Facing the Witch

Dorothy and her companions reluctantly leave the safety of the Emerald City to do the unthinkable…face the Wicked Witch of the West. They try to be confident, but are far from it. They travel through a dark and ominous woods, weak in the knees and constantly looking over their shoulders for a much feared attack.

The attack comes as fearsome images begin to darken the sky and swarm around Dorothy and her friends. Dorothy is caught in the clutches of flying monkeys that carry her away to the witch’s castle. There she finds herself alone with the one she has feared and tried to avoid since the beginning her journey…the Wicked Witch of the West.

She fearfully stands face-to-face with the witch. Dorothy wants her freedom and the witch wants what is left of Dorothy’s power and independence…her ruby slippers. Knowing there can only be one winner, the witch threatens Dorothy’s life then leaves her alone to sink into the depths of fear and desperation.

But her friends are loyal and loving, and they will not abandon her. Covering rough terrain and difficult circumstances, they march into the heart of Dorothy’s darkness and break down the door that holds her captive.

Reunited, Dorothy and her friends make a break for it. They try one escape route and then another, but they can’t escape the witch. Cornered by the witch, this innocent little girl unexpectedly discovers the power to destroy the witch. In an attempt to save the scarecrow from flames, Dorothy throws a bucket of water. The liquid redemption drenches the witch, melting her into a puddle of goo on the grimy castle floor.

And with that, the war is over. Dorothy is stunned that something as simple and pure as water could bring the witch’s reign of terror to an end.

With the witch’s broom stick in hand, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion head back to the Emerald City to see the Wizard and finally claim what they’ve longed for. Dorothy will finally take the road out of Oz.

As a survivor, it can feel like a punch in the gut to have come so far and gotten so much better only to find out you still must face the witch. Your witch may be the insult of unfairness and injustice. Your witch may be the failure of others to protect you. Your witch may be the abuser(s) who have seemingly escaped justice and consequences. Your witch is whatever is large, looming, and seemingly unredeemable about your abuse.

Some survivors resist and even refuse the idea they must face their witch, deciding they would rather stay where they are…out of the woods but never really home. Others reluctantly accept it and start down the road to a final show down.

The road to your witch is a dark and frightening path. It can cause your heart and mind to race with dreadful possibilities. That’s why it’s good to travel this road with others you trust. Never underestimate the power and importance of traveling with others. You need their strength and encouragement when the “flying monkeys” threaten to swarm you and sweep you away.

But in the end, if you want to be free, you and you alone must face your witch. And make no mistake, there will be a winner and a loser. Either your witch will own your life or you will.

So what is the bucket of water that will bring an end to your witch’s fearful reign over your life?

It is the water of forgiveness. I know the mere mention of forgiveness may repel you in disgust, but hear me out. I am not talking about a quick and easy forgiveness that cheapens the offense and the damage done to you. I am talking about a hard fought forgiveness that comes at the end of a long hard journey. I am talking about a forgiveness that is undeserved by the offender, but freeing to the offended. I am talking about a forgiveness that covers the offense and frees you from waiting for a restitution that may never come and will never be enough. When you finally apply the water of forgiveness to the evil that has ruled you for so long, you will finally be free from your witch. (I’ll write more about forgiveness in a future post.)

When you walk away from this final showdown, you will still carry mementoes of your experiences. Instead of a broom stick, there will be memories, triggers, and feelings from the past. But like the broom stick Dorothy carried back to the Emerald City, your mementoes will no longer have power over you.

At that point, you are ready for home.

If I Only Had a Heart

Dorothy continues down the road toward the Emerald City, but now she’s not alone. She’s been joined by the Scarecrow, who is looking for a brain to think things through and solve problems.

The two of them come to a dark and ominous woods where the trees are threatening and things grow darker with each step. It is here that they encounter a man of tin who has been rusted solid by a sudden rain storm.

Dorothy and the Scarecrow compassionately apply oil to the Tin Man’s rust laden joints, and he slowly regains the freedom of movement.

The Tin Man is grateful to be able to move again, but he still feels immobilized, because he lacks a heart. This prevents him from feeling things like love, joy, and bliss. The only emotion the Tin Man readily feels is fear, which leaps to the surface when the Wicked Witch of the West appears.

After the Wicked Witch of the West departs, Dorothy tells the Tin Man that she and the Scarecrow are on their way to the Emerald City and she invites him to join them. Lured by the longing to feel, the Tin Man accepts and they head down the Yellow Brick Road together. They each carry a need: the need to find home, the need to think clearly, and the need to feel fully.

