Several months ago, "Jake" our beloved 11 year old hound-mix was clinging to the back seat of the car with all of his roughly 60 lbs. I climbed into the back seat as I struggled to get my shaking dog out of the car. Somehow he knew we were in the vet’s office parking lot and he did not want to go. I couldn’t blame him. At his last visit about two weeks ago, he had suffered the indignity and trauma of being forcibly put on his back and having the area around his lower abdomen shaved with a loud clipper before an ultrasound. The good news was that the vet found no cancer . The happy truth did not comfort him as he lay there – vulnerable and scared. I tried my best to comfort and soothe him. I was happy that he forgave me afterwards and did not hold a grudge.
Oh, and the day before the nasty fur-shaving ultrasound, he had endured two blood draws and an IV. The only fond memory he had was leaving the vet. In our vet's defense, she is a wonderful clinician. But this 3rd visit (which was two weeks after his bad-dream-come-true earlier visits) was supposed to be relatively mild in comparison. The tech would take only one blood draw to see whether his calcium levels had prayerfully returned to normal. Of course, as the rational (okay, mostly rational) human, I knew this, but I didn't know how to convey this to him to reduce his fear.
After a kind lady in the parking lot helped me get Jake out of the car, we made it into the waiting room where he continued to shake like an autumn leaf blown by a gust of wind. I continued to pet him and give him treats. He finally stopped shaking so hard. The blood draw went relatively quickly as the tech was a perfect blend of competence and compassion. Whew!
I can relate to Jake. Sometimes very painful past events cause me to think certain future events will play out like those past events. In brain science lingo, my mind has developed a mental model. This is especially hard when dealing with difficult childhood events or traumas because many of those mental models are unconscious so one doesn't even realize that one is operating based on an implicit memory (as opposed to an explicit/conscious memory).
For a more detailed look at this concept, I recommend Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. I recommend this book even if you don't have kids, but especially if you're about to become a parent, or are a parent. I confess that I am about half-way through the book and I have found it a fascinating read so far.
My point is that part of my growing up/healing process is to recognize when I am having a strong emotional reaction to an event or person, and stop and ask myself if I am having an unconscious (past-triggered response) to a current event. In other words, am I truly responding only to the current event or person, or is there some other unconscious trigger that is affecting my ability to fully and rationally evaluate a current event or person. Whenever, I take the time to ask myself that question and to ask God for insight, I gain a deeper insight into myself and my response. It also helps me to edit my response so that I am operating, as much as possible, in the present moment.
Life is too short to not be fully present for each moment.