************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Happens TO you Does Not Define You

Yesterday, two different people talked to me about being afraid of finding out what “really” happened in childhood.

I remember that fear. For most of my life, I told myself I didn’t want to know. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter what happened. I knew things were not right. I knew I'd been controlled, enmeshed, restricted, held back… what difference did it make what the details were?

Now that the worst is behind me, I'm a big advocate of “knowing”. I believe people have to decide when they’re ready, it shouldn’t be forced on anyone, but I wish it was more commonly known how helpful it is to "know".

We are each made up of a unique recipe. The ingredients vary,the way they were added varies - the way they were mixed and prepared, the care or lack of care - all vary from person to person. This makes us each an exceptional dish with subtle flavors and complex textures that can’t be found anywhere else.

We have a sense of which parts of the dish we like best and which parts we would prefer to push to the edge of the plate and ignore… but if we don’t know the recipe, how can we possibly make more of the good stuff?

That's part of what I got from therapy in two and a half years - I learned that there is good inside me, and am coming to understand how to magnify those things while diminishing the things I would rather live without -
but the biggest part is fear.

I have been afraid for as long as I can remember. I was so scared all the time that it had become my normal – I hardly knew there was any other way to be. Call it nerves, anxiety, worry, concern, apprehension dread, or panic, its all just fear.

Why am I less afraid now? Why does the world seem more manageable since I have “remembered and processed” my past?

Imagine you are going to horror movie. You are expecting it to be scary, and it is. All through the movie, the suspense builds. The monster lurks in the darkness. You hear the screams of those who have to face it. You see the look of terror on their faces, but the monster hides in the shadows.

The movie nears the end. You know, any moment, you are finally going to see the awful creature. You scrunch back in your seat, cowering in anticipation.

Then, the moment of truth.
The monster is right there, in front of you!
Look at it!
It's... it's
It's a guy wearing a stupid costume.

That’s the thing – the unknown is scarier than the reality.
It just is. Our minds create so much more than the real world ever could.

The thing that goes bump in the night can't hurt you in the daylight!

So, I'm glad I've made this much progress and pushed through all I've faced, but I can’t tell my friends to take that step. I know that if they watch the end of the movie they will see that they are stronger than any monsters they find, but it has to be their choice, their decision, or else they will just close their eyes and miss the moment of truth.

All I can do is give them support - heartfelt support, because I have been there.

Yesterday, when one of my friends was talking about not wanting to face her demons, she also said, "I prefer to be around other crazy people because I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not.”

I told her, “You don’t need to hide who you are. You’re awesome. You just need to remember that the things that happened TO you do not DEFINE you!”

And that is the core of it, isn’t it? Yes, the recipe is important – all the things that have happened have made us who we are and all the things we do with it now are going to create our future.

But, the monster isn’t the chef! He’s just a guy in a costume. Once we see him for what he is, we can kick his ugly ass out of the kitchen and create the gourmet meal we were meant to be.


  1. Powerful and amazing post Shen. I think it's so important when we do get to that point of realizing that yeah, "it's a dude in a dumb ol' costume" for me what was in my head was always worse than the reality of it, I could build it up to something of insane proportions.

    I loved your recipe/ingredient analogy for humanity also...very well written.
    Thank you as always for your posts.

  2. HI-

    my whole blog is about 'knowing our 'it's' , truths. People go to great lengths to separate themselves from themselves, up to and including death. Our truths, once owned and honored are so freeing and purposeful despite their content. It is journey to self, to truth and it only need be taken once, thank God! :-)
    I applaud your journey to self-truth. I know its value and freedom.

    Love to you

  3. that's great, shen :) i'm so glad you feel less afraid now. how wonderful. and that now you're able to be encouraging of your friends in new ways. one very healing part of my journey was a friend of mine who had been through all i was struggling with and she could honesrly tell me it gets better. but she was right :)

  4. thank you so much for this post. It is so true that we all need to face our past in our own time rather than avoid it and live in fear.

  5. Gabriella, thank you! Yes, it is just a dude in a dumb costume. Isn't it wonderful to know that?

    Gail, I applaud your journey, as well, and enjoy reading about it at your blog.

    katie - it does get better. It is better, for me, and it is still progressing. There are still good days and bad days, but the bad is not as bad and the good is so much better.

    Catherine, thanks for reading and commenting and stating so sussinctly what I said in a whole post ;-)

  6. i like that. i helps to think a goal is to get to where i don't have zero bad days (unrealistic) but to have less of them and/or to get better at dealing with them.

  7. I love this post. A couple of years ago, I "reported" on my childhood. Dug up public records about my family to try to find out the answers to questions no one is still alive to answer. I got Army records, census data, divorce papers. I looked in old newspapers. My mother also kept some documents pertaining to a custody battle with my grandmother.

    My husband didn't understand it. Every time I found another surprising fact, he'd say "doesn't this depress you?" It didn't. I was figuring out who I was and what had happened to me. For me, the answers to those questions were important in order for me to move forward.

    I'm sure I could have found recovery without doing that. It was just part of my process. It felt necessary at the time. I found some information in the most random ways. In other cases, no amount of digging yielded what I wanted to know. I believe that God put in front of me what I needed to see.

  8. This post very much calls to mind your amazing post from a couple months ago "The Hole in the Sand". I keep coming back to that. It never tires for me. Always gives me strength.

  9. Kathy, thanks for sharing part of your journey. You say you are sure you could have found recovery without doing that - referring to dredging up the past. I don't think it was possible for me. I needed to know, to understand, to process and finally to put the past in the past where it belongs. If I hadn't done it in therapy, it would have made my fourth step even harder - maybe impossible. But it brings a good point. Maybe going through it all isn't the path for everyone. Maybe that was a bad assumption. It is my path, but not the only path.

    Paul, I think you are referring to the "Hole in the Soul" story. Thank you for remembering it. It was the post I got the most recognition for and one of my favorite posts from a perspective of my own growth, as well. I am still hoping to clean the story up and publish it, in some forum, some day.

  10. Yes, Shen, "Hole in the Soul". Sorry. I JUST finished reading it again today... I always confuse that title with a poem I wrote called "Hole in the Sand" (which is kind of like that boy in the poem, i would guess). I'll send you a note about some suggestions on what to do with it.

  11. Thank you, Paul, I would really appreciate that. :-)

  12. I remember being 19 and looking at my fear for the first time. Until that moment, running down a dark country road on the way to nowhere,I didn't know how afraid I had been my entire life.

    Facing your fears can be so empowering. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  13. Wonderful post, Shen! Confront the fear! It is an excellent concept, and you express it so well! The horror movie where it ends up being the man in the funny costume! Never as bad as the imagined fear!

    Well said!


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Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
Together they make up the tapestries of our lives.