Danger: The Pain Of Being
It was a chilly winter morning early in December of 2003 in the beautiful town of Vancouver, BC, Canada. We had a reservation on the first ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island, where we were going to spend the day with friends. I told Guy and Jason, two friends who were going with me, that we needed to hurry so we didn’t miss the ferry. I went out to turn on the motor to warm up the car and started scraping the frost off the windshield. As I finished scraping the windshield, Jason and Guy arrived, stowed their things in the trunk and we all got into the car. As I reached back for my seatbelt, Guy, sitting behind me, slammed his door shut. In the shock of the moment, at first, I didn’t realize what had happened. I was in intense pain as I looked back to see that my middle finger was caught in the hinge part of the door. “Oh my God, Oh my God”, I screamed, “ Open the door, open the door.” Guy looked at me with a questioning look on his face. “Open the door, open the door, my finger is in the door.” I continued to scream, hysterically. Guy looked up, horrified, finally realized what had happened, and did open the door.
I cradled my left hand in my right and tried to push my crushed and almost severed finger back together. I was bleeding and sick to my stomach. The pain was so intense that I was numb all over from the shock. Jason, sitting on my right in the passenger seat, asked me, “Are you all right?” “No, I am not all right,” I screamed, “my finger is almost cut off. I need to go to the hospital.” Jason stared at me blankly. I repeated, “I need to go to the hospital, my finger is smashed and almost severed.” Both Guy and Jason didn’t seem to realize the severity of what had happened. I knew I needed to do something, but I needed their help as my right hand was busy holding my left hand together and I could use neither. I started to give them orders, telling them step-by-step what to do. I had them open the car door and help me into the passenger seat and I told Jason to get in the driver’s seat and drive to the hospital. The drive in rush hour seemed to take forever but after about 20 minutes we finally did arrive. I told Guy to come around and open the door for me and then almost ran into the emergency entrance of the hospital.
Once inside, I went to the front of the line of people checking into the emergency room for what I found out later was daily routine visits for most of them. The receiving nurse and the receptionist seemed unconcerned at my injury. I knew that speed was of utmost importance if my finger was to be saved and I couldn’t understand why they did not rush me into immediate care. The nurse offered me a towel as my finger was still bleeding but I was not willing to let go of holding my finger together in order to take the towel. After about ten minutes, the receptionist finally checked me in and told me to go wait in the waiting room. I still wondered why they did not hurry. For me this was so important and they did not seem to care. I joined Jason and Guy in the waiting area where they had sat down after parking the car. As I sat there, they tried not to look at me or my finger and I tried not to think about the pain and the possible consequences of the injury.
Within a few minutes I was called from the waiting area, directed to a gurney and given some gauze for my still bleeding finger. By this time, it had been an hour since Guy had slammed the door. But I was to wait another hour or more before anyone came to see me and care for my finger. Eventually, the doctor came to sew up my finger, sent me for an x-ray, gave me some pain-killers for when the anesthetic would wear off and sent me on my way. It was almost five hours later when I finally rejoined Jason and Guy in the waiting room. I held up my hand with my largely wrapped middle finger extended to show them what the doctor had done and told them I was ready to leave the hospital.
In all the time that I was waiting for treatment, despite my pain, I began to think about what had happened. I am always so careful with my hands and fingers because I am a professional cellist and a serious injury could mean the end of my ability to play. And playing music is an essential part of my life. “Why did this happen to me?” I kept asking myself while I was waiting for treatment and for several weeks after the accident.
As I went over and over the details of the accident, I realized that in the first shock of the incident that I had become numb to the pain, to both the physical pain and to the emotional pain. Although I screamed at Guy to open the door so I could get my finger out of it, and I screamed at Jason to take me to the hospital so I could get treatment, I never really got angry that the incident happened. Anger is the natural spontaneous response to pain and if I had been in touch with my feelings I could have shouted and cussed at Guy for not having been more careful when he shut the door. I realize that I could have raged at him. “Guy, why did you not look before you closed the door? Why were you not more careful? Don’t you realize that I might lose part of my finger? Don’t you realize how much pain you are putting me through? Don’t you realize that I might not play the cello again?” But I was silent. I said nothing. I did not want to look at the horror of the possibility that I might loose my finger and be maimed for life or that I might not be able to play the cello again. I stuffed all my rage and my fears because I had been conditioned to repress them. I could not allow myself to get angry because I was afraid that they would abandon me if I did. I needed their help.
