The Gifts Within Our Wounding
Jean Houston, in The Search for the Beloved, writes that wounding opens doors to the larger reality blocked to our habituated and conditioned points of view. If we cannot open ourselves to our “Larger Story,” we will repeat the old story over and over again. Houston urges that we consider how our wounding may offer us training in compassion and deepening.
As wellness facilitators, our inner child can deeply enrich our empathy and understanding of the evolutionary process. Through honoring our own wounding, we can come to know our wounds as strengthening and integrating us, and genuinely join in the dissolution of the cultural imperative that speaks against our telling our secrets and acknowledging our pain.
We cannot heal what we do not acknowledge. We don’t usually know how ashamed, angry, depressed, and alone we are—we don’t feel our pain. While pain ought to be the great teacher, our addictive society feeds our repression and denial with an endless supply of antidotes—from alcohol and drugs to movies and TV—and our social milieu numbs us into an enculturated oblivion. In parents’ attempts to compensate for their wounding, complementary wounds are inflicted on children. The interactions of wounded parents and children create dysfunctional family systems (see next two pages of quotes from Bradshaw) that perpetuate the defensive behaviors designed to “protect” us from our wounds. Wounds get passed on from generation to generation, as secret family heirlooms, until we begin to name our wounds and tell our stories.
The concept of the inner child was introduced in the fifties and sixties by Hugh Missildine (Your Inner Child of the Past) and Eric Berne, MD (Games People Play [Transactional Analysis]). Today the theme of healing the inner child is popular in books, seminars, even in national media.
Wounding has gained public attention with the rapid spread of self-help books and 12-step programs (Adult Children of Alcoholics, etc.) that address a wide range of specific woundings—from sexual abuse to the more subtle patterns of co-dependence such as workaholism, which arise from our childhood wounding.
While it is being recognized that many more people than ever imagined have experienced blatant physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, for many of us the abuse was much more subtle. While our parents may have shown their love for us in the best way they knew how, we may have never been validated and recognized for who we were, for our unique character/essence. Then we may repeatedly find ourselves in relationships where we experience confusion and lack of fulfillment around being recognized for who we feel we really are. We may withdraw from relationships, and from any form of self-expression, feeling we will never be understood.
Wounding and abuse are often translated into the belief that we are somehow bad, not worthy of love, or that people cannot be trusted. While we may, as adults, carry no memory of that wounding, we may find ourselves unable to trust others or to develop or sustain intimate relationships. We may live trying to please or impress others, to prove our worth. An even more subtle, and widespread form of abuse is the parental neglect that results from following the culturally promoted childraising methods of isolation in cribs, plastic carriers and bottlefeeding. Similar in its effect, it is more difficult to recognize or recall because of the absence of observable trauma.