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, 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. You are not going crazy. 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 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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Into the Fire

2016 was largely a shitstorm of a year.
So many good people in our culture died.
I learned the hard way what financial abuse is, and the high price of standing up for yourself. I made the decision I would pay any amount to be free of any abuser and that I have earned the right to stand up for myself, and it sure beats trigger-ridden reactivity.
I got my heart broke, really good and broke, for the first time since my divorce.
I rode this shitty rollercoaster through so many tears and a commitment to grief, because, when life sucks, you grieve, and your passion dictates that when you grieve, you do it with gusto and commitment.
So I grieved and grieved and totally got lost and found over and over.
I took seriously Walter Wink's suggestion to "pray for an oppressor's transformation". Man, I prayed and prayed, and did all the things on that list and do you know not one oppressor has transformed. So I keep reminding myself, "they aren't capable, they aren't capable, they aren't capable." I have to give them over to God, who is more talented than I am in moving people.
I recalled a verse from the Calendar of the Soul that speaks of "wings being lamed by hope." Oh, so much hope came my boatloads of grace and gratitude. I truly made the soul transformations out of my circumstances and out of this shitty year. But I got tired of hoping. And grieving. And doing the difficult rituals around spiritual alchemy...of transforming pain into something good.
My hope and subsequent disappointment didn't just happen with oppressors, it happened with many people who just didn't get it, who rejoiced in others doing the wrong thing, and who, given opportunities to do the right thing, turned their snubby noses into the air and went back to being hypocrites. Just when I hope someone is going to be good, they show me how ugly they can be. The election was sad. Online dating was sad. Everything was sad. I can hear Charlie Brown's pitiful voice clarifying this sadness.
I got sad at seeing other people break up, have cancer, deaths of loved ones, struggles with mental illness, struggles with health, struggles with patriarchy. I got pissed off at male role dominance and how it is played out over and over and over ad nauseum.
I constantly felt like I was in Seinfeld's upside down land...remember that episode?
Nothing made sense. It wasn't logical. It was really weird and just downright hurtful.
I felt powerless to change any of this. I wanted to crawl into a hole and at three nodal points in the year, I definitely crawled into a hole and suffered. BIG time. I hope any oppressors that read this and work so hard for my suffering are happy and satisfied reading that. You may gloat even more now.
I'm not a fighter but I was forced into fighting by fighters who don't fight fair. Bullies.
I am measuring out this shitty year and trying to look at all the ugliness that happened and balance it with some good.
And the good is absolutely there. I grew closer to a friend who is very, very dear to me. I met kind men along the way who made sure I knew when I was witnessing asshole behavior and they helped me keep it real. I maintained a 4.0 and will be graduating in 2017, something that makes me, a person who has done everything backwards, tear up with sadness and pride. I "became" a writer and have been published at least twice this year. I became stronger in my convictions about what is right, and I have education to thank for that. I started painting again. I wrote songs on the piano.I helped people find their singing voice. I helped children and deepened my love for them. I became more humble and grateful. God put just the right people in front of  me. I am proud of my children. I grew in courage, the courage to speak up, and the courage to heal. I opened up, cracked up, and was able to peek out of the rubble of my life. I have been loved silly by the few close people in my life I can lean on and trust. I have loved them silly and again and again, I come out grateful.
So maybe it was just another year, but I'd have to say this one ranks high in the Utter Bullshit Factor. High in Royally Fucked Up. Despite all this, I have my sanity, I have ideas for writing, painting, making, and ways to contribute to my Freedom Fund.
Last year, I threw "fear" into the fire. I would be fearless when faced with love, hope, abusers, suffering, trials-at least, I thought. I think my brain was addled by infatuation. What happened is that my courage was severely tested and I was given more than I thought I could handle at times. Eventually, most of what abusers did went into the "Seriously, dude???" file. The capacity of human beings to be self-deceptive and shitty only fueled my determination to be self-aware and kind. And to take no shit.
This post is from Cynicism Central, the well-earned kind of cynicism, the kind that forces you to choose. I choose HOPE.
I'm throwing all this bullshit on the fire. Letting it go. Making room for the good. Hello 2017 and happy solstice. May 2017 burn so hot that all that is 2016-fucked-up steams away.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

