Help is available!


1) Message on website from Jane:

Dearest ladies,

In the midst of my extreme pain, I found your website and comfort. I am a recovering alcoholic, sober for 25 years. My son is in the midst of heroin addiction and dealing drugs. Last week I had to put him out of my home. I am walking by faith daily, knowing that I am not in charge of this man’s life. He is 25 now, but has been doing drugs I think since his early teenage years. This is not something I ever imagined for his life or mine.

Your website on advice to parents gave me much comfort and I bought your book. I am requesting the study guide if possible. I am an Episcopalian and I know that my God is steadfast from my own journey. Facing His will for my life and my son’s, however, is frightening to me. Yet, I know God’s will is perfect. I mean I know this in my heart. Yet I continue to think the worst. I do ask your prayers for both of us that we be lead from this darkness into the light. I am most sincerely grateful for your deeply healing life narrative and the guidance it contains.

2) Response from Susan to Jane:

Thanks so much for letting me know my words have helped to bring comfort. Please do get the support you need to face this extraordinary challenge. Your faith in God will be tested but will be strengthened by going through this test. Keep your heart open, get support to feel your pain, set your boundaries and release your son to God’s hands. Remember he is God’s son also. And PRAY a lot. I hope you also seek the support of Al-anon or Families Anonymous. I could never have made it without Al-anon.

Attached is the Study Guide. If you want, let me know your response to reading the book, and let me know how your story with your son unfolds. You will be in my heart and in my prayers.

With faith in the unbroken love of God, Susan

3) Response From Jane:

Thank you for your kind words. I am doing the things you suggested. I have released him to God as I believe in my soul this is a spiritual journey that Jack must walk out. As you well know the pain has been searing and at times I have thought I just want out of this vale of tears. I looked inward through meditation and prayer. From your web page I found out what I think I already knew in my soul, but did not want to face – this is my spiritual journey as well as Jack’s. Your confirmation allowed me to embrace what is. And, Susan, in reality you provided a sounding for me, which centered me and …not sure how to express this idea…but provided some sort of peace within me in the midst of this overwhelming chaos. The phrase “my God is steadfast” has centered upon my heart or that is where I feel its presence at any rate. Thank you for releasing your journey into our shared experience so that the many coming behind you may experience the light in the darkness.

4) Susan: [I asked Jane if I could re-print her words on my blog, to help reach more parents who need to read the “Advice” words on the website and/or the book.]

5) Jane’s response:

Please, please use my words. You will never know what your words did for me. I truly believe that God led me to your website and I received exactly what I needed– communion across time and space. Intensely profound. I was wallowing in the bad mother syndrome and all that, yet I knew that I had loved both my children with a committed intensity, therefore your thoughts were extremely validating. Tonight in my reading from the text Love Unbroken I was deeply moved by your commitment to never withhold your compassion from another human being. Deeply stirring to my soul. I only hope other parents who are experiencing this anguish will be led to your website. It was an eternal moment for me. Shelley’s words convey my gratitude for your courage to share and teach:

Hail to thee, blithe spirit!

Bird thou never wert–

That from heaven or near it

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art


Thank you, Susan


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Open to comments

Dear reader,

If you would like to leave a comment here, please first read Love Unbroken so that we have a basis for discussion.  After reading the book, leave me a comment with your real name and a working email address, and then I would be happy to engage in dialogue with you.

For those who followed my dialogue with Luis from Madrid, Spain, about our family’s use of ayahuasca in our healing from the family disease of addiction, he has written “But in the end, Ayahuasca is also an expression of God or Goddess, so why not?”  Luis would like to get connected with the Pathwork in Madrid, and I wish him the very best on his path, hoping that the connection I have forwarded to him may prove fruitful for him. Blessings on the path! 

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second reply to question about ayahuasca

Dear Luis,
Thanks for writing back.  I understand your concerns about psychological dependence on altered states as a way to avoid the external reality of life.  I too have seen this, in the Santo Daime church and, of course, elsewhere.  My point is only that the use of mind-altering drugs is a complex issue, not easily resolved by familiar dualistic thinking.  The Pathwork Guide often says that no action is in itself good or bad, it depends on many factors, most notably intent.
In the case of our family, ayahuasca, taken in the context of the Santo Daime church, was an important catalyst to our spiritual growth.  It brought us through a serious family crisis for which I will always be grateful.  The Santo Dame is no longer my path, mostly because it feels that I received what I was supposed to receive, and I have no further need to drink ayahuasca. (This is, incidentally, very different from how addiction proceeds.)
I totally respect that ayahuasca was/is not your path. It is certainly not for everyone. (Did you read the the Disclaimer at the back of the book?)
Just as I have seen people “stuck” in the Santo Daime church, I have also seen people “stuck” in the Pathwork.  The Pathwork can, inadvertently, encourge recycling process work because it is the known path.  This can never take one to a different level of reality, which can only be entered if the known path is released and the unknown is embraced.  As long as you think you know what reality is, the deeper truth of life will elude you.  As long as one looks through any particular lens, that lens will define and limit what one sees.
Eventually one outgrows any path, since a path is based on a specific world view, and life itself has no world view about itself.  It just IS itself.  And we are THAT.  So, sooner or later, one awakens from any path which attempts to lead the seeker toward the reality of what we are.  Instead, we awaken to that toward which all paths are pointing.  And that is the end of seeking, and the end of identifying one’s “self” with any path.
I love the Pathwork and the wonderful work it does with many people.  I support the Pathwork at Sevenoaks and occasionally still participate in Pathwork events.  I have deep, wonderful, life-long relationships with many friends who are Pathwork helpers and students.  I also have deep, wonderful, life-long relationships with many friends who are committed to the path of the Santo Daime, though I no longer participate in the ceremonies.
I do not judge my friends on the basis of what path works for them.  I am happy that they have found a path that works for them.  But at this time in my life I no longer feel a “part of” any particular path; it simply is not true for me now.  No one knows what the future will bring!
Thanks again for the dialogue,  Susan 
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Is Ayahuasca a Drug?

Is ayahuasca a drug?

The following is a recent correspondence with a reader of Love Unbroken:

Reader:  Hi Susan, greetings from Madrid, Spain. I was reading “love unbroken” and I have left the book in chapter 19. From one side, it is a moving history, sure. But there something I cannot understand. The book is about the drama of addiction and you spend the whole book recommending the drink of ayahuasca which is another kind of addiction. Yes, I know it is a sacred plant, but in the end, depending on ayahuasca to have a spiritual high is addiction. You give your power to the plant. Most of occidentals find in ayahuasca a way to escape from reality. In the words of your daughter: “I need drugs and I could care less what I put in my body if it alters my mind in any way” I don’t understand Susan. You are a mature practionner of Pathwork. You know we should not depend on nothing to contact the god
within. To be honest, I would prefer not to have read this book. I
loved the Susan of “the undefended self”.   Now I’m confused.

Kind regards, Luis

[Susan’s note:  “The Undefended Self” is my first book, which is a summary of the teachings of the Pathwork, which I taught for over thirty years.]

Susan replies:

Dear Luis,

I note that you have not finished the book Love Unbroken.  The final third of the book hardly mentions ayahuasca, so I don’t think it is fair to say the book “recommends ayahuasca.”  I invite you to read the “Disclaimer” at the end of the book which specifically states why I do NOT recommend ayahuasca to anyone.

Nonetheless, I appreciate very much your writing your concern about Love Unbroken. You have given me an opportunity to address a concern which I expect many people share.

Your confusion about ayahuasca and drugs is very understandable. Many people think the way you do – that all mind-altering substances are the same and are all bad, especially for people on a spiritual path. However, the subject is much more complex than that.  As the Pathwork Guide and all spiritual paths teach, life is not dualistic, with things being simply good, or simply bad.

I would advise that, before you believe the culture’s ideas on the subject of drugs, you investigate a little more deeply.  You might begin with the book that a well-respected American physician, Dr. Andrew Weil, wrote many years ago called From Morphine to Chocolate.  He points out that many substances—from morphine to chocolate and including alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine—have mind-altering properties.  It’s just that some of these substances have become so ingrained in the conventions of our society now that we don’t think of them as “bad” the way we do the “illegal” mind-expanding drugs.

Dr. Weil also reminds us that many indigenous cultures used mind-altering substances in the service of contacting the spiritual realms.  He writes about how the universal impulse for contact with something “larger” than oneself has been perverted in modern times into a drug culture where pill-popping is common and drug addiction rampant.  Some drugs guarantee addiction: heroin, cocaine, meth-amphetamine, and alcohol taken in excess.  Some drugs cannot readily be abused in this way:  ayahuasca, peyote, and ibogaine are among them.  Often abuse is a matter of context and intent: some psychedelics can produce very positive results (see the research at but, if taken without adequate direction and positive intent, can be very destructive.  The study of what is a “good” use of mind-altering drugs and what is a “bad” use is complex, and depends on intent and context.  Research into this area is required so as not to simply reflect the prejudices of contemporary culture.

Remember that looking through the telescope was considered really bad, heretical even, in medieval Europe because it was believed that humans had no business looking at the heavens. People were killed as heretics for doing this. Some psychedelics, if used with proper intent, allow you to look more deeply at the structure of reality, a reality that is taken for granted by the conventional culture. To see beyond the conventional reality is threatening to a culture. We don’t kill heretics any more, but we do try to make them “wrong.”

And so, the US and most Western European governments codify conventional thinking by labeling all mind-altering or psychedelic drugs as VERY BAD, with no medicinal uses. And yet some governments, even in the United States (and of course in Brazil), recognize that some substances that might be “bad” if used carelessly, may indeed be “good” if used as a sacrament in a religious context. The US Supreme Court voted unanimously to approve the use of the ayahuasca sacrament in the context of a legitimate Brazilian church.

My husband and I came to feel that, in the case of ayahuasca, taken ceremonially in the context of a legal Brazilian religion, it could be part of the “solution” to the problem of drug addiction, not part of the “problem.”

More personally….

I did not choose to use ayahuasca casually. My life situation was dire, and the Pathwork alone offered no solutions. The Pathwork does not deal with addiction, spirit possession or serious mental illness. Other avenues were needed. I was desperate for something that could break through my daughter’s despair and my anxiety. I had gone as deep as possible with the Pathwork. I lived “the undefended life.” I still do. But when “the undefended self” encountered the multiple challenges of addiction, spirit possession, and serious mental illness, I had to go outside the boundaries of conventional Pathwork for help.

I went to 12-step programs for my own recovery from the family disease of addiction.  12-step programs deal effectively with addiction and, while they are “outside” the Pathwork, are certainly compatible with it.  As a young teenager, my daughter was not ready for the work of the 12-steps, and certainly not for the work of the Pathwork. We took our daughter to many therapists, psychiatrists, and even to a residential treatment center where she was “incarcerated” for two years. Nothing worked. No amount of therapy, nor this behavior-modification boarding school, touched her deeper issues.

And yet one experience of ayahuasca in the context of Santo Daime ceremonies in Brazil opened her up to the presence of God in a way that nothing else did. Once she had a palpable experience of the presence of God she knew that she was not hopeless. She and I believe that the Santo Daime saved her life by opening her up spiritually. Even though she still had to go through her addiction, until it was done, she would surely have been dead had she not carried in her heart the hope for liberation from addiction which the Daime visions gave to her. Later on Pam was ready for therapy and for 12-step work, but in the beginning of her descent into addiction, it was the Daime which gave her a glimpse of hope for a way out of her insanity.

For myself, no amount of probing and releasing childhood images, buried feelings, or past life experiences or calling in my higher self healed my chronic anxiety. My life was nonetheless perfectly manageable and I was successful as author, teacher, and Pathwork helper until the challenge of dealing with and finding help for my daughter presented itself. That challenge crumbled my idealized image as teacher and mother and catapulted me into a search for somewhere my soul could rest, a place beyond all ego ideas about who I thought I was.

That “resting place” came in the form of surrender to the archetype of the Divine Mother, completely resolving a “mother wound” that nothing else had been able to heal. I have never since felt any feeling of emotional deprivation or lack of love. The deep comfort that came from this surrender led me–once again through the “door of devastation”–to the discovery that “the Mother and I are One.” This shift in perception about who I thought I was then became foundational for a new way of being in the world. I am not a mother or a teacher or a writer. Instead, there is only this One unified field of love and this body-mind called Susan is, fundamentally, simply
an expression of That.

Without this spiritual opening on my part, I could not have gone the distance in helping my daughter.  Because of this shift in perception, I was enabled to sustain hope, to stand by her until she was ready for recovery. Something larger than my personal “higher self” had to come in, something beyond anything I found in the practice of Pathwork. That “something larger” came to me through the disciplined use of the sacrament of the Santo Daime.

Could my healing and Pam’s have come some other way—sure, theoretically. Maybe we could have been knocked to the ground like Saul of Tarsus and received directly from Jesus Christ the “blow” to our former selves that opened up the possibility of radical transformation. But in our case, that blow to the ego self and that opening to radical transformation included the use of a psychoactive substance.

It might have come another way, and I’ve often wished it had come another way. We have gotten a lot of negative response, in the U.S. and in Brazil, from Pathworkers who do not want to be associated with this path that we took. I have sympathy for that. The Pathwork is the Pathwork. The Santo Daime is the Santo Daime. They are different paths – each can work on the transpersonal level, but the methods are different. I have walked both paths.

The Pathwork is in my bones – I practice compassionate observation every day, embracing all that arises in consciousness. I am open to feelings and do my best to process all emotional reactions so that my expression comes from a genuine place, not a reactive place. I practice deep authentic honesty with others (when they are open to it). For these practices I thank Eva Pierrakos and the Pathwork Guide.

The connection to the Divine Mother is also in my bones. She is my mother, my teacher, my guru. And I am She. For this comfort and this awareness I thank the Santo Daime.

I no longer call myself a Pathwork teacher and I no longer drink Daime.  Both paths served me well, but I no longer identify with either path.  It feels like they have completed themselves for me. Instead, now the day-to-day practice of awareness and compassion and honesty and, above all, surrender to and trust in each moment just as it is, are all that are needed to guide me.  My “teacher” is my life. Actually life and teacher and “me” are just one stream of awareness and compassion unfolding flawlessly.

I hope this has been useful to you. I am happy to continue the dialogue. If you want to hold on to the “Susan of The Undefended Self” feel free to do so!  But if you want to know what it is like to meet a severe life challenge from the place of living from the undefended self, then read Love Unbroken. From this you may learn something about letting your heart be broken open and surrendering to the power of a love that is unbroken, unharmed, untouched by all our human dramas and heartbreaks. I can assure you that, sooner or later, awareness of this deeper love will come to everyone. How that unbroken love comes to you will be your path, not my path.  I can only write about how it came to me.

Blessings to you on your path!    Susan Thesenga


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A Christmas Story/ Uma história de Natal

The following is taken from Chapter 24 of Love Unbroken.  It is published here in English first, and then in Portuguese.  The book will soon be available in Portuguese:


It’s Christmas Eve day—snowy, wet, cold.  I’m missing Pam terribly.  Christmas was always a time of closeness in our family.  No matter what else was going on, Pam would warm to us on this special day.

Tonight I’m determined to have a little Christmas spirit with what’s left of my family.  I’m at my ninety-two year old mother’s house, but neither she nor my husband Donovan seems to care about having a Christmas tree.  I’m adamant.  I’ve asked Donovan to bring up from our house some of our Christmas decorations, including the lights which go on the tree first.  While Donovan is on his way over the my mother’s house, I go out on this snowy night alone and purchase a tree which I struggle to get standing upright in its metal holder.  When I’m ready to decorate the tree, I open the box Donovan has brought and discover that he did not bring the Christmas lights.  He brought the wrong box.

I tip over the edge.  I yell at Donovan, “Why didn’t you bring the lights?  I told you to bring the lights!” I’m hysterical.  I start sobbing.

And then I hear the sounds of a walker methodically bump-bumping toward the living room.  My mother’s coming out from her back bedroom to see what is the matter.  I can’t stand it.

The last thing in the world I want is to have to deal with my mother’s upset on top of my own distress.  When I broke down in her house two years ago, her response was to want to call 911.  She thought I must have been having a heart attack; I was, but not the physical kind.  My mother can’t deal with emotions, and, really, I don’t want to scare her further.  So I duck into the kitchen and close the door.  Then I hear the thump-thump of her walker coming toward the kitchen.  I race out the other kitchen door and go back to the living room.  She thump-thumps her way to the living room, and I just stand there, frozen now like a deer in headlights.

My old mother trundles her walker over to the couch, lets herself fall to sitting, and with a kind but authoritative gesture, motions me to sit down beside her.  I obey.  She puts her arms around me and pulls my head onto her bony shoulder.  I let go, falling into her frail body, weeping.

She’s very rarely spoken to me about Pamela.  I’ve also been reluctant to talk with her about Pam, because years ago I heard only judgments and criticisms from my mother both about Pam and about my mothering.  But I know my mother has mellowed because recently she told me, “She’s my granddaughter and I love her.  She’s sick and I hope she gets well.”  I had felt a rush of gratitude for her having arrived at this simple humane expression of her concern.

On the couch with me now she says, “I don’t know what to do.  I wish there was more I could do.” Between sobs, I reply, “What you’re doing right now is perfect.”

My mother adds, “I don’t know how you stand the pain. You’re so strong.  I love you so much.”  Her words astonish and soothe. I relax further and let myself be held in a way that I may never have been held by her, at least not since I was a small child with a bleeding skinned knee.  Whatever remnants of bitterness I might have been holding onto for all of my sixty-three years—about my mother not having held me enough as a child—now melt completely.

The crying quiets and we are just there, woman to woman, bearing together what I no longer have to bear alone.  I am saturated by the love flowing between us.

She reaches her hand toward the walker and grabs her purse by the straps, pulling it toward her.  Out of her purse she pulls her credit card.  Passing it to me, she says, “Go up to the drug store on the corner and buy some lights.  We’re going to have the Christmas tree you want.”





É véspera de Natal—um dia com neve, úmido e frio.   Sinto uma terrível saudade de Pam. O Natal sempre foi uma época de proximidade em nossa família. Não importa o que mais estivesse acontecendo, Pam costumava estar próxima de nós nessa data especial.

Nesta noite, estou determinada a vivenciar um pouco do espírito natalino com o que resta de minha família. Estou em casa da minha mãe, mas nem minha mãe nem meu marido parecem se importar em ter uma árvore de Natal, mas eu quero. Pedi a Donovan para trazer de nossa casa algumas decorações natalinas, incluindo luzes para enfeitar a árvore. Saio sozinha à noite na neve para comprar uma árvore, com a qual travo uma verdadeira luta para mantê-la de pé e encaixada na base metálica. Quando estou prestes a enfeitá-la, abro a caixa que Donovan trouxera e percebo que não havia luzes decorativas. Ele trouxe a caixa errada.

Chego ao limite. Grito com Donovan, “Por que você não trouxe as luzes? Pedi para trazer as luzes!”. Estou histérica e começo a soluçar. Logo após, ouço os sons de um andador metodicamente estalando em direção à sala de estar. Minha mãe está vindo de seu quarto, para ver o que está acontecendo. A última coisa com que quero lidar agora é aborrecer minha mãe com minhas angústias pessoais. Quando cheguei descontrolada em sua casa, dois anos atrás, sua reação foi querer chamar o serviço de emergência.  Ela não consegue lidar com emoções e, com certeza, não quero assustá-la. Então fujo para a cozinha e fecho a porta. Logo em seguida, ouço o tique-taque de seu andador vindo em minha direção. Corro em direção à outra porta da cozinha e volto à sala de estar. Ela retoma seu caminho para a sala e acabo parada ali, congelada como um cervo que se vê acuado pelas luzes de um veículo.

Minha velha mãe gira seu andador em direção ao sofá, senta-se e com um gesto gentil, mas impositivo, pede para sentar-me ao seu lado. Obedeço. Ela coloca seus braços ao meu redor e puxa minha cabeça sobre seu ombro emagrecido. Entrego-me, e recosto-me sobre seu corpo frágil, chorando.

Ela muito raramente fala comigo sobre Pamela.  Também tenho sido relutante em falar sobre isso porque, há alguns anos, tudo que ouvi foram julgamentos e críticas a respeito de Pam. Porém, agora, ela fala, “Não sei mais o que fazer. Gostaria que houvesse algo mais que pudesse fazer.” Entre soluços, respondo, “O que você está fazendo, bem agora, é perfeito.”

Minha mãe acrescenta, “Não sei como aguenta essa dor. Você é muito forte. Amo muito você.” Suas palavras surpreendem e confortam. Relaxo ainda mais e me deixo ser amparada, de uma maneira que talvez nunca tenha sido antes, ao menos desde que era uma menininha com o joelho esfolado. Qualquer amargura remanescente, com a qual pudesse ainda estar apegada nesses meus sessenta e três anos de idade, agora se dissolve completamente.

O choro se aquieta e simplesmente estamos ali, de mulher para mulher, sustentando juntas o que não consigo mais sustentar sozinha. Ela estende sua mão em direção ao andador e agarra a alça de sua bolsa, puxando-a para si. Tira da bolsa seu cartão de crédito, me entrega e diz, “Vá à loja de conveniências e compre algumas luzes de enfeite. Teremos a árvore deNatalque você quer.”





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Welcome to the blog for Love Unbroken.  On this blog Pamela and I will respond to questions and comments that you send to us via the Contact page.  Before you contact us, however, we ask that you first read our book.  That way we will have a common ground for discussion.  If you are so inclined, we recommend that you also complete the Study Guide of Questions for each chapter for yourself.  That way you will deepen your response to the book by probing your own experience of trauma and disappointment, as well as your own spiritual openings.  Then we will have even more common ground for discussion.

So, let us know what is on your minds via sending in questions or comments on contact page, and we will then respond via this blog.  Happy reading!


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