I Will Rise

How neuroscience offers hope to survivors of abuse and peacemakers of the future

“What happened to you, then?” my step-father’s booming voice echoed out into the early evening crowd at Outback Steakhouse.

The question was not asked with compassion or caring. It was a jab, an attack, a verbal confirmation that I was a failure in his eyes.

I had been explaining to my extended family how my son was a highly sensitive boy (HSB), when my mom chimed in that I, too, was highly sensitive as a child. She used the term “glass feelings.”

I explained to my sister-in-law how HSBs, if nurtured, could become compassionate artists or peacemakers like Abraham Lincoln, Mozart, and Carl Jung.

That is when my step-father interrupted me with “What happened to you, then?”

What amazed me most was my reaction. In the past, an aggressive comment like this would have sent me to fight or flight mode. As a survivor of abuse, my amygdala and sympathetic nervous system were trained to go into over-drive and flood my system with epinephrine and cortisol. With clenched fists, I would normally either ignore my step-father completely, retaliate with a sarcastic remark, or flee the scene. But this time, I remained calm as I stuttered for words.

“Well, I…um…I…um.” The thought of saying “Someone beat the sensitivity out of me” occurred to me, but the desire to retaliate was absent.

Finally, my wife jumped in to help me, “He wasn’t nurtured.” (Sometimes it is great to have a wife who is a psychologist.)

I still remained calm. In fact, I protected my mother by explaining, “They didn’t know about highly sensitive boys back then.”

Writing about this scene today, I realize that my parent may never realize how damaging 12 years of physical abuse can be on a child. I am almost positive that I will never receive an apology.

But I feel no ill-will towards them at this moment. I’m reminded what of Brene Brown said about her parents instilling shame in her as a child. She said she doesn’t blame them anymore than she blames her grandmother for letting her ride standing in the front seat of the car. They just didn’t know any better.


Armsreach (Photo credit: Awen o greu)

Some of you may argue with this point, but the truth is that I have stopped blaming others for my shortcomings. I am thrilled with the idea of neuroplasticity—that we can change our brains and our lives, just by changing the thoughts we think everyday.

I have seen and felt tremendous changes in how I react to outside stimuli. If we can re-wire our lives with just a few minutes of mindfulness and cultivating compassion practice everyday, then world peace truly is possible.

Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.

Have you seen signs that world peace is possible? Have you felt healing occur in your soul? Please share.


57 comments on “I Will Rise

  1. lauriesnotes says:

    This feels very healing. I am reuniting with my abusive mom and she is starting get how deep the hurt is. I’m grieving that I was also sensitive and not nurtured. Yes, this feels healing.

  2. 1EarthUnited says:

    Awesomeness my friend, you outgrew/ transcended your own karma! You literally jumped off that wheel of emotional offense/ defensiveness and actually focused on the present moment. And you re-acted now with mindfulness. Congrats! Also amazingly wonderful is someone on your team who loves you unconditionally and got your back – u’r wife is so cool!

    Perhaps your compassionate response and mindful behavior is enough to change the outlook, or conditioned pattern of u’r step-father’s behavior. Maybe he’ll even… understand.

    Life is just like that, miraculous and unpredictably enlightening, if we don’t miss “this” precious moment.

    Please check out Tomas’ latest post on Karma, it’s a conscious expanding transmission:

    Cheers on your glorious new life direction. Isn’t practice just perfect? ♥☼♥ {{{hugs}}}

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Love your definition of life, Maddy: “Life is just like that, miraculous and unpredictably enlightening, if we don’t miss “this” precious moment.” Yes, the present moment is where all the miracles happen and where enlightenment is. Never seen a miracle that happened in the past or future. 🙂
      Thanks for the link to Tomas’s post. I will check it out.
      Thank you for your wise words and guidance, my dear friend. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  3. Geo Sans says:

    i’m inspired
    by the continuing
    success story

  4. Reblogged this on Phoenix Flights and commented:
    Spot on as always Kozo 🙂
    I really need to get the hang of this as I’m finding that the people I love are getting very unpredictable as I change and I’m trying not to take it personally (says she after losing her temper big time yesterday)….
    And what happened to you Kozo? You grew up to be a highly empathic sensitive man, a great father and an inspiring, entertaining blogger who influences many by sharing his lessons along the way, so you can tell your step father that from me, a complimentary nice hard kick in the balls optional 😉
    Big love my friend x

