How To Let Down Your Guard

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Someone asked how you let someone in after a considerably hard break up.  How do you break down your wall and allow another person to truly see you?  The real question is not how to let your guard down, but how do I overcome this hurt that impacted me so greatly.  Once we tackle that question, the first one becomes much easier.  After a break up, we punish ourselves for feeling the way we did.  We think that we made a mistake in letting someone into our most inner spaces, so we push others out.  On the surface, we are upset and angry, but internally, we are deeply hurt and sad.  Thus, it is easier to blame our choices rather than accept what happened to us.

This hurt can be so tremendous that we build walls that no one can scale, but the truth is that the wall only exists so that we never can blame or hurt ourselves again.  In the end, we are the ones who lose out.  So how do we accept what happened to us instead of blaming our choices?  We need to own our own actions and what brought us into that situation, but also recognize that there were things we could not control.  This will allow us to have a fresh perspective on our experiences and guide us towards peace, for peace is acceptance of what you can’t change.  Speak to the other person as if they were there or write them a letter and never mail it.  Talk about your pain.  Acknowledge your guilt and shame and then ultimately, learn to forgive yourself.For when we blame our choices, we tend to shy away from making them again in the future or constantly think about if we made the right choice.  However, if we can learn to accept what happened, we can slowly move on.

If we choose not to acknowledge the pain we have endured, they become chains that we carry with us into each new relationship and interaction, always hindering us from seeing with fresh eyes.  We can let this hurt destroy and change us into someone we don’t recognize or understand all because we can’t process the hurt.  Pain happens, but we must acknowledge it and move forward in order to grow.  If not, we will always remain hurt and scared.  At the surface, we may lash out in anger or internally, we may always feel a sorrow that never goes away.  We are quick to ask how we can move on, but we don’t ask how we can deal with the pain, because the process of that is much harder than simply letting your guard down.

Change Comes at a Price

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The process to tackle issues that you’ve been battling your entire life is terrifying, nerve-wracking, and anxiety-producing.  The fact that you have to face these demons from the past may cause us more hurt than we’re willing to deal with right now, so what do we do?  We push it away so we can remain sane for a moment.  We deny it so we don’t have to deal with it.  We use drugs, sex, and food to self-medicate.  We end up lying to ourselves because we can’t face the truth.  When we refuse to ever look at the underlying issues, we become a shell of who we once were.  We are trying to protect who we are now from what happened to us before, not realizing that we are damaging ourselves more in the process.  However, change comes at a price

Change is messy, painful, and scary.  We must be ready to face change if we want it, but realize it is not in the cards for everyone.  Change can only be done if we’re in a relatively safe place.  If we are constantly in a state of flux such as homelessness, being battered, or on drugs, change will be very hard to come by.  For some, change means confronting terrible things done unto them that they must revisit, bringing even more shame, anger, and fear, so they don’t change.  We shouldn’t judge those that can’t change because we don’t know what they are going through.  If someone never chooses to change, that is their decision and we must make peace with it.

But if they do decide to change, they will revisit all the hurts they have experienced before and bring back the ghosts that have haunted them all their lives.  This painful experience may cost them relationships or undue hardships, but that is what comes with change.  There are a million of us out there who refuse to change or acknowledge our pains and as such, we continue on, carrying this hurt and trying to cover it up, only for it to spill out in our lives in ways we could not predict.  What we don’t realize is that even if we don’t face the hurt, the hurt will always be there right beneath the surface and if we don’t do anything about it, it will change us so much that we won’t recognize who we are anymore.

 

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

What happened to Aaron Hernandez?

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The new documentary on Netflix entitled Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez offers a look back on the NFL player’s life and insight into his mind with interviews from childhood friends and jailhouse recordings of his calls with family members, but does it ever really answer why?  Why would a successful, professional athlete with a 40 million dollar contract involve himself with unsavory characters and murder people?  They and the whole world over are asking the wrong question by focusing on what he was giving up instead of asking what caused him to not care about a human life.  The documentary focuses on his life-long involvement with playing football, which ultimately resulted in a diagnoses of CTE after his death, his undercover lifestyle of being gay, and his strict upbringing, but never really nails down what motivated him.  What happened to a person that they thought killing was an acceptable response to minor issues in their lives?

The truth is that he was already who he was long before he started playing football in Florida.  At that point, he had already formed the basis of who he was and everything else only magnified the situation.  The one point that was most striking to me from the documentary was that he scored 1 out of 10 in the category of ‘social maturity.’  Although CTE contributes to impaired judgement, impulse control, aggression, and depression, I feel that the damage done to his brain exacerbated an already existing problem of immaturity.  Coupled with the fact that his father forced him to become the athlete that he wanted instead of teaching him how to grow into a man, he never learned how to accept responsibility, how his actions affected others, or had empathy for others that he hurt.  After his father died, he was free to be himself and as he had never been taught to be responsible, he became even more irrational.  Although he had varying feelings for his father, his father was the one constant in his life and it was now gone, leaving him to feel abandoned and even more hurt.

