The Weight of the Open Wound: When Victim Becomes Executioner

October 25, 2019
Some people feel incapable of seeing others suffer due to the excessive weight of their own wounds. Those traumas created from abuses or abandonment become scars that fester, don't heal, and sometimes end up turning into aggression.

An open wound can sometimes end up becoming an abyss infected by resentment, rage, and vulnerability. Some people who have been victims of abuse, abandonment, or maltreatment may experience this phenomenon. The lasting mark of those experiences and the inability to heal often make them project this lasting wound onto others. This sometimes ends up manifesting as maladaptive behavior.

Everyone deals with pain differently. Some are better at handling it than others. Nevertheless, some people do it in the worst possible way: with aggression. The reason for this? There’re certain cases in which various determining factors can suddenly come together. One of these might be the severity of the trauma. It can also be harder on a person who doesn’t have the appropriate social resources or support groups to deal with it. We also have to keep in mind the importance of biological and genetic factors.

That being said, the most important factor is the individual’s personality. For example, you know that certain people with reactive narcissism use their pain as a ranged weapon. Their identity as victims and the weight of a past filled with abuse often turns them into camouflaged executioners. This can happen even without their wanting it to. They become people who can’t control their impulses for reprisals and project their anger towards others in various ways.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

-Buddha-

A man putting a hand on his face in stress due to his open wound.

When an open wound from trauma turns into aggression

The concept of the “victim” as such tends to be controversial. One thing you have to understand, first of all, is that not everyone faces trauma in the same way. Some people, thanks to their psychological resources or the strong support group they have, properly deal with dramatic events in their lives. These people soon unhitch themselves from the victim identity.

Other people, in contrast, absorb that harm, that open wound, throughout a great part of their lives. This wound, in turn, produces even more negative consequences. One example of these effects is post-traumatic stress disorder. One question you might have is why this happens. Why are there people who, instead of overcoming the painful event from their past, carry it around as a burden?

Another question you might ask yourself is “Why does a person who experiences traumatic events might react in a maladaptive or violent way?” At the University in Monterotondo in Italy, researchers conducted an interesting study in order to analyze this issue. Doctor Giovanni Frazzetto headed this research project.

The team obtained the following data:

Early traumas and the MAOA gene

According to this study conducted in 2007, being exposed to certain negative events during the first 15 years of your life tends to leave its mark on your emotional and psychological fabric. Of course, some people will have higher chances of overcoming and facing these challenges than others.

  • People who have a harder time with these issues tend to have the MAOA gene, linked, above all, to the male gender. Said gene is associated, in turn, with a clear behavioral phenotype – that of greater aggression.
  • As such, something the researchers discovered during the project is that children who had grown up without parents, who’d been neglected, abused, or grew up around alcoholics, showed more aggressive and antisocial behaviors in adulthood.
  • The gene was also associated with a greater tendency toward drug abuse. Aside from this, the people in this group tended to have clear difficulties in establishing solid and significant social and emotional relationships.
  • The open wound and the vulnerability that stops you from perceiving other people’s pain.

A man with smoke around his head representing his anger.

An open wound and the vulnerability that blocks you from seeing other people’s pain

An open wound is a problem that you haven’t solved. It eats away at you day by day. It makes you a victim because it fundamentally forces you to redefine yourself. You see yourself as not a product of what you do today, but by what happened to you in the past.  There are so many people who become trapped in their own vulnerability, repressed rage, choking fear, and the weight of the memory. All of this, almost unbeknownst to them, starts to create “emotional blindness”.

They become unable to see or feel emotional realities outside of their own. That lack of empathy stems from the open would itself, from that trauma that creates changes in their brain. It eventually ends up modifying the affected person’s personality. Ironically, at some point, a person who considers themselves a victim can even come to turn into an executioner.

  • This is the case, for example, with a teen who’s being abused at home. They may leave their home and demonstrate violent behaviors at school.
  • This is also the case of those who feel so powerless and vulnerable that they react in an extreme way to defend themselves.
  • The open wound can make you end up seeing violence as a form of communication. If, as a child, you witnessed aggressive behavior or were a victim of it yourself, it’s likely that, as an adult, you’ll use these same models as references.

Open wounds and traumas. How can you treat them?

These days, the ideal focus for the treatment of traumas is, without a doubt, trauma-centric cognitive behavioral therapy. An extensive scientific body of works backs up the efficacy of this tool (Echeburua and Corral, 2007; Cohen, Deblinger, and Mannarino, 2004).

On the other hand, acceptance and commitment therapy (Hayes, Strosahl, Wilson, 1999, 2013) is also available. This is a third-generation cognitive behavioral therapy. It aims to reduce anxiety and fear in order to help the patient better deal with threatening situations.

In much the same way, and no less importantly, it’s important to work on managing your rage if you already suffer from it. Such tendencies start to show up even from childhood. Experts know, for example, that approximately 45% of children who witness domestic violence develop behavioral problems.

A child looking out the window sadly.

The open wound causes anxiety, sadness, rage, and a series of mental images that you can’t erase. Specialized professionals should be responsible for dealing with these types of dramatic realities. No one deserves to live a life where suffering snuffs out their ability to be happy.

  • Frazzetto, G., Di Lorenzo, G., Carola, V., Proietti, L., Sokolowska, E., Siracusano, A., … Troisi, A. (2007). Traumatismo precoz y mayor riesgo de agresión física durante la edad adulta: el papel moderador del genotipo MAOA. PLOSOS UNO , 2 (5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000486