the wounds that bind us
by halley low

there are some who say that the way to counter negative feelings is by simple repetition of positive self-affirmations. while i concur with the general notion that positive affirmations of self and others helps to uplift and encourage, there is a danger lurking in the assumption that negative feelings are bad. if we make a habit of always covering our negative feelings, our hurts and resentments and pain, with "happy thoughts" we will miss the opportunity for real healing. affirmations can act like a band-aid, they cover the wound so we don't see it. if we keep adding band-aid on top of band-aid the wound remains out of sight but does not heal. hidden under layers of band-aids it festers and deepens.

now band-aids have there place in the healing process, but periodically they need to be removed so that the wound can be cleansed and treated in order to promote real healing. sometimes the band-aid needs to remain off the wound, allowing the wound to be exposed to the much needed fresh air and sunlight.

sometimes a scab forms over the wound, kind of a natural band-aid working to heal the wound from the outside inward. for some wounds that's just perfect, yet sometimes the scab falls off before the healing is complete, or we may pick at it a bit thinking it's all better, but its not, and so the wound starts to tickle with blood. "darn thing, thought i was over it." but that's ok because different wounds heal at different rates. of course i want the pain to end now. i don't like pain, what sane person does, so the desire to simply apply another band-aid and forget about it is very tempting.

funny thing is that wounds have a way of making themselves known, often in different guises. an infection may set in and travel to another part of the body manifesting in a boil or some other condition without any awareness, on our part, of the connection between the two. for instance, there is a direct correlation between infections in our mouth and heart disease. go figure, who would have thought, but its true. so it is with emotional infections, a deep wound from childhood lies hidden under band-aids and festers, erupting years later in the form of arguments with loved ones or displaced feelings of resentment or any number of problems or stresses.

i used to apply to myself (and others) what i like to call the joan rivers school of psychology - "quit blaming your mother, get a job, and grow up", lol. and there is some truth in that; once you are an adult it's important to take responsibility for your life. blaming others, even blaming ourselves or God, just diverts us from growing. the blame game is just another band-aid.

however, the problem with this "school of psychology" is that it promotes denial. just forget about it and move on - it should be so simple. forgetfulness is like a long lasting scab, suddenly it itches a bit and you are reminded of it, so you pick at it a bit and then the blood starts to flow, and the original hurt surfaces. this may cause tears. in my case, whenever that happened i would quickly follow archie bunker's instruction to his wife edith whenever she got upset over something - "stifle yourself". stifle means "to quell, to crush, to kill by smothering", gee doesn't that sound like the way to good health? well it never worked for me either.

the truth is the only way to heal a wound is to address it. it will take time, and attention, and the courage to bear the pain, and often, very often, it will take help - from a friend or a professional - and especially from the One who can heal from the inside outward.

some think that healing means returning to where they were, or who they were, before any particular trauma or life event - everything simply going back to "normal". but healing is a process that bring us to a new normal, not a return to where we were before. the healing process is akin to the process of growth which is the very nature of living. i know that may surprise some to hear, but think about it for a moment. what is "normal", in the sense of our day to day lives, is constantly re-adjusting itself to the situations and events we continuously encounter. every moment we live we change, to one degree or another, by the various experiences, good, bad or indifferent, that we encounter throughout our lives. and that is what normal is, the process of growth (which at time includes a bit of pruning); it is the nature of living to change.

a flower may open it's petals wide in the bright sunshine of a clear day, and the next day some of the flower's petals may be damaged by a rain storm. in both cases,the sunshine and the rain storm, have changed the flower. it can never turn back from that sunny day to be a bud again, nor can it ever go back to the full flower of the day before the storm. yet it continues onward, growing in different ways each day, affected by its past, fully living in its present, and moving onward to its future. returning to where or what it was is simply not an option, much as one may desire, it is simply not the way of life. a large part of healing, or for that matter productive sane living, is found in accepting life on life's terms - and that means accepting that we are always moving towards newness, the ever expanding circle of living, the promise of tomorrow by the living of today in the wisdom gained from the past. that is the essence of true healing. life is dynamic.

sometimes our wounds are deep, and we may need to retreat for a while. that too can be, and often is, part of the healing process. it is only when we get "stuck" in the retreat that we cut ourselves off from the process. we are all different and our wounds are different. some have experiences too terrible for words, and the healing from those experiences may take a life time. the pain may be great and the fear seemingly insurmountable, so we may get "stuck" not wanting to proceed with living. it is understandable of course. and it is why we need to share the burden with another person and with the One who knows us better then we know ourselves. but that is not always easy because the hurt has made us fearful and untrusting, and that makes sense, "once burnt twice shy" as my mother was fond of saying. but unbridled fear cuts us off from life.

fear is essentially a lie - it tells us that because we are damaged we should never trust again, healing isn't worth the pain, life is a misery, all is dross, everyone is false, God doesn't exist or just doesn't care. when we are hurting, really and deeply hurting, it is very easy to believe the lie, and just want to retreat inwards, or escape outwards from the hurt by whatever means makes me feel better and able to "forget" it all. either way we get stuck, we become cut off from life and exist in a shadow. we feel "protected" from the past, and may even believe we have no future; and that is the saddest lie in the whole world. believing the lie means never having the chance to be "normal", we become stagnant and cut off from the dynamic process of life.

lies are like a trap we can fall into, and once trapped it can be very hard to get out. we might even believe the additional lie that we are not able to get out, or our hurt is so deep we don't care if we get out. it is a decision that each one of us can only make for ourselves. all i know, is that for myself, i would rather take the risk of living one day like a butterfly soaring through the air then to spend a hundred years entombed in a cocoon.


© 2010 halley low

reprinted with permission from halley's blog - "sane living in a crazy world"-

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