Amelia sat on the couch full of frustration and longing, tears welling in her eyes. “I feel like everything is my fault,” she said. “My parents divorce, the fact that my brother doesn’t come around, my mom’s inability to love me, the problems in my marriage, it’s all my fault. If I were a better person none of this would be happening.”
We had been down this road before. The idea of fault and personal responsibility for every negative event in Amelia’s life coming to rest solely on her shoulders. It was deeply ingrained.
“We don’t have much time left,” I said, “our healing session is nearly over. I’m going to give you an assignment. I want you to practice saying, ‘it’s not my fault.’ Use it like a mantra. Say it out loud, say it when you drive your car, say it to yourself when you brush your teeth, tend your children, do the dishes and fall into bed at night. Let the words begin to find a home in your spirit and body. Begin now. Let me hear you say it.”
“I can’t,” she said looking away, “because I don’t think it’s true. I just can’t.”
I persevered. “Yes, you can. Whether or not it feels true, I’m asking you to voice the words. Do it now, here with me.”
Amelia fingered a lock of her long brown hair, her brow furrowed and intent. The words were in there somewhere trying hard to come up. I waited, watching the clock tick away the final seconds of our time together, as a single tear fell quietly over the rounded pink of her cheek.
“It’s not my fault,” she whispered in a barely audible tone. I cupped my hand behind my ear. “Say what? I couldn’t hear you? I may be going deaf. Louder, please!”
She smiled at me in a love-hate way, like a kid being asked to eat spinach before being excused from the table. Amelia began to justify why she could not, should not, be voicing such things, her thinking eager to slip back into the familiar water of self-hatred.
“I’ve heard all that before,” I said, stopping her, “what I have not heard are these new words. What were they? I want to hear those words again.” Amelia dutifully repeated the phase three more times, scheduled her next appointment and left.
An hour later the phone rang. It was Amelia. “I’ve just been rear-ended in a traffic accident,” she blurted out. “This guy was following too close. I tired to get him to back up by tapping my brakes but he wouldn’t do it. When we got to an intersection he didn’t slow and crashed into the back of the van.
I was stunned. “Are you alright? Do you need help?” I could hear the roar of traffic as she yelled into the phone.
“Nobody was hurt. The thing is,” she bellowed, “that it was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. A fire truck happened to be going by and stopped. One of the firemen got out, assessed the situation, leaned in my window and looked me square in the eye. And you know what he said? He said, ‘it’s not your fault.’ Can you believe it? I had him repeat it because I couldn’t trust what I was hearing, but it doesn’t end there. I got on the phone to my insurance company as the police were arriving and the woman I spoke to was really sweet. I was rattled and anxious but she kept telling me not to worry because it was not my fault. She said that none of it was my fault. Karen I’m crying, this is so amazing and wonderful. I’ve never been so happy to be rear-ended in my life. I really get it now. I feel like the universe just stepped in and delivered its message, and I get it now. I really get it.