As grown men we should never underestimate the power of our past to dictate the kind of men we are today. I recently started taking acting classes to improve my speaking and stage presence. Little did I know that an exercise in class would lead me to uncover some startling emotional epiphanies as illustrated by the following story:
There was once a young boy who was raised in an alcoholic home–both his mother and step-father were alcoholics. Despite being under the impression for most of his early childhood that this lifestyle was “normal,” he eventually found the stress and pressure of trying to be “perfect” in order to appease his parent’s unrealistic and unreasonable demands to be too much to endure. He couldn’t make them happy no matter how much he tried and that was frightening. In addition, it was a very violent environment—physically, emotionally, and ever increasingly psychologically dangerous. The boy could clearly remember a day when he was about 10 years old when he first knew that the boy he ‘was’ could not survive in this environment. Until then he had been quite confident that as a person he was created wonderfully–a nice, compassionate, and intelligent boy who innately believed that his life was destined for greatness in some form or another. It was a good and secure feeling. But one day the boy suddenly realized he was being forced to kill that boy. Instinctively he knew he could not endure the abuse and if he was to survive, that naive, thoughtful and kind-hearted boy had to go or he would cease to exist altogether. To protect himself, that good boy had to disappear. That’s when he first made the decision to kill that boy.
For years the young man silently cried tears of frustration, sadness, and most of all anger for the loss of that innocent boy. From that day forward his anger acted as a shield to protect him from the onslaught of the demons raging against him. As the oldest he had the expectations of an adult placed upon him. His resentment and rebellion to this unfair burden resulted in him filling the role of the “bad guy” of the family, causing him to believe untruths about himself even as an adult. “It’s his fault—he doesn’t fit in. He thinks he’s better than us. Who does he think he is anyway? You’ll never amount to anything!”
The boy stuffed his grief and mourning over the loss of that young boy and the ‘man he could have become’ deep inside where no one could find it (including himself). As he grew into a man that boy was forgotten and replaced by the “survivor” and he eventually became the kind of man he did not like or even want to be. Life was difficult and frustrating. Anger and pain were constant companions.
As you probably guessed, both those boys were me—murderer and victim.
The work required in the acting classes to ‘get in touch with my emotions’ shocked me in to remembering this little boy from my past. My heart cries today for that boy/man and what he could have been. But even more so I cry because that man I became possibly (in some way) killed the soul of the woman my wife could have been, as well as those precious potential souls of my children. May God forgive me….
But here’s the good news: I have since discovered that the first little boy is not dead—he was merely locked behind a prison door. Once that dungeon was flung open, his light has been shining bright for the world to see! As I grow emotionally as a man I am learning to be driven more by my heart and not so much by just my intellect. I’ve realized that my intellect was a “survival of the fittest” programming designed to protect me, and that I did the best I could as a husband and father. But best of all my wife and children graciously forgive me as they realize that I was placed in their lives as part of the experiences God gives people on their own journey in life. As I continue to grow and evolve emotionally as a man I look forward to the day when I become the man God once envisioned me to be even before I was born, instead of the man I was forced to become.
If you’ve endured trauma as a child I encourage you to seek professional healing—it’s difficult but worth the effort. I spent too many years unaware of who I really was.
I would be interested in hearing about any emotional epiphanies or insights you’ve had. How did they impact your life today?
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