Friday, October 22, 2010


Every October we celebrate Halloween and see children (and others) wearing an assortment of costumes and masks. Featured are monsters, witches, goblins and ghosts as well as favorite cartoon characters, movie heroes and beautiful smiling princesses.

It’s interesting how often we wear masks, not just at Halloween but throughout the year. Sometimes we wear monster masks to scare children. “Clean your room now or you’ll be grounded for a month!” Other times we wear smiling beautiful princess masks. “Everything is just fine” (but underneath is a very sad and lonely face).

And sometimes we change masks several times during the day depending on the occasion and with whom we’re talking. We may start out in the morning as a witch, later change into our Cinderella mask, put on the monster mask when the kids come home from school, and our beautiful smiling princess mask as we greet friends in the evening. It’s amazing how adept we can be at changing masks throughout the day. Masks can be fun and perhaps, at times even serve some useful purpose, as long as we know that’s what they are – masks - not us.

However, therein lies the problem. Sometimes others and even we ourselves don’t realize all we’re doing is wearing masks. If work isn’t done on the inside, the lonely sad face will continue, no matter how faithfully we wear the smiling princess mask. And sometimes if that is all we allow others to see, we don’t give them the chance to help us smile on the inside too.

It can take tremendous courage to remove our masks and risk whether we will be loved and accepted for who we really are. This may involve coming into an “awful recognition” of our vulnerabilities and weaknesses. How tempting to put the mask back on! And yet, only as we are vulnerable and real are we able to truly give and receive love. Only as we remove our masks are we able to feel real joy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Healing Emotional Wounds - Part 2 - "It Takes Time"

When Jill and Fred (not their real names, of course) came in for counseling, Jill talked about how she was still hurting because of something Fred had done. Fred quickly pointed out, rather impatiently, that he had apologized for that. The implication seemed to be that since he had apologized, Jill should not be talking about her pain anymore (and maybe not even feeling her pain anymore).

Wouldn’t it be lovely if it were that easy!

“I’m sorry that you tripped over my brief case and cut your head open. And now that I have apologized, it should no longer hurt and let’s just move on to other things.”

Of course, that’s ludicrous. No one would say that. We all know intuitively (and probably from experience) that physical wounds take time to heal and often continue to hurt even after the appropriate dressing has been applied. We are sensitive to this when our loved ones are hurt physically. We treat them with kindness and tenderness and go out of our way to be there for them until their wound is healed.

And yet, emotional wounds also take time to heal. A sincere apology may be like dressing a physical wound. It is very important – even vital - in the process of healing but it does not negate the need for time in the healing process. It also does not ensure that the wound won’t still hurt for a while. A wise and loving spouse will recognize this and give his or her partner the time and support that is needed for healing. With this patience, love and support, the wound is not only allowed to fully heal but the relationship is strengthened as well.