Emotional Wounds Are Like Physical Wounds
From the psychoanalytic point of view the paradox occurs that areas of conversation where people feel at ease, where they seem interested and engaged, are likely to be a waste of time, dead ends that don’t have much to do with the moving parts in the underlying neurosis. Conversely, areas where they clam up, where they avoid or change the subject, where they seem disinterested or distracted, are likely to be a productive use of time, inroads that have a lot to do with the moving parts in the underlying neurosis.
If we think of a neurosis as an individual strategy to heal emotional wounds, a strategy that has been partly successful in diminishing some of the associated emotional pain, it makes perfect sense why people would consciously or unconsciously work to avoid any topics of conversation that threaten to open these wounds back up.
Emotional wounds are like physical wounds. When you have a physical wound you’re extremely sensitive about that area, you certainly don’t want anyone poking around in there. You’re trying to give yourself the chance to heal. But when the wound is infected it’s got to be cleaned out, direct attention has to be paid to it, and this direct attention is going to sting. You can’t just put a band aid on there and hope that by ignoring the problem the infection will go away. Everyone wants to avoid pain, but sometimes we have to accept a little pain in the short-term to save us a lot of pain in the long-term.
A neurosis is sort of like a band aid, it doesn’t treat what’s really wrong emotionally but only covers up the problem. Those emotional wounds are still very raw, very sensitive underneath. In fact they’ve become infected. Cleaning out the psychic infection stings but it’s necessary in order to give those emotional wounds a legitimate chance to heal. When they do there’s no more need for the band aid. Dysfunctional ways of being and relating can be replaced with healthier ways of being and relating since the neurosis, which is responsible for those dysfunctional ways of being and relating, no longer serves any useful purpose.