Because of the nature of today’s topic, I have avoided sharing this story for several years in case it was misinterpreted by even one person as an argument for staying in an abusive relationship. So let me be as clear as I can be – the message of today’s tip is simple:
When your mind is clear, your thoughts are still, and your body is at peace, you have access to a deeper wisdom that will guide you through life if you let it.
In the meantime, if you think you are in any danger at all from a partner, loved one, or stranger, please seek help immediately. In the United States, you can reach the Domestic Abuse Hotline at www.hotline.org or on 1-800-799-7233 In the United Kingdom, go to www.refuge.org.uk or phone the national domestic violence helpline on 0808-2000-247.
As a coach, I have an aversion to offering behavioral prescriptions to my clients. Every one of us has our own wisdom and common sense, and my best ideas for how someone should go out and live their lives won’t make a fraction of the difference of someone tapping into their own deeper wisdom from a quiet and insightful state of mind.
My one exception to that rule for many years was that if someone phoned into the radio show or spoke with me privately about an abusive situation, my advice was immediate and universal – “Get out, and get out now.”
Which is why I was surprised several years ago when a new client shared her story of being in a verbally abusive, bullying relationship with her husband and I stayed quiet. Even when I asked her point blank if he was physically abusive and she paused just long enough before saying “no” for me to intuit a “yes”, something deep inside me told me to hold my tongue while my thoughts were screaming at me to tell her to leave him immediately if not sooner.
We spoke instead of the strength inside us as human beings – the innate health, wisdom, and resilience that is our natural state. We talked about how thought creates feeling, and insecure thinking can create the illusion of hopelessness and helplessness while all the while our inner resources are ready to serve us at a moment’s notice.
There was a nice feeling on the call, but my own thinking took hold of me afterwards and I replayed the conversation a hundred times in my own head, wondering if I’d done this woman a huge disservice by not voicing my own ferocious opinions about men who abuse women or children in any way. Eventually, as always happens, my thinking settled and I returned to a place of calm, curious what insights would come to my client in the coming days, weeks, and months.
However, she never really wanted to talk about it after that day. I did ask on and off over the course of the year we worked together, but other than the occasional story where her husband appeared as a character, she would steer the conversation in other directions and that same thing inside me that knew to stay quiet in our initial session knew to allow her to guide the way.
It wasn’t until the final session of our time together that she spoke of it again. The story she told brought tears to both our eyes, and wasn’t in any way, shape, or form what I expected to hear.
“Before I spoke to you for the first time,” she began, “I had already decided that if you told me to leave my husband I would. All my friends had been practically screaming at me to do it, but something inside me was hanging on, and I decided I’d let ‘the great Michael Neill’ have the deciding vote. So when you didn’t say anything, I was a bit shocked but I was also relieved.”
“And the things you did say – about our innate mental health and resiliency – really struck a chord with me as well. So I got off the call and went back to my marriage and the strangest thing happened. From that day forward, my husband never hit me again. It was almost like he knew that I would no longer just stand there and take it.”
“He’d still get upset from time to time, but it would no longer be directed at me, as though he somehow picked up the fact that our feelings are always being created from the inside-out.”
“A couple of months later, he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I was so grateful that I had stayed and would be around to care for him. He was a good man when I married him, and underneath his own confusion and insecurity, he’s still a good man now.”
I will admit to being shocked by what she had to say. I had simply never come across a story of someone staying in what had been an abusive relationship and not regretting it later. But I was also incredibly uplifted by what one woman could do, armed with clarity of mind, an open heart, and innate strength, resilience, and well-being.
For me, it reinforced the wisdom of “no advice”, but even more so the power of pointing people towards the incredible resource of a deeper mind that will guide us through even the most extreme circumstances with wisdom, common sense, and grace.
I hope that you never find yourself in this kind of situation. I hope that I never find myself in this kind of situation. But more than that, I feel an incredible sense of hope in knowing that every one of us has the strength inside us to navigate our lives from a place of peace and to know the power that lights us up from the inside like an eternal flame.
With all my love,