You will spend part of your time on the road out of Oz trying to find the brain power to solve your problems and make life right again. But at some point you will need to travel through the dark woods of your emotions.

Here, you will find a part of you frozen in time. Like the Tin Man who rusted in place when the rains came, you were emotionally rusted in place when the rains of abuse came. You find yourself stuck in the same old emotional positions of fear, terror, anger, guardedness, mistrust, and insecurity that were there when the abuse poured over you. Those emotions were too intense to live with continually, and they caused your heart to rust over in an attempt to prevent you from feeling anything.

Like the Tin Man, you may feel emotionally rusted and even hollow on the inside, as if you have no heart. But it’s there. The journey to find your heart is actually the journey to reawaken your emotions by softening the rust around your heart so that it can feel again.

But you need to know that once you awaken your heart…YOU WILL FEEL. And not just the things you want to feel, like happiness, joy, love, and intimacy. You will also feel things you don’t want to feel, like fear, dread, uncertainty, and hurt. You cannot be selective with your feelings. You cannot just turn on the emotions you like and turn off the ones you don’t. It is an all or nothing proposition. To turn on one feeling, you have to turn on all of them.

This may scare you and makes you want to back away from finding your heart, but consider this…you’re already feeling things you don’t want to feel. Your feelings drive you everyday. You just don’t recognize them. You need to get them out in the open and deal with them. It will free you from the rust that has seized you and kept you from fully participating in life. It will also create space for you to begin to experience the positive emotions that have always seemed just out of reach.

You have a Scarecrow who seeks to train his thinking. You have a Tin Man who seeks to free his feelings. But there’s still another traveling companion to pick up.

If I Only Had a Brain

Shortly into her journey down the yellow brick road, Dorothy comes to a crossroad. With no map or roadsigns, she stops to decide which direction to take. It’s there she meets the first of three eventual traveling companions…the Scarecrow.

The Scarecrow is stuck on a pole in the middle of nowhere. He’s pleasant and friendly, but he feels insignificant because he’s stuffed with straw, and useless because he can’t protect the corn from crows.

The Scarecrow is convinced all this would change if he only had a brain. He believes being able to think rationally would solve all his problems. If he could just figure things out, he could make things better.

So Dorothy invites him to join her on the journey, adding his quest for a brain to her quest to get back home. Little does she realize how important this move will be.

When you begin your journey on the road out of Oz, the first crossroad you typically come to involves the need for rational thought.

Like the Scarecrow, you reach a place where you feel stuck and unable to do what you need to do. You believe if you could only look at things logically and rationally you would be able to think yourself out of your predicament and heal from your sexual abuse.

The problem is your head is filled with the straw of deceptive and destructive messages. These “straw messages” were implied and implanted by both the abuser and the abuse. They are “straw messages” like:

  • “This is all you’re good for.”
  • “You brought this on yourself.”
  • “You responded, so you’re just as guilty.”
  • “If others really loved you, they would have protected you.”
  • “It just proves you can’t trust anyone.”
  • “You just need to be stronger.”
  • “That was a long time ago, so forget it and move on.”

Even though a part of you knows these messages aren’t logical, they still clog your thinking and make it hard for you to move forward and be productive. If only you had a brain that could forcefully override all the “straw messages” and help you think your way out of this.

It’s true that many of the messages left by the abuse are false and counter productive. It’s also true that these messages need to be countered and corrected by an ability to think clearly and rationally about things. You cannot heal if you continue to believe the left-behind lies of the abuse.

So, learning to think rightly is an important step, but that alone will not get you out of Oz. You need more than just a brain. If you are to find healing and wholeness from your sexual abuse, there are more traveling companions to be added on the road out of Oz.

Now What?

Dorothy has been threatened by Elmira Gultch, ignored by friends and family, caught up in a cyclone, and dropped in a strange place with strange people. She has unwittingly defeated the Wicked Witch of the East, and also kindled the anger of the Wicked Witch of the West.

She finds herself standing in Munchkin Land wondering, “Now what?”

Munchkin Land is pleasant and welcoming, but she knows she can’t stay there. She wishes she could return to Kansas and the way things were. At least she knew what to expect there. But returning to the way things used to be isn’t an option any longer.

Glenda the Good Witch tells Dorothy she needs to make a journey to the Emerald City. Then she shows Dorothy the yellow brick road. It’s the road to the Emerald City. It’s the road out of Oz.

Dorothy is uncertain at first. She’s wonders of how long the road will be or what she might encounter along the road. But seeing no other options, she takes a step. Then another. And then another. And before she knows it…she’s moving forward.

