I was looking through my alumni magazine for my high school and I saw a picture of my friend. It said my friend from high school was the co-chair of the auction and raised one million dollars in one night.
I remembered when I was in high school and I was talking to our college counselor. It came up that our class didn’t get into as good of colleges as the years before. I asked our college counselor why he thought my class didn’t get into good colleges. My college counselor said, “Well, your class just isn’t very bright.”
When I looked at the picture of my friend in the alumni magazine, I thought, “raising one million dollars in one night for the school doesn’t sound like ‘not very bright.’”
Later, as I was doing the dishes, I thought about how our college counselor had called our class stupid. I wondered what my life would be like if I didn’t believe anybody was stupid. I started to cry as I thought, “If I really believed there is no such thing as stupid, my life would completely change—for the better.”
I thought, “Could I really believe that nobody is stupid?” I really wanted to believe that nobody is dumb. Then I thought of the college counselor who told me when I was 17 that our class wasn’t bright. “Oh, he’s an idiot,” I thought. “It will really show a lot growth if I can believe he’s not stupid.”
When I’ve decided to believe, in the past, that no one is stupid, it’s really helped me. So I worked hard on believing my college counselor wasn’t an idiot. Later, when I was going to the bathroom in my bedroom, I thought, “He may not have been stupid, just afraid. He was the college counselor and the kids didn’t get into good colleges and maybe he was afraid of getting fired. Instead of blaming himself, he blamed the kids for not getting into Ivy League Schools. It wasn’t a lack of intelligence–it was fear.”
I thought, “I understand that. I often do things that aren’t the best choices because I am afraid. I know better, but because I’m afraid, I don’t do what’s in my best interest.”
Like sometimes, when I’m with my autistic son, Cal, I’ll act in a way, that later I could tell you isn’t the best way to be, but I act out of fear he’s going to scratch or bite me.
Every Tuesday night, my husband gives me a dialogue. A dialogue is a where he asks me questions about how I feel in a nonjudgmental way to help me see my beliefs so I can decide if I want to keep my beliefs or change them.
We do dialogues with all the people who work with my son with autism and we learned this tool because of our training to help our son.
Thursday nights, after the kids go to bed, I ask my husband questions to help him and Tuesday nights he does me. Tuesday night, my husband asked me what I wanted to talk about. I told him about my friend raising one million dollars in one night at the auction and he said, “Wow, one million dollars for the auction?” “Yup,” I said.
I told him how I remembered our college counselor saying our class wasn’t bright and how raising one million dollars in one night for the school didn’t strike me as “not very bright”. I explained to my husband how I wanted to believe no one is stupid because I believe that will really help me. I told him how I started with my college counselor, trying not to believe he was an idiot. Then I explained how I thought it could have been fear, not stupidity.
I said, “I get that. Sometimes I act in a way that I don’t think is intelligent when I’m with Cal because I am afraid he’ll bite, scratch me or pull my hair.”
My husband said, “When was a time you were with Cal and you believe you acted in a way that wasn’t intelligent because you were afraid Cal would bite, scratch or pull your hair?”
I said, “Tonight I was writing emails sitting at my computer and Cal came over and gently grabbed my wrist and said, ‘Want more dinner,’ and looked into my eyes.”
“When did you get afraid?” my husband said.
“After Cal held my wrist, even though he was being sweet and gentle, I got afraid he may scratch or bite me,” I said.
“Given that you thought Cal may bite or scratch you, why were you afraid?” he asked.
After a lot of questions and answers, I realized I was scaring myself to keep myself alert. I wasn’t really paying attention to Cal while I was checking my emails so I scared myself to help wake me up so I didn’t do anything that might make him scratch me.
My husband asked questions like, “Could I make my son scratch me?” The answer was no. Also, we talked about how me being afraid didn’t really help keep me safe, it just made me less present and less able to take care of myself and Cal.
We talked about how I judged myself as stupid, for being afraid when Cal held my wrist and asked for food. I’ve done hundreds of dialogues where I come up with the same thing — Fear doesn’t help keep me safe. I’m actually better at taking care of myself when I’m calm and present.
Just as I was judging my college counselor for being “stupid” by saying our class wasn’t bright, I have been judging myself as stupid for being afraid of my son when I know that being afraid doesn’t help me. I realized I was judging myself as stupid to get myself to change. If I thought it was OK to be afraid, I thought I’d keep doing it. Then after many more questions from my husband, I realized that it’s not stupid of me to be afraid sometimes of Cal and I’m just doing the best I can.
Actually, when I accept myself and say it’s ok to be afraid, I’m less likely to be afraid. Letting go of the judgement of myself leaves me open to being happy, present and clearer. Do I believe my college counselor from high school is stupid? No. I genuinely believe he was doing the best he could with the beliefs that he had by calling 72 children stupid.
I’m so grateful to my son for teaching me how to let go of judging myself and other people — it just feels so much nicer. It doesn’t feel good to hold on to all that anger. Thank you Cal for helping me to choose beliefs that help me be happier. I love you so much!