The lived experience, Episode 9 – This week: Hester, Part 3 (final)

Last week Hester told about her period of illness. Today she takes a closer look at a number of forms of therapy and we read about where she is now.

She says that although she could not find her healing in the mainstream care system, the alternative circuit also regularly failed to improve her health or even caused damage. Some therapists used her difficult situation to feed their own spiritual egos. They asked her to grant them an experience of success; one even advised that she take her own life. It meant that in her desperation she also had to be alert to people abusing of her health issues: “I find that dangerous, such an attitude in which you, as a traumatised client, have to protect yourself against the therapist. Then you will not come to a pure form of healing.” However, the regular healthcare providers offered no way out either. They repeatedly came up with only one solution: more medication. “When I refused and said that I wanted help, but not endlessly more medicines, they refused help and I was deregistered from all kinds of circles. Then there was only one thing left for me: to completely turn inward. I had a conversation with ‘Above’ and felt that I still had something to do in this world, but my life energy was drained, gone, exhausted. I considered lying down in bed and to just wait until I would die, because no one had a solution. Believe it or not, but then I approached people from a holistic reflection circle and told my story, in tears. They organised not just a local, but a national meditation for me. Then peace came to me. I felt that I wanted to go back to the bioresonance therapist I had been to before. His guidance and approach, including that of the toxic load, finally helped me and saved me. My doctor, however, was sceptical. He called it all placebo effect, but until then, he had also not been able to help me.

My illness has made it necessary for me to deeply feel everything that has happened in my life. I think I can say I have seen the deepest darkness and now understand how things have had their impact. Then the pain let go of me and at the moment I am doing very well. My energy is limited, but it is nothing compared to how it was and I am extremely grateful for where I am now. Doctor Sarno’s pain reset method certainly helped me with that. I remain alert to how the past can still have an impact on how I feel or experience things, but all of that has a completely different character now, compared to before. I think I have lived through that enough now. That does not alter the fact that my body is still tired quite quickly and that I then get symptoms that I deserve to take seriously, even if my head actually wants to continue with something. There is still a certain vulnerability, but I can live with that now.”

In response to her remark about ‘not being able to feel well’, we talk about the question of who she used to turn to as a child if she had strong feelings. She thinks and says: “Do you know that I don’t remember…?” Somehow that says a lot, that for her, no one clearly comes to mind with whom she can link a sense of security. “I didn’t have many friends either; our family was so closed off, such a small world, that we were not really prepared for what it takes to meaningfully connect with other people outside the home. It’s not so bad anymore, but I still prefer the one-on-one meeting; superficiality does not make me happy.”

From her need for depth, she sometimes still falls into the trap of doing more than her body can handle: “I could call that a bad habit – certainly. From my willpower I think that I can go on for a while and recover again tomorrow and that remains a quest…” She falls silent for a moment and thinks. “A quest… how can I really sink into my body, less in my head, and find that relaxation there, really feel that it is good and safe and then let go of the stress? Learning that is an ongoing process, which I sometimes feel resistance to. When will it be ready? At the same time I realise that sometimes I still don’t really know what I’m feeling, so that definitely takes practice. And what also requires practice is that when I am tired and feel restless, I also take real rest and do not numb the unrest with ‘crap’ from, for example, social media. That is often a struggle: numbing one unrest with another… not good, but silence is hard for me. It makes me rebellious, because it gives me the impression that my life is still too boring, and so I look for stimuli, when I actually need rest. By now I know that I can feel, but I do not always feel in a sound way. Then I override with my head what my body has to say. With all that has happened, I now understand a lot better that a lot of my behaviour was necessary to get me out of the situation I was in, with all the ancestral dynamics involved.”

After all the personal aspects, we zoom out to the social perspective. I ask if she feels that the influence of childhood is given enough attention. “No, I think there is too little recognition for it. Even in a trauma centre where I was, the views on trauma turned out to be completely outdated. I think that the insights that experience experts could provide in all kinds of organisations, are very valuable. We just need more knowledge about what it means to experience and heal from trauma. As you said, there is a difference between ‘healing’ and ‘curing’, and while I am not completely cured, I am certainly healed. The impact of pre- and perinatal trauma, the influence of growing up in a dysfunctional family, ancestral trauma… there is still a lot of work to be done to make all of this widely known!

