Recently I had a conversation with a colleague and we discussed how unhealed emotional wounds are similar to the toxicity of cancer in that the manner in which these wounds (malignant tumor) of potentially unlimited growth can expand locally by invasion (damaging self) and systemically by metastasis (damaging others).
Merriam-Webster has four definitions for cancer:
1a. A northern zodiacal constellation between Gemini and Leo
1b. the fourth sign of the zodiac in astrology or one born under the sign of Cancer
2a. a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis
2b. an abnormal bodily state marked by such tumors
3. something evil or malignant that spreads destructively
4a. an enlarged tumor like plant growth (as that of crown gall)
4b. a plant disease marked by such growths
As it pertains to our relationships, there are various ‘veins’ (pathways) feeding our emotional cancer, making it stronger and more destructive. When we do not heal our emotional wounds it continues to grow and spread to other areas of our lives destroying trust, communication, quality of life and ultimately our friendships, marriage, families and other relationships.
Emotional cancer is so detrimental and toxic because there are infinite ways others unknowingly ‘feed’ the cancer. For example, if you are a woman who did not grow up with your biological father, you may have developed an emotional wound of ‘I Am Not Good Enough’ cancer. Unbeknownst to you, somewhere along the way during your childhood you made the association that if you were good enough your dad would have remained and played an active role in your life. As children we are unaware of the concept that people, including our parents, do the best that they can with the tools they have and in many instances have their own unresolved emotional wounds which result in inadvertently hurting others, even their children.
Fast forward you are now an adult woman unaware of your metastasized ‘emotional cancer’ which is now massive and intertwined into your entire system. Your veins and arteries are now providing the blood source which means there are infinite pathways to ‘activate’ this cancer. Therefore,
- a romantic partner not returning your call results in feeling ignored (pathway) which feeds into the ‘I am not good enough’ emotional cancer because if I were you would respond to me when I need you.
- Unrequited interest results in feelings of rejection = activation of ‘I am not good enough’ emotional cancer
- Not receiving a job offer, getting into an academic program/fellowship/etc = rejection = activation of ‘I am not good enough’ emotional cancer
- Infidelity = disrespect + not being protected = activation of ‘I am not good enough’ emotional cancer
- Supervisor raising their voice at you = feeling dismissed + disrespect = activation of ‘I am not good enough’ emotional cancer
The examples above demonstrates that emotional cancer does not require a like-like connection to become activated; meaning that your biological father is not the only one who can trigger this emotional wound since it was caused by his absence.
Instead emotional cancer casts a wide net in that broad concepts such as disrespect, dismissiveness, lack of emotional protection, lack of providing, lack of returned loved, etc. can all activate this emotional wound because these are the feelings in which the cancer is made.
Although you cannot change your past to remove the emotional cancer from becoming a part of your life, there is a cure to emotional cancer and it is vulnerability. Vulnerability is the noninvasive surgery that will remove the cancer from your life. Without vulnerability what we are really doing is protecting the cancer when someone inadvertently activates it. We yell, curse, push people away and put up barriers which oftentimes triggers their emotional wounds and the cycle of pain continues sabotaging relationships and our quality of life. However, if in the moment you were to face the person and say,
“When you do (or not do) X, I feel Y because of Z.”
If this occurs in your romantic relationship:
- Face the person.
- Hold their hands.
- Say, ‘When you do (or not do) X, I feel Y because of Z.”
Have your ever noticed when two people are hurt they begin to create physical space between each other? This is the expansion of their emotional cancer becoming stronger and bigger. By holding hands you ground each other in the present, pull each other from their childhood mind where the wound was created. Emotional cancer cannot survive this level of vulnerability, this is the cure to emotional cancer.
Is it easy to sit in this type of vulnerability? No.
But easy is not the answer, cure nor your gauge because you have easily carried this emotional cancer for years (and for some it may be generations).
- Becoming emotional cancer free is the goal.
- No longer activating another’s emotional cancer is the goal.
- Improving the quality of your life and relationships is the goal.
- Being comfortable with your vulnerability is the goal.
- Living in love and not fear if the goal.
- Removing ALL the barriers that prevent you from recognizing, receiving and reciprocating love is the goal.
At Love Grows we are doing our part to make the world emotional cancer free one relationship at a time! Do your part. If you need assistance, get it. It is time for you to remove the cancer. Your best life is awaiting you. – Misha N. Granado, MPH, MS