Creating a Future, Part 2: Your wound is your gift
This is the second installment in our Radical Honesty series about how to create a plan for your future that is based on what calls you forth rather than your conditioned reactivity.
In part 1, I shared with you how the first step to becoming a powerful creator is to clean up the unfinished business from your past by contacting and completing things you have left incomplete between you and others. (Did you do it? If you did, please write us briefly about how it went and what happened, or if you need support, get in touch with a Radical Honesty Trainer.)
Step two, this newsletter, is about knowing and using your wounds and neuroses creatively rather than being victimized by them, criticizing them, or resisting them. You transcend your limitations not by trying to change or “fix” them, but by using them as vital tools to create a life you want, living how you want to live, and doing what you want to do.
Knowing My Personal History
Here is a bit of the story of my life conditioning and then how I used my history to design my future.
My father died of a heart attack when I was almost six years old. My brother was four. My sister was 13. My mother remarried when I was seven to a veteran of World War II. He was shell-shocked, an alcoholic, a wife beater and a child abuser. After several miscarriages because of beatings, my mother gave birth to my half brother (born prematurely, also because of a beating, but he survived). I was nine when that happened. At the same time my sister, who was 16, left home to avoid being molested by my stepfather.
I loved my little brother. I had to take care of him a lot because my mother and stepfather were often gone or passed out or too drunk to do so. I sometimes enrolled and sometimes forced my brother Jimmy, a year and a half younger than me, to help me cut wood, feed the chickens and hogs and fend off the drunks. I learned to be alert and to respond quickly to behavior and mood changes in drunks so I could keep them from hurting one of us kids or killing each other. I learned when to run away, avoid, confront, demand, threaten, fight and control.
I considered myself a smart kid and a hero, and I couldn’t afford to admit that I was scared or worried or felt sorry for myself. Because of this good bad luck, I was designed by my life to be a helper who wants to keep those already hurt from being hurt more, and to keep the little ones safe from the big ones.
As I grew older I still wanted to help people and teach them to take care of themselves, but I also wanted to show off my perceptiveness. I resented people if they didn’t appreciate me a lot, do what I said, and turn out the way I thought they should. I purchased allegiance by helping others. I charged this allegiance to the helpee in an inexplicit way, such that a vague sense of obligation bound them to me, protected me from them, and got me praise.
What I Became
I became a compassionate but manipulative, codependent, lying survivor. I’ve spent a lot of time showing off and achieving things to make people know that I am a person to be dealt with and that they better not do things to hurt other people I look out for or I will hurt them. My life has been organized around letting people in general know they had better not fuck with me or anyone else I cared about (and letting women know they could fuck with me if they cared too!)
Owning Your Tool Kit
As a psychologically reactive, homemade, individual humanoid, I have here a hand-built, home-made set of neurotic survival techniques, my carried-around-with-me-at-all-times way of getting along, feeling protected and surviving tool kit. The question for me then, is, “What do I want to use this tool kit to create?”
One of the benefits of Radical Honesty is that you can use your story to make your life an ongoing work of art that you are in charge of, rather than merely a tale of reactivity about what happened to you.
Here’s How It Works For Me
I learned to survive by protecting my mother from being killed or permanently damaged by beatings, taking care of my little half-brother and my brother and some other people by being wary, paranoid, aggressive, fighting back and defending against other people who could hurt us.
When I was thirteen years old I half scalped my step father, beating him with a piece of firewood fracturing his skull and breaking three of his ribs. After his recovery from that I held him at gunpoint and promised to kill him if he ever hit my mother again. After that I made arrangements for my little brother (almost 5 then) to go live with his grandmother, my younger brother (12) to go live with an aunt and uncle in Tennessee, and me to Texas to live with my sister and brother-in-law...with occasional visits back to Virginia to check on my little brother and see if I needed to kill his father. This way the members of the family survived by the family being taken apart.
I will always operate automatically from that mode of guardian and protector, and I have no choice in the matter. Still, serving people can be a choice for me and can be very fulfilling and fun instead of constant struggle – if I own that built in system and choose to use that model to create my life with! So I can choose to serve people as a design for my life simply because it is a good choice given my design! (which I am condemned to live with.) I can escape the oppression of the historical personality that drives me, even though I cannot escape the personality itself.
In other words, the meaning made for me without any choice on my part from the life, times, family, and culture I was born into and formed by, was not under my control. What is under my control is (1) the use of that personality and history as a creative instrument and (2) what I use it to create.
When I was sixteen years old I decided to become a clinical psychologist. I got my Ph.D. nine years later. If you want to read more of my autobiography, you can buy it here.
Your Wound is Your Gift
Each evening during the 8-Day Radical Honesty workshop, two participants are given one hour to tell the story of their life. We videotape them and then give them a copy so they can watch it and share it with their friends and family following the workshop.
The day after they tell their story we all spend time with them responding to their story and sharing our reactions, opinions, and remembrances triggered by revealing their story to others and getting feedback. They begin to see clearly how they developed survival strategies and traits that are the source of their current gifts.
Write Out the Story of Your Life
Write out the story of your childhood and then share it with your family and friends. What themes do you see emerge? What strategies did you use to get by that could help you create a life you want? If you want to continue from there, consider participating in an eight day Radical Honesty Workshop or read the book Practicing Radical Honesty.
The gift of our honesty with each other makes us all geniuses from cashing in on the wisdom gained from our shared stories of survival. Our stories interrupt, correct and modify each other. And because of the openness and sharing at that depth, we all fall in love with each other, and support each other in the use of our hard earned gifts wounds.
Brad Blanton, Ph.D. Author of Radical Honesty, Practicing Radical Honesty, The Truthtellers, Radical Parenting and other books