I have also experienced things on a spiritual level that I don’t want to make public now, but really… we are spiritual beings as humans and that is something that often gets snowed under in protocols and fixed structures. Many approaches in mainstream healthcare are very cognitively oriented, but trauma runs so deep… With your cognition, you cannot reach that at all. That requires something completely different. You may need complementary care for that, but as said… there the spiritual egos are so big sometimes that it is dangerous. I have also sometimes felt really not taken seriously in that field. And when you finally do get treatment from someone, you sometimes have to wait weeks or months for follow-up treatment; that I also find very problematic. In the meantime, nobody knows how you are doing and sometimes you have nowhere to go if a previous session has released a lot that deserves guidance.”

When we talk about what a child needs in the early phase, she immediately has a clear picture: “An environment that is as open as possible, where everything is allowed to be there, where there is no judgment on what you feel and say and on what concerns you emotionally… where there is understanding for you. And in addition, I think it is important that we do not forget about the body. There may also be a toxic load that needs to be cleaned up.”

We end with our three basic questions.
What gives you hope?
“That we as humans are so strong that you can even get out of such an almost hopeless situation as I was in.”

What is number 1 on your bucket list?
She beams and smiles when she replies: “Aaah, yes… publishing those children’s books! Hopefully I will find someone who can support me!”

And what are you currently very excited about or what do you want to be working on?
“That is not difficult either! I am currently doing a spiritual course, four online workshops and I love that. I do it at my own pace, but enjoy that I can do it that way and that I am now again able to!”

We wrap up. Hester indicates that she really enjoyed sharing her story in detail with someone who can receive it as it is, who listens to it and takes it seriously. “I don’t know if I want to go to therapy again; I think that this new phase and the quiet integration of everything I have learned in the previous stage will suffice for me for now. I am especially grateful that I am where I am now, again, after such a crisis, and it was good to be able to talk about it in peace!”

The lived experience, Episode 9 – This week: Hester, Part 2

Last week we heard about the beginning of Hester’s life. Today she talks about her illness.

She got married, became pregnant and with that began a period of many sad, difficult experiences. The first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. The second pregnancy brought a daughter, who was a single-born twin. Another pregnancy followed, which also ended in miscarriage. Then a second daughter was born, her parents divorced, and a third daughter was born, also half of twins. “This youngest daughter still suffers a lot from that. She feels like she is still looking for her other half. The amazing thing was that during that pregnancy the eldest said that I had two babies in my belly and she also suffered from the loss of that other child. I was bleeding, but also remained pregnant, so the situation was clear for us. My childbearing years were intense because of this and have worn me out. Moreover, I already suffered from TMS (Tension Mysositis/Myoneural Syndrome); I was really always in pain and, like my mother, was often close to exhaustion. Subsequently, my husband also became seriously ill and, in addition to non-regular medical treatments, it took time before he was able to function properly again. When our youngest daughter turned 3, both my parents passed away in one year. All in all, we have had some really tough years. At a certain point it also turned out that, in addition to my pain complaints, I had a heavy toxic burden. I think that as a child I was already emotionally exhausted and that my survival instinct and the spiritual knowledge I already had got me through my crisis.”

With this term ‘crisis’ she refers to her illness of five years ago. After the first miscarriage, friends gave her a book about spirituality that gave her a feeling of ‘coming home’ and that encouraged her to go deeper into that area. “From then on, like some kind of hungry soul, I read, read, read, even though after high school I thought I would never read again! For me, the essence of my soul lies in spirituality and creativity, and that reading has helped me to find something to hold on to. For example, I have come to see that I am not the type to ‘market’ myself. Work where I have to profile myself commercially… that is not for me. For example, I like to write, but publishing my children’s books… I would have to find someone for that. Also poetry, mandala drawings, postcards… I can’t make a business out of it, but now that I’m better, unlike during my illness, I finally feel the space to think about how I could handle that.

Our family grew up and I certainly experienced joy and gratitude in it. Still, in retrospect, I think I was in survival mode a lot. When the kids had moved out, life felt like a dark hole. Existential life questions arose about where I come from, who I am and why I am here. I thought: ‘I just have to do something in society, otherwise I am a ‘failure’ and then I picked up something that again did not suit me. We moved many times and everywhere I tried to make a fresh start. With volunteering and various artistic activities I certainly had happy years, especially from 2011 to 2018. After that I followed a therapy that completely destroyed me. Moving, going through menopause, physical complaints, blockages in the emotional part of my brain… I wanted to take a kind of sabbatical, but the chosen therapy turned everything upside down and said that afterwards I could let all of my pain go and then I would be ‘done’ with it. However, that form of therapy does not examine in advance the state of your emotional stability and capacity. I panicked and my whole system said ‘no’; I was too full with everything.

