The incomplete needs company
In a state of unprocessed past hurts, the wounded individual doesn’t feel whole. Like I wrote earlier: Deep down, the child knows that something just isn’t right. This intuitive feel is spot on as the child’s emotional (and sometimes physical, sexual and intellectual) health is impaired.
Lacking integrity, the wounded individual seeks co-dependency.
He will start looking for a mommy (or a daddy) that will save him and make everything all right. The problem is, the person on the other side of the relationship is usually looking for the same thing and neither of them can provide what the other person needs.
Co-dependent relationships inevitably become dysfunctional as people end up ‘hurting each other’ and as both partners fail to live up to unrealistic expectations of each other (“he/she was supposed to make me happy!”, which is usually just another way of saying: he/she was supposed to take my pain away).
A co-dependent relationships is not one in which two grown-up independent people come together and share Life, it is a relationship between two little children hoping that the other person will parent them. The love and validation of my partner becomes a necessity for me, rather than just a bonus in an already awesome Life.
Relationships between co-dependent individuals have an addictive quality to them.
This is because of the fact that baseline emotionality (how they feel on average) is one of neurotransmitter deficiency in emotionally wounded people. How they feel on average is not so good, but having a love relationship raises their emotional state (how they feel). The love and validation of my partner acts as another external that makes me feel good, at least for the time being. As soon as the relationship goes bad, I will lose my emotional high and crash back into neurotransmitter deficiency again. This makes me very anxious, insecure and needy indeed. I am more likely to act possessive, jealous and non-trusting towards my partner, who will either get annoyed by my co-dependent behaviours or play back into them with her own insecure neediness. This kind of dynamic sets the stage for power games, manipulation and inevitably, dysfunction and suffering.
If my baseline emotionality is one of feeling good, I will not get anxious to lose a relationship, as I don’t need one to feel good. It also means that I won’t be avoiding relationships because I don’t want to get hurt again. Relationships become opportunities to create something with another person, rather then something to exploit to make me feel better about myself (and get me out of pain).
How uncompleted hurt holds me back
So far, I’ve been writing about the difference between pain and hurt, how past hurts originate from traumatic experiences and abuse and what the consequences are (on various levels: neurological, physiological, behavioural, psychological, social) when past hurt is not processed into completion. Here follows a brief summation of how uncompleted past hurt holds me back:
(1) Emotional damage from the initial trauma/wounding, (2) addiction to mood alterations, (3) heightened stress [sympathetic activity of the ANS] and the negative associations that go with pro-longed stress, (4) narrow, rigid and predictable attention, thought and behavioural patterns, (5) dissociation from certain aspects of the self, (6) co-dependency and neediness in relationships, (7) self-limiting beliefs about the self* and (8) the loss in self-esteem* that accompanies that.
All of this means I’m going thru Life weakened and a lower level of the good stuff we all want (health, solid energy, strength, peace of mind, joy, self-esteem, emotional resilience to adversity, confidence, intelligence, etc.).
Given these detrimental associations with uncompleted past hurts, the importance of learning how to process and heal emotional wounds becomes very clear and apparent.
*: these two (7 and 8) will be covered in Part III
Lacuna’s blind what is too hard to experience
Earlier I wrote that a child may repress his emotions and shove them into the basement of his consciousness. He forgets and forgets that he has forgotten. In this way, there may be emotional experience inside of me that I can no longer feel. Traumatic events may have been too painful to experience at the time they occurred that the experience of that past pain is excluded from my conscious attention. These could be referred to as emotional blind spots or lacunas in experience. The most common response that most people have when talking about this kind of stuff is:
“I’m fine. I don’t feel any of this trapped hurt, uncompleted past or unprocessed pain you’re talking about.”
This may be true and in that case, this person would simply never been hurt really bad or he may have always intuitively processed hurt into completion. However, it may also be the case, that you simply have stopped feeling these as a result of emotional repression and blind spots in your experience. If that is the case, you’re missing out on a huge part of your emotional potential (how good you feel just being alive on an everyday basis) and probably also compulsively self-medicating with short-term mood-altering addictions.
How to process and complete past hurt
In order to process and complete past hurt you have to get back in touch with how you feel. Somewhere in your implicit memory, the past hurt is still active and if you can find a way to re-access the experience of it, you will be able to process it out and complete it. Your initial tendency will probably be to stay away from it, let the old rest and not deal with it. In spite of this resistance, you have to trust that you’ll be better off by working thru it. I find that processing thru painful experiences of the past is very unique and specific to each individual and also to each particular event, but my intuition has never failed me when I just trust in the process itself and follow my intuition on it. There are no specific action steps in this, it’s more a matter of following the emotional current and riding it out until I feel like I have arrived at completion. However, there is a basic process that I find works pretty well overall.
The simplest thing to check whether or not you have trapped hurt or uncompleted past pain is to simply ask the question:
When did I have a highly emotionally charged negative experience in my Life?
Then, I write down all the events and try to recall the events as vividly as possible. I go completely into the emotional experience of the event. At first this may feel uncomfortable, especially if an event hurts really badly. Next, I try to stay with the emotional experience of it and just feel what I feel. I don’t let the emotions take me over and start thinking all sorts of things; I’m just being with what I feel.
