Not so long ago, I took part in an Ayahuasca ceremony, sitting up all night in half lotus, “facing the music” like a warrior, feeling all the parts of my body and purging and cleansing, from deep within my cellular memory, anything that doesn’t serve me anymore - toxins that are held in my love handles to protect my system from their poison, my joints and knees that are beginning to restrict me, my spine that feels like it’s compressed, and so on. If there was anything that I needed to remember, re-experience, or feel whilst letting it all go, this was the time. Ayahuasca ceremonies can be beautiful and blissful; they can be hellish, re-living scary, painful places, with extreme fear, nausea, and massive physical purging. But I was up for it and ready to move on.
I recently redid my PIT and then joined the North London I group, having done my NWTA in September 2005. I recounted to my 2010 PIT men the time I asked my father why he had hated me all my life. This was a few years ago, the first time my brother and I had gone out for a drink with him without my mother. He was shocked, but told me that he hadn’t hated me, but kept me at arms’ length since I was a baby because I took away his wife and replaced him in her affections.
The women made me their special golden boy and taught me how to fear, hate and not be like men. I was there to serve, protect and be co-dependent with my mother, godmother and grandmother. I had no chance with the men and the men had no chance with me.
My father now realises that he projected his brother on to me and himself on to my brother. He always sibling rivalried me and acted the angry adolescent, as I was forced into father / victim role. I was very surprised at the emotion that blocked my throat and stopped the words from coming out as I told this story to my brothers in the room. I could not hold my face together and water came out of my eyes. I had touched something profound….
And the grandmother energy of the sacred Ayahuasca plants gently took me further. It took me to places where my father really hated me. Constant abuse and threats of violence.
“I’ll send you to boarding school!” lasted for a while, until I’d had enough and realised that we were so poor - and he was so tight with his money - that he was not sending me anywhere! So I’d remind him, ask him about it, and turn the tables on him. He had a terrible time in boarding school and his grandmother, who ran the family, hated him, while his unprotecting father hid behind work and alcohol, and his obedient mother did nothing.
So my father and I expressed hate with each other. I had a sharp tongue and would stand up to him, only stepping down when I knew he was beginning to see red and we were entering the danger zone: “DO YOU WANT TO FEEL THE BACK OF MY HAND?!” I remember once, far from the danger zone, walking up to him and feeling the back of his hand with my fingers and laughing “with” him. He doesn’t like me reminding him what a bastard and bully he was. He doesn’t go anywhere near his own childhood memories.
Grandmother Ayahuasca took me to the sheer terror that I would feel when I heard the key in the front door. The cold on my back and the churning in my stomach. I had no solution to our problems, though I was used to protecting my mother and brother, at whatever cost.
As we said goodbye to my father at Kampala airport, knowing that the Ugandan secret service might catch up with him and we might never see him again, he put his hand on my left shoulder and told me that I was now head of the family and I must take care of my mother and brother.
We’d been on their death list for a while, in hiding, out of touch with our family friends, school, and church. We were being followed, our phones were tapped and we’d had several death threats. As we boarded the frenzied refugee plane to England, with nowhere to go, the weight of it all burdened my shoulders. Even today my left shoulder still hurts.
Later, in the UK, I blanked out the feelings of hate that came my way and the panic I absorbed. Families were not a safe place for him: he was desperate to get away from my family and instead “serve the community that took us in.” I felt abandoned, but safer without him at home. I wished him dead, but we needed a father to provide for and protect us. We were only just learning how to shop, cook, clean, light a fire, stay warm and healthy in our shabby new home in a small town that had never seen coloured people before. (Staff took care of those things in Uganda.)
My mother was now my servant and I was riddled with guilt and OCD. We all had to survive, and we did so without causing our parents any further trouble. We internalised everything, took care of ourselves, didn’t know how to stand up for ourselves and dared not anyway: to cause any problems might mean the community would reject us - and we had nowhere else to go.
We heard and read about race riots, and the racist TV comedy of the 1970s emphasised the tension continually present around us. As a family unit, we were split. My protectors were my abusers.
Grandmother Ayahuasca showed me so much that I had forgotten, allowing me to feel it and relive it, watch and appreciate it, and then to see my father as the hurt little boy that he was throughout the whole experience. My heart was wide open with love and forgiveness.
I realised how I’d turned into my father, addressing my brother and best friends in similarly vicious tones, until I realised what I was doing and could begin to unlearn that “normal” behaviour. Once it was out, I could express compassion for my parents and what they’d survived; and I could forgive myself for the rage I’d expressed as I worked through my story.
I purged violently as I realised that I hated my love handles - a part of my body I could not feel unless I reached with my hand to touch their coldness - because that was where I safely stored the hate my father had for me.
I purged with relief as I allowed my body to relax and my spine to elongate naturally, rather than holding my father’s tension in my body, ready to respond to the slightest request from him, or cope with his loss of control, the flick of the switch that summoned his demon.
I cowered for most of my life, especially around masculine men. My shoulders actually hurt when they were pushed down and my neck up. Was I a coward then? Am I still?
I purged with the new information that I was not such a mummy’s boy after all, even though my mother stepped up into my corner after every round of emotional beating I endured from this damaged man. I felt I could protect my brother and mother, and her role was to prop me back up for the next rounds which she couldn’t fight.
It took me four months to refurbish their home, setting them up for their old age. I crushed our refugee furniture while they were in their flat in Goa for a few months. I replaced it with good stuff; it cost me a fortune, but I felt I was making them who I previously needed them to be: decent, stable, functional parents who were able to parent and protect me. I was also buying my own freedom, allowing me to move on in my own life without my old family home dragging me back into an unfinished, refugee-furnished past.
Bennie Naudé ran a short Emotional Freedom Technique course for survivors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I did some amazing transformational work with him, with unexpected tears and emotions which stuck in my throat again during the final couple of hours. We tapped through the remnants of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my previous inability to deal with the details of admin and money, wanting my father dead as a child but knowing that I could not replace him.
Working with Bennie got me over my addiction to haunting memories and old scripts that kept repeating, as different players showed up in my life to repeat the old roles. Thanks to Bennie, I can’t quite see the old pictures any more – they blur away into past insignificance and don’t have the charge they used to.
Now my parents are sorted out, it’s my turn for a safe happy home with my girlfriend as we learn about financial stability, peaceful abundance, blissful love, and everything else that we need to walk our paths together. I love my life with her; and as a family we are now better than I could have ever imagined.
My folks happened to be in London recently, so we spent an evening together, my brother and his girlfriend came around and we were a happy, functioning family, laughing as we played cards (my father used to be super-tense, shouting and sulking if he lost), joking as we chatted, listening to good music as we ate good food and planned happy days ahead. This summer we will finally clear whatever has been left lurking in the basement of our family home – our family shadow, maybe?
Thank you Ayahuasca, thank you Bennie, and thank you life for a perfect journey from which I have been able to survive and learn my lessons, picking up tools to authentically walk my path. I now gracefully let my love handles go, with gratitude for a job well done!