Battle scars and their stories

iCAP Services logoBeing a chronic tree climber as a child, I was always being scratched or stabbed or bruised by errant branches and rough bark.

The next day at school, there’d be a parade of said scratches with proclamations and details of how they all came about. Each friend would have the opportunity to display and brag until all new physical scars were accounted for.

Physical scars from weekend sports or playground activities would allow you air-time to brag about how much your new scar hurt and how much you did or didn’t cry. Kids with casts became overnight sensations with everyone queuing, wanting to find out what happened and draw all over the pristine white plaster.

I remember years later, a visiting friend showed us a scar on his stomach proclaiming that it was received in a street brawl when someone stabbed him. After much ‘ooo-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’ from his audience, his conscious got the better of him and he confessed to not being stabbed. Instead, he had been ironing his shirt whilst wearing it and burnt his stomach!

Seemingly, it was better to hide the truth than confess what had really happened.

Image of an African girlPhysical scars are not the only types of scars we carry through life that have a story.

We also carry emotional scars.

Some of us display and talk about them yet others keep them well hidden.

Emotional scars have many origins:

  • a violent father physically abusing his child
  • a detached wife openly seeking affairs
  • witnessing the death of a loved one in an accident
  • bullying at school or at work
  • being raped

More recently, natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and bush fires can all result in emotional scars for people who experienced fear, anxiety and losses in these situations.

Do emotional scars heal so well as to eventually fade away into the attic of our memory and psyche? If not, why not?

What keeps them so prominent in our thoughts or festering in the background?

What makes you hide the truth rather than acknowledge you’re hurt to the people around you?

Self-judgements that come with emotional scars may stop us from seeking help: feeling shame about what’s happened;fearful of ridicule or rejection; thinking yourself weak, unmanly or unworthy.

  • Acknowledging the scars is always the first step to lightening the load and helping them fade.
  • Find support from your family or friends and tell them how you feel. If trusting family or friends is difficult, a health professional may be your best option.
  • The inner dialogue of people with emotional scars tends to swing towards self-blame or lack of self worth, so working through your thoughts about why it happened to you or your loved ones is essential.
  • Making sense of these events helps you to start filing away your experiences and attaching some meaning to them.

Even if, sometimes, there is no reason or meaning to be found, that realisation itself may be enough to start lessening the burden of your emotional battle scars.

Can you identify each of your emotional scars and the story they carry?

What would it take for you to show your emotional scars and allow people to listen to their story?

Tina is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist in private practice in Wollongong and Sydney.

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  1. Mezza Dee says:

    Often fear of where the emotions linked to the scars might take us, (anihilation of the self) cause avoidance and prevent any exploration. It is often the experience of the vulnerability with an infomed witness who will not be mortally wounded by our story which allows for unpacking the layers of emotional pain and finally healing.

  2. It’s the emotion scars that you just can’t put a band aid on and it will get better… or in my case family saying that you have other children you should be happy, he is in heaven with God. I don’t want him with God I want him here – with me…. these comments don’t help!

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