Mr. P. peered at me closely. "So, did you like it?", he asked. He referred to an exercise we used in our counselling session.
"No, I didn't!"
My ears still rang and I felt disoriented. All he asked me to do was, to write a few words on some blank cards. How can the reaction be so bad?
Mr. P. gave me three cards and told to write one secret about myself on each of them. That's when I began to hear that familiar noise, as if my inner child stuck fingers in the ears and started shouting: "La-la-la-la-la!!!!!!!!!" - trying to suppress the debilitating memory.
Yes, it's that bad. I was a young adult, when something happened to me, and for more than fifty five years I managed to, mostly, forget about it. I still can't talk with anyone about it, but in the recent years and with therapy that event from my past began to regularly surface in my memory.
That was just one thing I wrote on a card! Two others were almost as painful, because they were, what I thought, honest admissions about myself.
The exercise consisted of writing these secrets on one side of the cards and the names of the people, whom I really, really, respect on the other. I put down the names of Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama and my dad (he is the only familiar person, I could think of). Mr. P. then asked me to pretend, those people told me the things - the secrets on the opposite sides of the cards - about themselves:
"Now, pretend, you are close to Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama and your father, of course, and they told you these things about themselves. How would you feel about them afterwards? What would you say to them?"
I knew, my dad had some of the same problems as myself, but to think of Mother Teresa and Dalai Lama in terms of my own shame was very shocking. I felt pity for them, the giants of wisdom and compassion, and overwhelming desire to assure them that, no matter, what they thought of themselves or what happened to them, the tangible accomplishments of their lives showed us: they were so much above all that and should not torture themselves by what might or might not be true about themselves, or what was already in the far away past.
I knew, of course, where Mr. P. was going with that, but it was no less moving and liberating. He told me then to address the words I wanted to say to the people I really, really, respected - to myself! Seeing as I was still reeling (he didn't know, why) from my memory, he began to himself voice all of my own accomplishments as a wife, a mother and a friend. In the recent years I became more hardened than before, so Mr. P. was more emotional than myself, speaking with tears in his eyes.
I did hear him, nevertheless. Yes, we have a duty: to be honest and gentle to ourselves first, so that we can heal and make a more wholesome impact on the others. Yes, I could accept the idea that, the good things I've done in my life supersede my shortcomings.
Mr. P. talked of how, when some thought surfaces, that can sabotage our emotional well being, we should not resist it or give in to it. Instead, we should "rest with it", which means, as I understand: we need to delve into our consciousness and attempt to understand, why we are so bothered by that thought or memory and how we can deal with it as adults.
Most traumas happen to us early in life. We might not be able to react to them in a mature way then, but with some degree of recovery it becomes possible, as we age.
That's what I have to do then. It is hard to face my fears. You wouldn't believe, if I told you, how many times I "escaped" from writing this post by switching to check my email or if my online Scrabble partners made their moves! Silly, but my inner child still refuses to acknowledge the damage that I suffered and beats at my fingers with its feeble little hands, trying to prevent me from admitting the truth to myself.
Will I be able to do it? I'm afraid. I'm afraid, I'll have to tell someone about it. I'll need a lot of help.
So, no, I didn't like what the exercise felt like. No one would be happy to feel the hot wave of shock and self-recrimination that accompanies that memory. But I immensely appreciate the opportunity to get rid of it and live a healthier life!