I practice Raw Perception on what’s going on in my subjective experience: what I hear, see, smell, taste and feel (emotionally and physically), and not so much what I think about all those things. I may get angry, sad, aggressive, cry, whatever.
If I repeat this process, I find that after a couple times the emotional significance of the event starts to disappear as I process thru the emotions and sometimes I even laugh at the fact that these events bothered me at an earlier time.
The importance of social disclosure
Even better is when you can find a fellow human being who is emotionally stable and is willing to listen and relate to what you’re sharing with them. This should be a person you can trust, preferably a good friend that will truly listen and not judge you for what you’re sharing. Human beings are capable of social support to each other and another person can often provide new and refreshing perspectives on situations that you could not see for yourself. When another gives us the space to be, it makes it much easier for ourselves to allow how we are being. If another can provide a safe place for us, we no longer have to defend and cover up where we are wounded. We can practice processing thru past hurts, heal and get stronger.
Be wary of not becoming dependent on recovery groups. Emotional processing and completion need not take long at all, but it can be very intense (and this intensity is what people like to avoid, they don’t want to feel into the past pain).
I know there are people that go to counsellors and support groups for months (and sometimes years) on end. This is not completing past hurt, this just another form of addiction and keeping the wallowing-in-past-pain going. People can be very clever in avoiding the experience of the hurt and going around doing the actual practice of processing and completion. Counsellors don’t care, they receive more money when a client keeps avoiding their past hurt and coming back for more sessions. Don’t fall into this trap. Focus on doing the actual practice: Raw Perception on what you feel and just riding the emotions out into completion without judging, labelling or analysing them too much in your head.
In the end, you don’t necessarily need another person to complete past hurts, but it can definitely speed up the process substantially. Sometimes just getting something off your chest by talking about it to someone can be a huge relief. Conversations can also help you clarify on what you dislike and how you don’t want your Life to be and to specify more accurately what you do want your Life to be about.
What I want
What to take-away from this part is that I want to process my past hurts and reduce how I anxious I am. I don’t want to get rid of fear and pain, as fear and pain let me know how far I am going outside of my comfort zone and when I am hurting. Pain and fear allow me to know where my boundaries are and when I need to back off and take it easy.
John Bradshaw states that it is shameless to not know where your boundaries are. Shameless people tend to go into two extremes, they either go too far or they don’t go at all. They either push too far beyond their comfort zones, thinking they are larger than Life, ending up hurting themselves, or they stay with the safe, never really challenging themselves. Neither extremes facilitates real growth. Healthy shame is knowing your limits, but realizing that you can expand your limits by challenging yourself and afterwards allowing for a period of rest and renewal. The need for exploration, balanced with time for recovery in the safe and predictable comfort zone. Fear and pain help me to know how much challenge is appropriate for me at any given time.
Unprocessed past hurt adds to the challenge I’m carrying and completing it frees me to challenge myself more. This allows for more room for exploration and hence, growth and learning.
The weight I’m carrying
Ultimately, the growth and development of an individual depends on the amount of challenge he puts himself under. If I take on new challenges and push myself to a higher level in my behaviours (and then take adequate periods of rest and renewal in the comfort zone), I will grow, develop, get bigger, better, harder, faster, stronger. I already stated that people won’t take on additional challenges if Life is already challenging enough as it is, if survival and ‘getting by’ is hard enough in and of itself. In order to grow and delve into a journey of personal growth and development I need to have the space for the additional stress I will be putting myself under. If I’m carrying additional burdens from the past (like unprocessed hurt), I won’t have that space available. Wounded people are looking for a safe place where it is okay for them to be how they are being…
If such a safe place can be provided, there is space for that person to process and complete past hurts and heal. In such a place I can trust that I will not be hurt when I put myself in a position of vulnerability. I can share my authentic experience without any fear that other people will judge me for it.
Unfortunately, not the entire world is such a safe place (yet). For this reason, people develop a hard and tough shell, they present an image of themselves as strong and confident, while inside they feel anxious as fuck that someone is going to hurt them again. And what do I do when I feel anxious?
Create a reality that is safe and predictable, one that I can feel in control of. I stick with the old and familiar, a way of being of which I know that it will let me survive. I don’t take any additional risks of changing how I’m being. This tendency brings us back to Part I and the entire notion of explaining how a human being is now, rather then focusing on how a human could be. If I look at factors as explanations for how things are now, I can justify why ‘what is’ is the way it is and these reasons can serve as an excuse for not changing what is in how I want things to be. Explaining how I’m being now helps me feel safe, but it also impairs my growth.
A set of logical explanations is a VERY POOR substitute for being heard and accepted by a genuinely compassionate fellow human being.
Mentally explaining how things are is just another coping mechanism I use to deal with past hurt; just another way to numb my pain. The real solution lies in processing thru past hurt and with that, I will find that I naturally start to see new possibilities for self-change. With the additional weight of the past hurts off my shoulders, I want to take on new challenges, take out some of the old and implement some new.
All of a sudden, the motivation to explain why things can’t change is gone and I’m just open to try and see what’s possible.
I find out where my limits are by actively exploring, rather then making mental estimations about them. My natural need to explore (for adventure) has been restored, and with it, growth and development can ensue.
This concludes Part II: Carefree Child. Next Monday January 23th
Part III: The Dynamic Self-schema will kick off…
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