I see this situation is a mirror of my life. All my life I have stuffed my feelings. I learned from my father to relate to people intellectually. I saw my father as very smart and very wise. He knew all kinds of facts about history, science, art, philosophy, and life in general. I could never get out more than half a sentence without him knowing better or knowing more. I was scared to death that I might say something wrong. I was scared to death that I did not know enough to please him. I remember I was upset about this as a child and often cried in frustration and anger. I was ridiculed by my father as well as my brothers, when I cried. My brothers used to make the motions of playing the violin and sing one particular melody because they knew they could get to me that way. They seemed to delight in provoking my pain and making me cry. I learned quickly that I needed to stuff my hurt feelings but at the same time having to stuff them caused more rage and more pain. It was a vicious circle. In time I learned to cry in private and to relate to people by sharing bits of information that I collected. I went to school and I got several degrees in different subjects just so I would have more knowledge to share in hopes of being able to relate better to people. I learned and knew a lot but somehow that didn’t seem to fulfill my needs nor did it ease my pain.
I understand that by stuffing my feelings, the anger is still with me. The anger needs to come out in one way or another. Sometimes it may come out in an explosion as I have described in my article “The Reality of Expressing Emotions.” But often it will come out in a passive aggressive way. My father was a master manipulator. Not only did I feel inadequate if I did not know all the facts of whatever we were discussing, but he could talk me into feeling guilty or ashamed for anything that I did or said. Through observation and imitation, I learned the “art” getting back at others by “innocently” causing them pain indirectly without having to own up to doing so and I learned how to make people feel guilty without overtly having to blame them for what they did. I was mostly unconscious that I was doing this. Now, that I am aware, I see that I have done this and occasionally still do this to express my anger. By being unconscious and in denial of my pain, I become deadly in my expression of it. It means that I cannot be trusted by others to know what I am feeling or to know when I will finally explode. My pain and anger underlie my actions and thoughts and come across passive aggressively or like a surprise stab in the back, with neither myself, nor those with whom I interact being immediately aware of it. It leaves an uncomfortable feeling of uneasiness and hurt in its wake.
In reflecting on what smashing my finger in the door means, I see it as a wake-up call to the fact that I have been stuffing my feelings for so long or expressing them passive aggressivelyand that I needed a very dramatic incident to get my attention. This was a way for my Soul to tell me that I was not payingattention to my Inner Child and to what my own needs are. It was a way for her to tell me that I need to start expressing my angerand my pain openly and therefore deal with them as they occur instead of stuffing them. I also needed a way to release some of my pent-up anger without the fear of being ridiculed. Having my middle finger on my left hand bandaged with layers of gauzeand needing to hold it up to keep the swelling down, was an acceptable way of telling the world to “f**k off.” For the first two weeks after the incident happened, people remarked on my extended finger everywhere that I went. It felt good to laugh and joke about it.
Now that I am aware that I have been unconscious about my feelings of pain and anger, I ask myself, what is the next step? It took a traumatic event to wake me up and to get me to look at how and why I had been unconscious. My incident is by no means as devastating as it could have been. I am grateful that I did not need to loose my whole finger or something worse such as an arm or an eye in order to wake up. Imagining this wrenches my heart and fills me with compassion for those who need such an extreme experience. I also appreciate that I needed as much pain as I did to realize that I was unconscious.
I believe that the key to what is next is to stay aware of my pain, my anger, and all my emotions so I keep from stuffing them and I keep current with what I am feeling. I now have agreements with my Inner Child to check in with her when she is in fear or in pain so that we can deal with it and so I can reassure her that I will not abandon her. As each new situation comes up, I ask myself, what is it that I feel? Am I angry, frustrated or resentful? Am I afraid of what someone will think or do? Am I afraid of facing some issue that will cause me emotional pain? Do I simply feel unsure or that there is something not right? Once I ask these questions of myself, then I need to be sure that I am honest with myself in answering them. When I know what I am feeling, then I can decide how to express or handle the situation in an appropriate manner. Sometimes I may express my feelings immediately and state (or shout) that I am hurt or angry. Other times I may choose to wait for more information or for a more appropriate time and place to express my feelings. Sometimes I will need to yell and pound on pillows with a plastic baseball bat so as to release the anger physically but without hurting or damaging myself, others or items in my surroundings. Whatever choice I make, it is a conscious choice and a choice that eventually leads to expressing and releasing the emotions instead of stuffing them. I have agreed with my Inner Child to take these steps help me to stay aware and assure both my Inner Child and myself that I do not fall unconscious again.
