Mindful Wounds–a verbal wound is as painful as a physical wound

A Blog Post by Judy Thompson, Director Mind-Body Services:

I read a touching commentary in my paper about the passing and reflection of Muhammad Ali. The commentary was submitted by a man, who in his youth, had the unique experience of spending a weekend at a training camp with his boy scout troop and Muhammad Ali. The writer shared his experience in hearing some of the lovely poetry and wisdom words of Muhammad Ali, and one of these recollections, actually a metaphoric story, inspired this post.

The story is called, “The Fence,” perhaps you have heard it before, but if not, I hope it leaves an impression.

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down.

He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it; and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”


I think one of the most readily felt, and least often honored, emotions is that of ANGER. I write about it a lot, as it is present in my own life. Emotions are merely triggers of alarm and awareness to ourselves, of something or someone, who has invoked a misdeed, infringement, or other suppressed type reaction in which ultimately we feel wronged in some way. It is often not even the person or subject that in the end is the trigger, but rather, something from our past, with which we have not readily invited into our presence. And that is OK. Our body and our brain allowed us to survive a particular circumstance, trauma or experience and it “shelved” it for us to invite into our presence with mindfulness, awareness, and kindness. And often help.

In our field, there is no reaction, emotion, or trauma, that we ourselves as therapists and clinicians have not in some form or fashion experienced ourselves. There is no shame in speaking the truth of our struggles. It is freeing. It is human. It gives us humanity and empathy.

When I am caught in the grips of experiencing anger, I try to allow myself to get to a place to recognize that it is not the anger that is the driving force, but rather something more intrinsic, such as fear.
But more importantly, I continue to remind myself, I am human, this is an experience, be kind. Be kind, not only to myself, but to others, for those wounds that are inflicted with the “hammering of the nails” are often and always, soooooo difficult to reverse and preserve when we finally surface from our “anger reaction,” and are cognitively and mindfully able to reflect upon our reaction with an understanding and care that it healing and gentle.

Try EFT (emotional freedom technique) also known as tapping, available through in office sessions, EMDR offered by our clinicians in sessions, or gentle mindful awareness of where your feet are in the present moment….breathe into that moment of the grass and greenery rising up to meet the arches of your feet, and know, really know, that in this moment, you are NOT alone.



In Compassion,

Judy Thompson