The Giant Trapped Inside a Seed

There's a song I love by the songwriter Yael Naïm called "Far Far." Part of the song lyrics go like this:

Far, far, there's this little girl
She was praying for something good to happen to her
From time to time there are colors and shapes
Dazzling her eyes, tickling her hands
They invent her a new world with
Oil skies and aquarel rivers
But don't you run away already
Please don't go

How can you stay outside?
There's a beautiful mess inside...
Take a deep breath and dive
There's a beautiful mess
A beautiful mess inside...
I guess I'll have to give it birth
to give it birth...

There's a beautiful mess inside and it's everywhere
So shake it yourself now deep inside
Deeper than you ever dared
Deeper than you ever dared
There's a beautiful mess inside
Beautiful mess inside

I occasionally listen to this song and, in addition to it's hauntingly beautiful melody, I let those lyrics sit with me for a bit. I have always been a creative person, which makes me feel already close to this girl in the song who utilizes beauty to soothe her. But this bit about giving birth to what's inside...that's really got me thinking.

I recently read a book called The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller, a Psychologist who has a lot of experience working with clients who come from difficult and abusive childhoods. This book isn't about gifted children the way we typically think of "gifted children." The gift she's writing about is adaptation of the self for survival. Three of the primary needs of a child are food, shelter, and love – the third essentially equal to the first two. Even as children, humans are very adaptable. If a child needs love, but isn't getting love, the child adapts - making himself/herself "more lovable" (or less ignorable). It's a survival tool. And it works. For a little while at least. Miller's book is kind of the pair of glasses through which Westerners can examine this process, how it impacted them, and what changes they want to make as adults. It's a very powerful pair of glasses. I definitely recommend the book. (But read it with a friend if you're feeling fragile!) So what does this have to do with giving birth to things inside us, like the song talks about?

When a child doesn't have a choice but to adapt her true self to be more "convenient" for people (that's Miller's word, not mine) and thus "more lovable," that true self is wrapped in layers of "false self" characteristics, mannerisms, behaviors, etc. Even the child's appearance might adapt to be more "lovable." But no matter how many layers cover that true-self child, it's still in there. And I think each person has a choice whether or not to give that child a voice later in life.

Is it scary? Oh yes. Will that child-self be needy and clingy? Almost definitely. Will we recoil from this self when we see its less "convenient" qualities we've hidden for so long?  We've been trained to. But...taking a deep breath, diving into what feels like a mess, refusing to stay outside – it gives birth to that child that so deserves to speak and so deeply deserves to be loved.

Have you ever heard about those controlled forest fires? Highly skilled forest fire workers start intentional, controlled fires - the purpose of which is to burn off the things in forests that inhibit the birth of new things. "Controlled burning stimulates the germination of desirable forest trees, thus renewing the entire forest...Some seeds, such as sequoia, remain dormant until fire breaks down the seed coating" ( 


Is there anything dormant inside you that wants to give birth? A something so amazing that, if born, it could renew your perspective on life? Maybe it's a something that you've had to hide or chosen to hide so you appear more "convenient" to people, but letting it see the light of day - letting it feel love in community with others - would make it less ugly, even grow in beauty. What's really under that self you choose to present to everyone? Something incredible? If you've ever seen a sequoia, use that as your image. This truly awesome, breathtaking tree can't even begin to grow if it isn't for a controlled burn, a diving in, a giving birth that hurts.


If this resonates something inside you, don't try to dive into this alone. I know I'm biased, but I highly recommend this kind of self work be done with an objective, caring, professional counselor. It might be incredibly painful. And it might be completely worth it. That giant sequoia has to start somewhere.

To listen to Yael Naïm's song "Far, Far," click this link.

Please Put on Your Oxygen Mask

This past week my 6-year-old daughter was suspended for one day for hitting another child's arm when she wouldn't get off the computer. I'm not going to go into details about that situation, but I can say it was extremely difficult. As emotional regulation becomes more developmentally appropriate, it gets slightly easier to explain, but there's a steep learning curve. (It's even really hard for developmentally-appropriate people to grasp it – let's be honest.) The more deep and powerful the emotions feel, the more grueling this process is. One thing we've found helpful with our daughter is teaching her how to check in with her body to see what they're telling her about the intensity of her feelings (i.e., "Is my stomach hurting? Are my muscles tight? Is my heart beating?").

(click to enlarge)

After getting suspended on Friday when her emotions got "too red," we made this weekend a "Stop and Think" weekend. We talked, we cried, we took walks, we read books, we drew pictures, we wrote letters, we wrote in our journals, we received comfort and advice from others. It was a very healing time. It was a very eye-opening time.

One of the small revelations I had when I stopped to think was that my husband and I have let ourselves get worn way too thin in the last few months. Because we haven't been practicing the self-check-ins that we've been preaching to her, we haven't been able to offer an emotional respite to her at home so she can go to school with a "full tank." Blame it on the weather, increased work (mostly due to snow days), seasonal affective problems . . . who knows what all the factors are. But I do know this: we haven't been practicing self-care, and when one part of a system is weak, the whole system is weakened.

A great analogy for this is how when you travel on airplanes with children, they tell the caretaker, "Make sure you put on your oxygen mask first, then help your child." It makes sense; you can't give a child an oxygen mask if you're passed out on the floor. Sometimes it's really confusing and hard to know how to take care of yourself. It's exhausting to be needed and need at the same time. But I can't help others if I haven't helped myself. (Maybe I should hire a flight attendant to follow me around and remind me of that occasionally.)

What are some of the things you've been neglecting in your own life / depriving yourself of, thinking it will give you more time to care for others? Because that's the myth, isn't it? "If I take the time to care for myself, I won't have enough time to take care of the things on my list!" But the opposite is actually true. Self-care makes us much more efficient and able. Everyone is created to need, and needs left unattended can too easily become time and energy black holes.

So, again, I ask: what are some things that you can do this week to give yourself rest, life, wholeness? They can be as "small" as having fresh cut flowers around you, taking a break to listen to a song when you're feeling overwhelmed, or taking a walk.

What is your oxygen mask and how can you make yourself put yours on this week?