Emma: Healing from Sexual Abuse

Child prayingIn another culture they would perhaps be called visions. In our culture, we call this “Self-Led Healing.” I call it taking the hand of my Higher Power, going to a place within myself that I call my Story-Telling Place, and working with my Higher Power to create the story-adventures that cleanse and heal the pockets of pain in that deep inner country inside myself.

Before we begin I must tell you several things about myself. When I was four or five years old I was sexually abused by a man who told me that he would kill me in my sleep if I ever told anyone what had happened. He also threatened to kill my family if I ever told. I believed him; I never told.

I have been blessed with many experiences of healing and recovery in my life. I am also very blessed to have a living, vibrant relationship with a wonderful Higher Power (the one the grownups call God). He both anchors me and gives me wings. Whenever I go to my Story-Telling Place, I always smile because He is there waiting for me and loving me.

And now, the story. . .

Once upon a time, there was a grownup woman, with a sealed-off cave inside her. We will call her Laura. Laura did not know about the sealed-off cave. Laura did know several things. She knew that she had a wonderful Higher Power, a Shining One, who had told her in many different ways that it was time for her to heal and grow, and that he would walk with her through the healing. Laura also knew a trusted Wise Woman, a therapist who sat beside Laura and gave her companionship during the healing times. And Laura knew a few strange facts about herself:

  • That she had an extremely difficult time standing up for herself with those she loved
  • That she was so afraid of what she was about to uncover that a large part of her wanted to quit the healing process before getting there.
  • That what she was about to uncover was very, very important

When they went to the Story-Telling Place Laura felt a strange reluctance. Four times Laura held her Shining One’s hand and asked if He really wanted her to go through this door. Four times he said yes. But Laura was stopped, over and over again, when she tried to walk towards the sealed-off cave and the woman she knew was trapped inside the cave.The first time she was stopped by a black swamp. Her Higher Power built a bridge of gold across the swamp. After she crossed the swamp, she was stopped by a storm. Lightning tore apart the sky; thunder fell like breakers around her, tornadoes of black wind grabbed at her and shook her equilibrium. But Laura stood her ground until she noticed a most interesting sight: A little man, about two inches tall, was moving levers and wheels to create the terrible storm. The storm died away, allowing her to see, in front of her, a black stone box, four feet high, four feet deep, and ten feet long.

“You must not go in!” the man said. “You will die!”

Laura took a deep breath and asked her Higher Power again, “Are you sure you want me to do this?”

“Yes,” he said again, kindly but firmly.

So she held her Higher Power’s hand and said firmly to the little man. “I will listen to you. But you must not overwhelm me.”

The man said, “You will die!”

“Tell the truth,” Laura’s Higher Power said.

The man sighed. He looked tired. “I am afraid,” he said simply. “I know you want to go inside the box. I have guarded this box for so long. Guarding the box is all I know how to do. I am afraid that after you open the box I won’t have any role any more, and you will abandon me.”

Laura looked tenderly at the man. “Here in my kingdom,” she said clearly, “all parts of me have a home. All parts of me are loved and respected and no one ever has to leave. Here, there are fun things to do, a wonderful school to go to, many other parts to be friends with, and new adventures to create. I have never abandoned any of my parts and I never will. You are safe here. You will be cherished here.”

The man sighed again, but before he could speak, a black cloud sprang up, covering the black box.
The cloud said, “This is not right. You should not go there.”

Laura’s Higher Power said, simply, “Tell the truth.”

The cloud sighed. Wearily, it said, “You are right. I am afraid. There is rage inside, so much rage that I am afraid of it. I am afraid that if I let the rage out it will overwhelm me and I will do violence to someone. I am afraid of what I will do if we open the box.”

