As Mark sat in front of me, he told me that his family had been “normal. You know,” he said, “loving and stuff.”
I asked him to describe his earliest memories. “Do you remember when you were, say, four years old?” Nothing. “Eight?” Nothing.
Mark’s earliest memory was when he was twelve. That’s never good. Memory loss that extensive is always a result of the repression of pain.
When Mark was twelve, he walked down to the end of his street to an empty lot and dug a hole with a shovel. He dug, and he dug, until the hole was deeper than he was tall, so probably about six feet. Carefully he shaved the sides so they were vertical, and then, when it was all perfect, he climbed in and pulled an old sheet of plywood over the opening. And there he sat, alone in the dark, but safe from all the dangers he could imagine.
More questions, accompanied by compassion unfamiliar to him, revealed that Mark had been severely verbally abused nearly every day of his childhood, bullied at school, and socially isolated. By age twelve, the world had become a frightening place, so Mark chose to live in his hole.
As an adult, his hole was physically larger, but he was still afraid and isolated, continuing the pattern he had learned as a child.
I asked Mark what he thought about as he sat in the hole, and he said, “That somebody would come along and lift up the roof and ask me how I was doing.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“I hoped I could just bury my face in their chest and not feel alone anymore.”
Many of us were raised in a hole. We feel alone. We can rise up out of it. And then we can remove the plywood from the holes where others live in darkness. We can let them bury their heads in our chests and ask them how they’re feeling. We can do this. We must do this.
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