Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 6


In her latest Share Your Stories post, Holly Elissa Bruno reflects on the emotional knots that are so often tied when we hold on to yesterday’s pain. Join in conversation with Holly Elissa and share your thoughts on the second chances you’ve encountered after you’ve loosened the knots, extinguished long-held resentment, and moved on.

Untying Myself

This Dollar Store twine circling my left wrist is knotted into a rough bracelet. Why would I, lover of sea glass green and luminescent opal, bother with a fading and frumpy beige adornment?

Good question.

If you have a trusted friend who reminds you to get over yourself and move on, you know how my twine bracelet helps me.

Do you, as I do, have a knack for:

  • getting in your own way?
  • making a decision more complicated than it needs to be?
  • over thinking simple situations?

Because I am expert at all of these practices, I tie myself up in knots. Unnecessary knots.

Touching my rough knotted bracelet reminds me that, just as I tied the knots, I can untie the knots.

May I tell you about one of my familiar knots, how I tie it, and how with conscious effort I can untie it?

Despite my “what the hey?” attitude, my feelings can be easily hurt.

Recently I was presenting a workshop with two colleagues. We each had an allotted time. I went over my designated time. I get so exuberant I lose track of time; for that reason, I ask my colleagues to signal me when I need to wrap up. I did not see a signal.

My colleague who spoke after me stated her displeasure twice at having less than her designated time.

Yes, I went over time. But, I counted on her to let me know when I needed to end.

Publicly embarrassed, I wilted in a shame attack followed by feeling betrayed.

Looking back, I see this was a simple miscommunication of expectations. I expected a signal from my colleague and she expected me to know when to end.

When I feel shamed in public, alarms blare. Outwardly, I put on a professional face; inwardly, I beat myself up and want to run away. My colleagues had no idea!

That’s where the knot comes in: I was overlaying past painful memories on a current event and returning to a time when I was all of sixteen years old. My father, bless him, announced in front of others that I was not intelligent enough to win scholarships to universities.

His pronouncement wounded me. My confidence crumpled for days before I could rebound with silent “I am not stupid!” conviction. Soon after, I took that competitive NY State Regents examination and won the scholarship. But, rebuilding my self-esteem is a lifelong project.

When my colleague intimated to the audience that I was wrong, she was right. However, I felt publicly shamed—again. That public shaming shoved me back into a well of unworthiness . . . She became a demeaning parent and I, the kicked-to-the-curb child. The result was knots in my heart; knots in the room; and, a potential knot in our relationship.

One touch to my bracelet reminded me that I created this knot. My colleagues had no clue. I was blaming them for the pain of my childhood. I was expecting them to make the past pain right.

“If you’re hysterical, the problem is historical,” my 12-step groups remind me.

My shame attack was not caused by my colleagues, nor were they responsible for fixing me!

Overlaying past unresolved conflict on today’s misunderstanding does not resolve anything. When I take this path, I feel righteous indignation. I stand on the moral high ground. I surrender my maturity. I lose sight of the present.


The truth is: Each time a wound is reopened, I am given a second chance to heal. I don’t have to turn a simple misconnection into drama. I can separate past from present.

This joint presentation was a simple problem with a simple solution. I apologized to my colleagues, requested a definite way of signaling one another about time boundaries in the future, and offered to go last the next time we present.

I reminded myself that I have a choice: I can choose to live in the present, deal directly with the present misunderstanding, take responsibility for my part in the misunderstanding, learn and let go.

I’ll take that second chance.

Does what I am saying sound at all familiar to you?

Share your stories and tell me:

  • Have you overlaid your past pain on a present relationship?
  • Can you say how that has tied you and the other person in knots?
  • What can you do to untie a painful knot from the past that, if you allow it to, would choke your future?
  • Tell me about that second chance you gave yourself to release the knot and breathe free.

Holding a resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die. Life’s too short to do anything but enjoy it daily.

BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.

If you’re new to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Share Your Stories series, you can learn more about the project here and read previous posts here. We invite you to share as often and openly as you want—on this post, previous posts, and future posts. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes her next book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation after the book is published.

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7 Responses to Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 6

  1. Beverlyn Cain says:

    Another view is getting past a “post traumatic stress” situation from a past issue that causes high anxiety whenever, a new situation appears to look like it may go in that direction. From personal experience, I work on taking charge . So as Holly suggests, deal with the present situation in a productive manner. Sit on the anxiety, power walk, do yoga, something to bring myself to a balanced calm mind set.The reality is that I either have the choice of wallowing in negative energy, which gets me no where or assertively handling the situation which exudes positive energy.

