The desire to be known is at the core of the human experience. We were created for a relationship with God and for relationships with each other, in which we are fully known and fully loved. This is why the core wound of “I am unknown” can feel especially deep and painful. A core wound is pain that affects us very deeply, and it is generally caused by harmful past experiences. This harm is internalized, and a new narrative is created about our identity.
The narrative “I am unknown”, likely comes from broken relationships, as it is in trusted relationships that we can be seen and known for who we are. An experience that could contribute to feeling unknown is with parental figures, where maybe there was a constant feeling of never being understood. Or possibly caretakers and friends weren’t interested in pursuing or getting to know you. These ongoing experiences can contribute to a core wound, but so can a single experience. Maybe there was a moment during the vulnerable elementary or junior high years when other friends were having fun together, and you felt excluded and unnoticed; unseen and unknown. During such an impactful time, even one experience like this can lead to a lifelong self narrative regarding identity.
In each of these examples, the core wound is created when self-talk (subconscious or conscious) moves from “that was hurtful, but I’m going to choose to separate that experience from my identity” to “there is something fundamentally flawed about myself that caused the person to act this way toward me”. Further, the wound is solidified when the pain of the moment is kept a secret and nobody is there to care for the hurt. Receiving care in the moment can lead to healing, but a deep wound is caused when the painful emotions are shut down and no care is received.
It’s important to keep in mind that the narratives of core wounds are not necessarily isolated. Pain and wounding is deeply complicated, and multiple narratives can emerge from a single experience. For some, the wound “I am unknown” may also bring thoughts including “I am not enough”, “I am unworthy”, or “I am a disappointment”. These wounds may be intricately connected to one another. Pain doesn’t fit neatly into boxes, and so when exploring your wounds, it’s essential to remain curious with yourself.
So, is there hope for addressing these core wounds? Yes! The first step is naming it. Putting language to core wounds you believe about yourself is very difficult, but essential. This alone can bring a sense of freedom, because it is no longer hidden, but rather brought to light.
After naming the core wound, it can help to engage in the important work of understanding “why”. Why do I believe this about myself? Why does this hurt so much? What happened to me that I constantly believe “I am unknown”? Every person has a life story, and exploring yours is a large part of the healing process. At this point, grief may come, and letting it come freely is important. Spending time grieving what has been lost is necessary to move forward.
Self-compassion and self-kindness are vital next steps. While people of our past may not have cared for us like they should have, we can now accept care from ourselves and others. For example, what would you say to the 10 year old you, who felt unknown by caregivers or peers? What would you feel toward them? Thinking back to this and offering compassion to your younger self can be a powerful tool here.
Also, we can receive care by stepping out and taking a risk now with others. Maybe you have friends who you trust enough to let them in on your core wounds. Diving deeper into current relationships can help to rewrite the narrative “I am unknown”, as there is recognition that people do indeed see you and want to know and love you. While it is in relationships that we are harmed, relationships can also heal us. Relationship with God can also be a part of healing, as we recognize that we were made to know him, and that he created us and intricately knows and loves us. Having a sense of being known by God can be deeply fulfilling and healing.
Naming core wounds, addressing underlying causes, and beginning to rewrite the narrative are all part of the healing process. With this said, patience and gentleness are key, as undoing these narratives is a journey. Choosing to embark on this journey requires great courage, and hope and healing can be found along the way.
-Megan Erdmann – https://surehopecounseling.com/megan-erdmann/