I have heard of so many success stories about athletes, scholars and musicians who had gone to the top of their game to win gold medals, manifest world-famous creations, and even win the Nobel Prize because of a harsh or mean parent or tutor. One story that is like a neon sign in my mind is the multi-gold medal winner Greg Louganis, who has gone on to tell his childhood trauma in TV movies and books. I remember standing in a line surrounding a city block to buy Greg’s first bestseller.
Mr. Louganis’s claim to fame, however, was less about the gold medals and more about hitting his head on the diving board during an Olympic competition and the world discovering that his HIV-positive blood was in the pool. This news shocked the world. How could this amazing man who has been so perfect for so long disappoint all of us on the world stage at this moment? Yet, he went on to win another gold medal, I believe.
Greg’s story had never really been about his successful diving. His story was about how neglect, the power of a tyrant coach, and being in the closet during his career had made him increasingly unhappy. Though he was a true winner in all of our minds; in many minds he was a perfect diver; we are all led to the organic story of his harsh past; we have compassion for it. This is the legacy that Greg Louganis gives the world. Was all of the training and torment worth the gold medals? Would he trade the gold for a refund on his childhood?
I remember a boy who was equally traumatized at his age, who had striven to be perfect in all ways to stay safe from his father’s wrath; a wrath that was so harsh that it bloodied his older brother multiple times. I remember a child who hid in the clothes closet for most of his childhood, playing with phantom playmates to avoid doing anything unseemly or bad in the eyes of his father. I remember a boy who studied to get out of harm’s way, not to become smarter, a boy who practiced piano to find a world of acceptance. What did I truly gain from my achievements and my childhood?
I look back at my story, at other’s stories that are similar and wonder just how much I would of a refund on my childhood I would ask for, or even request a different life. At some points in my formative years, I would have gladly taken anyone else’s life for mine. Now, however, I’m of the spiritual belief that all things happen for a purpose. No, I’m not condoning anyone’s terrible behavior. I am, however, saying that sometimes our past, if looked at through the eyes of forgiveness and wonder, can lead to a life of saving others who will be more fortunate than I or Greg Luganis or some child gone astray to join ISIS.
It is true that when someone sits in front of me telling me his story to be relieved of the pain of the past with the help of hypnotherapy, I’m taken with compassion, first. Then, I’m led to “what healed me from that same kind of torment.” Had I not gone to the pits of hell to see for myself then had the tenacity to heal and seek the help of other healers to help with my regeneration, I know with certainty that my efficacy as a healer through life coaching and hypnosis would be lessened by myriads.
What does this tell me about a harsh past? It tells me that humans are very strong, especially children. We learn to protect ourselves from the worst of evils only to tell our stories with power and truth at the end—SOMETIMES. We are warriors and will remain among the living to stand guard around others, night watchers as it were, for those less fortunate than the children with loving parents and teachers—SOMETIMES.
I had two clients, brothers, who both studied voice with me. (Yes, I taught vocal lessons and piano for many years as I was growing my hypnotherapy business.) One boy was obsessed with being perfect at everything, even though he had no intention of being a great singer. The other brother was kind, had a soft demeanor and talked of nothing but video games. He could barely focus during his lessons because all he thought about was how many hours he would have playing Pacman or Pacwoman—whatever new game was out at the time.
Of the two brothers, my heart went out to the younger one who couldn’t focus. Though he was clearly needing attention and also the counsel of a professional, his parents couldn’t and wouldn’t see anything wrong with the younger child’s behavior. He studied with me for two years and could barely sing one song, while his brother went on to get the leads in all of the high school musicals, even though a jock. But, had this child not had me to talk to about his misunderstood ways, I wonder what would have become of him.
I still look back at a world that rewards success with a gold medal gain and continues to see mental illness as lack, instead of a disease. Perhaps, this is why so many mentally ill children strike out and kill as they grow older. Few try to listen to the sick part of them and reach into the depth of their pain to help. The children stand in the black abyss of pain for what seems to be forever, leaving the only way out sometimes as death. I would imagine this is also why ISIS can recruit these types of people. So, what can we do? What must always be our battle cry!
- We must be diligent to speak up when see something wrong.
- We must always be willing to take an extra moment to talk to someone who is trying desperately to reach us mentally.
- We must be prayerful and vigilant to always bring light to these individuals, as you may be the only person who can save the world from another grief-stricken individual who kills to get attention!