What is Your Wound?

Today, I’m sharing one of my podcasts with the same title.  Thought I’d share it with those of you who’d rather read than listen.

Not too long ago, I was listening to an Accidental Creative podcast where Todd Henry was interviewing the author and speaker Peter Block, who has written myriads of books, two of which are applicable here—Community: The Structure of Belonging and The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods.

Of course, the topic was creativity, and Block was talking about how certainty kills creativity.  He said what matters is your wound.  That’s your niche.  Every person has one.  It’s how you’ve been hurt (or how you’ve felt unheard or unloved or uncared for).  Most of what you do in life (consciously or unconsciously) stems from your reactions to this wound, and what you have to consider is that instead of letting these tapes play endlessly in your mind and in your life, you might work on turning it into something new and helpful.

That’s why questions matter.  That’s why it’s good to ask lots of questions of yourself, and the fact that they stir up discomfort and anxiety is part of the deal.

Transformation will only occur when you bring a new conversation into the world.  Let me repeat that.  Transformation will only occur when you bring a new conversation into the world.

Years ago, I started out as most writers do—writing my memoir.  For years, I thought my life was pretty humdrum.  Nothing special here.  But as I moved away from home and met new people and grew into different beliefs, I realized what I had experienced as a child was unique to me.  My dad’s abusive nature, all supported by his steadfast and fanatical religion and the fact that he was a pastor to boot, affected me and my six siblings immensely.  It’s taken us years to understand that he didn’t speak for God, that he was human like all of us.  God had nothing to do with it.  Which is fine and dandy to realize now, but the fact of the matter is, we all dragged God along with us, through the muck and mire of our damaged psyches, our damaged relationships, our damaged careers.  Which brought up new questions.

When I started voicing my story for the first time, I’d get people pulling me over into corners, whispering their own church stories to me—things they hadn’t told a soul, because they couldn’t.  These were upstanding God-fearing people they were talking about.  No one was going to listen to dirt on them!

And gradually, over time, I realized I was far from unusual.  This sort of thing was going on everywhere, and it disturbed me greatly.

In my naiveté, I set out to rescue God from all those horrible, despicable, abusive church-going people.  I was going to take those Christian hypocrites down!  And if you aren’t laughing yet, I am, because I was immature and angry.  And I hadn’t done my own work on me.  How was I going to help others, if I couldn’t help myself?

I began a journey of examining my wound.  What was my wound?  Could I forgive the people who I envisioned had inflicted it on me?  Was I perpetuating the same wound to others?  How could I change how I saw the world?  How could I offer help to others who had experienced the same thing?

God could fend for him- or herself.  I was responsible for me.

One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems is one of her shortest.  It’s called “The Uses of Sorrow,” which I’ve included below.

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

So, you see, I’d been given a gift—something that might take me the rest of my life to understand, but it was my task to transform it into a new conversation, one that would help me and others.  The memoir I wrote has never been published, and I don’t know if it ever will be.  The screenplay based on the book, called “Monsters in the House,” was optioned several years ago, but it’s gotten lost in production cracks.  All that to say, the writing of it did me good.  It cleared my mind, clarified my purpose, and it gave me Eve and my blog where I could ask all the questions I wanted.  I’m not even sure there’s enough of a crowd to warrant all of it, but I don’t care.  I’m speaking from the deepest, most passionate places in my heart.  This is something I need to do.

I’ll end with a few thoughts from Peter Block, taken from his 2005 Keynote Address at the International Servant-Leadership Conference in Indiana.

“The possibility you hold always grows out of your own woundedness….you say, “What’s the woundedness I have experienced in my life?” And then that’s what I bring into the world, usually the possibilities of that nature. And then I let it work on me. I don’t have to make a list or remind myself, I just have to go public with it. Going public means that two other people have to hear it. As soon as I tell two other people, I’m accountable. If I tell five other people I’m really accountable, and if I stand up in this room and say it, then I’m in real trouble. And the reason is because if you say it to the world you can’t control the response. And so there’s something about the verbalization of possibility that brings it into being, makes it powerful, makes us accountable.

The point is that what would happen if servant-leadership had one simple intention, which was to bring the gifts of the margin into the center?….My transformation is marked by the shift in my questions. It’s not that the old ones ever got answered; they just stopped mattering to me. It creates a more human notion of what transformation is. It’s not that something gets answered or resolved forever. It keeps coming back; your life is lived spirally, so you keep coming back to the same issues, just in a deeper way. But in a very short time you say, “What is the question that matters to you?” And then you do the second thing, which is you say, “Here’s what you just did that touched me.” What’s strange is that we don’t know how we touch each other….Every time you hear that you touched another human being it gets to you; in fact, it’s embarrassing. At your age you should be over that. It’s a mindset. To create an alternative future, a new conversation, to change the nature of the room only takes about ten minutes.”

Isn’t that marvelous?  What is your wound?  From what part of your heart can you speak most deeply to people?

[Post image: A Man Against the Setting Sun by Mattox on stock.xchng]


  1. Sylvia
    Nov 17, 2011

    Thank you Elissa for this another great post. I would love to read your memoir. You have such a wonderful way of expressing your thoughts and feelings. Love to you. Sylvia

    • Elissa
      Nov 17, 2011

      Oh, dear Sylvia. Why is it that it takes SO LONG to make headway in one’s life? I feel that way about mine, and I’m only too happy to share my journey, because I know it mirrors a few others’ journeys. Maybe yours, too. Much love to you, too. Thank you for reading. xo

  2. Renae C
    Nov 17, 2011

    Good stuff.

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