Although I now see that the collapse was necessary, because as a child I had really locked away everything, it was extremely intense. I had never learned to really feel and then when I fell ill, feeling was all that remained. I could not ignore it anymore: I had to feel and feel everything, in the two and a half years that I mainly lay in bed. At the same time, my brain actually did not have the capacity to process all stimuli and emotions. I felt like I was going crazy and it actually seemed that way. This led to a procession of health care providers prescribing me a range of medications and, in particular, psychotropic drugs. It is my firm belief that they have largely only made me sicker instead of better. It made me even worse than I already was. They put a veil between my physical body and my soul; this is how it felt: as if due to the negative power of the medication I could no longer tap into my own strength and the light within me, my self-healing capacity.

Years later I started to wonder what it was that I had really needed and couldn’t find or get from any therapy or healthcare provider. I think what I would have needed is to lie on a treatment table with someone in a very safe space and be touched in a very gentle way, which would have allowed me to learn to feel again. I needed a therapist who, in tiny steps, could take me closer to the pain of the past, to the moments when I had felt unheard and to the pain and sadness that had become stored in my body as a result. An example of this is that my tonsils had to be removed. At the time, parents were not allowed to stay with their children and very young children were then utterly alone in such a hospital. That frightened me so much that I left my body. I fell unconscious and saw the whole operation, the doctor with the lamp on his head, the surgical gown, the high chair, the balloon… I saw everything, but I hid that experience deep within me. The fear of abandonment, which I already had, was further fuelled by this and during my illness I noticed that my body wanted to rid my body of all those events stored in my cell memory.

More things have happened that all fit within that framework. Some of them also have to do with that previously mentioned guilt-shame-infamy program that was so deeply embedded in my mother. If something was supposedly my or my mother’s fault, it created shame and then I or she was an embarrassment to the social environment. That is a very toxic dynamic to grow up in. The conviction arose that if only I didn’t do this or that or the other… then my mother wouldn’t be so unhappy. Originating in church dogmatics, there was also a lot of fear of going to hell. Because of my illness I came to see that all that burden was not mine, but my mother’s and that I don’t have to carry it.

It was no easy feat, however, to work through all of that. I was ill for about three years and there were times when I cried for ten hours a day; sometimes there was howling and screaming, of desperation and anger and compulsions, and the effects of the medication. I tried to get rid of everything and talk it off, so I sometimes talked all day and regularly went from one panic attack to another. There was actually no way to live with me at that time, so it was also extremely intense for my husband. In the end it was all healing, for me, for him and for our relationship, but it was a tough journey we had to go through.”

She tells how she slept only three or four hours a night for four years, how her nervous system was so overworked that she was both hyperactive and apathetic, depressed and manic as well as psychotic, and how she has seen as many as 50 therapists and how none of them could help her any further, especially since there were times when she could only talk for five minutes before she was totally exhausted again. “I also received a lot of criticism, that I was selfish and had to think about my family, that I had to adopt a different mindset, that I had to be a bit more positive, that I had to continue with certain trajectories longer, although everything inside me screamed that I was unsafe. The anger of others, however unjustified, then fed my guilt again. I found all of that so complicated because I felt that the way I was… that that wasn’t my true self. I really wanted to get better, but I couldn’t and it made me desperate. I was afraid I would not survive it all. In the end, the solution only came when I stopped looking for it.”

Next week we will read the conclusion of the conversation with Hester.

The lived experience, Episode 9 – This week: Hester, Part 1

We meet at a gathering about the influence of suppressed emotions on physical health. She has had a lot of experience with that and would like to talk about it in more detail. The time doesn’t feel quite right for a therapeutic consultation yet, but an interview… that sounds like a good idea! Not long afterwards, Hester (pseudonym) comes to my practice and with tea and sweets and candles we have a couple of good hours together.

