A while back, I was counseling a graduate student who was troubled about her level of involvement with her family of origin. As a child, she was repeatedly abused by her father. Now as an adult in her mid-30s, she was torn between detaching herself from him or seeing him during family gatherings.
On the one hand, if she refused to see him, she would miss out on most of the family time—especially during holidays. On the other hand, she did not want to face her father because the memories of the abuse were still fresh in her mind. Every time she saw him, she felt like a vulnerable child again, scared and needing protection.
As I listened to her share this story, I recalled standing in my front yard on a beautiful summer day. I could see a robin’s nest in the swaying branches of a weeping willow tree. Both parents flew back and forth, bringing worms and grubs to their hungry baby birds.
Suddenly, there was a loud, sharp screech from the edge of the woods. Turning my head, I saw a blue jay flying rapidly towards the robin’s nest. With a flurry of flapping wings, scratching talons, and fierce cries, the robins intercepted the threatening blue jay before it could harm the baby birds. The robins drove the blue jay back into the woods, away from the nest. Then, the robins returned to the nest to make sure their babies were unharmed.
I shared this story with the woman I was counseling, and I let her know that it was not my place to tell her what lesson she should draw from that story. It was up to her.
She pondered for a minute, and with a creased brow, replied, “I’m not sure.”
I asked her, “Which of those creatures do you most closely identify with, if any?”
“The mother robin,” she said.
I asked her why. She indicated that she felt the need to protect the vulnerable babies. She saw herself as a strong defender, not as fearful and weak. It was this inner strength that I wanted to tap into and bring into the light.
“So, who do the baby birds represent?” I asked.
After some thought, she realized that those fragile, little birds represented a part of herself—the scared and hurt child within her. It was her own vulnerable side that she actually wanted to protect.
“Ok.” I added. “Now who is the nasty blue jay?” (You’ve probably already guessed this one.)
“My father!” She blurted out with emphasis. “Definitely my father. He has always been an imposing man.
“Threatening, I mean. Even in the way he would stand in front of me and just glare at me until I felt only two inches tall. It amazed me how he had such power over me. The power to take away my confidence in a second.”
“One last question.” I said. “So, if the robins represent the part of you that is a defender, and the baby birds represent the part of you that is vulnerable and needs protection, and the blue jay represents your abusive father, then what lesson have you learned from the feisty robins?”
She stared at me for what seemed an eternity. Then, with an expression on her face that looked like she had just finished putting together a jigsaw puzzle, she explained, “Well, I guess I need to chase away the blue jay and keep him away from my vulnerable side. And I need to protect my inner child from getting hurt. Which means, I also have to be the protector—my own protector. I’m going to have as little to do with him as possible.”
Today’s Loving Suggestion: You or I might have taken different actions than she did, but the lesson here for all of us is to stand up for ourselves and establish healthy personal boundaries that protect our self-respect. Sit in quiet meditation and reflect upon the areas of your life that need healthier boundaries. Then take positive action.
If you have followed any of the suggestions in the Sir Rennity feature, I would love to hear your stories. Please email me at email@example.com. I will keep your letters private unless you request that they be published.
The Sir Rennity feature is intended to provide gentle guidance for your life. These articles hold no intrinsic meaning. You give meaning to them based on the value you place on them, so the words here are meaningless unless you put them into practice.