"For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? ...the Spirit knows the deep things of God..." I Corinthians 2:11
The core of a person is that deep place in us that contains the essence of who we are. It holds our identity, our sense of value and dignity, our sense of belonging and specialness, our capacity for emotional intimacy. Our core determines how we see ourselves and others. It is the filter that colors our perceptions of our environment and determines how we interpret events and circumstance. It is key to our emotional resiliency and governs our approach to life and how successfully we engage its challenges. It is the critical factor in how we do relationships. Our approach to solving problems in relationships and resolving conflicts with friends, family and strangers is governed, in large measure, by the condition of our core.
The Healthy Core What happens to a person in childhood often forecasts his emotional climate as an adult: his highs and lows, his "storm center" and how he is able to weather those storms, and where many of the storms originate. When a child has experienced essentially healthy conditions with nurturing, supportive relationships, he enters into adulthood with a strong inner base from which a resilient, confident life-approach can develop. It's not that insecurities do not exist with such individuals, they do. But the solid underpinning of a healthy core allows them to confront their insecurities and deal with them rather than be controlled by them. It allows them to honestly assess both their strengths and their weaknesses: to face their failures and grow from them and to place their successes in proper balance. Such freedom permits people to take responsibility for their behaviors rather than scapegoating or denying issues altogether. It empowers them to approach life realistically and confront its conflicts and problems and seek resolution.
A healthy core permits a person to establish appropriate boundaries for himself and to respect the boundaries of others. Such a person is freed to forgive and to accept others as they are because he is free to accept himself where he is and grow and change from there. Like others, he can be deeply hurt, but the healthy base provides a resiliency that enables him to rebound more quickly from life's blows and to recover more fully.
Though many things can damage the core of a person, sexual abuse or abandonment will always - on their own - rupture a person's deepest self. When the core of a person is breeched, it carries profound implications for how that person is able to navigate life and deal with its challenges. Our ability to effectively engage life with consistency is compromised. The degree to which we are hobbled is directly related to the extent of the core wounding: the duration and nature of the abuse or abandonment. Until the core begins to heal, we will walk with an emotional limp.
For more understanding of abandonment click on the Loss of Belonging link below.
Regardless of how a person's core has been damaged, it will signal itself, inwardly and outwardly, in some predictable ways. Life will be an inconsistent mix of excitement and struggle; a paradox of boldness (even brashness at times) and persistent, gnawing insecurities. Abrupt swings in behavior or emotions will occur often without warning. The slightest perceptions of disapproval or being judged or rejected can send emotions gyrating into a black hole that often manifests as rage or other extreme responses that seem way out of line to those on the receiving end of these reactions. Those whose core has been pierced by deep hurts will frequently wonder if everyone struggles the way they do? "Is this normal? Is life this hard for everyone or is it just me?" There is the sense within the person that something is wrong, though they're not sure exactly what. The discouraging thing for these wounded warriors is that no matter what they do to cope with the fallout from such battle scars, breakthrough never seems to happen. Inconsistencies abound. Any sense of breakthrough is short-lived at best. The patterns of coping are often inconsistent and erratic. The person's heart may truly long for change and growth, but the feet don't seem to know how to get there. but the feet don't seem to know how to get there.
Profound losses occur as identity and belonging, value and dignity and the capacity for emotional intimacy seep through the fissures of the core, leaving holes in the heart that destabilize the central region of a person. These losses can be catastrophic for developing and maintaining healthy relationships, for understanding and embracing one's own sexuality, especially when sexual abuse has been involved.
(Click on Loss of Identity below for a further discussion of identity and boundaries.)
Each of these losses leaves empty places within the person that yearn to be filled. These "yearning places" produce an insatiable appetite that is expressed in addictions and obsessive-compulsive issues including enmeshment, anorexia or bulimia, alcohol or drug abuse, panic or anxiety attacks, sexual addictions, control, rage, phobias, cutting...
Compulsions and Addictions are simply the heart's way of attempting to fill its hollows.
Each hole leaves evidence of its existence: The evidence of the loss of belongingis an unending search for specialness. The evidence of the loss of identity is codependency. The evidence of the loss of intimacy is enmeshment or detachment and walls. The evidence of the loss of value is a persistent struggle with self-esteem. The evidence of the loss of dignityis shame.
Shame will always fill the hollows left by these losses, creating a toxic swamp that holds messages that contaminate a person's belief about themselves, the world and God. It drapes a person with the pervading sense of being defective or dirty...that something is deeply wrong with me. The problem with the shame that invades a breeched core is that it continues to erode the soul long after the originating events have ceased; it never satisfies and only intensifies the pain, leaving a hunger in the soul and a heart that always aches.
Because of the intensity of the pain in this shamed core, the person can no longer live there. They migrate upward toward the surface of their lives and do whatever they can to insulate themselves from the pain that pervades their central self and the toxic swamp that now fills it. In a very real sense they are abandoning themselves, dis-owning that part of themselves that is the command center of their souls. The result is not only the loss of their sense of original identity and value, their innate sense of belonging and need for healthy intimacy, but the creation of a public self that hides their "defective" private self to avoid the shame of exposure. Everything is now distorted. They no longer know who they are and, in fact, run from what they fear they are.
The person is now reeling with an emotional infrastructure so destabilized it must be artificially shored up to prevent its collapse into the psychological and spiritual sinkhole of shame. The fissures in the soul must be bandaged to prevent further hemorrhaging. As this is done, impostor behaviors wrap around the damaged core protecting it from collapse. Paradoxically, such soul wraps, though saving, make it impossible for the core to heal.
These artificial life-approaches are contrary to the person’s true nature and create a false person. What the world sees is not the true person, but the image of a bandaged core wraped in many layers of coping mechanisms; a “soul-mache” if you will. Sadly, the person himself will only know this false self...or some painful, baffling mix with the authentic self in which the false always dominates. He may hope there is something better hiding there...may even glimpse it at times, but hasn’t a clue as to how to access it, much less set it free.
This bandaged soul further insulates the person from deep interior pain and shores up the base enough to allow the child to make it into adulthood. The problem for the child as it moves into adulthood is what saves the child cripples the adult.
As long as the shame remains, its messages are locked into the bedrock of the soul, and, like a toxic landfill, seep out into the rest of the person, contaminating their responses and attitudes, their perspective and approach to life. Only as shame is externalized can the messages begin to be released.
Externalization has to do with bringing into the light what has lain hidden in darkness since the abuse or abandonment ocurred. As long as these life altering events are tucked away in dark corners they remain hidden from the truth. As a person turns around to look at what has been stalking them for so long...as the light begins to penetrate the closets of their soul...the lies that have been hidden there can begin to be exposed. Such exposure is the beginning of the externalization process, the beginning of exposing the lie...the beginning of bringing truth into a forbidden zone. The good news about it all is that the core can heal. It won't heal on its own. Time, alone, does not heal.In fact, with nothing added to it, time will tend to make matters worse. Effort, alone, will not heal. Those whose hearts have been damaged exert great effort their whole lives to get on top of things. If effort alone healed, most wounded souls would be whole. In the end, it is a combination of ingredients that effects healing and brings an unfamiliar freedom to this caged heart.
Knowledge plus Truth, combined with human effort and Divine action through the Holy Spirit, and Applied over Time in the Heart will Heal. Placing Truth in a heart that carries the wounds of abuse and abandonment cannot be done alone; professional help is essential in this journey.
Click on SafeScript for a look at the process for healing and at two basic spiritual principles for healing.