. It teaches lessons that cannot be learned in a day. It allows truths to rise to the surface that first were difficult to see. Trying to rush the time of healing for the betrayer or betrayed usually backfires and undermines the healing process. The issues that were not addressed which led to betrayal were not created overnight. The recovery growth needed for both parties will require time for healing. However, chronos time alone will not complete healing. In truth, unless the pool of pain that sits in the heart of both the betrayer and betrayed like a cesspool is drained, it will metastasize to every aspect of the relationship and will kill it.

Kairos time is a necessary component to relational healing. Many critical opportune moments in relational healing are often missed. Frequently, a partner becomes stuck in some hurtful aspect of personal healing. Some refuse to look at the need for their personal healing. They choose to focus on the other partner’s need for healing. In relational healing some issues will pass on their own accord while others require precise intervention. Many couples struggle with recognizing this reality. This is why therapeutic intervention is necessary.

There are many aspects of healing broken relationships. There is a need to sit and wait in relationship healing. During this time, it is important that each partner participate in specific interventions for personal healing while waiting for the necessary relational healing. This is one of the values of a therapeutic separation. Each person working on their own personal healing in this opportune moment of time.

The approach to healing involving velvet steel incorporates both chronos and kairos time equivalents. It requires training and practice to know when to be velvet (gentle) with yourself and when to be steel (firm) with yourself. Another consideration is knowing when both need to be applied concomitantly in order for healing to occur.

When you drift from the center of your values, healing demands that you make an exact adjustment and a correction in your course of action. This can be done by being gentle (velvet) with yourself while activating precise change (steel—affirmative action).

While I have no expertise regarding whitewater kayaking, I have noticed that those who do will innately practice the dynamic of velvet steel while paddling. A course of direction is mentally charted. When a mistake made, in an instant, acceptance is registered (velvet) while simultaneously a course correction is administered to avoid the pitfalls that come with whitewater kayaking. This is all transacted within the mentality of the kayaker instantly. To do this, a kayaker must spend many hours of training. Relational response is the same. Few couples recognize this dynamic, and hope that chronos time will make the difference. This approach devolves into wishful thinking. Yet, with kairos time, a couple can specifically work on skills that can help course correct reactive response and avoid the pitfall of relational interaction.

The goal of time utilization is to combine both chronos and kairos time in order to restore relational equanimity. This word underscores the importance of stability while enduring emotional pressure in the presence of betrayal.

This practice has a life-long shelf life for recovery. In the early stages of healing betrayal, it helps to stay the course in the midst of the emotional whitewater and chaos of discovery and the initial stages of healing. In the long-term, this training can be applied to other relational issues like codependency, control, anger and rage, fear, worry, and a host of other relational communication challenges.

Without recognizing the need for utilizing kairos (critical interventions in opportune moments), chronos (passing of chronological time) will lead to harm and relational destruction. Kairos helps to utilize time in terms of returning to the center of your relationship rather than being lost in the limbo of chronological time. It helps to overcome destructive inaction and creates healing in relationship.

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