The Cure For The Pain

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    Leanne Matton

    I was at the ice rink this weekend and a little girl of about 8 fell over in the centre of the rink. She immediately burst into tears. Her friends gathered around her, unable to help her up because they were wobbling themselves. My coach lifted her to her feet and guided her to the side where her mother was waiting for her. I watched to see what happened next.

    I saw her mother ask her why she was crying. Because I fell over, her daughter sobbed. But everyone falls over, her mother told her, and just as she said this, another girl fell over right beside where they were seated. See? her mother said. The young girl kept right on crying.

    As I hovered nearby, I heard her mother try everything she could to convince her daughter to stop crying. Do you want a hot chocolate? No, said the girl miserably.

    I longed to ask her mother to let her cry and to just listen to how she felt. I know this is hard – as a mother she would have done anything to take away her child’s misery. But the girl’s tears were her instinctual response to the shock of falling, her body’s innate attempts to regulate and return to a feeling of safety.

    Trying to remove this pathway in an attempt to bring her back to centre prematurely meant she was misattuning to her child and disrupting the natural process.

    It’s interesting watching the myriad of different ways people, especially children, react to falling over on the ice. Most adults (including myself) look a bit embarrassed and get to their feet as soon as possible, assuring everyone they’re ok. But children are more authentic.

    It’s such a wonderful display of how differently wired we all are. Some will giggle and clamber to their feet immediately, sailing off again without a care. Others will sit there in shock, some dissolving in tears and leaving the ice altogether.

    We can be quick to judge this as ‘she’s a tough one’ or ‘he’s so sensitive’ when in fact it’s just a reflection of how our different nervous systems respond to threat.

    I would definitely be that child in tears needing to leave the ice for a while until I could regulate again. And what helps us do that is someone who is willing to enter that space with us, to acknowledge our emotions and give us the space and support to find our way back to equilibrium.

    It made me wonder how many of you have had such an experience, either as a child or an adult, where someone was able to be present with your distress, to not distract or disrupt or judge, but to just allow you to co-regulate with them in your own time.

    Something that comes to mind for me is when I was at the cinema with my parents around a similar age as this young girl. A woman on the screen was pushed off a cliff and fell to the rocks below where she died. I immediately burst into tears, my empath’s nervous system deeply jarred by what I’d just seen.

    I looked to my mother beside me for support, and her response was ‘sit up properly and stop being stupid’. Definitely not attuned, and I was left to swallow my emotions to help her regulate her own (I was embarrassing her in public).

    But the cure for the pain is in the pain, as Rumi once said. Not swallowing it or distracting from it but by being met inside its natural expression. I’d love to hear about your experiences with this.

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    Oh yes. Oh yes. Oh yes. I recently watched my niece hold her her finger up in a very strong warning gesture and then move it to her mouth in a “Shoosh, be quiet” sign to her first born much loved ONE YEAR OLD who fell backwards and hit his head. Her head shaking No and gestures shut him down completely.

    Lol, I am 61, super sensitive to foods and my body lets me know very quickly if I have eaten the wrong thing. Stupidly referred to it in front of my mother the other day and was teased? and shamed (in front of others of course) THAT IT WAS ALL IN MY HEAD.

    Frights, pain, cries,
    Illness, grief, feelings
    Shut it all down
    Block it right off
    Hide yourself in shame
    Poison yourself with your pain.

    Leave me free of care and love
    I am only your mother
    Do not disturb

    Leanne Matton

    Oh Sea Dreamer – a one year old!? How early to begin being shutdown, so sad. Your words capture the absolute essence of this completely and I’m sorry you are still being subjected to this after all these years. I do wonder who we would have been had we been allowed to fully express ourselves without all this blocking and shaming.

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