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Lesson # 5: Connect the dots to heal

Whenever I face a challenge (undesirable task, a difficult conversation, a risk I need to take, etc.) and find myself avoiding it, running away from it, fighting it, hiding it, resisting it, complaining about it, hating it, ignoring it, etc., I can usually pinpoint the original event that occurred in the past that I am reminded of because I haven’t resolved it or let it go completely. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of examples below.

Why do I shy away (a.k.a. procrastinating) from dealing with official documents I have to create, complete, or sign? When I allowed myself to pause to ponder this question further, I eventually got the answer that makes sense. I reviewed past experiences to help me bring awareness to the event that started it all. Remember what I wrote in my previous blog regarding lesson # 4? That’s right. Because it was terrifying for me to sign those important documents following my husband’s death. All of that fear has not gone away just because so much time has passed. Whoever says “time heals everything” apparently has not done his/her homework.

Why do I often find it difficult to share my opinion in a group setting (office meeting, social gathering with friends, classroom, etc.)? Even if I have a great idea, or I know the answer to a question, or disagree with another point of view, I will generally remain quiet. I was a very outspoken child as far as I can remember. But then I recalled one specific incident that happened when I was about six or seven years old. I had been punished by my grandmother for speaking to my grandfather using the “child-to-child level of our traditional language rather than the child-to-adult level.” She ordered me to learn the proper language and to never disrespect adults again. Her policy then was “you may talk to me and other adults when you’ve learned to use the proper language.” So for a while she didn’t speak to me and I didn’t speak to my grandparents and parents. It was a lonely, scary, and frustrating time for me. Eventually, I did learn but I felt disconnected with everyone when I used that proper language—seemed to me that the new language put some distance between myself and the adults around me. In a way, I had lost the natural connection I had with many adults. Since then, I spoke very little and with fear of making mistakes. After all, one small mistake had caused me to be abandoned by adults (caretakers). So I believed that it was not safe to speak.

But now that I’ve connected those dots, I can mindfully examine the events again. This time, I can show compassion and forgive myself for what I contributed to the events—recognizing the faulty beliefs I had and the accompanying emotions and behaviors. I can validate what happened, not minimizing it or exaggerating it. I can express what I was really feeling by writing them down and then acting them out (tear/crumple/shred/burn the paper, punch a pillow, cry, scream into a pillow, etc.) to release the emotions from my body. Then I can begin to forgive others. They were doing the best they could at that time. And I thank them for the experience and the resulting insights. I can now make sense of my current difficulty and begin to make new choices.

Yes, I was afraid to make mistakes when dealing with important documents back then. I was always worried about being deported even though my paperwork was complete and in order. I entered this country legally. But without a husband to help me sort things out, who knew what could happen. Notice that most of our fears are irrational, stemming from faulty beliefs. Once I recognize that, I can begin to change my internal dialogue to: “I am a citizen now, I cannot be deported. My English has been greatly improved since. I can do this. It is safe to make mistakes; they can be corrected. I can consult with others if I don’t understand something. I will be okay.”

Yes, I was perceived as rude and disrespectful then. But I know now that deep in my heart, I didn’t disrespect my grandfather. I was a good kid who enjoyed having a close relationship with her grandfather and even joked with him. I was too young to realize that then. But as a fifty-something year-old woman today, I can change my internal dialogue to: “I am a respectful person. My grandmother might have disagreed with my approach, but that doesn’t mean I was a bad granddaughter. People may not always like what I say, how I say it, or agree with my opinion, but the fact remains, what I say matters. If people point out that I am wrong, I can make correction without judging myself or resenting them. There is no need to be afraid to say what I want to say as long as it is honest, it is genuine, it is kind, and it is beneficial.”

Connect the dots. Ask a professional for help if needed. It takes courage to mindfully work on finding all the dots to connect. But the insights we gain and the healing that takes place are worth the discomfort of having to look deeply into ourselves.

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