There’s nothing quite like a family members capacity to challenge your basic belief system to the core. In a recent Sunday phone conversation with a very dear family member, our chatter about family edged into an emotional realm regarding our kids. Sensing that I was getting into uncomfortable territory for him, I offered one of my favorite truisms: No one, absolutely no one, gets through childhood unscathed. We both laughed, a knowing laugh. I took the thought to the next logical step and offered that, after all that confused childhood hurting, most adults then proceed to spend the rest of their lives sorting out the hurts and looking for some manner of healing. In his classically expected response to me, his reply was: ‘Or maybe you just move forward and get on with your life’, followed by a statement about how he and I are probably never going to come to an understanding on this one. I did not proceed to spend phone time trying to enlighten him. But I did find myself stirred up by the exchange, enough so that I decided to dash an email off to him a little later, offering a very concise couple of sentences about why healing those childhood hurts is not optional, but a responsibility. Knowing full well that my condensed thinking about, “why therapy” will likely either be lost on him, disregarded, or both, I decided it might be worthwhile to offer it more broadly here:
“Having a level of self-awareness (which very much includes understanding and courageously taking the time and effort to heal the woundedness of our childhood) is a basic human responsibility as a citizen of the world. It is the refusal to take a look at our own imperfections, faults, and yes, even hurts, that creates the kinds of unskillful behaviours that lead to domestic violence, and on a larger scale, wars between nations and peoples.
This is both my personal and professional experience.”
Well, maybe I tried to pack too much into a couple of sentences. In essence, if we cannot love ourselves well enough to understand and do our own healing, all too often it becomes too easy to shift into a super-rational mode that excuses hurtful and punishing behaviours towards others (to say nothing of the consequent hurt and punishment we will also offer ourselves). It might not always escalate to the point of physical violence, but all too often does include some level of abusive behaviour.
This is not to say that every living being needs to participate in talk therapy at some point in their adult life. Though, that is likely not far from the truth. What I believe it does mean is, that everyone has healing to sort through. And, whatever mode might be employed for figuring out, understanding, and forgiving whatever it was that created all of those hurts, that healing is essential for living a conscious life with a capacity for clear thinking. The more conscious a life we each can create for ourselves, the more likely we are to have content, satisfying, loving relationships. The more likely we are also to avoid harmful and unskillful behaviours with the people around us, whether those people be our most intimate partners and family members, co-workers, friends, or someone who merely happens to be somehow randomly placed in our path.