I see myself hiding behind the incinerator during elementary school recess. A straggly-haired little girl in clunky, corrective shoes avoiding group games like dodge ball, volleyball or cigarette tag.
I didn't hide when we were playing gentler games, like house - with rooms made of the separations between hedges. But those competitive, and (to me) seemingly mean games - oh, I was outta there!
Group games were not my idea of fun. I was the kid who secretly cheered when recess was cancelled. Yay - maybe I'd get to read a book!
Looking back I can see that I hid during those group games because I was highly sensitive and introverted, but for most of my life I thought that I hid because I was too young (I'd been pushed up a grade), uncoordinated, and unwelcome.
I felt deep shame about hiding (and about being uncoordinated and unwelcome).
Years ago I took part in an EMDR training. The way I remember it we paired up for an experiential/practice session and were told to focus on a moderately upsetting issue to work through (not something traumatic). I focused on the shame I felt about hiding during recess.
As we went through the EMDR process I felt a rush of self-acceptance, a shift in my thoughts and emotions around those school years - and around my classmates. I saw my classmates in a different way and felt differently about them.
I'd held myself (internally) distant from them - thought of them as the unwelcoming "other", but when my thoughts and feelings changed I had a soft spot in my heart for them.
The shame was gone.
Serendipitously, a couple months after the training I ran into Jane, an old schoolmate, and we got talking.
We talked about what we'd been up to since we'd seen each other last. My gregarious old school pal told me what other classmates and teachers she'd kept up with had been doing, and somehow (I have no idea how we wound up on this subject) we talked about me hiding during recess.
Jane was a big sports lover, she'd even been in the olympics, yet she talked about my recess-hiding in the way someone might talk about a puppy who steals tissues from their purse - like it was cute - something noticed but not judged.
My shame melted in the EMDR training, but that conversation settled it - shame wasn't coming back (at least not about hiding out during recess).
I'm not trying to sell you on EMDR - heart and mind opening shifts can come from anywhere. I've had them while reading books or hanging out with (and being awed by) Mother Nature - and certainly through conversation.
See the red door in the photo above? That door used to be part of the old Bucks County jail - until someone saw it differently. Their change of perspective led to a change in reality, which led to that door being part of something beautiful - rather than a soul-trapping jail.
That red door is now part of the James A. Michener Art Museum - a gorgeous and much loved museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The museum's history page notes: "…the old Bucks County jail, once a place of fear and despair, has been transformed into a welcoming center of culture and beauty…" Cool, right?
What I wish for you (and me) is: shift after shift after shift - perspective changes forever opening the doors of our hearts and minds, changing our old (internal) jails into welcoming centers!
This post is part of the Unencumbered Sharing Circle, a gathering of honest first-hand stories about self-loathing, self-love, and the journey between the two. Read more stories, and share your own, right here.