Formerly Titled: Grieving Personal Wounds
By: Bob Parkins, LMFT
While serving as a group facilitator at a conference for men struggling with sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behaviors. My group had been processing the relationship between emotional wounds and sexually compulsive, or acting-out, behaviors. It was exciting and rewarding to play a part in these men reconnecting with their hearts, and risk vulnerability by sharing some very painful experiences, but I encountered more resistance from the group than I had expected. This caused me to reflect on how often I experience this same type of resistance with many of my clients. People often ask what purpose "rehashing" the past or "blaming" parents serves, sometimes even giving me a monologue on "choices" and "personal responsibility." These questions are more than fair and deserve answers, but to miss the issues behind them is to miss the heart of the man or woman that asks.
Emotional wounds can leave us so deeply injured that just looking or acknowledging them can be terrifying. We’re not only afraid of hurting again, but the possible “unknown” we may dread finding can seem even worse. Sadly, we trade God's healing touch for the certainty of the mundanely dulled, bruised, and safely inaccessible heart. This may feel better than the dread of having our hearts opened and spilling into our own consciousness, or being exposed for others to see and possibly judge or reject. But whether emotional wounds are acknowledged or not, they still bleed from within. This is why addictions can keep people in bondage for so many years. Addicts abandon their own hearts as they continue to bleed internally, unconsciously re-experiencing their original emotional trauma through sexually acting-out.
Acknowledging and exploring one’s wounded heart, or past traumas, is not "rehashing," "blaming," or “skirting responsibility" for one’s own actions/transgressions. When people acknowledge their woundedness or emotional traumas they are taking responsibility. Acknowledgement these wounds moves one closer to truly surrendering them, one can move toward healing from them. God patiently respects people’s unwillingness to acknowledge their wounded hearts, for a while. Fortunately He loves his people enough, that in even in their unwillingness, he sometimes allows crisis to bring them face-to-face with their wounds and transgressions.
For many men and women struggling with sexual addiction, a crisis of truth may take the form of being exposed. While this is usually humiliating, I frequently remind couple's of God's graciousness, mercy, and heart for them. A loving Father does not allow his son/daughter to continue in sin indefinitely without confrontation. Being brought to a crisis of truth is an opportunity and chance for redemption. For some, it may not be possible to reconcile a broken marriage, but for many others, most in fact, it is still possible. Regardless of all that is lost, a chance is given to reconcile with God and with self. Reconciliation with self can never fully be achieved without an honest look at one's wounded heart.
NOTE: Adapted from my original 11/2005 article written for EMB.