In a Lenten meditation entitled “Temptations” Henri Nouwen says, “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection.”*

A lady I know whom I’ll call Bertha, had rejected her true self. She came to believe that the feeling, alive, able-to-feel-pain little person who was left alone in physical pain and terror, had to be rejected because she was in pain and expressing her pain in her tears and screaming. Her mother could not cope. Her mother could not calm her. Her mother abandoned her to her pain. As a result, self-rejection occurred and she lost herself, she became disconnected from the feeling little baby she had been, and in consequence she lost her emotions.

Bertha learned that the expression of emotion (pain) was not acceptable and if she expressed emotion she would be abandoned and left in her pain. So, that feeling/expressing part of herself was rejected and she became what she believed was acceptable. And this became so entrenched that even though she wanted to feel again she couldn’t. The journey out of this self-rejection has been long and arduous for her, like climbing up out of a deep deep straight-sided mine shaft. It’s a journey she had to pursue if she wanted to be free and able to feel again.

We prayed through many layers of the abandonment event where the self-rejection took hold. My sense has been that the event was so painful and the resulting trauma so great that Jesus in great mercy and compassion was very gentle and kind in his dealings with this wounded part of her heart.

*Neilsen, Mark. ed. 2003. Renewed for life. Daily meditations from the works of Henri J. Nouwen. USA: Creative Communications for the Parish. First Sunday in Lent. Meditation quote from Nouwen’s “Life of the beloved,” 1992. The Crossroads Publishing Co.

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