When I was a little kid, I was afraid of ghosts.
I remember, very vividly, sitting stock-still, wide awake — when my mother, father, and sister were all asleep — listening for ghosts.
The ghosts that I was listening for — among all the noises one hears in the middle of the night — were malevolent. I feared they meant my family — and me — harm.
(By the way, I had no idea what I was going to write about when I woke up this morning. However, I know I’m writing about the “right thing” now. How do I know that? I’m crying, and I don’t know where this post is going. )
I would sit up in my bed for — how long? It felt like hours, listening for these malevolent ghosts during the night.
Over the years, I’ve talked about these memories with a therapist or two. I’ve been puzzled by why I was doing that, as a child.
I remember a therapist or two saying, “That sounds like you believed that you and your family were in danger, and you wanted to protect them.”
I remember thinking, in response to these therapists (and I’m still thinking now): “That’s weird. Why did I think we were in danger? And why did I think that I — a little girl who was sick a lot, during that time — had the power to protect us? Who did I think I was? And who did I think was endangering us?”
Again, I’m crying, so I think I’m “on to something” right now.
And I’m not sure what it is, but I’ll do my best to get closer to something helpful, before I end this post, drive my son to school, and go on into work.
The thought, “Who do you think you are?” is one that comes into my mind whenever I think I’m too powerful. It’s a painful thought, because it’s associated with shame.
Another thing that’s striking me, right now, is how brave and caring I apparently was, as a little kid. I’ve never had that thought before today, as I’m writing this post for you.
Before today, whenever I’ve thought about that little girl, sitting up in bed, scared of ghosts, wanting to protect her family, these were the thoughts:
How weird you were. That doesn’t make sense. What were you thinking?
But I’m seeing and telling the story, very differently, today.
Here’s something else that is helping me do that.
Yesterday, at work, I had the privilege of facilitating a group where one of the members — a beautiful, intelligent, passionate, caring, emotional woman, who had experienced painful experiences, illnesses, and set-backs in her life — talked about (1) things that made her anxious and (2) ways she “beat herself up.” Eventually, she told us about some scary experiences she had, as a kid. And the group, spontaneously and authentically, told her how much they supported and admired her.
And I wrote the word “bravery” on the white board I have in my office. And I invited everybody in that group yesterday — each of them people who had dealt with crippling anxiety at some point in their lives — to think about how they could see themselves as having been brave in the midst of fear.
In the group, I said something to the beautiful, passionate, crying woman — who had taken the risk of revealing painful memories of her childhood to people she had only met a few times previously. “I can’t imagine a more vivid picture of bravery than the one you painted for us today. A little girl standing — scared but unmoving — between a violent person and a beloved family member.”
And I wasn’t sure whether that was the right thing to say, because I wasn’t sure how she would hear it or take it in. (But based on what I saw in the faces of all the group members, yesterday, it looked like it was okay.)
I realize — as I am writing this blog post to you — I am telling myself the same exact thing I was trying to communicate to that beautiful, passionate, feeling-filled woman yesterday.
I’m picturing my 10-year-old self, frozen with fear at night, listening for malevolent forces in my home, not sure what I might do, but fixated on protecting my family, who were unaware of danger, sleeping peacefully.
And, right now I’m letting in, for myself, what I said to that woman in group yesterday.
I couldn’t imagine a more vivid picture of bravery than that: a little girl, scared and unmoving, trying to protect family members she loved from harm.
I have some surprising new thoughts, this morning:
- Maybe ghosts do exist in some way. And maybe, just like “clichés” tell us, they are related to the spirits of people who have passed on from this world.
- Maybe there are signals, to us, in this world, to help keep us on the “right” track. (And here’s some current “proof” and data for THAT. This beautiful creature, who lives with us, and likes to sit on laps, laptops, and other things, just improved this post with an editing change:.)
- Maybe, just maybe, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a person who passionately wishes to do well in this world.
- And maybe part of what I was trying to protect my family from were my own “bad feelings” that I must have had as a kid (but don’t remember feeling). That is, maybe I was trying to protect myself and them from the rage and fear that any young kid would have naturally felt — having to leave my family and stay in a place (the hospital) filled with pain and people who appeared not to care about me at all.
Phew! This was a surprising post. (And I’m not sure if it all makes sense.)
But it felt so important, as I was writing it, that I ended up not driving my son to school this morning — he walked instead. (That, however, resulted in my son and I exchanging many “gifts” before he left, including both of us — in our own ways — expressing love and trying several new things.)
But now it’s time for me to conclude, this morning.
Thanks for reading, and for taking whatever you need from this, wherever you are.