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A breakdown at age 40, painful, but embraced, has led to a man now at peace with both pain and the transformation of pain, and with connection to others.
At age 40, Phil collapsed in the shower, retching and sobbing and then curling himself into a fetal position, unable to move, unable to function, unable any longer to hold together the intricate structure of compartmentalized parts of himself that had allowed him to survive the sexual abuse that derailed his childhood. For the next six weeks he lived in an inner world of hurt, nursed and cared for by his partner. Then came the painful, difficult, soul-enriching and beautiful process of re-integrating those compartmentalized parts, a process that continues.
Phil was systematically groomed by a teacher when he was eleven years old. The grooming never advanced into actual abuse, but it nevertheless left scars. At the age of thirteen, Phil worked for a bookstore owner who took over the grooming process, and this time it did advance. Phil learned to dissociate, to separate himself from what was being done to him. He learned to create compartments to protect himself. He also placed a premium on safety, and therefore a premium on avoiding risk.
Phil was a very bright student. At 15, a teacher encouraged him to go to college. But to do so would have meant leaving home, and home was his security in a world he knew to be unsafe. So instead he went to a local college that offered him accounting credentials.
Phil looks back on that decision with some regret, acknowledging that it was a momentous choice. But he is wise enough to know that the path he didn’t take would have offered no guarantees of happiness. Phil has worked diligently on his own path, one that has led him inexorably inward. It has been a spiritual path, a path of psychological healing, and a path of constant learning. It has yielded a man at peace, a man at home in his own depths, and therefore able to connect deeply with others. And it is a path that he is grateful for.