If you can imagine, this gorgeous cat had been abandoned and abused and was near death when we rescued her over 10 years ago. We didn’t think she would make it through the night, but she defied the odds. We called her scruffy (because she was so horribly beat up), but watching her thrive despite her dire circumstances, we decided to spell it ‘Skruffi’ because it seemed to better honor her incredible inner beauty and determined spirit.
Although she has physically healed, the painful experiences of Skruffi’s past left her very scarred and emotionally wounded. Although we adore her, she cannot let us ‘hold’ her. She so fears being controlled by anyone else, that she robs herself of the joy I am trying to share with her when I pick her up to cuddle her. I only want to love her and please her … and she could enjoy it so much … but she denies herself the joy I am offering to her. But she has no idea …
As we say in the coaching/counselling realm, Skruffi is in her ‘story’ … the story of an abusive past that tells her the world is not safe. She brings that story to her now … to our home. It is not the reality here, but she can’t see that … so, instead, she confirms and recreates her own perceptions that the world is not nurturing, by bringing her fears from the past into this moment. She is not able to allow the love and affection that is available in this moment to nurture her … which it would … if she could let it. I have often wished she would TRUST me just long enough to enjoy the love and nurture I am offering her … but she can’t let herself. What an insidious cycle!
If Skruffi could be conscious of her position in time (i.e. not subconsciously imposing her past upon her present), then in the moment that I would pick her up and bring her close to my heart, she would be able to remind herself that it was “not safe” then, but this is now … and now IS safe. She could then open herself up to reap more love and affection than she could ever imagine. But she cannot because she is not conscious of her own perceptions. She is living in a past reality … an illusion of current danger … a story of “I am not safe”.
And … as humans, we get caught by the pains of our past just as unwittingly! We need to be vigilant about the notions we are entertaining and notice when they take us out of NOW and back to an unfavorable THEN. Personally, I have a lot in common with Skruffi. Given my parent’s inability to meet my needs due to their own struggles, my upbringing did not feel particularly secure. It was fraught with experiences where I felt rejected, neglected and abandoned. I interpreted it all to mean “I don’t matter”. So, NOW, whenever I perceive anything that looks, feels, sounds, seems like any of THAT energy, it can take me right out of NOW and back to the painful emotions attached to THEN. For example, if my husband forgot to take out the garbage, it’s not that ‘he just forgot’ … it’s that ‘he doesn’t really care about me’. When I am ‘in my story’, the pains of my past hijack the innocence of the present moment. Just like with Skruffi.
But paradoxically … I must also acknowledge that my “I don’t matter” story subconsciously inspires me to seek ways to prove that my presence on the planet does matter. The ‘gift’ of this story is my unfaltering desire to make a difference in the world. It propels me to create social change, to help others, to leave the world a better place because I walked the planet. It fueled my desire to become a counselor and life coach … to start my own business … to bright my corner of the world and to help shift fearful perspectives by writing blogs like this. So, in addition to managing the pain my story sparks, I must also give thanks for it.
In the final analysis, the pains of our past come bearing both gifts and challenges. Gifts … when we can consciously find ways to use them, rather than them subconsciously controlling us. What if we chose to use our triggers to remind us that we have momentarily fallen into the PAST, and looked at them as wake -up calls trying to get us back on track to the PRESENT?
With gratitude for my story … and … ongoing efforts to stay out of it, Karen