Don't ask me to forgive (this)

In the usual rough and tumble of everyday life I quite readily forgive all kinds of things - breakages, rows, and annoyances of various kinds - we're all human, make mistakes and have failings of one kind and another.  

But I find I am not prepared to extend forgiveness to one particular woman whose influence proved ruinous. 

Clairvoyant and healer:
This woman was, and probably still is, a practitioner of what might be called New Age healing methods: she used gems, essences, prescriptive prayer, guided meditation, and so on.  It was all very beautiful, a very creative approach to what might be termed spiritual matters, and initially it seemed insightful and helpful.  How could it have turned out to be so wrong, so injurious to me?

Looking for direction:
When I took up that acquaintance I was about thirty.  I was looking for direction in my life and didn't know what to do with my talents, such as they were, with regard to work and career.  I'd always had a strong spiritual bent and, being a free thinker, was open to the idea that a clairvoyant might be able to help me find some leads.  So I took up that line of enquiry out of general interest, not because I was off the rails.

Mentoring and collaboration:
I didn't find quite what I was looking for but I did find a level of mentoring and working on my own development that was fascinating.  I loved the gems and essences and found I had a natural talent for working with them.  I also found I had a particular ability to intuit a great deal.  I was affirmed in this and in my ability to think in abstract ways, which no one else had recognised.  So far, so good.  It filled a gap in my life that had been empty since my father died when I was still a teenager.  He and I had shared this interest in spiritual matters and since then I had had no one I could really talk to about those sorts of things.  It seemed suitable.  And I was good at it.   

As well as this, friends:
We became friends.  I was immensely flattered by this.  The demands began to stack up, but I accepted these as part of the friendship.  Quite often I was phoned up and told that I was "the only one who would know" whatever was causing the upset of the hour.  We would frequently spend hours working things out like a pair working on a jigsaw puzzle.  We both contributed what we could to the overall picture...  I continued to see her as a paying client.  Occasionally she even paid me. 

Things became complex:
The boundaries had become blurred and would become more so.  The concepts which had been reasonably mainstream and harmless, and already familiar to me from childhood, gradually became more obscure, as did the language used to describe them. 

Self-healing and taking responsibility:
Taking responsibility for one's own issues was a point which was emphasised again and again.  We should never interfere with or 'look in' on other people where it did not directly concern us, unless asked for insight or help.  Every action we took was to be carefully respectful of others, and to be carried out in a prayerful way.  The ethic was that through helping ourselves we would then help every other person with whom we had connections, both in the past and the present. 

Past lives:
In the process of my 'self healing' exercises, we explored past lives.  Listening to her 'source' she told me horrific things about mine, things I had done, which I needed to take responsibility for and pray that they be healed.  This would free me up and also heal those I had harmed.  I believed her.  After some of these 'revelations' there were days that I went about in a state of shock and could barely function.  The self-blame experienced was severe.  Although I was later to see these 'histories' as the distorted imaginings of a disturbed mind, the effect of them proved destructive for years to come.

All the people crowded round:
She knew a lot of people.  Those I met through her were distinguished by being well dressed, well educated, well to-do, and mostly women.  They were interesting, lively and self-assured.  And she commanded them all, more or less, for a time anyway.  I should think that most of them had been clients at one time or another.  It was astonishing what she could get people to do for her, often through sheer force of personality and the bare-faced assumption that they would want to do what she wanted.  She made a lot of ordinary things seem glamorous, 'spiritual' and exciting.  It was all in the service of some lofty, idealised higher power. 

The predominance of women is not surprising.  I don't think this sort of dynamic appeals to many men.  Even where it it does, I think that few men would tolerate being controlled to that degree by a woman.

In response to her role as spiritual teacher and clairvoyant people asked her advice on all manner of subjects from the sublime to the exceedingly mundane.  And while she routinely complained about this to me, and no doubt to others, it was her livelihood.  If she didn't know the answer straight off she'd go away and 'find out'.  I don't know how often she was right, sometimes she definitely was, just as sometimes she was hopelessly wrong.  Like anyone, I suppose, except that she wasn't 'just anyone'.  She developed an atmosphere around herself of having the hot-line to some higher source, her's.  But then, she was in league with 'the Masters'. 

