A group of children who had experienced early trauma thoughtfully worked on an assigned activity. Each child was given a small, white box. A variety of assorted items were laid out on the table. They were invited to select items that represented them “on the inside”- the part no one sees- and place their items inside their box. On the outside of the box, they decorated what represented them “on the outside” – the part they show others.
I’ll never forget one 8yo girl*. In describing the inside of her box, the part of her heart no one sees, the final item she selected was a large, black rock. She placed it on the bottom of her box and sprinkled glitter all over it. And then she said, “It’s like this rock. There is something there. It is deep down and I can feel it. It never goes away, so I keep trying to sprinkle glitter over it to cover it up. But the glitter doesn’t really work.”
8 years old. The other girls then went around the table offering their support. Several shared how they, too, understood her rock.
Many of us, as adults, are that same little person. We have grown in stature, and yet our rock remains. No one was there to help us with our rock, so we did our best to carry the burden alone. We might have tried to ignore it or to distract ourselves from it. Many of us tried to throw glitter on top to mask its darkness. And, being older now, chances are we’ve picked up some other rocks along the way. As the years go on, the glitter trick loses its luster. We grow weary in our efforts to cover up the darkness and we tire of bearing the weight. Our unhealthy coping mechanisms become less and less effective. And eventually, they don’t work at all.
The hurt, trauma, grief, abandonment, rejection, feelings of worthlessness – whatever those rocks represent- remain. Their weight starts to effect us more and more, especially if we are facing parenting difficulties in our present. Parental burnout is compounded as we carry rocks from our past while dealing with our present. Without intentionally laying them down, we risk passing our rocks from one generation to the next. The parent who carries the rock of abandonment often unintentionally passes it along to his child. The parent who carries the rock of worthlessness does not feel worthy of love, so passes that same rock on to her child as she models accepting “less than” in her own life.
So what do we do?
Like my little 8 year old friend, we all need a safe way to acknowledge our rock and share about our inner world. And chances are, it hasn’t always been safe, or you wouldn’t have kept your rock.
Today, I’d like to invite you to sit for just a moment. Right now, you can be that safe place. You can offer safety to yourself; and if you’re willing, you can invite God to sit with you.
Spend some time pondering the below:
When you let yourself be still, are you aware of the rock?
What have you been doing to bear its weight all this time? (Trying to pretend the rock isn’t there? Busying yourself as a distraction? Throwing glitter that doesn’t stick?)
Are you tired enough of carrying your rock that you’re willing to consider setting it down?
The first step is acknowledgement. Because we can not change what we are unaware of or unwilling to admit. So, just like my little friend, let’s begin by putting words to what lies within – even if, for now, it’s just a whisper.
We’ll go on from here,
*all identifying information has been changed