This contribution is made of Gabrièle’s testimony. She tells here how she has been mistreated by her father at 7 and reports it as she has been thinking at this age. She prefers to avoid commenting herself, though she reads and approves my comments if they suit her.
In her story, Glannon is her young 5 years old sister and Father and Mother are their parents. In italics Gabrièle uses the way of speech specific to her parents, which she did not really understood at 7.
The beginning may appear to be disjoint from the physical brutalities she undergoes. As you will see, all this is very complex and her parents were also used to humiliate their child when she tried to please them, except when she was making herself useful to them. Here, in any case, physical brutalities and moral ones are closely dependent. Without them, we could not understand the sexual undertones of these beatings.
Down at the end of the staircase, our cellar. She pushed the door. She had also been locked up behind this door, to prevent her from leaving. This night, it was opened, as an incitement …
Ten years earlier, Mother pushed her on these stairs and, since she has shown resistance, Mother locked her behind the door. She had been standing up Mother, she was to be punished until further notice.
The platform at the top of the staircase had been cleared since, but in this time, cardboards full of old magazines would pile up there, and Gabrièle had been secretly feasting upon when she was sent there to be done away with her soup. This day, she had decided to revel in these prohibited readings. Her preferred was the one of a beautiful brown haired woman who had plenty of men in love with her, she was married but unhappy and she secretly met them, she had her secret life and nobody suspected anything. After having read again three times these tumultuous loves, she had roamed around the basement, her universe.
At the bottom of the staircase, a shaky too small wall cupboard where all the shoes piled up, which she came to wax for the whole family, on Sunday mornings, before going to the mass.
On the right, the laundry where she collected honey with Father. She liked to go to the bees with him, proud of her protection suit, she conscientiously put her mind to her task, pressing on the bellows of the bee-smoker as quickly as possible in order to warn the bees so that they do not attack Father. She thought at first that smoking bees was to kill them, but she had later seen the smoke making them flee inside the hive, buzzing with fear, to protect their queen and honey. She had to prevent their attacks, most often successfully, because it had already sometimes happened that warlike furious ones chased after these two robbers, forcing them to flee down the forest to escape.
At the far end on the right, Father’s workshop agreeably smelled sawdust, it was covered with chips and sawdust, until the deepest of the drawers. Gabrièle had already put order in the paternal universe to please him, putting the nails by size in small transparent bottles, well aligned on the rack. He had been annoyed, was unable to find anymore his belongings and prohibited her to touch anything at all. Since then, she even stopped washing the ground as she did each week for the whole basement, that was not worth the sorrow.
On the side, the beaten ground storeroom, to preserve dampness smelt mildewed. The preserving jars were aligned on large racks, the cases of apple juice piled up in a corner. She sought something to nibble, but nothing interesting here.
Coming back on her steps, she crossed the unused boiler room to move towards the garage. Enlightenment! The forgotten keys on the door… Gabrièle bolted out of the garage, flashed through the entry door and planted herself, jubilant, in front of her mother who was busy with the cooking.
She intended to put her arguments forward, she did not agree with the punishment she received, it has been unjust, she should be allowed to contest. At Mother’s calls, Father came in. In vain had she struggled, argued, in spite of her outcries, he dragged her down the staircase, in the cellar. Though she tried to make herself heavy, she had not been able to resist without hitting her heels on the concrete steps. In the wash-house, he caught the cat-o’-nine-tails lying on the freezer. It was not here before, she would have seen it.
He had struck, and struck again, in spite of her howling. At the end, he threatened her to start it all again if she would dare running off the cellar once more. On the ground, rolled into a ball of pain, she no longer wanted to escape. Besides, when he went away, he had not even taken the trouble to lock the door, she had figured it out, now. She howled and wailed her suffering and her loneliness for a long time. Until being speechless and failing to breathe. Noiselessness. She would never again escape this cellar. Around her, a wash-hand basin with cold water and a dirty shower. Her future universe? Exhausted by her own wails, she ended up huddling on a corner of the shower. Cold, so cold! Noiselessness.
She was naked in deep water, at the bottommost, on the sand, in a water hole, a black and fire fin had grown from her belly. She could not move. Water started to turn around her, a swirl took form, a Water Spirit dance, a manly voice sang for her, she started moving, swimming as a fish in this waterless swirl. After some breaststrokes, she left the swirl and entered water, plunged towards the bottom, flipping her joined legs, undulating as a siren tail. A black snake escorted her down, where the giant rocks were slowly shifting, at the bottom of the world. The black snake swallowed her and she was suddenly floating on the surface of the ocean, the sun irradiating the sea.
