Healed People Heal PeopleJul 20, 2022
A ping of anxiety shot through her chest. She could feel anger expanding from the pit of her stomach. She was pissed and felt like she wasted her time and was pretty certain she would be quitting her role as a mentor.
Candyce had started her Stable Moments mentor journey just 6 weeks ago. She was so excited and ready to give back to a child in her community. She took training seriously and dedicated herself to the process. She counted down the days to meet her mentor match and when the day came she just felt so at peace - this was what she was supposed to be doing.
Her mentee Kayla wasn’t quite as excited. Coming from a group home, Kayla didn’t like horses and didn’t care about Stable Moments, but did see the program as an opportunity to get out of the house. Kayla was difficult to connect with, despite Candyce’s unrelenting efforts. The conversations Kayla did engage in were nearly all negotiations. Could she bring things home, could she come an extra day, could she see what's in the refrigerator - Kayla wanted to know what was she going to “get” out of this. What the Stable Moments program offers, and what Candyce was desperately selling, is relationship - Kayla wasn’t interested.
After a few weeks, Kayla understood the boundaries of the program and the negotiations stopped but she really just wanted to hang out at the barn, she was not interested at all in making a plan or engaging with Candyce in sessions. In one of Candyce’s many attempts to get Kayla to do something with the horse she suggested, “The horses really rely on us to come out and groom them, could you help me brush Sky today, even just 5 minutes?”
Kayla was annoyed and wanted to be left alone as she replied, “Candyce if you care so much about the horses, how about you go brush Sky.” She suggested the last part in a condescending and slightly mocking tone.
Candyce could feel the emotion growing inside her and she wanted to leave right then. She wanted to shout at her, “Screw you, you little witch. I give up my Saturdays for this, and you’re miserable. I don’t want to hang out with you anyway. Bye. Have a good life. See how that attitude works out for ya!”
Candyce remembered her mentor's training on childhood trauma, and thought about how she knew kids with complex trauma histories can push until you prove to them they’re not worthy of love. She knew this was what Kayla was doing, she knew the right answer was to take a breath and stay in the thick of it with Kayla, but she didn’t want to.
Her feelings of disdain grew until she felt nauseous. She wanted to escape. She painstakingly lasted the rest of the session but didn’t say much. It took everything to keep the lid on her boiling pot of emotions. In her head she defended herself, she defended her choice to leave, maybe she wasn’t cut out for this or maybe this program should have more credentialed staff that can handle kids like this.
After the session, Candyce talked about her desire to quit with the program director who reminded her that Kayla’s behavior was a result of her trauma and it's our job to simply be there with the kids. Candyce understood that rationally - but it didn’t address what was brewing inside of her. On the drive home, Candyce realized this pain had nothing to do with Kayla.
As Candyce continued to lean into her feelings she applied the same approach we take in the program. She was empathetic with herself and curious. Why are these feelings coming up, and where did they come from? As she leaned in more the conversation with herself went something like this:
What is this feeling?
Ok, why are you angry?
Because I really wanted this to be rewarding, and I know I have a lot to offer a kid and they matched me with a kid that doesn’t even want to be there.
Wow, you were so excited to give back and you had an idea of what that would look like and you were disappointed. That is sad. When have you felt this before?
I don’t know, at work, I often come up with great ideas and leadership rarely cares enough to try my way. I just know I can add value and it feels like nobody sees me.
Wow. That is heavy. You do have so much to offer. When did you first feel not seen or like someone was ignoring your ideas?
Candyce searched her far-removed memories. I was raised in a house where children were seen and not heard. I always wanted to help but I was shushed and told “you’re just a kid,” by my mother. My ideas had no home. It was hard because I watched my mom struggle and I wanted to help her, and she never wanted to listen. I was an annoyance.
Oh, honey, that is heavy. (At this point Candyce is imagining herself as a little girl kind of curled in her own lap. She’s holding her, petting her hair, and giving her what she needed from her mom).
Candyce allowed herself to feel her feelings. Her anger turned to sadness which she released through tears. She realized she did have great things to contribute and a mother that just wasn’t able to see her. She thought about Kayla and wondered…I wonder what she likes, what her thoughts are. Next session maybe we’ll just talk about her interests and I’ll try to get to know her more.
This work can trigger our stuff. This process, this inner child work is how we address strong feelings, that are spurred by a particular event, but that event is rarely the root cause of our feelings. Quitting being a mentor would have alleviated the pain for a moment until Candyce tried to contribute again in another setting. The truth is, Candyce is actually creating this pattern because it is all she knows. She was raised in a family that didn’t value her input, so she has created a whole host of patterns and coping mechanisms to handle this situation. She tries to dazzle people with new ideas, who don’t receive what she has to offer, and then she resolidifies feelings of being not seen or heard.
She has recreated her childhood dynamics in her current job and again in this mentoring position. Until we do our work and we are brave enough to go back and heal ourselves, we will consistently recreate what we know, which perpetuates our trauma stories and makes us not fully available to help others.
When you have strong feelings lean in, get curious, validate how you feel, explore where those feelings come from, when did they first start, and when you reach the pain, hold yourself, give the little person inside you exactly what they need. Hold them, hug them, nurture them, and tell them you’ve got their back. #healedpeoplehealpeople
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