There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each [person’s] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.
First, in order to make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s define hostility. Hostility, in the way I am using it, is a sense of internal ill-will toward someone: In other words, wishing someone harm. When it is hostile action, it can be identified as aggression.
At the core, we are all human being that are born into this world with a set of genetic predispositions, but also with a brain ready to be shaped by its environment. If you have a spiritual background, you also have your own beliefs as to what a baby in this world is born with.
However, somewhere along the way, babies and children come into contact with some of the potential harsh realities of life. We all experience trauma (less severe) or Trauma (more severe) growing up, and this affects our ability to discern and regulate ourselves as we get older. Maybe the parents were so overstressed that there was very little empathy that came toward the child and, as Dan Siegel has said many times, the child didn’t “feel felt.” Or maybe there was physical or sexual abuse, leaving the child to internalize shame and anger toward him- or herself and project it out onto the world. Or maybe the child was overweight and so was made fun of growing up, only to leave a deep wound of insecurity.