Things that tick me off: Cellphone use during a meal with others. Baseball caps worn backwards. Car music so loud as to startle pedestrians on the sidewalk. Sending an email and not receiving the courtesy of a response. People who are late. Pants worn so low as to deliberately expose one’s underwear. Telemarketers who still call my “Do Not Call” phone number.
The element common to all of these annoyances is other people. Other people busily living their lives impact our own, and not always in pleasant ways. Some impact is merely annoying, but some can inflict a trauma that persists for many years, a trauma that the individual may not really understand and yet the pain of which the individual still tries to soothe.
Take, for instance, the woman who as a child suffered real physical, psychic and emotional trauma at the hands of her mother. The wounded little girl grows into the wounded woman who seeks out animals that are also wounded and vulnerable, takes them into her home, and cares for them, becoming unable to let them go. Her home eventually overflows with animals, Animal Control is called, and she is delivered an ultimatum to choose 5 to keep and to get rid of the rest. Having to choose paralyzes her since she simply cannot assign a priority to some and not to others because this feels to her like abandoning them.
The problem is that the longer that she participates in her involvement with the animals the longer she keeps her own feelings of trauma and woundedness alive since she makes vulnerability and woundedness the focus of her consciousness. It makes her feel good to give the comfort that she herself yearns for, thereby making her ministrations more about making herself feel good than about giving to the animals that which they need… which, ultimately, is the freedom to leave her.
The steps that we take to deal with our distress matter. While bandaging the wound is necessary, at the same time it is important to attend to the infection that keeps the wound fresh. This means that actual healing can involve even more pain.