Today, men and women are running around empty, trying to fill a void with addictions to work, busyness, alcohol, drugs, high debt, pornography, serial dead-end relationships, and sex without commitment. My book speaks about the futility of this empty search and helps you find peace and meaning beyond yourself. You Can?t Heal a Wound by Saying It?s Not There is about recognizing the wounds we all have from growing up that cripple us until we face them and overcome them. Written in a case study format and interspersed with poignant illustrations and memoirs from the author?s life, this book helps people identify what they need to do to grow up and become all that God intended so that they can use their life to help someone else be better. I have learned much from people who have taught me over the years in private psychotherapy practice. I have also learned much from people I have served in churches and from our church systems that sometimes leave people marginalized. Thus, I have a passion for and am drawn to those who have been alienated for one reason or another from ?church? and institutionalized religion. With that said, I am currently planting a new church with outreach to people who feel disconnected from God. (www.connectionscommunitychurchirvine.net)
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The Wound: Defining It Spiritually and Emotionally
Around the world, thousands of people are in the midst of rebuilding lives that have been torn apart by earthquakes and floods. After the major devastation of a natural disaster, the work of rebuilding begins from ground up, layer upon layer. Others face similar rebuilding after dealing with deeply personal devastations. The difference between the two is that those who come for treatment still have their possessions intact. But what they find is that they still feel empty and disoriented. A typical example is Ben, a man who came to our first session explaining he had several luxury cars, a beautiful wife, had made a great deal of money, but was unhappy and restless with all the turmoil in his life.
Ben's wife was binge drinking and partying with her friends while he sat at home wallowing in his addiction to alcohol and pornography. This was not the way he wanted their life to go. He loved his wife and had recently reunited with her after a two-month trial separation. However, not much had changed since reuniting. Ben was raised Catholic but found "some of the doctrines too complicated." As part of his search, he went to a Bible teaching church, which he liked very much, and his wife attended with him. Soon he began thinking about starting a family and saving money. Ben desperately wanted to know why he was addicted and how to be rid of it. This became the focus of our next few sessions.
No matter how it's packaged, what drives people to seek help reflects our first principle: acknowledging a wound. Donald Miller put it this way, "I do buy the idea we are flawed, that there is something in us that is broken."
I, too, believe we have a deep sense of knowing about this flaw, which gnaws away inside until we can run from it no longer.
Acknowledging the wound is important for two reasons: First, because it gives voice to the pain inside that has long been covered over with addictions or even socially acceptable things like work and achievement. Such was my own case. I recall the event that forced me to acknowledge my wound. Prior to entering seminary, I was preparing a speech to give at my former church in honor of Mental Health Month, encouraging people to be aware of how important it is to maintain a lifestyle of good mental health. I never gave that speech. A tragic family situation occurred, which made me realize I was living a lie and had no right to stand before an audience as a mental health expert because my own life was a mess. God moved me to throw away my notes and talk from my heart instead. For the first time, I got real as I publicly spoke about the event that enabled me to acknowledge I was a wounded woman who had, until then, hidden behind my education and achievements.
Second, acknowledging the wound also allows one to own the problem and accept the need to work on it if there is ever going to be any change. After I spoke honestly at my former church and owned my wound publicly, I became one of them. People saw me differently and began to share one-on-one with me about their own wounds.
In a formal counseling setting, the patient is aware there is a reason their life is not working. For example, Ben, though troubled with his wife's behavior, knew he had a problem with drinking, pornography, and frequent masturbation. He realized that while his wife's behavior was disturbing, he needed to begin working on himself by looking at the issues that compulsively drove him to excel at work, only to find he was unable to deal with life once he came home. He was soft-spoken, uncomfortable with chaos, disorder, and drama, but what began to eat away at him inside was the increasing tension he experienced at home with his wife. She would periodically erupt, raising her voice. He complained that she kept the house sloppy by allowing their dogs to mess on the carpet and that she mismanaged money.
Ben grew up the only son of a single mother. His father left when Ben was a young boy, so he never knew him. Ben's mother was loving and kind. She struggled to keep things together financially. Ben grew to play the role of caretaker at a young age. Since he was fourteen years old, he worked at developing computer software. In his marriage, he repeated the role of caretaker. (The transference carried over to the way he related to his wife although that was not what he consciously wanted.)
This kind of scenario will vary from person to person. The important thing is acknowledging the wound in order to own your part in the problem so you may begin to change and heal.
Ben acknowledged the problem, which meant he owned it and gave voice to it so he could begin the work of change.
Of course we can ignore obvious signs, but things will not change. It reminds me of a recent incident with my GPS. I was traveling to meet friends at a birthday celebration. I was generally familiar with the area but unable to locate the actual street. My GPS almost led me to my destination, except for the last two turns, which were critical to my finding the correct place. Unbeknownst to me, the address printed on the invitation was off. So the GPS went berserk, telling me to make a U-turn and go south, and when I did, it told me to go north. After two reversals, I was aware that either my GPS system needed to be reprogrammed, or I was off track. To end going around in circles, I phoned my friends and learned that the destination was avenue instead of street. With their input, I found the place in a few minutes.