The teachings - helpers and adversaries:
She talked about how people could link into the energy fields of other people and feed off them or otherwise drag them down, and frequently complained that people did this to her.  We spent hours figuring out who was affecting her adversely and in 'detaching' whoever it turned out to be.  Or they might be 'entities', not people at all but patches of discarded energy, thoughts and emotions which drift about in the ethers.  And so on and so on. 

Then there were the aliens, not humans either but beings from other planets or universes, who might visit, might 'look in', or be laying various schemes for stealing Earth's resources. Groups of us worked on all this, clearing it, 'healing' it.

And of course, earth-dwelling humans didn't actually originate from Earth at all, but from other star systems who had, for whatever reasons, colonised Earth and continued a chain of lives, reincarnating many times until their souls had completed whatever it was they needed before moving on to 'higher planes'.

Ascended Masters:
All this was attended by a host of 'Ascended Masters', perfected human beings, most of whom had completed their Earth experience and transformed their earthly bodies into those composed entirely of light, who could be called on to assist, and who it seemed did.  This was a goal for us all, to become as perfected. 

All the chores:
In addition to this I was also expected to run personal errands, such as posting letters, banking money, doing grocery shopping, etc, and often took her for long drives.  Somehow she couldn't do these things herself so needed a lot of help.  She seemed to need what I could do for her particularly.  Thinking her to be special, possibly a genius in her field, and very vulnerable in her own way, I complied.

I stayed with this for about ten years, and during that time our 'study' and the concepts became increasingly obscure.  

Throughout this time I was holding down a full time job and had a relationship to sustain.  

It all became too much.  I started having panic attacks.  I had no idea what they were - I struggled for air when there was no impediment, and there being no cause naturally these episodes caused panic.  She told me this was due to interference from other dimensions.

Backing off:
Difficulties in other parts of my life began to stack up, finally pushing me to a point where I was unable to keep being so closely involved, unable to continue to be so available on the phone, to run messages and all the rest of it.  And the content of the 'study' had became questionable - even to me.  I backed off a bit and began to wonder what on earth I'd got stuck with.  I began to say 'No'.

She backed off too, so much so that I became concerned that she was unwell.  I phoned a friend.  She told me cheerfully that she was fine.  Another friend relayed the message that she said I had reached my 'most damaged parts' which made it impossible for her to see me because I affected her so badly.  I began to get angry.  This is not how I treat my friends and this is not how I expect to be treated.  I began to wonder whose damaged parts were whose...  

However, I had been unwell, and had begun to recognise a pattern of this as occurring in the week after I had been to her for 'a session'.  I stood back further: when I had started seeing her I had been in relatively good health, now I was really struggling just to do ordinary basic things.  My emotional and mental equilibrium had become very fragile.  I considered this 'healer': when I had met her she had breezily made the statement that "Nothing is incurable", yet it wasn't long before she disclosed some very major problems, both in health and relationships.  I noted that these had not improved in the least and very possibly were worse.  If this was the result of 'healing' I wanted out.   

Finally the phone call.  I said I needed time out, and wanted to leave things for a while.  And that was it.  I knew that when she said good bye I wouldn't hear from her again, and I haven't. 

I knew that there was no middle road with her - it was either all or nothing, and in the end I had to cut my losses and save my own life.  The 'help' I had had from her was not healing at all, but weakening.  

Despite this I was concerned that she might struggle without my daily assistance, both practical and as a collaborator in her work.  I phoned a mutual friend.  Was she all right, I asked.  She was fine, apparently, and had plenty of people around her.  And no, she never asked after me or even mentioned my name.  Oh!  Well, that was surprising.  All those years I'd been hanging in there because she needed what I could do for her so badly, and now she was managing perfectly fine without me.  I found I was shocked.  And upset, and angry.  Had I been used, or what?

Even so, I grieved for the loss of friendship and all I had invested in it, but actually I was too busy keeping my head above water to pay much attention to it.  

