We all have relationship wounds. It’s what we do with them that matters.
By Dr T J Jordan
All of us have wound lists, whether we’re aware of them or not.
We don’t get very far in life without incurring relational wounds. And when we love, we automatically put ourselves in the riskiest trenches — because to love at all makes us vulnerable.
The issue is not whether we will be wounded. We will. The issue is how we will cope with our wounds. And it’s whether we will let them heal and let them go — or repeatedly rehearse our sufferings in ways that prohibit intimacy — that matters.
The first steps toward growth and healing are uncovering and acknowledging our wounds.
Five Categories of Relational Wounds
We live in similar but not identical macro social-environments — and we all create micro-environments that are unique to each of us. The specifics of our wounds reflect our unique lives — but we all are vulnerable to certain kinds of suffering.
Here are five categories of relational wounds to which we are vulnerable — as well as examples of how they can manifest in our adult relationships:
— 1. Rejection
“You don’t want me!”
Therefore, I’m not good enough.
I will withdraw.
(Here is the root of avoidant and disorganized attachment.)
— 2. Abandonment
“You left me when I needed you!”
Therefore, I can’t count on you when the going gets tough.
I will be dependent and anxious.
(Here is the root of anxious attachment.)
— 3. Betrayal
“You violated our commitment!”
I can’t trust you because you disrespected our agreement.
I will try to control your behavior.
(Here is the place of hyper-vigilance about signs of infidelity and obsession with monitoring our partner’s behavior.)
— 4. Humiliation
“You shamed me!”
I won’t be authentic with you anymore.
I will lean into emotional masochism.
(Here is where we learn to mistranslate the negative arousal of shame as sexual arousal.)
— 5. Injustice
“You treated me in ways I never deserved!”
I can’t count on being appreciated.
I will be rigid in my relationship rules.
(This is the basis of strict boundaries and quick anger over transgressions.)
Your wound list is composed of the specific instances of hurt that fall into these categories. Rejections can come in the form of withholding sex or avoiding emotional conversations. Betrayals can be overt infidelity or a sidelong glance at a hot body. Enough said. Chances are that your experiences of relational pain reflect at least a couple of these categories.
What is your wound list?
Our core wounds are described as the places where we got gashed open by life.
They are the essence of what makes us feel “less than” or “different from” others. And because they often occur early on, they have long lasting consequences for our views of ourselves and our relationship capabilities.
Not all of us have core wounds — but many of us do.
Feeling unattractive, undesirable, or stupid are examples of core wounds. They typically overlap with the categories above, but they wield special power over our sense of self.
Encountering these wounds early in life is different from encountering them later on — because young people don’t easily buy the caterpillar to butterfly promise.
Growing up late — as in immaturity — leaves lasting scars on our sense of self. We wind up feeling like we’ve never caught up. Being tall or fat or geeky are other examples of the kinds of characteristics that make for repeated small t traumas. Growing up with a narcissistic parent — or living with a narcissistic partner — might have dealt us core wounds.
What are your core wounds?
Insight into our wounds is not enough to effect change — but it’s an essential beginning.
When our awareness expands to encompass a sense of our wounds, our perspective changes. Here is an example*:
As little kids, we might have found Halloween scary. We might have falsely believed that those in costume wielded the power that their masks represented. As we grew up, our awareness changed. We understood that what we feared was not all that powerful — but it was our thinking that made it so.
Something similar happens when we get on better terms with our wounds. We lose some of our fear — and our wounds lose some of their power. We learn how to live with Halloween without letting it continue to re-wound our hearts.
As we grow up, we skin our knees and eventually we skin our hearts. But these wounds leave the scars that come from having tried to love. And, as scars go, they are probably the best.
(Find out about scheduling a free thirty minute individual or couples therapy session with me here or email me at email@example.com. I am a concierge clinical psychologist in private practice with an emphasis on remote sessions. I provide practical psychological strategies to enhance love, sex, and intimacy, as well as personal growth. I combine life lessons with clinical psychology in a mentorship framework. Together we collaboratively explore ways to celebrate self and self-in-relationship.)
*Halloween example courtesy of Dr R Grallo.
Many thanks for reading!