Carolyn Myss once said that when we tell someone about our emotional wounds, we’ve let them know how the relationship will be manipulated. This “information” also reveals how we live.
A friend recently experienced a catharsis that took her through and beyond old wounds, wounds that caused her to armor herself since childhood, without really realizing to what degree this armoring had been done. The experience was not easy and happened faster than most would be able to tolerate or process so quickly. Through this experience she discovered she didn’t like herself as she’d been; didn’t like the falseness that had been a veil over so much of how she’d felt and lived, which was based on wounds and shields. A result is she now feels emptiness, not a negative form, though, but the form that isn’t filled by ego-mind’s fears and resentments. She said she now wakes each day concerned only with how she can be of service that day, and she more readily sees how others live through their wounds. She’s cast off her wounds, no longer willing to live dragging anger, resentment, and judgment with her.
I want to make a valid point before you continue to read: The ego is not the “bad guy”. It’s here to protect us, to make sure we desire to protect ourselves. But like anything and everything, it has two sides. One side is in harmony with our spiritual self and how we interact with others and our experiences, and the other is heavily influenced by indoctrinated beliefs and how those beliefs cause us to react to others and our experiences. You do not need to eliminate the ego, you simply need to do the inner work that allows you to know when to listen to it and when not to.
The “dark” side of the ego tells us to cling to our emotional wounds. When we experience certain emotional wounds, especially as children who are not guided about how to deal with and heal them, the wounds stay with us. This lack of guidance means we’re likely to carry our unskilled ways into adulthood. The wounds become familiar. And painful or not, we become identified with them; they become a part of us. They move in and take up residence in us. This is akin to why some men die or decline relatively soon after retirement: for a very long time, they identified with, took their identity from, what they did rather than who they are as individuals.
Just suggest to someone to give up their attachment to a wound before they’re ready and it won’t be a pretty scene. This is because they’ve only or have primarily nurtured the wound, not the Self, and most likely, not the Spiritual aspect of who they are. They may want to improve, but cannot understand why this is a challenge, or why their resistance is as painful as the wound is, if not more. Letting go of an emotional wound will feel like death to ego-mind, so the person will fight to keep the wound alive, because they won’t know who they are without it, as long as they live guided by the darker side of ego-mind, that is. This “death sentence” is a subconscious belief, hidden from their conscious awareness.
Another reason we cling to our wounds is because we’re afraid to take action. We’ve lived in the same “house” for so long that the idea of stepping out of it frightens us, makes us feel insecure. We feel for those who experience a psychosis and literally don’t leave their homes. We grasp how affected the quality of their life is; but those who live through and with wounded personalities experience a similar self-entrapment.
Emotional wounds lead to unskillful, sometimes dysfunctional behaviors, behaviors we and others consider justified. Even if we know the behaviors don’t lead to desired results, don’t cause us to feel good about ourselves, we repeat them because we don’t “connect the dots” between behaviors and old wounds. Even if we see the connection, we may choose not to adjust behaviors because We Are Still Angry! Angry with the originator(s) of the wound(s), angry the wound(s) happened in the first place.
We cannot live a life and not get wounded; not yet, at least. The point is not about figuring out how to not get wounded but to learn to heal and continue on, to learn how to assist and encourage others to heal and continue on, even if only or especially by example. A child experiences many bumps and scrapes as s/he learns to walk. This is an inescapable process. A wise parent checks that the child is okay and encourages her or him to get up again knowing it’s the only way the child will build muscle, strength, and agility. We need to be our own wise parent.
All unhealed wounds get passed on, whether we realize it or not. Children watch and copy our actions more than our words. They read our energy and absorb and copy that. We swear we’ll never be like the parent or parents or authority figures we had difficulties with, and so we don’t see our own repetitions of their unskillful behaviors, even or especially how they think and process thoughts. We may even do the opposite of their behaviors, but in the extreme. Either way, it’s like putting makeup on a bruise to cover it so we don’t have to look at it or can pretend it isn’t there. Then, we only remember its presence when it gets bumped or prodded.
Then there’s the blaming aspect to consider: “If so-and-so hadn’t done that to me, I wouldn’t be the way I am.” There’s even this one: “God made me this way.” We believe blame is a justified and acceptable way to deal with our unhealed wound or dysfunctional behaviors. We choose anything but actually healing it or adjusting us, again, because we consider the wound (or behaviors) part of who we are, or, we believe it’s who we really are. Is it any wonder that when we feel so assaulted and insulted or self-righteous that we resist forgiveness, of others and ourselves, no matter how long ago an event happened?
Forgiveness comes more easily when we deliberately recognize that those who wounded us were similarly wounded. Ego-mind will resist this recognition process because it only wants them labeled as Villain, not human…just like us. “They should have known better, or figured it out!” ego-mind will insist. If this is a truth, then so should we know better or figure it out.
When we get a wound to the flesh, we tend to it. If the wound requires professional assistance, we get it. We can tend to our emotional wounds the same way. We can also see them for the opportunities they are, not just so we can feel better, but to learn something important like more skillful behavior…like when we were children learning the skill of walking. Yes, maybe we cried or wailed when injured, but we got back up and kept going. Our tears dried, and we focused more on our mobility and desired destination than on a temporary injury or what caused it.
Here is a poem by Persha Gertler that speaks volumes in few words. Its title is “The Healing Time”:
Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say
We share being emotionally wounded with others around the world, but fight instead of heal ourselves and help each other heal. Who but the wounded fight and wage war in close relationships and with strangers? Here are some unedited excerpts from something written and compiled by David Crossland and/or Craig deMott. It’s a story you may be familiar with about an extraordinary Christmas night during World War I: British troops holding the front line in Flanders on a cold, clear Christmas Eve four months into the war heard ‘Stille Nacht’ (‘Silent Night’) being sung across the battlefield littered with frozen corpses…. Along the entire 40 kilometres from the Belgian North Sea port of Nieuwpoort to the town of Ypres, soldiers met and arranged not to shoot each other over Christmas…. It was the first Christmas of a war that has come to epitomize pointless sacrifice on a biblical scale…. If there had been live television footage at the time and people had seen the pictures of this truce, it would have been the end the war….” This is evidence of what can happen when we realize we share more than wounds, when we realize we have more in common than we tend to remember if we’re living from wounded personalities.
The way off this crazy merry-go-round is through compassion, reassessment, through attention to our own behaviors and thoughts and choices. We can notice that many (if not all) of our overreactions are not about a current event, but an old, unhealed wound. That is, if we can even recognize when we overreact. To know this, we have to pay attention so we can address it. We can use a scale of 1 to 10 for how angry we feel then use the same scale for how serious the “infraction” actually is, and see whether or not the two ratings are in proportion and adjust our reaction or choose a more appropriate response.
At the time of this writing, we approach the end of the year 2012. Many believe a shift is upon us. Whether you believe we near the end of life as we know it, or a major spiritual, upward shift in consciousness, or just 2013, give consideration to whether or not you truly wish to continue living through and with your wounds. Consider the effects on our shared world and shared experiences and shared existence of so many walking wounded making choices for ourselves and for or against others. We can decide to continue as we have been or to heal, starting with ourselves. Our own Self healing practice will create healing ripples in our familial, local, and global communities. We have to start sometime, somewhere. Why not here and now? It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer
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Joyce Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru” and other books/ebooks, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles and free downloads. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at http://stateofappreciation.weebly.com