Of Hurt and Healing


Hurt and Healing

The thing about pain is that it is common.  While it is varied in its origin, and covers the spectrum of intensity and type, it is there in us all.  Since it is such a big topic I will draw it into a smaller conversation.  I will simply deal with trauma rather than many versions of hurt feelings and broken dreams, here is why. To address this most intense version will allow the remedy to apply to the other forms of hurt, building from the small to the large takes a very long path... So here we go.

Why healing hurts.
If it wasn’t so painful we would work at it sooner… We ignore it, numb ourselves to its effects, and avoid it at every turn. Mostly, healing hurts because we lie about the process and when it surprises us we recoil away and refuse to confront it again. The book “Grunt, ” here was a change in medicine as regards the treatment of the soldiers that had stepped on a landmine in the most recent wars. When they began treating these soldiers with missing limbs, and the soldier could ask about it, the staff would be optimistic and upbeat about damage to the other places like the groin.  Then when the guy got a glimpse at the mess that used to be not a mess the patient was more despondent and demoralized and took longer to recover due to the mental part of healing.  It is the same (I believe) when it comes to mental health and painful memory healing.  Since it is optional to return for counseling, the problem with telling hard truth about the process can send the client away and then there is no help at all.  Perhaps that is an issue of style rather than truth, but it is an issue. 

Healing from historic hurts requires the same amount of energy that caused the pain, to be used to heal the pain, but most of the time it is applied in a shorter period, so it is exhausting to work through to heal.  But there is a multiplier that is added to the mix.  The “maintenance” cost.  This is the work that keeps the freezer cold for years.  The hurt is frozen into a block of numbness as a coping mechanism to survive.  Most childhood trauma is both domestic and private.  Perhaps a neighbor, or family member or parent is the perpetrator so the chance to escape becomes an escape within.  The period of abuse subsides and you move on with life, but with a secret and a limp.  

You have a shame compressor that keeps pumping the cold onto the block of frozen pain to keep it from leaking out unexpectedly.  You attempt to tell someone and it goes poorly and then you are reminded that it is to stay private, so that you can survive. This gets exhausting, even for the strongest among us, and it shows up in exaggerated behaviors. A super-clean house or a super-messy one. A perfect report card in college or a drunken stupor of failure and more shame. It is a curious behavior of humans in that the harder it is to accomplish the task the more we will work at it.  To a point.  The attempt to gain their parent’s approval, when the parents are incapable of giving it, is a tyranny that many struggle with.  They misapply respect for the wishes of the parent instead of understanding the control of their adult lives that it takes on.  I am speaking about the “abnormal” version of this.  The normal version is simply “life with others”.

The maintenance cost is part of the bill for healing that many have no idea will need paid when they start the process.  The understanding that the amount of energy to form the wound is needed to address the healing is fine, but they don’t count on the extra.  The longer it goes on the heavier the bill can be.  There are times when the compressor that kept the whole thing frozen just quits and the entire story comes spilling out in a surprise and a mess.  That is when life gets different quickly, especially when it is both a betrayal and unexpected in what and how the news is. 

So, the equation is this: Trauma + Maintenance + shame= cost of healing.  This, is why healing hurts so much that we avoid it.  It is too heavy and the burden is unwieldy and we can’t control the outcome.  We can’t talk about it, we won’t get help, we can only get tired.  Not a “I have worked all morning” tired, but a “I am fatigued to my core” exhaustion that can’t be remedied by a good meal and a night’s sleep.

So, what is to be done?  First, own the reality that the current pain is a real thing and has a cost.  The phrase could be spoken “the rent to live with you is high”, about a friend, roommate, or spouse.  It is why siblings are estranged and your circle of friends is shrinking.  And you have never given a pause to look for the cause.  It is the baggage of your history unresolved.  So, it is time to own the box that you carry.  Unprocessed resentments, incalculable injustices perpetrated on you by others that should have known better or stopped it if they knew.  You cannot fix history, only come to grips with it.

Second? Know that the work of healing is like that of physical therapy after surgery.  Take the time to heal, but take the pain of the work of it.  Stretch, sweat, cuss, have a partner that will push you, and then work till you can bend or have the stamina to last through the exercise cycle.  And then do it again.  Like a good sweat cleanses the pores, and then a shower cleanses the body… push through the memories and weep the tears that cleanse, and then take a shower to wash away the filth of the thing….

Third?  The partner that can be trusted. Like a trainer or a therapist, they are to help and to push.  Let them push.  Make them push.  This can come from a surprising place, or a person that you swerve into unexpectedly, but ask the hard questions and give a strong report of expectations.  About your need for candor and privacy.  Your boundary about available places and time spent there.  The obligation to fidelity.  Perhaps also, reciprocity.  In listening they can also heal and also help heal you…. Be ready for a surprise.

Lastly?  Act.  Today is the day to begin.  Complacency, and fear, is why you are where you are.  Declare that today is your day to initiate change.  And then start. You will not get better without change, be in charge of the change… for a change.  You are worthy of the work, and the reward.  It is time.



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