Monday, August 10, 2009

Have Another Cookie Sweetie

We are four years old. We have just come home from the playground where a bully has pushed us off the swings and we have scraped our knee. We are crying. Our Mom is sitting with us bandaging our knee. She smiles up at us and says, "It's okay sweetie pie. You're all right." She finishes the bandage and wipes away the tears. She crosses to the cabinet and retrieves a cookie. "Here you go. Have a cookie, you'll feel better." We eat the cookie and moments later feel the rush of energy from the sugar. We don't feel better about the incident with the bully, we haven't even processed what has happened and no one has chosen to talk it over with us. We do, however, feel energized by the sugar. We get up off the chair, receive a hug from Mom and go play. We ignore our feelings, just like Mom.

What have we learned from this experience?

We have learned several lessons. In our four year old mind we think as follows: first; injuries cause us to receive cookies we might not be allowed to eat otherwise. Second, being bullied by another child and the hurt feelings that follow are not discussed. Third, our feelings are unimportant. Four, adults know best what to do and how to react to what is happening to us, therefore we model ourselves after them.

From an adult perspective we have been taught the following: when we are upset, injured, traumatized or uncomfortable we should look for something to ingest to make ourselves feel better, whether a cookie or a pill. Dealing with feelings is difficult, unnecessary and complicated. Processing what has happened to us, which requires the assistance of an adult, is not going to happen. Overall, we are not important enough to be taken seriously and we don't have the voice to express our needs.

As we progress in life we carry this lesson with us. It is a powerful lesson. We may transfer the lesson from cookies to alcohol, prescription drugs or illicit drugs. Regardless of what choice we make we are still using the lesson of the cookie. Rather than facing our feelings or proactively dealing with situations we choose to anesthetize both the feelings and situations.

What happens when we have spent a great deal of our lives anesthetizing ourselves from our feelings? How do we come back to life again? We use our tools, practice self care, work on our recovery increasing our self esteem one day at a time until we once again begin to feel.

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