8 April 2011 4 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 11: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 1

Day-to-day social life can convey the impression that there is something wrong with us when we hurt inside. Understanding why enhances forgiveness and healing. The next three posts explore social impediments to emotional health, and support integrating self-awareness with life in the world.

P1040454Remember that social life is our external life. Emotional health is balance between our internal and external lives. Society sees to it that we learn social norms. Instruction and modeling for our internal lives is sadly uncommon.

Social personas or images seem to work in the outer world but often retard or prevent inner healing. Those who do not process their wounds often hold an attitude of superiority toward those who are in pain. There is nothing superior in being out of touch. Despite posturing and pretense, lack of compassion and insight is not social or moral high ground.

AVOIDING wounds strains social life and creates a need for pretense. HAVING wounds is not necessarily a problem. How we MANAGE them often is. Noticing wounds with the intent to HEAL them is healthy. Once we have healed our wounds we become infinitely more socially functional—authentically. No pretense necessary.

Motivation to heal is less likely to be strong in people skilled at social adaptations. Is this good or bad? That depends whether you want to stay in adaptations or heal deeply and become fully authentic. In some ways being unable to hide wounds can be an advantage over being able to bury them so well you can get by without working on them.

We get socially conditioned to shut down the feelings that others are uncomfortable feeling themselves. We get social messages to turn away from our wounds. The only necessary change is to be careful to discuss the wounds only with persons who have developed compassion already, can make a caring response. If we talk about them with someone who cannot manage or see their own wounds they must reject us in exactly the same way they reject that part of themselves. They cannot do otherwise.

Awareness of wounds indicates being healthier, not more messed up. Those who appear really together without processing their wounds have just as many problems. They are simply less apparent—until they do something obvious. How many times do we hear about someone in a public office or position of service, or religious power like a priest, whose wounds overwhelm his or her ability to stay balanced in the role of public service or sanctity?

Here are some of the societal reasons why we get the impression there is something wrong with us when we are wounded:

  • People ask, “What is wrong?” instead of “Can I do anything for you.”
  • Our pain scares people who are not able to embrace their own.
  • We live in a culture who “medicates” with drugs, alcohol, and diversions instead of bonding in ways that connect and involve people in healthy ways
  • We may have been scolded when we cried or had a tantrum
  • People who do not know how to express compassion pull away when we express our pain
  • We send people to professionals to deal with “their problems” instead of supporting them appropriately before this becomes necessary

In the movie “The King’s Speech,” Bertie was imprisoned in his royal persona. He lacked the positive vulnerability (see post #7 in this series) essential to effective therapy. He wanted the speech therapist to fix his problem on the surface, without approaching its causes. The therapist was blocked from access to Bertie’s inner world of feeling.

Bertie lived in the emotional isolation common when worldly roles are of greater importance than personal feeling. He was unable to fulfill his role of King until he confronted his depths by allowing his therapist, Lionel, into his inner world. Through the mirror of both therapy and genuine friendshipP1040293 Bertie learned to allow his inner life its central place in his own world. Then he could be King.

Social life may require images from time to time. Authenticity does not require full and complete disclosure at all times or with all people. We pick and choose appropriate expression for this moment. I am suggesting that the motivation for what we pick can be based on comprehensive values, not unconscious compulsions or social conditioning.

Social life, in balance, is our exterior life. Its healthy function does not take the place of your inner life or cripple your personal life. The horror movie in which the mask becomes stuck on someone’s face depicts this malady. In real life this issue is more of a problem the less we are aware that it is occurring. Wounds wake us up to our humanity, needs, personal emotions, goals, dreams, and capacity for genuine intimacy.

How is YOUR balance between your social life and your inner life?
Does one take over the other, or can you move back and forth between them with ease?
What makes this balance easier or more difficult?

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4 Responses to “Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 11: Social Appearances & Inner Wounds, Part 1”

  1. Dori 8 April 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    This is such good stuff.

    • Teresa Dietze 8 April 2011 at 2:30 pm #

      Thank you, Mother. 🙂

      I’m so glad you’re interested.

      Given your terrific observation skills, intelligence, and background in psychology, I would welcome your voice in this exploration. What do you resonate with in the text?



  2. Greg 9 April 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    I feel my social life is non exsistant at times I hide a lot in my job it fills most of my wakeing hours. Untill recently my main job was working with someone who has a difficult time seeing his wounds and being willing to work on them. There is little joy in that situation. My other job with 3 female coworkers is more joyful and happier. They may not be aware of all their wounds, they bring joy to their daly work situation.

    Being willing to deal with one’s wounds take alot of willingness to confront the unknown about what lays ahead in how to deal with them and heal them.

    I have a lot of fear about dealing with some of those wounds. What will it be like without that baggage of how they have shaped my life to this point?

    It is difficult and painful to think about how long I have carried the wounds and how they have misshaped who I am now.

    The energy that is around me knows to support the change and support who I really am, the person behind the mask is very intense. The changes seem inevitable at this point in my life, like my true self is calling for it to happen.

    Thank you

    • Teresa Dietze 9 April 2011 at 6:10 pm #

      Hi Greg,

      Interesting thing about growing into our authenticity is that the more we change the more normal and natural we feel. Letting yourself recall how this works–in your body experience–will go a long way to relax your fear of “change.”

      As far as being intense goes, I suspect there are a heck of a lot of intense people hiding out! If we display it we can find the others! Then we’ll have better company and more fun because we won’t feel we have to hold back. I like your intensity. Other thing is that when we hide, often the only one we fool is ourselves. 😉

      ‘Thing about work is that since we DO spend so much time there, it’s great if we can be authentic. I’ve always figured that when we’re real about the same number of people like us–it’s just different ones. Let the people who naturally like you get a chance.

      Best Always,


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