Monday Musings....Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones, but Words of a Song Can Soothe Me

As a child did you ever lie down in the middle of a grassy field on a summer day and stare up at the clouds in the sky and just let your mind wander? You looked up and you thought about the vast expanse of blue and it just seemed limitless. The clouds provided countless opportunities to configure the meaning of the shapes and sizes; you even imagined feeling the texture of the clouds if only you could reach out and touch them… but you couldn't. Ever reaching, but never finding. And yet there was a strange sense of peace.

When Kelly Clarkson wrote her latest chart topper Piece by Piece, it moved me. The poetry of her words birthed from a history of pain, loneliness, and rejection capture the emotion that only those who have been devastated in relationship can fully understand. Her clear yet quivering voice pierces our own emotions, as we share the depth of her loss and the burden she has carried with her through her childhood. Ever reaching for love from her father, but never finding.

There is a struggle in the head space of those who have been rejected by those who were supposed to love them. As I mentioned in my previous blog, we are wired for connection, for relationship. This need is essential to not only our survival, but also survival in the animal world, as the Harlow monkey experiments show. Many would rather feel the warmth and comfort of another person, than eat. But what happens when that need for connection is not met?

Social rejection and physical abuse have devastating effects on the developing brain. According to Dr. Amy Banks, these factors combine to wire the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex to become a judging brain. The world is no longer safe; people are not meant to be trusted; positive emotions are replaced with barbed wire criticism. The mental world turns inward for self-preservation and protection of the fragile heart. And you retreat to the grassy field, in solitude, and stare up at the sky where it alone understands your pain.

That inner world is not satisfied though, and so it looks not to people but rather to things and experiences to satisfy the need. This can lead to addictions in the form of drugs, food, sex, exercise, and materialism, taking risks, or trying anything new in the vast expanse of the world. But the void remains empty.

The judging brain tries to shut the valve off for emotion, all emotion, and views giving in to emotion as an extreme weakness. And so the switch is turned on in favour of intellectualism. The brain tells itself that love doesn't matter. It can think logically and rationally about the world. It doesn't need human connection because it only results in hurt and further abandonment. And yet in the far recesses of the brain lingers a faint hope, a cloud whose shape and meaning have yet to form.

So as Kelly Clarkson lay on the ground looking up at the sky, her life shattered in pieces, someone came and “collected her up off the ground”. And while her brain fought to be independent and her emotions were compartmentalized, he “filled in the holes” and made sense of her cloud-filled life. He made her feel loved, and cared for, and worth something more precious than money or fame could ever provide. And most of all “he restored her faith that a man can be kind and a father could not only stay but be great!

All of us have a history with relationships. We don’t need to be bound by our past. Though we wear the battle scars of pain, stories like Kelly’s help us to know that when we reach, we can find great people who can restore us… peace by peace . :)

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