The journey has begun.

Like Dorothy, you too have experienced mounting difficulty that has picked you up, spun you around, and dropped you in a different place with different people. Your arrival has killed the witch of secrecy and denial, but has awaken a witch of fear and uncertainty.

You find yourself wondering, “Now what?”

Part of you wishes you hadn’t opened this “can of worms.” You wish you could just go back to the way things used to be. At least there you knew what to expect and had some control. But you can’t go back…at least not the way you came.

Then you wonder if you could just stay where you are. After all, you’ve been honest about what happened to you. What else is there to do? Still, something tells you that staying where you are will not be enough.

So, you gradually accept the only viable option…moving forward.

Counselors, pastors, and other survivors say you need to take a journey and follow a road leading to a place of help and hope. You eye the road and consider the journey. You wonder how long the road will be and what you will encounter on the journey. You even wonder if the journey will be worth it.

Finally, with everyone’s urging, you decide to take a step on the road. Then another. And then another. You find yourself moving forward toward a new place and a new life.

Your journey has begun.

One Witch Down and Another To Go.

After arriving in Oz, Dorothy discovers that she has unknowingly ended the tyranny of a witch. The cyclone that brought her to Oz, also dropped her house on the Wicked Witch of the East. In effect, she defeated a witch just by showing up! Glenda and the Munchkins make a big deal of this and see her as courageous and powerful…though she doesn’t really feel that way.

But just as she’s adjusting to the idea of defeating the Wicked Witch of the East, another witch arrives in a sulfurous cloud of smoke. It’s the Wicked Witch of the West. The witch immediately tries to rob Dorothy of her ruby slippers. When that fails, the witch leaves in another bilious cloud of smoke leaving the words “I’ll get you my pretty!” ringing in Dorothy’s ears.

When you take your first steps in recovering from sexual abuse, you defeat one “witch”…the witch of denial and avoidance. Your arrival at this place has killed her.

Just like Glenda and the Munchkins, the people who are close to you will celebrate the death of this first witch. You may still be unsure about this so-called victory, but you do feel you have initiated some sort of new era.

Then another fearful and dreadful witch comes on the scene, and this witch is different. At least, with the first witch, you didn’t know she was there, so it didn’t seem as scary. But this new witch is different. This witch is in your face. She cannot take from you the slippers of your courageous initiative, but she will try to intimidate you at every turn.  She will make you feel small, like you are a little girl again. She will fill the skies of your mind with a multitude of dark flying monkey memories.

Though it will be frightening and overwhelming at times, there will be friends to help you along the way. There will be victories. You will progress and grow. Eventually you will conquer this fearful, dreadful witch, and in doing so you will reclaim your life.

Copyright © 2016 Bret Legg

These People are Different!

After the cyclone, Dorothy steps out of her dropped and dilapidated house to encounter the Munchkins, slowly coming out of hiding.

They are not like the people she’s use to. Small in stature, they are warm and winsome. But Dorothy soon discovers the Munchkins are far from naive. They have know their own desperate times, and it is this knowledge, coupled with their warmth, that makes them strangely inviting to Dorothy.

As Dorothy is getting use to the Munchkins, another major character comes on the scene. Glenda, the Good Witch of the South. Glenda may seem a little too good to be true, but she does have a calming effect on Dorothy. She helps Dorothy make sense of what has happened. She also tells Dorothy that to find what she wants, she will need to make a difficult journey. Glenda cannot make the journey for Dorothy, but she can monitor Dorothy’s progress and offer help and guidance along the way.

Admitting that sexual abuse is part of your history can feel like stepping into another world. You begin to encounter people (either randomly or in support groups) who have painful stories like yours. It’s as if they begin to come out of hiding. They understand your fear, your lack of trust, your need for control, and your defensiveness. They are kindred spirits who warmly open up to you…to the point that they can be a little unnerving. They are different.

They’re also different in that they are learning to look at what happened to them without being devastated. They’re learning to master their negativity and experience hope. They are also learning to balance caring for others with caring for themselves. As I said…they are different.

If you’re seriously committed to taking the road out of Oz, you will need another different person in your life. Not a good witch, but a counselor. The idea of seeing a counselor may be scary, or make you feel like you’re more messed up than you want to be. But you will need a counselor to help you make sense of things and guide you through the experience. Your counselor can also be there when you need a little extra help on the journey.

On the road out of Oz, you need these different people. You need people who have been where you’ve been, learned things you haven’t learned, and can support you on your journey out of Oz. You also need a counselor who can help you understand what has happened and help you stay on the road out of Oz.