“I decided a while ago that I don’t want to make myself small anymore, that guilt, shame, infamy and judgment can all be put aside and that I can take up space, purely for who I am, and to share my experience of overcoming a deep crisis with very serious illness with others who may benefit from it. That is really why I’m here with you right now. I have had to deal with an intense sense of inferiority for much of my life and my illness helped me a lot to overcome that.”

We first make an inventory of the nest she comes from. She is the second in a family of four children. Her parents divorced after 39 years of marriage; she was then pregnant with the middle of three children. She recently heard in a lecture by Anna Verwaal that the influence of prenatal trauma as a result of stress on the mother can be great. “My own situation has repeated itself with my daughter. My parents lived with grandparents in the house, next to their business, and due to circumstances the house and business had to be torn down and we had to move. My mother was pregnant with me at the time and my father became unemployed. My parents were well matched intellectually, but socially they came from a different background. The conditions forced them to move to a social housing area and I had the feeling that my mother was very unhappy there – she was not used to that. I was born two weeks before that move and my mother was completely exhausted and over-stressed. It was not talked about, but I have always felt it. Due to the stressful circumstances, my father decided it would be better to take me to a befriended couple without children for a while so that my mother could have more peace. I don’t know exactly how old I was or how long it lasted, but I was really still a newborn baby and so I was separated from my mother, while my sister stayed at home.

This Aunt, as I called her, was a sweet, quiet woman and she really saw me as her child. When I went back home after a while, the attachment with my mother did not work out. I did not start talking until I was two, and with every little thing or ache that was difficult, I wanted Auntie to come. When I developed constipation, the GP ordered a six-month ban from Auntie, so that I would get attached to my mother again. I have had a good relationship with Auntie all my life and all my memories up to the age of six are with her. However, I know almost nothing about home. The whole situation has created separation anxiety in me and sometimes that still plays up.

And strangely enough… when I was pregnant with the youngest, I was also completely overwrought. We lived in a strange house with a nasty energy and moved house in the eighth month of pregnancy. When this highly sensitive daughter was pregnant herself with her second child, she also lived in an uncanny home in which a woman committed suicide and then she also moved when she was eight or nine months pregnant. I really wish my granddaughter that this doesn’t happen to her too and I sometimes wonder what it is that this happened three times. What does that mean? Fortunately, I can talk to our daughter very openly about it, but you can’t undo it.


Anyway, I still have a lot of unanswered questions. As a child I was always very absent, as if I was on my own cloud, living in my own bubble. My parents were very proud of my eldest brother; he was glorified and could do no harm in their eyes and I used to think, ‘Why am I not being seen and heard? Am I not sweet and good? There is place for me, too, no?’ I felt misunderstood by my mother at the time. I was always different; I was highly sensitive and kicked down sacred cows. Once home from school I had to get rid of my excess energy and I was very busy, but then I would lock myself in my bubble again; they did not understand me. I had and still have trouble really physically living in my body, so to speak, and I cried a lot as a child, for seemingly nothing, and I could be very dramatic… Even now, my pain threshold is very low. Still, compared to the rest of the family, I was a rebel and didn’t fit into my mother’s guilt-shame-infamy program. Everything had to be neat and well-behaved and I was not.”

She says that after the move, her father first found a new job, but then fell ill and from the age of 46, when Hester was 11 years old, was always at home and never got better. Her mother was busy with the children and taking care of her husband. Mother found it very difficult that years after the third child another child came. She was constantly on the verge of exhaustion. Both parents, according to Hester, have tried incredibly hard to make the best of it, yet the family led a very limited life, with a very small social circle. This had repercussions on the children and also on the marriage, which, after almost forty years and therapy by the mother, still failed.

Hester started the atheneum after primary school; that was tough for her and she actually preferred to go to HAVO, because music was now an official exam subject there and that would help her to go to the conservatory. However, her parents wanted to keep her at the atheneum: their daughter would do what they could not have manifested themselves. She was not allowed to go to HAVO. She completed the atheneum and felt she never wanted to touch a book again. Music it would be: the conservatory in The Hague, moving out, although it was only later that she realised that she had no idea whatsoever about what she was really interested in. She had a wish to go to Poona and become a follower of Bhagwan, but that, too, was not an option for a decent Catholic girl. Do your best, be good, study, find a job, start a family… that was the expected course of events.

