If We Keep Using Our Escape Hatches, We’ll Keep Preventing the Miracles – Individually and Communally.

It’s a tragic time in our country. And our world.

Instead of people self responsibly searching within, looking to discover what it is within ourselves that is causing us pain in our lives and others, as well … people are looking outside ourselves at others to blame, bully, threaten, punish, force, torture

… when we don’t get what we want.
… in order to get what we want.
… when we believe we can’t bear what’s happening in our lives.
… when we believe we can’t bear the consequences of our actions.
… when we believe we can’t bear the feelings that rise up from within us.

Introduction to escape hatches

Over decades of experience with people — witnessing, talking with, learning about, helping, and caring deeply about them – I have discovered that when it comes right down to it … we are more afraid of our feelings than most anything else. As a result, we create defenses to keep us from experiencing our feelings. This creates a whole vicious cycle in our lives, one that we try to get out of at the very same time as we fight to stay in.

Escape hatches are a crucial aspect of this process. A crucial aspect of which we have little or no awareness. We use escape hatches to defend against our feelings. We use escape hatches to fight our way out of the vicious cycle. And at the same time we use escape hatches to make sure we continue to stay in the vicious cycle, lost in our own maze.

If you got to the point at which you felt so much – sorrow, hurt, anger, fear – that you thought you wouldn’t be able to bear it … what would you do?

When I ask this question of my clients, together we discover their escape hatches. The concept of “escape hatches” or “exits” is known in various therapy models. To my knowledge, however, the profound, rich depth of the healing work that can be done with escape hatches is rarely taught. And I have never heard discussion of its application to our world.

But just as everything else that is personal also exists on the communal level, so also do escape hatches.

What is an escape hatch?

As children, when we are wounded or traumatized, we instinctively protect ourselves. We do whatever we can to get away from the pain. Among other things, we numb ourselves, deaden ourselves, leave our bodies, strike out aimlessly. We do this even before we have mental concepts or words to speak them. At some point, our thoughts and words become available, and these responses have words that go with them – early decisions we make about ourselves, others, and life, and escape hatch decisions we make about how to get away from the pain: for example, I’m getting out of here. I’ll run away. I want to die. I wish I’d never been born. I could kill you. I’ll destroy everything. I’ll go crazy.

How does an escape hatch work in a child’s life?

With time, the feelings, actions, concepts and words are joined together … albeit perhaps unconsciously. But even if a child knows s/he wants to run away, s/he doesn’t comprehend the more complex dynamic of that want as part of an escape hatch and its vicious cycle.

As we grow, what was once vital self-protection, now becomes a defense – hard, and brittle, and even destructive – which usually ends up creating the very thing we intended it to defend us against.  A little boy decides not to talk to his Mommy, to keep her from spanking him. But his silence angers her as much as his words, and she ends up spanking him anyway. Over the months and years, he transfers it to his playmates, his teachers, his buddies, his wife, his employers, his employees.  And the same thing happens again and again … his refusal to speak – the original means of self-defense – infuriates people.

How does an escape hatch work in an adult’s life?

This evokes deep, strong, even raw feelings in the little boy still alive inside the man – the man who doesn’t realize his feelings are those of the little boy he once was. And neither do the people around him realize it. He looks like a 220-pound 6-foot tall 30-year old man. He has the capabilities of an adult man. But he’s acting on the feelings of a little boy.

So … without awareness, without making a commitment not to act on them … the little boy’s raw primal feelings are reacted to by the adult man. If the little boy wanted to die when he was in pain, the adult man might actually try to kill himself — perhaps succeeding, perhaps remaining alive to go ‘round the maze cycle once again. If the little boy wanted to kill his mother, the man might kill his mother … or someone else in her place – his girlfriend, his wife, his boss, a stranger, a lot of strangers. Again and again in our world, people are killing both themselves and others – domestic violence, suicide bombings, school shootings, wars, just to name a few.