What kind of preacher

I hate words. They come, they don't come. Writing is too hard. I cannot stand the look of my own words. Words fail me and are disappointing. I used to think my life was a paucity of words...but it was really a paucity of kindnesses not heard. Or too many obstructions given, or floods-of-shame words.
There is a psychological test, where you are read a sequence of words that are related and point to an obvious word that isn't there. It's a memory test and none of the fifteen words read contain the "real" word. But you write it down anyway.  For example, if the list contains words like "pillow", "dream", "relaxed", "bed", "rest", "cozy", etc. the word that isn't there is "sleep".
The word that isn't there is a beast and a bitch and a world unto itself. I thought if only I had certain words or was able to make them do what I want then my life would be better; I'd be better, I'd be complete and somehow healed. I wanted books and people to give me the salve of their words, and some did.
But it wasn't enough. I hate my own words because I haven't found the ones that express the unimaginable yet. I haven't moved past my own significant limitations of thought and assumptions.It isn't the words, anyway. It is the spirit they carry. Sometimes they carry a spirit of self-hatred and I say to these bad-child words, go away. I can't write you down. I wouldn't want to anyway. I will hear you out later. And sometimes they carry a scarcity of spirit, and words just need to be quiet.
I am an artist in all things. I am not "great" at anything. I could not care less about being marketable. I don't make art or anything else so I can so I can put on pretenses and say, "oh, I'm a painter. I'm a poet. I'm a writer. I'm a musician."
No, because I will destroy anything I make and be fearless about that destruction. Just ask the balls of yarn formerly known as sweaters I've knitted. I will also fully honor anything I've loved making and will keep it as a treasure forever.  I make art so I can make some sense of this sordid world, and touch something that is soft and beautiful in my own spirit, and bring forth something that tells everyone else's story, too- only a little bit differently. I make art so I can live into this suffering and turn it into something else, something meaningful. I make art because I am compelled to do something with this pain, this love, this hope, this anger.
I make art so I can say, "what kind of preacher will I be today?" We are all preachers.
What will my testimony be? Wounds? Healing? Kindness? Want? Need? Destruction? Compassion? Beauty?
What spiritual thing am I trying to touch with mere human hands?
 It is always grace, for myself and for others. I need mercy.
So for today, my testimony will be to begin yet another canvas I will paint on for ten years, yet another sweater I wear and unravel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


“Let’s start with the truth — the cold, hard truth. When a woman comes forward to speak out about injustice or her suffering, instead of aid, respect and support, she will be met with hostility, skepticism and shame. Her motives will be questioned and her truth ignored.”
-Amber Heard

in other words, she will be stonewalled

Monday, December 12, 2016


Piggybacking on defining abuse, I think the bottom line is that abuse is a scapegoating situation. The blamer will then use passive-aggression and stonewalling to not look like an abuser. All scapegoating is abuse and all abuse is scapegoating.
Scapegoating today occurs through carefully cultivated echo chambers. Enmeshment-in families and cultural systems such as businesses and churches- is one way to employ the sharing of emails, texts, confidential information, and biased observations in order to carry out a scapegoating. It includes the manipulation of facts and denial of negative facts about the scapegoaters/abusers. It happened in this election and it happens in relationships with narcissists and it is always the set-up in an abusive situation. It is barbarianism 101 and my heart hurts that humanity has not evolved much past Cain and Abel and Roman gladiators. Must we always be hungry for blood?

Definition of scapegoat
1: a goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur
2 a : one that bears the blame for others
   b : one that is the object of irrational hostility
Scapegoat Theory:
"Weatherly (1961) got students frustrated and then asked them to write stories based on given pictures. Where the people in the pictures were given Jewish names, students with anti-Semitic tendencies wrote stories that included aggression towards the Jewish characters. "

The Psychology of Scapegoating:
"The creation of a villain necessarily implies that of a hero, even if both are purely fictional."

"The dehumanization of the scapegoat makes the scapegoating more potent and less guilt inducing, and may even lend it a sort of pre-ordained, cosmic inevitability.

The term ‘scapegoat’ has its origin in the Old Testament, more specifically, in Chapter 16 of the Book of Leviticus, according to which God instructed Moses and Aaron to sacrifice two goats every year. The first goat was to be killed and its blood sprinkled upon the Ark of the Covenant. The High Priest was then to lay his hands upon the head of the second goat and confess the sins of the people. Unlike the first goat, this lucky second goat was not to be killed, but to be released into the wilderness together with its burden of sin, which is why it came to be known as a, or the, scapegoat."

Stonewalling is used to demonstrate that someone is a scapegoat. It's a dehumanizing tactic.

Stonewalling consists of:
  1. Refusal to negotiate a conflict in good faith
  2. Refusal to discuss honestly one’s motivations
  3. Refusal to listen to another point of view with openness
  4. Refusal to compromise
  5. Refusal to collaborate
  6. Refusal to support the other person’s plans
  7. Refusal to accept influence
Passive-aggression is just insidious and mean-spirited, and comes about where it is illegal or just looks bad to overtly abuse. One can still mimic basic humanity while carrying out passive aggression. Much of women's rights and civil rights advancements have been undermined by passive aggressive use of the law and social structure-see the war on drugs.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Falling in Love for the First Time

