Last week I attended Michael Bernoff’s Core Strengths Experience event in Scottsdale, AZ. I went to the event with the intention of learning how to take my business to the next level and become more confident but left with so much more. I learned so many things about myself and have such a better understanding of why I am the way I am.
If you haven’t heard of him, Michael is a professional development/self improvement/personal transformation coach and is a master of communication. He teaches how to effectively communicate with others and with ourselves.
We all have events and challenges that we are faced with in our lives. They shape us and influence who we are and what we do. When we better understand how these events impact the person we become we have the ability to change and grow into a better version of ourselves.
I witnessed Michael help so many people and in helping them he helped me learn about myself.
There was a woman who was molested by her uncle when she was 6 years old. That was beyond horrible in itself. What was even worse was that she told her father and he did nothing about it. He was hard to talk to as it was and it took an incredible amount of courage for her to tell him what happened.
The one person in her life who was supposed to keep her safe and protect her did nothing. Of course she was completely devastated and this affected her, her entire life.
She was happily married and loved her husband but they lacked intimacy. Some things we can’t let go. She stood up and asked for help. Michael brought her up on stage and walked her through a series of specific memories.
One was a happy memory between her and her husband. Another was a memory that she was extremely proud of. The third was of her father. He had 3 chairs and had her go from chair to chair and in each chair she would repeat one of the memories. He had her keep moving from chair to chair and say the respective memory.
It got to a point where she got really giddy and when she was in the middle chair, where she would bring up the memory of her father, all of a sudden she would start laughing. He had her go through the memories a few more times and as she was going to the second chair all of a sudden he kicked it away. She walked over to where the chair was and stood and he asked her about her father and she just laughed.
He completely jumbled and transformed her memory of this horrible event. She was a different person. You could see the weight lifted off her shoulders.
Her husband was also at the event. She got off the stage and they embraced and it was one of the most touching things I have ever seen. I was fighting tears the entire time. I am fighting them back as I write this.
I’m lucky to have never experienced anything remotely close to what happened to this very sweet and amazing woman but her story helped me realize some things about myself.
My parents divorced when I was around 1. I don’t actually remember but I know my mother loved me with all her heart. She remarried and a few years later I had a baby brother. I don’t remember that either but I’m pretty sure I felt some jealousy.
My stepfather was very strict. So in addition to no longer being an only child I had a strict stepfather. I remember wetting the bed when I was a little kid. I got yelled at for it. I tried really hard not to wet the bed and this went on for a year or so. It was a cry for attention though the attention I got was not what I wanted. Funny how our young minds work.
At some point in my life I started resenting my mother. It was subtle but it was there and I never understood why. In my heart I loved my mother very much and I knew she always did her best for me.
I used to visit my birth father once a year. I remember one time when I was 14 or 15 and my mother picked me up from the airport and we went out to dinner. She asked me if I loved her. I told her of course I did. She told me she loved me very much but didn’t feel that I loved her and just wanted to make sure.
I felt so horrible. Here I was with my mother who had always loved me and did everything she could for me and she didn’t feel loved by me. I knew I had this resentment and now I knew she felt it. And I still had no idea why.
Fast forward 30 or so years to last week and I finally understand why. At some point when I was a little kid of 2 or 3 or 4 I felt like my mother stopped protecting me. Of course she didn’t do this intentionally and I always knew she never did anything to hurt me. It was just a part of life and that’s how it affected me.
I called my mother after I returned from the event. I told her the story of the woman. I had several moments where I couldn’t speak because I was about to burst into tears.
I told her I loved her and had something to share with her and that I was in no way blaming her for anything. I just had a realization about something and I told her the story I just shared with you and again had several moments where I couldn’t speak and fought to hold back the tears.
She didn’t even remember that dinner. She told me she knew I loved her but it made me feel better to tell her my realization just the same. I wanted to cry but I didn’t.
It’s really hard for me to cry. When I was a little kid I used to cry a lot. I was a weak little kid and if someone picked on me I cried. I hated feeling like a wimpy kid. I wanted to be tougher but I didn’t know how.
As I grew older I tried to never cry and I thought that this made me tougher. I hadn’t cried for several years and then one day I broke my wrist. After the shock wore off I experienced the worst pain I’ve ever felt. It was so excruciating and I remember it to this day.
I cried. I remember being more upset with myself for crying than for being an idiot and breaking my wrist.
And that was the last time I cried for a very long time. Of course I now know that there’s nothing wrong with crying and yet it’s still so hard for me to cry. It was a point of pride and me believing I was tougher and more of a man.
And this explained some more things about me. Sometimes we need a good cry to express ourselves. If we’re holding back crying we’re probably holding back a lot of other stuff.
I learned that we develop certain human rights when we are children. Some are given to us (for example the right to BE special and to matter) and some we take for ourselves. I gave myself the right to be autonomous. This means I value my independence and on the flip side I hate to ask for help. I try to do everything myself and can be a bit of a control freak. Ok…a lot of a control freak.
By never allowing myself to cry or be emotional I never had much of a voice growing up and this made it hard for me to express myself. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with me will attest to this 🙂
And there is so much more that I learned. This better understanding of who I am has changed the way I look at myself. It has helped my confidence. It has shown me where I have fallen short in my relationships and what I need to work on to improve them. It has shown me the power of being vulnerable and the list goes on.
Is everything fixed after spending 3 days with Michael Bernoff? Of course not. I’m still fucked up in my own sort of way. But now I know why I am the way I am and can easier accept my imperfections and now I can work on improving them. I’m slowly getting out of my own way.
The thing is we’re all affected by something that has happened to us at some point in our lives. I used to think I was one of the few and most people were pretty normal for the most part. I met so many people and heard so many stories of events that have happened to them. Every story was different and they all helped me in some way.
I learned it’s ok to admit we have problems. It’s good to be vulnerable and it is a part of who we are. None of us are perfect. We’ve all been through some stuff. Some worse than others. By sharing what we have been through we just might be able to help someone out. We just might form a tighter connection with someone else.
Thank you to all the amazing people that I met and for sharing your stories and for listening to mine. I am grateful to all of you.
I’m slowly finding my voice and working on being more expressive and a better communicator and being more vulnerable. I’m working on being willing to ask for help and to let others help me. And one day, I’ll have a good cry and feel like a man.