“I just wasn’t equipped to stand on my own two feet at all. I was not brought up that way; I didn’t know how to make social contacts, I couldn’t find my way. Every weekend I would go home and take my laundry with me…” She shakes her head at the image of a girl who had to survive in ‘the big world’ from a small, protected family environment: “What a drama it was… I played the flute and knew from the start it wasn’t for me, but at least it was better than the secretarial course my parents suggested. I thought… if I have to do that and then stay at home, I’m going to die; I can’t handle that. Other options, such as dietetics or the library academy were also reviewed, but somehow they all didn’t fit. After the third year I stopped in The Hague and eventually I finished the conservatory in Maastricht. The requirements there were not nearly as high; there it was much more like a properly structured school and more manageable and I was able to keep up and pass my exams there.”

She tells how from an early age she felt like a square that had to be squeezed into a social circle: “Always neat, always behaving decently, adapting… but I was rebellious! I wanted to live my own life! I wanted to look different! I wholeheartedly wanted all of that, but I hadn’t been able to develop the skills and confidence to actually do it. I was a good, almost depressed, otherworldly, lonely, poem-writing adolescent girl…”

These qualities made her also stage frightened, so a career as a musician was out of the question. She taught, but because of the high unemployment especially as a substitute, and she also experienced little pleasure doing so. She now had a conservatory diploma, but was not working as a musician. Instead, she worked with children who had to take recorder lessons before they could play a ‘real’ instrument – it felt like a pastime that lacked passion. Little did she know at the time that this was the end of a phase in which she did paid work.

We’ll hear more about Hester next week.

The lived experience, Episode 8 – This week: Joy

In the spring of 2022 I came into contact with a small-scale care institution in Assen, where very specific attention is being paid to the residents’ background, which often involves early childhood trauma. The employees and trainees also regularly have a history of adverse events that made or make life difficult. One of the trainees last year was ‘Joy’ (pseudonym). She asked me if I was willing to give a lesson at her school together with her. That happened and in May and June of 2022 we blogged about it.
Now Joy and I are preparing a meeting for the institution’s care team together. That is a good reason to highlight Joy’s story. We are happy to share it with you below!

“For the first thirteen years of my life I grew up with my mother in an unsafe situation. She lived in her own bubble and if she came out of it or we came into hers, she would yell at us, my brother and sister and me. She was always negative; she was never into anything and never wanted to do something nice, for example swimming or walking. She did not have time and attention for us; we were rather a burden. She used to say: “You are worth nothing; you are stupid and you have the same rotten face as your father.” If I said anything about my father, my mother would go crazy and scream. It usually resulted in me getting spanked and going to bed without having had dinner. I hardly ever took a shower; I was always dirty and walked around in torn clothes. Because of my parents’ messy divorce, I was hardly ever allowed to see my father. If he was allowed to pick me up, my father felt bad for me for the way I looked. I often showered at his house first and then got fresh clothes.

My mother’s friend, my stepfather, came from a large family of fifteen. He used to be regularly beaten with a belt. Those were the norms and values he grew up with. After drinking, he would turn into a beast. He committed violent crimes and hit us with a curtain rail or with his hand. He regularly smashed the entire house to pieces. As a child I was very scared; I felt victimised. Especially when my stepfather had smashed everything and the police came to the door, I thought: “Why aren’t they doing anything? Don’t they see me?” I sat on the stairs crying and thought: “Help me, do something!” They did nothing; they simply turned and disappeared. Also in this situation I felt not seen and not heard and this was confirmation for me that I was worth nothing.

At primary school I was excluded and bullied for how I looked in my dirty clothes with holes, but also because my stepfather was regularly in jail. I was not allowed to play with anyone and no one was allowed to come to my place. As a child I actually felt like a prisoner, too. I felt dirty, lonely and sad. When I said about my stepfather: “He is not my father”, nobody believed me, because my biological father was barely in the picture. No one saw who and what he was like. This felt really bad, like I was not seen and heard. I was very proud of my real dad, but I could not share my pride with anyone.

Because of my parents’ messy divorce, I got a supervision order. My mother duped the family guardian with manipulation and lies. As a result, my biological father was accused of everything, including assault and abuse. My confidence in myself was already gone, but I also lost confidence in the guardian and the police. My mother always said: “You have the same rotten face as your father; you have ‘father marks’ instead of birthmarks.” * She said I was stupid and I was not capable of anything and I thought it must be true; after all, no one helped me. Not seen not heard… every time everything felt like confirmation that I was worth nothing.