As a child, he experienced the dual nature of his father, who strived to be a community figurehead but was also secretly physically abusive in the home, which Aaron unknowingly emulated.  He had no one to turn to as he could not trust his mother after she essentially abandoned him in order to pursue a relationship with his cousin’s husband.  Because he had no one to trust and no example to model himself after, he chose to become his father.  Hernandez’s brother, DJ, also writes that he may have been sexually assaulted at an early age for a prolonged period, which may explain his confusion on his sexuality, his promiscuous lifestyle, and his drug habits.  He was clearly abusing drugs as a cry for help, covering up deep pains from his childhood from sexual and physical abuse, feelings of abandonment from the death of his father and his mother, with no emotional outlet because it wasn’t valued.  He grew up in a middle class family and neighborhood, but sought out those who were involved with drugs and destruction because he couldn’t control what was happening to him and he thought that if he achieved a certain image, he could control those around him.  He wanted others to acknowledge him and accept him while never divulging who he truly was.

In one jailhouse recording with his mother, he states that he had to go to college, and it is reported that Urban Meyer appealed to his high school principal to let Hernandez graduate early so he could attend college.  Although he had experienced a lot of trauma already, this may have been one of the more triggering traumas for him because he was truly alone and said so to his mother.  He felt that his mother was not there to protect him as he was spirited away to a school he didn’t’ know and people who had no understanding of who he was simply so they could use him for his physical prowess.  A 17-year-old boy who was emotionally damaged and using drugs to cover up for it with no support would not fare well and he didn’t.  Because he never learned about becoming mature, he handled the situation as a 16-year-old boy, perennially  stuck in the age he was when his father died, did.  He was rash, moody, angry, and everything else that described a teenaged boy while everyone else saw a 6’ 2” man.  For the first time in his life, he was on his own and tested the limits.  He eventually came to see that he could get away with many things because of who he was.

He hid being gay because he was ashamed of it.  He hid his personal life from his professional life because he learned it from his father.  He sought out multiple sexual encounters because he was still emotionally scarred from being molested.  He never learned to trust others because his mother had betrayed his, so he carried guns and knives and hired bodyguards, seeing problems at every turn.  He caused domestic strife to his girlfriend and child because he had experienced it as a child.  And through it all, he didn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with it, so it all came boiling out in various ways where he self-harmed, harmed others, and destroyed his own life.  He killed others not only because he didn’t value their lives but mainly because he never learned to value his.  He killed others because in a world where he couldn’t control the outcome of his life or the game he played in, he could control this.  To him, he was only worth what he did on the field.  Without football, he was  nothing.  And that may be why he killed himself.

None of these reasons excuse his crimes or exonerate him in any way, but they shed light on a troubled person who may have been helped if caught early on.

The Fear of the White Van

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An article recently came out about white van posts on Facebook that were causing parents to fear for their children’s safety.  According to the article, there was little proof to back up these claims bu tthe fear that these posts created caused mass chaos online and real hysteria in real life.  I’ve seen the shared posts myself, telling an elaborate story about how someone evaded being kidnapped or trafficked to the relief of the poster, but played as a cautionary tale to those who shared and read it.  When posts like these cannot be verified, people believe in the truthfulness of the poster and would not question why someone would post something untrue.  In their sense of duty to warn others, they share the post and continue to propagate unfounded fears.

In one post, someone talks about how they think were almost tricked into being trafficked, but didn’t get out of the car, foiling the perpetrator’s plans.  My question is ‘how do you know the reason they were taking you was for trafficking?’  What if they just wanted to kill you?  But trafficking is a buzz word and to include that in a post will get more shares and likes even though that is not how most trafficking cases occur.  Most victims of trafficking know their abusers and a large percentage of them may be at-risk youth who can be missed, involved with drugs or selling drugs, or leading lives that would put them at risk for trafficking.  There are a few instances where girls are taken without any of these attributes and trafficked, but even in those cases, they knew at least one of the persons that trafficked them.

