The Wounding Embrace
You probably know someone who struggles with cutting, suicide, anorexia and bulimia; you may even struggle with this yourself. However, Self-Injury (SI) doesn’t end here. SI also incorporates eating too much, working out too little (or too much), substance abuse, being sexually promiscuous, working too hard (or too little) and many other forms of abuse. All of these things hurt you in different ways – all are considered SI.
It’s doubtful that any of you wake up in the morning proclaiming that today you’re going to kill yourself, cut your body or get wasted. Instead, the events that transpire over the course of the day are what cause these tragic events to unfold. You get up, ready for the day, and life hits you square in the face. You have a fight with your mom, you break up with your boyfriend, you fail a test, you lose a job or one of a thousand other things happen. You say, “I can’t take this,” and you do something. You have a few drinks, you have promiscuous sex or you cut yourself all in the name of escaping what is going on in your life.
The goal is to forget what you’re going through – to leave the pain behind. However, after the SI, whatever it was that prompted you to bleed, either from the heart or from the body or both, is still present. On a podcast, Erwin MacManus said, “I believe that many of us, instead of facing the issues and dealing with them, are leading medicated lives because we don’t have the strength to deal with the lives we already have.” Similarly, Dr. Phil often says, “You can’t change what you will not acknowledge.” Your story likely unfolds using similar themes.
Your Story → Your Feelings → Your Actions
(1) Your Story is your history; it’s what you struggle with internally. For some, Your Story encompasses baggage that you’ve accumulated over the years. It’s an accumulation of emotion you haven’t yet dealt with and, instead, continues to wound you. Breaking up with a boyfriend, divorce, deaths of family or friends, job loss and personal failure are all components of Your Story.
(2) Your Feelings are sentiments you either express publicly or keep bundled up inside. Think back to the last time you struggled with something and try to remember how you were feeling. You were likely feeling angry, alone, scared, hopeless or helpless. When you ask someone how he or she felt right before SI, the most common sentiment you’ll hear is, “Just pissed off at the world.”
(3) Your Actions are an outward expression of what you experience inside. You cut, you drink, you work 80 hours per week.
Notice how Your Story impacts how you feel on a day-to-day basis. It’s Your Feelings, your mood that determines Your Actions. Clearly, your feelings and your actions are a systemic result, like a chain reaction in chemistry, of what you experience in your life. This makes sense. Stuff happens to you, you feel a certain way, and you do stuff based on your mood. This truth, though, introduces something piercingly important: you need to make sure Your Story is a good one – otherwise, you run into trouble.
So, how do you make sure Your Story is a good one?
First, you need to deal with your History. You may feel ‘paralyzed’ by the things that have happened to you. You experience a feeling of helplessness or lose of the power that encourages you to move or feel. You need to deal with the things that make you feel this way before you graduate High School and continue onto College, marriage and your future. Don’t fail to realize that the ‘paralysis’ you experienced can negatively effect or destroy you future dreams. The feeling of being paralyzed is not something that remedies itself. It takes intensive physiotherapy (rehabilitating your personal history). You’ll remain paralyzed until you begin the healing process.
Some of the outstanding issues in your past can be fixed:
- if you had a fight with your parents, you may need to speak with them
- if you failed a test, you may need to study more the next time
Some elements of your story aren’t so easy to resolve because you had no say in how they unfolded:
- you don’t choose to have a best friend die
- you don’t choose to have your parents divorce
- you don’t choose to have genetics that make you look a certain way
For many of your stories, there’s no easy remedy and it might mean you need to meet with a counselor (which is absolutely okay) in order to resolve the emotional damage that these events have caused.
You need to make sure Your Story is a good one.
Secondly, you need to be able to deal with your feelings. Whether you just broke up with someone, had your parents divorce or were physically/mentally abused. The challenge is in learning how you’re going to deal with the intense feelings these events have generated. What do you do when you’re angry over your parents’ divorce? Is your reaction hurting you further or assisting in the healing process? There are many healthy ways to help you process your feelings. Maybe you work out, play XBOX, surf the net, binge on Ugly Betty or Lost reruns or do something else. There’s a heavily pierced and tattooed Grade 12 student who cooks when he’s really angry. Now cooking may not be your thing. For some, working out may help stimulate relaxation; for others it can intensify negative feelings. Understand that whatever may work for someone else may not work for you – just make sure what you do is having a positive impact on Your Story. If something doesn’t work, don’t just consider yourself a failure; try something new until you find the right outlet for you. Someone once said, “You don’t break bad habits, you replace them with good ones.”
To continue on this journey of life you need to begin somewhere. Start with these two things: deal with your past and learn how to deal with your emotions. Remember that the choices you make undoubtedly have an impact on the rest of your life.
Know where you’ve been
Know where you want to go
Know how to get there