Bring Back The Cilice Belt

by Annie Kaszina on January 3, 2007

Among Dan Brown’s many accomplishments is bringing the cilice belt
to popular attention. Silas, Brown’s tonsured hit man in "The Da Vinci
Code", wears one and also flagellates himself with The Discipline, a
knotted rope. The image of this tall, albino monk performing ‘corporal
mortification’ is a shocking one that stays with the reader.

Curiously,
it was the image that sprang to mind yesterday when I was talking with
a woman about the issues she is facing right now. Yvette (not her real
name) is not, fortunately, at risk physically, but the situation in
which she lives is spiralling out of control.

Her emotional world
is becoming increasingly tortured and intolerable. And because she
objects to various behaviours of her partner’s that she senses to be fundamentally
wrong, she is being blamed. She is constantly being told that her
attitude, rather than the behaviours, are the source of the problem.

Yvette
is desperate to manage a dysfunctional situation and remain in control
of her life. Her dilemma is this: if her partner’s behaviours are unacceptable
then she is vindicated… but powerless. Because they are not going to
change. If her attitude is to blame, then she is, clearly, losing her
grip on the situation but, theoretically at least, she has the power to
improve things.

Maybe this strikes a chord with you?

Reassurance
doesn’t work terribly well in a situation like this, because if Yvette
is right, then the situation must be worse even than she likes to
think. (Actually, it’s a perfect no win situation for her, because if
the opposite is true and the behaviours are ok, to her that signifies
she must be spiralling into mental illness.)

And so it was that I
suggested to her that she get a cilice belt and a Discipline and
ritually flagellate herself. I said this not because I don’t care about
her situation and would wish any more pain on her. I care very much and
would dearly love her to be spared any further pain.

Precisely
because I care, I wanted to give her a response she could work with.
Reassurance wasn’t going to do that for more than about 5 minutes.

She
met my suggestion with stunned silence. Then she started to laugh. The
image was so grotesque that it was funny. And as she laughed she
translated it into terms that were meaningful to her. Suddenly she
could visualise what she had been doing, unintentionally, and it became
repellent to her.

Words are tremendously powerful. Words have the
power to shackle and enslave you. The right words also have the power
to set you on the path back to freedom and wholeness.

C) 2005 Annie Kaszina

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