I kept thinking that I should be angry with Guy and that it would be good to vent my anger directly at him for slamming the door on my finger. When I shared that idea with him, he told me that he had expected me to be angry with him when I came out of the emergency roomat the hospital. In the weeks following the incident he even encouraged me to express my feelings. But, I could not feel the anger, even though, intellectually, I knew that it must be there, somewhere, as it kept slipping out as little stabs of irritation. After several weeks, I tried to yell and pound on some pillows I use for that purpose. For such a physical injury and for the release of so much stored up emotional pain, I thought I needed to allow myself, a physical release in a safe place. That helped, but still, it wasn’t enough.
Finally, one day, inan early morning phone conversation, a friend pointed out that the discussion of my anger and pain in this article was still intellectual and that although I had stated I wished to express my anger, that I had not actually done so. She reminded me that I had every right to feel angry at Guy for slamming the door on my finger. It was not thatGuy was to blame, but it was a matter of anger being the natural reaction to pain. At the moment of the incident, I had let my Inner Child block my right to feel my anger. I had stuffed the pain in order to get into my head and rationalize it enough to make sure that I was not abandoned by Guy and Jason when I desperately needed their help. As my friend and I talked, I became very quiet and I felt like I wanted to run away and shrivel into nothing. Just talkingabout the anger I should have had was more than my Inner Child wanted to hear. I was so programmed to stuff my feelings that I even shut out the memory of this conversation with my friend and needed her to remind me in order to write this paragraph.
I hung up the phone, feeling sick to my stomach and feeling dread throughout my whole body. I crawled back into bed and pulled the covers up over my head. I was terrified at the idea that I would have to feel the anger I had stuffed so well and so deep. Over and over, I assured my Inner Child that everything would be ok and that I would not abandon her. I knew that I had to get through this, to feel and express my pain and anger, so that I didn’t have to go through a similar, possibly more painful situation again. I knew, because of my multidimensional training, that despite my fear, I needed to have courage to hold onto nothing and just do it. After an hour or so, I got up and went to find Guy.
Guyand I started by talking about the details of the incident. We also talked about the weeks following and how the stuffed anger influenced our interaction with each other as irritation and petty arguments. In the course of our conversation, finally, I vented my anger about the pain of getting my finger crushed in the car door, as I needed to do for so long. I cussed and yelled and kicked some pillows around as I let out my anger with dramatic expression. When I was done, I felt a great release in my heart. Guy then told me that he didn’t realize I had such a vocabulary. He also said that he felt much better as well. Releasing my anger released him from the role he was playing of showing me how I repressed by feelings and how I had been unconscious. He is no longer the target of my passive aggressivenessand he said he now feels he can trust me to express my feelings.
Things worked out differently with Jason. A few days after the incident, Jason informed me that he no longer wanted to continue our friendship. My fear of being abandoned was thus realized. Jason told me that spending the morning in the hospital was not his idea of a fun time. He also said he saw “something in my eyes” but he refused to say what it was or to talk about it. He still refuses to talk about it. I can only guess that he could sense my repressed anger, which brought out his own fears and need to get away. At the time that Jason told me our friendship was over, I got angry and told him so in the moment. Expressing my anger did not change the outcome, he still left, but at least I did not add the anger of not speaking up to what I already had stuffed, and expressing it has allowed me to move on.
I would like to thank Guy for the role he played for me by shutting my finger in the door. I am most grateful that he stuck with me so I could work out the details of expressing my anger over the incident and so that I could wake-up and see this lesson that I had been unconscious for so long. I also thank Jason for his role in helping me deal with expressing my anger over my fear of abandonment. I was able to show my Inner Child that I would not abandon her even when others abandon me.
Hopefully you won’t have to have such a traumatic experience as I have needed in order to wake-up. Or, if you do have to have such an experience, hopefully my experience will help you understand your own lesson. I see that it is possible to work with the Inner Child, as I am doing now, to become and stay aware of my feelings and needs. But, I see that I must be vigilant and always listen to what she says. If I do not listen, she will make sure that she is heard, even if it means trauma to the body she is here to protect. I hope that by sharing my story that it will help you wake-up from your own unconsciousness into a world of awareness.