Have you ever noticed something in your life where you have an unexpected reaction? Maybe it’s out of proportion to whatever is happening in the moment. Maybe you suddenly start sobbing in a movie and you didn’t see it coming. Or your child does something and you get completely over the top angry. Yet, as you reflect on it later, you have no idea why you were SO upset about it?
I just had the experience of noticing something like this and thought I would share it with you.
I’ve spent a lot of time exploring this idea of how we are impacted by things that happened in the past and how they show up in the present moment. It’s also something I’ve spent a lot of time exploring and supporting parents with as they discover these places in their lives where things just don’t make logical sense.
Right now, I’m living on a farm in rural Mexico.
We’re house sitting while the owners are away, which gives us a fantastic opportunity to try out living in a place we normally wouldn’t get to experience. That also means that we have lots of opportunities to show up in new ways and learn more about ourselves. New experiences tend to do that for us- they give us a window into our own story and how we see the world. I like to enter into new experiences with curiosity about myself and how I will show up.
This particular experience of noticing is actually a story about my husband, Tra. When we arrived at the farm, we learned that there was a baby sheep that was going to need to be bottle-fed.
I assumed the mother had died, so I was surprised to hear that the mother actually had two babies, and had refused to feed one of them. When we went down to meet all the animals, we met the mama sheep and the big, healthy sister sheep, as well as the smaller brother who would get kicked away when he tried to get near his mom.
Interestingly enough, we were told that the mother sheep was also rejected by her own mother at birth, and was also bottle-fed. Talk about repeating a story and a great example of an imprint, or repeating an early pattern in the body!
Tra was happy to take on bottle-feeding the baby boy sheep, and has been getting up early every morning since we’ve been here – about a month now – to feed the baby sheep.
The baby sheep jumps up and down with excitement every time he sees my husband, he lets Tra pick him up, and, well, let’s just say this arrangement has been working well for everyone.
And then yesterday, we learned that the baby sheep was about ready to be weaned.
Tra was crestfallen.
It makes sense that he would be sad. It’s become a big part of his day and he really enjoys it. But it felt like there was something deeper there.
Remember the idea of intensity that shows up unexpectedly?
It made me curious, wondering if there was a part of Tra’s early story that was showing up in this interaction. I wondered what his experience of being weaned was like for him – if perhaps he wasn’t ready to wean. I wondered what happens for him when it’s time for something to end and what that feels like for him. I became very curious.
Luckily my husband is a very good sport about this kind of thing and joins the curiosity party I’ve started.
Experiences like birth, weaning, early separations from our parents, etc. create an imprint in our nervous systems. These imprints aren’t consciously remembered, but they show up in our patterns, in daily life and at big life transitions.
Consider what it feels like when you’re leaving the house for the day or for a big trip. What happens when you need to make a change? A big part of my work is exploring these early patterns and how we sometimes get stuck in them, repeating them over and over again.
We don’t necessarily need to know exactly what happened, but just noticing how it feels and asking what we need is often enough to get us unstuck.
I’m not going to speculate more about what my husband’s early experiences may have been. The most important thing is actually for Tra to figure out what he can do to make this transition easier for himself. It isn’t that we need to solve the mystery and understand every nuance of how he’s showing up. That could drive someone completely crazy! But it is an opportunity to notice how he moves out of a transition and what he needs for it to feel better. Just noticing and seeing what can be done in the present time is enough. It sends healing ripples all the way back to the beginning, even if we don’t understand or know what happened then.
Maybe he needs to go really slowly and just make room for the feelings that come up for him, without trying to dismiss them. It could be that he needs to keep asking what HE needs and what he can do to make this easier for himself and, yes, of course, also for the baby sheep.
It’s hard since the farm manager, who doesn’t speak much English, is laughing at him a bit, (and I must admit that it is just really cute to see my husband and this baby sheep together as his attachment to this baby sheep is adorable) but that’s because we don’t see the deeper story that’s emerging. We often laugh at things like this because we just don’t understand what’s actually showing up- what the story is and the deep, rich context that can help us to know ourselves better.
Some people will say that the past is the past and we don’t need to go digging stuff up.
I say that the past is written into the cells of our bodies and it is showing up in this moment, whether we like it or not. We don’t need to go searching for it because it’s right here, in our biology. Just show up and be curious about yourself, allow space for your feelings, no matter how logical or illogical they seem, and you’re creating a healing space in this very moment.
If you find this conversation interesting and you’d like to learn more about early patterns like these from your own stories, and to create more healing connection in your own life, the life of your family, and perhaps others in your personal or professional circle, consider joining us for our upcoming 2-year certification training, which begins in late July 2017! Click here for more information.