All Wound Up And Wounded: Some Thoughts On Psychological Healing.
It may be of some surprise that the word ‘wound’ is used to represent a cut, hurt, abrasion or more serious injury AND that same word can mean tied up tightly, coiled up, or bound as in “I was all wound up with stress.” We tend not to think of being wound up and stressed as an injury, or wound. However, on a psychological level, that is exactly what it is. In today’s jargon, the word ‘trauma’ is used, and aptly so. Trauma is Greek in origin and translates into English as ‘wound’ – as in hurt or injury. When we speak of trauma, we are talking about being all wound up with woundedness. It’s easy to get wounded in this world, both physically and psychologically. It happens to us all. Even positive experiences such as falling in love can wind us up and promote symptoms of trauma as suggested by the title of Elvis Presley’s classic rock ‘n roll song “All Shook Up.” In the song, Presley outlines some of the behaviors felt when shook up with love such as
“…I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree
My friends say I’m actin’ wild as a bug…”
“…My hands are shaky and my knees are weak
I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet…”
“…My tongue gets tied when I try to speak
My insides shake like a leaf on a tree…”
Behavioral symptoms like that, taken out of context, could point to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s almost impossible to arrive at early adulthood without having been shook up, or wounded, which are, essentially, traumatic experiences. Any number of psychological and emotional ‘shake ups,” or traumas, occur during childhood and adolescence from punishment to rejection to ridicule to embarrassment and more. Severe trauma such as being in an auto accident, critical illness, violence (as a victim or a witness), abuse, neglect and rape, can create significant psychological and emotional injury, or woundedness, the ramifications of which can spread over decades of one’s life. Even the process of being born into this world, the experience of transitioning from the warm womb to the bright and often cold world, the shock of separation from the umbilical chord, the first searing breath, can be traumatic. It would appear that we are all wounded, all wound up, all traumatized, to some degree. As such, the concept of healing becomes important to just about everybody.
A lot of healing is actually repair and restoration. The body has a remarkable inborn repair process to deal with injuries such as cuts and abrasions, sprains and breaks. One hardly has to do anything but clean it and bandage it; the body does the rest automatically. Even in more serious wounds, once it is dressed, the body’s internal repair process takes over. Significant damage to parts of the body, or the brain itself, has shown remarkable abilities to restore some functions, often through adaptations of existing structures and functions. Such is not necessarily the case with psychological and emotional repair due to the freedoms of individual choice. And, in fact, individual choice can actually hinder both bodily and emotional healing. For example, when a cut on the skin is in the repair process, it itches; scratching it does not help. Yet, one often finds themselves scratching at it, and working against the natural repair process. Emotional healing or repair often requires time alone to feel the hurt, to cry…And yet, one may choose to ‘party hearty’ and cover up the pain, which is not restorative or healing.
An essential ingredient of psychological and emotional healing can best be described with the analogy of obedience training of a pet dog. If you are not familiar with obedience training, the purpose is to train the dog ‘to heel.’ For the purposes of this analogy, let’s use ‘heal’ instead of ‘heel.’ The sound is the same, and there is actually a symbolic relationship between the two as the heel is considered a vulnerable area (i.e., achilles heel), and one, consequently, prone to being healed.
One of the most commonly used verbal commands in training the dog is ‘heal’ which when spoken means the dog should walk along side the master, or owner. A leash is used to pull and keep the dog along side the master at the same time the word ‘heal’ is spoken. Through basic conditioning, the dog learns what heal means. The dog comes to learn to walk alongside the master; the dog comes to learn that when the master stops, the dog also stops, and sits. If the master says ‘stay’ and walks a way, the dog learns to remain where it is, and not follow along. If the dog is well healed, the master can throw a piece of meat out in front of the dog, and it will not go for the meat until the master says okay. This metaphor of ‘walking along side the master” or “obeying the master” is an important concept of psychological and emotional healing. However, in this case, the ‘master’ is not somebody external; not some authority figure, skilled professional, famous celebrity or great guru. The master is the ‘still small voice within.’ It is one’s own intuition. It is the secret treasure in the chest. It is the core of our heart. It can be felt. It can be heard. And, it can be nurtured. It is a choice. Quietude is often required to align with one’s intuition. And quietude, like the physician’s prescription to ‘get plenty of rest’ when sick is a well-established and quite valid recommendation. Through quietude, calmness and stillnes, one can access their very subtle, delicate and extra-ordinarily sensitive intuition which can guide them holistically and ecologically.
One of the more important elements in healing, and being well healed, is self-restraint. Just as scratching the scab on a skin wound does not help but hinders the healing, so too there can be many, many actions, and reactions, that one feels compelled to take in the name of psychological or emotional repair but which may in fact cause more damage. As the American statesman Daniel Webster is noted to have said, “A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.” Sometimes, not doing anything at all is far more helpful than doing something that is ‘thought’ to be appropriate, or even necessary. What we might think is right or helpful may be counter to our intuitive sense of what we need to do, or not do. Not doing, having restraint, can not only be highly restorative, it can be tremendously empowering as well. Conversely, there may be situations being avoided and to which the intuition is ever so softly prompting action.
Although many well-meaning friends can give various pieces of advice about what to do and not do, and some may be quite valid, and every community has many excellent healing professionals, offering a variety of modalities, techniques and methods, choices about what to do, and what to not do, are best based on something inside us, something subtle and delicate, something extra-ordinarily sensitive – something we call intuition. Alignment with that is to heal.