I want to tell you a story about a young man that crossed my path some time ago.
I was giving a lecture about accessing feelings and affairs of the heart. The group couldn’t have been to more than about fifty people, maybe less. In the front row was a woman and a young man that looked just like her. I figured they were mother and son given the resemblance. The two things that were remarkable about them was that they came late to the lecture, and they walked right up toward the front and sat in the first row.
The young man was large, but muscled to the point that his arms were outlined through his shirt. His hair was short, and he looked straight ahead at me. His eyes were on me every time I looked back into his. They weren’t threatening. His gaze was more inquiring than angry, more concerned that he might miss something if he wasn’t paying close attention.
My talk was a part of a group of lectures, so it only lasted about forty five minutes, and as soon as it was over, everybody got up to leave and get to their next presentation. I turned away from the audience to gather my notes and, as I was leaving, I noticed that the young man and the older woman were standing at the front of the stage.
The woman stepped forward and thanked me for my talk, introduced her son, then asked if she could have a word with me. The room emptied, and left me with the two of them. We sat down.
She said that her son had been in Iraq, and been home for about a year. She said that he has been “joyless” and has showed little sense of happiness. She said that, before he left, he’d been “himself” but, pursuant his return, his “glow has dimmed.” I’ll never forget the way she phrased that. I looked at him, and he seemed clearly embarrassed. His eyes, now focused over my shoulder, on the ground, and toward the door, gave me the impression that he wanted to be anywhere except standing next to his mother, listening to her talk about his unhappiness.
The lecture wasn’t far from my office. I asked if the young man could call me sometime this week, and we could talk further about this issue. The mother, however, was insistent. She was afraid that, if he didn’t discuss this now, the feelings that she felt were lost would be irretrievable. I looked at her son, and he showed no disagreement in my assessment. I agreed that, if they followed me to my office, I’d talk to him right away.
Now, there’s something about my office you should know before I continue. I have about five teddy bears scattered around the room. All were gifts, but I’ve used each of them as a tool for emotional expression. I’ll explain that in a minute.
This young marine appeared at my office, his mother in the waiting room. He sat down on my couch and looked me square in the eyes. Even though his mother had said that he’d lost that “glow”, he looked at me with a sense of hope. Something about this young man’s face seemed lost, and that last thread of hope toward reclaiming what was gone was handed to me.
I had asked him to talk about his life as a marine, and he gave me the itinerary of his travels, from boot camp to his return from combat and beyond. He said that he is now does weekend work at the base to fufill his obligations. He said that most of his work on the weekends was at a VA rehabilitation center, a hospital for Marines hurt in action. He said that he felt it was his duty to respond to their needs, and continue to give his support whenever possible to those that supported him.
I’d asked if there was anyone in particular that he helped in the rehab center, and his face dropped. His eyes no longer met mine and for a half a second, he paused before he spoke. He told me of a young man that had been stationed with him in Baghdad, a platoon member and friend. They’d gone through the Marines together, and the rehabilitation center was the first time they’d been separated.
When I asked what caused his friend to be in this center, the young man sat still, looked me in the eye, and quietly said “…took enemy fire, sir”, his voice trailing off.
What followed was an account of that fire, and the battle that ensued, that injured his friend, and put this young man in the role of saving his friend’s life. My words are too limited to describe this man’s passion, responsibility, and pain, but his last words said to me were “I almost lost him” before he became still.
I reached over his shoulder and, quietly, grabbed one of my teddy bears, and put it in his lap. I asked him, respectfully, to put both arms around that bear, and hold him close to his chest.
The marine never made eye contact. With his head down, he held the bear fast and, within a few seconds, this brave young man began to cry.
I won’t go into the details of his words between the tears. I will say this: He didn’t feel sorry for himself; his expression was the love for his friend,He held the bear closer, and recounted the past several months, and how these experiences changed his life.
When he held that bear closer, something changed within this strong, confident Marine. He shared with me, for a few moments, the feelings that had been locking up that “glow” that his mother said had left him. When he held that bear, the permission to feel was released.
Holding something close to you, right next to your chest, when you’re sad or upset is as natural an act as we know. Yet, it’s one that fades with age, forgotten through the years. I’m, therefore, here to remind you that, when you’re feeling…well, anything that you can’t quite put your finger on or, in particular, that you don’t feel you can express, clutch something close and think about these feelings. I promise you that this mechanism is as good as any you’ll use to release pent up emotion. It’s better than any cognitive analysis that you can muster, and it gets to the heart of the matter, literally, almost immediately.
It works, and you’ll feel measurably better.
Trust me on this. It helps. And one last thing: this young man wanted me to share this with you. My teddy bear went with him. He took it and gave it to his friend in rehab. He said that, while sitting on the edge of his bed, his friend cried, too. They both discussed things that hadn’t been spoken about, and shared feelings that had gone unmentioned.
Hugging your teddy bear: endorsed by a United States Marine.
By entrusting us with your feelings, we help you take steps that you see necessary to begin and put forth the energy to make the needed change.
Now notice something: Trust in a coach, mentor, or guide helps you see what's in front of you. We see a Coach for Your Heart a little like an emotional Sherpa, somebody that helps you climb your mountain by pointing out where to best step along the path.
Offices in San Diego and Denver, but will travel to meet onsite anywhere in the United States and the World.