Laura and her Higher Power talked for a long time to the cloud. They listened to it, and loved it. Then, Laura saw her Shining One lift his hand. She gave a cry of joy as the black cloud immediately became a golden bird. The golden bird was given a golden whistle on a chain to drape around her neck. With the whistle, the golden bird could call for help whenever she felt afraid of the rage.
The golden bird felt better but still did not feel safe. She asked for something more to help her feel protected from her rage. She received an escort of three angels, who could fly faster than the golden bird and were stronger than the golden bird could ever be. She knew that if the rage ever overpowered her, the three angels would fly beside her and in front of her and act as buffers to keep her from harming anyone. “Now that I feel safe you can investigate the box,” she told Laura. And the golden bird and the angels perched up on a high rock, so they could look down and cheer Laura on.

Laura and her Higher Power went back to talk with the little man. Laura asked him what job he would like to do once he stopped guarding the box.

After some thought, the little man finally cried, in triumph, “Curiosity! There are so many things I want to learn, and to do. I could be Laura’s curiosity. I could keep asking questions and learning new things and finding new topics to explore. I would LOVE to do that.”

“That’s a very good role,” the Wise Woman commented, with a smile.

And so, reassured, the little man stepped aside.

Laura gave the little man the role of being Curiosity to help all the parts in her kingdom, and thanked the little man for all he had done for her, and thanked the bird for giving her best and doing everything she did out of love for Laura.

Then Laura stood in front of the black box, and sighed. “Are you sure you want me to do this?” she asked her Higher Power.

“Tell yourself the truth,” he told her, lovingly, but with authority. “You are stalling.. You know what you have to do.”

So Laura asked the bird and the little man to help her.

Together they lifted the black stone cover off the huge black stone box.

Inside, Laura saw the most horrible sight! It was a dead woman! Slimy—death—stench—it was Laura’s face. But it wasn’t Laura’s face—it was death itself.

“How awful!!” Laura exclaimed. “It’s death in this casket!”

Terrified, Laura watched as the dead woman in the casket sat up and pulled the rags off her face. Then both the woman and the casket turned into smoke and completely disappeared.

Suddenly, Laura was free, free to walk through the space where the box had been holding her back. Astonished, she walked on in complete freedom.

“I’m fine!” she said with wonder. “Nothing happened, after all.”

Together, Laura and her Higher Power walked up a path. They came to the edge of the sea and viewed, a short distance over the water, an island on which was a dark cave. Inside the cave was a woman. She looked like a skeleton, with patches of black all over her skin and the saddest eyes that Laura had ever seen.

Surprised at her knowledge, Laura said softly, “Her name is Emma, and she’s been shut up in this cave for 45 years.” Laura and her Higher Power stood and looked at the woman.

“Does Emma have something to say?” the Wise Woman asked.

“She cannot talk,” Laura said. “She doesn’t know how to talk.”

And as swift as kindness and as completely as love, Laura’s Higher Power reached out one hand to transform Emma and her surroundings. “Not one second longer in this prison!” the Higher Power said. He waved his hand and instantly a large glistening flying white horse flew down from the sky and landed on the island at the entrance of the cave. The horse kneeled to permit Emma to climb atop his back. As she hugged her thin body around the horse’s neck the horse took to the sky, leaving the island and the horrible cave behind.

With another wave of his hand, Laura’s Higher Power submerged the cave and the island under clean blue water. The white horse flew down and landed Emma beside Laura and her Higher Power. Liberated from her prison, Emma herself was healed! She had shining brown skin. The black patches were gone from her face. Then the Higher Power touched Emma, gently, on the lips.
“She can talk now,” Laura reported to the Wise Woman. “She’s learning how to talk again, after all these years.”

“What does she have to tell us?” the Wise Woman asked.

And now that Emma could speak, fury, rage, and hostility all poured out. She was angry at Laura for abandoning her, angry at the man who sexually abused young Laura, angry at the people who walked all over Laura, and angry at Laura for not standing up for herself all these years. And Emma was afraid.

