Finding the child within
“The creative adult is the child who survived, so let’s start playing now!” declared Dr. Honey Carandang, psychologist extraordinaire. And having said that, she called on performers who came bearing drums, cymbals, bongos, tambourines and flutes to come dance, hop, jump to the beat and yes, play to their hearts’ content. It was a lighthearted, lively ending to an afternoon of reflection and learning.
To mark her birthday and the 7th anniversary of MLAC, which stands for “Mindfulness, Love and Compassion” — her mantra and the name of the center she put up with associates for counseling and therapy, Dr. Honey sponsored last week a talk on “The Anatomy of Fear.” Here, she explored the roots of the fear that lurks behind much of adult insecurity and aggression. Such fear, “unrecognized and unacknowledged,” is one of oldest emotions of humankind, said Dr. Honey, and it can often trigger physical reactions and tragic actions without us knowing it.
Which is why individuals need to pause and take a break from oft-overwhelming feelings of panic and anger. To “be aware of what’s going on inside us,” ask ourselves “what am I thinking and feeling right now?” and “accept and own the feeling.” Dr. Honey’s prescription during a stressful moment: “pause and breathe.”
Much of the violence and aggression that individuals resort to when lashing out at perceived enemies, said Dr. Honey, is rooted in childhood fear and trauma, which is why it is necessary to “acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source.” To arrive at the proper response, she said, one must “gently acknowledge rather than deny that (the fear) is there.”
This may all sound like so much mumbo-jumbo from what our President calls “the bleeding hearts.” But Dr. Honey has shown through her and her staffers’ work with individuals and with communities besieged by crises that “pausing and breathing” can be the start of healing in the face of adversity.
She has worked with groups of survivors of natural disasters, as well as with the families of those who perished in extrajudicial killings, while also counseling caregivers and first responders.
Dr. Honey told the story of a traumatized boy named Topper who felt mired in utter hopelessness after surviving a natural disaster. The boy could hardly articulate his fears, but when asked to draw a cartoon strip, Topper came up with a “hero,” an older boy named Nino who was capable, ingenious and fearless. “Nino is you, too,” Dr. Honey told Topper after taking a look at the comic strip. “That hero is inside you and you can call on him whenever you feel weak or helpless.” She observed: “He had inside him his own vulnerability and strength.”
The “original fear” in most adults, said Dr. Honey, is born in the birthing process when, as newborns, we are suddenly torn from the safety of the womb to the harsh light of the outside world. “As adults we are often afraid of getting in touch with the fearful child,” said the doctor, “when what we need to do is to care for that wounded child.”
What is her prescription for troubled adults searching for the child within? By playing, Dr. Honey said. “Give yourself the space and time to be,” as well as the freedom, it goes without saying. Being “mindfully aware” while playing, said Dr. Honey is “being who you truly are.”
How do you play? she asked friends, associates, clients and family gathered to help her celebrate her natal day. Each person, she noted, can play in his or her own way. It can be in the form of dance, of music, of indulging in board games, sports, art, or just reading for leisure, or watching movies or TV. “We are all born with the ability to play,” noted Dr. Honey, and in such disturbing and fearful times like these, she added, we can overcome our paralyzing fears by acknowledging them and finding ways to tap our “inner child,” the child who trusts, prays, finds affirming friends and communities, and most of all, who knows how to play and finds strength and positivism from it.
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