Tracing the Path of Cupid´s Arrow: The Romanticization of Woundedness in Relationship Dynamics
Relationships that are based on shared wounds are problematic – for the most part. Whilst there is merit in the idea that two wounded people can come together to heal one another – in practice, it tends to take a different direction. There are of course exceptions, but – rare ones.
Whilst there are some people in this world who (at least on the surface) look like they´ve got it all together, most of us are processing some level or perception of woundedness. And that is a good, evolutionary step for us as a species. I am grateful to all of the work made by prior generations who made it even possible to have such a discussion today.
What we have done, potentially as a means to ensure survival, or silence the voice of an otherwise (potentially dissident) population – is essentially to say that a certain degree of woundedness is ´normal´, even desirable.
Hell, does Cupid´s arrow not pierce the otherwise whole heart so it may then see another?
If you look at the image on this post (The Combat of Love and Chastity), you see Cupid trying to pierce the shield of Chastity with his arrows. It´s a hypermasculine metaphor for penetration into a more reserved feminine space. And we have internalized that dynamic as somehow normal, or ideal. We see people swapping those roles around to a great degree, but the dynamic is one that remains deeply entrenched.
Tells you a lot, doesn´t it?
The way women, in particular, are told that they must sacrifice themselves in order to attract a mate and essentially play a co-dependent role in society is an excellent case in point. The ´manly man´ who does not communicate or even recognize his emotions is somehow shown to be more masculine, virile and desirable than a man who can shed a tear, or cuddle, when he feels. And other such examples.
Whilst it´s not wrong to have a certain sense or perception of wounding, it is important to recognize that we have been socialized (to a great degree) to find empathy, connection and identification through woundedness. Caroline Myss, one of my favourite authors, speaks of this in her eye-opening, world-clarifying work (Why People Don´t Heal and How they Can).
And I´m sure many of you (myself included) have seen that, at least once, in your lives. You meet someone whom you feel ´gets´ you and all the stuff you have to deal with. At least, at first – there is a shared sense of kinship or comaradery as you both know you have fragile spaces, and each person appears to be able to understand that in another. You might not have exactly the same experiences, but complementary ones that ´fit´ together like a lock and key – much like the codependent/alcoholic, narcissist/empath, narcissist/borderline pairings and so on.
Or you simply find yourself irresistably drawn to someone and are not entirely sure why till the shit finally hits the fan. We call this a karmic dynamic, but that doesn´t make it a desirable one – it just means more work has to be done, for those of us who seek tofind a greater degree of balance and well-being in our lives.
That tends to be the initial hook, so to speak. And a very, very seductive one at that.
And when the energetics in a connection get deeper and flow more intimately – then – you see the wounding-healing-rewounding dynamics come into play. It can take a while for the conscious mind to catch up with what´s going on, especially as there tends to be a strong emotional component (a rollercoaster, in fact) in such pairings.
Now, we´ve been taught to call this Love – or in spiritual circles – the karmic beauty of a Twin Flame Relationships. That may or may not be the case, but the power of such rhetoric tends to obsfucate the dynamics at hand for many.
I´ve seen many people (myself included) putting up with all kinds of crap from people in the name of ´it´s meant to be!´, ´we´re karmic soulmates´, it´s just Love!!!
And in retrospect … those justifications fall by the way side when the relationship reaches the place where it is no longer energetically sustainable. When you buy into the ´deep and spiritual relationships _must_ feel this way´ idea, it gets a lot more difficult to suss out what is going on.
Which is why I never, ever answer the question of : Is this person my Twin Flame?? when asked during my sessions. It´s a dangerous concept for those who will pedestalize the concept and experience. And use it to justify patterns of abuse.
When two people with a shared pattern of woundedness (let´s call them complimentary wounds) reach out to one another, a few things can happen.
They can find ways to heal, nurture or comfort one another. And sometimes they are successful enough that at least one person heals – or achieves a greater level of functionality. If the other does not or chooses not to seek the same, then the connection eventually comes to an end. There´s too much of an energetic mismatch otherwise. It may not always be the person who´s progressing, but the one who – comparatively speaking – lags in their own journey or process.
Though – If you´re dealing with a narcissist, you´ll be made to feel that it is you who lack awareness – and that the other person must move on because you´re not good enough for them. We call that the devaluing phase. Just putting it out there – it´s not always what it looks like on the surface.
(Another option, and this is the more freeing variant of release – is that both people realize they have grown and mutually part ways.)
But why do these changes happen? And why do they often lead to separation? Isn´t Love enough to overcome all obstacles?
