Our memory has a tendency to draw together events in such a way that
our dignity is guaranteed. And the more frequently we tell our story, the
more we are convinced of its truth.
I remember a carved wooden doll, which I loved dearly as a child.
Relatives from Canada had sent me a “proper” doll, a real treasure in
Germany at the beginning of the fifties. She had hair to be combed; she
could say “mom,” she wore a ball-dress and had an everyday-dress to
change into. Yet despite all these advantages, she could not compete
with my wooden doll whose body was handy and robust and whose
limbs swung at the nails, which joined them to the trunk. And most
important, I loved her.
One day, this precious doll disappeared and was recalled to memory
only thirty years later during my psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis and
therapies in general tend to plough through the ground on its shadow
side, searching for memories which can be held responsible for
unfulfilled dreams and wishes, for the failure of plans and projects, and
one’s own deficiencies or life hardships.
And here it was. The memory, the quintessential proof of how little my
mother had loved me, and appreciated and honored my needs. One
day, SHE had burnt the doll. Could anything have better expressed her
relationship to me than this act of carelessness? And yes! During the
psychoanalysis I progressed to the point of counting this as an oversight
and not as intended malevolence. It was a step in the direction of
forgiveness, but not yet a reconciliation.
One day, when I was preparing to move into the Findhorn community in
the Northeast of Scotland, my mother brought a large package from the
attic storage and said, “I have kept your toys for you. I thought that it
would be lovely for you to have them as mementos.” Oh, what painful
embarrassment shook me as I rummaged through the box. On its floor
lay the wooden doll. Nothing was left of the splendor, which had
invested the early childhood days, but she had endured through this
long time unharmed.
The shock shattered the story of the rejected daughter, and with it came
the collapse of the carefully built card-house of my memories, my story. It
opened my eyes to what had really happened. However, it took some
more years of deep and intense work before I could recognize that the
fears and scares of my childhood had had little to do with my family, that
my mother had loved and valued me as much as I could have wished
for, and that she and I were just as human as are all mothers and
daughters, with our strengths and weaknesses, personal challenges,
failures and successes.
This incident stayed in my mind as a warning while I listened to other
people telling their story during therapeutic sessions. I knew now how
the brain deludes us by selecting and assembling single aspects of
events in such a way that it supports our core beliefs. And the more
frequently we tell our story to others, the more we are convinced of its
truthfulness. I found that to the same degree that I could penetrate the
construction of my own story and release it, I could support others in
giving up their story.
This is not as simple as it sounds. We are often fundamentally attached
to our perception of reality. It gives us identity, it excuses our
weaknesses and it justifies our human laziness. Surely, it is the others
who are responsible for our suffering! Why then should we strain
ourselves to change our life?
To give up our story means taking responsibility for our life, for all that
has happened to us, and for all that we have made out of it. To do this, it
is often necessary to broaden our perspectives from the level of the
personality to that of the soul, which is the higher plan that guides our
To see the events in a new light, you must give up your story. The first
step is to trace how you produce the events that happen over and over
again. This requires some practice, especially when your life’s guiding
principle is that others are responsible for your suffering.
The second step is to find out how you produce the situations that
happen to you over and over again. People tend to evade the answer to
this question by making general statements. The devil sits in the details,
particularly in the feelings that are connected to the details. Feelings are
the glue that holds together painful and unpleasant memories. We
would like to bypass them by making general statements.
The third step is to move back into the situations that lie at the root of the
‘evil’. In my sessions with clients, I invite their Higher Self to join me. The
Higher Self is a bridge between soul and mind and is an expression of
the True Self or core of the person. It is closer to the truth than our Ego,
for whom it is more important to save face than know the truth.
I ask the Higher Self to lead us back into the situation where we can find
the key for the present experience. This key opens the door to what lies
underneath the outward symptoms, diseases or problematic life
strategies. Such a situation could be a familiar repetitive incident from
childhood, which now appears in a new light, or a traumatizing
experience that has been repressed from consciousness or classified as
One such example is the story of a young man who felt that his mother
had restricted his spontaneity and vibrant self-expression to the point
where he had physical sensations of paralysis and being crushed. In an
inner image, this situation presented itself as a large round stone that
had been rolled over a tiger and buried its body. As we looked closer,
the stone changed into topsoil, which carried a new germ, the germ of a
large tree, which was now ready to grow. All the oppressive and
constricting forces, which the stone symbolically represented, were at
the same time the mother-ground for the unfolding of his potential.
You cannot recognize this side of the story if you look at it from the
perspective of the victim. Only if you put the story into a larger context, if
you shift your perspective, can you value the gift that is hidden in it.
When you acknowledge and appreciate the positive intent, you can
liberate yourself from the entanglements of the past.
In cases where the experiences cut so deeply and were so painful that
they are repressed from consciousness, it will take longer to reach the
source. You will probably need some guidance, or undertake your own
training and practice. Our inner wisdom opens the door to the
unconscious only when we are one hundred percent ready to see the
truth. A part of the work is just bringing our resistance into conscious
awareness. Resistance is another word for fear. Fear has many faces:
Fear of the unknown, fear of responsibility or of being held responsible.
We are afraid to change our life and to let go of attachments. And we
fear that we will not know who we are without our familiar story.
All these fears are legitimate because they carry a grain of truth. It is
important to acknowledge and appreciate them, without getting trapped
by them or surrendering our power to them. If we dare to look at them,
they lose their power and terror. Upon closer inspection, we find out that
underneath the threatening fantasies are events which, seen in the light
of day, are human. The knowledge relieves and liberates us.
A child interprets events according to the mental capacities that are
available at the time when traumatic experiences occur. As adults we
are more able to accept human limits. To the degree to which we
develop understanding and sympathy for our own weaknesses, we can
also accept that our parents or the other important people of our
childhood were not perfect. At this point we allow ourselves to see the
larger truth and say good-bye to our story. At this point we attain the
freedom to bring about overdue changes, to dare the new and to take
responsibility for our life.
Dr. Ulla Sebastian is a well-known author, trainer and psychotherapist.
Her work spans a wide range of themes for professional and personal
growth and is the result of forty years of research, work with thousands
of people from all over the world and a lifelong experience of self growth
and transformation. The above article is a piece from her Ebook: Beyond
Suffering at http://www.visioform.com/uk/ebook-joy.htm Visit her website
http://www.visioform.com for free courses, distance courses, books,
ebooks and articles.