Allow yourself to see this differently than you have in the past. This isn’t just people killing themselves and others. This is people acting out the escape hatches long ago created by the child they once were – still alive within them – to escape the pain they felt they couldn’t bear as a child.

How does an escape hatch work in our world?

This is what is happening in our world today! The children inside the adults are running rampant through our world, under the guise of adults. Whatever their childhood wounds, decisions, escape hatches, and feelings … people are acting them out on the stage of our earth, at the expense of all of us.

Until they are taught, children don’t draw a boundary between feelings and actions. Sadly, too many adults don’t either – not knowing they are having young feelings, the adults act on their feelings just like little children do … only with the power of an adult physical body, mind, and personality behind the action.

Children make all sorts of decisions when they are little – some conscious and some unconscious. These decisions and the feelings that go with them have more power to drive a person’s life and impact the world than most people can even conceive. What if the brother of the little boy discussed above also felt powerless with his mother? What if this brother, in his powerless fury, made an early decision within himself:  “You may have the power now, Mommy, but I’ll have all the power when I grow up”?  What if this boy grows up, becomes the leader of his country, and proceeds to garner all the power he can in his country: the power to arrest and imprison people based on lies; the power to torture people; the power to invade anyone’s privacy; the power to take away people’s rights and safety; the power to start wars, even destroy the world? Oh my! What a child’s unhealed pain and early decisions can create in our world!

What if the very people who could stop this leader in every arena of the country are unable to because of their own experiences with their parents and other authorities in their young lives, because of their own early decisions, and because of their own escape hatches? What if the legislators are afraid they will be punished by either the leader or the voters … and so turn away/run away from their own values and support those of the leader? What if the judges are afraid they will lose their appointments … and give up as a result? What if the military leaders are afraid they will lose their posts … and so support a war that in itself is destructive? What if the media is afraid it will be ousted in favor of other media that supports the leader … and so helps to mold the public instead of reflecting where the public truly is? What if the citizens are paralyzed? What if they have been blinded to the abuse of power by the leader because their own parents’ abuse of power was normalized in the family, the community, and the culture. Normalizing dysfunction and destructiveness does paralyze and blind people. It invalidates instincts, creating and feeding fear.

In these scenarios, which escape hatches has each person in each of these groups of people chosen that keep them and us from feeling – and being fully alive – from healing, from growing into all we can be, from exercising our power to truly protect – not defend* – ourselves, our country, and our world?

We are not alone in this.  It is a phenomenon worldwide. We have been seeing it again and again, in escalating proportions in our world. We have seen it in children, in teens, in men and women. We have seen it in citizens and leaders.

I’ve worked more and more deeply with people over the years and seen both the basic escape hatches and the individualized escape hatches they have revealed to me in their own lives. I’ve come to see that in addition to whatever escape hatches people have developed from pain and trauma in their own childhood, there is also wounding and defenses, including escape hatches, that are passed down from generation to generation. Some of this is because one generation after another acted out their escape hatches upon their children, upon their families, or with their families in their society. Some of this is because they’ve transmitted it emotionally from one generation to the next. Some is by an unconscious psychic transmission that does go from one generation to the next. Some is by the expansion of the transmission culturally, normalizing some form of wounding, pain, and trauma consciously and unconsciously. Some is by a combination of pathways of transmission from generation to generation. These intergenerational roots add to our understanding of the tenacity with which we hold onto our escape hatches, both individually and culturally.

I’ve also come to see that there are many other escape hatches needing to be named: among them blaming, scapegoating, bullying, threatening, and war.

People use blaming as an escape hatch to defend against feeling their own issues, their own weaknesses, their own responsibility. Scapegoating is also used to avoid the confrontation of one’s own inadequacies or deficiencies; but scapegoating is usually used communally, whether in a family, an organization, a country, or amongst countries. Bullying, as explained in my home study course, “Healing Bullying to The Root: A Unique Approach to a Painful Epidemic,” is an escape hatch used to defend against the feeling of powerlessness. And war! War is an escape hatch used to get rid of the threat — and all the feelings it stirs in the cauldron of our beings. But in the process, as with every escape hatch, war prevents real communication, real expression of needs and feelings, real searching for new possibilities. War prevents true resolution, true negotiation and true peace. As with every other escape hatch of the kind I am describing … war prevents the miracle.**

This is a call for healing.
It is a hopeful time in our country. And our world.
It is a time of opportunity for great healing and evolution.