Laura told the wise woman, “Emma’s still afraid of being forgotten. She’s afraid that I’ll forget about her again. She’s afraid of being sealed away again, hidden behind the fear of death, as she was. That was such a complete prison—no one dared come near!”

“Tell her that that will never happen. Tell her that you’ll never forget her again,” the Wise Woman said.

“I know,” Laura said.

And now that she could see Emma, and talk to her, the right words came very easily.
“I don’t blame you for being mad!” Laura told Emma. “I’d be mad also! And I am so very, very sorry that I did this. I understand how angry you are! Your anger is perfectly justified!”
“ I gave away my power,” Laura said to herself and to Emma, “I gave away the right to defend myself . . . because that man said that he would kill me if I said anything. So I hid away the very possibility of saying anything! I hid it behind the fear of death. I thought I would die if I looked at this part of myself again—that’s what the casket was!”

Laura talked with Emma for a long time. Then she and her Higher Power thanked Emma. The Higher Power gave Emma many presents.

They turned Emma’s anger, which was very real, and very important, into a pillar of fire many hundreds of feet high.

“It can burn beside the story-telling platform,” Laura said. “It will be like a streetlamp. And when we need its power to protect me, it will be here.”

Emma asked to be a messenger between the anger and Laura, so the Higher Power gave her a set of wings. But they were paper wings.

“You must separate yourself from the anger,” he warned, “or the wings will catch fire.”

And he told Emma that she had to have a hobby.

“The cave is gone,” he warned her. “But if you do not separate yourself from the anger, it will feel as if you are back in the cave again.”

So Emma chose, as her hobby, digging precious gems and making jewelry. Again the Higher Power gave her a warning. “The jewels will melt if you do not distance yourself from the anger,” he said, gently but firmly. “You must learn to live as a free woman. You must learn to have other thoughts besides anger in your mind. It will take time, but you will learn to live free.”

It has been almost a week now since this story happened, and Laura is thrilled to understand, for the first time in her life, why something inside her had felt like death whenever she argued with a loved one and why she had always been unable to stand up for herself with those she loved most. Those old shackles have drifted to nothingness as completely as that black casket of death drifted into smoke.

She is so happy to be free.

In her mind, as she writes these words, Laura goes to the story-telling place and puts her arm around Emma. Together they stand and look at the pillar of flame.

“Thanks, Emma,” she says, simply. They smile at each other.

And Laura knows, without turning around, that her Higher Power is beside her. She feels his presence as warmly as a hand on her shoulder. “Thank you,” she whispers. “Thank you so much.”

 

© Copyright 2008 by By Blog Author. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

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  • 4 comments
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  • Mary

    Mary

    January 14th, 2008 at 7:00 AM

    Such an amazing story of healing! I so admire your courage to open both the casket and the cave. You are indeed a brave woman to open yourself up to your Wise One and to trust your Higher Power. Many of us know of the Higher Power but are unable or unwilling to trust the good that can come of it.

  • niels

    niels

    January 14th, 2008 at 7:01 AM

    I also thought that sinking the cave was both heroic and powerful. Without sinking the cave, Emma could easily go back to it. But, if the cave is under water, it’s harder to go and stay there. I admire the courage you had to tell your story to us readers!

  • Jessie

    Jessie

    January 14th, 2008 at 7:03 AM

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. The healing stories always amaze and touch me profoundly. I think they show the resilience and wisdom we all possess. Sometimes it takes a Wise One to point out this truth, but it is inside us all. I am thankful for your healing and for your willingness to let us in on this section of your journey.

  • Jason

    Jason

    January 14th, 2008 at 7:04 AM

    This story is remarkable in many ways. I love the imagery in the story for one. The author is a quite talented and creative author. But, of course, it’s the message of the story and the writing process that is so critical here. I am so glad that after 45 years, the author was able to begin healing and come to some sort of peace with the abuse she endured so many years ago. I am heart broken for the little girl but am so proud of the woman.

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