The point is that no one is questioning the veracity of these claims that are striking real fear into everyday people and when they do, they are met with a wall of anger because many feel as if the post, whether true or not, are simply trying to inform people.  The truth is, if we blindly share those posts without really thinking about what we are sharing, we are contributing to a larger problem that creates fear and distrust for our children, our neighbors, strangers, and ourselves.  When we believe these unfounded lies, we start to live as if we must guard ourselves at all times against potential crimes that may never materialize.  These types of activities are definitely happening in the world, and we should be vigilant about them, but we shouldn’t live in fear of things that your friend shared but didn’t even read through.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/04/tech/facebook-white-vans/index.html

Success Should Change You

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If someone actually reaches fame, fortune, or success, those around them may say that it has changed them and that they are not the same anymore.  This is meant to be disparaging to the individual, but what they don’t know is that success should change a person.  Actually, what is happening is that the individual in question hasn’t really changed, but the nature of their relationship with others have changed.  One might say that it shouldn’t change at all and have no impact on relationships, but those do not understand that those things must change.  In fact, if you don’t alter relationships, you will find yourself at a disadvantage.

There are a myriad of reasons besides success that change and alter relationships, but people tend to cling on to the idea of what the relationship used to be instead of what it has progressed to now.  An example would be a mother who’s child is turning into an adult.  She may still want to treat her child as a child because that’s what she’s always done, but the child is growing up now and the nature of their relationship has changed.  The child yearns to be treated as an adult and the mother yearns for her baby, causing a chasm of how they treat each other.  Another example is when a couple gets married.  One person may want to continue living as they did before they were married and the other expects them to follow different rules but does not lay them out.  The persons themselves in both scenarios haven’t changed, but their relationships have.

As with success, it’s not that the person has changed, but their wealth or power has increased, altering every relationship they have.  If they continue on the same way, they will find that their old relationships will not survive.  To be successful is to be known and that in of itself completely changes every interaction you have with others who never knew you before.  Subtlety, it also changes your personal relationships.  Sometimes, people don’t understand this and continue going on the same way only for the relationships to fall apart.  Success can be a boon and a burden, but if boundaries are set early enough, those around you will understand that things are different now.  They may view it as if you have changed, but that is not the truth.  You are simply protecting your relationships with them.

Vek Labs

The Disorienting Experience of Never Feeling Like Yourself

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I’ve looked in the mirror after gaining 15 pounds and didn’t recognize who I was.  I’ve had a growing child inside me that made me feel physical uncomfortable and mentally out of place.  I’ve had skin issues where I couldn’t live my life as I usually would and felt as if others couldn’t see the real me.  There are so many moments that make women feel as if we aren’t ourselves.  These moments occur with alarming regularity and sometimes, we feel it all our lives, never feeling quite at peace with who we are.  When we’re in this head space, we put our lives on hold, our plans in limbo, and never quite acknowledge who we are in the moment.

The feelings may pass and we may eventually come back to feeling like who we are, but the experience itself is very real and disorienting.  How does it feel to never feel like yourself?  To feel as if you’re hiding within your own body, just waiting to come out once you know it’s really you?  To feel as if this body, this skin, this shell isn’t really you.  You can see it when women gain weight and they refuse to buy clothes to suit their different size.  When women save jeans that they no longer wear in hopes that they return to that person.  When girls only post pictures from a certain period of their lives because they don’t like how they look now.

We sometimes exist in this space that does not allow us to move forward, only dwelling on the past and who we were, making us feel as if we somehow aren’t good enough.  The journey back to who you are is personal and different for everyone, but the disorienting feeling is universal and very real.  It matters that we don’t feel like ourselves.  To just admit that admits that we feel off.  Some of us live our whole lives feeling off, not knowing how to even come to terms with this.  This is the most important step, to simply acknowledge our feelings and the space we are currently inhabiting.  It may not be where we want to be, but it is where we are and we have to at least accept it.

unsplash-logoGaetano Cessati

The Importance of a Birth Story

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A birth story tells a child how they came into the world and can include the day they were born or their adoption day but either way, it allows a child to feel loved and wanted.  For years, mothers have been telling their children birth stories and I never really understood why until I had my own.  I know now that it helps the child understand where they came from and what their connection is to their parents.  You can see it sometimes when children re-tell their stories to their parents, showing how imperative it is to them to feel safe and wanted.  A birth story does not need to include all the gory details, but just the relevant facts that a child will understand.  Repeating the story to the child reinforces the bond you have with them and ensures that they feel good about themselves.

Crafting your child’s birth story also allows you to connect to a day that perhaps wasn’t the greatest because let’s face it, birthing a child is tough work.  Every day, we craft stories out of our experiences and re-tell them to others to convey what we have gone through, and yet, we still don’t really grasp the importance of stories and what they mean to our lives.  Stories and narratives give meaning to our lives and show us things that we may not have expected at face-value.  Even the stories themselves change over time, but that doesn’t mean the essence of the story itself has changed.  Especially for children, stories are incredibly important for building their worlds, imaginations, self-esteem, and how they view themselves.  When you tell a story, no matter who it is about, they engage the listener because listeners ultimately can see themselves in your story and can put themselves in your role and that is how we teach compassion.  As such, the most powerful story is the story of when you were born.

 Luma Pimentel