She again found herself on the surface of the ocean, widely opened her mouth and spat large mouthfuls of fire, she spat spurts of fire on the surface of the sea, again and again, reeling around, caught, spellbound by the pleasure of the fire which gushed out of her mouth in infinite streaks. The whale shark was again there, awaiting her. On the monster’s soft white belly, she rubbed her fin, voluptuously inserted it in his flesh, they whirled in the water, at length, then the fin turned around to pass on her back. After some more cuddle, the shark disappeared and the she-dragon happily started to swim towards the depths, she had found her fire.
“Gaby, Gaby, wake up!” Glannon was here, shaking her sister’s arm, “You must come eating!” Gabrièle had unfolded, still all sleepy. Hurt everywhere. She followed her sister. Up there, the whole family was already sitting at the table. “You will wash your hands, you are dirty all over” had acknowledged her Mother. She had complied and came to sit down at her place, full of dread. A buzz of reproaches. She opposed her silence. This nightmare was ended, and many many others to come, but from now on she would never feel alone. The she-warrior had lost this battle, she would not lose the war, she had understood that she had to swim in mid-water and wait for spitting her fire. At the proper time, she would be ready. She would spit her fire and would find back the whale shark who saved her and loved her.
Was now a good time for it? After the fierceness of a captive animal, she felt lost. She could not stand this silence. A reason, an explanation. They owed her an explanation! A reason for their savagery. Why this evening? Why this silence? Perhaps had they left a written word on the kitchen table? She closed again the cellar door, strongly meaning that she would not go back there and moved towards the kitchen, full of hope.
Gabrièle howls "her suffering and her loneliness", which couples physical and mental torture. Moreover she moves “towards the kitchen, full of hope,” which underlines her always renewed will to seek to understand exactly why she had been punished. This completely contradicts her keenness for fighting: “The she-warrior had lost this battle, she would not lose the war.”
As far as spirituality is equated to rejecting the body and/or the intellect, I find that these abuses are strongly ‘beneficial’, if I dare say so, since the child learns how to leave her suffering body to take refuge in her soul. The child as learned also that her rationality is completely useless despite her efforts. This is well explained by the fact that, in the sort of coma that follows torture, Gabrièle sets upon a splendid shamanic journey where she leaves her body to merge her soul to the one of a spirit animal. With ‘him’, she can know sweetness (not pain) and confidence (not distrust). From the point of view of intellect, the shark-whale is logical, contrary to her parents. In spite of his enormous teeth, he smiles to her and this smile, as it should, precedes love instead of brutality.
The whole story looks as being sexless, even if the punishment is applied on Gabrièle’s naked buttocks, deeply wounded ones at the end (she says so elsewhere). The little girl herself, however, points at sexuality – or at her feeling of having been sexually abused by her father – when she tells of her shamanic journey that she “voluptuously inserted her fin in his flesh.” This naïve image expresses her need to take a sexual revenge by nicely invading the body of her male huge companion.
From the point of view of spirituality, we meet an uninteresting father who reaches the lowest possible level of spirituality and a little girl who reacts by being a kind of perfect example of spirituality in action both in real life and in the journey. Let us explain this in three points
1. She lives a nightmare and her answers are double. On the one hand, she understands that the lack of love and respect she lives must not be answered by a global hate of her surroundings. Her behavior with the whale-shark and with her father (she nicely helps him at her best) show that her answer to hate is respect. On the other hand, the terrible abuse she undergoes does not produce images of her abusing someone else.
2. She does not understand why she gets punished so hardly (twice for resisting her mother pushing her forward, and for escaping the punishment) and her reaction is essentially one of a demand for explanations. She ends “full of hope” that her parents left a written explanation on the kitchen table.
3. She realizes that her social environment is one of a never-ending struggle (she says “war”), which is imposed on her and she tries to adapt to it without losing her soul. She stays in ambush in “mid-water” and will use her powerful “streaks of fire” only when they are strictly necessary. Moreover, this weapon does not provide her a feeling of power but of security: “from now on she would never feel alone.” Being able to destroy with her weapon is much less important than being on an equal footing with her unsafe environment.
In spite of all these beautiful features, if she were my patient, I would say that she is the typical example of an almost intractable case. Without speaking even about the physical pleasures, she has an enormous task to achieve to take again confidence in her body as a favorite vessel of her soul. This must however succeed in order to gain confidence in the fact that some feelings of her body are the true expression of her soul.
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