Sep 08 2009
I read something remarkable the other day that moved me to tears. Eighteen-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, who was abducted by a predator at age eleven and held in captivity for over 4 years (he was found two years ago), wanted to share some of his insights about the experience with Jaycee Dugard, who was also abducted at age eleven and recently found after 18 years in captivity. He said in an interview:
“I realize this sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but you have to move on. You can’t dwell on the past. You have to keep looking toward the future and telling yourself that it’s going to be better than your past … I had a lot of built-up anger afterwards, which is normal. But this anger can take control of your life if you’re not careful. You’re angry about how unfair it is that this happened to you … Going to therapy really helped me get everything in order. One of the things that really helped me…is that we talked about how I could better myself from what happened to me, how could I use all those terrible, awful experiences I had, to grow and mature. I know it sounds crazy, but those experiences have made me a better person.“
Wow! After all the horrors that he’d endured, this young man turned his victim’s journey into a hero’s journey by finding gold in his experience, finding the gift in his wound, and sharing this gift with others. He also freed himself from the captivity of his anger and bitterness. That is the ultimate freedom! And it is no small feat.
I know what it’s like to be a captive of resentment. It has been an ongoing teacher of mine. For years I was addicted to ‘stewing’, simmering in a soup opera of resentment, feeling victimized, wronged, and ripped off. Anyone who has ever been trapped in resentment knows what a powerful, addictive force it is. Hanging on to feeling wronged becomes more important than anything, more important than freedom from it, more important than love.
I vividly remember one day when I was about eighteen years old driving to work at the New London Submarine Base, stuck in traffic and stuck in a stew about my life, and singing, with tears and strong emotion, along to The Young Rascals song playing on the radio, People Gotta Be Free:
“All the world over so easy to see.
People everywhere just wanna be free.
Listen, please listen,
That’s the way it should be.
There’s peace in the valley,
People got to be free.”
I felt a deep longing to be FREE from the captivity of negativity and anger. I had started reading about how my thoughts and attitudes create my reality. The truth of that strongly resonated with me. I could see that it was my attitude that was creating my unhappiness. Nobody was Making me angry…I was responding with anger, and then dwelling in it, making myself stew, creating a negative attitude that made me a shit magnet, drawing to me more things to be resentful about. I realized that my resentment was far more destructive that anything anyone could ever do to me – I was only hurting myself. I set out on a lifelong quest to free myself from the confines of my negative attitude.
On this quest I eventually learned to become a “miner”: I discovered how to mine gold from my anger by seeing what is MINE, seeing my part in things, seeing how I was contributing to my own misery, seeing that I can choose to hang on to anger or let it go. I can choose to be a bitter person, or a better person because of my experiences. I can choose to dwell in the hell of The Heartbreak Hotel, or dwell in love. I can choose captivity or freedom. And I can choose to mine gold from any situation.
I’d like to share some keys to freedom that I’ve found along the way. When I notice myself feeling wronged and starting to spiral down into that sticky, stuck, stewing place, I do the following:
I witness myself - observing the physical feelings of resentment, such as a tightening of my body, shallow breath, eyes narrowed, lips pursed. Becoming aware of the contractive prison of my body enclosing me, and realizing that I am doing that to myself, helps me to take a breath and begin to shift into a more expanded place.
I accept that it is what it is. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is an example of that: taking a deep breath…accepting…there’s nothing I can do about it…it happened…it is what is.
I allow and align with the feeling. I tell myself, “Yes, this sucks. I understand how you would feel upset. Let yourself feel it fully.” My hard stance begins to melt, allowing me to feel the sadness that lies underneath the anger.
I generate loving kindness towards myself – talking to myself with compassion, like talking to a wounded child, verbally hugging myself. “I’m sorry this happened. I know this is hard for you. I’m here for you. I love you.”
Finally, I mine gold from the experience - learning from it and owning what is mine; and then, seeing how it has made me a better person, a stronger person, a more empowered person.
All this results in FREEDOM, with the added bonus of some gold nuggets in your pockets to share with others. There’s gold in them thar ills and there’s plenty for everyone! Just think, if Shawn Hornbeck can find the gold in his experience, then anyone can.
Have you ever been held captive by your resentment? What are ways you have freed yourself from that captivity? What is the gold that you mined from the experience? When we’re able to do that, as the Young Rascals sang:
“There’ll be shouting from the mountains on out to the sea,
No two ways about it, people have to be free.
Oh what a feelin’s just come over me.
Enough to move a mountain, make a blind man see.
Everybody’s dancin’, come on let’s go see,
Peace in the valley, now they want to be free.”