A bright 30-something woman, Susan vowed that she would never return to her abusive ex-boyfriend. But two weeks ago, she did.
She was driving down the interstate while he sat in the passenger seat. They were traveling to a concert in another city. His rage flared into a frenzy. She had seen this way too many times before. Yelling at Susan and hitting her in the face, he grabbed her cell phone. Knowing her life was in danger, she struggled to decide the best way to escape. She exited the interstate onto a city street, stopped the car in the middle of the road, stepped out, and yelled for help. A motorist called the police who quickly came to take the report. Fortunately, the officer was compassionate and took Susan seriously. Susan drove off, leaving her ex-boyfriend by the side of the road.
Susan was bruised and traumatized once again. Why had she returned to a man who consistently abused her? She could not figure it out.
This was Susan’s focus in our Breathwork session during our “Deep Emotional Healing” retreat April 2014.
In the retreat, I explained that our early childhood experiences can shape the rest of our lives. Even in-utero events can impact us. If we are not wanted, the fetus feels the emotions and thoughts of the mother. Not being wanted will result in low self-esteem unless we are born at a very high level of spiritual evolution. Low self-esteem displays itself in a variety of ways; abuse is one of them. We know that every emotion has a biochemical component so even when we cannot think analytically, our emotions flood us with biochemical information. Candace Pert who did research at the National Institute of Mental Health explains this in her book “Molecules of Emotion.”
It is my opinion that the mother and the fetus communicate telepathically, beyond reason, beyond words. Even though the fetal brain is not developed, the baby and mother’s spirits speak to each other. The molecules also speak to each other through the biochemistry of emotion.
One of my ministerial teachers, Arthur Burk, tells us about experiments with praying blessings over babies in the womb. He talks to their spirits and teaches parents how to pray blessings over their baby. After 20 years of research, he finds a noticeable difference in the emotional, mental and spiritual health of adults who were prayed over in the womb. We know love heals. Harshness damages.
I told the retreat participants about the time I was facilitating the healing of another woman who had a history of abuse. While in a private breathwork session, she exclaimed, “It feels like someone just punched me! It seems like I am in my mother’s womb.” After the breathwork was finished, the client said, “I have no idea if that was real or not. I’m going to ask my mom about it. “ A week later, the client phoned me with her mother’s response. “Well, I never told you about this, but when I was pregnant with you, your father got really mad at me, and hit me in the stomach.” My client was stunned. But now she understood the origin of her history of being attracted to abusive men.
Susan wondered what was unconsciously motivating her to return to abusive men. This was not the first man who had abused her. Why was she using men to hurt herself? She was smart. She was pretty. She was kind. She was competent at work.
We explored her history together. Susan said she had a happy childhood, enjoyed a closely bonded relationship with her mom and a satisfying relationship with her dad. There had been no abuse while growing up. Her parents were not abusive to each other. But ever since her teen years, she had experienced abuse from men. It was still a mystery.
As retreat participants prepared for the Breathwork session, Susan focused her intention to uncover the core of her abuse pattern. We opened the session with a prayer for the Holy Spirit to fall fresh upon us, to heal us, and to protect us from all outside influences. Only the love, wisdom and the power of Jesus were allowed in the room and on my property. I informed the group that emotions could flood them, but they would be in a state similar to twilight anesthesia so they would not feel overwhelmed.
We always do Breathwork lying on the floor while listening to music designed to help shift us into a theta state of consciousness. This is how we get such amazing results, along with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course. If you’d like to understand this, you’ll need to know a bit about brainwaves. Here’s a brief explanation.
We all have four brainwave states. We experience them every day. (1) We use beta waves to figure out problems and analyze situations. Mind chatter and worry also occur in beta. (2) We use alpha waves to relax. They are active while we are looking at a beautiful sunset or listening to soothing music, or strolling along the beach hearing the ocean waves. (3) We use theta brainwaves as we are falling asleep. We have dreamy-like images we can observe. We are awake but extremely relaxed.
Our brains and spirits can operate beyond the limitations of what we know with our analytical minds. We can have genius aha! inspirations. We can crystalize conclusions of ideas we’ve been incubating for weeks. We can see our way through a difficult situation with lightning speed and accuracy. We can travel beyond what we have been taught. We can get downloads of information for inventions. We can step into the realm of spiritual wisdom and intuition.
