I had been a healer for years, and felt passionate about helping others, including many veterans and their families overcome their trauma, their negative beliefs and memories that were holding them back from becoming who they want to be.
I felt passionate about this work, and excited about everybody whose life changed as a result of working with me with EFT.
As a healer and coach, I felt that I could be of service to the greater good, doing the right thing for people who had been less fortunate and deserved to be helped.
I felt I had arrived.
Until I met “Don.”
Don isn’t his real name, and I didn’t really meet him in person.
Instead, he emailed me to help him get rid of some of the symptoms he suffered from as a result of PTSD.
Don couldn’t sleep, he was sick, down and worn out from the daily struggle with his memories from Vietnam.
He was hiding and trying his best to be as good a father and husband as he could be, but he knew that he wasn’t really giving his family what they needed.
I didn’t even know if Don was telling me the truth about where he lived and what he had been through.
But I did feel the enormous amount of pain in his voice when he struggled talking about his memories from the battle fields and the jungle.
Feeling honored that he would trust me enough, me, a stranger he had never met and knew nothing about other than my website, I offered him to tap with him on any memory he wanted to.
Over time, I learned to respect him as a man who had been through more than most people will ever understand.
I learned about things that happened during this time that I will not repeat here, and helped him release his emotional response to them.
I learned to ask the right questions and be quiet when it was not my time to speak.
He was always polite, always appreciative and respectful, and I could give the same back to him.
A powerful time. I felt in alignment with my values as a healer, and comfortable offering him support.
But then came that one day that put me and everything I stand for to the test:
This was the day, when he shared with me about:
The Bus Story
“I know you think you know me.” he said. “But you have no idea who I am. I am a monster and I deserve to burn in hell. What I did is inexcusable, unforgivable, and I will never, ever find peace with it. I am responsible, I will feel and accept the guilt for the rest of my life and there is nothing else to say.”
I gently began to ask him questions about what happened that day, and it took him a long time to respond.
“You know I was a sniper. I was trained to shoot to kill. When I got order to take someone out, I had to follow that order. There was no discussion. It was my job.”
I nodded on the phone, even though he couldn’t see it. “Yes, I know that this is a part of the reality of serving in the military. I know of the consequences for not following command. You had to do your job. I understand that.”
“But I wasn’t given that order. I mean, yes, I was given order to blow up that bus. But I didn’t have to wait….” his voice broke for a moment, he struggled to gain control again. “…But I didn’t have to wait until the little boy and his father got on the bus before I blew it up!”
I didn’t have to wait for the boy and his father
His voice was now a scream. A scream of pain, guilt, shame and horror.
“I talked to my pastor about it. He tried to make me feel better. He tried to tell me that maybe this little boy would have turned into a terrorist, if I hadn’t taken him and his father out. Seriously Ma’am, what are the odds of that? He was a cute little guy. There was nothing terrorist about him. I am tired of people finding excuses for me. There is no excuse for what I did. I will suffer from this for the rest of my life. I will burn in hell for this. And that’s the only right thing to do.”
My head was racing as he spoke. I had never seen his face, but I could only imagine what he looked like in such pain.
I knew I couldn’t find words of comfort for him.
I knew he was right about what he had done.
I knew that there is no excuse for him killing this family.
What was I going to do?
What was I going to say?
What was I going to feel about this and my values of love and kindness?
Who was I as a healer?
I realized very quickly that this was a defining moment for me.
I had to make a decision if I wanted to judge him as a murderer, or if I wanted to find a different path.
Both doors were open for me, and I could have easily told him that I can’t help him take the responsibility of his actions away.
I knew I had only seconds to decide about my reaction, and these seconds would decide who I am, and if he wanted and saw an opportunity to continue his healing work with me.
What was I missing?
How was it possible that this happened?
Who was he at the time?
What did I not know?
I decided to ask. “Sir”, I said “I take my orders from above, and my order is not to judge you but to help you heal. Tell me more. How were you trained? What was your situation? I want to understand more.”
He was puzzled that I asked. “Well” he said quietly “”I was told that I speak fluent Russian and Vietnamese in my sleep. I don’t recall ever having learned these languages. I have no memories at all from the age of 8 to 21, but I know that my father put me into training camps for military children that prepared and brainwashed us for a high level of service. They trained us to be our best and do our duty without asking. When I feel threatened, I can instantly develop the strength to pick up a tractor and move it. When I was in a hospital, I broke the leather bands that they were using to tie me to the operating table, and I tightened up my skin so much that I broke the needle they wanted to use to give me a shot. I was part of an elite troop, there were only 190 of us when we went to Vietnam, and only a handful returned. I was trained to never see people but the enemy instead. That’s how I lived. That was me.”
I knew that there were many things he couldn’t tell me for security reasons, and didn’t ask more.
But I realized that there were true and valid reasons, not excuses why he had done what he did. There were circumstances that lead to it that he could not determine.
He was brainwashed in such a way that he simply didn’t see the boy and his dad as human beings.
Was he still responsible for what he did?
Of course he was. We all are responsible for our actions.
Was he guilty? Yes, from an outside perspective, he carried that guilt.
Was there an excuse for what he did?
No, there was no excuse.
But there was a reason.
An important, valid reason.
A reason that allowed me to see the bigger picture of his life, the life at war and his upbringing as an elite child by a military father.
When he was finished with his description of his life, he paused. “I am telling you that there is no excuse for what I did. I am a monster and I deserve to burn in hell.” he said.
“Sir”, I replied “I want to share something with you: What you did can only be understood in the bigger picture of what happened back then. Yes, there is no excuse. But there are reasons. true and valid reasons. And if I had lived your life, undergone the same brainwashing, been raised and trained under the same circumstances you were, I would have possibly done the same thing. Anybody would… .”
Again, he was quiet for a moment. “You really believe that, do you? I thought that nobody would ever understand why this really happened. I am not asking for a place in heaven. I am just asking for forgiveness.”
“Sir” I said “My job is not to judge, condone or excuse what happened. My job is to help you heal what happened.”