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I love writing. Of all the skills I’ve attempted to master during my lifetime, writing is very high on my list of joyful accomplishments. This is because, as a child, I suffered from developmental trauma. I lived without a voice. I could cry, I could laugh, and I could rage, but the ability to speak my mind and heart in order to communicate something intelligible was not a skill I fully developed until I was an adult. My way of avoiding discovery of my distressful isolation was to smile, a lot. Early on I discovered that people tend to ignore a silent, smiling kid. They look fine, right? Cute. One of the kids nobody has to worry about. Education changed my life, as it changes the lives of many, many traumatized children.
Finding One’s Voice
The isolation I endured because of my trauma and my inability to tell anyone about it ended in a high-school English class. Through some quirk of fate, Shakespeare’s Hamlet pierced my sense of isolation. Had I been asked to stand and tell my classmates how that miracle of connection happened, I would never have been able to do it, because being seen and heard were dangerous to my sense of safety. If someone noticed me at home or at school, it was to threaten or shame me. At least that’s how my body and mind experienced attention at the time.
My sense of isolation shifted when a spectacular, story-generated explosion happened in my brain and body. I went from dissociating, compliant, and desperate child to empowered adolescent in the space of three months. And it happened because our English teacher gave us the space to listen, to read, and to write about what happened in Shakespeare’s Danish drama with the Tony-Soprano body count.
That English class was the very first in which I felt the remarkable connection between my writing hand and the secrets in my brain and viscera. I wrote things I did not know I knew. I wrote ideas. I wrote emotions. I wrote speculations on the significance of characters’ actions and words. I saw every single scene of that play in the technicolor glory of a cinematic production, because . . . , because . . . , I was asked to do something challenging by a woman who liked teaching, respected her students, and valued her curriculum.
Missing Out on Meaning and Skill
Turning to the current college-admissions scandal, I consider the very real possibility that thousands and thousands of children and adolescents are prevented from experiencing what I experienced. Students who dissociate to feel safe, who defy adults in order to obey the hyper-vigilant messages firing in their nervous systems, who run away every chance they get because that is the only way to relieve the terrors exploding in their bodies and brains, need safe and innovative classrooms in which to return to center, to peace, to possibility. If they are prevented from the life changing moments of empowering self discovery by corrupt school policies, what will become of them individually, and of us, as a society?
In witnessing the unfolding of this scandal, I am in the company of the hundreds of students I have witnessed find themselves as I did, in the pages of a book. As they read Beloved, or Les Miserables, or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, or Romeo and Juliet, as they took in the suffering of others and made the connection to our shared humanity, I saw that same spark I experienced when young and wounded. That spark . . . , that jolt of recognition, said, “You are not alone. You are here, in this universe, with others who understand your suffering, your pain. And this connection means everything.”
In “The Library Card,” Richard Wright describes the painful journey from isolation, to self knowledge, and, finally, to community, as he narrates his experiences as a black adolescent in a racist world that wanted to keep books out of the hands of “his kind.” Michelle Alexander, in The New Jim Crow, writes about how criminalizing black youth is our current way of disenfranchising an entire race, doing its best to decimate the family support systems that make children and adults feel they have a voice, that they have the right and the obligation to express their thoughts and feelings to themselves, to others. This corrupt criminal system disguises itself behind a “tough on crime” mask, but it is really the current way of entrenching privilege.
The wondrous caped crusaders who challenge this corruption find their way through social support and through the legacy of love and equality the best writers translate into story. If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin’s searing novel about racism in America, recently found its way into mainstream conversation through the beautifully shot film that somehow lost Baldwin’s outrage, his laser-like criticisms, and his ultimate purpose in developing his literary gift. Baldwin-the-writer’s words are always volcanic, and he means for us, his readers, to explode with rage over the corruption that keeps an entire race of people enslaved through one murderous system after another. The recent film is only a starting place, an introduction to Baldwin. It is Baldwin’s genius on the page that adolescents and adults need to discover – all adolescents and adults – within the walls of welcoming and inclusive high school and college classrooms, if they are to grow into whole, literate adults with clear values and that sense of empowerment, of agency, that guides our wise and creative actions in the world.
