When there is a failure to provide supportive, loving attention during a time of trauma, pain becomes internalized as an ongoing unhealed wound. The repair of these inner wounds can only come about through loving attention and unconditional acceptance from another.
The process, however, also reactivates the pain of abuse, neglect, or unfulfilled needs from the past that continue to go unmet in the present. Consequently, there needs to be a willingness to reawaken the pain of the original experiences, which may have been buried in an effort to forget them. But until the pain is re-exposed to the light of compassion, healing cannot occur.
Many people have experienced an extreme degree of trauma and emotional injury in their early lives. In some cases, they felt that they didn’t belong or didn’t want to belong to their original family. In their inability to either change or successfully adapt to their situation, they rejected their world in an effort to create a more tolerable reality. Such a survival strategy requires courage and resourcefulness since it involves a willingness to risk ties with others that have been based upon unhealthy family values. A strong, compassionate, and loving relationship can provide the support necessary to break old dysfunctional family patterns and promote the healing process. Ironically, it is those who have qualities or tendencies most like the caregivers with whom we experienced the greatest degree of difficulty that we find most attractive. This isn’t because we are gluttons for punishment, but rather because they are the ones with whom we can most effectively access our past experiences and feelings that require our attention.
Few of us enter into relationships with the conscious intention of recovering from emotional wounds or even an awareness of the specific nature of the wounds themselves.
Yet in a loving, accepting and trusting relationship there is a natural tendency to bring out all that has previously been withheld and denied. The feeling of safety and compassion that is present in the relationship compels the emergence of that which requires care. The depth of the desire to experience wholeness allows us to confront the circumstances we found ourselves in as children and young adults.
This desire is often driven by a determination to free ourselves from the constraints of an inner world that limited our ability to live life fully, with authenticity, integrity, and passion. It is this mutual support that a partnership of two healed people can provide for one another that enables us to finally break free from chains of the past.
The process is not one-sided. Even though it can at times appear that one partner is the “patient” in need of care and the other is the “provider”, this is generally not the case. In reality, in most situations, both partners are in need of healing and making efforts in different ways to recover their own wholeness. We tend to be more attracted to those with whom we experience “matching wounds”, that is, those with whom we can most effectively contact the buried or denied the pain that we need to access.