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Stepping Out of the Shadows/[Re]Connecting With
Your Life's Journey

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Healing Your Wounds

By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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Healing on the Inside

You have no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself--and how little I deserve it.
-W.S. Gilbert

He would lay awake at night thinking about what it would be like. Thinking about life without the nagging pain. The pain that permeated every cell of his body.

Laying alone there in the dark. Smoking cigarette after cigarette. Dwelling on how everyone else had wronged him. Holding onto every slight, real and imagined. Weaving a web of explanations and excuses.

“If only this, if only that,” played in his head all night long. It didn’t make the pain go away, but he couldn’t imagine how much it would hurt without that familiar chorus playing in his head, numbing himself to what deep down inside he knew to be the truth, always finding some way to push it out of his mind.

As he drained another beer or downed another shot, he would make plans. Plans for a better tomorrow. Plans for a way to undo all the yesterdays of his life. Fantasy. Now that was a game he could play.

The nights that he hadn’t drowned himself in cheap booze, self-pity was his drug of choice. He would shout at the top of his lungs, cursing the fates. Cursing them for not making him better than he was. For he never could shake the feeling of being damaged goods. No, that feeling had haunted him his whole life.

Defective didn’t even begin to describe the feeling. Inadequate was just a quaint word to him. Worthless, well compared to the way he felt about himself, that didn’t even make a dent in describing the relationship that he had with himself. No, you had to weave those three words together, almost invent a new word from the three to even begin to adequately describe the feelings he had about himself.

And this was the foundation of the relationship he had with himself. Not what the world could see. No a couple hours of sleep, a cold shower, and a little attitude, that was all he needed to shield the depth of his true feelings from you and me.

He had once read a book in which the author had used the word toxic. That would be a good beginning at trying to describe it. That seemed most accurate when he thought about the relationship that he had with himself. He laughed at all the cute phrases that were floating around in our culture. Heal your inner child, learn to parent yourself, start to nurture yourself. “Oh please, give me a break,” he would think to himself.

Things seemed to be getting worse. He wasn’t able to contain it the way he used to. He couldn’t fake it anymore. As a kid, he would hide behind all the wildness, all of the false bravado. The only thing that the bravado got him was more trouble than he could handle. It also left him believing more than ever that he was truly damaged goods.

If you asked him, I don’t think he would be able to tell you that he was just plain scared, yet if you were at all conscious you couldn’t miss it.

Some things settled down as he got older, but he never could shake the feeling that he didn’t quite fit in. He bounced from job to job. Always feeling like an outsider, never quite trusting that anyone would want anything to do with him.

He masked that too. You see, he had become funny in a cute kind of way. So nobody thought to look beyond the jokes, always the soft ways he would put himself down. Never inviting anyone into his world.

The more the jobs didn’t work out, the more convinced he was that there was something about him that just wasn’t right. What were the words the books started throwing around, unhealthy, dysfunctional. “Yea, that’s me,” he figured.

“Oh, but when I become healthy, then I’ll show ‘em what I can be.” That was the fantasy he retreated to more than anything else.

“I just have to fix me. I just have to figure out how to lose all of this.”

Just what was all of this? Well, he never saw it as hurt. It never occurred to him that it was the pain of wanting so badly, needing so mightily, someone to be there for him. Pain and fear, what a combination that made, but no, it never entered his mind that that’s what this was all about.

Could it have been the desperation of wanting to be loved but never letting anyone in? Maybe, but he couldn’t tell you that. Don’t leave out despair--the inevitable despair of not feeling accepted, or even acceptable for that matter. It just never occurred to him that this was all about being human.

He saw it as ugly, even petty. To him it was grotesque, something that was undesirable. The only truth it held for him was how ashamed he was of it, how he hid from it. The lump in his throat from all of the anger, bitterness, and resentment rolled up into one ball. All the humiliation that he inflicted upon himself, all the fear he had of somebody else humiliating him as well. Feeling like he never quite fit the bill. A feeling of emptiness that nothing he had tried could fill.

This thing. It consumed him. It overtook his life. But not in any way that was obvious to you or me. What overtook his life was the way he tried denying that it was there. Bending it, twisting it, presenting it to the world in a way that would look acceptable. You would have never guessed the depth of what he was feeling, what he was hiding.

“Maybe, just maybe,” you would have thought to yourself, “he just has to find himself.”

But all along he thought something very different. “No way. There was no way they were going to pin anything on me. No one was going to discover what was buried in the depth of my soul. This just feel your feelings crap.” No it was much, much more important for him to push it all away. 

