Posts Tagged With: letting go of traumatic memories

Day 1371: No shame in feeling pain

I have no shame in letting my readers know that because of many painful hospital experiences I had when I was a child, I automatically feel shame when I experience physical pain.

And I’m feeling some physical pain now, as I recover from my recent open heart surgery. Pain is bad enough, but shame on top of that pain is really too much.

Today, before I starting writing this no-shame-in-feeling-pain post, I spent some time actively  letting go of a particularly traumatic experience of being shamed when I was in pain after my first heart surgery at age 10.

Without shame, I mentally sent a message out into the universe towards a Dr. Hyatt who, 53 years ago, reacted to my excruciating post-surgical pain by calling me a liar and a spoiled brat, accusing me of putting other children in danger because of my selfishness, and then leaving me alone in my hospital room, in pain and shame.

Here was the message I just sent, in my mind, to Dr. Hyatt:

Hello, Dr Hyatt.  It’s Ann Koplow, whom you met at Children’s Hospital in Boston 53 years ago. I had just had heart surgery and was trying to let you know that I was in a lot of pain.  You were impatient and dismissive with me, told me I was lying about my pain, was a spoiled brat, and that I was putting other children in danger by distracting you from their more important needs.  Instead of validating and ministering to my pain, you left me alone in my hospital room.

You were wrong.  You did the exact opposite of what a doctor or any healer should do.  Since you did that so long ago in November 1963, I have felt shame whenever I feel pain. Also, I resist reaching out to others who might be able to help ease my pain, for fear that they will react the way you did.

I’m not sure why you did what you did that day.  Maybe you were overworked, overwhelmed by the Kennedy assassination, inexperienced, scared, angry, and/or becoming aware that this was not the work for you. It doesn’t matter why you did it.  I need to tell you that you did a lot of damage to me that day, which has continued to haunt me ever since.

Until tonight.

Tonight, I am giving notice that your influence in my life is over.  You have hurt me enough.  I will never feel shame about pain again. There is no shame in feeling pain.

And, my pain and my shame both went away.

I wonder if any of my photos from yesterday will fit the no pain/no shame theme of this post?
















It pains me to see that only one of those photos seems to relate to the content of this blog post:


However, I feel absolutely no shame about that pain.

It is no pain, here and now, to share  a selection from my CD of 100 best classics:

Happy autumn, everybody!  I wish us all a season of no pain AND no shame.

Thanks to all who helped me create this shameless, painless post and to you — of course! — for reading it.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Day 948: The Game of Life

Yesterday, George — my EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist — and I discussed (among other things) the games of life you have to play if you’re working for a big bureaucracy, like a teaching hospital in Boston.

Immediately before that therapy session, I had snapped a few photos of the games I saw in the waiting room outside of George’s office:


I particularly noted the building block game Jenga, since George uses Jenga as a metaphor for how EMDR works: picking out old traumatic memories until an unhelpful, outdated, and intricate system of beliefs about oneself and the world …. collapses.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game of Jenga, here is the cast of the film musical “Annie” playing with a giant Jenga set on The Ellen DeGeneres Show:

For the past month, George and I have been trying to remove the building block of a particularly traumatic memory — a doctor calling me a spoiled brat at age 10 when I requested relief for excruciating pain I had after surgery and then leaving me alone, with my pain, in a hospital room.

Last week, I wrote a blog post about George’s suggestion of transforming the effects of  that old memory by bringing in a group of helpful, supportive people (including WordPress readers) to revisit that long-ago hospital room and encounter that doctor in new ways.

This transformation, which we worked on yesterday,  included:

  • The mother from Terms of Endearment (played by Shirley MacLaine) yelling at the doctor about the pain I was in,
  • Jackie Chan grabbing an I.V. pole in the hospital room, twirling it around, and bashing the doctor in the stomach, and
  • My current cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, telling the doctor he’d better believe me about the pain and take care of things STAT, or his career as a pediatrician was over.

When it came time, yesterday, to forgive that doctor for what he did to me 52 years ago, I had to bring in some big guns, including

They all helped me hear and take in that doctor’s long overdue apology.

Here‘s  jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, with a song from the wonderful album School Days:

I recommend  playing “Life is Just a Game ” as  a musical accompaniment to some other images I game-fully captured, yesterday —  before and after George, I, and a supporting cast of dozens schooled and otherwise re-encountered that doctor from long ago:





What games of life are standing out for you? Feel free to play with me, here and now, in a comment below.


Game-of-life-changing thanks to George, Ellen, Shirley, Jackie, Dr. Salem, Val,  the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller, Gandhi, Stanley Clarke, people who heal in groups, and everybody else who helped me revisit that old hospital room, yesterday. And special thanks to you — of course! — for playing the Game of Life as best you can, today.

Categories: gratitude, inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , | 44 Comments

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