Self-Inflicted Wounds

April 17, 2016 Self Esteem



When people think about self-inflicted wounds, we usually conjure images of slash marks on people’s arms on those who are deeply disturbed. I suggest the field is much broader than that.

In the summer of 1960, I was stationed at an army base in Kingston, Ontario. One weekend, with a belly full of beer, we went for a swim in the Saint Lawrence River. I swam out to a raft and promptly fell asleep. I awoke with a severe sunburn on both sides. In the army way of thinking, it was a self-inflicted wound and I would have charges laid against me if I reported it.

Although I had not done it deliberately, I was still at fault for what had happened. I tossed and turned at night and felt uncomfortable wearing a shirt but there was nothing for me to do but suffer through it.

Like my sunburn from many years ago, there are many unintentional ways of doing damage to ourselves. They may not be as obvious as scars on someone’s arms but, subconsciously, they still reflect our self-esteem and the issues we are dealing with.

My sunburn came about through my youthful cockiness, my defiance of common sense. Let us examine some of the other ways that we do harm to ourselves.

Self-Inflicted Miseries

There are, of course, all the things we do to conform to the social norm. Young people feel invincible and give little thought to the long term effects of drug use, over-indulgence and poor dietary choices. Important as they are, I will put them aside for now as well and focus on deeper issues.

I refer to such things as dishonesty, disrespect, inconsideration of others, being judgmental, frequently complaining and reacting impulsively.

Do these cause self-inflicted wounds? You bet they do and they are far worse than an occasional sunburn or a sprained ankle when you weren’t watching your step.

For people who live their lives as victims, there are always things to whine and complain about as well as people and situations to blame. Their unhappiness, they feel, is not their fault.

I lived as a victim for far too long and I have had lots of company. People tend to associate with those with similar views. They gather to spread gossip, voice their opinions and wallow in self-pity. Little do they realize the force of self-destruction they are setting loose.

Consequences of Self-Inflicted Wounds

Your mind processes about 60,000 thoughts a day with about 95% being the same ones being repeated endlessly. Only about 20% of those are of a positive nature with the rest putting up red flags in the many systems of your being. The way we are wired is to keep us wary of dangers and helping us take appropriate actions.

Without our minds being tuned this way, humanity would have died off eons ago. The problem is that our subconscious cannot determine between actual threats and perceived ones. Everything is energy so our negative bias responds to both in the same fashion.

Life was much simpler for our ancestors whose threats were very real. Now people create crises over what someone is wearing, how their favourite sports team is faring, immigration policies or who is doing who in Hollywood.

When people are unhappy they often look for a scapegoat. Those other people must be at fault. They have two good arms and legs, why can’t they get a job like everyone else? Why don’t they go back to where they came from? Why can’t things be the way it used to?

Those thoughts and remarks only solidify the negativity with which you have to deal with.

  1. With any challenge, your breathing becomes shallow which sends less oxygen to your brain which limits its ability to reason, relax or remember. That is definitely not the time you want that to happen.
  2. Your heart beats faster sending blood to your extremities to deal with the crisis. As the blood is drawn away from your body, your digestive and eliminative systems are impaired. Nutrients are no longer readily available to build and maintain the organs and systems of your body.
  3. Your liver pumps out more cholesterol to thicken your blood so you won’t bleed as much if you are injured. That is a good thing in a real emergency but definitely not something you want to keep doing.
  4. Your muscles tense. In chronic stress situations, this leads to all sorts of problems.

Have no doubt that the tension you feel in life is of your own making. It reflects how you are dealing with who you are. It is not someone else’s fault for how you feel. Your self-inflicted wounds are preventing your happiness, your ability to grow and become the person you always wanted to be, and to accept just how fantastic you really are.

“All pressure is self-inflicted. It’s what you make of it or how you let it rub off on you.”
          – Sebastian Coe
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