At our recent retreat in Assisi, Italy, besides visiting powerful spiritual places, our group entered into an atmosphere of deep healing. Sometimes Joyce and I have the opportunity not only to lead the retreat but also to participate in some of the exercises for our own continual healing, which is an ongoing lifetime adventure. One morning, all of us in the group revisited our childhoods to more closely examine those things that still have power over us. We did this in small groups of four persons and, when it was my turn, I revisited some physical violence from my parents. Ever eager to delve deeper, I discovered something I had never seen before. Although I can’t remember ever hearing the specific words, the message was clear: I was too much for my parents! I was too stubborn, too strong-willed, too hard to control, and the word I did hear, I was “incorrigible,” which means incapable of being corrected.
The assignment for these small groups was for the other three persons to provide “re-parenting,” or loving, healthy messages to replace the negative ones. The three beautiful souls in my group did just that. They let me know in no uncertain terms that my “muchness” was actually a beautiful quality, allowing me to be the loving, creative man and leader I am today. They also let me know that my parents didn’t have the skills to set healthy boundaries for themselves, in other words, to let me know with words, not violence, when my behavior was inappropriate or disrespectful. I could have grasped, even as a small child, that I was lovable, but sometimes my actions were not. Instead, being hit just reinforced the message that I was bad, that me and my actions were one and the same. Physical violence instills fear, not learning. Communication about the effects of my actions has the potential of distinguishing between who I am and what I do.