My first session with Kate was appropriately on Midsummer’s Eve: the day of women’s empowerment.
I knew instantly that I was in the right place when she said her role was to serve as my enlightened witness. An Enlightened Witness is an adult person who acknowledges for a child that abuse is inappropriate behavior and who attempts to shield the child from further abuse or neglect. The concept was developed by Alice Miller, who has written extensively about child abuse. She maintains that children who experience child abuse need an “enlightened witness” to serve as our guardian angel. Enlightened witnesses tell us that what is happening is wrong, and they help us to appreciate our worth.
The therapist I visited shortly after the judge put a gun to my head and threatened that he could kill me “and get away with it” told me that abuse wasn’t love. Well, duh! Several sessions later she suggested I learn to reparent myself. Say, what?
For years, I embarked on a quest to ferret out the definition of healthy love. I finally found it in an ad: “respect is love.” Oh!
But, the notion of reparenting myself remained illusive until I met Kate. She stated the obvious: we need to have a viable role model. Obviously, it wasn’t my birth parents. Was there anyone in my family tree or circle of family friends?
My paternal grandmother. Based on family tales, my hunch is that she wasn’t the best mother. But, she was an awesome grandmother. My hunch is that this might be true in many families. Perhaps it takes time and distance to master parenting skills.
Kate sent me home with the assignment to recall valuable life lessons I learned from my grandmother. And, she advised that when life threw me a curve ball that I assign my adult self the role of being loving grandmother to the terrified child within. In essence, this is a way we can serve as enlightened witnesses for ourselves if nobody shows up to protect us from abuse.
During my lifetime, my grandmothers, godmother, and aunts failed to protect me by holding my parents accountable or by serving as my enlightened witness. Yet, these women were sporadically there for me. I have discovered that I can draw upon those fleeting moments of nurturing for strength when I’m in the valley of despair.
Recommended reading: In the Meantime: Finding Yourself and the Love You Want and One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Towawrd Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth by Iyanla Vanzant