We need to look at this. We need to look at this not just in our outer world. We must look at this, each of us, in our inner world. We need to work with this. We need to heal and resolve what is in us that we avoid when we use an escape hatch.  We need to close the escape hatches: We need to draw a boundary between the thoughts and feelings we have related to escape hatches and commit to not act on them; and then we need to commit to work with the hurt and pain, anger and fear, and all the other feelings that caused us as children to find or create our escape hatches. We need to build our capacity to feel our feelings safely, and, as we become parents, to help our children feel their feelings safely. And we need to follow through on those commitments.

Once we’ve done the healing personally, we need to also explore and work to heal what in our families and our culture was passed down to us as children that has created a vicious cycle of pain and escape hatches and more pain. We need to work on that level of healing, too.

We must remember that every single one of us has an impact – from the inside out – not only on our own lives, but also on the life of our whole country, and even the life of our whole world. If you have an escape hatch open and the wound beneath it is unhealed, that will affect our whole world. So, imagine if we each closed our escape hatches and healed the wounds beneath them! Imagine if we all did our healing work to the very root of our being! Imagine the positive impact we could have.

“Power is like fire, lightning, wind, ocean – like life itself – a raw vital force of nature. It has the potential for great harm and the possibility for magnificent good. Each of us chooses, whether consciously or unconsciously, how we will use the power of our own life energy.” ***

How will you use your power?
What will you do to close and heal your own escape hatches
and what lies beneath them?

© 2008, 2015, Judith Barr.

* To learn more about defenses, read my article, Defenses Destroy, at
http://judithbarr.com/2014/06/08/defenses-destroy/

** None of what I say in this explanation about escape hatches in any way says that people who are really in danger in their circumstances should just stay there and let whatever happens happen. For example, I’m not saying a battered wife should just stay and let her husband destroy her. I’m not saying an attacked community should just stay and let the invaders destroy them. But I am offering that the dynamics of escape hatches from early on and through the generations are very complex and need to be explored deeply and expansively.

***Power Abused, Power Healed, Judith Barr, Mysteries of Life, 2007, p iii.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Now that we have explored escape hatches and how they are created … the next step is to begin to explore within ourselves our own individual escape hatches.

When you are in pain or under stress – pain or stress you feel is “overwhelming,” “over the top,” or “unbearable”- what is your first reaction? Do you want to run away? Curl into a ball or go back to bed and “pull the covers over your head”? Do you feel like you want to die … or even feel like you want to kill someone? Do you feel as though you’re going “crazy”?

The answers to these questions are your first clues as to what your own escape hatches are. You may have one or several. They may be the same, or may be different depending on the type of situation, level of pain or stress, or what is being triggered in you.

Commit to not act out on your escape hatches, to close them on the action level … but don’t stop there. Commit to go to the root to heal, so you can close your own escape hatches on the mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual levels, too. Working with escape hatches is very delicate work … and I urge you to find a caring, integritous therapist to work with to help you close your escape hatches and work with the pain underneath them. A therapist who knows about, or who is open to learning about, escape hatches. (You may even want to show him or her this article, to give them an even deeper understanding about escape hatches, and how they affect our lives.)

It is indeed a tragic time in our world, but there is hope … in knowing about escape hatches, in discovering our own, in committing to close our escape hatches and heal what lies beneath them. There is hope in resolving what, within ourselves, interferes with the miracles. There is hope in making the miracle of true healing happen – both personally and communally!

The NFL – What They Needed to Do and Couldn’t…Yet

So many have heard about Ray Rice’s violent abuse of his fiancée and the Baltimore Ravens’ and NFL’s failure to respond the way they really needed to … and the way we as a society really needed them to.

