Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reminiscing Can Heal our Childhoods

Back to my blog home page:

I had a playful discussion with Bertie yesterday. We were sitting on the mat in the gym trying to "open up" her shoulder blades. (When people lose range of motion in their shoulders due to injury (like a rotator cuff tear) or disease process (like arthritis), they also lose motion in their shoulder blades. You have to  get the scapula (shoulder blade) moving in (rotating) in order to get the arm moving above shoulder height. Just a little fyi.

We were chatting as I mobilized the scapula. She started telling me about how she spent summers in New York with her grandmother. There were no little girls to play with there, but there were two naughty little boys who really didn't want her around.

She got tickled when she related a story about throwing apples into a cider press, a contraption that squeezed out the juice and made cider. The little rascals turned a hose from the cider press on her, the way a fireman points a hose at a fire.

"I can still feel the way it knocked me down!" she exclaimed, laughing. "Those boys got in such trouble!"

We had such a delightful session, with me asking bunches of questions, and Bertie sharing from her past. I asked her, "Bertie, do your children know these stories from your childhood?"

She paused...."no, they don't!"  She paused again.

    "Bertie, have you thought of telling them all the stories you just told me?"

"No, but I really should."

     "I think they would really enjoy knowing this side of you!"

And from there, she formed a plan. When she is with her daughter and son this weekend, she is going to start telling her stories.

Of course, this made me think of my own parents. My parents both experienced traumatic events that affected their childhoods, which always made me and my siblings hesitate to ask them about details of their growing-up years. I can count the number of fond memories they have shared with us on one hand.

It's been a closed book.

As a healthcare professional, I think that it's time to open the book.

We therapists have animated discussions among ourselves about how our parents will listen to other therapists but not their own children who are experts in the field! My parents may not agree with my opinion, but here it is:

When people have experienced great grief, trials or heartbreaks in early life, it's as if a piece of them splinters off to protect themselves. Some people hold that part of themselves tightly guarded without ever reintegrating and healing that part. I'm not saying people disassociate, like multiple personalities! I'm saying that we lose a bit of ourselves when we experience some loss as a child.

We have the opportunity to heal ourselves when we come to understand our childhood from an adult perspective, when we allow ourselves to be in touch with our Inner Child, when we laugh at all the things we thought were hilarious when we were little, and when we revisit what life was like.

It's important to remember both the good and the bad.


The good reminds us that there was, indeed, good in our lives, that we had friends, that we laughed, that we were (and still are) beautiful souls on this earth learning our way. It helps us remember the kindness of other people, whimsical events, magical moments and joy.

Sorting through the bad allows us the opportunity to surround the incident with love, forgiveness and healing, to let it end, to diffuse its potential to hurt us again. We are free to release it, to stop carrying it with us like rocks in our pockets. It's okay to let it heal!

Some people do not want to let go of what pains them. They want to carry it like a visible scar. They want others to know they are a victim.

Let me ask you this:

Does it serve you to be a victim?

Does it serve you to forgive? To let go?

Is it difficult to revisit painful events?

It is necessary to "close the circles" as we age. The earlier we can do it, the better. We live more life with greater joy and less anger, bitterness or depression. When you go to the places that have held you back, sit in those places, heal them and move forward, you take off at warp speed.

It changes your life.

Who were you as a child?
What made you laugh?
Who made you cry?
Have you told your children your stories?
Have you asked your parents to tell you theirs?

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