Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Asshole Next Door


You do not know what assholes walk among you. But sometimes you do, and you witness their abuses, shaking your head and walking away. They are always out there oppressing someone, costing the government money, making headaches for someone, sometimes even you, hurting someone, beating up on someone, and still, they wave a happy wave and grin a neighborly grin as they leave for work in the morning, as if the thought of their deplorable behavior never crossed their mind. So happily unfettered by things like remorse or conscience, they seem.

Assholes are an issue, a social justice issue. Yes, let's tackle the bigger social problems but look, if we cannot practice confronting assholery in our own neighborhood and friends and family circles, how are we going to effect change? We may be able to have our voice on a march, but how do we confront the person we see being an asshole in every day life? We are talking about the person who is the agonizing drip-drip-drip in the sink...the one who doses out abuse in frequent, tiny parcels. I know many out there are peace and love people, and want everyone to just get along. I do too, but to get to the peace and love part we need conflict. We need to deepen the divide between people before any change can occur. To do otherwise is to be self-deceptive and naive.

Shining the light of love does not mean allowing people to be dehumanized. If we accept the dehumanization and oppression of the immigrant, or single mom, or poor family next door, we become immune to its effects worldwide. This is why people can speak in the abstract that they are against oppression, yet when an oppressor is close to home, they can't back up their beliefs with action.

I get it. I think one reason is that you have to live and work with and around assholes. If you have to look at them every day, you want to keep some sort of peace. But then you are a bystander, and as such, you hold immense power for social change and justice. And that power bears a certain responsibility. Whenever we accept the abusive acts of people not in power but who are still abusive, we are responsible. Accepting the smallest acts of oppression and abuse is neutrality, and neutrality is sometimes just as oppressive as an asshole. 

Eventually,  it comes down to love. Again, James Baldwin writes: 

"If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see."

That takes courage. It takes having courageous and truthful confrontations with those we see who casually oppress in every day life. It means taking a stand and refusing to pretend along with them that they are an okay person. It means being able to call out their immorality or  hypocrisy. It means gathering, fostering, and practicing skills for conflict. That's right. It's ok to open up conflict. It's ok to stand up for what is right no matter where we are.

If we are silent with the small assholes, it is easier for us to accept the larger assholes. Bit by bit, dehumanizing and oppressive behaviors get normalized. We can't complain about it happening in our government if we are allowing it to happen in our own homes and neighborhoods and communities.

Write your lawmakers. Protest and go to marches. Attend meetings around social change. It is important to see the bigger picture and keep doing that hard work. And most of all, bring your attitude and convictions into your own home.

Right now, we should all be examining patriarchal oppression together. We should all be considering how and where we use our voices, and doing it consciously. It takes practice to confront oppressors and it is a skill to be learned. Confronting oppressors does not mean demean them, oppress them, or act like them. It means refusing to accept their behavior or their positive spin on their abhorrent behavior. It is a loving thing and takes great trust in yourself, and trust that an oppressor wants to be a good part of society and can, theoretically, change. And still standing when they refuse to change or acknowledge your viewpoint. They have free will and historically, many have worked hard over the centuries for assholes' rights, so that is nothing new. What is new is the level at which they are being called out. It takes a village to support an asshole, and it will take a village to reform them. Let's help each other hone this skill, with love and protection for each other.

The asshole next door won't stand a chance, and doing that kind of emotional litter-cleaning in our neighborhoods, families, workplaces, schools, and friendships will be like yeast in bread. It can't help but continue to raise our whole country to the level of justice, which is peace.

Making peace truly does begin in our homes. 

Heartened

Of course I gathered my children and joined the strong, joyful crowds today. Two rallies, thousands of people, many chants, marching, a peaceful diversity, so much hope. 
James Baldwin writes: 

"If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see." 

I have much hope that consciousness was raised today. Oh, and we saw a puppy. It was a day full of inspiration...enjoy these pictures.



For Star Wars fans

For Hamilton fans


for cat fans. I love this woman.



"Still waiting for Equal Pay, and Respect"














Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Out of prison


Once I was ignored, no, always I was ignored. I memory collected rock faces, cold shoulders, steel walls.
It broke me.
What I learned was to listen well to what was not being said.
What I opened my heart to was feeling words,
giving them weight, letting them settle
into earthen ears
and be real.
They are real.