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      LOL, SistaS. Reminds me of the Jam, “Lights going out and a kick in the balls.” Thank you so much for your support. I think being a compassionate male, a full-time father, and a blogger are all under-appreciated in our society. It is nice to know someone gets me. Thank you so much for the grin on my face right now. {{{hugs}}} kozo

  5. Have you seen signs that world peace is possible?

    Hi Kozo, yes—I’ve seen signs. The tools, the information that provides ways to bring about peace is at our fingertips, and in abundance. If we want change, we much change the brain. But in order to do that we must also change the cultural paradigms that affect neuroplasticity, thus perception and behavior. Cultural paradigms that can also damage the brain, and do on a daily basis. For example, child abuse is the 3rd leading cause of prefrontal cortex damage. The forehead is the most common area for damage. Damage to the prefrontal cortex can cause someone to lose their capacity for empathy and prosocial behavior.

    We change the world starting from the cradle, because it’s from the cradle that the brain begins to wire major networks. I’m not sure if you read the article on the Greater Good website “Peace Among Primates”, but in it Robert Sapolsky states: “The action of genes is completely intertwined with the environment in which they function.” That’s a powerful key, too. So our environment not only wires our brain, it affects what genes get turned on and off.

    Change the environment, change the brain, change the world. Thank you for writing such a powerful and empowering post.


    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thank you, Victoria, for your guidance and wisdom. I haven’t read the article by Sapolsky yet, but I will. So much good stuff on Greater Good. 🙂 Yes, “change the environment, change the brain, change the world.” I love that formula. The great news is that science is finally proving that this pathway is possible. I really believe the support of science combined with the internet will help us reach a tipping point of peace. I look forward to rejoicing with you when that day comes, my friend. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  6. Sunshine says:

    excellent and well done, Kozo. the fact that your encounter with your abuser went totally opposite from before simply is a powerful testimony. if we really want to change, the power is within us.

    i agree that some do not see the wrong or damage they caused to others, like your parents, but hopefully, if it causes them to miss a Divine calling to change, that would be sad. i like to think that because you are bringing in a new dimension with your step father, he will one day allow light to flow in before it is too late. let us pray that his hardened heart softens and melts into what he was truly created to be.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      I love the compassion in your comment, especially for my step-father. Yes, we were all created to be loving and wholehearted. I just did an interview today in which Elad Levinson said that compassion is our normal state of being. We just have to clear away all the obstacles and be who we are in our hearts. The good news is that it is always possible. {{{hugs}}} to you, Sunshine. Have a great weekend. Love, Kozo

  7. Alison says:

    Oh Kozo, don’t you just love it when the old wiring doesn’t work anymore ?! ❤
    How wonderful for you. Many times watched this happen for myself over the years. It's soooo encouraging and rewarding and heart-opening. I'm so impressed with the work you're doing.
    (((((hugs from me)))))

  8. Yes. They didn’t know any better.

  9. KM Huber says:

    Loved this post, Kozo, and once again, your posts bring to my life just what is needed. I had a blast from the past a couple days ago that sent me reeling, and as I started down an old behavior path, I remembered Pema Chodron’s refraining: when you recognize you are hooked, refrain from the behavior that will begin the “chain reaction of misery.” It was also the day I received a lovely comment from you on a blog post. I have no doubt it brought refraining into my mind. Thanks, my dear friend.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      That is so funny, Karen, because your blog post about refraining has been guiding me for the past week or so. (Although I didn’t refrain a few times and caused my own misery.) I guess we just need to keep reminding ourselves and others until we all get it. I think of Rick Hanson saying that “the brain is like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive experiences.” We need to keep at it, until these positive neuropathways stick. haha.
      {{{hugs}}}} Kozo

  10. Many Little Drops says:

    Isn’t a wonderful feeling to be able to watch ourselves responding in new kinds of ways? Learning to be free of long-standing mental habits, person by person, does make world peace possible. Yea for you!

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yes, Shala, I love the way you use the term “free.” It does feel freeing not being trapped in old thought patterns. Free to love, free to live, free to be here and now. Anything is possible with that kind of freedom. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

      • Many Little Drops says:

        Indeed! It’s exhilarating,.but sometimes that kind of freedom is scary too, in its groundlessness.

  11. lumar1298 says:

    Like you, I have forgiven and know they didn’t know any better. Thanks for sharing.