Instead of hiding what they knew, keeping silent, initially giving Ray a symbolic slap on the wrist with a couple weeks’ suspension, denying all sorts of things, and, only after the video came out into public view, instead of escalating their responses to the level of the Ravens canceling his contract and the NFL suspending him indefinitely . . . they could have modeled for everyone what is really needed when it’s revealed that one person is abusing another person – man, woman, or child.

Let’s wonder about a different perspective …

What if it wasn’t actually a good idea to cancel and suspend Ray Rice? What if that came from the public’s pressure and threat to ban games? What if the threat of the “almighty dollar” got in the way of their doing what would have been really healthy and healing … like it too often does in many arenas of life?  What if, despite the violence and danger inherent in football, taking away Ray’s ability to play took away one of his releases of aggression – from here and now and long, long ago? What if it made him more likely to abuse?  What if taking away his livelihood added one more trigger to abuse rather than healing? What if responding with punishment feeds abuse – it does for children. If it does for children, why wouldn’t it for adults, too? What if their jumping to a punishment makes the football “heads of state” more like abusers themselves than like the models they could be for all who watch and play football? What if first they colluded with the abuse, normalizing it like so many others in society, and then they tried to save face (and money) by punishing the abuser – abusing the abuser? What if none of this was what was really needed … for Ray, for the Ravens, for the NFL, for healing domestic violence in our country, for us?

So what could the Ravens and the NFL have done that wouldn’t feed abuse? They could have told Ray that in order to stay on the team, he would need to go to ongoing therapy and never abuse his fiancée or anyone else again.

They could have told him that as long as he continued to stay in therapy and truly work to heal to the root all that had caused him to be abusive, and as long as he didn’t abuse anyone, he could continue on the team. And if he violated either one of those, he would be suspended permanently. They could have selected a therapist who they knew would do the deep healing work with Ray, or they could have established approval rights on the therapist he selected and made sure there was a legal, ethical way to monitor that he was still in therapy … and not abusing anyone.

We have so much to learn in our country and our world.

It is so disturbing that as civilized as we believe we are here in the United States, and many other countries, as well, there are 39 countries that have banned corporal punishment of children by parents. And the U.S. is not among them. Neither are Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, nor the United Kingdom.* And in those countries in which corporal punishment of children by parents is legal, the “restrictions” include such bizarre guidelines as “reasonable force,” “non-excessive force,” “punishment necessary to discipline or safeguard the child and his or her welfare,” “the child being able to benefit from the correction,” and “the correction not causing harm.” These are all guises to justify physical abuse. Physical “punishment” does cause harm … physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm. Anyone claiming otherwise is not aware, not educated, not in reality … the reality of that little child.

I understand the dilemma: how do we not violate the rights of parents to raise their own children, and still protect those children as they grow? I don’t have a short term definitive answer. But I do know that every person I’ve ever worked with who was hit as a child, remained afraid of being hit from deep inside – until the transformation that came from going through the healing crossroads. They may have tried to bury that frightened part of themselves, or they may be very aware of it. They may have become passive in shaping their lives to avoid people attacking them, or they may have tried to avoid being hit by lashing out and attacking other people, children and adults alike.  It gets passed down from one generation to the next. The cycle of abuse, abuse as the reaction to being triggered, gets passed down from one generation to the next.

This happens in families, in communities, in states, in countries … all over our world. A child abused when young, may well abuse his or her own child, partner, or someone else as s/he ages. If violence was an option in the childhood home, it has an enormous likelihood of becoming an option in the adult home. And even if the parent believes he or she loves the child, and uses love as a guise for abusing that little one … the real truth is: The parent is burying the memory of the deep, intense, fear, pain, hurt, helplessness, powerlessness, and more … experienced when s/he was abused as a child. He may remember that he was hit or beaten, but he has built big defenses against re-experiencing the feelings. And those big defenses include abusing others … re-enacting the abuse as a defense against the young child’s feeling experience on all levels of being. That is, the feeling experience of the young child he once was is still alive inside the now-big person.  If the now-big person could feel all those feelings from the childhood trauma of being abused, s/he could not abuse anyone else.

