Saturday, 9 January 2016

Stepping Over Our Wounds (via Henri Nouwen)

There is a struggle for those of us who bear the scars of old wounds. Each time a new hurt happens, it can rip open wounds, which remain fresh, because, instead of allowing the pain to fade and heal, in time, I know I have spent too long living with and feeding the underlying hurt by living and reliving the most painful of memories. It's as if I have a belief that I could 'undo' the past by remaining inside the trauma, condemning myself to be held captive in an never-ending 'time loop'.

I have a choice, to remain forever frozen in those moments of pain and so prolong the suffering, or accept that they have happened and will leave me with scars, reminders of what I have survived, but no longer capable of stopping me from moving forward. I found this meditation from Henri Nouwen helpful in explaining that choice and the moment when I can 'step over...' and move beyond the most difficult of experiences. I may be a product of my past but I do not have to be its prisoner:

'Sometimes we have to "step over" our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on. The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there. Then we become the "offended one," "the forgotten one," or the "discarded one." Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them. It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on.'


A note of caution if you find this thought of 'stepping over wounds' challenging - acceptance and moving on from the wounds of the distant past is not condoning all of the wrongs done to us, nor does it prevent us, if it is the right time and circumstances for us from seeking justice. What acceptance does is to help us recognise that no person, circumstance, substance or material possession will be able to undo the injustices and pain of the past. Nor does acceptance entirely remove the shadows cast by such traumas. What it allows us to do is accept that we have had the strength and courage to survive the worst. Having recognised that, we then have a choice: to remain trapped in the past, or to build on the strength and courage we have to live whatever life we choose, for ourselves. The prison door is open, but I still need to walk out of it, myself.