Broken Toy Like Me
During my counsellor training, as with every trainee counsellor, I was required to go through a very lengthy personal journey of discovery and self-awareness. This is initially to help counsellors learn more about ourselves, but also to understand the journey our clients go through. We work hard to recognise our own past traumas and emotional difficulties to put them to bed. This is important to ensure our own emotions are not triggered by our client's emotions, and we can stay focused on their agenda and journey.
During my training we had residential weekends away designed to challenge our own personal growth and beliefs. My peers and I were required to take part in several therapeutic exercises required to engage our strongest emotions and self-discovery. During one such weekend, we took part in a group exercise. This task was a form of guided mindfulness & physical exercise.
As a person who is neither religious nor spiritual, I began to feel uncomfortable as the instructor talked us through the moves and how they were spiritually related to the earth. It was a crisp and bright morning and so we held the exercise outside. Normally, I find exercise very calming and a great tool to help reduce my stress. However on this occasion the exercise was having the opposite effect.
As I looked around the circle we had formed, I was taking in happy smiling faces, bright eyes, and even a little excitement. Everyone seemed to be intrigued and enjoying themselves but my stomach began to knot and my palms grew sweaty.
When I think about religion and having spiritual beliefs, I have always found myself a little envious of the comfort I believe they could bring to a person. A comfort I wanted but did not have. The instructor asked us to close our eyes and then he began talking us through moves. I tried to shake off the agitated feeling twisting around in my gut, the tension clenching my jaw shut, and to relax my hunched shoulders. As my discomfort grew, so did my annoyance at myself. My eyes popped open and I took in the calm faces around me. Several people looked serene.
Why wasn't I?
The more I stared at the others, the more I recognised I was the only person in the circle not only my eyes open, but not moving. My rigid muscles and clenched fists held me immobile as I watched everyone around move and sway to the instructors words. In my head I was chanting "no." My annoyance turned to anger and my anger turned to misery. Everyone else could do this, what was wrong with me? I realised I had never felt more of an outsider as I did in that moment. Why didn't I just fit? Here was a group of people, my peers, all taking part and I was completely alone.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I looked at one person and then the next with their faces turned up to the sun. My breathing turned shallow as my vision blurred. Ringing in my ears blocked out the instructors words as I imagined I was somewhere else. Anywhere else.
Broken. Alone in a sea of people.
As I looked at the circle one final time, I didn't see people anymore. I saw toys. I imagined myself in a toy shop with shelves and shelves of toys. Toys of all shapes and sizes and colours, but all the toys belonged.
Lifting my sleeve to wipe away my tears, I glanced down and noticed a single toy discarded in the corner, alone. The toy's packaging was darker than the others, it's ragged and dirty exterior fitting in well with the dark and dank corner. It didn't look like the rest and it didn't fit within any of the other toy's story lines.
"No." My whispered statement came out as a shout. "No. Hate this." I left the circle in a haze of distress, marching along the sodden grass until I reached the door to my accommodation. The tears continued as I slammed the front door closed and escaped to my room. My chest felt tight and I struggled to swallow down the emotions boiling up inside. That was my old coping mechanism; to swallow down my feelings.
In a world of expectations and guidelines, I found myself adrift and lost, hoping desperately to fit like everyone else but sticking out worse than ever.
As I processed my emotional turmoil and voiced my fears out load, the distress began to clear and my rational mind kicked back in.
I was not broken.
I am different. Just as everyone else is. Every toy had different colours and packaging. Different story lines and tools. Our uniqueness is what makes us so similar.
I was not and am not broken, just a different type of toy. I have different packaging and my story line is my own. My experiences have shaped me into a different brand. That brand is my own. I have torn bits and scars because I survived to tell my story.
The broken toy feeling is not something we choose to feel. Quite often we struggle our way through life with an idea something is wrong but not really able to describe it.
I didn't fit in the world I found myself. I had felt alienated by my uniqueness.
I wonder if any of those feelings resonate with you?
My dog, who does not behave like a dog, or fit within expected behaviours of a dog, is still a dog. Where people saw a headrest, she saw a bed. She found comfort where others only found discomfort. In the picture, she sleeps high on the sofa which would normally be considered odd and strange; defective or broken.
But when we look a little deeper we are able to see the past that shapes our present and guides our future. In Nessa's case, she was traumatised by her original owner. This left her very insecure and anxious. She slept as close as possible to her view point of the front gate so she would see straight away when her safety blanket (my husband) came home.
Different experiences have shaped her into different behaviours than others but she is not less than.
I am a toy, that no longer considers herself broken. I am made up of different colours and materials than other toys but that does not make me less than or broken. Just different and unique.
Our uniqueness is the one thing we have most in common with other humans.