Life is Getting Better

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I often quote a motto I came to a year and a half ago that is used at a 12 Step meeting I helped created on the topic Childhood Trauma and Its Impact... Self-compassion is the antidote to shame and self-care a confirmation that we are worthy, lovable, cherished. Like the drip, drip, drip of water on a rock, change happens slowly but those words are gradually making my life easier. I key to the shift has been a relatively new practice that I occasionally mention on the board... referring to the photo you see on the left and checking in with that two year old boy to see how he is feeling in that moment. This is an old photo, taken in 1943 that was included in an album my mother created for me decades ago. I took a digital copy of the small photo, enlarged it and printed first an 8 by 10 copy that I now have positioned next to a statue of the Buddha I sit before each morning while meditating. More recently I printed six smaller copies of that photo and have them around my home. One is affixed to the bottom side of my computer monitor; one is affixed to the bathroom mirror; I have one at the table next to my bed and the table next to where I sit writing this; one on a second altar I keep, leaning against a statue of Kuan Yin holding an infant; and finally, one affixed to the front of my car beneath the radio.

When I look at this photo I'm reminded my first priority is protecting and caring for the little boy who at one time was experienced overwhelming terror because his world was so disturbing. He obviously didn't have the capacity I have to understand what had happened in his crib and he certainly wasn't prepared for the sexual play he would be introduced to the following year. All he knew was that he needed to hold tight to that teddy bear. He was so afraid that he hid for decades, holding all the memories of the horror he experienced that I was unable to remember until I was 52 years old. For fifty years he held that terror all by himself.

People who've read about my journey in threads on Male Survivor know my life has been a hell realm and that I've worked for decades trying to make sense of it all. I write about what I learn along the way and gradually my understanding is liberating me from the dark places I've lived in for so much of my life. I learned that trauma was so destabilizing and that I was so unprepared for life that I was incapable of simply meeting life on life's terms. I was in the grip of terror. The world was eternally unsafe and all I could do was what I'd learned to do when traumatized. Eventually I could see the direct link between my sexual acting out and that trauma. That meant I really wasn't a pervert, I was simply a very damaged person trying to survive with the only tools I'd been given. Shame was released slowly over time as I understood all of this.

I've long been a student who loves to read about whatever strikes my fancy. Needless to say there has been a great deal of reading in psychology and spirituality. During the two and a half years I've been active here I've been focused on trauma. I've read about how trauma affects the brain, how it impacts development, how it affects our nervous system, how to work with trauma therapeutically. All of this helped me to make a relationship with that two year old boy and to attend to his needs moment to moment. He didn't receive the nourishment from his mother as an infant that enabled him to inhabit his body and feel safe in the world. That is now my job... to reassure him he is not alone. I understand we are eternally working to assuage our fears, hopefully finding means to soothe ourselves so we don't have to resort to fight, flight or freeze. Part of that is understanding that cultivating open-hearted relationships with people in my life can support feelings of safety. That isn't easy to do when one has spent a lifetime running away out of fear. The more I hold myself with compassion and self-care, the easier it becomes to allow other people to come closer.

All of this is a work in progress. I'm not yet ready for sainthood... but life is getting better and my need to run away into any form of acting out is nonexistent in the moment. Every time I ask the little boy how he feels about what I'm doing I get the message that when I act out, he feels abandoned. That, of course, has been the truth of my lifetime... but no more. As I said, his well being is my responsibility now. I can't abandon him. I couldn't be with him in the midst of terror and shame, but I can be with him now. He is showing me the way to healing.
 
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