When crisis calls my core wound out of hiding and energizes it into activity, it’s a wonderful opportunity to heal that part of myself. I become more free to live fully.
Please note: This post is a shaman’s perspective, and specifically about healing the spirit. As such, it is not a substitute for a psychologist’s expertise or care.
Perhaps all individuals have at least one character trait that causes them major problems and that, no matter how hard they try, remains. Or that, no matter how much progress they make regarding that trait, might return.
These traits often arise in childhood, as coping mechanisms to deal with a crisis. When such attributes start during our developmental years, they may, over time, become deeply ingrained in our cells. They’re an actual part of us and, even when they seem far in the past, might re-emerge during a new crisis.
For example, someone might grow up thinking their life has no value, so as an adult they let others take unfair advantage of them, work themselves to exhaustion for other people, and ignore their own needs. If they overcome that negative belief about themselves and start to live more happily, a crisis might cause their lack of self-worth to flare up again, perhaps as bad as it was in the past. They once again forget their own needs and take care of everyone except themselves, at least to some degree.
I think of this kind of trait as a core wound because, in my case, it has been core to my problems throughout my life and returned so persistently. It also feels core to my being. In fact, sometimes, I feel like I’ve left my core wound behind but then see it is, right then, messing with me in subtle ways.
There’s one more thing to add to my definition of core wound. For the purposes of this post, the term refers to self-defeating thoughts and devastating emotions, not actions one might take based on those thoughts and feelings.
A core wound is flaring up for me right now, big time. Not at all subtly. Here’s what I’m doing about it, in case you want to try the same approach.
I committed to spending a week not trying to change that trait in myself. Instead:
Self love is vital in self healing.
2. During the week, If I notice I am harshly judging myself for that trait—for example, thinking I’m not spiritually evolved if I have it, or I should have eradicated it by now—I will remind myself that no human feeling or thought is wrong. They are simply feelings and thoughts.
Compassion for self helps self-healing.
3. Occasionally, during the week, I’ll just be with that trait—sit with it for a few minutes. I don’t mean I will analyze it, invalidate it, validate it, or journal about it. I will just rest my attention on it. That attention will not be an effortful, sharp focus. I will rest my attention on that part of myself the way my head rests on a pillow at night.
That attention is not the same as morbidly dwelling on the problem, e.g., worrying about what further problems it might cause or worrying if I’ll ever be free of it.
And I won’t make decisions based on that feeling or thought, or build a life philosophy around it. I can do that later if I want. But if I do it now, I might be making decisions and building a philosophy as a way to escape facing a feeling or thought.
I’m going to just let that trait be and feel it. In other words, I’m going to accept it and be with it.
I’m not talking about an intellectual acceptance, but a gut level acceptance that I achieve when I pay relaxed attention to whatever it is I want to accept.
Accepting a trait does not mean resigning myself to forever being at its affect. In the context of this essay, accepting a trait means acknowledging, at a gut level, its existence.
When sitting with the trait, I will try to note when I’m distracted from it by disheartening thoughts like, “I am stuck, so will never get to the point where I’ll live the way I want” and then turn my attention back to the trait.
I can easily think, when old troubling traits re-emerge, that their revival proves I haven’t grown. I find their return discouraging. I might start to feel hopeless and convince myself all my efforts toward spiritual growth have been futile. In that dispirited state, it’s easy to convince myself I don’t, to substantial degrees, already live the way I want. However, over the years, moving from a life I hated to this life I love, setbacks occurred all along the way. My finally reaching my beloved way of life proves setbacks don’t keep me from moving ahead.
Acceptance of one’s rage isn’t the same as giving oneself permission to lash out at others. Extrapolate from this sentence accordingly when it comes to other traits and actions.
A note: when I led one of my students in being with a core wound, he found it too difficult to sit with an especially painful emotion. Don’t expect the impossible of yourself. Perhaps you’re not ready. Trust that you will know when you are. Or perhaps you need further support than this article. You can do a private session with me. I can help you get ready, or sit with you while you sit with the pain, or I can otherwise use my spiritual tools to help you face awful pain. We can do that long distance by phone. Click here for more information: https://outlawbunny.com/pastoral-counseling/
And, right now, I’ll tell you something I realized. It helped that student, so might help you: I noticed that, sometimes, great emotional pain is easier for me to be with if I focus on it as a physical sensation, feeling it the way I’d feel a lovely breeze on my face or an awful bump to my shin.
Shamanism is about connectivity. Shamanic healing is about connectivity. Speaking only for myself, I cannot heal a spiritual wound until I allow myself to “be” with it. As long as I’m pushing it away, that part of myself loses its mooring, becomes disconnected from the rest of me. Disconnected, it cannot become fully healthy.
Acceptance of a wound and being with it are two steps in healing it, for me. In fact, they can be enough to heal it, to greater or lesser degrees.
As I said, a core wound is part of me. When I accept, love, have compassion for, and sit with my problematic aspects, I’m not only better connected within myself, I also open to a connection with the Greater Whole—the love of the universe can invisibly flow to and through me to heal me. I also open up to healing support from other individuals.
When the week ends, if I think other work is needed to shift my energy, and I feel ready for that, the aforementioned steps I’ll have taken this week might be the difference in whether additional steps work or not. This week’s work can definitely make further efforts more successful.
When crisis calls my core wound out of hiding and energizes it into activity, it’s a wonderful opportunity to heal that part of myself at a deeper level than I had in the past. Therefore, it might become less a part of my cells—less influencing me in any ongoing ways subconsciously and less likely, during a crisis, to emerge fulltilt to sabotage me. I become more free to live fully. So mote it be!
Important addition: If you’re concerned that sitting with a certain feeling or negative belief is going to result in harmful behavior toward yourself or others, my above methods might be wrong for you. And, this post aside, if a crisis ever leaves you feeling like you might hurt yourself or others, I urge you to do an online search to find whatever help seems most appropriate to keep yourself and others safe.
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