Spiritually Speaking

Question: I am the oldest of a family with two brothers and one sister, who is the youngest. My mother is still alive and my father passed away several years ago. I know my parents did the best they could but I am still wrestling with the memory of dad’s many violent outbursts when we were growing up. He would oftentimes get physical, mostly with my mom, who was a devote Christian. The boys got the brunt of the brutality. We’ve all done our best to forgive him in our own way.

My concern is for my little sister who is now in her 40s. I remember one incident when she was a baby in a highchair when she wouldn’t eat her vegetables and threw the plate on the floor. My father got very angry and slapped her hard across the side of her face and ear. Now ever since that incident as a baby she has had constant problems with ear infections in that ear. I wanted to suggest that she go for a hypnosis session or something to get to the bottom of what’s causing the ear problems. Mom has prayed but it doesn’t seem to do any good. Am I wrong to suggest that she deal with a childhood memory that she might not even remember but could be affecting her health? – Concerned


Dear Concerned,
It saddens me to read of the trauma and abuse each member of your family has endured. As the oldest child, I imagine your shoulders carry a great amount of responsibility to take care of all the members of your family and their feelings while still carrying your own trauma.

As adults, we try our best to forgive the wrongs of our parents. Yet those traumas are hard wired into our brains affecting us in ways we may not associate with actions you witnessed as a child. My hope is that each of you has had your own individual therapy as adults to heal attachment wounds that can last a lifetime if not addressed.

You seem to have a great understandable concern for your younger sister. You did not mention if she has gotten sound medical attention and a diagnosis for her ongoing ear issues. Without knowing if a doctor has treated her, I will try to answer a couple of ways.

If she has been medically treated, it appears that you feel there is an unresolved psychological component to her continuing ear issues. If she has not been medically diagnosed and treated for the ear problems, it could be that you are perhaps feeling, and projecting, an unresolved trauma issue. If you feel the latter is the case, I recommend that you independently get solid individual therapy. It is my recommendation as a licensed therapist that you bring that up to her.

You sound like a loving brother. The best suggestion you can lovingly give her is for her to enter into therapy. With this said, you also would benefit greatly from individual therapy, if you have not already done so. In addition, if you both have had therapy there are often times when we take time off from clinical therapy there is further reason in another season of life that requires us to go through it again. This brings even deeper healing and insight to understand why we do what we do: including our ways of protecting loved ones and ourselves and gain deep wisdom into why we feel and do the things we do.

As far as hypnotherapy goes, I cannot in good conscience give direct advice about that adjunct mode of treatment without knowing why you are mentioning that modality. You did not provide some missing pieces such as any medical treatment or previous psychotherapy treatment.

A good therapist might bring up hypnotherapy if s/he felt it could be effective, but not before medical treatment and trauma therapy had first been addressed.

I believe one of the most loving things we can do for those we care about is to suggest any necessary treatment that can bring wholeness to their lives.

You are a very loving brother. Please keep in mind that the order of treatment is to rule out medical issues and get a diagnosis, individual trauma and attachment therapy, then perhaps after a bond is established between a patient and therapist a referral for other modes of treatment would be adjunct, not a replacement for individual therapy.

I truly hope that you each have received or turn to professional therapy for permanent healing and relief. I’ve been blessed to see it change lives for 17 years now.

Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian
LMFT, Psychotherapist


Dear Concerned,
I am so sorry for the physical and emotional abuse you and your family suffered at the hands of your father. As I’m sure your mother knows, such evils are the reason Jesus came into the world. God calls fathers to protect and bless their families, not to do harm.

Your compassion and insight for your sister are insightful. Sounds like you have done a lot of the hard work of forgiving your father. And yes, I would agree with you that often such physical assaults have lasting effects because they cause emotional and even spiritual trauma as well – even when we don’t remember them. Many people continue to suffer illness from the emotional and spiritual traumas of their past. So you are right to recommend your sister deal with a childhood event she doesn’t even remember because her spirit does.

In the church, we often guide people in healing such traumas in prayer. Some churches are more fluent in this than others. And some prayer ministers are more gifted in this kind of prayer than others. In any case, such prayer ministry always begins in naming the fault (sin) and forgiving it. Then we invite God’s healing light into the memory. Years ago, Agnes Sanford coined the term “healing of memories” when teaching on this kind of prayer.

I can’t recommend hypnosis. In fact, I would advise against it. But I can definitely recommend healing prayer ministry. I have done this kind of prayer with all kinds of people and it brings great spiritual, emotional and physical freedom. Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena has an entire department dedicated to this kind of ministry. I highly recommend them.

May your sister and entire family find greater healing, life and peace. It sounds like your intuition is leading you there already.

Rev. Rob Holman
St. Luke’s Angelican Church