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pair-347220_640She called me right after midnight, crying hysterically: “He cheated, he actually cheated on me!”

It’s my friend, Marina. Pressing the phone to my ear, I freeze. Andrei? Her husband of twelve years? How!? They have three kids together! This is beyond awful.

Next morning, in Marina’s house, I’m sitting across from her. She looks sunken and drained, continually blowing her nose and wiping her red, puffy eyes.

“He is just like my father, Katya,” she tells me, sniffling, “Just like him. When I was ten, he betrayed us, left for another… whoever she was. I remember how shocked and devastated my mom was. She’d be crying in her bedroom, next door to mine, for months. I could hear everything. And that’s when she started drinking, lots. It broke her. She become snappy and abusive.” Marina shivers as she recalls the childhood pain she lived through.

“Come to think of it, this is when I had to grow up fast and take care of my brother Jake,” she continues. “Oh, my baby brother Jakie, he’s grown up and in the Navy now.” She shakes her head in distress. Then, suddenly, she sits up straight. “Katya! I am just like my mother, abandoned. And the last thing I want is to end up like her and put my kids through the mental and emotional turmoil I suffered.” Marina’s eyes widen in the terror of this realization.

I don’t know what came over me, but I took her hands in mine, and this is what I said:

“What if you were born to overcome just that? And what if you were born having the power to do so?”

Marina stares at me, and surprisingly, she relaxes. “Maybe,” she says, seeming calmer. “Who knows, there may be a reason for this to happen.” As she stifles a yawn, I hand her a potent herbal tincture I’d brought with me that calms the nervous system and suggest that a nap might be a good idea. Then I leave, promising I’ll stop by tomorrow.

On my way home, I’m thinking, analyzing, as my medically-holistically-trained mind is programed to dissect the issues, to solve the “why’s” and “how’s”: Why did this happen to my dear friend, and what’s the solution?

I knew that, growing up with her father leaving them, Marina’s mother had coped by drinking and becoming abusive, and that led to Marina developing feelings of betrayal, abandonment, powerlessness, anger and resentment. These were capped by emotions of guilt and helplessness for not being able to fix her mommy and daddy so she could feel loved and safe once again.

I could see how, over the years, Marina’s mind had gathered up all these emotions, placing them in a tempered glass jug and tucking it deeply into her heart. And what was happening now was that all these repressed emotions were impacting her marriage, repeating the pattern – re-creating the way Marina felt when she was growing up. It was as if her life was responding to her jug full of pain, which she had carried since childhood.

As I pull into the garage, I’m still wrestling with the question: What are we supposed to do with our vessels of pain? How do we forgive the unforgivable and learn to trust again? Is it even possible? Entering the house, the know-it-all Dr. Agranovich, Ph.D. part of me assumes its professional stance and states: “It is possible, and let me show you why and how.”

According to Wikipedia, trust is reliance on another person or entity. I’m going to ignore “entity,” because I’m not sure what that means. God? Spirit? If yes, then I guess that’s okay… Trust away. But right now, I am making a different point.

When we rely on another person, what are we really expecting from them? To make us feel safe, stable, appreciated, acknowledged, honored, respected, accepted, and loved. Come to think of it, I do just that in my own life, when it comes to my husband, Felix. It seems I’ve been relying on him (or rather, putting my trust in him) to fill the emotional holes from my own childhood, to compensate for any perceived lack – as if he’s The Almighty Source of everything and capable of doing all that. And even though it’s always been this way, there was never any real stability in it. After all, I’ve been depending on his mood to feel good, his smile to make me laugh, hishappiness for me to feel joyful, his attention for me to feel worthy, his touch for me to feel loved, his compliment for me to feel appreciated. It’s been like jiggling at the end of a slippery string of codependence, just like the helpless little girl I once was: relying on my parents for it all − for survival itself.

Hmm… really? How realistic is that? How can another imperfect human, full of mental flaws and emotional darkness, offer that? And how fair is it to even demand it of anyone?

How can our parents, spouses, siblings or kids give us the impossible? Nobody is perfect, and people do the best they can, based on their upbringing, childhood traumas, and level of awareness. So, placing our trust in the hands of another will always lead to great pain and disappointment. Plus, it puts lots of pressure, guilt and frustration upon them to accomplish the impossible. We’re asking them to do what tried to do as children: fix our environment in order to feel safe. No wonder some people snap under this pressure and escape into infidelity or drown in a bottle of liquor that numbs their feelings.

No, I am not justifying their behavior. Betrayal is wrong, but if they could do better, they would. What they do is out of deep-seated pain and fear, despair and confusion. I’m explaining this to myself, because understanding leads to forgiveness, and forgiveness leads to healing. And this is what I desire most, not just for me, but for everyone.

No wonder people, myself included (with two dogs and a cat), are obsessed with pets. These furry creatures give us what no human can: unconditional love and affection. And this is what we really want and expect from others, calling it trust, or perhaps, really, co-dependence. But instead, we need to discover the bottomless well of solid trust within ourselves, beneath our pain, and keep on reaching deeper, freeing our own inner stream of self-assurance and self-reliance.

 So should Marina stay with Andrei? That’s not even the issue. The real issue is, did she realize the jewel of insight hidden in this experience, and did she release the chunk of her power trapped in the vessel of her childhood pain? And you know what? If she does succeed in freeing herself from the burden of her past by shining the light of understanding upon it, finding purpose and meaning, she might even be able to feel compassion for her husband’s – and parents’ – inner pain and human imperfections.

And then, who knows, maybe Andrei will come around, and their relationship will soar to new heights of intimacy and passion. Or, he might have served his purpose in Marina’s life, giving her the opportunity to reclaim her power from her past and bring it into her present. And she may even come to appreciate this experience as she moves on, feeling liberated and available to meet someone who’s flying high in the skies of confidence, awareness and self-esteem, just like she is.

Can Marina forgive and trust again? I asked her, weeks later, as she was both friend and client (I specialize in Medical Hypnotherapy, a form of mental-emotional reframing), working with improving her mental outlook and releasing her stagnant emotions. And this is what she said:

“I realized that feeling bitter and blaming Andrei for the rest of my life would damage me, as anger, resentment and guilt would be eating me slowly inside. The last thing I want is to end up like my mom! So I decided to change my perception about what happened.

“I looked at this incident as a lesson, an opportunity I’d been given by life to transcend my painful childhood and become a better person – more reflective, compassionate and loving. My kids noticed my change in attitude, as I am showing them how to cope with life’s challenges maturely and responsibly.

“And through all this, I feel like I’m beginning to trust myself more. But what I am trusting, these days, is the goodness within myself – there is so much more to me than my pain. And the more I trust myself, the more I’m noticing that I’m beginning to trust the goodness in other people, and in life in general. Katya, it’s as if my entire world has begun to shift and evolve as I’ve lightened my mental perceptions.”

Holding my friend’s hands I gaze upon this beautiful, powerful woman, and I’m in awe. The love for her children, or simply the love, pulled Marina forward, to the other side of pain and into the light, as only love can do. And in this light, you’re safe, cherished and deeply appreciated. Know that, trust that – it will never lead you astray.

We redeem by thriving; we trust by understanding; we heal by loving.

Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D.
Natural Health, Medical Hypnosis, Reconnective Healing.