The Walking Wounded
“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”
I believe it was Mohandas Gandhi who said that all of us have fallen short of the mark of perfection and that fact, he determined, is the great equalizer among all humanity. Another very common trait we share is that we might all be called “the walking wounded”.
I don’t know most of you who are reading this book right now, but I have a pretty good idea that you were hurt when you were young. I have reason to believe that you experienced some degree of trauma, pain or disappointment in your childhood that is likely still impacting you today, perhaps far more than you realize.
The vast majority of us know all too well the experience of having been let down or mistreated by others upon whom we were dependent, or from whom we expected that certain of our needs would be met.
You may have learned to cover over your past hurts very well, and they seemingly have no impact on you today. But you should not be surprised when a memory from the past comes flooding into your thoughts and puts you right back in the moment of pain.
Let me give you an illustration from my own life. Several years ago I treated my wife to a movie at a theater which played recently-run movies for $1.50 per person. The movie was Step-mom and starred Ed Harris, Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. The plot of the movie was that Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris were the divorced parents of two young children, I’m thinking 8 and 12 or so. Susan Sarandon was dying of cancer so now Julie Roberts, who is engaged to Ed Harris, was about to become not just step-mom, but the kid’s only mom.
Probably about 45 minutes into the movie I began to tear up and the tears mounted to the point where I was full body sobbing. My wife looked over at me and asked “are you alright?” I told her I was fine, which was in fact a total lie. I was a wreck and I didn’t understand why. She asked if I wanted to leave and I declined because my tears subsided and my composure returned – at least for another 10 – 15 minutes or so when the flood gates opened again.
At this point I began to think basic manly thoughts like “I’m glad this is a dark theater and no one is close enough to see me doing this.” But this time I knew exactly what was behind my emotional upheaval. While everyone else in the theater was watching Susan Sarandon die from cancer I was very painfully reliving the death of my own mother, Sylvia Price, who died after a two year battle with cancer at the ridiculously young age of 36. She left behind my father, her devoted husband of just 12 years, my older brother age 10 ½, my younger sister age 4, and me age 8.
Though decades have passed since my mom’s passing there is still a place of hurt and pain in my heart. A longing for her embrace and her nurturing that I was cheated out of when I needed it most. On some levels I have certainly moved on, but on other levels I have not. And it doesn’t take much to get the tears coming when a memory of her flashes into my mind.
Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about for, while the specific details are different for you, you also have moments when you relive painful experiences from your past. The point I most want to make is that during those recall moments you must be so careful to not engage in grown-up encounters. Those moments can have such a profound impact on us that we act more like a three, four, or five year old than a 30, 40 or 50 year old.
You can likely recall times at work, in your marriage or other important relationships when one and another person were very heated and emotional. Chances are you were not in your thinking mind at those times, but acting more like a child throwing a tantrum and stomping your feet. I’m not trying to make excuses but rather to give an explanation for what can happen to any of us and which can lead to disastrous consequences for a relationship.
At these times your best course of action is to take a time out and escape the turmoil until you can get to a place where you are more able to deal with it in a mature, productive manner.
No one ever said life was easy, but I dare say that it can be much easier when we learn to keep the past in a proper perspective and not allow it to determine our course for the present or future.
And just one last note, since it’s likely true that most everybody you know is walking wounded to some degree why not cut them and yourself some slack.