Once, no, a thousand times, I was condescended to. I was not smart. I was not good enough. I was invisible.
It broke me. And it angered me.
What I learned was the legato cadence of lies,
the seductive soft hum of deception.
What I opened my heart to was that I make my own names.
I am no lie-names anyone says.
I am my own name and country,
my own address and street.

Once, no, more than several times I was told to let go. You don't get it. You JUST DON'T KNOW.
It confused me.
What I learned is that the feeling of being dressed in other's judgments,
however ill fitting and stupid they are,
however stiff in hand and odd in color,
is not me at all
What I opened my heart to was reversal possibility.
 I feel what I feel and know what I know. Maybe, just maybe,
they don't know anything. Not really.

Once, no, scores of times I was told it didn't really happen. I didn't see what I saw, hear what I heard.
It broke me.
What I learned was how to discern the thin thread of light that comes around the cracks of closed doors,
how to peer into darkness and widen myself.
What I opened my heart to was the true truth, the real truth,
the truth of my skin and what was put on it and what it felt.
My hands know more than tiny lights, more than unseeing eyes.
Thumbprint memories curved into inky rooms.
 No erasure.

Once, no, a million times I was told I didn't count. I didn't matter. I darkened caves, deepened deserts in years of exile.
It broke me.
What I learned was how to witness a manipulation from afar.
The unmoving shapes of blackmail shadows.
 How to slink through another's putrid heart.
What I opened my heart to was grief.
Blessed grief that brings the wet spring, the blush of green, the fertile deep.
The damp removal of pain without taking away the wound.
This broke me, too, out and away
from certain imprisonment.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

False Truths/what is missing

I think a lot about many people's encouragement that we need alternative systems to step into. We can't just denigrate the status quo without offering solutions. Toppling neoliberalism seems like an overwhelming, and maybe even unrealistic, task. I think neoliberalism will destroy itself eventually, because slaves are human beings, because our earth won't be exploited forever, because it goes against what is highest and best in a human being.
Because of my experience with the microcosms of that-interpersonal violence-I think a lot about what is is missing in the dynamic of oppressor/oppressed, abuser/scapegoat, attacker/target.
If these dynamics are the expression of the extremes of toxic masculinity, then it stands to reason that some feminine principles would be needed to come shift the dynamic. The principles of femininity are cyclical, and one big cycle that is disregarded in our relationships is the cycle of, in the words of Terry Real, "harmony, disharmony, and repair." Under the rules of patriarchy, though, the cycle is "harmony/compliance, disharmony/noncompliance, and exploitation/discard." This is a riff on the idealize/devalue/discard cycle of power-skewed abusive relationships.
But the most important difference between those cycles is the repair part. Our culture invites discarding things we don't use any more. When people are objectified, they are more easily discarded. Repair takes having capacities of forgiveness, grace, humility, personal insight, and sorrow/remorse.
The way around those capacities and one reason repairs don't get made is called "the false truth."
Sometimes, I hear the words of personal oppressors in my head. I can see their eyes roll at something I've said or written. I can hear them reflexively refuting something I've said, even something that I remember happening to me. This refuting and doubting of my reality happened so often that when I read about gaslighting, I was thrilled to have a word for what I was experiencing. I can see their faces pinch into a knee-jerk scoff at something I've said. I can hear them saying, "We HAD to punish you this way." "It's too bad we have to do it this way." I mean, the condescension and contempt toward me is so palpable as to be felt by other people. I hear their judgments of me, their unmitigated and unapologetic criticism, and how literally everything I say or stand for is "wrong." There is no way anything I say has value or truth. Talk about perspecticide.
