Rue Anne Hass, M.A.
One of the first questions I ask someone, after I have heard a bit about what is troubling them, is “What do you want?’ If they stop breathing and look blank, or if they begin to talk about not even knowing what they want or about needing a sense of purpose or meaning or direction, I know I have found someone who has probably been on the receiving end of what I have come to think of as “soul abuse.”
We all have experienced soul abuse. It is about people’s collective inhumanity to each other: when we consciously or unconsciously threaten, shame, make over-critical comments or judgments, discount, trivialize, or act violently toward another. Repeated soul abuse of children leads to their growing up entangled in a web of self criticism and limiting beliefs about self worth and what is possible in the world. Soul abuse can take place within an individual (among internal parts), between individuals, or between groups, genders, races, nations, or species. I believe that our spiritual work as humans is to learn how to heal our abusive nature.
Now, I have some hesitation about using the actual words “soul abuse.” In a world filled with such oppression of people’s lives, it is a sort of luxury to be in a position to talk about oppression of the soul. In fact, it may be that the soul can not actually be abused. But soul abuse is a term that people understand instantly, and one that carries the spirit, so to speak, and the story of a concept that has meaning for them. The concept of healing from soul abuse comes out of my search to find ways to frame this experience of disconnection from meaning, purpose and worth, and, in partnership with a client, to discover how to foster a renewed awareness of the connection to Source, whatever that might mean to him or her.
At some point early in my work with someone I will tell them a kind of story or metaphor about my take on the Meaning of Life. It incorporates ideas that have been germinating, growing and reseeding in my thinking for years, and it offers a way for people (and me) to reframe suffering. This story may or may not be true, but like any good metaphor it offers a way of thinking about life that helps to explain things and helps people to feel better and more hopeful and more powerful about it all. And perhaps even to feel useful in the universe. I think that the meaning of life is always there in the story we choose to tell ourselves about it, and I always tend toward choosing a fascinating story full of positive intentions, instead of a boring, scary or depressing one. People invariably like this story that I tell them, and feel comforted by it. So whether or not it is “true,” there is truth in there somewhere.
Without defining too tightly what any of this means, I begin to talk about thinking of life as a partnership between the “soul” and the “body.” The body/mind/personality, I say, has the sacred job of carrying the pattern of the human life, the positive and negative tendencies, the challenges, the learnings, and the many strengths acquired over time. The soul carries a connection with Spirit, and a Big Picture sense of mission and purpose. It probably has its own blind spots and tendencies toward misalignment.
Anything that manifests as pain in the personality represents some pattern of unintegrated energy that the personality has agreed to hold on behalf of the evolution of consciousness, for the purpose of transformation. In some way, I continue, the soul and the body/mind/personality choose to partner for the purpose of figuring out together how to transform, integrate, and align the un-integrated, mis-aligned and dis-ordered energy in the universe that the personality carries.
In this context each human life is a scene in a larger tapestry, a universal story about the outworking of limiting beliefs. These limiting energy patterns have been passed down through many generations of a family as its members weave their various strands together over time, each generation doing its bit to shiny up the picture as best it can.
Now, body and soul forget all this as they actually enter a life together. The personality experiences the dissonance as suffering. It learns over time how to dissociate — to push the pain away, ignore it, “stuff it,” in order to survive. (This causes lots of problems later on.) As the soul becomes aware of the magnitude of what it has taken on to do, it may feel overwhelmed. One part or another may begin to find ways to sabotage the partnership.
So, as I continue to tell my client this story, I add the idea that each of us is given, and chooses, a corner of the universe to be the custodian of: to clean and shiny it up, to take good care of it. When we become aware of it, our corner may be pretty dark and grungy, loud and disjointed, scary and unsafe. Like a baby covered in poop, the beauty and perfection may not be readily apparent, but it is there. It is our job, literally the purpose of our lives, to discover and transform whatever disfigures our little corner of the world.
And then I say, “Good for you, because the fact that you are here means that you are choosing in this life to do your best to end that old pattern of soul abuse that had been passed along in your heritage for so many generations. Isn’t it good to know that this suffering and negativity and pain is not about you. It is a purpose and a mission and a work that you have chosen to do as a gift to the evolution of consciousness in the universe. And it means that you will have lots of help, from seen and unseen sources, because the universe deeply supports this process, is ABOUT this process.
Doing this is soul work. It is healing. The healing of any of us helps the healing of all of us. So let’s get started.”