Monday, October 13, 9913

The Wound

[ The concept of the Wound is taken from Eric Gross's great book, Liberation from the Lie ]

We are born pure, innocent, and vulnerable. We have physical needs such as food, water, shelter, and warmth; and emotional needs such as love, acceptance, and respect. As long as our needs are met, we experience peace and bliss. Unfortunately this world does not always cater to our needs. We will focus here on what happens when our emotional needs are not met.

At some point when we are very young, someone rejects or disrespects us. A parent punishes us or tells us we’re bad. A sibling hits us or calls us names. A schoolmate teases us or steals from us. This hurts us emotionally because we want to connect with others, but they cut off that connection.

One such incident might do only temporary damage, but it doesn’t happen just once, does it? It happens repeatedly. Each time it happens we experience more damage, more pain.

Humans are good at noticing patterns. After a while we see a very clear pattern of hostility, rejection, and lack of love. We can no longer feel secure because we fear that more painful incidents are in store.

The frequent mistreatment we get can cause us to distrust others. Worse, it can cause us to believe that we are flawed, worthless, powerless, and not deserving of love. Our thoughts create negative feelings about ourselves and/or others. These thoughts and feelings, plus our fear, get incorporated into our young, tender, developing psyche. They become permanent, causing us constant suffering.

This is the Wound.

Most of us don’t merely sit with our Wound. We react to it. Our fear, anger, depression, etc push us to say or do things that we believe or hope will ease our pain – things that we wouldn’t say or do if we weren’t wounded. They can be almost anything, such as achieving feats, acquiring possessions, criticizing others, altering our appearance, adopting a religious/political belief, or wielding power. These reactive activities constitute the ego.

The Wound also causes us to react to events with horrible emotional pain. When someone belittles us or cuts us off in traffic or questions our religious belief, that triggers our deep-seated feelings of fear, powerlessness, and worthlessness, resulting in painful emotional reactions such as anger, frustration, being offended, and depression. It doesn’t matter how well things are going externally – we are damaged inside, and all it takes is a small incident to trigger our pain, just like merely touching an open wound will bring pain because the skin was already damaged. 

Both ego and emotional pain lead to selfishness, competition, hatred, and violence. Our resulting actions are compulsive and obligatory. We feel that we have to win a game/argument, or criticize/attack someone, or be strong/pretty/smart/funny, in order to “prove” to ourselves or others that we have worth.

Our pain is not our fault. We were wounded when we were most vulnerable. It was not humanly possible to prevent the Wound. Even the mightiest oak will carry scars if it was slashed as a sapling. Now we carry pain that is nothing more than a ghost of events that happened a long time ago.

It is also not our fault that we’ve hurt others – we did it only because we were hurt. Every negative thing we’ve said or done was just a reaction to our pain. It was self-defense. Likewise, others have hurt us only because they were hurt. It’s not our fault and it’s not their fault. Everyone hurts everyone only because they’re hurt. It’s all just a big misunderstanding.

So, how do we stop the hurt?  By stopping our negative thoughts, for it is our thoughts that fuel our pain. But our pain fuels negative thoughts, so it’s a vicious cycle.

We can’t control pain, but we can control thoughts to some extent. So we must diminish our negative thoughts. We can’t completely stop them right away because they have so much momentum, but we can reduce them. This will reduce pain, which will reduce the fuel that feeds thoughts, and so on, thus diminishing the thought-pain cycle.

This is not easy. We use our thoughts as self-defense as well as distractions from our pain, so when we don’t think, we are left naked and alone with our wounded self, fully cognizant of our suffering. There is a period of raw discomfort between the reduction of thought and the reduction of pain, just like a junkie goes through withdrawal for a while before recovering. It is tempting to avoid this discomfort by continuing to think the same old thoughts.

Another factor that makes this difficult is that we have the long-held erroneous notion that our thoughts are correct or helpful. We won’t give them up as long as we perceive value in them.

As long as we keep running or hiding from our pain by falling back on our old thoughts, we will perpetuate our fear and we will never heal. We need to face our pain, and the only way to do that is to come out from hiding. We must step out of the shadows into the light. 

All we need to do is watch our thoughts and make an honest assessment of their effects and their value. For example, if we get angry at someone who cuts us off in traffic and label him as “bad”, we can realize that he is merely reacting to his pain. If he weren’t hurt, he wouldn’t be in such a hurry or feel the need to get ahead of anyone else. Plus, our getting angry is only torturing us – it’s not solving any problem. In fact, the pain we’re inflicting on ourself with our anger is much greater than any pain caused by the other motorist.

When it becomes clear that our negative thoughts aren’t as correct as we might believe they are and that they serve only to cause unnecessary damage, we won’t think so many negative things. As a result, our painful feelings and compulsive actions will diminish. This will help to further reduce negative thoughts, which will further reduce pain, etc. Eventually we will heal.