Price: Learning to cope with 'walking wounded'
Typically, this column features advice from guest writers who have written a book on the subject of healthy marriage. Today’s column differs on three fronts. First, it is aimed at relationships in general, rather than just marriage; second it has not yet been published; and third the guest writer is me. What you're about to read is an excerpt from my hopefully-soon-to-be-published book "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work — Toolbox Edition."
I’m pleased to say my original e-book (the version without the Toolbox) made it to No. 1 on Amazon. Before you get too excited or consider asking me for a loan, I better tell you that it was indeed No. 1 for two whole days and in three specific categories. Nevertheless, I am hearing from people who have read it that it is a worthy investment of 99 cents and about an hour of life.
As you read this column, I challenge you to consider your spouse and how you might be an agent of healing to help him or her move past emotional and relational hurts from their past. If done correctly, marriage can indeed make up for past disappointments and bring restoration.
Chapter Two: The Walking Wounded
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle." — Plato
I believe it was Mohandas Gandhi who said all of us have fallen short of the mark of perfection, and that fact, he determined, is the great equalizer among all humanity. Another very common trait we share is that we might all be called "the walking wounded." I don’t know most of you who are reading this book right now, but I have a pretty good idea that you were hurt when you were young. I have reason to believe that you experienced some degree of trauma, pain or disappointment in your childhood that is likely still impacting you today, perhaps far more than you realize.
The vast majority of us know all too well the experience of having been let down or mistreated by others upon whom we were dependent. Some may have learned to cover over past hurts very well, and they seemingly have no impact on life today. But we shouldn’t be surprised when a memory from the past comes flooding into our thoughts and puts us right back in the moment of pain.
Let me give you an illustration from my own life. Several years ago, I treated my wife to a movie at a theater in my town where you could see a recently run movie for $1.50 per person. The movie was "Stepmom," starring Ed Harris, Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Sarandon and Harris were the divorced parents of two young children, I’m thinking 8 and 12 or so. Sarandon was dying of cancer, so now Roberts, who was engaged to Harris, was about to become not just a stepmom, but the kids’ only mom.
Probably about 45 minutes into the movie, I began to tear up. and the tears mounted to the point where I was full body sobbing. My wife looked over at me and asked, "Are you alright?" I told her I was fine, which was, in fact, a total lie. I was a wreck, and I didn’t understand why. She asked if I wanted to leave, and I declined because my tears subsided and I had regained my composure — at least for another 10 to 15 minutes or so when the floodgates opened again.
At this point, I began to think basic manly thoughts like, "I’m glad this is a dark theater, and no one is close enough to see me doing this." But this time, I knew exactly what was behind my emotional upheaval. While everyone else in the theater was watching Sarandon die from cancer, I was very painfully reliving the death of my own mother, Sylvia Price, who died after a two-year battle with cancer at the ridiculously young age of 36. She left behind my father, her devoted husband of just 12 years, my older brother, age 10½, my younger sister, age 4, and me, age 8.
Though decades have passed since my mom’s passing, there is still a place of hurt and pain in my heart. A longing for her embrace and her nurturing that I was cheated out of when I needed it most. On some levels, I have certainly moved on, but on other levels I have not. And it doesn’t take much to get the tears coming when a memory of her flashes into my mind.
Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. While the specific details are different for you, you also have moments when you relive painful experiences from your past. The point I most want to make is that during those recall moments, you must be so careful to not engage in grown-up encounters. Those moments can have such a profound impact on us that we act more like a 4, 5 or 6 year old than a 40, 50 or 60 year old.
You can likely recall times at work or in your marriage or other important relationships when one or both of you were very heated and emotional. Chances are you were not in your thinking mind at those times, but acting more like a child throwing a tantrum and stomping your feet. I’m not trying to make excuses, but rather to give an explanation for what can happen to any of us and that can lead to disastrous consequences for a relationship.
At these times, your best course of action is to take a time-out and escape the turmoil until you can get to a place where you are more able to deal with it in a mature, productive manner. A hug, if appropriate, in the relationship could also be helpful, or some other gesture to indicate compassion and care.
No one ever said life was easy, but I dare say that it can be much easier when we learn to keep the past in a proper perspective and not allow it to determine our course for the present or future.
And just one last note, since it’s likely true that most everybody you know is walking wounded to some degree. why not cut them and yourself some slack.
Chapter Challenge: Counseling is a negative concept to many, but oftentimes a few sessions with a professional can help you to move past decades of grief. If you realize you are impacted more than you want to be by past hurts, please consider engaging the services of a counselor either in person or online who can get to a better emotional state. You might carefully consider suggesting the same to someone you know well who could likewise benefit.
Ron Price is the owner and operator of Productive Outcomes Inc. and the author of "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work," an e-book available on Amazon. He can be reached at 505-324-6328.