Healing Old Wounds
Photo credit by publicinsomniac; creative commons license
Healing old wounds of childhood trauma and self-esteem doesn’t come easily, but when it does come, it’s unexpected.
Thinking back on my childhood, I might just as easily have been a child suicide. I remember thinking about it when I was nine years old, right after being humiliated in front of several hundred kids at school–by a faculty member–for following my religious convictions, which were then devout Christian. Even in the third grade, I had strong beliefs and a different way of thinking from what everyone around me in my small Southern town had. How I saw life made me different, and in many circles, an outcast.
Healing old wounds means understanding the universality of childhood traumas and how they affect us for the rest of our lives. As I’ve discovered through counseling numerous people, even the most outwardly confident of us has or have had those horrible buried issues of low self-esteem where our parents instilled into us their worst darknesses, for which we in turn instill our own fears and inadequacies into our own children. For me, it went far deeper than that–I spent most of my childhood and half my adulthood feeling that my spaceship had crashed on this strange planet where I never had and never would belong.
How do you go about healing old wounds when the traumas were commonplace for many years? I remember far too many times when I was publicly ridiculed for the way my mind worked. I was called weird, bizarre, and later, more euphemistically, different. And when I say “publicly ridiculed,” I don’t mean simply by bratty kids my age but also by teachers and adults with the kids applauding. I grew up in the “I’m-OK-You’re-OK” 70’s…but the message was always that I wasn’t OK because I had different ideas about life.
Those ideas didn’t go away. My way of thinking and seeing the world didn’t go away either, even though I learned not to share my views unless I was willing to catch grief for them. As an adult, I knew that if I didn’t follow the crowd’s way of thinking that I’d be ridiculed, and the conservative non-creative people around me didn’t disappoint! That included most brutally my ex-husband and his friends. The differences in viewpoints were vast, and I was so outnumbered. My view of the world then was more closely aligned with how today’s twenty-somethings see it, so to them, I don’t seem as different as to my own peers.
Here and there, over the years, I found other people who thought much as I did, but they didn’t hang around for long. They tended to move to larger cities where there were more like-minded people. That didn’t do much for healing old wounds because, if anything, their disappearances tended to reinforce childhood trauma and that sense of my alien race wandering toward extinction.
When, thanks to the Internet Gods, I found that there were many of us out there who were different, it seemed we were a whole secret society. We were Wiccans, we were writers, we were polyamorists, we were free-thinkers, we were visionaries, we were rebels. Whatever we were, we didn’t fit in.
It’s funny that for all the things over which I have been ridiculed as being different, they are the exact things I’ve earned a living at. I spent an entire decade being the revolutionary in my career field who was willing to take risks and “think outside the box”–even though my supervisors thought thinking outside the box should apply only to my work project and not to how I saw other things in life.
I didn’t really get to the point of joyously relishing being different until sometime after my divorce, when I began re-crafting my life to be the way I wanted it to be and with lots of other people around me who were as eclectic in their thinking as I was. It’s meant being in relationships that were deeply rewarding but cannot be defined in any socially acceptable terms, even to the silliness of saying “in a relationship” because we’re all in a relationship of some kind and heaven knows, being in a marriage is not synonymous with security. It’s meant finding people who understand the power of the mind over what we’ve always seen as reality and designing our own lives and definitions of success that most people from our pasts will probably never understand. Healing old wounds doesn’t necessarily mean that people from your past will ever, ever understand you.
But the final chapter in healing old wounds has come to me via the Internet, particularly through Facebook, MySpace, and a couple of other social networks. Within a few months’ time, I heard from dozens of people from my childhood, teen years, and early adulthood–all times in my life when I felt so alone.
The unifying theme of what I hear from these reunions is that I was “the most unique person” they’ve known to date. It’s not said this time (and these people didn’t say it then) in a way that’s meant to hurt, diminish, or wound. It’s said in a gentle, loving way. I have discovered childhood friends who were devastated that I changed schools and never saw them again. I’ve discovered boys I was crazy about in high school and college whom I thought didn’t think I existed yet they thought of me often. I’ve discovered girls and young women who were appreciative of little things I did for them that I thought had been unnoticed and unwanted because I never heard anything to the contrary.
It makes me want to gather them all up in my arms and hug them now, and help them with healing old wounds of their own.
I confessed to Obiwan, my coach who listens objectively when I need a sounding board, that as far as healing old wounds from my childhood and beyond, these reunions have been such a tremendous blessing to me. And she, in that unique way she has of pointing out just the right thing at just the right time, told me, “You’re being shown that the love was always there for you even though it was never really expressed until recently.”
I’m finally healing old wounds–some of the oldest. And I’m claiming this planet for my own.
Amen to that, and so mote it be.