I am fascinated by the posture of an archaeologist, bent over and completely immersed in the task at hand. I wonder at their hands, which so gently brush away dirt, which so carefully move away any debris from the treasured object they seek. It is amazing  how for hours, they imagine the shape of the object enough to know which part of the light brown needs to be moved away, for it all looks the same to me. But their imaginations take them deep below the surface, into what they have read about and perhaps have seen samples of, yet this one is deeper, new, in a different place, significant even if it is insignificant in some realms.
This time and attention is love.
It is a constant and tender uncovering, this diligent brushing away. The imagination of what is beneath must be reconciled to an openness of what is, of managing real limitations and swaddling beliefs in utter, blind hope.
Rudolf Steiner, in his theories of child development, recognized twelve senses. One of those senses is the "sense of life". On a visceral level, this is knowing when you are hungry, thirsty, etc. but I believe it also includes emotional and relational needs...when you need touch, when you need to play, when you need time alone with your thoughts, etc. Other people around you give you the sense of goodness in the world, that your needs are ok, that you are loved and affirmed. A good sense of life in childhood will leave you with a profound sense of trust in the world, and a deep belief that overall, the world is good.
I was thinking about how this relates to trauma. Trauma takes the sense of life from "the world is good" to "the world is hurtful and scary", or "the world is good sometimes, and mostly unbearable", or "the world doesn't want or need me here." Trauma disorders the sense of life and creates a chaotic, unstable reality. The others who surround a child can create the chaos that takes away their sense of the world as good. Systems of culture, family, and civilization that create poverty, lack of safety, and lack of stability for children contribute to this trauma. I think we are all aware of that. But if you haven't lived it, you can't really know what it's like to live like then hear that it's your fault for being poor...for being judged on where you live...for not being able to "pull up your bootstraps" because someone keeps taking your boots through more and more demands of your resources. And those who have the power to change it, don't.
This indifference and abuse of power is hate.
It is a witnessing of suffering, or even having a hand in causing suffering and turning to not look.
Despite this, and my personal experience with people like this, I have fallen in love. I have fallen in love with life. My healing took a wide turn straight into freedom. I am free of abusers. I love humanity but I hate their abuses. There is no price an abuser could pay for me to be with them. I am willing to pay abusers to stay far away from me. I am so grateful and happy to be free it is incredible. I feel like I climbed a mountain, like I arrived, that therapy is archaeology and after hours and hours of  loving intention, I found my love. I found my grace. I found my peace. I am holding in my hands this volcanic ash, centuries old, blessed by the mother goddess, consecrated by my work, connected to all that is good and loving in this world. I can handle my broken places. I can change and grow.
This shift in healing...from being attracted to what abusers offer to being attracted to the goodness of the world, feels huge. I used to go to wailing walls, where a person was the wall, and I was the one who wailed. But I turned around. I saw there was so much more to life than wailing walls.
Healing from trauma requires an imagination, the imagination of archaeology. If you can't imagine that underneath the rubble of what is disordered, there is something good and peaceful, then you lose hope, or you become abusive. There is not much else to do. You must see with your heart that there is something more to life than pain and suffering. There is more than what is unbearable. There is more than making life unbearable for someone else. Then you take up your love for yourself and for others and for this life, and start in with patience. It is tedious, time-consuming, difficult, and uncomfortable work. You lose a lot but most of what you lose is rubble anyway. And the treasured healing..the clarity and freedom...the absolute knowing there is something more...that is so dear, so priceless.
Thank you, thank you abusers for leading me to a happy place, for showing me the dark underbelly of everything, for helping me see the other side, for you yourselves being a sorry contrast to all that is kind and good and a shining example of what is completely messed up in this world.
Maybe this is just one part of my healing. I have no illusions that the darkness of the world won't seep back into my soul.
Today, though, I am in love with life and this welcome bolus of hope. No matter what I thought before, healing IS possible.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Don't fall in love

I loved this. I lost this woman and now she is back.

"Don’t fall in love with a woman who reads, a woman who feels too much, a woman who writes...
Don’t fall in love with an educated, magical, delusional, crazy
Don’t fall in love with a woman who thinks, who knows what she knows and also knows how to fly; a woman sure of herself.
Don’t fall in love with a woman who laughs or cries making love, knows how to turn her spirit into flesh; let alone one that loves poetry (these are the most dangerous), or spends half an hour contemplating a painting and isn't able to live without music.
Don’t fall in love with a woman who is interested in politics and is rebellious and feel a huge horror from injustice. One who does not like to watch television at all. Or a woman who is beautiful no matter the features of her face or her body.
Don’t fall in love with a woman who is intense, entertaining, lucid and irreverent. Don’t wish to fall in love with a woman like that. Because when you fall in love with a woman like that, whether she stays with you or not, whether she loves you or not, from a woman like that, you never come back.”

-Martha Rivera-Garrido, Poet