In my previous blog, I told you the story of one of my experiences with RTT Therapy and how it helped me overcome my reliance on Coca-Cola. Today, I want to share with you my other RTT experience. This story is about something a little bit more personal and emotional and had a much more powerful impact on me for years to come.
Growing up, I had significant learning disabilities that included processing issues, short-term memory deficit, and ADD. Both of my parents had mental health issues and although they were doing the best they could, it often didn’t feel like much. My family didn’t have a lot of money or resources so I struggled with fear around money, feelings of shame because I got free or reduced lunches, and being told I was selfish when I would ask for things. To make matters worse; abuse, shame, and control were the price of being a daughter in my family. I share these details with you not to paint myself as a victim, but rather as context for the experience I’m about to share.
In 1975, I was in the fourth grade and “wooden clog” style shoes were all the rage. All the cool girls had them and I desperately wanted a pair…not just because I wanted to be cool, but more importantly, I wanted to be “seen” as someone who mattered instead of the girl who was bullied because she was an easy target, the butt of cruel jokes because she lagged behind the other students and shamed by my teacher for having a messy desk and being consistently unprepared. Let’s face it, I was like the other girls in that wooden clogs were the prelude into becoming a woman…they were exciting times or at least they were supposed to be.
My mother has always been obsessive about cleaning and organizing…she made Martha Stewart look like a “slacker” with her organizational skills before Martha even came onto the “domestic scene.” Needless to say, I was a “trigger” for my mother…she was smart, organized, and beautiful while I was awkward, “dumb” (I know now that I’m more than smart enough, but the road to that revelation was long and painful…more on that in another blog), AND a mess.
Part of my learning disabilities centered around spatial and body awareness, a complex skill that most children develop at an early age, but I did not. As a result, I always had trouble organizing my things and recognizing where things should go.
My mom would regularly demand I clean my room and needless to say, I never lived up to the task. On this particular day, everything aligned for things to go terribly wrong for me…it was a particularly difficult time in our family because my dad had had a nervous breakdown and wasn’t able to work so we were facing losing our home and stress was at an all-time high. On this particular day, when my mom sent me to clean my room, I just didn’t do a very good job, and I could never compete with her organizational skills anyway, so she went on a rampage.
As punishment for not cleaning my room to her standards, she built a bonfire in the backyard. She started screaming that I didn’t take care of my things and she was going to burn my wooden clogs because I didn’t deserve them. I was horrified and screaming…I was hoping she would just scream at me and leave my shoes out of it…but no…she made me get my clogs, and she threw them in the fire right there in front of me.
I sobbed uncontrollably as she screamed, “If I didn’t quit crying, she would give me something to cry about.” Two powerful “truths” were embedded into my consciousness right there right then…. on top of the pain and shame of losing my clogs, I knew in my heart of hearts that those clogs would never be replaced and an even more powerful message was that anyone could take anything from me and that anyone could do anything they wanted to me and there was nothing I could do about it. To say my level of fear, shame, and loneliness exploded is as much of an understatement as saying, “a tornado is a little windy.”
Fast forward to my being an adult and guess what, I love shoes…some could say I was addicted. I couldn’t go into a mall without stopping by multiple shoe departments, Zappos online shoe store was bookmarked on my computer and I visited the site regularly, and once on a trip to Italy, I spent a whole day in Rome shopping just for shoes. When I would find a pair I really liked, I would often buy them in every color they came in and indulge in a spare pair of red ones in the event the first pair wore out.
My love of shoes was so obvious, on a good day, it was treated as a joke, but on a bad day, it created problems with my husband. I got to the point that I would sneak shoes into the house… I would leave them in the trunk of the car until I could slip them into the house unnoticed. Of course, I always justified my shoe buying because “shoes always fit” or shoes are an accessory that make an outfit…the excuses went on and on. I just couldn’t quit justifying myself to make myself feel better about my shoes and tell myself, “They just don’t understand.” This went on for years and eventually my husband just accepted it and it became a family joke.
You might be reading this and thinking, “this is obviously connected to her clogs.” While I’m here to tell you, that thought never occurred to me. In fact, while I never forgot the “clog experience”, it just didn’t rank in the top ten of traumatic experiences from my childhood, so it wasn’t something I thought much about.
Fast forward to 2016, I had already had an amazing experience with RTT in overcoming my Coke addiction so I had traveled to London to study with Marissa Peer at the Imperial College in London. It was an exciting time for me because I KNEW I could provide even more value to my clients in helping them to change their lives and also for the first time in my life, I was alone and not responsible for anyone, but myself. While the training hours were long and the program was rigorous, I also planned to spend some time being on my own and “doing exactly what I wanted to do.”
My husband and I had traveled to London two years before and spent more than a minute at both Selfridges Department Store (believed to be the home of the biggest and best shoe departments in the world) and the classic Harrod’s. So, at the top of my “doing exactly what I wanted to do” list was stopping by both those stores so I could add to my shoe collection. My husband actually made a “big deal” about teasing me about a “shoe-free-for-all” in London.
Throughout my stay in London, I was busy and treating myself to strolls through Hyde Park, touring Buckingham Palace, and going out to experience the “international food scene'' with other students in my training. What I kept “forgetting” to do was shop for shoes. My husband would tease me on our daily calls about making time for shoes. The night before I was flying home. My husband asked if I ever w
ent to Selfridges and Harrod’s to pick up a few new pairs of shoes to commemorate my time in London and I was like, “No, I didn't really have time.”
I didn’t think anything of it and I went back home. Then, after I had been home for a couple weeks, I was taking my twin boys school clothes shopping. Throughout the years they had always joked that “Mom’s always going to have to stop and look at shoes.” However, that day, stopping to look at shoes didn’t even cross my mind.
A couple weeks later I was leaving for work and had taken a pair of black boots out of storage. My husband looked at the boots and said, “You need a new pair of black boots... They're starting to look scruffy.” I looked at him and replied, “I don't really have time.``
At that very moment, I recognized that my fascination with shoes was gone….it was stunning to me and even my husband…he just looked at me. What’s more, I had the revelation that all my adult life, it had never been about the shoes, but rather me trying to replace what I lost as a child and to attempt to soothe myself. That feeling that I was powerless, I couldn't have anything, and that anything could be taken away from me at any time was playing subconsciously all my life. I immediately fell into a chair and began sobbing uncontrollably. This time it was different, because I was allowed to cry, I realized I had many nice things and could have more without shame (at the same time, I also lost interest in constantly consuming), and no one was trying to take anything from me and even if they did, I was empowered to do something about it.
Sometimes I laugh to myself or other people like, “Wasn't it obvious?” But it wasn’t obvious because what happened with the clogs in my childhood, while significant, didn’t make the top ten list of emotionally traumatic experiences that I had.
But once I made that connection, again, it wasn’t a struggle to give the shoes up, I just kind of lost interest in them. Now do I still buy shoes? Yes, I do. But I don't need to buy shoes, I'm not planning my next pair, I’m not buying multiple pairs, and I’m not defining myself by my shoes because they’re actually just footwear. They might be fashionable or even beautiful, but I’m not driven by that or controlled by it anymore.
What are the ways that you are potentially being controlled by past experiences? What is your Coke or shoes that is influencing or even controlling you in a way that you are not aware or in control of and that may be undermining you and being destructive to you?
Many people aren’t aware of which past experiences are still having power over their lives. Some people are aware but are struggling to disconnect themselves from those experiences and gain their power back. If you are having issues like I was and you need help, RTT Therapy combined with other Brain-Science and Emotional Intelligence-based tools may be a solution for you.