Please Help More Children like Shannon...Change the World and Heal

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We all live in our box of stories of who we think we are. Our stories of how we see the world and our stories of who we are rarely change. One bight crisp Fall day on a Friday in New Hampshire, Shannon showed up at Salem many years ago when Louise and I ran Salem, the group home for abandoned and abused children, I've mentioned often. She was a cute, 10 years old. Pig tails. Freckles. She seemed harmless and lovable. It was an emergency placement and the social worker didn't know anything about Shannon, but would get us more info the following Monday. That night, Louise and I heard screams and wails of terror coming from one of the children's houses and we rushed over. Nancy, one of our house parents, later, explained to us that everything was fine until that night. Nancy told Shannon to get her pajamas on and to get ready to be tucked in. As Nancy hand reached over and barely touched Shannon's back for a light back rub and to reassure her that everything will be ok, Shannon flew off the bed screaming, fighting, scratching and clawing at Nancy. Nancy's training kicked in and she immediately wrapped herself around Shannon restraining her from doing any more damage to Nancy or herself while Nancy gently talked Shannon down saying, "your safe, we're not going to hurt you." In the process of being held down, Shannon's nightshirt was hiked up and what was exposed to Nancy was a little 10 year old back full of fresh and old cigarette burns. What we discovered that night, was that Shannon was the little girl who lived with the stories that said, "I'm the little girl who is so bad you can only control me by putting cigarettes out on me." It was validated to her over and over by the adults in her life. Our work over the next several years was to change Shannon's stories. We had to say to her, you know that box you think you live in and you think it's all true? I'm the bad one. I'm the difficult one. I'm the one that's so bad you can only control me with violence. We had to say, "That's not you." We had to change her stories, over the years, to include. I'm the bright one. I'm the lovable one, and you can change the world you I want to. We all live in our own boxes of stories. They are the ceiling that we don't pass through, the floor we walk on and the walls we all stay within. Most of us feel safe and don't ever leave our boxes much. I'm the conservative. I'm the Democrat. I'm the republican. I'm the tea partier. I'm the liberal. Quite a few people often ask me why do you bother to debate people you don't agree with. Why do you give air time to conservatives and Republicans? It's because I work hard not to stay in my box of stories and I don't like letting others being comfortable in their story boxes either. I do you a disservice by not only challenging your stories, the stories of my guest but also mine daily as well. Are you the one who always gets angry? Are you then one who doesn't want to get involved...doesn't have time to vote or to call you congress person? What's are your stories like? Oh..I can't do that...maybe you can. Oh...that's too much to hope for...maybe it's not. Oh..I could never tell the conservative father-in-law I disagree...maybe you can. Speaking of stories - Salem in now lives the stories of a cash flow problem because States are refusing to pay for kids in care caused by the Republican Great Recession. I know these are tough times - but if you can spare $5, $25, $100 or $1000 please help. A very generous donor has offered to match the amount we raise in one day so please help if you can. We have a little girl that's 10 at Salem right now who can't go home. Her box of stories is different from Shannon but she has a tough time right now and we'd like the opportunity to help her grow up with stories that say, you're important to us, you're lovable and you can change the world if you want too. Contact Salem at to donate online or get the address for a check.

Thom's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm


Hi Thom,

Nice to hear about the Salem program, but I'd like to hear you discuss more about the boxes concept. I am guessing you would agree that while the psychology of this is probably universal, there s a wide range in the degree to which people are bound by their perceptual templates. Many meditative and transpersonal methods are oriented to "opening the doors of perception." I also point to Bob Altemyer's work on the authoritarian mindset, which clearly lacks a lot of higher order thinking. Right wing conservatives are unable to tolerate the idea that other people do not share their boxes, and want to force everyone into theirs. Liberals tolerate diversity more and can accept the idea that one's box is not the only kind out there and that it is possible to expand it. I've heard you talk about this before, so I'd like to see it pushed out more as a political meme.

daj100's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

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