"Let It Bleed"...and Let Them Bleed


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 In his article Let it Bleed: Managing Sexualized Woundedness, Craig Chalquist writes about the too-common drama of (mainly) men who "settle for partners they feel attracted to but aren't in love with", and the probable reasons for this. He asks,

...just why does a man who knows he isn't serious about a woman, knows she'll wind up being hurt and angry, maybe even knows she realizes his state of mind, decide to be with her anyway? And why do some women make the same decision?

He goes on to answer with a very interesting —although too broad, for my taste— "sexualized woundedness" theory focused entirely on early woundings and magical thinking: With eerie consistency, the men (and women) who settle for nonpassionate sexual relationships nearly always were left with a heart broken by an unavailable parent early on.

While this is true and entirely valid, I find this article extremely dangerous in that it grants men (and women) precisely a true and valid justification for their present behaviour based on past events, totally disregarding the most obvious: that in order to truly grow and change, one must face and assume responsibility for one's present damaging behaviours and attitudes, acknowledging also the present "hidden agendas" and possible motives: dishonesty, punishment, manipulation, hate for women, desire to prove that they are indeed the "strong" sex, desire for a cheap and momentary sense of power, etcetera —all of which, of course, can be validly contained and embraced under this broad "sexualized woundedness" theory. And therein lies the danger.

Although it is true, for instance, that a desire to punish women might come from a very early wound and the resulting hate for mother, we must realize that the punishing is being done in the present, and the present moment is where the real work must begin: the "here and now" is the only moment when true change can occur. And while they undoubtedly played an extremely important part in our development, we are solely responsible for our own actions and their impact on ourselves and others, and we must be held accountable for them, not our parents. Until when are we going to continue acting like punished little kids and blaming our parents for all our present bad or failed actions? Apparently it is easier to attribute our actions and their resulting impact (damage) to an umbrella theory and leave it at that, instead of facing the reality that these men (and women) are in fact damaging and hurting another person consciously —at least at some level, specially when the person doing the damage has had some sort of psychological or inner work training— and that is something that a "sexualized woundedness" theory can never justify enough.

Mr. Chalquist continues:

Meanwhile your partner eventually goes off on you, embittered by your incapacity for love or intimacy, and, your own stereotypes confirmed, you have a fresh load of distrust, resentment, futility, and guilt ("Why am I always the bad guy?") to add to what you already carry. Nothing heals.

After that Mr. Chalquist goes on to give a bunch of healthy tips about what one should do about it:

Look inward, take your best account of that hole in your heart, and let it bleed. Make use of whatever will help: a journal, exercise, self-help books, art, music, good therapy, spiritual resources, understanding friends. Don't be a martyr, don't hit back, don't overanalyze, don't whine...

Again, perfectly valid and undoubtedly helpful suggestions. But unfortunately he does not address what one should do with or how one should handle the real impact on —not the resulting reactions of— the other person; that is, the other person's bleeding. This lack of recognition for such an important part implies, in my opinion, that he believes that that's the other person's problem. The damage has been done, so the whole matter should be dropped with the other person, and one should go on to "work on it" with and by oneself. In a way he seems to be saying: "Let it bleed, and leave the other person to bleed on his/her own." Or else, "I am bleeding, therefore I don't have to be held accountable for whatever bleeding I might cause you. All I have to do is let my own bleeding bleed."

However, at the end he gleefully states:

Do this and a day will come when you'll turn within and find that the hole has closed, the magical thinking has gone silent, the pain has broken down into energy, and the sexualized woundedness has dried up.

If not by the presence of these, then you will recognize that day by an absence: the absence of the sort of partners you used to feel drawn to, and who used to feel drawn to you.

Comfortable with yourself by yourself, perhaps then you'll feel ready to begin a relationship that's for real.

With such assuring statements one can only assume that he has had this experience himself. (Have you, Mr. Chalquist?) One can also assume that he considers failed relationships not "for real". However, I wonder, how can someone —anyone— aspire to have a "real" relationship while totally disregarding his own impact on the other, with the other, regardless of whether the relationship ends or continues at a different level?