Ignoring abuse won’t resolve it. Normalizing abuse won’t resolve it. Punishing abuse with something equivalent to abuse won’t resolve it. Although laws say a lot about attitude toward abuse – the environment of the city, state, or country – the real resolution is healing.

A lot of people are saying it’s wonderful that the abuse that has been occurring in the sports world is bringing out into the open the problem of abuse in the U.S. And yes! It is a step that the seriousness of the problem has been brought out into the open even more than it already was.

But people are still normalizing it – up to a point. Many on talk shows and news teams are acknowledging they were abused as children, but some of them are okaying what they experienced as different from what Ray Rice did to his fiancée (now wife) or Adrian Peterson did to his son.

No abuse is okay. None! Abuse harms children, families, communities, countries, our world … all of us.

What this really shows us, if we are willing to honestly look and see and fully invest in the true resolution … is that we need to heal this problem at its roots. We need to heal this problem in families.

We need to heal this problem in parents. We need to heal this problem in the children who are abused and grow up with wounds and defenses that they act out on their own children, partners, and others, as well.  We need to heal this in the children who are abused and grow up with fear in their hearts that they might be hit again. They are often the ones who end up in abusive relationships in which they become the abused partner.

We need to heal this problem one by one with people doing their real healing – not just quick fixes, not just managing and controlling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We need to heal this problem to the root. We need to invest in educating people individually, communally, globally about the truth of the problem. And we need to invest our resources, our commitments, our hearts in truly resolving this problem.

Not just in the outer world, but in the world within us . . . from the inside out.

If the NFL and the Ravens had acted differently than they did, they could have truly helped … they could have modeled the real solution for their fans and for children who see the sports celebrities as their models.

They didn’t. But we can. Please join me in making this investment…and inviting others to join us.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

It’s up to each and every one of us to help end domestic violence and abuse in any and all forms. And we can start by doing the inner work necessary to explore and heal the childhood wounds within us … wounds that are at the root of abuse. Wounds that cause us to collude with abuse, normalize abuse, or even actively abuse.

Start by exploring your own relationships. Are there times when you have been abused and tolerated it? And … are there times when you yourself have abused? You may be able to start to explore the feelings you have when you’re being abused or when you’re abusive, tracing those feelings back to times in your early life when you felt similar feelings. But … this is a very delicate process. You may very well find you need the help of a good, integritous, caring therapist to help you explore and heal those feelings … so you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and your family … and your world.

Also … while getting the help you need to heal to the root … let others know that abuse in any form should not be tolerated, and that there is hope for healing the abuse so sadly prevalent in our country and our world. If you feel called, share this article with those you know, to help expand healing out into our world.

We can stop domestic violence … not through tolerance of it or even laws against it, but through each and every one of us doing our own inner healing.

If We Stay on The Surface . . . We End Up Suffering and Creating More Suffering . . .

Part 4:  Violence Within and Without.

SINCE THE BOSTON MARATHON . . .

The Boston Marathon Bombings were tragic – for everyone. Not just for those who were killed and injured. Not just for those who lost people dear to them. Not just for those who were walking or eating or studying nearby. Not just for that day. And not just for that week. It was tragic for all of us near and far. It was tragic not only in its occurrence but in its aftermath, too.

Whether you’ve watched the news, listened to the news, read the news via hard copy or internet, talked with people, witnessed and experienced events first hand . . . here’s what we’ve seen and experienced most frequently, most consistently, most openly since April 15, the day of the bombing.

