The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

April 2013: Wounding

Posted on Apr 15, 2013

“The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through.”
~Henri Nouwen

I have recently finished reading through the book The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen (1998). It is a polished version of his own journal entries of a very significant time for him. For me, it was a rather strange experience—a bit like voyeurism—peeking into the interior life of another person. The strange part was how much I related to his journey—somewhat like reading my own journal using someone else’s words.

Some of which he talked about, I have already been through; some was new ground for me. Some points I disagreed with, others I agreed with fully. It was a very personal journey made public—yet it was a shared experience in that we all struggle through anguish hoping to find freedom from it. Our journeys are the same, yet vastly different. Public yet personal

One entry that resonated with me was entitled, “Live Your Wounds Through.” Nouwen’s concluding thoughts that day were:

You have to let go of the need to stay in control of your pain and trust in the healing power of your heart. There your hurts can find a safe place to be received, and once they have been received, they lose their power to inflict damage and become fruitful soil for new life. Think of each wound as you would a child who has been hurt by a friend. As long as that child is ranting and raving, trying to get back at the friend, one wound leads to another. But when the child can experience the consoling embrace of a parent, she or he can live through the pain, return to the friend, forgive, and build up a new relationship. Be gentle with yourself, and let your heart be your loving parent as you live your wounds through.(Nouwen, 1998, p. 110).

These words struck a powerful chord with me. Being a (recovering) control freak, I am very prone to wanting to control my emotional pain. As well, I don’t give the healing power of my heart much credit. So I end up inhibiting the healing process. It is like telling my body how to heal from a deep gash—but no pain allowed. Without the reminder of the pain to be careful, the same wound can easily get re-injured over and over again—hindering the natural healing process.

I want to work around the emotional pain of deep internal wounds. If I could think my way through, then I render the pain impotent and unnecessary. Not only is my heart not a safe place for my wounds, I also deprive that place to become “fruitful soil for new life.” I would rather live damaged and disabled than healed and fruitful. I would also rather live pain-free than parent/nurture myself and build a new understanding of/relationship with my own self. How we stunt our own personal growth!

Somehow we have convinced ourselves that pain is harmful and to be avoided at all costs; that somehow once we experience pain, we won’t feel anything else—ever again; that pain is permanent—nor can it co-exist with other emotions and/or states of being. Sometimes our pain is indeed overwhelming. Hence our need for support systems—even if as frail as our attempts to parent/nurture our own selves or our allowing our wounds to be received by our own hearts.

What is getting in the way of your own pain journey? What is blocking your path through grief to restoration and joy? May you enlist the courage to live through your woundedness, to ‘be there’ for yourself with kindness and gentleness, to work through the anguish to freedom.

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