This week’s share is something that came up for me this week watching the Netflix Series, Virgin River. Virgin River is about a big city nurse, Mel, recently widowed, who leaves her home town of Los Angelas to become a mid wife for a small town in the redwoods of northern California. She’s escaping the pain from her past where she meets Jack, another person who’s also plagued with past demons, along with some other great characters.


Similar to This Is Us, Virgin River always has a way of tugging at my emotional heart strings. Today’s share is a conversation between Mel and Jack that really affected me.


If you’re interested in watching this scene it’s Season 2: Episode 6 38:00 minutes in.


Let’s set the background.

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When I first started recovery, I was more concerned about being a father to my daughters and how much a failed marriage would model negatively on them. I didn’t truly understand I failed at parenting myself.


I was so worried about my marriage and my girls, especially since my daughters were at such a young age, my energy was tied to a timeline of “fix me, fix my marriage, and do it yesterday.” My belief was due to a fear that my time was limited before they too, would have negative patterns wired in their brains for years to come.


And unfortunately, as much as I wanted to be a healthy model for my girls, not learning how to parent myself, kept me locked in this childhood wounded state and a belief that my divorce proved I was unworthy of love, invisible, and not important.


Instead of loving and nurturing me, I held on tightly to a marriage that was destroying all of us.


What I’ve learned through my own recovery, and what neuroscience is now proving, is that we do have the power and the ability to reshape and rewire our brains. We don’t have to stay locked in childhood patterns. Yes, habits and patterns are hard to break, and yet, we can become aware of them and take the necessary steps to change and grow.  There is hope.


Dr. Shefali calls this “awakening”.

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I’ve been recently really looking inward at my inner child and I flashed back on two trauma workshops I had done with my therapist.


In one, he placed my grandmother in “the Chair” and the other time he put my step father in “the Chair”. The chair was an empty chair that was placed in front of the “hot seat” where each of us individually (there were four to five of us in the room) sat in the hot seat to heal our childhood trauma. After each event, we would receive feedback from the group and our therapist about what they observed.


The first time I went through this experiential process, when I had my grandmother in the char, I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I could never truly get my grandmother to listen. She would constantly deflect, avoid, turn things around, and then, make them about her. What was even more interesting, was that she had no idea what she was doing. It was a normalized, conditioned response to any critique or judgement that came her way.


The second time I did a trauma workshop we put my step-father in “the chair”. I made sure his seat was more than half way across the room from me; I did not feel safe with it any closer. What I noticed this time around was that not only did my step father not want to listen, the fact that he had to be there in the first place made resentment drip from his pores.


His body language was not oblivious, like my grandmother, but closed and guarded. It was as if he was trying to hold back this torrent of anger to keep him from leaping across the room and attacking me. I was so emotionally off, that my therapist brought this big Italian guy named Guido and his cousin, also named Guido, to stand as two body guards on either side of my father. At one point, when my father figured he was done with this exercise and proceeded to get up and walk out the door, my therapist had Guido and Guido go out and bring him back in. We weren’t finished. They each put one hand on each of his shoulders, forcing him back into the seat, and making him listen to what I had to say.


In both reenactments, I could never get my grandmother or step father to hear me, listen to me, or acknowledge my feelings. No remorse, no regret, no empathy whatsoever.

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