The problem with "time heals all" statements

In this podcast (episode #558) and blog, I talk about the problem with the phrase “time heals all”.   

There are so many phrases that we use without really thinking of their impact, until they hit us—until we are in a place where we experience first-hand the pain that a blithe statement, meant as comfort, can cause, even something as simple as “time heals all”.

The Greek poet, Menander, who lived around 300 B.C.E, is apparently the source of this phrase, the original being something like “time is the healer of all necessary evils”. Of course, time is passing and certain things do heal (such as physical wounds), and things do change. (Every moment of every day, we are having new experiences, and this means our mind, brain and body are changing all the time.) But then why does the phrase “time heals all wounds” feel so frustrating and untrue at certain times in our lives?

A big part of the research I do is looking at how we as humans change over time, and how long it takes to stabilize that change so that we can feel different and function differently. From our research, my team and I have found that change tends to occur in 9-week cycles, with distinct phases and specific experiences within those phases, confirming what has been found in other research: it truly does take time to change!

So yes, we are all changing all the time, but that doesn’t just mean that “time heals all wounds.” A crucial element is missing: what the direction of the change is, and what control we have over this change.

We are always changing, but that doesn’t mean we are always managing the direction of this change. It requires time and effort, and can be a challenging but rewarding process. Managing these changes is the source of true healing, not just time alone. It means, for example, that the darkness from a painful experience or a trauma will always remain, but how we choose to face it and manage it can change, and this is how we find healing. Without managing the change, the darkness doesn't just go away—time doesn’t make it disappear. In fact, it can grow in the wrong direction and consume us. However, managing the change over time by entering into a struggle with the darkness will help us heal, enabling us to eventually focus on the good—the things that fill us with peace, love and hope.

Allowing time to pass without working on what is affecting us means the pain may lessen or become less intense, but this is really only like pressing “pause” on the problem, which can come back when reactivated through a trigger. This is why it is so important to “do the work”. The phrase “time heals all wounds” is essentially an oversimplification of the complex process of healing. Healing takes a lot of work, not just time, and is an incredibly individualized journey, requiring active effort and support to address emotional wounds. 

To do this, I recommend using the Neurocycle mind management method I have developed and studied over the past three decades, which I discuss in detail in my book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and my app Neurocycle. The Neurocycle is a way to harness our thinking power that I have developed and researched over the past three decades. It has 5 steps. The first step is to 1. gather awareness of how we feel mentally and physically and our perspective when we are dealing with a past wound. The second step is to 2. reflect on how we feel. Then we 3. write down our reflections to help organize our thinking. The fourth step is to 4. recheck: think about what our thoughts and feelings are trying to tell us. What does it say about what happened to us? What is our “antidote”— how will we work through how our thoughts are affecting us? Lastly, do the 5. active reach. This is a thought or action we need to practice daily to help us reconceptualize what we thought about in the previous step. What we are going to do each day to give ourselves the time and mental space needed to deal with what is bothering us and turn our destructive thoughts into a constructive future? 

To heal, we have to take an inventory of ourselves, our experiences, and our pain and begin finding new ways to accept what we have been through as something that may always be a part of our lives but that does not have to control our lives. We can’t change our story, but, over time, we can learn how to direct the change of how our past plays out in our future.

For more on healing, listen to my podcast (episode #558). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).        

This podcast is sponsored by:  

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Relationships are hard work, but they truly make life worth living. Just thinking about my own marriage: it hasn’t always been easy, and we still have our ups and downs, but after decades together, working on ourselves and through our issues and making an effort to truly be there for each other, I can honestly say my life is so much more with my husband in it! But a common misconception about relationships is that they have to be easy to be “right.” But sometimes, the best ones happen when both people put in the work to make them great. And therapy can be a place to work through the challenges you face in all of your relationships – whether with friends, work, your significant other, or anyone. Therapy is an incredibly helpful mental health tool that everyone can benefit from, wherever they are in life! It’s helpful for learning positive relationships and coping skills, and how to set boundaries; it empowers you to be the best version of yourself. Therapy isn’t just for those who’ve experienced major trauma! If you’re thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It’s entirely online. Designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist, and switch therapists any time for no additional charge. Become your own soulmate, whether you’re looking for one or not. Visit today to get 10% off your first month. 

Oneskin. In the spirit of self-care, today’s sponsor, OneSkin is here to help you simplify your skin care regimen. Founded by 4 PhDs dedicated to skin longevity, OneSkin proves you don’t need a complicated routine to achieve better skin. Their topical supplements make it easy to help your skin stay younger and healthier without all the extra steps. The secret? OneSkin’s proprietary OS-01 peptide. It’s the first ingredient scientifically proven to reduce the buildup of senescent cells — those notorious zombie cells that contribute to skin aging. Fewer zombie cells mean healthier, younger-looking skin with fewer lines and wrinkles, reduced age spots, and a stronger natural barrier — something that’s especially important this time of year. Your skin does so much for you. Return the favor with Oneskin. Alongside my mind management routine, Oneskin’s products have become an essential part of my daily wellness routine! I especially love their OS-01 EYE Topical Supplement, which has dramatically improved the wrinkles and bags around my eyes, giving me a more refreshed and youthful glow as I go about my day. OneSkin truly is more than skin care. It’s about skin longevity, targeting the root causes of aging to help you look and feel your best at every age. Get started today with 15% off using code DRLEAF at

Podcast Highlights

3:00 Time alone does not heal all wounds

4:28, 7:12 The direction of the change is important!

7:20 Why we must face the past to find true healing

8:00 How long it takes to change the brain & heal

13:35, 18:29 How to heal over time

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.

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