I felt terribly lonely and sad; I often lay in bed crying and then I missed my real father. I wanted to live with Dad, but most often, I was not allowed to see him. I did not dare say I wanted to live with him; I had done that once and then I was hit so hard with a plastic curtain rail that my body was purple with welts. My entire closet had been smashed and my clothes had been thrown out the window. I could not flee for fear of getting more blows, so I fled in my own head. There I was completely in my own bubble. In my primary school report this can be read every year: “Joy is absent and often seems to be far away in dreamland.”

When I was thirteen I decided that I was going to say that I wanted to live with daddy. It took me two days to finally tell. I was terrified of getting some big, hard blows. That indeed happened, but I still got dad’s phone number. My stepfather’s brother helped me reach my father. He was there in half an hour; he had never driven so fast to pick me up. My mother was devastated because I chose my father and so were my brother and sister. I went and was going to live with Dad; adrenaline rushed through my body. I was happy because I was finally with Dad, but at the same time I felt, however wrongly, guilty about how I left the home situation behind.

My father had a very different, safe family situation; I had never known such a thing. I was insecurely attached and could not handle the peace and security at all. Because of my attachment problems, I went to great lengths to see where my father’s boundaries lay. I lied about everything, because with my mother always had to. I was not allowed anything; I had to come home straight from school. My stepfather would often picket at school to see if I actually went straight home. If not, I was punished for it. I started stealing, and at a very young age I also started smoking and blowing. I used violence if I did not like something, because that was also an approach I had been taught. I was unbearable at my father’s house; he quickly enlisted help. He wanted to try to get me into an assisted living situation or into a boarding school, because he was at a loos as to what to do with me at home. I was so far gone by then that I did not care. Like my father, I too did not know what to do with the circumstances at his place. I struggled with the fact that I had been abused and neglected for the first thirteen years of my life and that screaming, violence, alcohol abuse and fighting were the only ‘norms’ and ‘values’ I had inherited. And at the same time I struggled with enormous guilt towards my mother, brother and sister: I had abandoned them in a terrible situation.

My birth father organised help and he has taken a long breath and come a long way with me. He went gray early on; I always say that that happened thanks to me and then we laugh about it together. My recovery process was a very rough ride. I have had trauma treatment and EMDR and eventually I found myself and grew into how I am today. I have chosen to do a course to guide people in similar situations or problems, namely ‘Social care for specific target groups’ with the elective ‘Experience expert’. On my way to this diploma I have learned a lot and I have gone through powerful personal growth. It was fun and educational, also in the field. It gives me a lot of energy and I am proud of the woman I am now.”

Childhood is often described as the most beautiful time of a person’s life, in which carefree play and enjoyment are paramount. Joy’s story is one of many examples of children for whom this is certainly not the case. It takes tremendous courage and perseverance to transform a situation like Joy’s. Whether a young person is unlucky or lucky with the people who appear on their personal path can make a world of difference. If there is a helping hand and a safe haven to relax and develop, someone who believes in you, healing can gently start. Joy has now completed her education and in the coming years, through her work she will make a difference for others, whose background she understands better than anyone else!
Next week we will follow up on Joy’s story and report on this week’s team meeting.


*In Duth, birthmarks are called ‘moedervlekken’, ‘mother spots’. Here, the author illustrates how her mother tried to blame literally everything on the father, her ex-partner.

The lived experience, Episode 7 – This week: Jipe, working with Compassionate Inquiry

Today we share with you the story of someone who has been dealing with issues related to childhood for some time now. Following a personal conversation, Jipe received from us the exercise in Compassionate Inquiry that we recently described in a blog. She decided to go to work with it and after writing a few times, she has already gained intense, but valuable insights. She shares her experience below.

“Recently I received the list of questions from Compassionate Inquiry that can bring more clarity. This is what it says at the top as an explanation: ‘A compassionate search for the inner story behind what we as humans show to the outside world with our behaviour, our visions and emotions’. That is a quest that I have been engaged in for a long time. It is a trip where I feel like I’m going round in circles and not making much progress. Intuitively I know what I want, but I cannot put it into words, let alone have an idea where to find what I want. However, the first sentence spells out exactly what I’m looking for! For the first time in all that time I see words on paper that describe exactly what I mean. I want to get my inner story clear for myself in the first place, but I also want to better understand what it is like for others around me.