This is a word picture of what we experience until we acknowledge our wound. We will stay off track, covering the same terrain, and go nowhere.
A Story from the Bible: Jeremiah 6:14
"You can't heal a wound by saying it's not there!" (TLB)
"They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace." (NASU)
This passage is relevant because the people of ancient Israel took their focus away from God and failed to acknowledge they had a wound. They got off track, kept repeating the same cycles, and became attached to things. It is what Dallas Willard calls "obsession with unsatisfied desires," or what we know as addictions. That is equally true for us. No matter what we drive, where we shop, or what we possess, nothing really satisfies. Like ancient Israel, we struggle with, but never are satisfied with, what we have. And like them, we push moral and social boundaries until we cross over the line.
Jeremiah makes clear that these wounds are so grave there is no cure. It is also a prophecy about the coming of Christ as the cure for our wounds. The ancient world did not have the distractions of the Internet and Twitter. They resorted to their own cultural diversions to stray from God's intentions and never acknowledged their wounds. Their focus was only on self-satisfaction.
This is what happens to us! Dallas Willard says it this way, "Our will turns in on itself." We want what we want, and we will never cease in our struggle to soothe ourselves and find relief.
When I began to acknowledge my wound, I was very much like exiled Israel: broken within myself, separated from God and from community. Fracture happens when we primarily focus on self. It is what happened to Israel. People stopped living in covenant, and God sent them into exile. No longer was life grounded on a horizontal axis (people-oriented) or a vertical axis (God-directed). They moved away from a godly life of telling the truth, loving one's neighbor, and being faithful to one's spouse. Instead, they indulged in excesses, which we would call addictions, that took the place of God. When the Israelites broke covenant with God, they no longer joined with God in relating to Him and people. In our own lives, like falling dominos, we see the crumbling impact on relations with others as our sense of purpose becomes more temporal than eternal in perspective and we live for today instead of tomorrow. Such behavior leads to an inability to experience God at work in one's life and an inability to give God worth in return. This is the wound we, and the ancients, felt.
So serious was the wound that throughout the book of Jeremiah and later chapters of the Bible, God said there was no healing for their wounds because they were incurable.
As I indicated, my own life was broken, fractured. By the time I was in my first year of psychiatric residency, I began to discover just how splintered I was as I attended the weekly psychoanalytic therapy sessions required by my doctoral program. It was there the lightbulb turned on inside my head when my analyst remarked he could not ascertain if I was angry even though he heard me say the words, because I smiled when I talked about my anger. This behavior is called cognitive dissonance — when one's words do not match facial expression or body language. Fractured in my relationships as well as within myself, I stuffed down anger so well. I had been cut off from my own feelings for many years until my analyst's comment helped me acknowledge my wound. Later in analysis, I discovered that fragmenting feelings from thought was how I had learned to survive as I grew up.
I spent the first ten years of my life unaware I was so wounded in ways which would fast forward into my future, washing over me like a wave at high tide, where I lost footing for a while. Somewhere around age twelve, I began to feel a gnawing in the pit of my stomach. Years later, it was diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome and later still as diverticulosis. The disease inside me festered slowly during years of "walking on eggshells" in response to stormy, anxiety-provoking interactions with my father.
He was a sensitive man and committed to his family. So committed he never missed a day of work. However, despite his deep level of commitment, below the surface smoldered what today would be called a rageaholic personality that I would come up against throughout the course of my life. My parents married when they were in their twenties, remaining together until death separated them fifty-four years later.
Dad was the disciplinarian, and my mother was the nurturer. My mom kissed me, dried my tears, and cheered me on, making me understand I could do things that seemed impossible to me. She was the quintessential example of what psychology calls the good mother and what the Bible calls a godly mother. She'd do anything for me, whether staying up late at night to help me finish a term paper or sewing a skirt for me from her old maternity clothes. Then she would be up early the next morning to go to her office job. Her goodness extended not just to her children but also to new people who moved into our neighborhood for whom she'd bake a cake from scratch or prepare and deliver an entire meal. At her funeral service years later, many people who felt the incredible emptiness left by her death lauded her as one who built them up so that no matter how bad they felt before, they walked away from her feeling better, taller, smarter, and more beautiful.
I was the eldest of four children growing up in a proper East Coast family. Our home was orderly, rule-bound, and shame-based. I never quite knew what would set off my dad or what rule I might break because of my inquisitive nature and strong will. By any standard, I was a good child and a virgin until I married at age twenty-one. I never caused problems for my parents, other than occasionally missing a curfew by a few minutes.
