Friday, 9 August 2013

Tucked away

By the time you're my age, you've been through a lot of pain and hurt of one kind or another. If I gave it all free rein, it would be overwhelming. I would be an emotional wreck.

Childhood bullying, a vile-tempered father, failed friendships, failed romances, tyrannical bosses, nasty betrayals and rejections. Painful at the time and still painful many years later.

Those glib phrases "Get over it", "Deal with it", "Put it all behind you" are easy enough to say, not so easy to practise. Hurt isn't something you can just put in a rubbish bag and throw in the trash. It lingers, it loiters, it refuses to die.

You can come to terms with it. You can suppress it. You can take it to a therapist. You can pretend it's nothing much. You can take it out on other people. But at the end of the day it's still there, it's something you actually felt in all its raw intensity, and that has to leave a scar of some kind, a psychic wound. It happened and it's not going to unhappen. Somehow it has to be dealt with.

I have a bad memory. I'll forget the vicious words that someone used, the brutal look on their face, the clinical phrases in a redundancy letter. But I don't forget the cold way I was treated, the unkindness, the harshness.

I'm a forgiving person. But even when I can put myself in the other person's shoes, even when I can half-understand why they did what they did, what their motives were, what the catalyst was, it doesn't take away the pain.

Pain can cut you to the quick. It can break your heart. It can tear you to pieces. If I let it all out in its sheer extremity, I would be a jibbering lunatic. Like everyone else, I find ways of subduing it, of damping it down, of keeping it safely tucked away somewhere deep in my being.

Pain is the hidden shadow in everyone's identity. They may smile and chirp for other people's benefit, but who knows what they're keeping under wraps?


  1. I agree that everyone does have pain, but some are able to let go easier than others. And for many, the past can rear its ugly head in current situations.

    My husband has a coworker who just seems to constantly be dealing with his own childhood through his children. Almost as though he is reliving the pain of every hurtful remark he's ever heard. Not healthy!

  2. "Pain is the hidden shadow in everyone's identity."

    Superb phrase, Nick.

    I agree. We can deal with it, therapize it, give it away, but it lingers like a shadow.

    Wishing can't make it so.


  3. Part of why psychologists and psychiatrists have steady employment, and the good ones deserve our praise for the work they do.

  4. Bijoux: True, some find it easier to let go than others. Also true that events in the present can stir up old hurts. But using your children to deal with it is pretty bad.

    www: Thank you! Yes, we may be able to reduce the pain, but it seldom goes away entirely. The roots can go very deep.

    e: Indeed, there's plenty of raw material for therapists to consider. And in some cases they achieve remarkable results.

  5. The marks can stay etched inside like surface scars, but hopefully with time they will fade and be less noticeable t us as the years go by. A good partner or friends to confide in certainly helps.

  6. Grannymar: In my experience they may fade a bit, though as Bijoux said, something in the present can easily revive painful memories. But yes, a sympathetic confidante helps a lot.

  7. Why thank you, e!

    I think ultimately we all make a choice about whether to let past hurts poison us or not. Of course it's not easy to heal - it takes work. But it can be done. And although the painful memories will likely always be there, you can choose whether or not to make a home for them in your heart or to acknowledge them when they arise and let them go again.

  8. Agent: Well, I think I do quite well at not letting past hurts poison me, but they're always a sort of disturbing background noise. I probably should have had more therapy when I was younger, but I couldn't afford it in those days!

  9. I think you do very well Nick. This is a heartrending post...but it is heartwarming to know that in spite of all that horrible pain, you have become the compassionate person you are. There are all sorts of platitudes about healing, but you have shared a little of the pain in this post, so that can only be a good thing? Xxx

  10. nick,
    why do you think you should have had therapy when you were younger? isnt now as good a time as any?

    i think i can honestly say that i dont have a background noise of pain in my life. i have had deep deep pain and it has made its impression but it doesnt exist as pain any more.

  11. Hi Cinnamon! What a lovely thing to say, that despite all the pain I'm still a compassionate person. I certainly would never take my pain out on other people, they have enough pain of their own to deal with - much worse pain in a lot of cases. Crippling grief, sexual abuse, you name it.

  12. Kylie: Yes, I could have therapy now, but it would still be pretty costly so I'm hesitant to go down that route. It seems you're able to deal with pain in a way that prevents it becoming a long-term difficulty. Does religious belief help, do you think?