Reluctantly, I started answering the six questions twice a week: what do I not say no to although I want to, what is the impact, what do I feel in my body, what is the story behind it, where did I learn those beliefs, and what would I like to say yes to? I was very hesitant to get started because I know the answers to the questions are going to turn everything I know upside down. I don’t know where that is going to lead me, how all of this will mess things up…

In the writing process I am now starting to find out what could be the explanation for the very difficult contact with one of my stepchildren. Without wanting to go into details, I can say that this relationship is dramatically bad. I never knew what it really meant to ‘hate someone’s guts’, but now I do. The anger, rage and even hatred from me towards this child are very intense. I completely block when we are near each other. Just hearing the breathing triggers disgust and defense in me. Then I prefer to run away, because I know I cannot contribute anything positive to the contact. Having no contact then feels safer and more sensible. I have always held myself accountable for that intense experience; I was ashamed of it. This is not how I want to be. I am the adult, right? Surely I should be able to put things into perspective and respond in an ‘adult’ manner?

Entering the Compassionate Inquiry process really turns things upside down. For example, I discovered that there are remarkable similarities between how my father and my one stepchild act. I don’t feel empathy from them. They seem to live in their own world, with their own truth, a world in which there is no room for any other input or other truths. In their experience, if something goes wrong, it is never their fault, but always the other person’s fault, due to how the other perceives something. I feel no comfort in their speech, no warmth in their action.

However, I am now beginning to realise that the emotions I experience with my stepchild are so intense for me mainly because they awaken painful memories of my childhood. As a child of my father, I grew up in a way that always made me doubt myself. My self-esteem often feels like almost 0, just like my belief in my own abilities: also almost 0. And when I do try something, that infamous little devil on my shoulder is screwing things up, like a creature with my father’s bad habits, his energy and attitude, a voice that names everything I fail at and makes damaging remarks… my inner critic. The wall that I feel my father has built around him… I cannot see through it.

My stepchild does not seem to have built a strong identity of their own. What I see is that many behaviours, hobbies and pastimes are copied from others who are looked up to. Things are done as others do them. I see a lot of imitation in it and very little originality. I have always struggled with lack of authenticity; that horribly gets on my nerves. This means that I find it very difficult to enter into a stable relationship. I understand where this stepchild comes from, but still the trigger is too big for me to let it slip away, see it for what it is and not take it so personally. What I observe in our interaction touches too much on the pain of the past and how things often go in contact with my father even today.

These are things that make life very complicated for me. Now that I am compassionately exploring my own story with the six questions, I get more clarity about various dynamics. It feels like a relief, almost like a happy party, that I understand where my hatred and anger come from. At the same time, it also feels frightening. That anger in me is so intense. Where should I go with it? How can I interpret it differently? How can I get rid of that rage? Can I, just like with my stepchild, also start seeing where it comes from in my father? Can I begin to feel that much was not or is not about me, but about his pain? That is the step I want to learn to take and I really want to enter into that process. Looking with compassion at the behaviour of the other person that triggers me so intensely is still too much to ask at the moment. That is why I want to start learning to look at myself with compassion, hoping to find more inner peace.”

What a beautiful reflection this is! What is very clear from Jipe’s words is that the so-called ‘shadow work’, bringing out the dark sides of your life and your personality, the aspects of it that have been suppressed, is a process that takes courage and demands and deserves attention. You will not be easily ‘done with it’ either; it takes time, along with a safe space where you are listened to, where all your emotions are allowed to be there and where they are not rejected and judged. The wounded child in the adult must be allowed to mourn and scream in anger and grief.
So when we want to raise awareness of our old pain to help heal the wound, we need people who want to be there for us. That also means that on occasion we will all be in a position where we can be that kind of person for someone else. That often functions better the more shadow work we have done ourselves, but sometimes it is precisely listening to the other that brings connection and healing.

A whole new year is ahead of us. We hope that everyone who is on a quest, dares to be vulnerable and courageous in loving contact with others in order to heal in themselves or the other what hurt. A beautiful statement that was made at a healing ceremony is this: ‘Whoever dares to look the pain in the eye, heals seven generations back and seven generations forward.’
What an opportunity to contribute to a happier world!