Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wounds - Part 1

Wounds. We all have them and usually we have lots of them. They’re such an integral part of who we are that most of us aren’t even aware of them…yet they’re still there. When people who haven’t done much inner process work hear this term, they believe it means physical wounds, such as cuts, scraps or old broken bones. Those are indeed wounds but the wounds I’m speaking of are energetic in nature and typically show no outward physical appearance.

Energetic wounds are places in our energy fields, which surround and include our physical body, where we hold the memory of the hurt which has come to us. This hurt comes in many forms. Sometimes this hurt has come from physical damage such as when we are in accidents or fights. The majority of our wounds however have an emotional or mental cause. These are the ones which are less visible and are often outside of our conscious memory either because they are so old that they’re forgotten, were so subtle when they occurred, happened to us when we were so young that we don’t have a recallable memory of the experience or it was so painful that we’ve chosen to forget it.


Wounding occurs when we encounter an experience which we are unable to process and resolve. Our inability to process an experience may come from a variety of factors including age, past experiences, mental weakness, misguided information or a violation of our trust or boundaries. Whatever the reason for the experience or our inability to physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually or spiritually handle it, the wound is formed and it begins to shape our lives and affect our identity, often to our detriment. Unfortunately the wounds that we carry often cause us to inflict the same wounds upon others.

To understand this process, let me give you an example from my own life. The post I did called Body Memory lays out the story of my childhood haircut drama. As a child, that event was so traumatic for me that I collapsed in tears. That trauma was the source of a deep wound for me and at the time “emotional wounding” was not anything that I was aware of. My response to the experience was to find ways to protect myself from ever letting this happen again.

Growing up I was always very defensive when it came to my hair and always did my best to ensure that it didn’t attract any more negative attention than necessary. Unfortunately I also had very thin and fine hair and it began falling out in my early 20’s and this became an all-too-frequent topic of conversation. I knew that I was incredibly defensive about it and often lashed out inappropriately at others who made wisecracks or comments about it. Anytime anyone would make a comment about any haircut I got, I would shut down and quickly try to change the topic. Often that defense strategy would involve some sort of self-deprecating humor that served to further hold my wound in place. I became my own worst enemy. In some respects, the day that I decided to shave my head was the day that I found peace. My hair could no longer be made fun of because now it was gone.

It would have been very easy for me to write off my defensiveness as “no one likes to be teased about anything personal” but my response to the teasing was always more intense than was warranted. This was because an old wound was being triggered deeper within my subconscious and that wound was the source of great embarrassment. Yet this was an experience that I had mentally blocked out because it was too painful to hold on to but the wound was still very present in my energy field. It wasn’t until the meditation experience that I even recalled the original event.


The obvious question then becomes “if I can’t remember the original wounding experience, how do I heal that wound?” This is where awareness and inner work come in to play. Being self-aware is about being able to be in the world and engaged but also being “the observer” of your experiences. Many of us experience the Observer but do it from an unconscious place where it is typically ignored. The Observer is that small part of our consciousness which is constantly witnessing the events which unfold in our lives. The key to identifying the Observer is that it is not judgmental nor does it direct us in any way. It is simply the silent witness.

For most, the Observer is first experienced consciously during a meditation practice. It is that part of our consciousness that not only is aware that we are sitting for meditation but also the part that observes the thoughts that we have. It helps us become aware of the thoughts when those thoughts are not the object of our meditation. For example, let’s say that I’m sitting to meditate and my focus is on the breath. Perhaps for the first 20 seconds I’m witnessing myself focusing on the breath, then I hear an the external sound of plane flying overhead, which causes me to begin thinking about the last time I flew somewhere for vacation. The next thing I know, I’m thinking about me lying on a sunny beach somewhere. Perhaps a few minutes pass before eventually I catch a nudge from the Observer that brings my awareness to “beach thoughts” and this allows me to bring my awareness back to the breath.


