Choosing to Be Kinder

I was twelve years old the first time I attempted suicide, though this isn’t really about the suicide attempt. I’m writing this because what happened after is incredibly significant. Nonetheless, I imagine you’re wondering what would drive a 12-year-old to such a thing, so I will share the brief version.

My father had died about 8 months before. Daddy was the only safe haven in my short life. I met him when I was ten, so I had only had safety long enough to know that it was vitally important. For the first six months after he died, his sister fought like hell to get custody of me so I wouldn’t have to go back to live with my mother and step-father. When she finally prevailed, the grief of losing her brother, closest friend, and ally, finally hit her. She began to drink. Shortly after she began drinking, she began sexually assaulting me.

It was not a good time to be alive.

I decided to end my life. I sat on the hearth of my aunt’s fireplace with my closest friend and ally, my dog Sam, and began slicing away at my wrist with a razor blade. I remember being surprised it didn’t hurt. The next thing I remember, my aunt was having a raving fit because I was bleeding on her white, four-inch shag carpet.

Today was not the first time I remembered that day. I’ve talked about it with therapists in the past, but no one seemed to realize there was something to be done, least of all me. Until today, I didn’t even realize there was anything out of the ordinary about my aunt’s reaction.

Today was the first time I talked about it with one of my own Life Coaches, Jolinda Kohl. I don’t remember why it came up, but it did. I told her that I wanted to do an exercise called Observer Chair™ that I created to use with my clients. As I started to explain it to her, I began to move into the experience of it. I connected to my Most Wise & Loving Self. In the exercise, the goal is to receive whatever the Now Me needs from the Most Wise & Loving Me.

I couldn’t do it.

The Most Wise & Loving version of me reached out to stroke my hair and comfort me. I could feel the Now Me resisting. The conditioned reaction to show-no-weakness was incredibly strong. I acknowledged it and chose to step around it. I leaned into the Most Wise & Loving Me, and nearly lost it. What interrupted that process is a blog for another day about the perfection of imperfection; apparently, I was not ready for the full experience.

What was important for me in the moment was perfectly clear. I have been so conditioned to be strong, silent, and impervious, that I couldn’t even take comfort from myself. Part of me wouldn’t admit that I needed it, because I had been punished every time I showed weakness.

Another part of me was appalled. “Somebody needs to do something for that 12-year-old,” I told Jolinda four different times. And, somebody has and will. That somebody is me.

I realized today that my aunt’s reaction was entirely unhealthy and abnormal, which isn’t all that surprising in relation to the rest of my family. What is surprising is that in nearly four decades, no one had pointed out her reaction as unhealthy and in need of a do-over for that younger version of me.

Yes, there are Mulligans in life, and they are especially helpful in dealing with trauma and PTSD. I know. I deal with both, and then some. Unlike “hard work” therapies, exercises like the Observer Chair™ do not retraumatize. The memory is accessed, and then rewritten with a new, healthier ending. It’s a really cool process.

The best part is, every time I do this with myself or with a client, there is a Choosing that takes place. In this case, it is a Choosing to Be Kinder. My Most Wise & Loving Self knows what that 12-year-old needs and is fully prepared to Do Something About It. That’s the Mulligan. I get to Do Over the end of that story. As long as the story is still painful, it is not over. With a Do Over, it can finally be healed and put to rest.

Choosing to Be Kinder. Would you allow yourself a Do Over today? As I love to say… Love Someone Today, Would You? Extra points if that Someone is YOU! Give yourself the loving grace of a Do Over. Do it for you and for me, okay?


  1. Would like to hear more about this technique. I have a wise person who hugs me but I don’t invite her in very often. I could use some help with that.

  2. Joanna,
    You are so courageous to share this personal story. Thank you. It inspires me, and I think about the Do Overs I want to experience.

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