Such attitude speaks of an egotistical way of "growing" while leaving those around him to bleed on their own. And no one can fully grow without being accountable for the damage one causes in others. Nothing will heal entirely until we assume full responsibility for our actions and their impact. Nothing heals until we tell ourselves the truth, however brutal.

This is precisely the "predator" attitude that Clarissa Pinkola refers to in Chapter 2 of her book Women Who Run With the Wolves:

A predatory person misappropriates a woman's creative juice, taking it for their own pleasure or use, leaving her whitened and wondering what happened, while they themselves somehow grow more rosy and hearty.

As a woman who has lived through this experience, I believe that such attitude in men is precisely one of the main reasons why women are angry at them —regardless of the women's own early woundings. To women, such attitude speaks of cowardice and lack of responsibility. (Responsibility = the will and ability to respond.) I have repeatedly heard women (including myself) express themselves after similar experiences: "First he wooed me and then he left me, with no explanation other than he wasn't 'ready', the coward!", or other similar statements with a similar context. Whatever his reasons or motivations, the predator's modus operandi is usually the same: he'll talk to the woman about loving her —not wanting her sexually, but loving her, most women's "weak" point— possibly mentioning his "plans" to live with or marry her, all the while getting sexual gratification, to finally disappear from sight with barely an explanation. Can a woman's bleeding and anger after such an experience be attributed exclusively to her early woundings and magical thinking? Hardly. The woman "goes off" on the man embittered, yes, but not by the man's "incapacity for love or intimacy", as Mr. Chalquist puts it. She goes off embittered by the man's behaviour and incapacity to speak the truth, even to himself. As Pinkola puts it:

The deceitful promise of the predator is that the woman will become a queen in some way, when in fact her murder is being planned.

It is obvious that the predator is particularly dangerous when he happens to be a trained expert in psychological matters or some sort of inner work, which enables him to know —consciously or otherwise— when and how a woman can be manipulated, as well as to manipulate his own "reasons" for hurting her and then ignoring the whole issue, at least apparently, and at least with her. Pinkola again (from Chapter 10):

If you want to kill something, just be cold to it. As soon as one becomes frozen in feeling, thinking, or action, relationship is not possible. When humans want to abandon something in themselves or leave someone else out in the cold, they ignore them, disinvite them, leave them out, go out of their way to have to even hear their voice or lay eyes upon them.

And as one of many possible answers to Mr. Chalquist's question, "why do some women make the same decision?", still other quotations from Pinkola's book:

Many women have literally lived the Bluebeard tale. They marry while they are yet naive about predators, and they choose someone who is destructive to their lives. They are determined to "cure" that person with love. They are in some way "playing house." One could say that they have spent much time saying, "His beard isn't really so blue." (Chapter 2)


When she is starved, a woman will take any substitutes offered, including those that, like placebos, do absolutely nothing for her, as well as destructive and life-threatening ones that hideously waste her time and talents or expose her life to physical danger. It is a famine of the soul that makes a woman choose things that will cause her to dance madly out of control —then too, too near the executioner's door. (Chapter 8)

For women, the answer lies in her inner strength. She must look for her own inner ways to nourish herself, to feed her soul hunger so she won't need to take any more cheap substitutes and fall into the predator's trap as readily. And even though the original hunger might come from an early wounding, she too must look for solutions in the present, in her present being, and not in the past, acknowledging her hunger and its consequences responsibly, not blamingly.

On the other hand, I would suggest that if a man is tired of attracting "angry" women into his life, he takes a serious look at himself first, for it is very probable that he is making them angry to begin with, specially when he has this kind of attitudes/behaviours and refuses to truly assume responsibility for the damage he himself has caused these "angry" women.

Mr. Chalquist's theory is truly part of the problem, and he offers excellent solutions for part of the problem. But there is a lot more work to be done in many areas other than early woundings and magical thinking in order to be able to have a relationship. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to consider his theory and suggested solutions as a "cure-it-all" for failed relationships.

© 1998 by Cheryl Harleston

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