The fallout turned out to be massive and enduring:
It wasn't until I became too unwell to continue working that I began to realise that there was a great deal more to it.  I resigned, and away from the daily structure and routine of my very ordinary job the true legacy of that association became more visible. 

Problems with language:
I had got so enmeshed in the concepts we had worked on together that my view of my life and what was happening to me was too obscure to be communicated with people outside that particular group: 
     It didn't fit with any orthodox religion.  I was sure anyone there would regard me as having been in league with the devil and certainly wouldn't have been able to sort me out in any way that would make sense to me.  
     Having become so upset about my experiences with that 'healer' and confidante I was allergic to the idea of going to a counsellor or any other healer and in any case they would think I was mad, or make things worse, or have a connection with her and gossip about it.
     No doctor in their right mind would understand what was the matter with me and would very likely think I was mad. 

The spectre of madness:
The possibility of being considered mad was very real to me.  Indeed, it is to some degree surprising that I managed not to flip out into that state given the pressure I was under.

I struggled on alone, increasingly depressed, isolated and ill.  And anxious.

I've written more about that aspect of my situation in my earlier article "What happened to me ~ my falling tower". 

Setting aside 'the teachings':
I really was most unwell and incapacitated.  I realised I needed to set aside all I had learnt about 'healing' in order to free myself of the influences of the previous ten years and to see more clearly what had been going on.  Besides, none of them worked any more.  Everything just seemed to make me feel worse.  I survived by being as still as I could as much of the time as possible.   

Once I began to consider what had really been going on in a ruthlessly practical sense, the more dubious it looked.  And the more these concepts came apart, the more all the related concepts crumbled, until I didn't know what I believed any more.  I had to start again from the bottom up.  

I looked at the trees and watched the birds.  At least they made sense.  And rested me.  And provided reassurance in my increasingly uncertain world.   

Energy fluctuations or vampirism?
I became aware of frequent energy dumps, usually at least once a day, when I would abruptly become so drained I could barely function.  I felt drugged.  Oddly, my partner often experienced them at the same time but for him it registered as dizziness or light-headedness.  Sometimes even at night when we weren't in the same bedroom, we would both wake up and wonder what was wrong.  

In desperation I would summon up all my remaining strength to find out what was causing it, who or what was draining me - using a pendulum as I had been taught.  I knew no other way of dealing with it.  Often it took ages to track it back to its source but somehow or other it always came back to one person, the discarded healer.  If this were so, how could she do this to me?  She had been so repetitively adamant that we always be very careful about our own energy and where it came from and never to take it from others, which wouldn't be right for our own systems anyway.

Once I had figured out the route and prayed that it be given to God it stopped, but not before.  Then I'd be back to what was then a normal state for me.  This was serious freak-out territory.  I wept tears of abject and helpless fury.  It happened again and again and again and again.  Every time I had to work out again what route had been used because each time it would get through to me a different way.  This got longer and more difficult to trace with the passing of time.  Finding this same 'cause' again and again nearly destroyed my sanity, and resulted in deep emotional harm.    

It took me at least a couple of years to rid myself of this trouble from that source.  It is exceedingly ironic that the method I used to track it back each time was one she had taught me.  Looked at another way it is possible that she inadvertently saved my life, by giving me the one tool that saved me from her bleeding me to death...    

Now whether this is really what was happening or not is a good question and one that I have left open.  Regardless of whether it was true of not, the belief that it was true trapped me and resulted in trauma.  If I had simply regarded it as an energy fluctuation I wouldn't have been so harmed by my emotional response to it.  But then, I might never have got rid of all the hooks she had sunk into me either.

Since then I've experienced this problem to a lesser degree from other sources, and now deal with it differently.  

The obscurity of my belief structures and my bad experience with her completely obstructed any pathway to mainstream support when I most needed it.  

Believe me I was angry both at this woman's apparent double standards, and at what I experienced as repeated violation of my personal boundaries and energy systems.  I found out the true meaning of rage and contained this only with extreme difficulty.  I became very afraid of the violence of my own feelings.  The distress was almost unendurable. 