  12. BroadBlogs says:

    “my mom chimed in that I, too, was highly sensitive as a child. She used the term ‘glass feelings.’”

    Looks like she is really in denial about the part she played. Instead of defending you she blames you.

    That said, I think, like you, that she was probably still doing the best she knew how.

    I have an abusive mother-in-law and I just don’t communicate with her anymore because I don’t have to. I took Maya Angelou’s advice to keep poisonous people out of your life.

    I used to be really angry with her but now I’ve come to the conclusion that she simply doesn’t know any better. Hurt people hurt people. Letting my anger at her go has really helped me, too.

    It reminds me of something I read about forgiving others – maybe you have discussed this before – that it probably helps the forgive her more than the person who is forgiven.

    My motto (which could be catchier!) is forgive, but that doesn’t mean you have to hang around poisonous people.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      I LOVE your statement, “Hurt people hurt people.” It took me a couple of reads to figure it out, but it makes perfect sense. I’m so happy to be breaking this cycle. I really have hurt a lot of people in the past due to the abuse I suffered as a child. I knew something had to change when I started spanking my oldest son. I still lose my cool on occasions, but I feel like I am able to prevent myself from going into “reptilian brain mode.”

      I love the advice about staying away from poison. I want to be like Westley in the Princess Bride and be immune to all poisons. haha.
      Have a great weekend, Georgia. {{{hugs}}} kozo

  13. NIKOtheOrb says:

    Random Acts of Kindness and certain aspects of technology and how that is changing the consciousness/minds/thoughts of human beings are what have been instilling in me that evolution of the species is possible and that one day in the far (or perhaps nearer) future, peace (or some semblance of it) will be as normal as war is today.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yay, peace as normal as war is today. I look forward to this day, Niko. Yes, I, too, believe that technology and kindness/compassion are key. I truly believe the work we are doing here on the internet are greasing the wheels of revolution. {{{{hugs]}} to you, my fellow conspirator. Kozo

  14. Athena Brady says:

    Some people see sentivity as weakness my mum used to say to me “Your too sensitive for this world” she said it in a loving and caring way but it is still an unconscious message to a child not being sensitive is not a good thing. Like you say it was a different time where children were told you should be seen and not heard. As you so rightly said we need to be conscious of our responses, and move away from the ones that dont serve us.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Oh, Athena, I feel for you being a sensitive child in an insensitive world. A good counter would be “the meek will inherit the earth.” I really believe that the sensitive children today will lead us to a peaceful world tomorrow. As grown sensitive children/adults, we can serve as protectors, guides, and role models to the next generation, so they won’t end up “broken.” {{{hugs}}} to you and your childhood self. Love, Kozo

  15. Dieu says:

    I agree that although it is so hard to not let the past effect you, will power does go a long way in creating change.

    I think of these two quotes:
    “You cannot dream yourself into a character: you must hammer and forge yourself into one.”

    “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
    — Marcus Aurelius

    Also, your wife sounds like a incredibly kind and great person. 🙂

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Love your quotations, Dieu. Sometimes the “hammer and the forge” are a bit painful, but the results are worth the effort. I know you are as sensitive as they come, and I often look to you for support and guidance. Thank you for being a dear friend. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  16. theINFP says:

    Over the years my anger towards the abusers has turned to pity, they have lost (or never had) the ability to connect with the creative, subtle and kind elements of a personal relationship. Thank you for sharing your humanity Kozo.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Connecting “with creative, subtle and kind elements of a personal relationship” is key, Robert. Thank you for sharing that. It has taken me years to realize how happiness lies in these elements of a personal relationship. Thank you for a creative, subtle, and kind friend. {{{hugs]}} Kozo

  17. Wonderful writ my friend, very eye opening!

  18. Rohan 7 Things says:

    I think forgive but don’t forget is the best way to deal with past hurts, even huge ones. We can continue to remain trapped and traumatized if we continue to bring our focus to what happened, and who did it. Got to let it go, be the bigger person, but never forget or allow ourselves to be victim to the same people again and again.

    Thanks for sharing Kozo, posts like these give a lot of hope to those who’ve suffered in similar ways!

    Hugs 🙂


    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks, Rohan. Yes, forgive, but don’t forget. I find that after forgiving, I don’t dwell on the past as much. I’m not sure if that is forgetting, but it just doesn’t seem to come up in my mind as much. Maybe it comes up, but I don’t latch onto the emotional hooks as much. Yes, that seems to be the case.

