Before-word: This is more than a poem. It’s an intimate and personal piece and demonstrative of the power of the written word to enable the sharing of insights from parts of life’s journey.
A few weeks during Halloween I got to thinking about haunting, not in the context of a haunted house but rather a haunted heart. This piece is the backstory to the poem, “God Blesses the Child Who Hurts”, where I wrote about the fear of abandonment and the resulting heart-darkness/haunting I once experienced.
When you think about haunting, darkness comes to mind. In its most primal definition darkness is described as the absence of light, the polar opposite of brightness. Darkness and dark places are perceived and received negatively or as evil and they also conjure up fear.
For instance, what makes a haunted house scary? It’s darkness itself, isn’t it? It’s also the hidden “stuff”—fear of the unseen. BUT, what if the lights are turned on while you’re in a haunted house, doesn’t that minimize the fear? Why? Because what you can see you do not fear. Or, if no lights are turned on and you get too scared you may choose to leave the haunted house.
But, what about a dark place like a HAUNTED HEART?
A heart darkened by issues that you dare not let anyone see or know, the issues you struggle with alone and silently but they turn your heart lifeless. A lifeless heart is a heart haunted, a heart with hidden stuff, a heart with “ghosts”. Unlike a haunted house though, with a haunted heart you can’t run or fly away because you take the haunting with you, it’s within you.
In essence this means you’re not at home in your own heart.
Often times we define dark place experiences based on the current circumstance like: a breakup and the breaking of your one beautiful heart; or it could be attributed to the loss of a job or a diagnosis or a rejection so intense you think you won’t wake the next day; or the dark place could be from an emotional breakdown.
However, when we define where we’re at emotionally by the circumstances, then we are dealing with fruit—what is evident, tangible; what can be seen and touched. What we need to be addressing instead is root—the systemic causes which have likely been planted in childhood and inherently influences our thoughts, choices and actions without us even being aware.
For me, the haunting in my heart grew from the tension between my desire for belonging and a fear of abandonment. I could no more stop the desire to want to belong than I could stop myself from breathing. Within this dichotomy of emotions laid the tension, what I framed as the G.H.O.S.T., that haunted my heart.
Guilt: When a father abandons a child, that child has no good reference for father (until or if a healthy father figure is introduced). A child who experiences abandonment often struggles with worthiness, not knowing that they are enough and often find themselves in a behavioral cycle of performing-pleasing-failing-guilt.
Hopelessness: If your father didn’t stay, why would anyone else? This can lead to a deep sense that you’ll never belong.
Offense: when you live in the fear of abandonment, you live in the injury of what someone did (or failed to do)—the father who wasn’t there, or the husband or wife who didn’t stay.
Sorrow: how can a heart of joy be also sorrowful. I like the way David (King of ancient Israel) recorded it over 2,000 years ago in Psalm 55 yet still so relevant today: “My heart is sore-pained.… Oh, if I had wings like a dove I would fly away”, he wrote. But when the haunting is in your heart there’s no flying away from it.
Threat: ghosts are threatening. But when you know what haunts your heart you learn what to expect. And what you can expect you can expose. Your ghosts are defeated when exposed.
Exposing my heart-haunting “ghosts” and overcoming what could have been an emotionally debilitating experience was achieved through therapy and counseling. For those of us who are Christians we know God is the best Confidante and Counsellor. Yet I also know that in the same way He’s given doctors the skills to heal broken bones, He’s given doctors skills to heal broken and haunted hearts. As an advocate for counseling and therapy I can attest that a professional can be helpful in changing maladaptive behaviors and overcoming fears.
In the process of overcoming the fear of abandonment, there have been some “the moment I realized…” lessons learned along the way, lessons like:
- The moment I realized … God placed the desire for belonging in the human soul as a good thing rooted in our very human nature/our DNA … in embracing that realization I no longer feared abandonment.
- The moment I realized … GHOSTs (Guilt, Hopelessness, Offense, Sorrow, Threats) may appear as tigers but they’re really only “paper tigers”—no teeth, no muscle, no power over … in embracing that realization I welcomed and accepted belonging.
- The moment I realized … to live in regret is to live within the reach of a leash that connects to the past … then I began to live fully in each moment, being present in the immediacy of life, with a heart open to receiving and belonging, and with no fear of being abandoned.
Thanks for reading. You can interact with this post/me by hitting any of the “share this” icons below or the “like” star or “leave a reply” or “follow”.In creative solidarity, Dee