The initial conditions of the connection (a shared wound and experiences) change. The emotional traction or intensity that brought you two together in the first place is no longer as accessible. The hook at that at first, seemed to exciting and tantalizing, is gone. And so the relationship must evolve – or bust – or stay in some kind of holding pattern that takes up the energy of the more functional person.
You might wonder why the other party in this hypothetical dynamic may not want to or feel as though they can heal / address the deeper reasons that underlie whatever state of imbalance they experience. A great conceptual debt to Caroline Myss and her concept of woundology needs to be mentioned again here.
We have a tendency to build a certain identity or world view in relation to our sense of woundedness. Be it through avoidance, over-identification, or simply realizing it is there, somewhere. And over time, a certain amount of familiarity and comfort in that sense of self emerges.
When we get into deeply transformative relationships, however, we receive (and give) so much energy that we then have a chance to change that base-line state.
Sometimes the alternative state (to what a person has become used to) is simply too daunting to contemplate. Some of us become overly comfortable in the self-identity we create surrounding our woundedness as we risk having to re-negotiate every facet of our lives should we choose to change our relationship with our vulnerabilities.
Becoming a different version of you – as healing as it can be – can also be utterly terrifying. Relationships, friends, jobs, places of residence, food habits, personality, the ways you see and interpret the world, thinking patterns, emotional responses, spiritual paths – these things tend to shift. Quite dramatically.
You literally end up having to transform your life, piece by piece.
But therein lies the rub. Some people get to the place where that is even possible through the vehicle of a relationship, only to find that the other person can´t or isn´t wanting to do the same. And that´s where the roads tend to part. Or you get stuck in the codependent pattern where you give, and give, and give – in the hope that one day your partner may want to change. Again, your choice to make. But it helps to be conscious of it.
What makes this process a little more complicated is that more often than not, those stuck in their own holding patterns (for various reasons) will – on the surface – tell you the exact opposite. The head-mind-mouth speaks the talk of healing, whilst the energy-body walks the walk of staying in that overly-familiar wounded-space.
They may even, knowingly or unknowingly, sabotage your own efforts at growth (whilst appearing to be supportive on the surface). Because your changes threathen the world they have built around themselves. The mirror that you hold/are forces them to see themselves, face-to-face.
And not everyone wants that.
And that too, is their choice.
But it is not one that you need to accept, depending on your own needs and evolutionary path.
One of the toughest dynamics to work with is when two individuals catalyzing one another spend energy into the creation of a false narrative. Both envision their identity and connection with the world in ways that make sure they never end up looking in a honest mirror.
And it´s not just one-on-one dynamics. Families and larger groups of people do the same. They create a very distorted view of reality and their energy re-inforced by others who appear to corroborate the same. Let´s call it the collective act of myth-making.
Humans are social creatures. Most of us choose to believe something if someone we trust or are connected to says the same. And when your partner or loved ones co-create such a narrative, it becomes much harder to see what´s going on, what role you play in it – and how to put a stop to it.
It´s when (to borrow a term from Terry Pratchett), headology goes wrong. And the mind becomes comfortable with the story it tells itself.
So, let´s say a codependent ends up enabling a substance abuser. She works two jobs, take care of her children and spends all her money shelling out for her partner who can´t hold down a job and drinks all day. She tells him she does it because he´s too delicate to get a job and needs to be taken care of because of his traumatized past. He tells her she´s an angel and is doing the noble, honorable thing because she´s a better person. And you get two distorted perceptions of the self, re-inforced. And deeply romanticized. Explained brilliantly by Robin Norwood in her book – Women who Love Too Much.
And the same dynamic can carry on with the children or others enmeshed with that toxic dynamic – and become the basis for how the family connects with one another. And so many of us are told that without family, we are nothing – no matter how dysfunctional those origins are.
Utterly, absolutely terrifying. But probably extremely common.
Though to be fair, sometimes one person can lead the way for change, and others choose to follow. But that´s never a given or a guarantee.
Nevertheless, it´s work that is worth doing.
Changing the basis of how we connect is essentially, changing the basis of how we see ourselves as individuals, as and members of a collective. I am grateful to those who opened the way for so many of us to access these truths and the levels of consciousness needed to see them.
In short, perhaps it´s time we told Cupid to fire his arrows elsewhere. Perhaps at apples.
It´s time to give ourselves permission, as a species, to learn to love and connect in ways that are not born exclusively of the wound, or the tears of the bleeding heart.
Post © Bairavee Balasubramaniam, 2016.
Image: The Combat of Love and Chastity by Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons