If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.
— Carl G. Jung
MONSTERS BENEATH THE BED
Laura remembers months of dealing on a nightly basis with monsters under the bed of her three-year-old. She writes: I should have known that there really were monsters because my son told me it was true with those earnest, frightened eyes. Still, I have to admit, I wasn’t a believer (I was, after all, an adult, and don’t adults know that there are no monsters?). “Don’t cry,” I would plead. “There aren’t any monsters. There is no such thing as a monster.” I don’t know where my training in empathic listening went during those late-night monster episodes; perhaps it was hiding, impossibly, under the bed with those hulking, scary creatures. In any case, after weeks and weeks of this, one night I took his hands and looked into his eyes and said, “Monsters are very scary, aren’t they?” He nodded solemnly and we searched the bedroom together, proving that they weren’t there. “They must have gone home to sleep in their monster beds,” I observed. “I bet their monster mommies tucked them in.” Another solemn—and sleepy—nod. Soon he was asleep, breathing deeply and peacefully. All Benjamin wanted was to be heard and to be believed, to know that I understood and honored his fear. He didn’t have the words to be able to say that the dark, the perceived abandonment of nighttime, frightened his little soul, and so the monsters came instead to serve as his voice. For so many of you, your earliest experiences, time and again, were like the one in my son’s room when the monsters still visited. “Don’t cry,” your parents said, and their words implied, “You don’t know what you’re feeling.” Your work now is twofold: first, you must make the journey back to believing that you do know what you’re feeling; second, you must make the commitment to honoring the feelings of others with whom you have a relationship, without imposing upon them your own version of reality.
A CONSCIOUS LIVING PRACTICE FOR TODAY – FEBRUARY 14
Continuing on with your recent work, identify several ways in which you have taken on the censoring/censuring role with yourself. Notice how you respond when you exhibit the traits that garnered you disapproval early on in life.
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