The past shadows us until we shine a light on it
A splinter that doesn’t get removed becomes deeply embedded, increasingly sore and begins to infect the surrounding flesh. The splinter must come out. Regardless of how long it is stuck in the body, it must be removed just as a core wound needs to heal. The bleeding must stop and the infection must be removed. A safe and nurturing environment where adequate treatment is available is mandatory for healing to ensue.
Until this happens and scar tissue forms, the pain will repeat throughout adult life via compulsive behaviour that symbolically re-enacts the core hurt. Scar tissue can be seen as awareness and through this awareness the ability to respond rather than react. Reactivity is part of the endless 'repetition compulsion' (a term coined by Sigmund Freud) that creates a ‘stuckness’ thwarting growth, longterm healthy relationships, wellbeing and the opportunity to thrive in all areas of life.
To grow beyond the determining and limiting forces of primary wounds it’s necessary to work mindfully and compassionately through them. There is no need or value in doing this alone or internally. The connection and mirroring enabled by another are as necessary as the process needs to be externalised on some level. To consciously know our wound or trauma is to shrink its compulsive power, to feel and release it physically gains provides entry into the now, putting words to the experience empowers where not being able to speak as a child disempowered. The story helps organise the events in time so that the narrative of self becomes one experienced in chronological order instead of chaotic fragments. This can be achieved via the therapeutic dialogue, intimate relationship or artistic pursuit.
Formative hurts, betrayals and unmet needs feel life-threatening to the child and adult when triggered. There is no way of avoiding triggers as an adult for that would be to prevent being alive in your life. There are however many strategies and pathways to awareness that assist you in riding the triggers when they arrive like a cacophony of waves crashing in. The past will always find its way on memory's shore; we can choose to do the work to manage them in ways cause little disruption and sometimes even enhance our life.
It’s understandable that the hurt from our past is initially consciously and unconsciously avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, the consequence is that our lives continue to be adversely escaping. To accept that the only way beyond is through is hard. To confront ourselves and our life in all that makes us uncomfortable is hard. To learn about our paint and effective strategies available for coping with it takes practice and the willingness to fail as we keep trying to ride the waves, make different choices and take new paths.
Core wounds are by their very nature upsetting and emotionally and psychically threaten to be the monstrous enemy we typically fear. To avoid, deny and flee is natural but it means a lifetime of avoiding, denying and fleeing and this is not natural. It compromises our experience of being alive, and life has to offer. To stay, confront and expose is to learn about who we are, why and how. This frees us to walk in the loving warmth of sunlight and authentic connection.
Until worked through core wounds distort the love and fear we feel. How we think, behave and understanding our world, circumstances and others. Our core wounds inform our desires and the story we live out. They filter negative thought processes, false perception and belief systems that can be changed through inquiry, reviewing and conscious questioning. I found this process to be empowering as my awareness increased while writing the novel ‘Just Breathe.’ By telling a fiction, it became safe and therefore possible to confront the truth of past experiences that had left me feeling too ashamed, devastated, defeated and betrayed to directly remember or put words to.
What storytelling offered me
Through writing fiction I began to engage with the core wounds imprisoning my capacity to enjoy, be present and make sense of my life that felt out of control, random and too fast-paced. The opportunity to hide behind the veil of fiction by playing with metaphor, characters, events and the story world made both my present and past life bearable at the time of writing. That is once I realised that I what I was writing was my life thinly veiled by fiction. For throughout the entire first draft I really did think that I was writing from imagination. That is how dissociated, and in denial, I was from my truth and wounds.
As an adult survivor of childhood complex trauma that included sexual abuse, the wounding experiences were multiple and complex. They were way too much for me to psychologically and emotionally confront head-on. Indirectly engaging them creatively through fiction was the only way I could begin the journey I had no idea I was about to take. In occupying the empowered position of the author, I began to realise that the words pouring out of me were expressing the life I was too ashamed to admit that I had lived. It also showed that wasn’t randomly happening to me. Instead, I was always reacting to people and situations, utterly oblivious to the effects my actions were causing. Since I was fourteen, I had been highly reactive, afraid, distrusting and self-hating. Therefore I kept mindlessly making choices based on my constant need to run away. I could’ve played my hand of cards very differently had I been aware and capable of responding rather than reacting,
Through the hardest periods I too confused, afraid and in pain to get out of bed. I was so passive I rarely spoke and faded further in the others' dismissed as 'sick in the head', 'thinking too much', 'reading too many books', 'Crazy Ange' and 'with the devil'. My body ached with a pain that doctors found no cause. I couldn’t keep down the food I ate, sleep or concentrate on anything anyone said. However, I could drink alcohol and swallow pills. So I did. Excessively. They made it possible for me to move with the lightness I watched others my age enjoy. All I wanted to do was to get high enough to laugh, smile and not care too. So I did. That was how I survived each day I cried about having woken up. However, it was never living. For years my sole priority was to secure access to enough to forget my name and possibly never again wake up.
I wasn’t aware that these were choices I was making or it was the effects of fleeing instead of confronting my core wounds. My core wounds were made of complex childhood trauma. It took me too long to see that these mindless choices were in fact indirectly re-enacting the painful wounds, toxic relationship dynamics and abuse that I longed to forget along with my name. Too many times it nearly cost me my life. Writing saved my life and gave me a way into it. I work with people who want to use writing for this too.