“No experience is a cause of success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences, so-called trauma – but we make out of them just what suits our purposes.” – Alfred Adler, psychologist
“Have you ever had a significant other in your life?”
Virgil was a tall, slight, blond man of 25 years who was seeking employment in his newly chosen profession of photography. He was a recent graduate of the local community college. He was sent by his father, Vito, who was an elderly brick layer. Virgil was Vito’s last child still at home. Virgil’s two siblings were living out west seeking their fortune. And, according to Vito, Virgil wasn’t get work fast enough to suit him. So, he decided he should overcome his shyness with some professional help.
When I asked Virgil why he had agreed to come at his father’s suggestion, he responded, rather sheepishly,
“At times, I kinda do feel like I’m hiding from the world!”
“What do you mean by hiding, Virgil?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t have many friends, I’m kind of a home-body. I spend most of my free time on the internet surfing.” he replied.
“Do you have a significant other in your life?”
“Not really, no.” Virgil responded.
“Would you want one, Virgil?”
“Sometimes I would but then I get afraid I couldn’t handle it, Ken.”
“Have you ever had a significant other in your life?”
“…You are ugly and stupid…”
“Yeah, in high school. I had a six month relationship with Victoria.”
“She just dumped me and told me she was more interested in one of my friends. And, that wasn’t the first time. I’ve been dumped, bullied and abused in various ways my whole life.” he said, the hurt and betrayal emerging full throttle on his face.
“Virgil those kinds of experiences happen to everyone in life. But what was your earliest memory of this kind of experience?” I asked wondering how long he had been carrying these perceptions of himself.
“That would be in my first year of school. It was just before school ended for the summer and a girl in my class, her name was Valerie, said something to me that has stuck ever since.” he said, his face contorting into the shame and embarrassment he experienced that day, so many years ago.
“What did she say to you, Virgil?”
The hesitation I saw suggested he wasn’t going to tell me, but then he seemed to change his mind.
“We had been playing during recess and I accidentally bumped her and she fell to the ground. I remember her looking up at me with anger and she screamed, ‘You are ugly and stupid, I’ll never trust you again!’ And, she never did. The next year, we were in the same room again. No matter what I did, how hard I tried to explain to her how it was an accident, she just refused to talk to me!” he said, reliving the painful memories.
“Traumas don’t have to be tattoos…”
“That sounds like a very traumatic event, Virgil. Do you think it has been undermining your self esteem and self confidence ever since?”
“Yeah, probably, Ken. As I tell you about it, all those feelings of humiliation come back in full force…even after all these years.”
“It sounds like that experience, and others after, have coloured your perception of yourself in a limiting way, Virgil. And, that view of yourself has also distorted your self confidence…even to this day. Can you see how they are connected?”
“It does make sense when I hear it. But, it was a long time ago. What can I do about it now…after all these years?”
“Traumas don’t have to be tattoos…sticking to us long after we want to get rid of them, like many people think. In fact, they are really very important learning events that contribute to our future. While a trauma invariably has a lot of intense emotional pain, it also has a counterbalancing measure of valuable learning that we use from that moment thereafter into our future.”
“Are you saying I can find something valuable, and even useful, from those terrible memories?”
“I understand what it is to go through emotional trauma and retreat and go into the world of your imagination. I understand how art and music can be a place of safety in a world of reinvention.” – Sam Taylor-Wood, artist
“… you haven’t noticed what it was you learned that has been benefiting you every day since.”
“Let me offer you a thought. When you coped with each of those terrible memories you did things unconsciously which got you through them safely.” I offered.
“You mean I survived!”
“Yes, and whatever you did added to your repertoire of behaviour options from that day forward. And, one result is you are here today, alive and well.”
“That kind of makes sense!” he said with a tone of hesitation to his voice.
“But Virgil, you haven’t noticed what it was you learned that has been benefiting you every day since. You know the costs of the memories, now it’s time to uncover the counterbalancing benefits.”
“And what does that do if I find those, Ken?”
