Monday, January 11, 2010

moving beyond your wounds

Have you ever found yourself caught in a mood or an emotion you could not shake off?  It happens to us all.  Perhaps you were slighted and you find yourself ruminating about it all day - feeling sorry for yourself - then feeling angry about it.  Such moods are also called 'ego states'.  You do not have to be governed by your ego states/moods/feelings.  You can learn to shift out of them to more open, compassionate, peaceful modes of being.

We do need to acknowledge, feel, work through and respect our reactions and the emotions that arise after difficult experiences.  But if you find yourself stuck in an emotion long after the experience is over, you could try the suggestion in the following paragraph, to skillfully step out of it.  (E-motions are moving things - they are supposed to move through you, not be stuck like a broken record - hence the word 'e-motion'.  When you choose to relate to your emotion instead of from it, you are allowing it to move through you, to let in the next emotion.)

Let's say you are feeling angry way past the time that the anger should have abated.  In that case, try relating TO your anger, instead of FROM your angry state.  When you relate FROM you anger it spills out on to everyone around you - even on those who were not involved in the incident that angered you.  If you can make the shift and instead relate TO (acknowledge, affirm) your anger it would look/sound something like this:

Talking to yourself:  "Well, of course I have been experiencing some anger.  Who wouldn't after being slighted by a good friend.  I felt diminished and my anger is an indication that I was not treated with respect.  I've acknowledged my anger and I do not have to live from this angry state all day.  When I see my friend again, if it still feels appropriate, I will tell him how I felt about what happened.  In the meantime, I am going to let the anger go and welcome the day.  I choose not to live from that angry state."

You acknowledge your feeling (relating TO it), but you refuse to let it permeate all your other interactions (which would be relating FROM it).

If you were wounded, abused or traumatized in your past, it is normal to have many emotions about the traumatic events, and they need to be acknowledged and worked through.  That may take some time.  However, if you find that you are relating FROM your wounds way longer than is generally expected or healthy for you, use the above technique to begin to relate TO your wounds instead of living FROM your wounds

If you are living from the wounded place you are 'identified' with your are making the wound what you are all about.  You don't want to deny the fact that you were abused, but you do not have live identified forevermore with your victimhood.  Relate TO the fact that you were abused, RATHER THAN FROM the feelings you have about the abuse.

You can substitute any word/emotion for the word 'pain' in the graphic above.  For example:

I relate to the fact that I am depressed, instead of always relating (living, acting) from the depression.

I relate to the fact that I was addicted, instead of from my addictive tendancies.

I relate to the fact that I have abandonment issues, rather than from that historical fact.

I relate to my physical pain, instead of from my physical pain.

I relate to my fears, rather than from my fears. ("Yes I am afraid, but I am not going to live based on my fears.")

I relate to the fact that I was hurt, but I do not intend to see or live my life from that hurt place.

Of course, many of these are easier said than done, but with practice you can have this as a secret tool in your back pocket to help you disidentify from unhealthy, unskillful ways of being in the world.

  • Related to this is the fact that when we are hurt, wounded, traumatized we all tend to regress a bit in our emotional age inside.  We feel little.  We feel needy, desire help, want rescue and reassurance.  We are not then living in an adult emotional state - we are relating from a child-like, needy state.  It is hard to manage our life effectively if we are feeling little inside.  It is hard to make good decisions when we are feeling wounded, weak, hurt......the victim.  Use such feelings as signals - if you are feeling sorry for yourself, feeling like you are always are probably living from an immature ego state.  You need to shift from relating/living from that state to simply relating to it.

When you make the shift (this takes time and practice) and relate to your self-pity, wounds, hurt instead of from shift back into a more mature, adult ego state.  From there you can sympathize with child inside of you, saying you know they were hurt, but they are safe now and the adult part of your personality is the one in charge.  Don't let your wounded ego state drive your life's vehicle!  Relate to your childhood pain, not from your childhood pain.

Give it a try.  It costs nothing but a little mental and emotional effort and can save you a lot of pain and grief.

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  1. All of it very professional and helpful; an important lesson we should try to learn throughout our lives. It is not really a lesson we can learn once and for all, I think;our reaction to each instance of hurt etc. needs seaparate re-evaluation and re-adjustment.

    As you said, so often easier said than done. The only thing you say that I would quibble with is in the last sentence "a little mental and emotional effort". For me quite a bit of effort is needed to overcome my childish ways of dealing with perceived and real hurts.

    A valuable reminder, Bonnie.

  2. Friko: Too 'professional' and sterile for you Friko? I can see that. I'm immersed in other things so posted something from my bank of already prepared material.

    It is never done once and for all - it is an on-going process as we tend daily to our reactions to life's bitter components.

    I love receiving your feedback - it is always forthright, honest and kind. Thank you.

  3. inriguing...i definitely see the spilling over to other areas. i wonder if it is too heady when you are actually in the emotional state, but after a time might be useful.