A typical Breathwork session lasts one to two hours, and then we draw our experiences with colors. We do this for two reasons. One, it helps us remember what happened. Sometimes our memory can fade quickly like dreams fade quickly.
Two, it helps us continue to reflect on what happened in the theta state so we can integrate the wisdom into our everyday life. We try to make sense out of our Breathwork experience like we try to make sense out of a dream. A dream happens in a totally different state of consciousness than our regular waking state. The same is true for Breathwork. After we draw, we share our experience with the group. We receive support from group members, and participants get further coaching from me.
Susan shared her Breathwork experience.
“I have done Breathwork one time before, so it was easier for me to drop into the altered state of consciousness. It was like watching a movie. The setting was around the time of my conception. My mother had recently discovered that she was pregnant with me. My mom and dad already had five children, and they were financially stressed. My mom was distraught with the thought of having another child. She did not want to be pregnant, but she would not even think of terminating the pregnancy. She would do the responsible thing, keep this baby, and do her best to care for her sixth child. Susan went on to say:
“I have no idea if this information is real or not. I’ve never had a thought even close to this. I’ve always known my mother loved me. We’ve been close all my life. I am going to ask my mom about it. I know she will be honest with me.”
I encouraged Susan to call her mom from our retreat Saturday night. The retreat lasted all weekend, and I wanted time to support her if she had some intense emotional reactions to what her mother would tell her. Susan agreed.
During the phone call, Susan told her mom the whole story of what happened in Breathwork. Her mother confirmed Susan’s experience saying, “I did not want to be pregnant, but did what I had to do. We figured out a way to make it work.”
Having discovered this early trauma of not being wanted, Susan could now direct her attention to healing this core wound. This healing was the beginning of changing her whole life pattern of low self-esteem and subsequent abuse.
If a child enters the world with the core notion that she is not wanted, and if that emotional memory is not healed, it can be so cemented in place that the child believes it to be true all her life. She will make choices throughout her life to confirm the notion that she is not wanted. Choosing men who abuse her reinforces her core identity. Susan had been caught in this abuse cycle since she started dating in high school.
Susan also gained insights about men in the Breathwork session.
The men she was attracted to were also wounded by their own experiences of abandonment. If she was not available the way they wanted, they would go into “primal panic” at an unconscious level. When our brains perceive that we are in emotional danger, we interpret it the same way as if we were in physical danger. We go into fight, flight or freeze modes to protect ourselves. Abuse (fight) is born from this primal panic. Psychologists and researchers like Dr. Sue Johnson have taught us about how “primal panic” happens. Watch this short YouTube video for an introduction to Attachment Theory.
My Own Personal Transformational Journey
When I was doing my heavy-duty transformational work in my 30’s and 40’s, I made the biggest changes in retreat settings. I had a whole weekend to get past my fear so I could dive into the deepest realms of my unconscious world. I watched other people facing their fears and feeling their intense emotions. I thought, “If they could do it, I could, too.” I learned. I watched. I grew. I risked.
I spent several years of intensive work with my teachers, and because of that, I reaped the rewards of higher self-esteem, personal empowerment, and fulfilling relationships. The support of loving people in the group was an immense help. I wasn’t alone. People understood me. Retreats were the places where I learned that life could be very different. My life could be healthier if I was just willing to do the work.
It is likely that Susan will need to continue her transformational work for a handful of years, just like I had to do. But that’s OK. Integrating a whole new self-concept doesn’t happen overnight. We need the support of our buddies in a supportive community so we can carve out a new reality for ourselves.
Spiritual healing combined with psychological healing works. If you have repeating patterns that you just can’t seem to transform, help is available in private sessions and retreats. You can get to the bottom of the self-defeating pattern so you can unravel the threads of the patterns that have held you captive. You can step out into the light to live the flourishing life that God meant for you to live: your Authentic Life.
Note: “Susan” is a pseudonym used to protect the confidentiality of my client.
Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito. Bio.
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A minimum of three private sessions are required before attending a retreat.