      {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  19. Dave says:

    I have a friend who, I admire to a great degree. We’ve been friends since 1966.

    I hated visiting her house as a teen because, as I look back, her parents were possibly naive to their actions but, mean. They hit her no matter who was present. Sometimes it seemed, for only walking in the front door. These people were just mean to their 3 children.

    She took this series of events with her in to adulthood. She might have been different from you, in that she built up a lot of her own guilt which dealt with her being the child, and her parents could not be treating her this way for no reason. After all they were the parents.

    Back then, it seemed incomprehensible that this could be going on, and ‘authorities’ were just not called.

    Her big step came with forgiveness. She had to forgive herself, first for the false notion of self guilt. This was major for her as it was all about her, and what she many times she really didn’t do anything wrong.

    She vowed to become a good mother. I think she would later say, her parents lent impetus to just how good she would become.

    She found a good husband, has 2 daughters of her own, and 3 grandchildren. She has been kind, and nurturing to her family. This family loves her back, immensely.

    She, like you could not understand how her parents couldn’t comprehend how poor they had been as parents. Mean. For many years, she expected an apology. It never came. She has since said, the warm, cohesive family relationship she has had is somehow abstractly an apology. Her parents saw this great family relationship, and envious of the possibilities they missed out on.

    They were broken like somebody having a stroke, and experiencing disconnects that couldn’t be fixed. That is how she explained her feelings to me.

    She has forgiven everyone but, it does linger with her. She can’t forget. However, the remembrances fade over time as she is immersed in her current family relationship.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Such an inspiring story, Dave. Thank you so much for sharing. I, too, have found forgiveness is key. I will post about it in the future. I love the line, ” She has since said, the warm, cohesive family relationship she has had is somehow abstractly an apology.” Part of me feels like my parents will see what can happen if you nurture a very sensitive child when they watch my son grow up to be a compassionate and wholehearted man.
      I’m also nurturing myself and practicing self-compassion. I hope to serve as a role model for my sons and others. Your comment gives me hope that everything has a purpose. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  20. Cathy G says:

    Kozo, what an inspiring and courageous post…and such an incredible thread of responses! Out of six siblings I was definitely on the far end of the spectrum on the sensitivity scale. When I look back on it all I realize that I had to find my own way and not be swayed by so many competing influences that surrounded me. It’s taken me a long time to sort out all the pieces. Love begets love. I admit that sometimes I catch myself falling into old patterns…and when I do, I try to pause and ask myself “What’s going on? Why are you responding this way? It is old news?”…and if it is, then I try to move on. As you indicate, my friend we can change our outlook and not be trapped by the past. Life continues and if we can take steps to move forward then hopefully we will walk the path to peace, even if it is not the easiest way. Peace and blessings to your and your family. 🙂

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      “Love begets love.” You got that right, Cathy. Why can’t I remember this when it really counts? Rather than wait for someone to love me, so I can love them back, I need to be the initiator. Love first, ask questions later. haha.
      I know there is tons of love in your family. Thank you for sharing it with me and my family, Cathy. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

      • Cathy G says:

        Hi Kozo! Why can’t you remember? LOL – It’s a very easy thing to forget! 😀 …and the amazing thing is that it’s something we all can learn! My little family has its ups and downs but yes,we try to focus on ways to love one another. Thanks!

  21. mathilde915 says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I empathize and do feel healing in my soul. It’s an arduous road, but it’s the only one I’ve got. It’s been a hard week and reading your post made it easier. Thank you for nurturing your HSB! HSP s unite!!!

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Glad you found refuge at the end of the week, M. I have a feeling that HSPs are going to save the world. Like Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  22. […] was inspired to write this post as a response to Kozo’s beautiful work I Will Rise.  He spoke of an interaction where he was able to change his response to those who hurt him.  […]

  23. Hello Kozo. You have inspired me to write a post…here is my response. Thank-you very much. Peace.

  24. Sandy says:

    Hi Kozo, you’ve once again shown just how bright your light is shining. Much admiration, and Much Love, Sandy

  25. The word ‘neuroplasticity’ sounds tasty. Thank you for writing it- it gives me hope tha I won’t always be saddled with the voices in my head.

  26. Iona Nerissa says:

    Reblogged this on Mindful Living for a Healthy Mind and commented:
    It is amazing what abuse can do to a child and how it affects him as an adult. This is a well-written expression of that.

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