In the popular children’s book “Ramona the Pest” by Beverly Cleary, five-year-old Ramona is told to “sit here for the present” by her kindergarten teacher, Miss Binney. Misunderstanding the instruction, Ramona refuses to move from her seat for the rest of the day. She thinks the teacher’s requests for participation in classroom activities is a test of her obedience. If she moves from her seat, Miss Binney will not give her the promised present. Ramona’s happiness at being promised a present leads to shame and ridicule by her classmates when her mistake is revealed.

This is exactly what it feels like to grow up in a home run by narcissists. The heart of the child is betrayed over and over again. Filled with confusion, rejection, and despair, the child can find no way of escape.

Constantly set up for shame, ridicule, and harm, the very people you depend upon for survival are the ones meting out the punishment.

We survive by disconnecting from the present. For our own protection, we scan the emotional temperature of the room and squelch any and all personal feelings. We try to figure out ways to appease our abusers and sometimes we are successful. Joy is a threat, happiness will always be taken away, and the present holds only sorrow. We must numb ourselves from the unbearable suffering. These abilities saved our lives when we were children, but they destroy us as adults.

Like a person watching the Christmas celebration by peering through the window, we watch life pass us by; afraid to come in and participate. We are so accustomed to anticipating danger, the present is almost a non-reality. Numbing is an automatic response and our emotional scanners run twenty-four hours a day.

Sit down for a moment and rest little child. That terrible time of your life is over. Guess what? You’re grown up now, and you never have to go back to that place again…ever. You are a hero. You survived the catastrophe and now, you have the ability to rescue yourself. What was impossible for you as a child is now possible. Look around the room. Do you see where you are? You are not in the past. You are now in the present and your abusers are gone. You are in control. Take a deep breath. Try and relax your shoulders. Do you see something beautiful? Is that the smell of fresh-cut grass? Oh! The song of a meadowlark! My dog is so soft. I love this perfume. These pants fit me just right. I love this Christmas ornament. The stars are so bright they almost hurt my eyes to look at them. How warm the sun feels when I sit on my back porch.

 The grown-up me gives the little me a hug. “Hey, little girl. You’re a hero alright, but so am I because I’m going to rescue you out of the past. We’re going to come to the present together. There are all kinds of wonderful things to experience here and you deserve to enjoy each one. Let’s sit here for the present together. You’re not alone anymore.”

You may contact the author, Rebekah Brown at [email protected]


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