I was at an event recently and ran into two adult men who attend a self-improvement class I teach weekly. These middle-aged men were recently released from prison and are finding their way in an organization, called Homeboys, where ex-gang members get to start over.
The event was for the volunteers at Homeboys, of which I am one. So, seeing my two students made me feel right at home…
I was listening to a friend talk about his parents recently. Both suffered enormous hardships in World War II. They found each other after all of their individual suffering, bonded as a couple, married, then came to the United States, and had a family.
My friend is their child. His parents had very difficult circumstances, losing all their family members. They suffered unimaginable trauma. So, when they raised my friend and his sister, they were very firm about a few things. One: that God did not exist. If God existed they believed, then the terrible things that happened to them would not have happened.
My friend grew up atheist and untrusting, taught to him by his parents who could not see another way. But my friend said he hungered for something more. He needed to find a way for his own soul to flourish, not stay in the world of his parents.
All of us feel like leaving when we get mad. It’s just something that happens to us when we are in relationships with others. We get our feelings hurt and we have to get away as soon as possible. We can’t help it. Getting away is just the quickest way to end our suffering, or is it?
I know the times I have grabbed my dog and headed out the door to get some relief from an argument I had with my boyfriend I was just protecting myself from further pain. I had to go. I had to go cool off and figure out what just happened.
The other night while my husband and I were having dinner I grew very enthusiastic about something he said. I wanted to enhance my enthusiasm and extend it, so I asked him to call the person who made the remark that I got me so excited.
He said in a very loud and firm voice, “No, I am not going to call him.” I was stunned. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t be swept up in my excitement and play along. I argued with him, urging him to commit, “Come on, just call him. It will be fun.”
He dug in his heels and said louder and even more firm, ‘NO. If you want to talk to him, you call him.”
When sorrow hits us it often feels like a ton of bricks raining down upon us. The bricks wipe out everything we thought we knew and not only that, but the ground also shifts, and we can’t find where to put our feet. Our earth, that solid foundation we have stood on forever has vanished in an instant.
When grief rips us apart we have nowhere to turn. There is no safe passage back to where we once lived. There is nothing before us, behind us, to the side of us, underneath us, there is nothing left. We are alone with our deep pain and nothing, absolutely nothing we can think of can change that. We are living with a hell inside us that will not budge.
I recently had an experience while walking my little dog. She is a small, white, fluffy thing that I inherited. Before she came to me she had a history of being a rescue, which really means we don’t know what she experienced in her life prior to living with me.
So, in the past five years, I have taken note of her skittish behavior. She has been frightened by bigger dogs. I have always protected her by crossing the street or standing off to the side to let them pass. I used to just tell myself and others she just doesn’t like big dogs, and that’s that.
But lately I have seen her more vocal. Not at other animals, but in the house. Sometimes she will bark or whine or sing. She just has a lot to say now, much more so than before…
I was talking to a friend recently and she was telling me about something nice that happened to her. She gave one of her teachers a gift and in return she received a plate of homemade cookies. As she was telling me this story I felt this warm feeling spread across my chest. And I knew instantly it was the feeling of love. My friend felt love for her teacher and he wanted to reciprocate.
Earlier today my little old dog was sleeping next to me on the chair and she put her paw on my leg. Again I felt that spreading warmth wash across my chest and I knew instantly that I was experiencing a feeling of love.
Sometimes in our lives we feel exactly as we should. You know, that feeling from deep down inside us, when we feel alive, happy, and as if everything is right with the world. This feeling may only last for a moment, but when it occurs we can’t forget it.
You may also notice this aliveness when you meet someone that you connect with. It’s as if the other person feels you the way you feel you, and you both feel each other, and then—blammo, something great happens!
There are a lot of things we learn from our parents. Mostly we learn how the world treats us. If as a child, you were scolded, you might learn that the world is harsh. If you were yelled at you might become angry. And if your parents just expected things silently, but you knew you had to comply, you might become quiet too and harsh on yourself.
Psychologists often examine how people grew up to get clues about how we operate as an adult. And as a therapist I know this is always a fruitful search, and it proves helpful when I work with people addressing their issues while in counseling.
All of us at some time in our lives have received something good from someone who really knows us. Look back on your experiences in your life, especially the ones that formed you into who you are now. See if you can find those special people who you felt understood you. These are the ones who really know us.
All humans want to be accepted for who they are. But most of us have many experiences where people did not fully accept us, in fact many of us were formed by people who had strong opinions that clashed with ours. If you got in trouble a lot, this happened to you.