The Learning Road
As I continue to evolve as a teacher and a learning coach, I find myself refining my personal communication skills daily. It gives me great pleasure to admit this to myself, because I’ve come to understand my ability to speak, and especially to write, as evidence of Pierre Janet’s acts of Triumph and Mastery. From voiceless to voiced, to empowered, to teacher. This word, teacher, so diminished within the cult of celebrity that is scarring all of us, is sacred to me. It conjures Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s work with Maori children in New Zealand, Annie Sullivan’s work with Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and Ann Pullen’s work in Windsor, Ontario, with me.
So many children broken by childhood traumas have been re-membered in our meetings with books. The narratives, poetry, and dramas introduced to us through the nurturing attention of teachers who care, ensure we learn how to read and write, how to interpret what we’re reading, and how to discover the importance of the larger context in which each story unfolds. This process of learning and teaching is the ultimate humanizing process, one everyone deserves to experience first hand.
The most recent revelations of privileged corruption are tragic, but they are not the whole story. In spite of this corrupt value system at work in our world, there continue to be writers, like Baldwin, like Steinem, like Parker J. Palmer, like Alice Walker . . . , and like me, who believe in our ability to change and to grow into our best selves through education. We believers – and we are in the millions – will continue to advocate for systems fair to all individuals in all circumstances by telling of the pain of isolation and its antidote – safe and compassionate learning and family settings – where the intrinsic values of self-knowledge, loving kindness, and wisdom can be seeded in the individual heart, in the individual body, in the individual mind, and in the individual soul of every child, adolescent, and adult.
EFT and Outrage
Some of the best personal experiences I have with EFT are because of the outrage I feel when I read details like those revealed by the current college admissions scandal. I’m a mom, so I did my best to support my own children as they went through the tremendously challenging process the decision to go to college sets in motion in our contemporary world. And, because I have been a teacher at every level, my sense of outrage expands to include the struggles I’ve witnessed so many eager students endure, struggles that made them more authentic, more articulate, more empowered, because they learned the skills necessary to acknowledge their challenges and work through them consciously and with purpose.
Once I acknowledge my outrage, I begin with a setup statement:
“Even though I am outraged to discover the depth of corruption governing our higher learning institutions, I trust that many children, adolescents, and adults continue to walk the path of authentic learning.”
I say this three times as I tap on my side of hand point, and then I use the word outrage as my reminder phrase as I tap through the points. And when I am calm and in touch with the much greater reality of schools and the good they do, especially in the lives of traumatized and disenfranchised learners, I sit at my computer, pull my thoughts together, and write a blog about how valuable education is, despite the failings of the current educational business model and the hobbling of expressive arts programs when we need them most.
I have found denying my outrage to be a toxic act of self betrayal. Expressing it, skillfully, compassionately, is an act of self care and a validation of everyone’s right to voice and agency. EFT helps me to feel my own feelings, express them, and so clarify my path forward. May it do so for you, in your outrage and your despair, and may it help you experience your triumph and your wisdom.
Until next time,
Jane is an EFT practitioner, trainer, writer, and educator specializing in neutralizing the long-term effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as well as the cultural limitations that interfere with our ability to imagine, create, and live the lives we desire. To engage Jane for individual or group coaching services, EFT International(AAMET) Accredited, Certified Mentoring sessions, and EFT Level One and Two Training for your group, call Jane at (802) 533-9277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit www.winterblooms.net to learn more about how Jane supports and inspires individuals, groups, and communities.
Please Note: This is an educational website only and not meant to replace therapy with certified psychologists, family therapists, or psychiatrists. Jane Buchan, MA, is an EFT International(AAMET) Master Trainer, long-time teacher at the elementary, secondary, and college levels, and early trauma survivor who works exclusively as a learning coach in the best practices of EFT. She created this website to support the most effective use of EFT to reduce general and specific stresses and to increase the joy of daily living through self regulation and pro-social experiences.
To experience the benefits of EFT for in-the-moment, trauma-informed emotional support and to build emotional resilience over the long term, please reach out to Jane by phone at (802) 533-9277 or by email at email@example.com. In her coaching practice, Jane uses EFT and many other techniques to help individuals, groups, and communities resolve inner and outer conflicts and identify and achieve goals that will bring about desired positive changes. This blog reflects her experience with EFT’s efficacy as a support for personal, community, and cultural transformation.