But I thought about what they are experiencing. They sincerely believe, with all their being, that their perceptions, opinions, and actions are superior to everyone else's. If they do ever get past contempt, I can see their puzzled, confused faces at something I've written to them. I can hear them saying, "I just don't understand." They really can't understand anything outside of their reality. They really can't see. They really do not have that kind of insight into themselves.
I repeat, they REALLY CAN'T see.
Once again, denial and self-deception are overpowering to some. And they are ultimately crippling.
This is the false truth of oppressors-that they really are superior and everyone else should comply with their obviously right way. They don't see that in that attitude and orientation toward others they deem as inferior, there is terrorism and violence. They only see that they have cornered the market on the Truth and there are no other products out there, certainly none of any consequence. And they reinforce those "truths" in their enmeshed tunnel-vision echo chambers.
It is no wonder they are so angry and contemptuous. I'm sure it gets tiring having to assert the "real" truth to those "others" who just won't hear it. The self-deception is seamless.
Clearly, this kind of paradigm means there is no cycle of harmony, disharmony, and repair. The repair part is replaced by "compliance" or "forced compliance", ""discard" and "punishment". There is no room for grace, forgiveness, mutuality, or respect in this kind of relationship.
We who are survivors intuitively know this about oppressors, and we have to do the best we can. We know to expect that in their minds, their targets are always negated, stonewalled, disregarded, exploited, and treated like they aren't human.
When we love someone, we feel obligated to listen to and take on their false truths.Dealing with oppressors means recognizing their limitations and intolerance that causes them to be so psychologically violent. It means that false truths are released and placed back in the laps of oppressors. It means you have every right to be human and to reclaim your perspective as valid.
My vision for this world and for myself is to step into relationships that build capacities of forgiveness and grace. When we care for each other, we repair our relationships. We give weight to that which we value. People are not playthings to be discarded on a whim, to be used. When false truths used to justify abuse float away, love can then come in to replace the shame.
Beyond that, repairing relationships takes skill. It is hard to know what to do to repair, to make amends. Truly abusive people have little hope of moving past their convictions that they are right. It is a false truth. For them, they are like a robber that enters someone's house, completely wrecks and breaks things, causes irreparable damage, takes what is most valuable, then denies they did it. They turn around and say they had to do it. They say, "these people were bad people and deserved it." They say," they weren't doing what we wanted so we HAD to rob them and wreck their house."
The robber with that kind of entitled chip on his shoulder is not going to repair and work to restore. In a domestic/emotional violence situation, the "robber" goes free, without any consequences. And they don't care that there are other, more peaceful ways to get what you want than attacking and wrecking.
Even though I hold out no hope for abusers, I hold out hope for this world. Making amends should not be relegated to those in twelve step programs. Making amends is for everyone, and shows the greatest trust in one's own integrity. Making repairs should be the standard, and should be emphasized in relationships. Gosh, most people in therapy are there because someone they love hurt them and doesn't care and won't clean up their messes. The more people we can teach to repair their relationships, the better this world will be for everyone.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Changing the Narcissistic Narrative

