STILLNESS IN THE STORM
For the past 80 years, between us, we have helped adults who were repeatedly abused and neglected as children—sexually, and/or physically, emotionally and psychologically. This is not a short term endeavor as some may believe. Short term is a “band aid.”
By Barbara Harris Whitfield and Charles L. Whitfield / January11th, 2021
We are talking about years, years in therapy both group and individual, and then continue to let go, let go, let go. Most of our long term group therapy members tell us the journey to heal becomes the “Hero’s Journey.”
The last thing to let go of – like an onion being peeled – the last layer of the onion before the core is revealed— usually is forgiveness. This last step is for the victim – not for the abuser. The abuser will still hopefully have a life review when they die where they will feel what their victims felt (In Barbara’s books on the research of people who had near-death experiences goes deeply into this subject.) The forgiveness is for the victim and the gift is the transcendence of the victim stance to “survivor” and even eventually to becoming a thriver. Life reviews show us everything including how others felt due to our actions.
Some victims may have been ordered to forgive by clergy or others in power over them. But that is not possible because in reality – forgiveness is not an event, it is a step by step releasing process that happens over time. True forgiveness doesn’t come from making a decision in our heads to forgive. Forgiveness has layers upon layers of thoughts and feelings that eventually can lead us to a release from the depths of our heart.
Barbara’s Life Review
In 1975 when I was 32 years-old, I had a near-death experience (NDE). I and others found that 20% of NDEs include a life review. I am forever grateful that I had one because I was able to see my life again not only from the way I remembered it, but also from the view of the incredible Intelligent Energy we call God, that was holding me through every memory, including the abuse I received as a child from my mother. This God Energy stayed with me throughout the life review until my 32 years brought me back to the hospital room where I was. Here is the process to help me forgive that God shared with me.
In my near-death experience, as I left my body, I went out into the darkness. Looking down and off to the right, I saw myself in a bubble – lying in the circle bed – crying (see Figure 1). Then I looked up and to the left, and I saw my one-year-old self in another bubble – face down in my crib – crying just as hard. I decided I didn’t want to be the 32-year-old Barbara anymore; I’d go to the baby. As I moved away from my adult body in the circle bed, I felt as though I released myself from this lifetime. As I did, I became aware of an Energy that was wrapping itself around me and going through me, permeating me, holding up every molecule of my being.
In every scene of my life review I could feel again what I had felt at various times throughout my life. I felt everything everyone else felt as a result of my actions. Some of it felt good and some of it felt awful. All of this translated into knowledge, and I learned – oh, how I learned! The information was flowing at an incredible breakneck speed that probably would have burned me up if it weren’t for the extraordinary Energy holding me.
The information came in, and then love neutralized my judgments against myself. I received all information about every scene – my perceptions and feelings – and anyone else’s perceptions and feelings who were in the scene. There was no good and no bad. There was only me and my loved ones from this life trying to be, or just trying to survive.
Then I went to the baby I was seeing to my upper left in the darkness. Picture the baby being in a bubble and that bubble in the center of a cloud of thousands of bubbles. In each bubble was another scene in my life. As I moved toward the baby, it was as though I was bobbing through the bubbles. At the same time there was a linear sequence in which I relived 32 years of my life. I heard myself saying, ‘No wonder, no wonder.’ I now believe my no wonders meant ‘No wonder you are the way you are now. Look what was done to you when you were a little girl.’
My mother had been dependent on drugs, angry, and abusive. I saw all this childhood trauma again, in my life review, but I didn’t see it in little bits and pieces, the way I had remembered it as an adult. I saw and experienced it just as I had lived it at the time it first happened. Not only was I me, I was also my mother. And my dad. And my brother. We were all one.
Then I felt my mother’s pain and neglect from her childhood. She wasn’t trying to be mean. She didn’t know how to be loving or kind. She didn’t know how to love. She didn’t understand what life is for. And she was still angry from her own childhood, angry because they were poor and because her father had grand mal seizures almost every day until he died when she was eleven. And then she was angry because he left her.
More came flooding back. I witnessed my brother’s rage at my mother’s abuse, and then his turning around and abusing me. I saw how we were all connected in this painful dance that started with my mother. I saw how her physical body expressed her emotional pain. Again I said to myself, ‘No wonder, no wonder.’ I could now feel that she abused me because she hated herself.
I saw how I had given up helping myself to survive. I forgot that I was a child. I had become my mother’s mother. I suddenly knew that my mother had the same thing happen to her in her childhood. She took care of her father during his seizures, and as a child she gave up caring for herself to take care of him. As children, she and I both became anything and everything others needed. We were co-dependent (Focusing on others to our detriment).
As my life review continued, I also saw my mother’s soul, how painful her life was, how lost she was. In my life review I saw she was a good person caught in helplessness. I saw her beauty, her humanity, and her needs that had gone unattended to in her own childhood. I loved her and understood her. We may have been trapped, but we were still souls connected in our dance of life by an energy source that had created us.
As my life review continued, I got married and had 3 of my own children and saw that I was on the edge of repeating the cycle of abuse and trauma that I had experienced as a child. I was becoming like my mother. As my life unfolded before my eyes, I witnessed how severely I had treated myself ─ because that was the behavior shown and taught to me as a child. I realized that the only big mistake I had made in my life of 32 years was that I had never learned to love myself.
God helped me to realize that if I never loved myself, I wouldn’t be capable of loving my children, just like my mother. I needed to find the love in me so I could love.
My forgiveness process started with my anger. Behind my anger was constant fear. I was afraid of my mother and that made me angry. I didn’t know any of this until I explored my inner life. (See our article on Understanding our Inner Life and Inner Life Healing: Victim to Survivor to Thriver published 01/04/21 on Stillness in the Storm.)
After I realized how fearful I was, I finally was able to feel sad, to grieve. And then I found the strength to begin to have a relationship with my mom. I could see clearly that she was old and no longer carried the “sting” she once had.
Not everyone can have a life review in the middle of their life like Barbara did. But we can create one slowly over time with a therapist, a clergy or counselor, in workshops specifically for this purpose, or in prayer. We can pray for God’s guidance.
Before we form an opinion about someone, we can listen to their story. God showed Barbara her mother’s story when God showed her her own. That knowledge did not create the “forgiveness.” She had to deal with all the feelings in her heart and process them, peel them off and then free herself. This is a key in the process of forgiveness.
Remember our reference in the beginning of this article to the metaphor of “healing from trauma is like peeling an onion.” Each time we face and sit with, understand and release an old wound, another layer of the onion comes off. The many people we have aided in their healing have reported that the core of that onion is our True Self, which is our Child Within and our Soul. We all agree that the journey is worth the pain, the courage, the humility and the realization that we are good, that we are worthy of loving and being loved by God and ourselves. Our core is love and love is the verb for God.