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When he finally left me for another woman I fell apart. The weight of my pain sunk me into the depths of a depression like I’d never known before. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t bear leaving my rented apartment, couldn’t tolerate the taste of food in my mouth. My sorrow and pain were crushing and all I could do was sob. The lifetime of trauma I’d experienced as a child and during my marriage had become unbearable and one afternoon, driving on the mountain road Hell’s Hoogte outside Stellenbosch, I considered the unimaginable.

Shocked by my thoughts and despair I sensed a presence encouraging me to stop, to turn around, to seek out help; what can only be described as an encounter with the divine. My breaking point became my turning point.

 “First the pain, then the rising” ~ Glennon Doyle~

 At the age of 55 I started over in Cape Town; a stranger to the city and to myself. A higher power led me to my Spiritual Director, Anstone, who, with her generous spirit and grounded approach, helped me heal the wounds of my childhood, which had turned me into a beggar for love as an adult. I did not know how to love myself. I did not know how to forgive myself for the mistakes I’d committed against myself and others whilst I had been in the throes of my own suffering. We explored my internal dialogue, dismantled my distorted belief systems and shame-based self-concept. Awareness and presence replaced reactivity and impulsivity. Insecurity was replaced by humility. Fear by trust. Facing myself was a daunting task; however, avoiding myself was no longer an option. With increasing trust in myself, in the process of healing and a newfound understanding of my own history and personal story, I became empowered to change the trajectory of my life. Some of the teachers and writings I drew strength from and whose ancient wisdom is inherent in all major religions and schools of spirituality, led me to immerse myself in the writings of The Bhagavad Gita, Parker Palmer, Thomas Merton, Emerson, Frankl, M Singer, Pema Chodron, Bruce Lipton as well as Sufi poetry by Hafiz and The Rubaiyat.

Carl Jung and the spiritual teachings of Caroline Myss, two leading pioneers of the human spirit, whose work focuses on the subconscious mind, state that shadow aspects are primarily rooted in fear patterns. These have greater control over our behaviour than does our conscious mind. Our shadow self, otherwise known as our ‘small self’ is energised by traumas and our attachment to negative past experiences, by our emotional and psychological scars and repressed feelings that we fear facing, lest they ask of us to take responsibility for the inevitable action required when these feelings are faced. The paradox, however, is that, by recognising and working with our shadow patterns and by shining light onto them, blockages in our distorted energy field are cleared.

  Once we befriend and integrate all parts of ourselves, we mature, becoming ever more our True Self’. Shame, rejection and abandonment of self then give way to wholeness, acceptance and love.

  The survival archetypes are: Spirit of the Victim, Prostitute, Saboteur Archetype. When we experience physical, emotional and verbal violations and trauma, we become diminished versions of ourselves and are rendered powerless. We freeze in the face of pain and often turn to self-pity or self-destructive behaviour.

  Throughout my marriage I blindly scrambled for ways to defend myself and my boundaries, for ways to feel safe.

 Blinded by the pain of the past I abdicated my true power and strength. In my fight for survival, by my striking back, shaming, blaming, accusing and harbouring resentments, the victim became the victimiser. It was a hard lesson to identify with the victim archetype. I had to own it and not deny the fact that they are part of the universal human experience. 

 Understanding universal energy companions, which control different aspects of every human being, brought me a sense of relief. With a new sense of compassion, I was able to unearth a deeper truth about my Self. All of us are capable of being courageous and fearful, caring and careless. We are also powerful, compassionate and creative. All our polar opposites are waiting to come into balance.

The moment I claimed responsibility for disowned aspects, the feeling of powerlessness lifted. I discovered agency, which freed me from the myth that I was the victim of someone else’s behaviour.

  My marriage and divorce were filled with traumatic experiences. However, they offered me a hidden gift. They forced me to look at myself in a new light. They taught me to live more openheartedly, to feel with others through their suffering with a compassionate heart. All of us are capable of choosing the light over the dark. Living with a broken and unforgiving heart was no longer viable, for it would keep me separate from others and divided within myself.

  Today I live with a deep appreciation for the richness of life and its unavoidable dilemmas of traumas, sorrows, tragedies and paradoxes. In spite of everything I’ve learned to befriend each experience even in the face of heartbreak, challenges, loss and grief.

  There is something deeply supreme and positive about the human spirit’s ability to come to terms with what is most difficult in life. To find within myself, my present circumstances, room for growth, strength and wisdom. Life is about becoming in touch with what is best and ultimately, what is most human within ourselves. I’ve made the conscious decision to live with an open and forgiving heart, forgiving myself for what I could not see back then.

 My breakdown turned into a breakthrough 

 Forgiveness became the gift that set me free. Free from guilt for the failure of my marriage, free of blame and resentment, free to align myself with the best, the most authentic inside me.

I am able to live with gratitude in the here and now. I showed up in a new way. Rising to the occasion allowed me to enter into a more intimate relationship with my children, friends and my fellow human beings. Moving closer to wholeness enabled me to enter into an intimate and personal relationship with the great I am who resides inside us all. Forgiveness released me from bondage, the prison of victimhood, enabling me to release my past.

In spite of the difficult times I wrestled with, I consciously laid down my burdens, I put down that which did not serve me any longer. I choose to forgive. I choose to search my heart for other possibilities, higher potential within myself; I choose to live in the present, the here and now.

 And if I should fall, I know I am not alone. I will get up again and again. I know I have found the tools and support, wisdom and insights.

All I need is available to (inside)me…

Gabriele Kritzinger

Gabriele Kritzinger, is a Life coach and counsellor, spiritual director and teacher in private practice at ‘I am Lightdancer’. She is a passionate photographer as well as a published author. This article is based on her personal experiences while stepping back into her power as a divorced 61-year old ‘girl – woman’. https://iamlightdancer.com/