I reference this articlehttps://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/battle-modern-manhood-megasahd/

I have to watch it with my son. Anytime a sentence is started in my head with "real men are.." I have to stop and question it. My son, although he is a typical boy, he IS still a little boy, he loves his stuffed animals and can tell me what he feels and needs and loves to cuddle with his mama. He knits and is artistic and theatrical. He loves to "invent" with his Legos.
I think about what it means to raise him to be a man, about what it means to be a man. I know what I've experienced from men: domination and abuse. I would never put that on my little boy and I will have to be the one to teach him a different way.  My own man-friend and I talk about the confusing messages men have to grow up hearing...messages about their worth. What exactly is a man supposed to be? What exactly is a "real man"? The prescribed life trajectory of our fathers and grandfathers is not even available any more. It's confusing as hell for men and women.
I'd say in my head, "real men do this, real men do that" "real men pay child support" but underneath those messages are the relational violations that bother me. In reality, the rub was my expectation that real people uphold their personal agreements. Real people don't abusively stonewall another. Real people don't act like toddlers to get what they want, or expect that everyone comply with what they want, or even expect that what they want is the right thing for everyone. It has nothing to do with being a man or woman and everything to do with just being a respectful human being.
Expectations for a man to abuse, to me, are the more extreme and toxic manifestations of the "man box." The linchpin of narcissism is exploitation. Exploitation is also the linchpin of neoliberalism and patriarchy. The "man box" works through exploitation as well:

"One of the central tenants (sic) of the Man Box is the subjugation of women, and by extension, the devaluing of all things deemed feminine." This hurts men by limiting their choices, and hurts women by keeping them the "weaker" sex. "

"Underneath the deadening blanket of conformity lurks explosive violence, bigotry, racism, sexism and a damaging model of manhood that is, in fact, a killer for men." (From the article)

