HOW AZIZA HELPS YOU HEAL
Written by Laila Ghattas, with permission. 07/12
This is the Wailing Wall, named in 2003, the first year of AHA retreats at Thirteen Moons Retreat Centre in Norwood, Ontario.
This wall is aptly named because one of the common afflictions women suffer is unexpressed anger, frustration, sometimes even rage. They just hold it in. Many women have bought into the story- It's not nice to show anger. It certainly doesn't feel safe or comfortable. Some learned as children that there were consequences to expressing anger. A lifetime of silence followed.
Participants come on retreat and when anger is an issue, with hesitation, but sometimes with gusto, they agree to throw a rock at this wall. Then another. They're invited to imagine the person they're upset with, and toss the rock, sometimes saying the words they wished they'd been able to say in person.
Some find this such a therapeutic release that they continue to throw and yell and weep and throw and yell.....
Unimaginable relief usually follows. Liberation from the heavy weight of repressed emotions.
Here's a remarkable story of one grieving widow's journey into the self-empowerment she'd never felt in her 57 years of life.
After spending a few hours of Gestalt Therapy talking about her grief over the last 7 months without her husband of 35 years, it became clear that the most dominant emotion that needed expression was the anger boiling inside.
Anger about her marriage, about her mother-in-law's cruel words after his death, and about the original anger towards her own mother during her childhood. The next step after talking was throwing rocks and moving the pent up energy that lay dormant inside her that was both decades old and brand new.
"I gave myself permission to lash out appropriately to get rid of the pain and anger. Just to have this whole release was profound. To feel grounded and letting go while tossing rocks was so freeing of all that pent up garbage."
This brave woman spent over an hour throwing stones. Upon her relief, she wrote in her journal about her experience. The next morning she then went into the studio to complete drawings of everything that she'd been upset about.
A. B. C.
Figure A. is from her childhood. That is her in the left bottom corner listening with big ears to her mother's ongoing negativity. The faintly seen hearts on the black lips are the moments when she felt love from her mother, when her mother caught herself.
"Big ears. I always had to listen. Honour thy mother and father, I wasn't allowed to share hurt or painful feelings. But had to listen to whatever my parents wanted to say."
Figure B. and C. This was recent pain from my client's experience with her mother-in-law after the sudden death of her husband.
"The knife was my feeling of being stabbed in the heart, I couldn't believe what was coming out of her mouth at me after my husbands death. While throwing the rocks and releasing all the things she said, the pain lessened. While letting my anger go, and really seeing her clearly, I ended up feeling sad for her. Through the honest expression of my inner pain my anger and hurt turned into compassion for a miserable old woman."
My client was able to separate her experience of her mother when she was a child, and her recent pain with her overbearing mother-in-law. Separating the two women allowed perspective to move in quickly.
Figure C. The splashes of black and red plasticine around the mouth represent the pain my client released with each thrown rock, which then got smaller and smaller and finally off the page into nothing. She transcended her anger by honoring it, and transformed her hurt into compassion.
D. E. F.
Figure D. This drawing represents the new place she felt after feeling the relief from her honest expression of anger, after throwing the rocks. Figure E. is a close up. Here she is a flower being nourished through her tears, and growing, coming from the barren land on the left and looking towards fertile landscape under a big sun and blue skies.
Figure F. A self portrait of plasticine that focused on her feeling more three dimensional, with the chain she felt around her neck free from its source of pain. My client said she felt very grounded with a wide solid pink base. But as we explored her creation, although not connected to anyone the chain was still around her neck! This awareness was actually a surprise to her.
H. In the afternoon, as we sat in the hammock chairs under the ancient cedars, I noticed that a monarch butterfly resting on a hanging branch was still there hours after I'd seen it earlier in the same spot that morning. I mentioned this to her and although she took a quick look up, wasn't very interested. Strangely after being in one place for hours, as soon as she turned to look at it the butterfly moved closer to her and remained there. I mentioned this also, but again, there was little interest. It seemed notable that the monarch moved as soon as she looked at it, that it remained almost above her head, and her lack of interest.
We had a Reiki session in a breezy screened tent beside the marsh. Reiki is body work that supports the integration of emotional process and insights. Afterwards my client looked up the symbolic totem meaning of the butterfly in a resource book called Animal-Speak that is often used by my groups as we encounter different wildlife at Thirteen Moons. One line resonated to her very core. The butterfly invites the dance of Joy! Having accessed her joy while on retreat after so many months of only feeling grief and pain, her own transformation was perfectly represented by this fluttering insect companion.
On the next and final morning of the retreat, my client was invited to draw anything that needed expression before we processed the drawings from the day before.
Figure H. is a new self portrait floating under the yellow flowing writing " my dance of pure Joy!" She was on one wing of the butterfly, her husband's name ( blurred out) on the other side with soft orange feathers in the middle ( this detail gave her no end of delight!)
She had made some peace with their differences and removed the chain from around her neck shown the day before. She had integrated the feeling of being grounded and felt she could now take flight with her lighter and enlightened being.
Figure I. is the last image, a culmination of the journey taken over the 3 days of this incredible private retreat. To my client the most significant aspect of this drawing is that she is the same size, is as equal in importance as her late husband (under the halo).
This family portrait enabled a new expression of her grounded connection to loved ones both living and passed. It's an encouraging vision for moving forward with strength and hope. A very different landscape than Figure D.
How will she make use of these insights? " To move forward. removing all roadblocks that stand in my way. Continue to take time for me and access and enjoy my inner calm and peaceful place to make decisions. Pamper myself!! Take care of me first above all others."
These are final words about her private retreat experience that she wants to share:
" If you are a willing spirit, embracing every part of your experience, there will be monumental AHA moments. I reclaimed myself and felt relief, and pure JOY!! I enjoyed all of it so very much!"
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Laila Ghattas is an artist, Gestalt therapist and Reiki practitioner. She is an author, public speaker and the founder of Aziza Healing Adventures.
Laila combines creative self-expression with psychotherapy in programs designed to heighten awareness, inspire personal insight and improve the life of those who participate.
Laila holds therapeutic workshops in Toronto, and draws on her worldwide outdoor adventure experience to facilitate international healing retreats for women, couples, mixed groups and corporations.
This picture was taken at a traditional Balinese Hindu Blessing Ceremony