The Princess with the
was very small -- probably about seven -- I read a fairy tale
about a princess who was born with a glass heart. In the story,
this princess grew into a lovely young woman. Early one day,
feeling joy at the sight of the first crocuses or daffodils
or tulips in the palace garden below, she leaned too far out
over a window sill. The pressure on her fragile heart proved
too much. There was a tiny sound -- like glass breaking --
and she fell as if dead.
confusion settled, the doctor discovered her heart was not
broken after all, but she had suffered a long, slender crack
in it. The princess had survived this near catastrophe. The
princess lived to be very old and continues to find deep pleasure
in her life. As a child, I remember thinking and being puzzled
she run and play? How can she be cheerful and not afraid?
How can she live with such a handicap?
I did not believe it was possible for her to participate wholeheartedly
in life and I felt very, very sad for this delicate, fragile
human being. However, at age 44 when my marriage (which I
had thought indestructible) fell apart, I pictured a long,
jagged crack across my heart. I felt as fragile as Venetian
glass myself. Surprisingly, I then recalled the princess's
words: "What survives a crack and doesn't break on the
spot will be all the stronger for it."
believe and understand those words now. I have learned, the
hard way, that none of us is (nor should be) exempt from pain.
And so the issue is not how to avoid the pain which sneaks
in on cat's feet, but how to deal with the damage. How do
we pick ourselves up and move forward? What tools are available
to mediate our unease, our uncertainty, our sadness, our imbalance,
and our confusion?
clothed in a variety of fabrics. These include ill health,
divorce, financial reversals, and even the challenge of effective
parenting. Milton Ward, in his book The Brilliant Function
of Pain, instructs us to direct our pain into constructive
acts. This, he states, transforms the pain from sad, angry,
resentful feelings to acceptance and peace. Here is his advice:
*Pain is a guide; not an enemy. Follow it!
*Pain tells you something. Listen to it!
*Rationalizing your pain will distort your response to it.
*Fearing pain, fighting it, avoiding it, or ignoring it only
increases it. Flow with it!
*Allow yourself to feel it deeply and respond to those feelings;
thus the pain becomes self-limiting. Take time for it!
us needs to find our own individual path to healing, but I
found the following helpful:
1. Meditation: This provided me with quiet
time to face the pain and grieve for the loss of the relationship
-- without inflicting everyone within my circle of friends
and working associates with the blood from my wounds.
Exercise: I discovered that exercise releases
endorphins (enzymes produced by the brain that are the natural
analogue to morphine) to provide me with a natural tranquilliser
and analgesic. These endorphins are released automatically
in the presence of pain -- and also in response to relaxation
exercises, vigorous physical exercise, and (according to research)
hot chilli peppers. The last I did not test, but the addition
of regular exercise to my routine was a real boost. I joined
the "Y" and took up jogging as well. If I missed
a class because of a scheduling conflict, around the block
Journal Writing: Several psychologist friends
suggested I keep a journal. While I do not consider writing
a talent of mine, I followed their advice. I discovered just
how therapeutic it was to put down in black and white exactly
how I was feeling. I also wrote what I wanted to do about
my crisis situation and anticipated some plans (set goals
and objectives) for the future. Writing poetry was also recommended,
but this turned out to bring a new kind of agony to me, so
I abandoned this avenue of help. But for my son, writing poetry
was very healing and he wrote volumes. It still makes me cry
when I read it.
Humour: During this period of time I read
that children laugh 400 to 500 times a day, while adults laugh
15 times a day. I decided I needed more laughter in my life,
so I took up with Gary Larson (The Far Side) and Cathy Guisewite
(Cathy). At this time I was also a school principal, and that
year I created an annual theme of laughter. During the academic
year, I asked everyone to stop me in the hallway and tell
me a joke and I would pay them with a hug. That was a great
year; maybe I should do it again.
Acts of Service: I also read that participating
in compassionate service dramatically improves our feelings
of self-worth and self-esteem (mine were somewhere in the
basement because of my failed marriage) and if performed anonymously,
the good feelings are doubled. This turned out to be the most
rewarding of all, for I discovered my misery was mild compared
to those I was helping. I began to count my blessings: a fun-loving,
energetic son who helped me beat those doldrums; a job I was
really crazy about; and friends who would sustain and nurture
me when I needed somebody to listen.
said that our habits make the difference. So I decided to
order my soul the same way I mastered the multiplication tables
and cooking -- through practice and more practice. I am still
actively engaged in all of the above activities. They have
enriched my life immeasurably. I feel my soul is expanding.
picture book (sadly out of print) has 14 words in it. I reread
it frequently and share it often with others. It is Sandra
Boynton's story of a tiny mouse whose job it is to move a
gigantic purple elephant. He tries pulling, pushing, bribing
with peanuts, and crying, all to no avail. Finally, he becomes
inventive and moves the elephant speedily with the noise from
a large golden trumpet. And it's a very good thing he is such
a critical and creative thinker; he discovers he has ten more
elephants to move.
do you... and so do I.
Oh yes, the 14 words:
"If at first you don't succeed, don't cry, cry, cry --
just try, try, try!"
to encourage our children to persist -- to rise above their
problems, to improve themselves and to improve the conditions
in the world -- we must stand by them and with them; we must
be their coaches and their cheerleaders; and we must set them
an example and witness to them that a crisis (and a broken
heart) can be survived.
Jensen, Ph.D., is the President of Six Seconds and Professor
of Education at Notre Dame de Namur University. She began
teaching about emotional intelligence while serving as Executive
Director of the Nueva School (1983-1997) where she directed
the internationally known Self-Science programme.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004