Life’s Little Lessons

March/April 2017

From the book, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett — here are 2 amazing lessons.

Lesson 11: Make Peace with your Past So It Doesn’t Screw Up Your Present
When I hear a client say, “The past is the past — I’ve moved on.” My response is, “Your brain doesn’t agree with that.”

Our brains have an amazing ability to categorize childhood events/messages as either safe or unsafe. When situations occurred in childhood where you felt scared or hurt or unseen or unimportant or not special or stupid – and there was no adult to make sense of it for you – the brain classified that childhood wound as “IMPORTANT”, along with the difficult emotions and the beliefs about yourself (e.g. I’m stupid/worthless/not-good-enough.”).

Those negative emotions/feelings/beliefs are held in a special place in your brain. They travel with you as you think you are leaving them behind.

People then develop strategies/behaviors to try to look good and be accepted by family and friends. These strategies help to mask and avoid the fears/pain/hurt. As people move into adulthood, these behaviors can become excessive and can cause problems.

Addictions (alcohol, drugs, porn/sex, tobacco, shopping, gambling, etc.) can also crop up as a way to soothe the pain.

But, guess what? No matter what strategy you use… the pain never goes away. It’s stuck in the brain.

In my 30’s, I struggled with workaholism — it was my strategy to hide fear of failure. Nothing “bad” happened in my childhood — although as an adolescent I used success in sports/school to push down fear of failure. And, that need to succeed turned into workaholism as I got older. Today, work doesn’t consume me. Why? Because I’ve healed the fear-of-failure wound from adolescence.

Regina Brett writes:
“Over time, I learned how to get unstuck. First you have to recognize you’re stuck. For me, here’s my warning sign: whenever my emotions don’t match what just happened — it’s about my childhood. I’ve learned to freeze the moment — just like you would pause the movie and ask — Is this reaction about the present moment? Or is it about the past? I can’t change the past. But, by changing my response to its leftovers, I can change the present.”

Lesson 20: When It Comes to Going After What You Love In Life, Don’t Take No for An Answer

Regina Brett writes:
“There’s a story about a set of twin boys. One was a born optimist, the other a born pessimist. A psychiatrist trying to understand them put the pessimist in a room full of toys to see what would happen. The boy whined and cried. The doctor put the optimist in a room full of horse manure and gave the boy a shovel. Hours later, the optimist was still grinning and shoveling the manure as fast as he could. Why was he so happy? The boy said, “With all this manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!””

Regina Brett shares her own story of being rejected over and over as she pursued her dream to be a columnist for a major newspaper. And, she never gave up. “Every day, I pinch myself. I have a dream job. I wouldn’t take no as an answer. And, I kept shoveling.”

I can relate to the author’s passion. When I was in my early 40’s, I was tired of working in the business world. My dream became crystal clear … I wanted to be a therapist with my own private practice. At age 45, I went back to graduate school for Clinical Counseling Psychology, followed by years of internships, supervision, more training, testing and licensure.

Some people thought my career move was risky — others thought it was stupid — others said I was “too old”. My father was not one of those people. He held my hand before he died and said, “Follow your dream of private practice and don’t let other people tell you what your dream should be.”

Here I am 10 years later — in private practice. Everyday I pinch myself. I have a dream job. I wouldn’t take no as an answer. And, I kept shoveling.

, , , ,

Comments are closed.