Through high school and college, I carried deep wounds due to what was going on at home. Only a handful of people outside of my family knew what what was happening. I didn’t want to share what was occurring for a number of reasons: thinking about it brought more pain, it was deeply embarrassing, and I partially blamed myself even though logically I knew I had no part in causing those wounds.
We’ve had almost a full year of dealing with COVID as it exploded in the world. Many of know at least one person who has passed because of this disease. Here in the USA there has been tremendous social unrest and unprecedented political turmoil. There are a lot of wounds being taken, some of them deep. Most all of them are hidden.
And that’s the problem. When we know a co-worker’s parent passed away, for instance, we expect them to have periods where they aren’t their normal selves. If the death was unexpected, even more so. But with hidden wounds, someone may act in a manner that is aggressive, uncooperative, or belligerent, seemingly without cause. Perhaps they seem extremely pompous or arrogant. Or they may act burnt out or disinterested. There are other behaviors, but those were the ones I exhibited the most when I was there. It’s a dark, dark place, especially if you don’t have any idea of how to begin healing.
If we knew someone was hurting and they acted in any of these ways, we’d likely respond in a compassionate and understanding way. Or at least, we’d hope to be the type of person who does. But if the wounds are hidden, we don’t know. Likely until the person is either forced to reveal the wounds or they begin healing and can speak about them, we won’t know. Even in cases where it would seem that a person has to say something about what’s hurting them, they may not. In fact, they might sabotage further. I know. I did. Repeatedly.
So how do you deal with people who may be carrying hidden wounds? The people who helped me the most were the ones whose default behavior was compassion and understanding. They didn’t assume anything. That’s the way they were. They knew some folks were hurting. They knew some folks were just that jerks or didn’t care. Either way, they were committed to act the way they did consistently towards everyone.
One could say let a person’s actions over time be the deciding factor. But the problem with that is how long the person could be taking wounds and then how long it takes to heal after that. There was a strong five year period where I suffered those deep wounds I kept hidden. But it was about 10 years later before I finally began to heal. Key word: began. It was years later before I had better acceptance and control over what I went through. In total, 20+ years.
So as you are coping, remember there are others who are coping, too. If you have hidden wounds, you understand how hard it can be to share what’s hurting. And also how hard it can be to control your emotions and behavior when that pain flares. Recognize that others may be, and likely are, dealing with hidden wounds, too. Respond to them how you would want to be treated, too. That may be what starts or accelerates your healing process. It was for me.