Some of Our Stories
El: “In my early years with a working worried mother and mostly absent argumentative father, I was an only lonely child. My small family was at odds and I was unconnected with neighborhood kids. By 5th grade, I was badly suffering from shyness, bullies and shame. Praying desperately for a solution, I bargained with my idea of “God” for help by promising to help others. In the ensuing months, I did not see change, but I did recognize my needs more. It took a long while in childhood time, to see any improvements in my alienation, isolation and distressed emotions.
Several role models came to me (like kids who lack nearby ones) in many fragmented forms -- from book fables, TV/movie stars, news commentators, etc. From studying self-improvement methods, applied psychology and speech techniques, I tried being like the distant models. It was a struggle with disappointments galore. On occasion, I believed that I might be cursed by the Universe.
The range of challenges included anger management, assertiveness, conflict negotiation, reality checking, greater empathy, non-verbal personal skills, and social conversing -- as well as quiet listening. Yet, gradually with perseverance, I did develop more self and social awareness. What I needed was the opportunity to learn and to practice valuable skills.
Wanting answers for the conflict, disappointment and despair, I searched many years for whatever could help. This included asking friends, listening to presumed experts, reading anything that seemed relevant, and practicing the discovered skills. I became a psychology teacher, counseler and leader. Most of all, the answers have been in the results of daily life. Over the years, helping others has helped me as well. I’m still paying it back -- and forward.”
Carol: As a very active and inquisitive child, my mother saw me as a problem and a threat -- and seemed to follow me around with a ruler, ready to smack me for any wrong move. This, of course, only worsened my behavior and made me jealous of my siblings who didn’t get this kind of treatment. In my teens I realized that I couldn’t just be my mother’s “whipping girl” for the rest of my life, that I had a life of my own to lead and be successful at. I had learned the basics from her as to what was unacceptable to other people, but I was very withdrawn, lacked self confidence, and worked hard at my school work (which I saw as my only way out of this horrible life I had been leading).
My college years were moderately successful academically, but unhappy. I had thought that God would deliver me from my miseries, but I realized that was only a fantasy – that I would have to be responsible for myself. Along with my college major and minor I studied educational psychology and this helped me a great deal in learning to learn more efficiently. I married and raised 3 children, worked as a professional, continued in school to get my masters degree, and got lots of raises (because I had learned to keep my head down and my nose to the grindstone) but never felt like a free person.
I divorced after 30 years of marriage (one of the best things I did for myself) and finally started to feel in charge of my life. I was able to retire at 65 with enough money to carry myself comfortably, and retiring was the second most wonderful thing I did for myself. I really started to open up to life after retirement. I joined several clubs (for health and self improvement), and made many friends (which I had never had before). I found the time to volunteer for several activities in the community. I feel that my background in psychology, as well as my years of hanging-back observing human nature, has helped me become a good friend. Friends trust my advice that I never give as an only answer. I am still a student of psychology, human nature and communication.