  13. with seeming financial security and probably not a huge number of coming expenses (no kids to raise or house to buy) what better to do with money than to look after your psyche?

    as a Christian it is my intention to make true the statement "I no longer live but Christ lives in me"
    in the case that i am managing that, then yes, i guess my response to pain is a result of my faith.
    i tend to think that people observing me are possibly better equipped to judge what difference faith makes in my life

  14. I think Love is the antidote to pain. I don't mean romantic Love, but coming to a point where you know that you are worthy of being loved unconditionally, either by a higher being or vicariously by another human being. Doing little things to make yourself proud of yourself, setting a small goal and achieving it, gives you a sense of value in yourself which helps to reduce the power of those hurtful voices in your life. Hope this doesn't sound trite or prescriptive, I just hate to think of people living with pain, whether physical or emotional xx

  15. And Kylie I have always admired the way you carry your faith xx

  16. Kylie: We're well-off at the moment but that may not last. Therapy might be helpful though.

    I think it's difficult for me to judge the effect of faith on your life because I can't see how you are inwardly applying your faith.

  17. Cinnamon, you're dead on about love!
    and thank you for the compliment.

    just so you all know i'm not some religious superfreak ,just this week in a momentof frustration i declared that there is no God

  18. Cinnamon: I think you're right that love is the antidote to pain. Luckily I have one very loving relationship which helps a great deal. But your concept of love is broader than that of course. I do think I'm worthy of being loved unconditionally, the problem is other people who will only love me or like me conditionally, so there are parts of myself I'm hesitant to expose.

    I do indeed do a lot of little things that enable me to value myself despite how others may see me. There are many things that give me huge pleasure and keep the pain in the background.

    Faith? What faith? You mean my general optimism about life, despite all evidence to the contrary?

  19. Kylie: There is no God? Shock horror, pass the smelling salts etc etc :-)

  20. Ah how true all of this is.

    Pain is a part of life. We are going to experience it, and some of us get to experience more of it than others, and some of us deal with it better than others. But you're absolutely right: the pain of these emotional or psychological wounds does not go away, and you can't package it up and MAKE it go away.

    Of course, it's also true that if you choose to ignore it and try to forget without processing it, it will come and bite you sometime in the future.

    My take on dealing with pain and unpleasant experiences is this: we are here in this life to learn, and when we are given something to learn and we refuse to learn it, that lesson will be presented in a different form, again and again, until we do.

    So my own philosophy is that I need to examine the events and my responses carefully at some stage. Not right away, because that's too difficult, but at some point when it's all settled down to 'bearable'. If I do that, I find that the sting tends to go out of them.

    Works for me. I have no idea if it would also work for you. We are all different.

  21. Jay: The idea that a lesson will be presented over and over until we learn it makes a lot of sense. I do tend to pick over painful experiences quite thoroughly. Sometimes I can see what went wrong and I can change my behaviour accordingly, other times I'm just baffled and stunned.

    Yes, the sting can go out of painful memories, but they still hover in the background like a clump of nettles, like unfinished business.

  22. I am like the proverbial elephant-I never forget.Some cases I will never forgive. But I just move on with life and try to be happy just to spite the lot of them.

  23. Bonsaimum: I agree, concentrate on being happy and don't let the arseholes think they've upset you. And have as little as possible to do with them.

  24. You move on with life because there is only one other option. Bad Things may become farther away with time but they have shaped you and the decisions you have made because of them.
    I'm not a fan of the phrase 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger', because I just don't think it's true. But I believe that what doesn't kill you makes you who you are.

  25. Mrs Madrigal: Very true that not only do those experiences shape us but influence our decisions. Hopefully decisions that will mean better friends, greater self-awareness and a happier life.

  26. Yes, it can be very hard to keep on top of bad and sad feelings. I was reading Ruby Waxs book the other day and she suggests "mindfulness". Seemed quite a good idea to me. Have you read the book?

  27. Pain certainly, but later on what makes us what we are is the fear of that pain. We can become free if we drop fear and just be spontaneous.

  28. Jenny: No, I haven't read Ruby Wax's book. I must take a look at it. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Ramana: I don't think I'm afraid of pain. I just always have the residue of it at the back of my mind.