This is the lie of patriarchy...that men do not already have this freedom and in order to gain their own freedom, they have to exploit or subjugate someone. There is no expectation of collaboration, or cooperation. No wonder men feel lonely and isolated and completely confused. There is so much emphasis on the outcome of any given situation, on traditional male values such as domination and conquering, that HOW an outcome is achieved is not valued, only THAT it is achieved. And don't look back on any destruction or clean up any mess you make. That's not being a man, either. Never admit weakness or defeat. Only women are defeated.
The narcissistic narrative that happens right now goes like this: narcissist captures a woman,  narcissist takes from her what he can based on his perception of her as a tool, toy, or obstacle, After 2 months or 20 years, she is left in a fog of devastation, which he will certainly take advantage of to either attack her in court, or to suck her back into the dysfunction with promises to change, which never happens. Then he happily trots off to the next victim, based on her looks, or money, or social status, and most certainly her willingness to put out.
Then first woman is left completely stonewalled and scapegoated and wondering what to do with herself in the wake of this abuse and chaos.
Changing this narrative involves changing the stories of both players: the narcissist and his target.
The narcissist's behavior is often toddler-like: obsessive, tit-for-tat, mocking, imitative. When  toddler's brand of justice is carried out, s/he is happy. "You grabbed my toys, ALL the toys are mine, therefore, I have to hit you and take back ALL the toys to make it even." In a man's body, when this is carried out, it also has adult undertones of manipulation, rage, going to great lengths to appear to BE a victim, and enjoyment of harm brought to others.
It is easier to use others when they pity you.
The woman in this narrative is left truthfully victimized. She will then enter a culture that will blame her, will berate her poor choices in men while at the same time excusing the behavior of this "poor choice", will tell her she should have done a million things, that she played her expected role all wrong, will tell her just to let go, and myriad others useless platitudes that show how little our culture really understands the bigger issues of abuse and trauma. She is forced to change her own story to fit this cultural dictate that she must not be a victim. After all, we "take care" of our victims by telling them not to be victims any more. We abandon victims on altars of our self-righteousness, superiority, condescension, and subtle criticism. We love to make a good martyr, and then love to turn around and tell her how wrong it is to be a martyr.
See? Patriarchy creates confusion for everyone. It's a sickness.
A victim who takes up this healing journey enters into the most glorious fight of her life, one she didn't ask for, but that is a moot point. In order to heal, she must find her strength, and summons Goddess-queen-woman warrior archetypes for this journey. She fights not just the one person who betrayed her, but cultural assumptions and attitudes. She comes to a larger awareness that our culture does not understand her, either, and people will seek to suppress that which they do not understand.
My own such journey has led me to take to heart the principles of non-violence and taking up the willingness to make sacrifices and be willing to lose everything in pursuit of justice and what is right. That's a different stance than the position of letting my selfhood be chipped away by abuse and out of love for a man, giving up my perception and right to be human. Staking my human ground is a conscious choice to be awake to what is happening and finally standing up for myself, and calling out lies and injustice.
One other thing I've heard people say to a victimized woman is, "oh, he's just being a man." That is the "man box" right there. Brushing off abuse by saying, "oh, he's just a man" places men in that tiny box that says they are largely offensive, angry, and abusive, an that this is ok as long as they aren't beating someone up. They are not "allowed" to leave the box to be compassionate, congruent, and expressive, to fully contribute, to be wholeheartedly supportive, and to be more than they are.
Changing the narrative around narcissism involves changing the boxes. The most extreme, rigid manifestation of the "man box" is narcissism. Allowing more men to feel that exercising compassion is to their advantage will also change the victim narrative. When culture tells a victim that her pain is her fault, and the abuse she experienced is her fault, it is upholding the man box and taking away the choices of victim and narcissist. If victims proudly proclaimed the truth of their victimization, it would force some people to look deeper into their assumptions yet it would also inspire others to staunchly use the strength of her truth to dismiss it even more completely. The narrative needs to be changed in our culture to one where we allow men more freedom, which takes away the benefits of being a narcissist, and give our attention and support to victims, so they can heal. Throw away those platitudes and give that woman a hug. Give that narcissist none of your pity. Or money. Or attention.
I don't want my son to be placed in the man box. I think often about what kind of man I am raising him to be, and the challenges he will face in this world. I think about how this is foreign to me as a woman and I cannot fully understand the struggles he will face as a man. As a woman who has experienced the violence of men in her body, psyche, and personal economy, I wonder what kind of culture venerates and tolerates this kind of behavior towards another human being. Will my son be told by his culture that being an asshole is the superior way to go? Will he join his brothers in a rally cry of "get that bitch"? Where will he learn that men and women can be mutually supportive and that health is not exploitation? Where will he learn that being a strong person does not involve creating fictional enemies to subjugate and bring down? Can I teach him forgiveness and grace and the softness of his heart without putting him in cultural danger?
I know the research: that relationships based on feminism are more successful. Think: cooperation and mutuality. I know all of Gottman's research and other psychological research that shoots down the perceived benefits of dominance and grandiosity. But our culture doesn't listen to research...our legal system doesn't listen to research and narcissists certainly don't listen to any research that defies their exploitative logic. I get so tired of watching and hearing people spout off how great this research is and how much they agree with it, then go home to their families and relationships and completely ignore the practice of applying what they know. Hypocrisy is maddening. Therefore, appealing to logic and intellect is not effective for change. There are plenty of people who know in their heads what is right but in their hearts and deeds they cling to what is sick and dysfunctional.
What it takes is for hearts to change, to lift the level of cultural empathy, to shift our mindset from one of venerating exploitation, dominance, and competition,  to one of seeing and taking care of the other;to one of caring about another's suffering. Shifting an oppressive mindset, and ridding ourselves of oppressive, rigid boxes, begins in our homes, both by people removing the boxes and people stepping out of the boxes.
Love is a freedom we don't even know how to enjoy yet. My prayer is that more people come together in love.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wounds

