Book Review: ‘Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts’

In his book Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts, author Guy Winch, PhD examines the pathology of emotional pain. The first chapter begins with the words “Of all the emotional wounds we suffer in life, rejection is perhaps the most common.” This causes emotional pain, anger, aggression and damaged self-esteem. In this book, Winch explains that minor emotional or psychological injuries may result in long-term “fall-out.” He offers easy-to-use exercises backed up by cutting-edge science that concretely aid in recovery. The crux of his message is that you must heal emotional injuries before they become big ones.

First aid kid for emotional injuries

Everyone suffers emotional wounds during their lives: Guilt, rejection, failure and rejection are a part of every day existence. Perhaps you were always the last one picked for a team in gym class, or you didn’t “make the cut” for a sport that you really wanted to participate in. Perhaps you were the class clown who masked pain by using humor, or you may have been the class leader of whom so much was expected. Even relationships with others may cause guilt or resentment that festers over time. Guy Winch attempts to give us a first aid kit for emotional injuries by providing step-by-step treatments that really work to build up self-esteem and let go of the anger or hurt from previous experiences.

Treating different emotional wounds

Each chapter in this book is dedicated to a specific emotional wound; how we are impacted in the present and how it may affect us psychologically if we don’t address it. The second part of the chapter provides easy-to-use treatment methods, accompanied by stories about real patients, a touch of humor and fascinating psychological experiments. In essence, this makes it a tool kit (or real life “medicine cabinet,” as he puts it) to help with recovery.

Boosting self-esteem

“Where failure goes, anxiety and fear may follow. Learn to joke about your failures – after all, that’s what stand-up comics do!” Verbalizing our failures in a joking fashion may help us feel less self-defeated or inadequate. You should “take responsibility and own your fear” in order to defeat it. A negative outlook on life can cause depression and may affect how we see others as well as ourselves. This can cause a great blow to our self-esteem. “Boosting our self-esteem would strengthen our weakened emotional immune system and buffer us against many of these threats to our psychological well-being.”

Don’t get overwhelmed

Winch advises that you distract yourself when you feel overwhelmed: Walk away, whistle a little tune or listen to music, count to 10 or use any other method that you find effective to keep you from becoming paralyzed with fear. Having low self-esteem may even cause us to reject positive reinforcement and praise, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you don’t believe that you are adequate at work, any praise from the boss or a coworker may seem false or even demeaning. 

There is no bandage for past pain suffered and endured. All you can hope for is that once you isolate an incident and examine it, perhaps you can put it behind you and finally move on. Possessing elf-esteem is key to a healthy emotional life. Using the exercises in this book, and taking courage from the examples presented, it may be possible for you to move past the pain toward a new, healthier life.