April 25, 2012

Connected, but Alone?

I recently came across this amazing Ted Talk in which Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT in the Program in Science, Technology and Society, explores our relationship to and use of technology and how this is impacting our relationships with others.

As Turkle says,
"The feeling that 'no one is listening to me' makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us."
Now, I know this is not a new topic, but I think Turkle's perspective on how technology is impacting us individually and in relationship reaches the heart of the matter in an intuitive and insightful way.

I want to encourage you to watch and then reflect on these questions:
  • How confident am I in my own abilities to have a conversation, to connect with others in real time?
  • How do I use technology to satisfy my need for connection?
  • Can you relate to what Turkle says about the feeling of "no one is listening"? If so, is it technology alone that you use as a salve or other things as well (work, over-scheduling, addictions, etc.)
  • Turkle encourages us to first start seeing "solitude as a good thing. Make room for it." How can you create and embrace solitude?

P.S. Join me 5/2 @ 8a PT: Learning to Trust Yourself & Others After Childhood Abuse on Susan Rich Radio, http://w4wn.com/. Recording will be available on my website later that day if you can't listen live.

April 18, 2012

It Is Time to Forgive...

This week, I would like to share some thoughts on forgiveness. It is not a term you hear much outside of the spiritual/religious world – at least not stated so bluntly. Yet, we all carry around hurts that have not healed or grudges that we still bear that are dragging us down or keeping us from moving on, and that is just no way to live!
One major obstacle that stands in the way of our forgiving is that we have all the wrong ideas about what it means to forgive in the first place. It is important to understand that forgiveness (adapted from Shelter from the Storm):
  • Does not mean what the person did was okay 
  • Does not mean the person has permission to hurt you again 
  • Does not mean the offense was not great 
  • Does not depend on the person saying s/he is sorry 
  • Does not mean that the offense was not deliberate or repeated
We often fall into the false belief that forgiveness means letting the person off the hook and accepting the injustice of it all. Quite the contrary – forgiveness is about letting ourselves off the hook! Both the Greek and the Hebrew verbs for forgive can be translated “to send away.”

Forgiveness is about sending away the hurt, pain, anger and bitterness and taking back our life. We also send away the person who hurt us and his/her hold upon our thoughts, emotions, and experiences in the present day when we forgive.

Most importantly, forgiveness is a choice – not a feeling. Since it is a choice, making a decision to forgive can be arrived at by examining both our reasons for and against forgiving the abuser (this is similar to looking for the payoffs and costs).

Spend some time reflecting on your reasons for and against forgiving, but, first, consider what Kubetin-Littlefield has to say on the matter:
“... many of us mistakenly believe that unforgiveness will somehow hurt those who hurt us. By refusing to offer forgiveness, we hope to ‘get even’ with them. But the opposite is true. Abusers [people who hurt us], unforgiven, go right on doing what they do. They never considered us in the first place, and our unforgiveness has absolutely no [effect] on their behavior.”
My reasons not to forgive:
My reasons to forgive:

There are some very real consequences of choosing not to forgive. I love this clip from “Woman Thou Art Loosed.” The main character, Michelle, is raped by her mother’s boyfriend when she is 12 years old. As an adult, Michelle is struggling to make sense of the hard life she’s had and the abuse she experienced. This clip begins with a visit from her parole officer and ends with her arriving at a revival where she attempts to let go of the past – but doesn’t succeed.

One of the main lessons we learn from Michelle’s story is that we have the opportunity to look ahead and not behind, to leave our pain and hurt “at the altar” so to speak. But not doing so can have serious consequences. In Michelle’s case, she literally ends up jailed – never to be free (at least physically) again. What are the consequences for you of not forgiving?

In order to leave the past behind, we need to understand that (adapted from Shelter from the Storm):

  • We cannot genuinely forgive until you acknowledge the full scope and impact of the offense. 
  • We cannot forgive and deny the offense at the same time. 
  • We cannot forgive someone else for an offense and carry responsibility for that same offense yourself. 
  • We cannot carry shame for an offense yourself and at the same time forgive someone else for it.

In other words, if we are continuing to blame ourselves for what happened, then there is nothing to forgive, the person has done nothing wrong. We must take responsibility for any part we played, but, until we hold the person accountable, there is no space to forgive and move on.

I encourage you to create a “Leaving It All Behind” list. Write down all of the things you are ready to leave behind, forgive others for, and forgive yourself for. Then, find a moment to read over your “Leaving It All Behind” list. After reflecting and truly committing to leaving it behind, dispose of the list in some way that feels meaningful to you – e.g. burn it, shred it, toss it into the ocean.

P.S. It is hard to believe, but after a few years pondering, many months writing, more months editing (and editing, and editing), Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage of Recovery from Sexual Abuse has reached its final stage - this guidebook needs a cover folks! Who better to help me choose than you?! Click here to take a brief survey and cast your vote!

April 3, 2012

Our Wounds As Bridges to Intimacy

Hi all,

Today, I would like to share a poem written by a fellow beyond survivor who I've had the great pleasure of getting to know over these past few months.

In his words, this poem,
"expresses how child abuse removes one from himself and his tribe, the ensuing effort to find one's place within and without that center, and the realization that the ideal has no place for him as he had conceived it; that one must find his own way within the ambiguity, and perhaps the ambiguity itself holds an answer. It's about meeting someone who recognizes his injuries and reflects them, and how ultimately the wounds themselves become a bridge to intimacy."

Two Survivors 

She threw back the gates of her isolation
and absorbed me
beneath the ages
of earth in her face
To the buried city
where children had played

We spoke of the fall
God and rain falling from the sky
Father's falling bootsteps toward the room
Blood and angels on the floor
We were ghosts and ghosts of ghosts
when they were through

Voiceless ghosts in the cells of Alcatraz,
who, when the ocean was still
heard the laughter of women
high and soft across the water
And scratched out our replies in the walls

The muted ghost of Maya Angelou
Who would not allow poetry to be raped from her soul
But would give it willingly
To a more kind world

We watched America from windows
Spied the night fires of Eden
from the hills

Watched  the baptist from the shores
Drank the water, and tasted every sin

Smoked and threw dice
against the pearly gates

maddened by silence
We screamed out in the canyons
To hear the mountains say our name

and we carried more than we wanted
And less than we needed
On the long walk out

To gather new countries around us
of carnival mirror souls
Who reflected, not beauty but recognition
and that was enough

"Does it ever come back to you?" She asked.
"All the clarity and wisdom and love?"

I said, "Its like being on a train
and looking thru the window of the next train
and seeing yourself
and he looks back at you
But the train slowly pulls away
and you watch yourself go."

As we talked I thought of Helen Keller
Raging in her inarticulation
And how those first words to her teacher
must have felt like being born

And I wondered if Helen
ever met anyone like herself
with neither sight nor sound
And what secret language
They must have whispered
Into each other's hands

It is no small thing to share something so intimate, so I hope you will take a moment to share your thoughts, feelings, or insights - or even just gratitude to the author for sharing. Every day, I believe more and more that healing is a collective effort, and I count myself lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing and strong individuals such as the author of this poem.

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