Those who meant it kindly told me I must forgive her, that until I did so I'd be still attached to her and to that situation; I had to let it go or I'd be stuck with it forever.  

Forgiveness means different things to different people.  To me it means letting go of past offences and just being normal again, so no, I am not about to forgive her.  I know very well how charming she can be as well as designedly hurtful.  My guess is that if we ever did meet again she would exert herself either to drop completely back into the old easy familiarity or just as completely stone-wall me, probably the latter.  To forgive would be to make myself vulnerable again to all the pain which is still there and I am not going to let that happen.  I've been through enough. 

The volcano of my rage is quiescent but not yet spent.  This is primal stuff.  Only by hanging on to my mind with the tips of my fingernails have I been able to push her out and finally get rid of her.  My anger keeps that boundary very clearly marked.  So be it.  I do not forgive (this).  

...Perhaps once I've completed this series of articles and launched them as a cautionary tale to others, I'll finally be able to brush the dust of it from my hands and walk away.

Further explorations:
Since those dark days I have continued to re-examine New Age ideas and the concepts I worked with at that time.  It has taken me years to re-formulate my spiritual territory, which is now very different.  When I use the term 'spiritual' I refer to what might be the purpose of life, and our place under the sun and our attitude to our own lives as well as those of others.  It's a much simpler ethos than formerly.  I'll describe some of my explorations in the following articles.

Those readers who can identify with aspects of the above may find this article by Carol Giambalvo helpful: "Post-cult problems: an exit counselor's perspective".  Although I was not part of a group per se, the situation described does have cult-like qualities.

To go to the next article click this link:
Quandaries about personalities and beliefs 


slouisepapp said...

What a horrifying account. It's an eye-opener that such a thing could happen to an intelligent, sophisticated adult. I would be curious to know whether this woman had no conscience and was just aping the compunctions of others for the benefits she could get out of it. Or perhaps she feels a sense of entitlement, "I'm doing so much good, that I deserve support from others. Nobody really understands me.", etc., etc.

I was also surprised at the concept of making Rushleigh feel guilty for the supposed crimes of her past lives. Through the popular press, I had the idea of past lives (in the West, at least) as charming, cheery little stories.

Leigh said...

Yes, it is surprising that I let this happen to me, and the questions of why and how I did so were part of a whole raft of questions I asked myself repeatedly over the years. Reading Jeff Masson's accounts of similar situations was an enormous comfort, as was William Hamilton's - both very smart, educated and articulate men. I've since found that these sorts of experiences are surprisingly common: the International Cultic Studies Association has a lot of literature on this subject. I mention Jeff and Bill's writings and the Assoc. in my article "Evaluating Teachers and Healers".

maytey said...

I am so truly sorry that this happened to you, Leigh. I was very interested to hear about your energy slumps. When I was in the grips of post-natal sleep deprivation, depression and severe anxiety, I also noticed 3 strong blips during my day. These came at mid-morning, around 10, and also at around 3-4. And then in the evening, at bed-time. I would become absolutely paralysed with indecision and lack of confidence. And then there was the terror of knowing these times were coming up, especially the night-time one.

I know very well the feeling of not being able to ask for help, of mistrust, fear of being misunderstood, being a burden, being considered mad, etc etc. I feel very blessed to have been living in Australia, with medical insurance, which meant that I was able to get the most excellent care when things really did go horribly wrong. i can't imagine how I would have coped if I hadn't been able to get the right help.

10 years is a very big part of your life, and I can imagine what a huge thing that must be to work through. I hope you have found people who nurture you and make you feel safe.

Scarred but not scared.

Leigh Christina Russell said...

Maytey, this is a really kindly and honest message from you for which I thank you! I am sorry to hear of your own struggles.

I was particularly interested to read about your energy dumps. I wrote more on the subject in a separate article, 'Energy drop-off and related issues' which is included in this section of the Wasteland.

I still find myself something of a wandering soul, which is one factor in continuing to write so much for these Chronicles: reaching out and finding meaning, often sharing in small practical ways.

I'd be happy to talk more about this another time.
Hugs from me, LCR.