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Do You have a Tranquil Tree?

My dad used to say this all the time, "You are a product of everything that has happened to you."    He could have added, "Whether you remember it or not.'  As I age, some things get truer.  

Yesterday, I was given a book called, "The Body Keeps the Score."  Subtitled, "Brain, Mind and body in the Healing of Trauma." 

This is from the prologue:

We are obviously still years from attaining that sort of detailed understanding, but the birth of three new branches of science has led to an explosion of knowledge about the effects of psychological trauma, abuse, and neglect. Those new disciplines are neuroscience, the study of how the brain supports mental processes; developmental psychopathology, the study of the impact of adverse experiences on the development of mind and brain; and interpersonal neurobiology, the study of how our behavior influences the emotions, biology, and mind-sets of those around us. Research from these new disciplines has revealed that trauma produces actual physiological changes, including a recalibration of the brain's alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity, and alterations in the system that filters relevant information from irrelevant.


Clearly this book is not going to be breezy beach reading.   It will be worth the attention because I’ve always wanted to understand how and why people react as they do.   In the workplace, in the mall, in society and in our families, there is always an energy and a dynamic at play.  It is often obvious, but mostly obtuse. 

I was a church one day and I casually said "I know what you are thinking" to the pastor.  And he replied, without rancor or sarcasm, "You can't know what I'm thinking.  You don't know what you are thinking."   Which, of course, got me to thinking.   That is the place I needed to start.  Figure out my own behavior, intentions, manipulations and reactions before I try "Freuding" the room.   I had always started in the wrong place.  The answer had to start in the mirror of course.

Some of me being a jerk in life and wrong turns I made (to be honest over and over again) have been a result of some traumas and pain in my past. Some of which I remember, much of which I probably don't.  I could get honest about some of the ugly details but that's not for this space.  I have a point and I'll get to it about the time you have given up all hope for there being a point to this.

I've developed, over time, a "space" for lack of a better term, in my head.  Turns out there is lots of space in there.  In the vastness of my psyche,  I go to a Soulful Forest.   It’s a place, much like Christopher Robin had his 100 acre wood.   Christopher Robin had lots of friends in the in the wood.  From the time I was very young, I always thought that there was only one character in that book.  It was all Christopher Robin.  Eyeore, Rabbit, Kanga, Baby Roo, Piglet and even Pooh were all really the parts of Christopher.  In fact, there was no trees, woods or even an actual place. It was all in his imagination. 

 I thought everyone could discern that truth. Turns out, my classmates and friends took it all quite literally.   I was weird,  pretty early on. 

But with that in mind, I have a word picture in my head of a tree and I'm sitting under it.  It's my "tranquil tree."  It's where I get space between how I feel and what I do and say.  When I wander from that, and I forget or neglect to take that moment, I am prone to reacting and often overreacting.  The symbolism in my mind, of the tree, helps me pause so I can respond instead of reacting.  It takes a certain maturity, which I lack on some days or some circumstances.  It requires introspection.

It would be easy to look back and say, "I did or said this because of this or that in my childhood or adult life story."  The idea is that pulling up the root for examination should not be an excuse for choices and reactions.  I have sometimes done and said horrible things because I was being a jerk.  The tree makes no allowances for jackass moves.

Whatever trauma or pain I have experienced, it's my job to see it, feel it, touch it and then, behave in an adult way.  That's always tricky for me when it's painful.  Sometimes my words and deeds fall like a soufflé leaving the oven.  I hurt people. I get hurt.  I say and do things that are unhealthy and unhelpful.  Sometimes the pain serves me, and others, in a productive and healthy way.  Here’s the part where we are getting closer to the point of this writing.

I went to the same school from kindergarten to 6th grade.  It was small and Catholic and your classmates all remembered your birthday.

The point is and I'm finally there, is that I went to a new school in 7th and 8th grade where everyone knew everyone since kindergarten.  I was new, odd, pimply, overweight and beyond all that, I was on the outside looking in.  From that nightmare, I went to 5 different high schools and I was always on the outside looking in.  In my family of origin, I was the "baby."   It was three older siblings born close together.  Even in that dynamic, I was alone.  I always wanted to be with the "big kids" but that was not to be.   I never fit in.  Anywhere.  It has affected me tremendously.  It was painful and has become one of the most positive and productive aspects of my life.  I am passionate about inclusion.  I cannot, it's just not possible, to see someone not being seen, heard or recognized and let that slide. 

I make sure that everyone is seen.  I include the person who sits alone.  In some ways, it's selfish.  In order to not feel that pain again, I bring everyone into the circle.  Sometimes they refuse, sometimes they get out but I always make sure they have a choice.

There are other ways that I'm not so altruistic.  Lots.  This particular life experience shaped me in a way that I am proud of.  I like that about myself.   I'm sure there are military kids everywhere that have the same experiences.   I wonder how that has affected their adult life choices and attitudes.  I wonder if we “recognize” each other on some level.   Every interaction comes from the vast life experiences we’ve had.  My dad was right.  We are all products of every moment we have lived.  When you know your own story, it’s so much easier to have compassion, curiosity and understanding of each other.  Could be the secret that Christopher Robin found in his imagination?

And that (finally) is the point.  I find it endlessly fascinating how people, including world leaders, shape their opinions and behaviors on their past trauma.  Is it from a place of healing or hurt?    I wonder if they know.  Given the state of the world, I suspect some have no clue.  

The Healing Chickadee program seeks to help children find that place, within themselves, of safety and solace. If we can help them find compassion for themselves, by first finding it for ourselves, we have helped heal the world.

Knowing how early childhood trauma and loss remains in our own inner child will help us assist the children we serve. I'm excited to dive into this fascinating book, The Body Keeps the Score."

Passing on healing, hope and compassion is the mission of the Healing Chickadee.


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