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  • Reverend James Squire

The Road to What Moves Us

It was both Freud and Jung who indicated that dreams are the road to the unconscious. Others advocated for the “primal scream” as the place where your deepest emotions can be felt. Others stated that, to a certain degree, our emotional lives are shaped by our years growing up. Erik Erickson spoke of the stages of life that we must successfully pass through. It was those passages that formed our emotions today. Positive psychology advocates that what we need to do now is to discover our healthy positive emotions that can help us control our demons. Aaron Beck discovered that we could change our emotional lives if we changed our way of thinking. Beck founded Cognitive Behavior Therapy which began with his work at the University of Pennsylvania. With the exception of the “primal scream” movement, I use all of the above in one way shape or form when counseling.

I have come up with my own “school” of counseling that you can find on my website, I have recently thought of another. The question that I raised for myself and would raise for you, the reader, is what promotes those moments when you get a lump in your throat or move you to the point that you can’t speak? It also may be an experience with a person that catches you in a surprising way. I have written several blogs on the importance of identifying your “hot buttons” and what elicits a strong negative response to a situation or person. One of mine is if you treat me with disrespect, you will pay a price for, at times, it is a spontaneous response. I have other buttons as most of us do.

But the question that can also help us make our way in the emotional world of relationships are those experiences or people that “move us to have a lump in our throat or maybe even a tear.”

I am not going to name the people who bring this about in me for there are folks who do so, but I will share two experiences to make my point.

One involves Sadie the Wonder Dog, my yellow lab, and the other is a text that I received a day or so ago from a former student. Both created a lump in my throat. To honor this therapeutic process, you must go beyond just identifying what created that lump in your throat or tear to consider why it is there. What was its origin? We know that what makes the world go around is that different things that move others in a different way.

I was writing and when I looked nearby Sadie was sound asleep. She jumped to her feet and bellowed that whiny cry that I want to go out as she was dashing around when she heard something. I knew where I would find her. She was behind her electric fence which only allows her to go about twenty yards from the street. She is on fire running up and down the invisible fence line. Our trash man always stops in front of our property to give her a biscuit. He gets out of his J and K trash truck to do it. Even though I know what is coming, I get choked up watching their exchange. Today a similar truck came by but It wasn’t our trashman, but she heard it and dashed to the front lawn howling away. There was no writing on the side of the truck so I know that she has superior hearing, but I also now know that she can’t read. She was confused.

There was an unwritten rule in my blue-collar community that dogs stayed outside. Certain foreign countries have that cultural attitude as well. No matter what the weather, dogs in my town stayed outside with a proverbial dog house present. I would defy my mother and bring my dog, Peppy, in or figure out a way to make her more comfortable in her assigned quarters outside. When I see my trashman treat Sadie in a special way, it moves me and a lump appears in my throat. Who would take the trouble to go the extra mile or step to do that?

Second, I normally check my email and texts before I do anything after I awake from sleep. Obviously, I never know what I am going to see. Will it be a crisis or will it be something to make me smile, an announcement regarding merchandise that I should buy or messages from schools I attended. A text came in from a former student. It simply said, “Thank you for not giving up on me and many others.” That was unexpected and was a major lump in the throat moment.

Sometimes that lump in the throat material can be something that you yearned for and didn’t get like not being able to have your pet brought into the house in bad weather for better care. In the words of the African American poet, Langston Hughes, “Life ain’t been no crystal stair. It has tacks in it and splinters…” In my memoir, The Times of My Life, I wrote that I always yearned for back up when I was growing up. I now know that not having it helped me become who I am, but I got the biggest thrill when a student was tripping up or falling on the tacks and splinters of their splintered filled crystal stair and I could make sure that he or she had back up not matter what no matter how much it inconveniences me.

It is alumni weekend at EA today. I use to attend as many class functions as I could for the years before I retired. My wife was standing next me on one occasion when a former student from years ago came up, and said to me, “I want to show you something.” He opened his wallet and took out an old worn comment slip that we had to send home to students’ parents describing our experience of them, personally and academically. It was faded, but he read it to me. I had some nice things to say about him as his life was not a crystal stair. My words described what I saw in him. The words were not there to flatter. He went on to say that every time his parents or someone in his life would belittle him or criticize him in an unhelpful way or after a terrible day, he would take out the comment from his wallet, go to a private place, and read it and then kept moving forward. He handed it to me to read myself. When I asked if he wanted me to have it, he said, “no, I am not done with it yet.” I knew right where that lump in my throat came from.

Start paying attention to what moves you. Like the letters someone sends you to praise you and you put away to read on a bad day. Pay attention to not only what moves you but also where the origin of that feeling was sown. What moves you and why? This reflection will make you stronger on your own crystal stair with splinters and tacks in it. It will nourish both your psyche and your soul.

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