The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rewiring My Brain / Viewing Life Through a New Lens

When my children were little, we had a large cedar tree in the back yard that became caught in a wire fence. After removing the deeply embedded wire from the cedar, the tree continued to grow. Once the tree became large enough that it threatened our house, we cut it down in segments. While examining each section, we could see the perfectly round growth rings in the portion from the base of the trunk; however, the section caught in the fence had a disturbing pattern of contorted growth rings.

In time, the tree re-grew normally above the area where we removed the fence. That odd shaped pattern in the tree remained a part of its wiring, but it did heal. Of course, the longer the fence stayed in the tree, the longer it wired itself “wrong” and the harder it was for it to set itself “right” again. The same was true for me.

Research affirms that when we are children, our developing minds are programmed both psychologically and physically.

According to Martin Teicher, M.D, Ph.D., director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at Mclean, “A child’s interactions with the outside environment causes connections to form between brain cells. Then these connections are pruned during puberty and adulthood. So whatever a child experiences, for good or bad, helps determine how his brain is wired.”

In other words, because my psyche was constructed in large part by my abuse, I often viewed my life through the lens of my mistreatment. In the early part of my recovery, I responded to the world the way I learned in childhood. For the better part of the last two decades, I have endeavored to rewire my psyche and to create a new lens through which to view my life.

For instance, because as an abused child my perceptions were often blatantly denied, I needed to learn to stand firmly in my own reality, without permission from anyone else.

Although I argued as a child that it wasn’t “right” to burn my tender hands, to rub my brother’s nose in spilled milk on the floor, or to otherwise beat and betray us, everyone I knew told me that my perceptions were wrong. Therefore, I constantly sought validation, trying to develop a frame of reference from others as to what was “right” and what was “wrong.” Consequently, I had difficulty as an adult identifying what was and was not acceptable behavior. If I felt betrayed, and the “offender” defended himself or herself, although I argued that it wasn’t “right” to betray me, deep down I questioned whether something was wrong with me and I worried that it was indeed okay to betray me. I desperately searched for validation that I had a right to the way I felt.

Un-doing a life long mechanism is very difficult to do. Needing permission to “feel” was so deeply ingrained in me, that even if I accidentally smashed my thumb with a hammer, I needed consent to accept my pain. In other words, if I was with someone who said, “Oh, it’s no big deal,” I’d either try to “power” through the pain, or I’d argue that the injury was indeed painful, focusing on the other person’s perceptions of my experience rather than my own.

Rewiring a strong internal parent was necessary to assure my inner child that I had a right to my hurt, anger, sadness, and fear, without arguing for that right.

I have been determined to replace the negative messages I received about myself as a child with positive messages, feelings and responses.

I have been placing new wiring on top of the old. Sometimes it still seems natural to go back to the “old” wiring. Then I remind myself to strengthen new healthy messages, feelings, and responses.

The world feels safer since learning to view myself differently than my mother taught me to view myself. I can view life through a new lens!

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