The key to that experience however is learning to be connected to the Observer. The Observer is always consciously aware of our experience and can help us become aware of those times when we aren’t in the present moment but rather lost in thought and past events. By deepening our awareness of and connection to this part of our consciousness, we can begin to be aware of when an old wound has been triggered. We may find ourselves in a defensive place trying to rationalize our irrational behavior or reacting like we are 8 years old. This is when the Observer gives us a nudge that we aren’t in the present moment. If we are aware of that voice we can not only observe that we are reacting from a wounded place in our psyche but also what the nature of that wound is.

To give you an example of how that process might look, let’s continue with my hair story. Perhaps someone had made a wise crack about my hair being messy and I became unconsciously triggered by the comment. I became defensive and went into pattern and began projecting my wound onto them by making fun of either their hair or something which I knew would hurt them. Perhaps a bitchy comment I make upsets them and a verbal or physical fight ensues between us and we both lash out at each other. Now my focus is on this fight and not the original wound.


It would be easy for me to walk away from that event with my focus on how mean the person was or just the fight itself and still have my deeply hidden wound intact. If I had been aware of the Observer, perhaps I would have noticed that their hair comment took me out of the present moment and into the past where my original wound was. I could have then been aware that there is an old wound that needs healing and even that it has to do with being so self-conscious about my hair. This information would have come to me via the Observer because it witnessed the events just as they were without the judgments of my personality or emotional coloring.

Typically we can become aware of old wounds this way because of our emotional response. We become overly emotional or we experience fear or anxiety. This is where the old spiritual adage “go into the fear (or pain)” comes in. By being aware of what the issue is that triggers us, we are given a pathway to healing an old wound. In my example above, if I had been self-aware enough to notice that I was defensive about my hair, I could have used my time alone to process that through a simple inquiry into my subconscious, “why am I so sensitive about my hair?”


Our fears point the way to healing. Unless there is physical danger involved, truly we have nothing to fear so when we notice that the emotion of fear is present, we can use that as a compass for locating and ultimately healing an old wound. In my example above, I had the fear that someone would talk about my hair so I would go out of my way to try and keep it perfectly combed and styled in a way that I believed was attractive. I of course wasn’t fooling anyone but myself. I held the belief that no one would notice that it was thinning by keeping it styled and sprayed into place. Yes, it was a different issue from a child’s crew-cut but my hair was a source of shame from an earlier wound, thus the sensitivity.

What seemingly simple activity do you have a fear of?  What makes you say “ouch”?


This entry turned out to be a rather long one so I’m going to break it into two pieces. In the next part I’ll share a process for working to heal the wounds. Until then examine your life for those areas of resistance, feelings of discomfort and hot buttons. Watch what happens just from becoming aware of them.

Click here for Part 2


  1. You are right on again Michael. The unfortunate thing is that these hurts and wounds become more self inflicted and assisted by insensitive comments from others. They turn into pain that keeps the memory fresh in the mind. I know I have fallen victim to many of these wounds, but fortunately have been able to overcome most.

  2. Thank you for sharing John. It sounds like what you're dealing with is an "active memory" (as opposed to an "inactive memory"). Active memories causes responses within our system and IS the wound that I'm speaking of in this post. In the second part of this posting (coming soon) I'll offer a process for addressing the issue. I'll begin work on more info on active/inactive memories and how to address them as it doesn't appear that it's a topic I've written on. Stay tuned for all of that.

  3. You are correct Michael. I look forward to your next blog. Blessings! John

  4. I remember having to be your "Observer" for a long time.........too many memories that could not be recalled by you - and now......I am having to find my own Observer - or rather - acknowledge what I have always known to be there. Sometimes - all of this "emotional work" is too hard - takes up too much time - and so I just go to work literally. Unfortunately we are always left behind in some way when we do this. Sometimes being heavy translates into being "heavy" and the weight can be hard to carry.

  5. It is hard work but the right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do. The work is so worth it when you can let go of all the "weight", life truly gets easier. Just remember, you are worth every minute that you invest into you...and more.