He would have laughed at the idea that really this was all about being human. For being human couldn’t hurt this much. He would have shrugged his shoulders if you would have tried to explain that his pain was really caused by his  humanness being bent and distorted by his own fears, his own discomfort with his vulnerabilities.

He tried to make it go away. All those years he tried to pretend that it was never there. All those years he tried to numb himself to the experience of being human. Jumping in and out of relationships. Bouncing from job to job. Friends seemed to come and go, but mostly just go.

The way he would explain it all? He would say that he was damaged. He would have never seen that it was him doing this to him. He would have never seen that he wasn’t broken. Nothing about him was defective. Sure he was hurting, had hurt his whole life.

But most of that pain was of his own making. Most of that pain was self-inflicted. Most of that pain was born out of the relationship that he had with himself.

So, he never thought about his life as the experience of being human. Sadly, he never could see that how what he believed to be the truth about himself--that he was broken and unhealthy--was merely the means by which he expressed his discomfort with being present in his life, experiencing all the terror that’s part of being human. Sadly, he put most of his energies into attempting to fix the problems rather than accepting the experience of just being human.

There’s nothing more toxic or more enriching to our emotional and spiritual well-being than the relationship we have with ourselves. Can you can see how the regard that we have for ourselves influences every aspect of our life?

Very simply, depending on the nature of the relationship we have with ourselves, we will:

attract people who will either honor us or tear us down

create strong connections with the people in our life or alienate ourselves from those very people

actively create a life of fullness and meaning, or passively maintain a life of emptiness and despair 

consistently shape our life to align with who we are, or live our lives following someone else’s plan

It’s easy to see how our self-inflicted wounds poison us. We drift further and further away from our genuine self by investing more and more of our energy into keeping out of our conscious awareness who we genuinely are.

Our life becomes dedicated to masking the presence of those parts of ourselves that we hold judgments about. Much of our energy becomes focused on hiding from our awareness those things we judge to be unacceptable about who we are.

Along with a life created by our own self-condemnation, we oftentimes add to our feelings of self-alienation because of the powerlessness we feel about our inability to create our own life, to follow our own choices. We so burden ourselves with the prejudices we hold against ourselves that we lose our ability to distinguish between what’s truth and what’s our own self-critical judgments.

Do you recognize any of these judgments?

We judge ourselves to be worthless and incapable

We judge ourselves to be powerless and ineffective

We judge ourselves to be small, frightened creatures who’re incapable of exerting any influence to change from within

From those judgments, it’s only one small leap to making fact out of these fictions. Fictions that are merely a reflection of our own prejudices rather than an accurate assessment of what we’re capable of. It’s a tricky dance because we feel so strongly all of those things we believe to be true about ourselves. And when we feel it, we carry those feelings to their seemingly natural conclusion, we make facts out of those feelings.

As a result, we lose sight of our personal capabilities. We lose sight of our power. And ultimately, we lose sight of our path. We make our prejudices about ourselves law, and follow those laws accordingly. We become blinded by the fear our judgments create, we abdicate our ability to actively pursue our own journey. We become paralyzed with our own self-doubt and needlessly walk away from our path.

Can you see how this flows from the damage we inflict upon ourselves? Can you see how this all flows from the relationship we’ve created with ourselves based upon the judgments and the distortions we hold about ourselves?

You see, when we accept the fact that deep within ourselves we’re whole and complete rather than broken and fragmented, then we’re much better able to sustain the effort necessary to stay true to our path.

But the bottom line is that feelings aren’t facts. We don’t have to buy into the lies and distortions we can be subject to when we give more power to our emotions than we need give.

As we move on, it would be worth our while to pause for a moment to think about what we are discussing. Have you ever even considered that you have a relationship with yourself? What’s the basis of that relationship? Is it a kind, affirming relationship? Is it a harsh, critical relationship? Is it the kind of relationship that’s clouded with denial and rationalizations? What are the inner wounds that you need to heal?

This is the passageway to kindness and acceptance. Kindness for yourself, acceptance for all the different pieces of the puzzle. This is where a shift needs to take place from within you about what’s within you. No one can do this for you. Only you can provide the amount of love and understanding necessary to allow all of the different parts of whom you are come together.

Just remember, out of this stage of the journey the promise for a new tomorrow will arise. A new tomorrow that’s less harsh and chaotic. A new tomorrow that’s more carefree and spontaneous. For as you heal the wounds that live within you, you will have also begun a life that’s predicated upon openness and inclusion rather than secrecy and exclusion.



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


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