A life-shattering moment where everything changes and reality as you knew it has ended. It could be a near miss, a breakdown, a medical diagnosis, a relationship breakdown – something that shakes up your entire life and leaves you with a ton of questions and confusion. The old you has to die to make way for your new normal. Rumi’s beautiful quote says:
The wound is the place where the light enters youRumi
Why does it have to be like this?
Why can’t we have a more gentle spiritual awakening?
Why is it that the wound is the place where the light enters us?
From what I’ve studied over the years since having my own life-shattering moment in 2003, I believe the answers lie in 2 main places. The first of these is how our brains grow and develop in the early years. Our brains develop in relationship with the people around us growing up. Whatever the systems and relationship dynamics we grew up in, our own brains got wired to interact in the same ways. We’re not only wired for individual survival through the oldest evolutionary parts of the brain (the reptilian brain), but we’re also wired for group survival in the next oldest evolutionary part of the brain (the limbic system). Our brains learn about the environment around them and wire themselves to give us the best chance of group survival. In evolutionary terms, not being part of a group can be fatal, so we’re wired to need to be connected to a group. Disconnect from a group threatens survival.
The problem is that many of us grew up with parents who didn’t understand how best to nurture our brain development and our mental and emotional health. Children’s brains haven’t yet developed a critical part of self-regulation – the frontmost part of the neocortex, which is the most newly evolved part of the brain. The prefrontal cortex helps you to focus and see the bigger picture for what’s happening and it helps you regulate your emotions. It also checks in with the potential risk of your actions – hence why teenagers can be so impulsive. For children, in the absence of their own developed prefrontal cortex, they need an adult to step in and help.
Children need a caregiver who is bigger, stronger, wiser and kind to be able to help them through emotional storms. But when that very caregiver fails to provide safe harbour for our emotions, we learn to bury them. Even worse, when a child is humiliated or shamed in front of others, the survival need to be part of a group gets activated and they learn to bury healthy emotion and important parts of themselves, creating beliefs about themselves that there is something wrong. A child who’s been emotionally harmed in this way goes into adult life with lingering wounding from childhood and faulty beliefs about their worthiness and value in the world. Their unique light has been shut down.
Disconnect From What The Psyche Knows
The second place the answers lie in in our disconnect from inner wisdom that our psyches know. Transformation has to come from within and in western culture in particular, we’re lacking the tools our ancestors had to navigate initiation. That sudden moment of change is the archetypal call to adventure from the Hero’s Journey. We feel a familiarity with hero stories because there is something inside us craving the completion of our own Hero’s Journey. That moment of feeling shattered and like everything has changed doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong. The severity of that moment and its impact is magnified by earlier childhood experiences but that pattern of renewal and transformation is in our psyches as naturally as the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Cultures that are more connected to nature and innate wisdom consciously set up initiations and ceremonies to assist in these transitions. Once a community or tribe member has gone out into the wilderness for their transformation and successfully returned, they are welcomed as an elder. In the west, we’re lacking in support for these kinds of transformational journeys. The online world is full of coaches and healers offering transformation who haven’t completed their own hero’s journey and don’t fully have the capacity to hold others through the depths of theirs. You can only support people as deep as you’ve been willing to go in your own journey.
That’s not to say that they don’t have a role. They are the obstacles on the way to fully connecting to the wound within. They’re distractions for a while and bring shiny promises of transformation and creating a dream life. Perhaps their role is to be a hurdle or obstacle along the way. But the true mentors to your transformational hero’s journey can’t help but show up in your life – often through extraordinary synchronicity that you simply cannot control.
On the other side of that transformation, your paltry vision for what you thought you wanted to create in your life fades away in the light of the wound and more universal vision emerges, the seeds of which everyone carries within. You see the bigger, deeper, higher vision and plan for humanity played out in billions of different ways and you start to see that every single person is a piece of it. Many see feeling fragmented and with a soul yearning for a place called home on the other side of that as yet incomplete transformation.
The Nature of Life and Deep Transformation
Life comes with risks. The place between life and death is powerful. Death will come and so will illness and tragedy. No one can avoid the storms of life. An experience in adulthood that brings us to the critical place where life meets death highlights the wounds we’re already harbouring from early experiences that rubbed against survival needs to be part of the group. It’s not that the life and death event in itself is necessarily traumatic, it’s that the underlying wound of being shut off from the light of who we really are in childhood comes more clearly into our experience. Without that underlying wound and with a stronger sense of who we really are, we would face life’s storms without shattering into pieces.
The original wound sits rights beside the truest part of who you are. It’s a wound because it’s painful to be separated from the truth of who you are and what’s natural to humans – having emotions and being part of a wider group. But there’s also genius in the wound and how it shows itself in later life. It leaves you with questions that need to be answered. It leaves you with a feeling that things aren’t right and sets up a quest to find what will make it right. And that’s all part of your gift. It’s your unique call to adventure. As you heal and get closer and closer to the wound, you discover a map to your true self that can light the way for others to get back to their true self. We all have unique ways of doing it, but it’s by sharing those unique ways that more people can find the way that works for them.
A Future Possibility
Perhaps one day we’ll live in a world that raises children without emotional wounding, that helps them stay connected with who they really are from birth. And in that world, human brains will have far less energy focused on basic survival and far more energy available to develop extraordinary abilities and be extraordinarily creative. The critical transformation periods will be welcomed by whole communities. When the psyche is ready for the transformation, synchronicity will still bring all of the elements of transformation – and they will still be hard. But it’ll be done in community. We’ll make the best use of our brains and abilities and co-create systems, structures and communities that honour our diversity and unique gifts. Communities of people who honour the natural paths of transformation and no longer freak out the encounters with death that ignite the spark of fresh new flows of life.
So meet your wound. Answers its call to adventure. Heal your inner child. Listen to healing journeys of others and experiment with what works best for you. Then share what you learn as widely as you can – giving others more guidance on turning their wounds into gifts. Until perhaps one day, we evolve beyond the need for severe wounding as a wake up call and instead live each day seeing the genius and brilliance of life.
Udemy course – Master Your Brain: Neuroscience for Personal Development
Why Love Matters – Sue Gerhardt
The Circle of Security – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wpz8m0BFM8
The Language of Emotions – Karla McLaren