Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Throughout the course of our childhood, we develop our beliefs about the world. These become our truth. They are embedded into the subconscious and they influence our judgment of everything we encounter as adults. I call these our Filters. Sometimes, one of our filters is based on a mistruth or an incomplete truth and yet we’ve adopted it as gospel. And sometimes this damages us and interferes with our relationships forever. And sometimes, if we’re lucky, we experience something called a Corrective Experience that challenges our preconceived notions and, over time, proves that what we thought was so black-and-white, actually wasn’t and that there are both possibilities in life.
I just returned home from the incredible Moms on Fire Retreat and I have had the opportunity to reflect on some of the most profound Corrective Experiences in my life.
1) Old belief: Men can’t be trusted. They hurt women. They lie, cheat, take advantage.
Now understand I didn’t go around saying these things. I WANTED to believe otherwise and said out loud that I did, yet in the programming of my mind what influenced my behavior was a deep mistrust.
Corrective experience: My husband
I met him when I was 19 and fell fast. My experience with him in isolation was great, but when you factored in my past I still harbored a lot of fear and that led me to act out in any way that would prove my subconscious right. I waited for him to leave me, waited for him to mistreat me, picked fights to see what the outcome would be (because surely he’d be the same as the other men I’d known - unable to handle his anger - unsafe). But my dear husband never left. He stuck it out. He loved me through my healing as I loved him through his own healing from different filters. 11 years later we are happy, trusting, committed, loyal and fulfilling our dreams independently and united. We’ve created an incredible life for ourselves and we’ve literally fought to do so. He’s proof that there are men who treat women fairly and equally. And experiencing the last decade with him has allowed me to add a new filter, a stronger filter, in place of the old. Thanks babe!
2) Old belief: Friends will leave you out, choose the other person instead of you, exclude you and treat you as the outsider.
I can’t even count how many times this happened. I had a tendency to do everything I could for anyone close to me and ended up being used, hurt, taken advantage of and scarred. I had no healthy boundaries and was certain that if I just did more, someday I wouldn’t be exiled from every friend group I thought I was in. Corrective experience: Two friends who both independently love me, welcome me, and include me in the circle. None of the three of us threatens the others despite me not being the only one who had this particular old belief in the beginning. *names changed I met *Rebecca first, in my home town, a bit by accident. She had just moved and she was looking for someone like-minded - little did we know how very much alike our minds were. Not just our minds but our struggles, our fears, our births, our kids - so much - so the same. We both wanted to be friends immediately. Many months later we went to an event together and Rebecca invited her dearest and longest lasting friend from her hometown, *Cara. Rebecca had told Cara about me and Cara was feeling a little nervous to meet me since she had the same sort of filters I had. Since Rebecca now lived in my city, I could be a threat. Fortunately, Cara is a kind and gentle loving soul and she gave me a chance. Cara and I ended up paired together for a very moving and difficult emotional exercise and by the end of it I saw a glimpse of her soul and loved her deeply. I totally understood why Rebecca loved her, she was amazing! Since the beginning of this Rebecca moved to a new city again and I am moving in just 3 weeks, and Cara is moving to the same place as I am!!! What are the chances of that! Just a tiny piece of Rebecca now feels a bit left out, and Cara and I adamantly insist she join us as soon and as often as she can! The event came around again and it was a lot MORE raw and vulnerable, and we actually talked about the elephant in the room! We talked about times each of us worried the old story would play out, and we were honest about how when we put the filter aside we each actually wanted all 3 of us to be there and were happy to spend time with either other person in the group. We decided that this is all of our corrective experience. 3 people can be friends, friends can accept a new friend in and love her and not exclude her or exile her. Getting ready to move, I’m about to need to go make friends all over again, so this is a huge gift to me at this time!
3) Old belief: Parents hurt their children. Especially dads.
I used to suffer PTSD reactions to children being hit by their parents and simultaneously I believed that was all there was. It was so ingrained in my filter I didn’t have the ability to truly believe parents could parent without hitting their kids.
Corrective experiences: 2 friends who challenged my misconceptions - *names changed. I was spending some time with a new friend *Faith, the first time at her home. Her 3-year-old son was ignoring her direction to stop jumping a dangerous distance from the couch to a table. She intervened, picked him up his legs kicking, and carried him into a nearby room and closed the door. I realized as I sat there that I was tense, breathing heavier, felt trapped. I waited to hear him scream - but he didn’t. I strained my ears and I heard her, “Look at my face. Jumping like that is dangerous. You can fall. I have to keep you safe. When you are ready to keep your body safe we will go back out and play.” They came out in just a few minutes. She never noticed the tears of relief in my eyes, the balloon of hope swelling in my chest, or the gratitude and joy I kept hidden. She was the proof I’d been searching for, that parents can in fact parent, set and enforce limits and boundaries, expect safety rules to be followed, and do it with gentleness and kindness. Their kids will learn and develop exceptionally well in the absence of fear, manipulation and control tactics. It’s been many years since that day and that little boy is becoming an incredible young man. I’m forever grateful to Faith for what she gave me - faith.
The 2nd major corrective experience happened years later when I had fully immersed myself in the gentle parenting world and was spending time with my sons at my friend *Grace’s house. While she was all flow and peace and gentleness, her husband was large, strong, and to me, a bit intimidating. I didn’t know him at all. Her younger child was having a rough afternoon and was melting down...again. She talked calmly addressing the problem and dad stepped in. I assumed he was fed up. He picked up the girl and walked toward the house. Grace stepped in front of him to say something and he stepped around her and seemed to storm inside. I felt those familiar feelings, tension, fear, panic, trapped. I was in the backyard, I had to go through the house to leave, but I had to get my son out of there before things got bad. I was so terrified to go inside. I had flashbacks of my childhood, my mom trying futilely to calm the storm. In a split second, I decided, my son needed to leave, so I did it anyway. As I rushed through the house head down, I came upon the 2nd living area and laying on the floor was the dad, propped on his side on his elbow playing with the little girl. She was giggling and smiling. I froze. Confused. Every preconceived notion challenged. It had been a moment of time, not nearly enough for him to hurt her, and her to calm down again. What on earth could this mean? My brain rapidly recalculated. Maybe he WAS fed up, but MAYBE, just maybe, he knew she was overwhelmed and cared about that. He knew that mom wanted to stay and talk but he felt that wasn’t working and wanted to give her some space to cool down instead. Maybe he knew that one-on-one attention away from the over-stimulation of a pool gathering was just what his daughter needed to regather her composure. Maybe he had side-stepped Grace, not because she couldn’t hope to control his anger, but because he let her know he COULD. He could handle it. He could parent with connection, love, compassion, and understanding. I never was intimidated by this man again. He allowed me to believe in non-violent fathers too!
None of the parents mentioned are perfect, I know that. I’m sure they lose their cool and struggle to always know the right thing to do. And also, they helped me override my filter of negativity and despair and replace it with one of hope! I’m forever grateful they helped me begin to believe in the goodness inside parents. I wouldn’t be able to do the work I do now without believing that.
These are just a few examples of amazing corrective experiences I’ve had the privilege of experiencing! If you want to experience your own, ask yourself, what filters in your life hurt? What beliefs do you have that you wish you could change? Maybe, if you are vulnerable enough and brave enough, you might be able to go out there and find some corrective experiences of your own! If you have, I’d love to hear about them! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or share in our Facebook group.