I have to share this, in its entirety because I think it illuminates the pain that so many people share. It is helpful for us to self direct healing and to extend understanding and forgiveness to others.
Some people are able to move through life assuming they are always invited. They join in without ever considering whether they are “wanted.” Others cannot do that, they need to be invited. Their lives teach them that they are not included. In the interest of healing all this, it becomes about being aware of other people, of seeing them. I have heard people say, “we are not an exclusive group” everyone is welcome – and they dismiss the angst of the person sitting on the outside of the circle.
Sometimes, someone has to go and take that person’s hand and invite them in, make sure they are settled and feel comfortable. Maybe that seems like babysitting, or more than you are prepared to do, but I promise you that some of the quietest, most withdrawn, most socially awkward people . . . have a great deal to offer and can bless our lives and efforts, if we let them. I hope you will read this and not just immediately think of how it applies to someone you know, but question how it might be part of your own difficulties.
While you can lend understanding and information to others, you cannot fix them. Fix yourself. That act alone does more to heal the world and help others than you will ever know.
The Genesis of The Wound
‘Riding the waves of relationships becomes particularly difficult when the troughs of misunderstanding, disharmony, or separation reactivate our core wound, bringing up old frustration and hurt from childhood. In the first few moments of our life, our parents most likely gave us the largest dose of unconditional love and devotion they were capable of. We were so adorable as babies; they probably felt blessed to have such a precious, lovely being come into their lives. We probably had some initial experiences of basking in love’s pure, unfiltered sunshine.
Yet this also gives rise to one of the most fundamental of all human illusions: that the source of happiness and well-being lies outside is, in other people’s acceptance, approval, or caring. As a child, this was indeed the case, since we were at first so entirely dependent on others for our very life. But even if at the deepest level our parents did love us unconditionally, it was impossible for them to express this consistently, given their human limitations. This was not their fault. It doesn’t mean they were bad parents or bad people. Like everyone, they had their share of fears, worries, cares, and burdens, as well as their own wounding around love. Like all of us, they were imperfect vessels for perfect love.
When children experience love as conditional or unreliable or manipulative, this causes a knot of fear to form in the heart, for they can only conclude, “I am not truly loved.” This creates a state of panic or “freak out” that causes the body and mind to freeze up. This basic love trauma is known as “narcissistic injury” in the language of psychotherapy, because it damages our sense of self and our ability to feel good about ourselves. It affects our whole sense of who we are by causing us to doubt whether our nature is lovable. As Emily Dickinson describes this universal wound in one of her poems: “There is a pain so utter, it swallows Being up.”
This wounding hurts so much that children try to push it out of consciousness. Eventually a psychic scab forms. That scab is our grievance. Grievance against others serves a defensive function, by hardening us so we don’t have to experience the underlying pain of not feeling fully loved. And so we grow up with an isolated, disconnected ego, at the core of which is a central wound, freak-out, and shutdown. All of this is covered with resentment, which becomes a major-weapon in our defense arsenal.
What keeps the wound from healing is not knowing that we are lovely and lovable just as we are, while imagining that other people hold the key to this. We would like, and often expect, relative human love to be absolute, providing a reliable, steady flow of attunement, unconditional acceptance, and understanding. When this doesn’t happen we take it personally, regarding this as someone’s fault – our own, for not being good enough, or others’, for not loving us enough. But the imperfect way our parents – or anyone else – loved us has nothing to do with whether love is trustworthy or whether we are lovable. It doesn’t have the slightest bearing on who we really are. It is simply a sign of ordinary human limitation, and nothing more. Other people cannot love us any more purely than their character structure allows.’
– John Welwood, The Perfect Love We Seek, The Imperfect Love We Live.