Dealing with the Walking Wounded isn’t easy.
No, I’m not talking about Zombies. I’m talking about people with wounded hearts; the scars that impact our ability to give and receive love wholeheartedly. And when it comes down to it, all of us have been wounded to a certain extent.
So how do we transcend our wounds, and how do we deal with the people in our lives who have not yet been able to transcend their wounds?
True love, we are taught, is unconditional. It is the essence of life. It is the foundation of all connection; some would say it is our sole purpose in life. Love is the invisible force that can mend our wounds and disappointments and soothe our longings. It is innate and yet mysterious. It is infinite.
Love, like the sun, is a powerful force that exists even when covered in the dark, dreary clouds of a winter day; love exists even when we are submerged in the depths of despair.
So why do we put so many conditions on our love? After we are brought into the world, innocently invoking love in the eyes of our observers, when does our ability to express love change?
I’ve been contemplating what causes a shift in one’s ability to love , and I have noticed that some people have an easier time of tapping into their loving side than others.
There are people who seem to exude love and bring out the love in others. They are compassionate, genuine, encouraging, forgiving, accepting, comforting, honest, unpretentious and secure in themselves. They maintain a sense of humor.
There are people who seem to have a harder time expressing their love, often due to past experiences of rejection, betrayal, or a myriad of other reasons that may be less obvious.
The walking wounded may be guarded, suspicious, pretentious, egotistical, manipulative, dishonest, fearful, destructive, or insecure. In their most vulnerable state, they may have an insatiable appetite for approval.
Most of us have some combination of these traits which can vary depending on our mood and circumstances.
I have been told I have an extraordinary ability for forgiveness and a tolerance for moving past being slighted or mistreated. I probably developed this trait in childhood, when dealing with the ups and downs of my mom’s mental illness. Even when she lashed out harshly while delusional or paranoid, I still felt compassion and love towards her.
Several years ago when I was in counseling, I was told that I may not always recognize when I am in a harmful or negative relationship, perhaps due to my ability to overlook so much hurt in my childhood. Now I am learning how to love but let go when I am putting myself in a bad position. Letting go can feel like giving up, and I don’t like that feeling.
Here are 10 tips for dealing with the walking wounded:
- Loving myself is as important as expecting someone else to love me. The more I nurture and take care of myself, the more I am able to recognize and maintain healthy relationships. The more I love myself, the less likely I am to seek approval in unhealthy ways.
- I can’t help or fix everyone, nor can I know what is best for anyone other than myself. Distancing myself from someone who is being hurtful can be better for both of us. Growth often happens when we stop enabling unhealthy interactions and patterns.
- Seeking guidance from someone who knows me and in whom I trust when I am unsure about a situation or relationship. I have learned who I can trust and when to seek the guidance of a friend or counselor. It isn’t easy to navigate the intricacies of relationships, and its okay to ask for help when we are so close to a situation that our perspective has become distorted.
- Walking away from a harmful relationship can be better for me in the long run. Taking the difficult first steps away from a bad relationship can often be a bridge to better things. There is no better example in my own life than in my first marriage. For many years we struggled so hard to make our marriage work that we imposed unrealistic and hurtful judgments on each other. When we finally decided to let go of our expectations and see each other for who we were, we experienced the kind of love that allowed us to accept our differences and walk away. Six years after our divorce, our relationship has healed, and we have become better friends and people than we were in our struggles to be husband and wife. I believe that is what unconditional love looks like.
- Seeking and maintaining relationships with loving people can have wonderful benefits to my soul and ability to love. I want to surround myself with people who can teach me by example. I also want to be open the possibility that love can be found in the most unexpected people and not allow my own biases get in the way of witnessing the beauty of love.
- Recognizing that my own wounds may be distorting my perspective. Working on healing my own wounds can lead to a better vantage point with which to determine whether I am allowing my own insecurities to jeopardize a loving relationship.
- Living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I can’t change what happened to me in the past or predict what hurt or danger the future may bring. I can only take it one moment at a time and love right now.
- Striving to be genuine and focusing on giving rather than receiving love. Here is a quote from one of my favorite books on love.
- Taking time to meditate, read, and contemplate about love. There is no better way to feed one’s internal garden of love than to provide the best fertilizer possible for the seeds that are planted.
- Love can be expressed in different ways. I can achieve the greatest depth of love when I open my eyes and observe all of the ways in which its infinite power manifests itself in this world.
And finally, since I am the eternal optimist, I will leave you with this thought that gives me great hope, taken from the Helping guidelines on Familie’s Anonymous Website:
“All people are always changing. If I try to judge them, I do so only on what I
think I know of them, failing to realize that there is much I do not know. I will give others credit for attempts at progress and for having had many victories that are unknown.”