Leslie Jamison:
"We’ve got a Janus-​faced relationship to female pain. We’re attracted to it and revolted by it; proud and ashamed of it. So we’ve developed a post-​wounded voice, a stance of numbness or crutch of sarcasm that implies pain without claiming it, that seems to stave off certain accusations it can see on the horizon—melodrama, triviality, wallowing—​and an ethical and aesthetic commandment: Don’t valorize suffering women. You court a certain disdain by choosing to write about hurting women. You get your period with sharks around—​exposed column of nerve and blood—​but everyone thinks it’s a stupid show. You want to cry, I am not a melodramatic person! But everyone thinks you are. You’re willing to bleed but it looks, instead, like you’re trying to get bloody. When you bleed like that—​all over everything, tempting the sharks—​you get told you’re corroborating the wrong mythology. You should be ashamed of yourself. Plug it up. "

"The wounded woman gets called a stereotype, and sometimes she is. But sometimes she’s just true. I think the possibility of fetishizing pain is no reason to stop representing it. Pain that gets performed is still pain. Pain turned trite is still pain. I think the charges of cliché and performance offer our closed hearts too many alibis, and I want our hearts to be open. I just wrote that. I want our hearts to be open. I mean it. "



This essay has me chewing on wounds a lot. That is what I do anyway, chew on wounds, bloody my mouth, try sometimes desperately to grieve and feel my way through them, to go to the original source of grief, to love my pain not as identity but as life. Serene Jones writes, "to be human is to dance within a hair's breadth of the unbearable" So if everyone is dancing this dance of pain, why women's pain?
Paula Cole sings a clue, "I take on the water until the dam threatens to break." A woman's pain is an issue because women are the vessels for our collective pain. Women are the soft bellies crying children nestle into when hurting. Women cry, feel what others cannot feel. "Pain that is not performed" is a recipe for sickness. If we do not express human grief, then we get sicker and sicker. And we already have a culture that faithfully upholds the three roads to Hell: "Don't talk. Don't trust. Don't feel."  Women are the unsung saviors from this hell, but they all don't know it yet.
"Fetishizing women's pain" is safer than dealing with women's anger. Anger is more powerful than wounds, and more threatening. If we minimize the pain by numbing it or compartmentalizing it, then we don't ever have to face WHY a woman's pain. The man who dropped her-HE did the wounding-he would have to smear blood on HIS hands. The man who fucked her and didn't call back-HE would have to admit his misogyny. Of course she is angry and instead of going all Kali on him and this world, she turns destruction in on herself, through cutting, indiscriminate sex, drinking, and otherwise acting out her grief without actually feeling it. It's misplaced energy and powerlessness. It's a giving up because suffering, divorced from resolution, must be done alone. It's safer that way. An angry women risks all manner of punishments for her very appropriate responses to wounds inflicted on her by fellow human beings.
I would say this acting out occurs with men, too. It's hard enough to get human mercy for our wounded soldiers, whose traumas are real and visceral and horrifying. Where does anyone go to get comfort and compassion? Instead, we marginalize and shelf those who are wounded. We don't know how to deal with them, nor do we necessarily feel motivated to learn how.
Until this culture accepts feelings in general, especially the feelings of women, we are going to have responses that shame and squash feelings. Because of this, the pain of men is not spoken of except in terms of wounding to his ego or pride. Fetishizing wounds gives everyone a way out, because it forgets that in order to have wounds, there is a wounding, and a wound-er. A wound is only a symptom, a consequence. The myriad paths to minimizing wounds also obliterate the act of wounding, and the fascinating personality of a wound-er.
I come from the other side. It took me a long time to move past my own trauma-induced alexithymia to be able to not just name feelings, but feel them. It's an awkward, halting, stumbling kind of dance, a blindness that plays with light and shadow and sees more and more of the time and it never feels like it's enough. But the more I am in touch with my very real feelings and responses, the more I must mitigate talking about them or feeling them in front of others who have not traveled that path. Not everyone "does" feelings, yet. And I have a long way to go. 
Which brings me back to wounds. Wounds are interesting, because once you are wounded and locked into exploring those wounds, you realize that wounds have lessons and power. A woman's acting out of grief, this, I think, is poorly resisting the allure of sickness, so she can feel more wounding. Self-betrayal is a beautiful anesthetic. And what better way to self-betray than to go find a sickness to entertain, and therefore, more wounds to have. There are lots of walking sicknesses who will help a woman feel nothing but her wounds. Wounds and wound capturing and management for the rest of society are only a small part of a woman's worth. It is a mistake to see this as a liability when it is a huge asset.
It is not yet safe for us to open our hearts. Too many sharks in the water, too many waiting to bring down a feeling woman with their machine-gunned judgments and criticism, to many wanting to hold on to the comfort of numbness. They don't want to feel because they don't want the responsibility. They might have to face the truth: you are the source of another's wound. That takes guts and we don't collectively have it in us yet.
To announce a wound takes extreme courage and is an act of anarchy in such an emotionally hostile environment.

Poets, that is where wounds are true:

Power, by Adrienne Rich

Living in the earth-depositis of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power












Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Denial

I started my foray into healing nearly twenty years ago with a stellar and spectacular display of projection. I was perusing the self-help section of the bookstore because I was convinced my then-boyfriend had ADD or something I could help him with through armchair diagnosis. (Ahem)Or at least help me figure out what I needed to do for myself, since this was one of those on-again, off-again affairs.
The first book I picked up was "Scattered" by Gabor Mate`. I spent a good thirty minutes in the aisle of Borders reading Mate`'s deeply engaging style, but what began to dawn on me was not that I was reading about my boyfriend, I was reading about ME. That was one of those, "oh, shit. I've got work to do" moments.
Mate`'s premise was that ADD has roots in trauma.  Once I was awakened to this for myself, I bought the book and devoured it. Although I did not immediately delve into a committed healing journey, my eyes were opened and could not be unopened. The seed was planted.
However, something crept in as a force to stop me from changing and healing and growing or knowing TOO much. That force was denial. Over the years I'd swing between growing self-awareness, and going back to "sleep". At one very defining moment, I could no longer be in denial. It took a complete realization that I was in a re-enactment of childhood wounds to wake me up good and steady, and get my feet on a solid path to healing.
I did that, and healing at one point, as I've written about, became a complete severance from abusers, body and soul. I still have to see those who brought me harm without making restitution. I also see those who brought me harm and who have made restitution, and it is a beautiful thing to know there is love and care flowing between people in the form of forgiveness and remorse, and I get to clean up my messes with honesty and transparency. But still others are thick with denial.
Denial is a burden you don't know you have. There have been painful memories I could only speak of in the robotic monotone of the traumatized...the complete disconnect between harm and response. It's called dissociation. I'm sure someone would say I wasn't in denial because I could speak the words and the language of self-awareness, but I had resolved nothing...if it had been resolved, my feelings would have adequately communicated the gravity of the trauma.
Yet I still watch with curiosity those who deny in the face of facts. Denial and self-deception are forces that are extremely strong, and they take over capacities to think. In families where there has been sexual abuse, it  is not uncommon for the whole family system to deny the abuse. Keeping the family "together", no matter how dysfunctional, takes precedence over dealing with painful reality. The ensuing charade locks people in rigid family roles and deception so large it is absolutely delusional. For example, the family whose family member spent time in jail for a crime pretends it didn't happen or that the family member doesn't have a problem. Facts and truths are worthless when face to face with family dysfunction and denial.
This is hurtful for family members who were abused and who play the role of scapegoat. It is well known in therapy circles that the scapegoat has the most hope for change and healing, since they are not operating under the delusions of denial. But it hurts to realize that your family does not uphold the same values of truth, love, and connection that you do.
Abuse is a forceful division, and it should be. Anyone who can't cut through their own denial and self-deception is still an abuser. But I get it. The urge to belong to a family that looks and acts a certain way and has no dark side is so strong. I, too, wanted a beautiful, picture-perfect family. I was henpecked and scapegoated the hell out of that illusion. It took me awhile to say thank GOD I am free. No "perfect", loving family would scapegoat anyone.
At the holidays, because of family gatherings, gifts given or not given, having to act nice to people who you know hate your guts and have the trail of offenses to prove it, childhood memories coming back to haunt you, it can be hard. Part of healing is learning to deal with people who are still under the utter blindness of denial, who have no insight into themselves, and who can't deal with feelings.
Abusers can be especially wiley during the holidays.
My advice for those who are healing like me, is to care for yourself. Set healthy boundaries so that those in denial cannot abuse you. If silence and stonewalling are their preferred methods of abuse, then take that as silent agreement with you, because it is.They are showing their abusive colors so that is proof. If passive-aggression is their abuse, just let it go and try again another day. If outright verbal attacks are more their speed, know this in advance and do not put yourself in positions where you are alone with them.
One of the consequences of being in and around those in a system of denial is that you constantly question your own perception. Strengthen your perception by writing down abuser's offenses. Dysfunctional systems are good at splitting...meaning, they put on a superficial front and even say they are a certain way, but their actions are in direct opposition to their words. Heap on layers of proclaimed beliefs that they are "right" or "protective" in their offenses and it can make your head spin with confusion. You have to say, "Yep, they did say that. Yep, they did do that...here is the email trail. Here is where I journaled about it." Use your good sense to not talk yourself out of facts. Remind yourself who they have shown you they are. They are not picture-perfect-beautiful-family-loving-Christmas people. They are people who deliberately hurt you, withheld from you, verbally attacked and judged you, looked the other way when you were being abused,  blamed you, negated your humanity, completely obliterated your perception, and pretended that when they threw you a crumb, they were Gods. The problem is, you WANT to believe the good parts of them that absolutely WERE there. You want to believe they were the sum of any goodnesses they showed you. But in the absence of change or restitution, the damage is still there and they cannot be trusted.
Re-ordering your life post trauma means imagining relationships where people care, are safe and accepting, are sensitive and kind, can make amends and restitution, would never purposely hurt you, and who patiently love you through your pain. Gathering these people to you and valuing them in your life is imperative. Give as much time to family at the holidays as needed, allowing the divide of abuser/abused to be there, but make sure you touch base with those with whom you can be real and who understand the language of trauma. Chances are, these people are family just as much as "real" family. It is hopeful to make new holiday traditions that reflect the light of truth and your deepening healing. Use your abusers to show you what is real, simply by virtue of the fact that they represent what is fake.
As for love, it is hard not to love your father, or mother, or ex, or anyone you were close to that hurt you. These feelings of love come up and might make you self-betray. But remember, while coming out of denial is painful, shameful, and devastating, it is the biggest gift anyone can receive. Don't deny anyone else that gift by pretending along with them. Holding to the truth and stating it is a GIFT to abusers, because it gives them the opportunity to connect with their highest self, which is to be caring, compassionate, and empathetic. They always have free will in how they treat people, just as you do. If you feel inclined to give, give freely. Expect nothing.
Most of the time the holidays go off without a glitch. The holidays, for me, are not the time to confront or work something out with someone. It's more about my self-care and making my own joyful, free-of-dysfunction rituals.
And as always, such deep gratitude for this journey, even for abusers.