And that's why we need more than just time to heal all wounds
by Lydia Waruszynski, M.Ed
No matter how much our past remains behind us, it still has a way of slipping into our present. It’s normal that we carry our personal perception of our past experiences with us, especially when it comes to our love relationships. However, sometimes the weight of certain memories can be downright debilitating and feel more like emotional quicksand. When this happens, it usually means you probably avoided or underestimated the significance of the pain you suffered in the past. Unpacking your hurt, fears and triggers while assessing your needs for healing becomes essential in order to be able to move forward more freely and feel like you can take back your life again. Once vulnerabilities are identified and old energy is released, not only are you inspired to move forward or enter relationships with more confidence, it encourages you to grow more authentically, too. Ignored, it remains a surefire way of keeping you stuck in your status quo, blocking the flow of change, and allowing familiarity to repeat in the future.
“How frightening is the past that awaits us”. Antoni Słonimski
Our emotional health is a critical part of well-being. Our feelings are important, whether we think of them as good or bad. In fact, we really need to understand that our feelings provide us with the stories we tell ourselves and what we bring into our intimate relationships. Because we often make assumptions based on our emotional history, we often unconsciously transfer onto our partners what we experienced or felt we were dealt in the past. Too often what happens is we blame each other for what goes wrong in the relationship and fail to see the link between our personal lifelong conflicts and the conflicts in our relationships- between the pain or hurt we carry within ourselves and the pain or hurt we experience as a couple. Emotions are like that: every time we have an experience in the present, we are also experiencing it in the past.
This is why gaining a better awareness of the way relationships and emotions were handled in our family of origin is always a good idea. After all, our family of origin is the first place we learned about love. So, too, our expectations around love. This is where we learned about communication and also about what troubled us about our family dynamics -especially around core issues involving anger, fear and hurt. Exploring our personal history can help us understand what from our painful past may be trickling into the present. Ultimately, through shared conversation, we can stay connected to ourselves while we try to stay connected to each other, and not feel like we are collapsing under some enormous emotional weight whenever we try to communicate. Living in the moment in this way not only helps foster awareness and facilitate choice, it also teaches you what may no longer serve you and, most importantly, the (new) direction you need to take.
Letting go of the past is a process & learning to let go takes practice
All of us are capable of having a loving relationship, but it does take some effort, especially the willingness to be uncomfortable with our feelings. Our vulnerabilities are the fragile feelings usually left over from our painful past, particularly the stuff which keeps us up in the middle of the night and that very few people, if any at all, really know about. However, the only real way of dealing with these type of feelings is to feel them, identify and open up with them. In a relationship, it can mean the difference between being fully heard and seen -and staying grounded in the present in response to your partner- or remaining wounded and walled-off, continuing to be plagued by -and react to events of- your past. It can mean lightening the emotional load by finally realizing that perhaps it’s not the load that breaks us down, rather it’s the way we carry it.
The following is an exercise couples explore in my workshop called Family Matters. Asking each other these questions can help us listen to and acknowledge one another -especially our unique emotional history- creating a bridge between the past and present, between the self and other- and profoundly discover a new truth together… in present time.
My Story+Your Story=Our Story
One of my favourite poems or literary works about love and marriage comes from a prophet by the name of Kahlil Gibran. He writes about the importance of couples coming together in love but not losing sight of who they are individually, and especially their own unique purpose: That people can come together in love and not lay all their expectations at each other’s feet, waiting for them to be fulfilled by the other. In my field we call this differentiation. If truth be known, in our society, we valourize phrases like "I found my soul-mate" or “you complete me” and “my better half” much more than “stand together yet not too near together”. Yet, the latter is a much more healthy option. Why? When we know who we are, and are able to stand on our own two feet, own our own thoughts and feelings and clearly express them to one another- without expressly resorting to hurting each other- not only do we muster up the skill of authenticity, we also pave the road for living a life with more curiosity, meaning and compassion. I believe KG really understood what it meant to be able to add to someone's life and to grow in marriage.
Hi, I'm Lydia- a modern-day warrior of the heart with a mission to reconcile the mystery and mastery of Love.