Unhealed wounds are sensitive to the touch.
And while physical wounds, a cut or a scrap, heal naturally and quite quickly…mental wounds can last and last.
What’s a mental wound? Well, it’s that moment when someone says something and suddenly you’re full of anger. ”How dare they say that to me!” ”What a stupid jerk!” Or it’s that moment when something goes wrong and your internal world crumbles. “I should have known better.” ”I’m such a mess.” It’s the situations or types of interactions that you avoid like the plague. Or it’s when you shut down; you wall up inside yourself, and stay hidden away until the coast is clear.
All of these reactions are symptoms of mental wounds which are still sensitive to the touch. That’s because our natural mental healing often is interrupted and not supported. In fact these “symptoms” are also stopping us from healing it up.
It’s like if you cut your finger and then keep it covered in mud. The wound only gets more infected.
It’s the same with these mental wounds. You get hurt, and you do something you think will help like blame yourself, blame the other person, or withdraw, but it ends up being a bunch of mud on a cut finger.
But it’s okay…because unlike the finger our mental wounds can be healed at any moment.
Just the other night my partner and I got lost in a conflict. We were reading a book aloud to each other, and had a disagreement about how to interpret a paragraph we’d read. And what started as a simple disagreement, quickly turned into her and I completely disconnected and shut down from one another.
As I reflect upon this incident, I’m embarrassed to share that I was reacting from this wounded place of “needing” to be seen as smart, “needing” to teach, and “needing” to be right. It startled me when I finally could see it. It made sense that the only way I knew how to avoid feeling that pain, was to take on this role of “know it all”, this habit of “teaching to” and “dismissing dissent”. When my opinions and interpretations were challenged as “wrong” (my perception, not my partner’s intention), I had to either feel the pain of being seen as wrong and “stupid”…or I could assert my “rightness” and my intelligence. The later feels so much more comfortable.
How do we heal then? How can we get to a point where these mental wounds aren’t so sensitive?
Recognize that you’re reacting to something in the past. You’re switching to auto-pilot. You’re acting off of an old, outdated script. Whatever helps you see that you’re reacting to something much deeper than what’s happening in the moment.
Allow yourself to get in touch with, and accept, the pain that’s really there. It’s a wound, it hurts! This is usually the hardest part for people; this is often where people stop. The reason you’ve reacted the way you have in the past is to avoid feeling the pain that’s there. Once you stop doing the behavior, you can begin to heal, but that does mean the pain often comes up.
Gain the skills, resources, or insightful liberation that will help you be here in the moment, and not stuck in the past. After the pain has faded away…your mind is free to explore what’s possible once the wound is healed. You build up the once wounded muscle. You allow new, healthier, beliefs form like fresh skin.
Finally, I share my story with you because my prayer is that you don’t spend one minute judging yourself or putting yourself down for this. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. We all have these mental wounds. I am in it with you. Don’t be intimidated or scared to reach out for a supportive hand.
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.