“When you see both sides of the situation perfectly balanced, then you can let go of them, restoring your self esteem and self confidence. Then, you get on with your future. And because you have a more accurate perception of those events, you also have a more accurate perception yourself.”
“They say that love is blind, but it’s trauma that’s blind. Love sees what is.” – Neil Strauss, author
“… now you are just uncovering what was already there from the start…”
“You’re saying I can find some more self esteem if I go find what I learned from these memories…is that what you mean?”
“You won’t actually be ‘finding’ self esteem, you will be ‘uncovering’ self esteem in areas of your life where you had it when you were first born…believe it or not?”
“Do you mean I had more self esteem and self confidence when I was born than I do now?” he asked.
“Think about the last toddler you met. Just recall how much self esteem and self confidence they projected as they dealt with their day. You, like everyone else, was born with a belief you could be, do or have anything. Then as you negotiated with the giants around you, you learned to doubt it. So, now you are just uncovering what was already there from the start, Virgil.”
“That also makes sense, especially when I think of my niece, Vance, who’s just turning two years of age. She is curious about everything and fearful of nothing.”
“… to uncover the self esteem and self confidence of his early youth!”
“That belief in yourself hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just been hidden and I can show you how to uncover it for your future. Are you interested in learning how to do that, Virgil?”
“How can anyone not be interested in rediscovering the self confidence they had as a young child? Now, that I know it’s possible, I want to start today. Can I?” he asked.
“You certainly can, Virgil!”
As Virgil unpacked the old memories of being dumped, bullied and abused, he uncovered and identified the gems of insight he learned which had changed his life forever. From the first one, Valerie, his classmate from first grade, he discovered you can’t make people understand, they have to be willing to learn the truth. From Victoria, his high school girlfriend, he said he learned how to handle rejection and keep his respect for himself and others.
As he took these insights and considered how they had impacted him since. He realized, they were vital parts of who he was today and how he dealt with people today This especially included his family and his friends. He noted he was close to his family and has three really close friends.
As he analyzed the two sides of several other one sided nightmares, he created a much broader perception of himself. This was instrumental in him uncovering the valuable learnings inside each of his old traumatic memories. This freed him to be himself and to uncover the self esteem and self confidence of his early youth.
“I think the thumb print on the throat of many people is childhood trauma that goes unprocessed and unrecognized.” – Tom Hooper, director
“I got a date for Friday night and a job interview on Monday!”
When I asked him in one of our final sessions what were the three most important things he had learned from these old memories, he replied,
“The first has to be people see the world their way, not my way. Each has their own set of values which determines how they see me. They don’t know me, no one does! It’s my full time job to learn to know me. And, we’re all moving targets, evolving people. Everyone else is working on themselves, not on me!”
“Wow!” I said.
“The second one is I’m no worse or no better than anyone else. I have a special purpose being here and a set of values from my past which I use to live on my unique purpose!”
“Wow # 2!” I said.
“And, the third would be I will expect everything in my future to be perfectly balanced in pleasure and pain, because to think otherwise is to be unaware, or ignoring, the natural law of balance!”
“Wow # 3!” I said, a third time.
His integration of his learnings and progress was demonstrated about a month later when he walked into my office wearing a soft smile and said,
“Ken, I got a date for Friday night and a job interview on Monday afternoon!”
“Grateful people may recover faster from trauma.” – Deborah Norville, journalist
Until Next time…
Now you know, you can be a victim or a victor over any trauma you have ever experienced. If you choose the latter, then you need to uncover what you learned at that traumatic moment that changed your life in a useful way. Once you uncover it…and it has to be there, then you make the memory OK and you begin to appreciate it in a way which allows you to move through it and on with your life. If you need assistance, please contact me to book a consult.
REMEMBER, this other wonderful opportunity! Dr. John Demartini, is going to be in Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 22 & 23, 2017 facilitating The Breakthrough Experience™ seminar. His daughter Alana and I will be assisting him.
This is your chance to start designing your own destiny. Results are guaranteed and there is no better investment than yourself. If you like the ideas you have read here, you will love this seminar. Check it out at:
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Be well…balanced! Ken
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com