Sunday, May 16, 2010

Healing the Past

There are useful techniques in healing one's past. Many things that happen to us as children that affect the way we perceive reality the rest of our lives can be healed in the present as an adult. Often just having the courage to look at what actually happened to us through adult eyes can heal the traumas we experienced as children who were innocent then and couldn't really understand what was really going on.

Let me give you an example of healing in my own life. When I was 3 years old I was left with my 60 something grandmother alone (for the first time for this length of time) for 2 weeks while my parents went to a religious conference in Mt. Shasta, California. At the time we lived in Lake Forest Park, a suburb of Seattle, Washington. 

At the time I remember how abandoned and ashamed I felt as a three year old and how it felt to me "like I was being buried underground". However, yesterday with the help of a friend I revisited this place and really looked at the whole situation through adult eyes. Though I could still see that this became a part of a life long issue of "loneliness being and only child and feelings of abandonment and shame long term throughout my life" I finally looked at it for what it was.

What was really happening is that my grandmother 3 years before had had a stroke and had been in a coma for several months. When she had had her stroke she was a slim and nervous person but when she finally woke up again she was a different person and got heavy and calm. Before this, her husband had abandoned her never to come back, when she was about 50. Since she was born in 1888 she had undiagnosed dyslexia, so when she couldn't learn properly in school in Philadelphia she was pulled out at age 8 to raise her brothers and sisters. She never was allowed to go back to public school. Then her families home burned down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so they all had to move back to Scotland near Glascow until she was an adult when she married a minister and they moved to Omaha, Nebraska where my mother was born.

So, what I realized was why I felt the way I did then. She was horrified to be left alone with me because she was scared to be alone. She couldn't drive and wouldn't take a bus because of her era. She had never had a job except for caring for children (her parent's and her own). So, it was her shame and her fear that paralyzed me and being a 3 year old I felt and saw all this but over time believed it was my shame and my abandonment and took it into myself in an unhealthy way so this trauma affected me all my life in various ways.

But  from an adult perspective none of this abandonment or shame should I have taken personally. Also, when I look at it from my parents point of view it was a way for them to show my grandmother that she was still functional and that she had recovered from her stroke and coma, and that she could take care of me despite this, sucessfully. So she did.

I remember when they returned they brought me a toy which was a tube of plastic goo that you blow through a straw and it made a permanent plastic bubble which you could then set on a plate and admire or pretend it was a balloon or something. I remember thinking at the time, "Mom and Dad. What you did to me was horrific beyond anything you could ever imagine. And after all that suffering all you do is bring me this stupid toy?"

Though there are multiple traumas in everyone's life, I would have to say that this horror began for me the horror of becoming a man. So, by the time I was 4 and they had a dentist pull out all my front teeth without novacaine I had become a man and endured this without crying. From that first experience I learned to be tough and survive anything. But being tough is a two edged sword. It cuts both ways.

Between 8 and 12 years old I often protected other children from harm by bullies. Since I was always very big for my age I would often step in to protect others. Many people became my friend because I protected them from harm.  It was like this even into my 20s.

At age 12 my father took my aside and said quite seriously to me, "You have a temper,  Freddie. So, you need to always be the grown up with other kids. You can't ever afford to let them get your goat. Otherwise, if you lose control someone is going to die. You have to be an adult in this way from now on. You are going to be the strongest and tallest guy in most rooms from now on. And if you lose control someone is going to die. You must be extremely disciplined to not ever lose control no matter what anyone says to you."

I took this to heart and learned to never lose control of my emotions. I learned to be the adult in every situation. I knew my Dad was right. If I lost control like I watched many of my friends do all the time, someone might die. So, I always stayed in control of every situation. I learned that being the biggest guy in most rooms 6 foot 4 3/4 inches in my bare feet or 6 foot 6 inches with my boots on, that I must always be in perfect control at all times whether I want to be or not. I learned that though I could appear to be less of a threat by the way I spoke to people that if I wanted to  appear to be intimidating to protect myself or others all I had to do was just to stand there, be quiet and not smile.

However, the first real trauma that I can remember in adult memory was being traumatized by being left alone with my very alone and scared Grandmother for two weeks when I was 3. And having a friend help me by going back and fully facing that experience I felt the problems of those two weeks at age 3 begin to unravel back all the way to the present and to permanently free me from the unuseful parts of those traumas.

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