Wounds that drip blood are colorful. Their bloodless counterparts, though more painful, are boring. They have no drama value.
I am talking of the wounds we suffer inside. The bruises of the mind, the lacerations of the heart and the battering of the soul. The wounds on our non-physical persona are invisible. They throb with crippling pain, but they are ignored.
These invisible wounds are the result of events to which adjectives such as adverse and critical are usually applied. These events have varying potential to damage and disempower.
For each one of us, crisis means different things. To me crisis might mean an altercation with a colleague at work, to you crisis might mean your doctor telling you that you have barely three months to live. What defines a crisis as one is not really the devastation- in objective terms- that it can wreak. Our assessment of the impact a crisis will have one some aspect of our well-being is purely personal, and utterly subjective. I might look at what you define as crisis and curl up my lip in derision, but that doesn’t mean it is any less painful to you.
A human being’s capacity to bear adversity is also a function of his conditioning. By conditioning I mean the exposure he has had to adverse circumstances. We build up our ability on the basis of past experience. Once we have successfully dealt with one adversity, we are able to deal with a bigger one. This brings the adversity bearing threshold up another notch. While an altercation with a colleague might absolutely disempower one person, another might take it in his stride and just brush it off.
The interpretation of an adversity as devastating event and our capacity to deal with that interpretation, are interwoven. The first precedes the second. If at all there is some way we can exercise our freedom to choose, it is only at stage one. If we don’t choose to interpret an event as debilitating, then the whole process of recovery need not be gone through. Since prevention is better than cure, it is surely desirable that we kill the monster when it is little.
To learn how NOT to identify an event as disempowering is not very easy. It takes practice or it needs a major shift in paradigm. Once however, you have interpreted an event as an adversity and are feeling helpless and disempowered, there are other tools to employ.
There are some patent pick-me ups… the kind of quick-fixes that today’s motivational literature is made up of. You could search the net and bring out more happy- making tricks than you would know what to do with. I will not be elaborating on them. There are two reasons for not elaborating. Apart from the sheer waste of time duplicating a service already available elsewhere, I have never really found the strategies effective. As a matter of fact, I have found them shallow, manipulative and condescending.
I want to talk instead of the times when the pick-me-ups fail to pick you up from where you have been flattened out by the wheels of adversity as they rolled over you. Flattened you out so bad that you feel you need a spoon and a container to scrape you off the tar and put you pack together again.
That is what I will talk about. And trust me, I know what I am talking about- for obvious reasons.
Let me first talk about the mechanics behind the process. You see, what we are trying to do here is to heal a wound. If you had a physical wound, you’d know exactly what to do. You’d isolate yourself from potential contaminants, you’d give yourself lots of rest so that your body’s natural defense mechanism can kick in and heal, you’d dress your wound in sterile bandages and make sure you only allow the best food to pass your lips. And above all, you’d take care of you.
The healing of emotional wounds is not much different. You need to shut yourself in and isolate yourself until you heal a bit. At least until a scab forms over the wound. This might take anywhere to a few hours to a few days, depending on your resilience and past experience at handling similar pain. Whatever is the duration of time you need, you must give yourself that time.
When healing from a non-physical wound, the first thing I do is to change my reading diet. I read things that take my focus off the short-range and into the long range. I become silent so that I can give my non-physical persona (mind, heart and soul) a rest. I remain in the world, but I lower my being to a very basic mundane, physical level. I function as I always do, and most people cannot make out anything amiss. Meanwhile, I keep my non-physical (mind, heart and soul) sealed. I try being in the world but to not become OF the world. I keep interactions to a minimum. When I must interact, I keep my pain aside and not burden other people with it. As they say, when you smile even when you are unhappy… just a fake physical gesture… before long you stop feeling as if there is no hope. And that is so very necessary; because when hope dies, everything dies- inside.
Once the event has tided over and my consciousness has stopped panicking over the hurt, then I open all the bottled, sealed up issues and their associated pain, and I deal with it. I never, but NEVER forget to do this. There was a time I would promptly forget the whole issue once it stopped hurting. I almost felt foolish bringing up a ‘dead’ issue again. It seemed revengeful and mean to me.
But I learned that sealed bottles containing ‘dead’ matters, cause issues to fester and rot. This decomposing matters generate terrible acids… they scald your mind, set your heart on fire and finally kill your soul. I make sure I have no issues lying around. It makes for easier nights. 🙂
If you are able to remain partially in the world, keep functioning normally while some part of you remains sealed up, it is very good. But there are times when this doesn’t work and you need additional ammunition.
There might come a time when partial isolation will fail. It is then that you must draw your energies inward and turn into yourself. To do this, you must climb the pinnacles of your consciousness, kick away the ladder, shut the door and bolt it fast. Once you are with yourself, sit down and make friends with YOU.
I spent years at war with myself. I look back on the war years and I wonder why I did it. Of all the battles I have fought with the world without, none has been as bloody (or pointless) as the one I have fought with myself.
I never became my own friend. I didn’t watch out for me. I didn’t protect me from anything. I didn’t encourage me, didn’t console, didn’t offer me a shoulder to cry on. I didn’t find excuses for me as I should have- knowing how very judgmental I am towards me. I didn’t give me a break. I never validated me.
Instead I did everything I could to throw me to the wolves. I talked to myself in a manner that would put the worst slave-owner to shame. I sat in judgment upon myself at the slightest pretext- I even blamed myself for the mistakes other people made. I poured the oil of ridicule upon my own head and took pride in setting myself aflame.
Today will be the day I will start being my friend. Today, and for the rest of my time on this earth- and beyond. I will watch out for my best interest, I will encourage, I will give myself a break and get me off the hook. I will not beat myself up for other people’s faulty perceptions and assessments. I will not tolerate other people laying blames at my door for sins I have not committed. I will stand my ground firmly, look at the world in the eye and become a shield for me. I will clearly and loudly pronounce one word- NO…!
I will say no to injustice meted out to me. I will become my own champion. I will accept, validate and celebrate myself.
This is a promise I make to myself today… and I am a woman of my word.
A Survivor’s Manual