  2. Pingback: Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Untying Myself | Holly Elissa Bruno

  3. Thank you, Dr. Beverlyn.

    I’m grateful more and more of us are willing to share openly about being trauma survivors.Although I haven’t seen studies on how many educators are survivors, I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentages are high.

    What, I wonder, is the reason survivors become educators? I’d like to hear your insights on this.

    My hunch is that we simply want to make the world a better place for children (than what we experienced). Each time I see children feeling safe to play and free to learn, I marvel. I’m grateful.

    PTSD jams up our learning (and teaching) abilities (think Maslow’s hierarchy). Your tips on how to restore serenity are helpful. Thank you. I also find heart to heart conversations with loving friends and colleagues restorative.

    Just like this conversation 😉

    Take good care of yourself.

  4. I love this piece, Holly. It is exactly what I am talking about (working on) with teachers and myself. I am sure we “overlay our past pains on all our relationships.” As teachers it is so important that we learn how we “tick” emotionally, and then how not to lay our pains on our relationships with young children.

  5. Tamar, thank you. Overlaying pain comes so naturally to me. I’m working to acknowledge and step aside from “overlay” in order to resolve today’s conflicts today. As I do this, I believe past conflicts are also healed in part. Perhaps someday, the wounds will fully heal. I remain optimistic.

  6. Thank you, Tamarika.

    What complex beings we are to feel and acknowledge past pain (as past pain) and at the same time be lovingly present in the moment. The emotional-spiritual honesty that springs from our inner voice has the gentle power to set us free.

  7. Michelle Manganaro says:

    When I was in college, I couldn’t wait to be married and have children. As a result, I settled down with boy from my hometown who seemed mature and ready. The relationship lasted almost ten years but ended abruptly with news of his affair; heartbreaking, of course.

    A year later I began a long term relationship with a man, who finally said to me, “I am paying for all of your ex’s mistakes”. Apparently his expression of love for me was consistently met with my sarcasm; I cared for him but could not believe or trust he truly cared for me. Heartbreaking, actually.

    Because I had been lied to and mistreated (and for such a long period – essentially the decade called my 20s), the truth sent me through the stages of mourning. During my early 30s, it was hard for me to believe that someone could love or care about me; and actually, really mean it.

    How might this apply to professional settings? It’s an inter-personal thing actually. In my 19th year as a Director among a small and changing group of professional educators, there have been many staff come and go (or stay) who had been burnt by a prior boss. Forming a relationship with me that was going to be any different than that was going to take two ingredients: Desire and Effort. If they didn’t have the desire, it was going to become my job. Effort would be a two-way street.

    I wish I’d known then, what I know now. Second chance? Well I am still a Director and relationship building is my best friend. I like to consider the stages of people using the Situational Leadership Model (Blanchard & Hersey). I have to give myself a little credit though – my critics (and I always had them – still do) would often say that I was a ‘softie’ and that I was always given too many chances. One leader in the making often took her turn on the playground ‘soapbox’ to say things like ‘well I would have a three strikes policy’ and fire people who didn’t follow the rules. I like to think I have had a more humane approach over the years that has allowed me to comfortable “sleep at night”. That said, having too many cooks in the kitchen is how I prefer to lead the school – cooperative and team-based, I rarely need to make a unilateral decision.

    As I reflect within my own skin, I realize also that my own perceptions of trust and relationship-building with staff also play a role at work; I have to realize that my own feelings of doubt can interfere with the employee-employer relationship. And boy have I had a good amount of people over the years. Turnover was a major obstacle in the early 90s. Even now, with a family-like staff group of 20 teachers and the average length of service being 9-10 years, I am learning that there is a fundamental value with/for 2nd chances.

    On a personal note, that second romantic relationship from my early 30s that I mentioned …. well it ended due to a hidden substance abuse issue; it became one emotional rollercoaster I simple could not ride anymore. Heartbreaking. Not to worry though, at age 43, I am entering a 6th year with a honey that is the best honey I’ve ever known. When I met him I thought he was a video game playing 28 year old. Turns out he was a very young looking divorced parent and that the journeys we’ve had are almost a mirror image of one anther. The best part? Even after 6 years, he doesn’t mind re-assuring me every day that he “really does” love me. Good thing I gave the “video game playing 28 year old” a second chance. 🙂



    Blanchard, K., & Hersey, P. The Situational Leadership Model. Retrieved from

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