A nobleman walks around with an invisible arrow buried in his chest. He sees a couple of boys practising archery. The nobleman gets angry and yells at them and then breaks down in tears in front of the startled boys.

''Once upon a time, there was a man who thought he was hurt every time someone put him in contact with an old wound.''

The notion of feeling hurt

‘You hurt me,’ I used to say about the feeling of sadness that filled me ­when­ever someone said or did anything that caused me emotional pain. My statement ­conferred guilt on the other person over something they had unwittingly ­triggered, ­unaware of my invisible vulnerabilities. At the time, I did not know that my wounds had been inflicted during childhood, at a time when I was unable to defend ­myself emotionally. And that the person who, in my perception, was hurting me then and there, in my adult life, was in fact unwittingly putting me in contact with an old wound, rather than inflicting a new one. Sometimes I would say ­something that put others in contact with their old wounds.

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It is important to understand that as adults, we are only responsible for renewing that contact with a pre-existing wound, not for creating the wound in the first place. That insight means that guilt and ­responsibility take on the right proportions in interpersonal interactions and that the responsibility for preventively making these old wounds visible rests with the person who has the wound. Being open about our wounds and vulnerabilities, embracing them as the resources they are and talking about what hurts us now and in the past, enables us to enhance our relations through empathy and tenderness.

Perspective 

Imagine what impact it would have if everyone was familiar with the notion of ­feeling hurt and consequently dealt with their own childhood wounds, ­openly showing them and embracing as the resources they really are. Our childhood wounds are part of who we are. The nobleman in the illustration has an invisible emotional wound that is still urgently current to him. He is sensitive to anything that puts him in contact with the wound. The area where we have our wounds is an area of heightened sensitivity. If we tenderly embrace and love that area, it can be a gift. Instead of seeing ourselves as victims we can become ambassadors for what the wound represents. For example, if we have a vulnerability in relation to feelings of abandonment or betrayal, we can use that vulnerability to ensure loyalty. We can use the vulnerability when we form attachments to others by being thorough in determining whether we can feel confident that they are not going to let us down. Our wounds have caused us pain, and they continue to cause us pain whenever we come into contact with them. They never fully heal, but we can care for them with tenderness, love and acceptance. Our wounds are a part of us, and through ­acceptance they can help us be more in touch with ourselves and, thus, with others.

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