I just finished teaching a 9 days retreat in Israel/Palestine- for 60 Israelis, Palestinians and Internationals. From the many stories and situations I was taking part in, here is one that keep buzzing in my head:
“Meeting beyond victim & perpetrator- Breaking out of universal loneliness”:
During the first days of the retreat, whenever an Israeli or a Palestinian were sharing their painful stories, it was interpreted by the other side as- “They think they suffer more!”. This led to an uncomfortable sense of competition- “who suffers more”.
I was challenged- how to support stories to be told not as a competition, but as an opportunity for healing- How to free ourselves from the painful “victim/perpetrator” thinking?
And the opportunity didn’t wait long to arrive:
On the 4th day I was guiding an Israeli man through a process. He told us the following story:
When he was a young child, his family moved a house. It was just after the War when Palestinians fled and left behind their empty homes. His family moved into such an emptied home. He remembers, when they entered, there were still plates with food on the kitchen table…
His family didn’t speak about it since. Hiding the secret in shared silence.
But in his heart the hiding turned into deep guilt- heavy weight was over his shoulders, and even worse- loneliness: As a child, he didn’t invite any friends home. The secret separated him from the rest of the world- Through the years, he built up sophisticated behavior patterns to help him get love and appreciation, and yet, when People did appreciated him he couldn’t enjoy it, he couldn’t take it in cause he knew there was a lie and a hiding. He felt terribly alone and he didn’t know what to do for years and years.
He was telling us this story with a shameful voice… And then he looked at the floor for a while, in silence.
After about a minute, he slowly lifted his eyes looking straight into the eyes of the participants in the room, and said: “I don’t need money, I don’t need anything. I just want to be simple and transparent- I desperately want to let you see me saying truth, let your eyes touch my truth and reflect it back to me so I can feel first time I exist. I cannot hide anymore. I just want you to see me as I really am.”
It was clear- the suffering of the “perpetrator” was fully revealed. There was no competition, there was just a mutual desire to heal sufferings.
After the session, a guy from Denmark who was attending the session, came to me and told me- “I know exactly how this Israeli guy feels in his hiding this secret- I grew up in a religious family. Non of my friends was religious. I was hiding it. I know this loneliness…”.
And just now, while writing you these words, I got an email from a friend from Amsterdam who is writing: “…I can’t find a connection with people around me. I am scared of the intimacy, scared of what people that come close to me might see. I have never let people come close to me as to see me. Not friends, not family, not lovers. Nobody in this world knows me. I feel so desperate.”
There is no victim, no perpetrator. There is only human who want connection.
Loneliness is not because you are not lovable. Tones of love are awaiting for you when you break out of the prison of hiding.