Being broken is the norm for human beings. We can imagine a time when human beings lived and loved sanely, unrestricted by neurosis, psychosis, individual and collective trauma; but we are not living in one. We are, now at least, a wounded species, and, in not fully acknowledging that, we displace our wounded-ness onto the world that supports and nourishes us: Nature. Even now that more and more people are realising that we are rapidly destroying our habitat, we continue to live and love as if we were not wounded and broken.
This does not deny that many people are trying to heal their own wounds, even perhaps realising that it is only because of these wounds that they perform the self-destructive rites of exploitative consumer culture so readily. While others are trying to reset the balance and shape of the social structures within which we all love and live the best we can, but without recognising that the institutions and norms within which we are self-destructing are not really the cause of our malaise: they are its symptoms.
The cause of our malaise is that, individually and collectively, we are wounded, broken, unwholesome, un-whole, unholy.
We can not erase the past. You can not erase your past. Everything you have ever done, everything that has ever been done to you is ineradicable. Yet their fruits are not. How you feel about your parents can change, even if what they did can not be changed. How you understand your past actions can change, even though those actions, and their historical consequences, can not be changed. Wounds can heal, psychosomatic armour can dissolve, behavioural habits and norms can change.
Do you know how deeply you are wounded? Do you know how many wounds you bear? Do you know how all your wounds were caused? Do you know how many of your wounds you regularly, or occasionally, reinforce with your current behaviour? Do you know the different ways that you do so?
Were you bottle fed, or weaned before you could walk? Did your father punish you with a belt, rod, slipper or hand? Were you bullied by your siblings, schoolmates, teachers? Were you intimidated into conformity by aesthetic norms that tell you how you should look, what you should wear, what you should be able to do, how much body fat you should carry, what shade your skin should be? Were you forced to spend most of your childhood indoors, sitting down listening to an adult you did not otherwise know? Were you made to believe that your value and your happiness depend on who approves of you and how much some of them pay you?
Do you know how many wounds you carry, how deep they are, how strong?
Are you at peace with yourself, others and the world? Are you at home in your body, at peace with your mind? Are you sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, and your own? Are you open about your preferences, dreams, desires, anxieties and boundaries? Do you present yourself honestly to others, to yourself? Are you generous, with your time, your attention, your material resources?
Do you know that not being so is rooted in your wounds? Do you know how nourishingly wholesome human nature actually is?
Do you know that you were not born selfish, greedy and aggressive; but that you have learned to be in order not to be sidelined in the struggle to survive and succeed? Do you know that this learning is a many layered wound, that constrains your intelligence and inhibits your happiness?
While these words may disturb you, they will not wound you. They do not constitute a threat to your well being. Rather they could be a prologue to you recovering it.
Would you like to be at peace with yourself, others and the world; at home in your body, at peace with your mind; sensitive to your needs and feelings, and those of others; open about your preferences, dreams, desires, anxieties and boundaries; present yourself honestly to others, to yourself; be generous, with your time, your attention, your material resources?
If so, you may not need to heal all of your wounds. You may need only to starve them, to unlearn the behaviours, perceptions and thoughts that reinforce them. You may only need to recover the wholesomeness of your human nature, so that your wounds atrophy amongst new habits of thought, perception and action.
You can not change the past, but you can change your behaviour, perceptions and thoughts. All the thoughts, perceptions and behaviours that shape your life, many of them expressing your wounds in doing so, have been learned. Your capacity to learn remains intact, even if dormant. You can use it to dissolve your wounds, collectively, into the nourishing wholesomeness of your human nature.
You can not do this by thinking about it. You can not do this by reading about it. You can not do this by talking about it. You can only do this by experiencing deeply, and often, the nourishing and healing wholesomeness of your own presence. By becoming regularly intimate with your own presence, you release the healing nourishment of your own nature. This intimacy, and its release, begins with and in the body.
The body is where all your wounds are stored. Your neuromuscular tissues are distorted and restricted by traumatic past experience into debilitating perceptual and behavioural pathways. These pathways can be replaced. You can replace them in movement, when that movement is guided by the intelligence of your body, not by the information in your mind. You can replace them in stillness, when that stillness is fertilised by intimacy with the sensations being generated by your body, and not regulated by the intentions of your mind. You can replace them in the amplifying, mirroring presence of others, by sharing your needs, fears, boundaries and desires with those doing the same.
Alternatively you can use your knowledge of behavioural psychology, emotional trauma, psycho-somatic armouring and therapeutics to pick through your behaviour, your posture, your emotions, your thoughts, to identify all of your wounds. Then, one by one, you can apply whatever therapeutic modalities you trust to heal them. This will take time. This may take more than a lifetime. A lifetime of digging into pain. You may not have enough time to do that, even if you do have the diagnostic and therapeutic skills available. You may not have the heart for it either.
To take such an approach is to be hoodwinked by the ungrounded intelligence of your mind, and its, even if only subconscious, conviction that it must and can solve all of your problems through the accurate application of skills based on accurate knowledge. This is to compound your problems further, by deepening the disembodiment that your wounds have left you with.
There is another option, and it is not a spiritual bypass. It also will take time, but it will take neither (diagnostic) knowledge nor (therapeutic) skill. You can let go of giving your well being to the strategies and information of your mind. You can give it instead to the wholeness of your nature: mind, body and spirit. To do this you need only become intimate with your own nature. Within this intimacy you will encounter, and be nourished and healed by, the Peace Without a cause, the Joy Without a Reason and the Love Without an object that express your spiritual nature.
Of course becoming intimate with your own presence will reveal the presence of your wounds. There will be resistance, discomfort, even, sometimes, pain. In not having to heal them, in not having to understand them, you can allow them to simply dissolve into the transforming acceptance of genuine intimacy. You do not have to struggle with them. You do not have label and name them, You do not have to fix anything. You have neither the understanding nor ability to do so. Nor does anybody else.
Nevertheless your wounds can resolve into the presence of Peace Without a cause, Joy Without a Reason and Love Without an object. They can, and they will, if you replace your intention to heal with a willingness to feel. As your willingness to feel deepens the healing power of your spiritual nature will express itself more freely and fully. Healing will take place as nourishment, rather than as therapy. Old habits will atrophy and habits of wholeness will replace them.
You can not do this alone. You are a social being as much as you are a biological or spiritual being. You need other people. You need other people to help you to heal. Not psychologists, or doctors, or gurus, or therapists. You need the open, willing presence of other wounded human beings. Other people also wanting to recover their wholeness are necessary to your recovery of yours. If you look at the person next to you, behind you, in front of you, you will see one.
With grateful acknowledgement to Joseph Chiltern Pearce for the title.