People Can Change

Yes, People Can Change…I’m Proof.

It was close to mother’s day.  Teachers typically have the children in their class make something to give their mothers on their special day.  I remember my middle son had the picture he had drawn behind his back and with that sweet smile he shyly handed me his gift.  It was colored with colored pencils on a large piece of white paper.  What I saw crushed me.  It was a picture of a single red rose with thorns all the way down the stem.  He had written on it…Mom, you are as pretty as a beautiful red rose, but when you are angry you prick me.  Ouch!  Out of the mouth of babes.  And yes, I was guilty.  From time to time, I would lose my temper and scream…not always at my children…sometimes just to let out steam.  It must have been frightening for them.

I looked at my sweet boy and hugged him and told him I was sorry.   Then I reflected.  How did this happen?  How did I get to this point where I yell at my kids?  I recalled that it was an unspoken rule in my family of origin to never express anger.  I learned to hold in all my feelings like a good little girl.  Then by the time I was a married stay-at-home mother of 3 I began to blow…bit by bit.  Then I reflected some more.  How could I stop this?  My first step was to become aware of when the lid came off.  What was I doing?  How did I feel?  What was going on at the time?  As I broke it all down I discovered it happened when I was tired!  I became aware that when I was tired I was not in control of my feelings as much as I was when I was rested.  So I began to take a nap.  When my children slept, I slept.  I noticed I didn’t scream at my children anymore.  It was the first step taken to help my children, my sweet Jake, to feel safe.  I’m so thankful for his honesty and his sweet heart.  

I slapped that beautiful picture on the side of my freezer my laundry room.  I wanted it to help keep me accountable.  It stayed there until I was unable to read it anymore.  I finally took it down about 25 years later after one of my clients whom had heard that story, painted a picture of a beautiful rose with the words “unconditional love” on it.  When we become aware of our hurtful behavior, we can change!  It takes becoming aware and having the desire to change the behavior.  People can change.  I’m proof.

There is a squirrel in my bra!

I love connecting with others!  That is what feeds my soul and that is one of the reasons I do what I do.  People come into my office from all walks of life.  Listening and learning from them enriches my life and helps me help others by teaching me about themselves and their experiences.  They come with all types of problems, hurts, questions and desires.  They are seekers, they are strong and I admire them.  Many worry I am going to think they are crazy.  Far from it!  They are my heros.  They have fear and they confront their fears.

LISTENING

Sometimes I listen with my ears and sometimes I listen with my eyes.  We communicate nonverbally as much as we do verbally and if we take the time to notice, we can learn how to connect.  On a flight to Africa a few years ago I sat next to an older looking Ethiopian women who couldn’t speak English.  Ever so often she would give me a slight smile.  When I got out my phone to look at some of my pictures I listened with my eyes and heard her interest.  I took a chance.  I stretched out my arms holding my phone as if to take a picture and she smiled so big.  I took a “selfie” with this lady and we were able to make a connection.

My job is to listen.  It’s an art, really.  So few people in this life truly listen to others.  So many of us listen to respond instead of listening to understand.  I had a client tell me recently in session that he comes to therapy because I listen to him.  In truly listening to others we validate them and they come to know how unique and special they are.

QUESTIONS

Along with listening, come questions.  I have noticed by listening to my clients that many of them say, “Ya know, you asked me a question in the last session that made me think…”.  Questions are simple but powerful.  It helps us come to know others.  It helps others come to a deeper understanding of themselves.  If we don’t ask we, nor they, learn.

CONNECTION

I had a colleague that told me about a client she had that kept squirming in her seat during the session. Instead of assuming she was anxious or disinterested in the conversation, my colleague asked her why she was squirming.  The client perked up and said, “Why, I have a squirrel in my bra!”  She proceeded to take out the squirrel and show my colleague her friend.

If my colleague had not asked, and just assumed, that session would likely have been unproductive.  Instead, they had a good laugh together and made a connection.