None of us will get through this life without a few scrapes.
Sometimes, stuff just hurts us, and it doesn’t matter how enlightened we judge ourselves to be or how many releasing meditations we practice. Part of this human experience will be painful—and that is okay. We are all in the same boat and there is comfort in that.
When we are suffering or experiencing painful situations, it helps to have language for what is going on. This invites us to get to the bottom of what is being triggered, which seems to take over so quickly and viscerally.
Around 2011, I met a spiritual teacher who would change my life forever after bringing my attention to the three core wounds. This finally gave me a vocabulary with which to dissect what was at the core of these painful blows.
I felt compelled to write this piece because this knowledge has helped me understand myself and my emotional life on a deeper level. It has given me three simple tools with which to sort out any yucky or uncomfortable feelings. I now have a clear road map to help me heal and connect the dots of the trauma I have experienced…or may experience in the future.
These three words hold a different vibration, but come from the same family of feeling. They all live in the same house, but their bedrooms are painted a different color.
The three core wounds are all about loss and separation with a side dish of broken trust.
When we find ourselves suffering without a compass to get us back home, we can use the three core wounds to help give a voice to our sense of disharmony and help us release our discomfort and sorrow.
Definition: A refusal to accept, approve, or support something; a refusal to show someone the love or kindness that they need or expect; the feeling that someone does not love or want you.
The Latin noun rēicere, which means “to throw back,” is the ancestor of the word rejection.
We all know the sting of rejection, even though the way it manifests can be different for all of us.
Rejection often feels like a knife in the heart or a punch in the gut—and there is good reason for this. Researchers have found that rejection and physical pain cause the same areas of the brain to light up. When we get rejected, our brain reacts as if we just experienced a physical trauma. Talk about the mind/body connection!
An evolutionary reason for our fear of rejection also comes from the hunter/gatherer days. As part of a clan or tribe, each person had a specific role that supported the whole. If someone, for whatever reason, could not pull their weight or get the job done, they may have been cast aside or thrown out of the community altogether. And that meant isolation and probable death.
In today’s societies, we also have tribes that we often fear we won’t belong in or don’t understand us. At the same time, we depend on the tribe in some way, sometimes causing us to curtail rejection so as to not lose our place in the race.
Our need to be accepted is actually part of our evolutionary function. Humans are a tribal people. We seek closeness, companionship, and cooperation. We can’t survive for long without them.
Rejection feels physical because it may literally lead us be cast out—something no one wants to experience.
Definition: The act of leaving permanently or for a long time, especially when you should not do so; the act of giving something up; to withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; to desert.
Abandonment can feel like a cold gust of wind and the floor under our feet shifting. There is a sense of deep loss, being discarded or left behind, and feeling undesired.
If we experienced abandonment as children (whether physical or emotional), we learn to distrust boundaries (or we do simply don’t have any), authority figures, and our own sense of power. We may overcompensate because we fear the loss happening again.
With abandonment, our basic needs are threatened—usually by someone who has more power or resources than we do. This leads to a skewed power dynamic in all relationships that keeps repeating if we are not aware enough to acknowledge it and heal it.
When we are abandoned, our sense of self-worth is jeopardized. We fear that something about us just isn’t good enough for people to stick around or meet our needs, making it more difficult for us to trust and be intimate. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and codependence.
Abandonment can also lead to a feeling of never being able to relax. The warning centers in our brains have been compromised, making it more difficult to be present and causing us physical stress. We are trained to always be on the lookout for signs of when or how someone will abandon us next.
Definition: An act of deliberate disloyalty; to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to; the act of not being loyal when other other people believe you are loyal. Betrayal’s root is betray, which comes from the Middle English word bitrayen—meaning “mislead, deceive.”
Betrayal feels like rejection and abandonment got together and decided to throw a party—with some really raucous guests who refuse to go home.
The key component of betrayal is that it is usually premeditated—cutting us in two at our core and creating a deep ravine.
Many years ago, when I was an actress, one of the first things we learned was the concept of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is when the audience is aware of what is going on in the plot, while the characters in the play do not. The audience is “in on the joke” while the actors are discovering it in real time.
Betrayal is often a form of dramatic irony. The person doing (or about to do) the betraying is in on it, while the receiving party is not—leading to shock and a sense of being paralyzed.
When we are betrayed, we can feel outright stunned. It catches us off guard and can be incredibly jolting. Furthermore, our sense of security is deeply threatened.
Another component of betrayal? Deep disappointment and distrust in others.
Rejection, abandonment, and betrayal also play out within ourselves.
How many times have we rejected parts of ourselves that we thought were embarrassing or not good enough, abandoned ourselves in order to be a part of the group, or betrayed ourselves because we were scared to be the lone wolf?
The next time we find ourselves feeling out of sorts, we can now ask:
Do I feel rejected?
Do I feel abandoned?
Do I feel betrayed?
Or do I feel a combination of all three?
We can get specific so we can sift through our reaction and feelings. We can show ourselves some love and compassion.
I hope this has helped you know that you are not alone and you can always find your way back home.