I recently visited a friend who lives in a fun Boston neighborhood with some characters, including a group of burly men who often congregate on a corner, bringing their tiny lap dogs to scurry around their feet.
Then there's a mysterious woman. She is well dressed and frequents local establishments, behaving "normally" with one exception: everywhere she goes, she pushes and pulls four giant suitcases.
"It's an unsolved neighborhood mystery," my friend explained, "No one knows what those suitcases are for but no one has ever seen her without them."
Regardless of their purpose, one thing is clear: they really slow her down. I saw her crossing the street which, given her baggage, took a very long time.
I'm not going to speculate about this stranger, but I will say: I have never witnessed a more perfect metaphor in the physical realm for what most of us do with our emotional wounds.
Drag them around, take them everywhere. Then, we wonder: why am I not getting where I want? Why do I feel blocked and stuck? Why does it feel like something is always in my way?
I think sometimes people hear the term "emotional wounds" and completely shut down. They feel that's territory reserved for those with reallybad childhoods (abuse, war refugees, etc.). I disagree; I believe everyone has emotional wounds (no one has a pain-free past), and, unless you do inner work to heal them, you're kind of stuck with them, like the suitcase lady, dragging them around wherever you go. Never leaving home without 'em!
I also do not believe in "ranking" emotional pain.
When I was in seventh grade, a red headed boy dumped a blonde girl named Ashley. This breakup sent Ashley running through the hallways, sobbing inconsolably, globs of mascara streaming down her cheeks, to the guidance counselor’s office.
In the cafeteria, discussing anything else was impossible.
“The guidance counselor?” said a girl at my lunch table, voice thick with judgement.
“It’s a junior high boyfriend,” another added, as if her own life did not revolve around her own junior high boyfriend.
Not even fifteen, and already socially conditioned to scoff at emotional pain.
Our society all but worships the mind (education is everything!) and the body (exercise! eat healthy!), but almost completely neglects the spiritual and emotional side of life. We've heard of the Mind, Body, Spirit trinity—yet even prioritizing mental health is often a stretch. Spiritual or emotional health is, generally, ignored.
By seventh grade, though I was experiencing intense emotions, I was essentially emotionally illiterate. I contributed to the lunch table with cruel attempts at sarcasm. In the car that evening, my twin sister and I shared this middle school gossip with our mother.
I still remember her response: “It’s good she went to the guidance counselor and it doesn’t matter it’s a seventh-grade boyfriend. Her pain is real to her.”
Her pain is real to her.
This is a perfect starting point for emotional healing. Acknowledging, without judgment: your pain is real to you.
Another realization that helped me begin healing emotional wounds is this: Blaming is not healing. (I am not condoning the cruel actions of the people who've hurt you. But I am emphatically stating: Blaming is not healing.)
But why heal the wounds? Why face the pain? Why not just let leave the past alone?
I believe the present moment is the most powerful moment—but there is an immense difference between healing your past and ignoring your past. Emotional wounds, like physical wounds, fester if ignored.
Then, they can unexpectedly surface and ruin something for you: a romantic relationship, a work opportunity, a friendship, etc. (At least, in my experience.)
Identifying patterns can help: Do you always break up for the same reason? Do you attract the same kind of people over and over? Do your friendships get to a certain point but never advance into the deep connection you crave?
These patterns can point toward your invisible "suitcases"—the things you're subconsciously dragging around with you that are blocking you. (In my opinion, only when you face something can you truly let it go.)
And the beautiful part: when you heal and release your past you create space in your present—space for joy and love and peace and abundance to enter your life.
Pema Chödrön's book Awakening Loving Kindness opens with this line:
"There's a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable."
Which reminds me of my homegirl Anaïs Nin's quote I shared a longer version of a few weeks back:
"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."
I realize now that instead of running away from my pain my whole life, I could have been running toward it, toward healing, just as Ashley ran through the hall to the guidance counselor.
Of all the Rumi quotes I love (and, as you know, there are many), this is the one I'm considering getting tattooed on my side:
"The wound is the place where the Light enters you."
There is a judging, human side of me that wishes that you, specifically, do not have any emotional wounds. That you've never been hurt at all. That, as you read this, you cannot conjure up a single painful memory.
There is also a spiritual, divine side of me that knows wounds are integral for growth. It knows there's nothing wrong or bad about emotional wounds—a wound is simply a state one must go through. Wounds are part of the whole. The light with the darkness, the yin with the yang.
There is nothing wrong with wounds.
But it is up to each one of us to let the Light in.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. I recently found this quote: "The doors to the world of the soul are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door. If you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door." —Clarissa Pinkola Estés