Healing Trauma Through Firewalk: Discovering Possibility

My friend Erik Lehmann is “The Dream Catalyst,” or that is his nonprofit and his mission. He finds young people who do not have anyone who believes in them, and he helps to make their dreams matter. He brought a young couple to Friday’s firewalk. 18 and 19 years old, engaged. Pregnant. Both unemployed. Both victims of long-term, repeated abuse — physical, emotional, sexual. Oh, and the guy has rage issues where he becomes a “monster” (his word). And that is not all: he is martial arts trained, at competition level. So when he loses control he can do more damage than someone who is not trained. Wow.

They were both totally open about their challenges right from the beginning of the workshop, as it explained why they were there: They both wanted to turn a corner and become better — for each other, and for their child-to-be. They both bravely took on the challenges I offered them. They wrote a ton on their boards about what they wanted to break through and towards – and then they broke them. The girl decided not to do the trust fall to protect her baby, but the guy, strapping and fit, said he almost peed his pants over that challenge. Trust does not come easily to people who have faced more than their measure of cruelty.

They both broke their arrows and they both walked through fire, joyfully. They said it helped them feel they could handle more than any of those horrible people in their past could dish out to them.

I do a bonus exercise for just a few people each workshop – where we capitalize on the elated moment after the firewalk to reprogram some negative self-images. His was “I am a monster.” Hers was that she is worthless. After the firewalk, they each design and proclaim a new truth to the group, until the group accepts they are speaking with full force and full conviction. He announced that he is a loving father and partner, always. She announced that she believes in herself, and she wept. Both received many hugs and much celebration for their new convictions. I asked them both to hold each other accountable for their new stands in life.

They were both wobbly and thrilled at the end of the workshop.

His testimonial: “Life changing. Tony helped me understand I am a person not a monster.”

Hers: “Tonight’s experience was fulfilling, relieving, and really made me feel like I am more than what I originally believed. I am strong, willful, and beautiful inside and out. I never felt like I was able to express myself until now. I am not who people say I am. I am myself. Thanks for the firewalk!”

Erik’s: “Tony, thank you for taking in the people I send and showing them your brand of love. What happens here is sacred!”

Other participants noted how they were moved by what they witnessed. I am reluctant to claim to be a healer, but healing happened Friday night. Those young parents-to-be got a look at what it would be like to be free of their burdens. Their challenges are just beginning, of course. Hopefully we can get a good local counselor to work with them for charity. But it was an honor and a privilege to serve them so deeply. I know this experience made a difference for them. Keep the momentum going, shining souls!