  4. Thoughtful, helpful and beautifully articulated Bonnie. Reframes like this can truly transform the world.


    First, I wsa wondering because I wrote a comment on your post about the "one line inside of us" and I see it isn't posted. I was wondering if there was something about my comment that made it one you would not post. Just curious. :-0

    On to this post. I found your advice very technical and clinical. And then I see in your reply to someone that it was educational 'material' you had and posted. I am used to you being way more intimate. Anyway, as one who has a traumatic past to which I have surrendered and integrated I think the words - "relate to" as opposed to "living from" are a good way to show a beginning and an end to what I experienced as a very long journey to self. Once I stopped denying my own truth and therefore the pain about my truth I was able to become whole and true. For a time I was immersed in the pain - because it was how I honored my truth - eventually the pain lessened and I was left with a truth or truths that I will never hide from again - and when I actively honor and remember I feel the pain - and now I see the same pain that I hid from as a gift because to feel my truth means I am whole - and to feel my truth means I am not hiding - my inner child -"Annie" was buried - and she is in the light now and one of my greates sources of courage, strength and to think I hated that part of me for so long, and now I feel all love. There is so much more but I wont ramble anymore.
    This is a very delicate and vast subject and way bigger that two phrases - "relate to and living from". And each side has merit and purpose, forever.

    p.s. my post dated 9/4/08 and titled "James-Daniel-Jill" is one of my writings that tells some of my truths.

    Love and hope for us all

  6. Lots of good & useful stuff here, Bonnie. Thanks for sharing it. Blessings!

  7. Hi Gail: I just checked back to see if there was any comment I received from you that somehow got overlooked, but found none. I always post your comments. I have noticed that sometimes when I am rushed I make my comment and click out and just as I am clicking out I see a word verification thing come up, but it is too late ... I wonder if that could be what happened.
    Anyway, if you remember the gist of it I hope you will recomment and I will certainly publish it.

    Yes, there is so much more in healing from abuse than can be encapsulated in a self-help phrase. And I agree the inner child should not be rejected or pushed away .... it is just not skillful if they run our lives.

    Excellent points, thanks for making them!


    phew. :-) thanks SO much for taking the time to stop my worry. eesh. The line in me? " My truths are my humble gifts to share".

    Hope your Monday is going well.

    Love to you

  9. Very dear Bonnie - you are wise and gracious, erudite and thoughtful. I think this post is far from being impersonal and clinical. Rather, it makes one sit up and take note because it isn't gushing and overworked. I find it to be a very useful and practical guide. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and understanding of something that afflicts us all from time to time.

    Thank you, too, for always taking time to visit my place even when I am not able to reciprocate. I value every single comment you make, each one is precious to me. xx

  10. Wonderful postand I will definitely keep in mind what you have written, but you know sometimes it is very hard. :((

  11. In my own training we learned that anger is a surface state and almost always if you excavate, you will find one of three things below, hurt, fear or anxiety, or injustice. Then when you tap into the true source of your feeling you can acknowledge it and move forward, and at the same time the anger usually dissipates.

    Love it... free therapy tools for the taking!! Yes, relate TO it not FROM it! Thanks for sharing :)

  12. "Reactions" are something that I have vowed to work on this year. My facial expressions are a dead giveaway to what I am feeling. I have got to learn to control my reactions to what others, say, do, etc. Emotions!

  13. Some honest and good info here. It's true that we tend to regress in age when we are hurt and behave "younger".

    Very thought-provoking post. :)

  14. Well done, Bonnie: solid advice skillfully presented. Thanks.

  15. Wonderful advice here, Bonnie, and I agree with it to the extent that we can be aware of the things that distress and anger us.

    The trouble is that sometimes the things that trouble us are so deep seated, so 'unconscious' to use an expression, that they come out in the form of what - again for want of a better term - I might call a symptom. Something we cannot get a grip on however much we might try.

    And so I'm inclined to agree with Friko - maybe a great deal of effort is required to overcome some of our deeper difficulties.

    In the normal course we tend to follow familiar routes in dealing with our distress. It can therefore often take enormous effort and a great deal of outward help to move on.

  16. This is one of those pieces of knowledge that you know but don't always employ. You know? I love the reminders, and the way you wrote it. Very simple and easy to follow directions. Also love the two poems you posted prior. David Whyte is one of my favorite poets.


  17. Hi Elisabeth: I agree with everything you say in your comment. I did not offer this up as a way to avoid doing our personal healing work. It is simply a tool to be able to live a more skillful, free life if you have symptoms that have outlasted their relevance.

    We may not know what the real issue is and in the meantime we can still, if we choose, relate TO the baffling symptom instead of FROM it.

    While we are doing our personal healing work, and still have to function in our daily lives we can use this tool to disidentify from weighty emotional states. It is not always easy, but the more you try it the easier it becomes.

    I am visited and re-visited of late by fear for my daughter who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I do not want to supress my fear, I want to acknowledge it, but I do not want to live from my fear especially around my daughter. I have used this little technique for years, and again I am finding it useful for a very appropriate and understandable emotion - but one that could overwhelm me if I let it. So I try to relate TO my fear, instead of FROM it.

    When you begin a healing process you do need to recall and be with the emotions, understand what they are telling you, allow the grieving process its proper unfolding. But if you have done the work and the olding feelings seem to have a hold on you instead of the other way around - you can use this tool to not be immobilized by them.

    It would totally not be appropriate to say to someone in the midst of the grieving process 'could you relate to your grief instead of from it'. What could be more insensitive?
    But if you are still actively grieving years down the road - then it might be a good thing to ask yourself.

    As you suggest, no device should or can replace the psychological work we must do to live, love and work as a mature adult.


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