Showing your Injuries
Photo copyright by Aislinn Bailey; all rights reserved.
When someone I dislike does something to hurt me, especially intentionally, I want to bare my teeth and claws and think nothing of going for the jugular. If they do something to someone I care about, I’ll shred them without thinking. When someone I care about does something to hurt me, intentional or not, my natural tendency is to want to withdraw and curl up in a ball until the pain goes away.
Those are my natural inclinations, what goes on inside that most people don’t see. Showing my injuries is another matter.
In fact, very few people would have any idea at all of how often or deeply I’ve been hurt in my life if it weren’t for my blog and articles, which all started as a form of post-divorce catharsis through what I referred to as my “healing journal” and ended up being a useful tool for many other women who were starting over in their lives. That’s because somewhere along the way, I got the idea that you’re just not allowed to show your injuries to others because doing so makes you weak. Yes, in some cases, it’s like announcing to sharks that you’re wounded and hey-doesn’t-my-blood-smell-good, and the people who did intentional damage will try to move in for the kill…but this is much more than that.
It’s easy to understand that you don’t want your enemies to know you’ve been injured or the extent of those injuries. That’s just self-protection until you can get back on your feet and fight back. It’s survival, that. Showing how strong and invincible you are, even if you feel like a trembling, chilled, drenched puppy inside.
With people you care for, it’s much harder. Or at least, it is for me.
For me, rather than show my injuries, it’s easiest for me to give off that strong appearance and remain light, open, and involved while I withdraw emotionally and often physically. Often, I will cut people off in an emotional shutdown to keep them from wounding me again. I certainly responded that way enough throughout a long-term marriage and other relationships. If I dared to say how I really felt and show my injuries, I knew I’d be accused of being “emotional,” which of course is code–especially among guys–for “weak.”
Yeah? Well, I’m an emotional girl, I live in my emotions, I enjoy my emotions. I love feeling wonderful about something or someone or just life, and loving my emotions and what they bring to me does not make me mentally disturbed or weak-minded. (Thank you so much, Abraham-Hicks, for teaching me that.) I feel everything deeply, and though at times I’ve needed to take the edge off some pain, I don’t want to not feel deeply. My emotions bring a layer of joy and satisfaction to my relationships that nothing physical or intellectual comes close to. And so I hated being regarded as deficient if I showed my injuries, if I let my spouse know how much lack of support or interest hurt me…or how devastated I was to have a manuscript rejected and dreams dashed…or any number of deep desires that just weren’t coming to fruition for me.
I’ve also been trained not to show my immense joy of being with a particular person because my own emotions were too overwhelming for the other person, even though I thought my emotions were rather subdued. I once spent a fabulous weekend with a man I was crazy about–we’d been seeing each other for a long time and he’d frequently professed his love–and as he pulled up to drop me at the airport, he crushed my happily quiet mood by saying, “I had a great time, but don’t think this means anything.” I withdrew into myself, kissed him goodbye at the terminal, and never showed him how badly those words had hurt. His message was clear that he didn’t want to make a commitment, even though I’d never asked for one and didn’t expect one. Pushing me away emotionally was a self-protection mechanism for him, but it hurt, and for the rest of the time I saw him, I kept a tight reign on my emotions and never let him see how much he mattered to me, lest insult be added to my injury. I hated having to tamp down my feelings for fear of how someone else would handle it–which is why I try not to swallow my feelings these days about anything or anyone–but I could no more show my feelings than I could show my injuries.
In my last relationship, I most definitely showed my feelings but none of my injuries. The reasoning was simple for me: I didn’t want to add to his stress, didn’t want to try to guilt him into doing something that would have been better for me than for him, and didn’t want to manipulate him by flaunting my injuries. I’ve noted that some women use their injuries–“I’ll kill myself because you don’t love me enough!”–to get their way, and I never wanted to be confused with one of them. So my not showing my injuries wasn’t so much about self-protection as protecting him. Making it easier on him. Feeling I could not show my own injuries did not make it easier on me.
So where I am now is trying to be completely open and honest whenever I feel hurt. I try to not withdraw, not close down, not internalize a wound so it can fester and become a physical illness. I try to be honest. I try not to manipulate or control a situation by creating a guilt-fest or try to force anyone to deal with emotions that are mine to deal with. I try to be true to myself.
That’s not easy for other people to see or hear. It’s easier for others if I pretend I’m not hurt or that it doesn’t matter or if I do something to take away from the raw intimacy of showing someone else that I’m hurt. There’s actually power in that, for me, to show my injuries and know that I’ll be okay, that something happened that hurt and I’ll work through it and figure things out with no expectation of anyone else doing it for me. That I can be honest in what I show of myself to others without using it as a weapon to get the attention, love, and/or respect that I deserve.