Who would you be today if you had not been wounded?
This is one of the questions posted on my bedroom wall by the door on one of many pieces of paper taped around my house in strategic locations to help me with my ongoing visioning. This question came to me when I realized a few weeks ago with a start that my entire professional life is founded on my wounding. I have dedicated well over 20 years to helping others deal more effectively and kindly with diversity, difference, oppression, and marginalization — the various “isms”. I have spent countless hours learning how to communicate more effectively — and not only in English — and teaching others to do the same.
All of this is rooted in my own early childhood — and ongoing — wounding. I now have a word for this wounding, thanks to a new therapist gifted in the somatic healing arts and brain science. The word is “relational trauma.” I made the connection that my gifts of communication, empathy, relating across differences and sensitivity to oppression stem from my experiences as an unloved, misunderstood child trying to navigate extremely challenging situations on her own. And they stem from continuing to attract people and situations that reinforce this trauma, and my false beliefs around being unlovable in a dangerous world of unreliable or incompetent people. These gifts are beautiful scars — talents and abilities I developed to survive my wounding. I relate to the oppressed and disenfranchised because I know the pain and injustice of marginalization personally. And my passion for inclusion, justice, and diversity come from a commitment to preventing others from being traumatized like I was.
So now I wonder — who would I be today if I had not been wounded? Which parts of me are not beautiful scars? Without my wounding, I would still be smart. I would still be musically gifted. I would still be funny. I would still be talented with words.
But perhaps I would also be be more self-centered and less empathetic? Maybe my wounding has helped me be more human, more sensitive, more connected? In truth, I shudder to think of the chronically narcissistic, impatient, narrow person I might be if my life had been easier. Perhaps I would be a highly successful yet destructive musician, or a cutthroat executive in some powerful, well-monied industry.
Or maybe I would be a better version of the Self I know today, but happier, less conflicted, less fearful, and more satisfied with her relationships.
The question about my wounding may seem moot, since it is what it is and I am who I am. Perhaps the best response is to notice, be grateful, and contemplate the awe of it all. But I think becoming aware of our essence, combined with our wounding, might be a key step in fully realizing who we truly are. My wounding has allowed me to suffer, to be more aware, to heal myself and others, and to midwife others’ journeys of (re)discovery. But becoming aware of the impact of this wounding on my life at this point on my path might be an important step towards freedom and a more fully integrated, authentic self. In becoming more aware, I can make new and different choices, and I can choose to be grateful to my wounds, but no longer defined by them.
In fact, my wounds are now interfering with the next stage of my development. My history of relational trauma makes me mistrustful and fearful of other people, while also harboring a deep need to connect, be vulnerable and have greater intimacy in my life. This affects the health and quality of my relationships. My history of relational trauma also makes me want to cling to a professional commitment to diversity and healing the “isms” that may actually be weighing me down as I grow. A part of me doesn’t want to heal or stop until everyone is healed — but this is a futile and counterproductive orientation. Healing myself heals others, and healing myself might just be my most important work.
I believe the meaning of human life is to continue our long history of evolution. We are here to learn, to grow, to improve, to stretch, and to experience all that life has to offer. We are the embodiment of the Universe coming to know itself. Therefore, we have a responsibility to grow our consciousness.
The truth is that I’m not entirely sure who or what I would be today without my wounding. Another truth is that I don’t know for sure what the meaning of life is (or even if such a thing exists!). However, asking and pondering such questions allows me to evolve, and to grow my consciousness. It therefore has meaning to my life and my happiness, and, hopefully, to yours too.
So, who would you be today if you had not been wounded? And who are you today because of it?
In lak ech!