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Jun 14, 2021

The Night My Childhood Ended, Part 1

In today’s podcast, we present the first half of a therapy session with Todd, who describes a traumatic event that ended his childhood when he was eight. Next week, you will hear the exciting and inspiring last half of Todd’s session.

My co-therapist is Dr. Jill Levitt, the Director of Training at the Feeling Good Institute in Mountain View, CA, and one of the co-leaders of my weekly training group at Stanford. We are deeply indebted to Jill and Todd for making this incredible and extremely personal podcast possible. Todd hopes, and we all hope, that it will be helpful to many people around the world who are suffering, and perhaps hiding the scars from your own traumatic experiences.

As we always do in TEAM, Jill and I went through T, E, A, M in consecutive order, and I will give an overview of each phase of the session.

T = Testing and E = Empathy

Todd started by saying:

I’m uncomfortable with all the attention I’m getting right now, and I’m worried about derailing the group, since our plan was to have teaching on exposure tonight. I’m going to describe one of the worst nights of my life, when I was 8 years old. It was the last night our family lived together, and my childhood essentially ended. But I’m not looking for a pity party.

When I think about that night, I feel 100% sad and shitty. My life isn’t shitty. but when I think about that night, it’s incredibly discouraging. Here’s what I’m telling myself right now:

  1. I’m more screwed up than anyone else in this group. 100%
  2. I worse than all of the others. 100%

My parents got married very young, when they were 18. I was raised in the 1970’s, which wasn’t the child-centered world like it is today. My parents drank all the time. and they’ve both had lifelong challenge with addictions and mental health. In fact, my mom got arrested for a DUI just last week.

I have one older brother, and we were on our own most of the time.

My parents had a horrible fight one night. It was the last night our family was together.

They were both drunk and screaming at each other. They began physically fighting in their bedroom, and I thought my dad was going to kill my mom. My brother and I were scared, and we hid in the bedroom and created a fort with our bunk beds.

Then things got quiet, so we decided to see what had happened, and went into their bedroom. Mom was badly beaten up, her face was all bruised, and dad seem horribly embarrassed and ashamed. It was devastating, because I told myself that I should have done something to help her, to save her, and I felt, and still feel, like a frickin’ coward. I believe that 100%, and have felt ashamed every time I think about it.

I feel all alone. I’m here, but I’m not here. That was the end of my childhood. I don’t like to think about it. My father moved out, and my brother lived with him. I lived with our mom.

The idea at home was always, “don’t speak unless you’re spoken to.” Dad was very angry and controlling. He was angry at my mom for not taking better care of my brother and me. He was angry at life, and I’m also angry and disappointed in her for not taking better care of us.

I want to be able to get in touch with my vulnerability and my emotions. Then I stop myself and say, “I’m not allowed to have these feelings.” I want to be consoled, comforted, and not be so hard on myself. Maybe I want people to feel closer to me.

You can see Todd’s Daily Mood Lot at the start of the session (link). As you can see, he was incredibly upset, and had eight Negative Thoughts, and his belief in all of them was strong, with most at 100%.

Next week, you will hear the dramatic conclusion of Todd’s personal work, including the A and M of TEAM!

If you would like to contact Todd, you can reach him at:

david and rhonda