No one escapes injury in life, receiving it or inflicting it. Many experience wounding early, and their woundedness launches patterns that re-scrape old scars. For some, the childhood injuries are so devastating we wonder how anyone could have survived. Some not only survive, they go on to thrive and to make remarkable contributions to their professional fields and to society. Others experience seemingly trivial wounding, yet they appear paralyzed by it, unable to move on or to be productive. Each person’s experience of wounding is unique, as is our response to it. How do we take back control and reclaim life when wounds seem to have control over us?
Few people had control over the wrongs they endured in childhood. Some were innocent victims of crime. The connection between childhood trauma and adult addiction is overwhelming and tragic. Many Twelve Step addiction recovery seekers who survived childhood abuse report grave difficulty with the A.A. Big Book assertion that, “Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.” Some abuse survivors want nothing to do with the kind of God that could let a child be victimized.
As adults, however, we do have control over our actions. Unhealed wounds impair how we treat others. When I have cognitive and emotional energy devoted to protecting open sores, my impulse may be to protect first. That energy and impulse to protect first limits the field of options within my reach. It takes some of the options off the table. My first impulse can’t be to reach out to someone in compassion if my first impulse is to protect myself. Only one can be first.
This reveals a startling choice: we must heal or we will perpetrate. If I fail to heal, somehow, some way, I will hurt others. If I heal only a little, I will perpetrate only a little less. Harm suffered gets tangled with harm done. However, confronting wrongs done against us and by us and taking responsibility for our choices can detangle this wounded-wounding pattern. That is empowering and a great source of hope for healing. Further, confession—speaking aloud one’s wrongs to God and another human being—can release extraordinary healing power. Exposing secrets frees the cognitive energy needed to keep hiding them from others and from ourselves. Once exposed, the power secrets had over us can be reclaimed for healing.
Christian seekers might recognize these as steps to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Jews might identify them as steps to Atonement. Twelve Step recovery seekers might recognize them as the Fourth Step and Fifth Step. Regardless of terminology or the tradition that frames our perspective, confession points us towards healing.
We are presently in the time between Passover, when Jews were liberated from bondage in Egypt, and Sinai, when Jews received the Ten Commandments. It’s a time in the Jewish calendar lyrically described as “the passage from the sea of freedom to the mountain of responsibility.” It strikes me that healing is a passage from the sea of freedom to the mountain of responsibility as well—freedom from our wounded past and responsibility for our choices. They go hand in hand.
Join the conversation. How has taking responsibility for what’s in your control freed you from a wounded past?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved.