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Healing The Asian's Shame With Lilian Warman

Published on: Jun 29, 2018

To be a virgin is the most important things in a girl’s life. This is how women have been taught in the Asian culture, and the Asian’s shame is when you lose that virginity before you get married. Yoga instructor and an intuitive coach Lilian Warman escaped from Vietnam at the age of twelve and came to US at the age of fourteen in 1982. She was raped several times during the transit. Lilian carried that stigma for years, and not being able to open up and talk about it made the anger, resentment, guilt, and shame eat at her inside like cancer. It was only when she discovered yoga that she was able to give herself permission to talk and emotionally detoxify her body that healed her childhood trauma and awakened her soul. She is now helping other women who were sexually violated to clear the pain and to live happy by teaching them how to love themselves.

Healing The Asian’s Shame: Virginity with Lilian Warman

This episode is one of several episodes in this special series called Healing the Asians’ Shame. You will hear a story of a twelve-year-old girl who had an unforgettable event that had traumatized her for the past three decades and how shame and unworthiness had passed on to the next generation and had damaged her marriage. Our guest is Lilian Warman, a yoga instructor and an intuitive coach. Lilian used meditation to heal her childhood trauma and awake her soul. She sees her life as an accomplishment and not as an achievement to prove to others. To her, being authentic with herself is enough. Welcome, Lilian. I understand that you escaped from Vietnam when you were fourteen years old. Is that right?

I escaped when I was twelve. I got to the US when I’m fourteen.

Can you take us back at the time when you were growing up in Vietnam? What was your life like when you were in Vietnam during that time?

All I remember was I was born in a war in ’68 and the war ended in ’75. At the time, I see my parents struggling with the communists and stuff like that. Between ’80 and’81, a lot of people who’s a Chinese descendant, they legally left Vietnam. My parents sent me out by boat, which was illegal. I escaped by boat at the age of twelve. Then I remember my mom woke me up at 3:00 AM and she said I have to go. Deep down I knew that I had to go. It was tough.

Were you the only one in your family who left or did your whole family leave Vietnam by boat?

Only me and my oldest sister.

Where did you get the boat?

My father. He had a connection with someone with the captain that owned the boat. They were organizing people to escape. There were a lot of people on the small boat.

You and your sister escaped, and your parents and other siblings stayed back in Vietnam. Do you remember the reason that your parents wanted you two to leave Vietnam at that time? 

A better life and freedom for us at the time.

Did you have other siblings besides your sister? 

I have eight total.

What happened to them? 

I have an oldest brother and another older sister that left a couple of months before I did. My dad got a letter that they got to Malaysia. That’s when my father organized the second trip with other people to escape. That’s when I left with my other sister.

I am Vietnamese. I understand the situation during that time. Were your parents Chinese-Vietnamese or Vietnamese-Chinese?

My grandfather is truly Chinese.

Your parents already had two of your siblings escape by boat. Did the communists give you a hard time asking, “Where are your children?” 

I’m not sure if the government asked my dad after my brother and sister left. They probably didn’t know.

They didn’t check or pay attention to how many kids are in the family? 

I don’t recall that.

What happened during that journey by boat? How many days were you on the sea?

We’re on the ocean for three days. It was a long journey for me because that’s the process of sneaking out of the country. I had to hide on some islands because they go by group, different group meeting, and different places. A bunch of us were on some small islands that we already passed their coast guard. In a way, we were safe but not until someone picked us up. I was there for three days or something and we didn’t have any shelter, hiding on the islands. That’s it. Then on the third day, we saw a boat came by and picked us up. Then we’re in the ocean for three days.

On the second day, we were attacked by pirates. They passed and I heard the captains were saying that we were approached by the US ship or something, but it turned out to be pirates. They were using American flag. I’m assuming that’s what I heard. We are attacked by different bunch of pirates. They took everything. They turned everything upside down and searched everything. They took all the gold from all of us, whatever we wear or whatever they found in the boat.

The Asian’s Shame: Maybe this is how we deal with life, to shut everything down. I learned that that’s the only way to solve a problem is don’t talk about it.

After they took everything, they transferred us to their own ship. At first, they seemed very nice because they cooked for you and they fed you. When the night come, that’s when they start attacking the women. What they did was they took some of us young ladies, transfer us to our own boat, and they started raping us. At that time, I was young, so I didn’t know. When I was back home, we heard a lot of that going on when people escape from the country, but I didn’t know what it was until it happened to me.

I was the youngest one, so I didn’t know how to react, how to handle my emotion and stuff like that. I had a lot of issue around that area after everything happened. I had a lot of questions after I was raped, but no one can answer me because either they don’t know what to answer me or they don’t know how to. Their reaction mostly is silent. No one ever said anything.

This must be the hardest and most horrifying story that we, as Vietnamese, experienced or heard about. My story was similar, but we were luckier than your story when we left. Our family decided to leave at the same time because we tried to escape several times before. We could not get out. We always got caught. At the end, my mom decided, “Let’s all go together.” We got out. We applied to get out as Chinese, although we were not Chinese at all. We were pure Vietnamese, but we bought a fake paper to prove that we are Chinese, so we were able to get out in 1978. 

Our boat also got attacked by pirates, but fortunately at that time, maybe these pirates were small. I heard that they had guns, but only a few guys. All they need is some money and boat engine. Our captain negotiated with them and said, “Leave us alone. Here’s the money, here’s the gold. This is what you need and leave us alone.” At that time, we ran out of food. We ran out of water and everything. 

Luckily, they left us alone. They did not approach any us. I was at the bottom of the boat.  At that time, the captain told us to hide all the woman inside, so all they see are guys. They have more guys than us, so they said, “Give us money and an engine and we’re going to leave you alone.” None of us got hurt. A day or two days later, we got rescued by the German ship. It must be hard. Did it happen to your sister as well?

She was fifteen. She was dragged down to our own boat, but somehow she wasn’t rape. That’s how much we talk about this issue because I didn’t know until a few years ago that she wasn’t raped.

It happened in 1982, so that’s 30 some years.

My cousin, she’s older. She also left with us and she was raped. She was a teacher so when I came to US, I talked to her about it. I opened up the conversation and then she forbade me. It seemed like a subject that no one needs to talk about. I learned from her that maybe this is how we deal with life, to shut everything down. I learned that that’s the only way to solve a problem, don’t talk about it.

Probably because she was also raped. She was ashamed. It probably brings up painful memory and she wants to bury it and she doesn’t want to talk about it. She did not realize that if she doesn’t talk about it, she would not be able to heal emotionally. You probably know that our disease is caused by the mental stress because of the thought and the feeling. These trauma inside us, unless we talk about it, unless we were able to forgive whoever did it to us or forgive ourselves for any reason that we have, unless we do that, we would not be able to do heal ourselves. 

That emotion of anger, resentment, guilt, shame, it’s going to eat us inside. It will start inside and will appear outside. It will show up like cancer, it will show up as ulcer. It will show up as all kinds of diseases. I’ve learned that through the years of becoming a coach. That’s the reason I want to share what our Asian community, especially Asian women and I want to encourage them to talk about it because it is not worth it to keep it and hold on it for the rest of your life. What happened after you came here?

When I came to US, because I was young, I tried to figure out what went on. I was always curious. I knew what they did to me was wrong, but I didn’t know what it meant until I went through all the refugee camp and stuff like that. Then I find more things happened. Even in the refugee camp, we were violated.

You got to escape, you got attacked by pirate and then where did you land?

In Malaysia.

Did somebody take you to Malaysia? 

We landed somewhere in Malaysia. At that time, because there are so many of us that came to Malaysia, authorities came in and took us to some of the area. I don’t remember clearly, but they took us by boat too. When we first got there to Kuala Lumpur, that’s when they took us girls who got raped to the hospital to check. Then we were in the Philippines.

How would they know who got raped? 

They asked or something and then they took us to the hospital. They must have asked someone. They took some of us at a hospital and then we were in the Philippines. I felt that we were violated too in the Philippines because when I first got to the Philippines, the first time I got to the doctor, he violated me because of the way he was examining me. As a doctor, that was wrong. Luckily, my brother knew something was going on, so he ran to the office and then he told me to leave. I ran out of the office because what he did was wrong. The way he examined me, it wasn’t a doctor examining. It’s like a procedure we have to do every time we go to a refugee camp. They always have the physical exam. This doctor violated me.

Was he the only one there?

Yes, he was the only one there. Every time we go to another place, there’s another thing to do. When I got to US, I have a problem with seeing a doctor for a long time. Every time they have a physical checkup, I refuse to do it because I didn’t want to go through the same thing with every doctor again.

You can choose the woman doctor.

I mostly did. Now I’m more comfortable with a male doctor than before.

Personal violation is hard to get over with. You came here and you settled. Did you go to school here?

I went to school here in middle school, eight grade. That’s when I started to go through my childhood problem because I was confused and I was in pain. I was in pain and I was angry in my culture too, because of the incident that happened to me. After I was raped, this woman approached me. I was trying to find my clothes. She was asking me if I was bleeding. I didn’t know what she meant. I kept asking, “What do you mean?” She said, “Were you bleeding?” I was confused. I didn’t know why she’s saying that.

Later on, what she meant was if I was bleeding, then I lost my virginity. That made me angrier. I take it out of our culture because our culture is before we get married, what I learned back home, is that you have to be a virgin. That made me angry because I felt that all people care about is whether I’m a virgin or not, not because of what happened to me. That made me distant with our culture for a long time because I felt that it wasn’t right. That’s part of the healing part I have to go through and I have to learn to forgive her for her ignorance, but it took me a while to heal.

She’s also in the boat. She was a member in the boat?

After we were raped and stuff, they transferred the people from the boat back to our boat. She asked me that question and I was trying to find my clothes to wear and all she could ask me was if I was bleeding. I didn’t know that what they did to me, I knew it was wrong, but later on, I figured out what she meant.

How long did it take you to heal? 

When I came to the US, my cousin has forbidden me to talk about it. I came to conclusion that, “This is how we, humans, have to deal with problems. We shove it away.” Maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m the one who had a problem because I keep asking, trying to find the answer. I dealt with that and she never talked about it again. I thought I was healed because I didn’t talk about it. Later on in life, I go through marriage and then have children. By the age of 40, I went through a lot of struggling in my life. You get to a certain age; you try to figure out the meaning of life. I went through that period of time that I felt like they’re changing, that there’s something in me that’s telling me there’s something I have to do with my life and that I wasn’t happy. I still have a lot of resentment.

I went through a lot of counseling, but I never brought up my childhood trauma. I thought that it wasn’t a problem. I went through the counseling with marriage and stuff like that, but never talked about the issue. One time, I was interested in yoga. I signed up to be the instructor. I went through a lot of our training like meditation. When I meditate, I would cry all the time. Meditation would bring me back when I was twelve. It keeps bringing me back to that age and then I keep crying. I went to my teacher and I asked her, “I don’t understand why because I never talk about that part of my life.” She says, “No, that need to be surfaced.” When I meditate, all that stuff that needs to be surfaced and dealt with, that’s how I knew I wasn’t healed, that whatever I did, I would just bury it. I wasn’t in touch with the part that caught me the pain and anger that I didn’t realize that it was part of a problem in my life. That’s when I start opening up and healing my trauma.

The Asian’s Shame: This is how we, humans, have to deal with problems. We shove it away.

Your ex-husband and your children, none of them know about this at all?

We were the same age and on the same boat. He knew about it but we never talked about it. My kids knew about it, but I briefly told them the story. Not until now.

Are you completely healed now? What do you think about our philosophy, our beliefs to be a virgin? To be a virgin is the most important thing in a girl’s life. Do you still see the same thing? Would being a virgin determine your value?

I carry that stigma that we have to be a virgin, but it’s a personal choice because it’s our body. We have to respect and value ourselves, but there still is a personal choice as a woman, but that doesn’t define who we are. I totally disagree. I know that causes a lot of pain for a lot of women who went through the same thing I did and no one ever talks about it.

Do you still know a few of them, where you live right now?

After we left the refugee camp, we lost touch, so no. We all went to different places.

How did you know you were not healed by the age of 40? You thought that you were healed because you did not talk about it at all. You say that during the age of 40 you feel like you are struggling. Did you experience any health issues during that time?

Health issues but a lot of emotional issues like resentment and anger, not valuing myself and self-worth. When I married my first husband, I went through a lot of stuff with him and went to a lot of things to do with him. I would put myself last in my marriage. I became a doormat. I put up with all his crap. I wasn’t valuing myself when I was in a marriage with him. I learned a lot from the marriage, but I didn’t know where that come from. What I learned is that we attract who we are, not because I’m a bad person. I’m attracted to him because I have a lot of anger, resentment, a lot of the things I have to deal with and learn to love myself.

He was a lesson for me because he taught me a lot about myself when I left the marriage. I knew a lot about myself when I left the marriage. What I put up with and why, what, how. How did I put myself into that situation? I learned to forgive myself for putting myself into that situation. After that, I learned to love myself. My childhood was the core of the problem and that’s when I realized how I tracked all relationship in a way because of who I am.

How long did you stay in that first marriage? 

Fifteen years.

Was he abusive?

Yes, physically, emotionally, mentally. I learned to, at the end, give myself courage to get out of my marriage because I was worth it. It took me a while, a long time to figure out what I have to do.

You were the one who applied to get the divorce? 

Yes, the second marriage.

Then you married somebody else who was not Asian. Was it intentionally by choice? “I will not deal with another Asian man any longer.”

He’s very good to me, but he does not know how to love my kids, so that’s the big issue. That’s why I had to divorce him. When my kids went through their own journey, when they are in their teenager age, that has to do with their father. By staying in the marriage, I put my kids through bad example. I teach to put up with all the stuff that I put up with my ex. They learned, they pick up that pattern too. When they go through their teenage, they were very rebellious. My second husband, he doesn’t know how to deal with that, but they are my kids. I have to choose them. That’s why I got divorced. My kids went through a lot of things because I put them through a lot with my ex too.

How old are you kids now? Are they boy and girl? 

25 and 26. They are both girls.

Your story, your trauma is important for them. Did you talk to them?

I’m more in tune and more grounded. I get to help them through my old life because what they did was they repeat my pattern. Whatever I went through with their father, they repeat the same thing by choosing boyfriends the same way. I have to heal myself first before I can help them. When I do that, I’d be able to see it clearly and then see what they are doing and guide them through their own process, so that’s a big breakthrough for me. I keep trying to fix them, but I haven’t fixed myself first. By healing myself first, I was healing them, so that’s the a-ha moment for me. One of them is still single. My oldest have two kids. They are seven and one.

Congratulations, you’re grandma. I want to interview other people who have interracial marriage and want to find out what that dynamic looks like so if you know, anybody, let me know. What are your lessons or advice to people who have experienced trauma similar like yours? What would be your top three advice to them?

It’s okay. The second thing is to emotionally detox your body from all the pain. Find someone to talk to, anyone that’s in a safe place. If you don’t feel safe, find someone safe to talk to.

Maybe work with a life coach, a relationship coach. That’s my specialty because I can recognize and I can see that most of the time, the thing that we’re struggling with is invisible to us. It is deep rooted from childhood, the way our parents treated us or something happened in our childhood that made us feel that we’re not worthy, we’re not loved, we’re not wanted. 

We made up that story and we carried on until the day that we realized that there is something that we’re not happy about, but you don’t know what it is until the day that you say, “I want to find out what’s stopping me. Why do I have so much trouble in this area where it should be easy?” That is something I can help with. That’s what life coach is about, and I’m specifically focused in helping Asian women to deal with that relationship either with themselves or with others like their spouse or their parents, in terms of a culture relationship. In our culture around Asian tradition, how you can communicate so that you feel heard, respected and valued. 

Two of your advice is one, give yourself permission to talk. The second is have an emotional detox for your body. 

Say something that triggers us because it’s something that we need to heal. That’s my big awareness of every therapy people saying something. If I feel triggered, feel angry or whatever, it’s something inside that I need to get in touch with. That’s when I look within.

What was your process of looking within? 

This person is saying something that bothered me so much, something that triggered me to make me feel uncomfortable or whatever it is. I always ask myself that question and let the answer come to me and I always get the answer. It always triggers something, the pain that we had either in childhood or whatever it was. I do a lot of forgiveness work.

If you recognize the modality, what’s the next step after you recognize emotional technique? 

Freedom technique. What it does is it clears whatever’s bothering you.

Express it out loud. You’re tapping to the point, the meridian. 

You can release all the emotions stuck in you.

You tap into meridian point and acknowledge the pain or the feeling or the emotion that you experience and forgive yourself.

I do a lot of yoga too.

You use EFT to heal your emotion, to clear it out. When you’re talking about yoga, do you sit there and wait? I think yoga and meditation is different.

I like to mix up the classic yoga and meditation and movement. I like both.

What is your legacy?

I hope to know one person at a time. My message is there are a lot of women out there that were sexually violated and sometime they carry a lot of pain. I want to help people clear the pain and to live happy. We are all here to learn to love ourselves.

You are working with men as well as women and it could be Asian. You’re not focused on Asians, exclusive of Asians. I am inclusive Asian because I see so much pain within our community and I want our community to be aware of what we have put up with up to now. It is time for us to speak out, to step up, be seen, be heard, and be valued. That’s the goal for this podcast.

Thank you so much for your time and your generosity to share your story. I know that your story will heal a lot of women out there, especially Asian women who are going through a difficult relationship with their spouse, with their parents, and who may have similar experience like you did, to get out of the country to get here. How can people reach you or get in touch with you, Lilian?

What I have is my Facebook. They can reach at me Lilian Warman on Facebook.

Thank you, and until next time. Be well. I hope you will ponder and reflect on your life. Check to see if you have persistent feeling of shame, guilt, and unworthiness. If you do, trace back to your past and find the first incident that triggered that feeling and thought. Find out what happened and what was the conclusion that you told yourself. Stop feeling like a victim and start taking ownership of your life. If you feel that you have been holding back because of these persistent feelings, find a good therapist to resolve this issue first, and then work with a life coach like me to help you powerfully move forward in your life. Schedule a time with me if you have any questions. Until next time, live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes

 “I have to heal myself first before I can help them.”

“We have to be a virgin, but there still is a personal choice as a woman. That doesn’t define who we are.”

About Lilian Warman

My name is Lilian Warman. I was born in Vietnam. I escape from Vietnam at the age of 12. I came to U.S at the age of 14 in 1982. I have been in U.S for 36 years. I love to travel and explore. I love the beach and nature. The beach and nature help to ground me. Through my training as a yoga instructor and through meditation and yoga practices, I began healing my childhood trauma and awakened my soul. It taught me to listen and be kind to herself. Yoga taught me to focus within and connect to my higher self. It opens my heart to create space to love myself, to receive and give love. I learn to detox everything and everyone one that no longer healthy for me. It helps to me to see my life as an accomplishment and not an achievement to proof to others. All I have to do is just BE my authentic self and that is enough!
I am trained as an Intuitive Coach with Collette Baron Reid. I trained in Malaysia with Lillian Too – the only female Feng Shui master in Asia. I am also studying with Karen Parker for her Healing by Human Design certification. Who I am is not what I do but how I BE. Self-love is my key to Being!

Connect with me on Facebook- Lilian Warman.

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