This is a subject that most men steer away from. Loss, heartache, grief, sadness. Whether the pain is existential: Who am I? Where am I going? Who’s coming with me? Or the more immediate kind of suffering – from death, divorce, job loss, etc. Pain comes to us all. So how do we deal with pain when it comes? The wounded boy has many strategies to navigate thru the territories of pain. The wounded boy cannot tolerate feelings of helplessness so he becomes a warrior fighting the good fight. The heroic boy will either deny the pain or fight against the pain by trying to conquer the difficult feelings and win. The other strategy of the wounded boy is being a victim – I am helpless. I am not good enough or brave enough, I am not lovable enough to enter the circle of life, so I become depressed, small, contracted. Both strategies, the hero and the victim, are deeply identified with the woundedness of the boy and are caught like a fly in a web of the wound’s complexes. The wound’s complexes comprise a contracted world of isolation, self loathing and shame. The boy must fight these feelings or drown in them. There seem to be no other options. Win or lose. The sad story of the hero is that he loses by giving all of his energy to fighting. He has no ability to receive love. He is desperate – a fighting, doing, producing machine. Even his giving is a contracted strategy contrived to fight being with what is.
Enter the man: The man’s presence brings the miracle of the witness, the ability to have awareness of awareness. And here is the miracle: The boy is pain, the man has pain. The man is in relationship with his pain. The pain is held with mercy and kindness. The pain is an honored guest and welcomed at the altar of the man’s life. The man is curious and reverent of the pain that comes. He is a sacred host to the difficult visitors that invade his psychic house.
The wounded boy leans away from life. He strategically steers around the intersections of his life where there is any possibility of conflict. He is terrified of being too visible, and so he turns away from life, and isolates. If he does enter the complexity of living, he tends to react, tear down or rebel. He has two gears: turn away or act out. What is so tragically missing in the wounded boy’s tool box is the ability to appreciate life on life’s terms. He doesn’t know how to enter into his life with any genuine curiosity and reverence.
James Hillman says that when a man shifts in his consciousness from “being the pain” to “having the pain”, that is like two years of psychotherapy in one moment. So, the man holds his pain with dignity and a sense of holiness. He listens to his pain as a deep cry from his soul and he holds this cry as sacred. So he slows down and he walks differently upon the earth. The pain is teaching him to live with humility and gratitude. This man is cracking open into his giftedness. He is slowly becoming a man who is devoted to protecting and blessing the sacredness of life. When pain is kissed and given a sacred homecoming, the man begins the healing of the boy’s wounds. And the boy begins to melt into the heart of the man. And the man walks the earth in his aliveness, awe and wounds.
This being human is a guest-house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
–Jelalludin Rumi, “The Guest House”