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Listening for the stream of words coursing through the unconscious, then expressing them opens writers to the bedrock of their identity and the resiliency of change.

Such discipline Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) imposed upon herself at the behest of Jungian-trained psychoanalyst Julius Spier whose guidance she sought when twenty-seven years old. He also recommended she steep herself in the Bible, St. Augustine, Rilke, and Dostoyevsky’s novels. Through assiduous study, Etty’s incipient God flamed within her psyche, pried open childhood scars whose bondage had kept her miserable, then empowered her to let them go. Inner freedom smiled through dark eyes onto the world of Hitler.

From 1941 to 1943, Etty filled ten notebooks that tracked this amazing psychic transformation: the Nazi terror in Amsterdam, prayer to her Companion God, humor, sensitivity to beauty, Russian classes to private pay pupils, translations, the ups and downs of relationships with Hans Wegerif and her analyst, and aches in her stomach and head. Within this mix, she learned to embrace the tension between opposites: evil and good, dark and light, disharmony and harmony, etcetera: All find resonance within her God, experienced not as savior but as One to help reverse evils that wracked His world. Loving others patterned her days, despite the ever-tightening noose of the Nazis, intent upon annihilation.

This attitude accompanied her cattle-car transport to the work camp at Auschwitz in 1943 where she died of starvation and typhus.

An Interrupted Life – The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum first appeared in English in 2002, and since has been translated into sixty-seven languages. Her legacy continues, for those inspired to do likewise.




I awoke with this dream:

It is late afternoon. I wander around a hilly wooded estate. Beneath the milky sky winter’s austerity deepens my melancholy as I kick piles of leaves that litter the path. Stringy sweet potato vines spill over the sides of a cobalt blue planter and trail along the ground. I’m dismayed to discover the leaves are heavy, molten together. Exhausted, I head toward the great house and one of the bedrooms. I huddle beneath the comforter. No one is around.

 In the dream I have little energy that mirrors ILD, a terminal lung condition I’ve had for several years; the late afternoon suggests its duration and perhaps the length of time I can expect before passing.

Images of death abound. What had been a greening woods filled with bird trills, insects, squirrels and rabbits have been silenced by killing frosts; burnt beyond recognition are leaves of sweet potato vines and tree debris languishing in wind-tossed piles. No warmth to warm my body. No moisture to soothe the scarred lung tissue.

I am alone. Rage crimps my psyche, eviscerates change. How water this acutely dry condition? How restore urgently needed color? I need help.

Then I remember. “In my Father’s house, there are many rooms…” I’ve been welcomed here before. Again, someone in the estate has made my oversized bed, for sleep, for more dreams and more direction, one day at a time—and the rains do come, despite shortness of breath and weakness and fatigue.



New learning continues illuminating disorders long buried in my psyche that had kept me in bondage and stunted my psycho-social-spiritual development.

From earliest memory I had intuited something very wrong: ridges across the top of my large head, bruises, skinned knees, my broken arm. Unwept tears crusted my lungs, constricted my breathing, crimped speech. In my inner world a NAZI enslaved me to compulsive rituals that hollowed me, that messed with all learning. Only in fantasy did I feel safe. An absent God, nevertheless, companioned me through this caustic landfill.

Decades of 12-Step work have unraveled many of these conditions. Yet, until now, a shadow, teeming with the unacceptable, still held sway in my psyche and instinctively harmed myself and others; its articulation, lost on me.

My recent discovery of the energy work of Barbara Ann Brennan, American author, spiritual healer, and businesswoman, throws light upon this aberration. In her first book Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field (1988), she maps five major character structures that delineate disorders in the human condition. The schizoid caught my attention—She was telling my story: my unconscious rage from having experienced the world as hostile and cold, together with my subsequent retreat into fantasy for much of my life.

That was it—To survive, I could not have done other than what I did. In some respects, my splitness remains, but knowing its configuration draws my self-forgiveness and compassion. I’m just human—and God knows.



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