My mother understood me because of her keen sensibilities and compassionate heart. She found outlets for my inquiring mind. She fed that part of me with regular trips to the public library, where I learned to love books. I read to satisfy my curiosity about why things were the way they were. My dad, often impatient with me, was not open to questions if they challenged his way of thinking. Somewhere around age sixteen, I remember going to the library to check out a book entitled No Exit by the existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre. I eagerly read the one-act play trying to grasp Sartre's concept. His story is about three dead people condemned to a hell without any mirrors in which they could see their own reflections. The characters work out what they believe is real by what others reflect. Sartre believed that one is unable to define one's own essence, from which there is no exit from self-deception.
This depressed me. He concluded that people are put in our lives to make us miserable, and I could not accept it. But God used my search to prod me to journey on even though my theological understanding was not very developed at that time.
I continued to ponder and read anything I could get my hands on, mostly books that provoked deep thought and soul searching. I had a King James Version of the Bible that my grandmother gave me when I was twelve. I tried to read it many times, but with poor understanding because of the stilted, albeit poetic, language. I was seeking to understand, many times asking myself, "What is my purpose in life?" I had occasional exposure to organized religion between the ages of five and twelve when my mother would drop us off at various churches in the neighborhood. This did not last long and caused conflict between my parents because my father wanted us to go to his church or no church. In my late teens, I began attending my dad's denominational church because that is when my father, a preacher's son who had strayed from church because of his own struggle with fundamentalist religion, turned forty and made a recommitment of his life to Christ. This only increased my confusion and made me feel even more uptight and guilty. The rules in our home intensified, reinforced by religion under the all-seeing eye of a God who was exacting and whom I feared would zap me for my mistakes. God seemed like an angry old man, very much like my dad whom I could never please. This spawned an internal codependent style of trying to please my dad, then other men, and ultimately God. I was looking for approval.
This is what acknowledging the wound did for me: when I realized the wound in me had me holding grudges in my relationship with my dad and unable to be authentic with others, I began my journey to get well. Not only that, but because I was on a professional path in mental health, and later the ministry, I could more easily identify the pattern in others.
So what are we really talking about when we say you can't heal a wound by saying it's not there? Essentially we are saying that trying to find peace on your own terms is short-lived. Ultimately, we have to face and deal with our inner wounds. Unattended wounds fester. But once we deal with them, wounds cover over with scar tissue, making one stronger than before.
Part of acknowledging the wound is recognizing there are gender differences in the way wounds manifest. Let's turn now to family patterns as we look at differences in the anatomy of wounds for men and for women.
How We Get There: Gender Differences
Theologically, the root of our adult wounds finds its place in the ultimate breach or fracture in our covenant relationship with God, just as it was with ancient Israel in Jeremiah 6:14. An important part of being able to acknowledge the wounds with which we struggle today includes understanding the psychological and emotional influences of how wounds take shape. Relationships that begin at home when we were children provide some understanding of developmental differences between females and males.
A look at four characteristics of our relational lives show how early wounds take root and manifest later in adulthood:
Relationship with Father
For both men and women, generally if the relationship with Dad was a good one, the child matures with an integrated emotional base. If the relationship with Dad was negative, or Dad was absent or not present emotionally, a male child has difficulty sustaining a consistent sense of himself as an adult. For example, Ben never really knew his father as he was growing up. Although Ben was successful professionally and had made a million dollars before he was twenty-five, he began to feel unsure of himself as a man: without a college degree and apart from consistent guidance from his father, he questioned some of his life decisions as he approached thirty.
Excerpted from "You Can't Heal a Wound by Saying It's Not There"
Copyright © 2017 Dr. Saundra J. Taulbee.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART I Anatomy of the Wound, 1,
Principle 1: Acknowledging the Wound, 1,
- 1 - The Wound: Defining It Spiritually and Emotionally, 1,
- 2 - How We Get There: Gender Differences, 9,
PART II Anatomy of the Wound, 17,
Principle 2: Facing the Wound, 17,
- 3 - How Real People Faced Their Wounds, 17,
- 4 - Stories of Families, Couples, and Children Who Faced their Wounds, 29,
PART III Long-Term Consequences of Wounds, 43,
Principle 3: Dangers of Ignoring the Wound, 43,
- 5 - Denying the Wound, 43,
- 6 - When Wounds Become Roots of Bitterness and Faded Dreams, 48,
- 7 - Wounds of Our Culture, 52,
PART IV Hope for the Future, 79,
Principle 4: Moving Toward Recovery, 79,
- 8 - On Healing the Wound (Jeremiah 31), 79,
- 9 - You Can Go Home Again, 87,
- 10 - Overcoming Generational Wounds, 93,
- 11 - Using Your Life to Make a Difference: Becoming a Wounded Healer, 103,
- 12 - Closing Thoughts, 107,
Study Guide, 119,
Notes and Leaders' Guide Addendum (Endnotes), 133,
Author Biography, 143,