Re-opened Old Wounds Hurt Worse Than The Original Ones
Recently, two friends made some negative comments and did some seemingly benign things that triggered painful memories for me. Almost an exact repeat of an incident that happened in sixteen years ago. Same hurtful words, facial expression, and gestures.
My reaction to this re-run of a similar happening more than a decade ago? It was like a silent punch to my gut. But I kept up cordial conversation, then left for home. That night I slept fitfully well of doing mental replays of that evening, as well as and continued recalls of a parallel situation years earlier with these people.
My traumatized mind began running past home-life scenes and scenes from my adult years. Scores of times from age five to twenty Gram’s, Mom’s, and my uncle’s words still echoed loudly, “Jimmy, you are a mean, evil, selfish, trouble-causing boy who will end up in the electric chair by age twenty-one … Remember, Jimmy, leopards never change their spots … and neither will you ever change for the good.”
In past years, some of my church friends voiced their own brands of condemnation: “You’re an uncaring, insensitive, ego-driven, liberal/conservative, unethical Christian.”
I’m still trying to figure out my friends’ possible motives for such insensitive, cutting behavior, and how I can endure this current stinging distress from my friends’ rejection. I’m bleeding inwardly from the combined slights of their facial expressions and judgmental utterances.
Last night and today, I’ve winced and agonized with internal, mental pain at having been, once again, unappreciated, de-valued, savaged by words … and lack of words. Their words, silences, and actions were like being stabbed in the back with a hunting knife that was also twisted as it went in. It’s been two days of walking around with a smile on my face while the knife has been stuck in my back and blood still dripping from the open wound. This knife incident metaphor has been played out scores of time as a child, a teen, a college & grad student, and a pastor.
For the past two days, I’ve simmered with anger at once more being unfairly treated, humiliated, shamed, demeaned, and having my accomplishments being minimalized, unrecognized, criticized.
To survive emotionally, I know that as soon as possible, I must apply several recovery realities:
- The biggest enemy of alcoholics (addicts, mentally ill folks, and others) is resentment —at yourself or others. I’m certainly resentful at my expectations being unmet by my friends’ responses to my recent achievement.
- I know that this recent wound will certainly be replicated again and again in the years ahead ‑ in different ways ‑ by different people – in different situations. That’s life. There certainly will be similar “incidents” to these years apart, “unfair treatments” that will occur in the days, weeks, and years to come. So I might as well develop some “spiritual-mental muscles” to strengthen me for these certain future re-runs.
- I realize I can’t read someone else’s mind. Only God can discern motives and intents.
- I can’t change anyone else by threatening, shaming, manipulating, or by groveling to secure some kind of recognition, praise, or affirmation.
- I can only change myself—my responses, my attitudes.
- I know that my resentments will drop me into a dangerous depression, a cesspool of quicksand, if I don’t change my inner attitudes to this recent owie.
- I realize I’m skating on thin ice right now. If I don’t do something to break my free-fall into darkness, very bad things will happen. Not CAN happen; WILL happen … unless I take quick steps to make changes.
- So … I must now choose to take some specific recovery steps. Or I will get sucked down into a bad, long-lasting, angry, self-pitying depression. For my own well being, I will now take immediate action to:
- Call a safe friend and my therapist to share what’s going on;
- Do a written autopsy (this document) about what’s happened, what I’ve thought and felt, and what I can change in myself;
- Practice positive self-talk to drown out negative voices from the past
- Meditate and pray;
- Soothe myself with nurturing activities;
- Read my Bible and recovery literature;
- Go to a support group or Twelve Step meeting; and
- Avoid toxic people … and all potential conflicts for several weeks.