I remember as a child being quite captivated by a poem I found on a bookmark. It was Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte. The poem begins:
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn . . .
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight . . .
It goes on to talk about positive things also. You can read the entire poem here.
I have been thinking about a version of this recently. Sometimes I feel that our society gives mixed messages. On one hand we talk about how important childhood is, as this poem portrays. And yet on the other hand, when you are struggling as an adult due to things that happened in your childhood some well-meaning people will tell you “don’t dwell on the past” or “just let it go”.
Some things cannot simply be let go, but they have to be worked through. Sometimes our mental software needs re-writing. Lately I think of it as a mirror. One of my favorite books is Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson. It is a fascinating story of a girl from our world who is swept into another world where mirrors do not reflect, but show scenes from other worlds. Scenes of things that someone with the right skills can bring forward, sometimes with horrifying consequences.
This is a great analogy of how our minds work. When a child is raised in a warm and loving home, they develop a mirror in their mind that reflects realty (as much as people can, everyone has blind spots after all). But when a child lives with fear, even terror, with isolation and loneliness instead of love, their mind forms a mirror that does not reflect reality, but scenes from the past sometimes with horrifying consequences.
Another way to understand this is to think of PTSD and triggers. A stereotypical example would be a soldier who hears a car backfire and hits the ground because the skewed mirror in his mind tells him it is a bomb going off. In this scenario, the soldier’s mind is not presenting him a reflection that is true. War, childhood abuse, rape and other traumas can skew our internal mirrors.
Fortunately, these skewed mirrors can be repaired. The mind can heal. During dark times, survivors may wonder if healing really is possible. Yes. Yes, absolutely. Consider these hopeful words from Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood.
“For more than thirty years, Dr. Richard Mollica of Harvard Medical School has treated refugees traumatized by war, violence, and torture. His travels have taken him to the darkest places on earth, including the killing fields of Cambodia, the massacres of Bosnia, the genocide of Rwanda, and the ruins of the World Trade Center. Dr. Mollica and his colleagues at the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma have counseled more than ten thousand survivors of unfathomable brutality. He has helped patients who are physically paralyzed because of their psychological damage. He has worked with women who literally cannot see because of their emotional anguish, a condition called hysterical blindness. In all his encounters, he insists that he has never met a person without the capacity to overcome suffering. “Never a hopeless patient,” he says adamantly. “Never.. And I don’t say this lightly.”
The mirrors of our minds can be reformed. There is always hope.
- Seeing Your True Self in the Mirror. ~ Verena Toth (elephantjournal.com)
- Saturday’s Message From Mom: Learning What You Have Lived (loveletterstomyblacksons.wordpress.com)
- Regular Poem: All the Bad Poems I Shouldn’t Write (thebestofalexandra.wordpress.com)