The Snow Queen’s Shard ~ reaching the primeval wound (part one)

The Snow Queen’s Shard ~ reaching the primeval wound (part one)

If I were a dog or a cat, you’d have to put one of those cone-shaped collars on me to stop me worrying at small wounds. My late dog used to chew and chew at her paws sometimes, and it turned out there was a thorn or a grass seed working its way inwards. I’m like that. When I receive an emotional wound, I cannot leave it alone. I chew at it, because the wound continues to pain me long after the surface has healed over and from time to time, it breaks open and suppurates. I’m told by wiser others to let something go, to accept it and move on, and yet I can’t. The wound, nothing much to look at from the outside, hurts a great deal. I can’t seem to convey quite how much it still hurts to others and yet, sometimes this silvered scar is agony.

The daughter of an analytical chemist and wife to another chemist, I sought an analogy that explained this in hydrofluoric acid. It’s nasty stuff, this, but the initial burn is minor because the first action is to destroy the nerve impulses that tell you that you’ve been burned. But the acid burns deeper and deeper, and enters the system and destroys tissue beneath the surface, altering body chemistry and eventually causing cardiac arrest and usually death. You can’t see it at work after the superficial burn is healed over. Yet, if that wound is untreated, you’re a dead man walking. That explained some of the mechanism to me but not the source, the origin of the wounding.

It was a comment from my friend Andrew Meek, my cover artist, that set me thinking. He mentioned about a shard of glass. This led me to thinking about the Snow Queen. You probably know the story by Hans Christian Andersen but the bit I am thinking of is the start. The Devil made a mirror that distorted everything and made it so that even the most lovely person would see themselves as ugly and he sent the imps to carry it up to heaven to show the angels. Of course, the mirror was dropped and shattered into a million fragments and fell to earth. Shards and slivers found their way into people and it distorted the world in their perceptions. A fragment of the mirror pierced the heart and the eye of a little boy……and so the meat of the tale begins.

To my thoughts, this is analogous of a kind of primeval wounding, something that you pass over as merely a bit uncomfortable at the time but which nestles deep in your psyche and stays there unobserved for years. Whenever a similar wounding takes place, it hits right at that unhealed wound with that shard of glass at its core and it creates increasing pain each time it strikes you. And of course, as life goes on, it seems that the same core situation that created the wound and lodged the shard recurs too.

When I was eight, a situation occurred that is best described as abuse. Not family, but the details will remain vague. On a scale of things, it was pretty minor. I know many others who have suffered much worse. But for me, it hurt and baffled me. Scenario is typical: you are selected by someone you perceive as higher up the pecking order, isolated for special treatment, told you are special and you alone, then once they are done, you are discarded, demeaned and rejected. At eight, few of us understand the complexities of this sort of thing and after a few hours crying about it, I stopped thinking about it. I told no one about it for many years. But that was the First Wounding. It came about because of a need to be recognised as unique and special. I wished to be the sun in the sky for someone. (there’s another story here but not for now)

School years were full of rejections that are common enough to all, but on those occasions when a friend decided they preferred someone else to me, I wept tears more bitter than the situation warranted to others. At seventeen something remarkable happened. At my Cambridge interview, another candidate waited for me and took me for a coffee. We exchanged addresses and so began a friendship that was special to me. Letters flew back and forth, often daily. I have them somewhere still, such was the brilliance of his letters. He was the first person ever to consider me worthy of a Valentine, though he went through a rather charming pretence of it being from a Masked Admirer. We were never boyfriend and girlfriend and almost all of the relationship was by letter. I felt sure that there was something special between us. When we both went away to different universities the letters flew almost as frequently but abruptly ceased when I wrote that I had a boyfriend, and resumed almost instantly I wrote to say it was over. Later, it ceased again when I became engaged to my now-husband and never resumed. I knew I must have misread the whole thing and yet, nothing had ever been openly declared so I was never sure. The rejection of me as a friend hurt bitterly. It hit hard on that older wound, with the shard in it.

My attempts to get through the traditional route to publishing success just continued to hammer on that wound. I had phone calls and letters the first go-round. Same scenario as the abuse: singled out, praised, taken aside with half-whispered promises of greater things and then abruptly and with minimal or no explanation, dumped. Ditto my more recent attempts. I had an agent. He rang me after I’d sent samples. We met, he praised me to the skies, implied a great future. After trying less than six of his publishing contacts, he failed to find a buyer for the book that is now Away With the Fairies and stopped answering my calls. I went up to London to discuss it with him but no joy. He appeared to have forgotten all about who I was or why I had been special. I tried everything to restore the situation and nothing worked. I’ve not heard from him in more than five years.

This year I have had another experience of this same scenario: someone singling me out for “special treatment”, praising my abilities to high heaven, and then abruptly and without explanation or opportunity to discuss, rejecting me and excluding me. This has caused me deeper and more bitter pain than ever before, but I had been at a loss to explain why. I have racked my brains and my heart and my conscience (as I have done every time this has occurred in my life) to understand what I did wrong, what I did to deserve to be treated so badly. And the answer has always been logically, nothing. Yet the logical answer would not satisfy, it would not let me leave the wound alone and so I have begun digging deeper and deeper into that wound.

And I can now sense that shard at the heart of that wound.

(to be continued….)

9 thoughts on “The Snow Queen’s Shard ~ reaching the primeval wound (part one)

  1. Viv

    I’m glad you shared this — I think your story is, in some ways, all of our stories — the wound may differ, of course, and the details of the wounding — but surely we all wish to feel special to someone, don’t we?

    I was telling my spiritual director recently that I don’t think any of us receives the love and tenderness we deserve — and on the flip side (and maybe because one relates to the other) — that neither can we love others as well as they deserve. Brokenness all around. But like Henri Nouwen, I think you — Viv — are a wounded healer. And perhaps there is redemption in that, though only you can say.

    I find this piece of your story amazing and well-told. And I look forward to its continuation.



  2. Viv,
    This struck such a chord for me as well. The imagery of “worrying at a wound”, I do this myself, needing to dig it open, attempting to clean all the infected flesh and foreign matter from the wounds, so that it can begin to heal, cleanly. Even though I know the scarring will be worse for the digging, I’d far rather wear that, than carry around the poison in my center for years.

    I still have a tendency to try to hide my wounds, though, and pick at them the worst in private.

    Your eloquence, and your insight into this really does make you a wounded healer. But then again, how can a healer really know how to heal another, if she hasn’t experienced the wounding herself?


    • I know exactly what you mean. What is worse though is when the healed turn upon their healer and drive them away, as if they were the ones who wounded them in the first place.
      How are you getting on, Brea? It’s good to see you.


  3. Pingback: The Year in Review: highs, lows, triumphs and tragedies of 2011 « Zen and the art of tightrope walking

    • Thanks, Paul.
      I think I get too easily hurt, generally, but when someone I care about chooses to do something they know full well will hurt me (as was the final case I mentioned) it makes me want to never, ever get close to another human being because I seemed to have got it so wrong, about who that person really was.
      Things heal, but slowly.
      I wish you well on your voyage too.


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