Yes, we’ve seen courageous, quick-thinking, quick-acting people tend to the injured, even save people. We’ve seen people help those who have been hurt and traumatized. We’ve seen people act lovingly towards each other. But as the shock just began to wear off, we began to see also . . . defenses against the pain and fear rising and growing. The face Boston presented was Boston Strong – we’re tough – “they can’t keep us down.”  Resiliency is a true and needed gift, individually and communally. But not hardened as a mask against vulnerability. They showed people rising above the vulnerability of the experience, above the real feelings to the defensive feelings, postures, and actions. And there was a lot of finger pointing, blame, and hatred, not just in Boston, but definitely in and around Boston. According to someone dear to me living in the Boston area, people were vicious and blood thirsty . . . people in public, people in the workplace, people on the media. Not all people, but so many! It was like a re-run of post 9/11 – the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” And instead of feeling the grief and vulnerability and allowing it to be the place from which we moved forward, turning someone into the enemy, building defenses, and fighting. Instead of finding out what is our responsibility and what is someone else’s and holding both accountable – pointing our fingers outward at someone and spewing hatred and blame at them . . . at as many others as we need to in order to not look at ourselves and our own responsibility.

Of what I heard, there was one sane voice in the crowd in the aftermath of the bombings. That of Tom Brokaw. On Meet the Press the Sunday afterward, he said that we need to get to the roots of it; we need to look at our part; we need to see the part that our drones play in the feelings others have toward us and the actions they take; and we need to use this opportunity for all of us to take part in a discussion about violence in our culture. Thank you, Tom Brokaw! It’s a good start. A brave start. Saying things that when said by others caused them to be attacked for being unpatriotic.  But you have the credibility and respect to say it and pull it off. Although . . . there wasn’t very much said about your having said it. Except in a couple places I saw, it was kind of buried underground.

Still you said it, Tom. And I do thank you. But we have so much further to go. I wish you would join with me, Tom, to help people go farther, go deeper. For if we don’t go to the roots – even deeper roots than you were speaking about – we will just have more of the same. We will just see more of the same. We will just create more of the same.

I want to give credit to Noam Chomsky, too. Though two plus weeks later, he said it again, in an Alternet article on May 2. He said it a little differently . . . even more graphically:

“On April 23, Yemeni activist and journalist Farea Al-Muslimi, who had studied at an American high school, testified before a US Senate committee that right after the marathon bombings, a drone strike in his home village in Yemen killed its target.

“The strike terrorized the villagers, turning them into enemies of the United States – something that years of jihadi propaganda had failed to accomplish.

“‘His neighbors had admired the US,’ Al-Muslimi told the committee, but ‘Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads. What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.’”

I say to you also, Noam . . . Thank you. But . . . we have so much further to go. Please join with me to help people go deeper. For if we don’t go to the real roots, we will just have more of the same. We will just see more of the same. We will, to our own disbelief and horror, create more of the same. And we will continue to believe it is outside our control . . . disconnected from us.

Because we are so disconnected from ourselves.

The violence has been increasing. It has already been expanding and escalating. Look what’s been in the news since the Boston Marathon tragedy:

Jodi Arias was convicted of the first degree murder of her ex-boyfriend. Ariel Castro was caught for kidnapping, raping, holding captive, and torturing three teenage girls. Jeffrey Krusinski, head of U.S. Air Force sexual assault prevention unit was charged himself with sexual battery for allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot. Sexual abuse in the public amongst citizens; sexual abuse in our military; sexual abuse in our religious communities was revealed in the Catholic Church long ago; and sexual abuse in our politics and government. That isn’t all. But that in itself shows the pervasiveness of violence – in this case sexual violence – that occurs in our society . . . not just in and by “those people out there.” People in another country, another state, another community, another ethnicity or culture, another family.  But also sometimes in people close to us and in us, too.

In fact, it could be anyone. A doctor, lawyer, teacher, minister, priest, rabbi, banker, government official, world leader. A father, mother, brother, sister; aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather . . . In fact, it could be anyone who was abusing and anyone who was abused.  In the 1950’s, there was a Miss America named Marilyn Van Derbur. She was from an upstanding family in Denver, Colorado, with a father who was a pillar of the community – a philanthropist, socialite, businessman, and board member. Some years later it was discovered that he had sexually abused Marilyn and her sister, Gwen, for years. (Her two other sisters have declined comment.) She had completely split that part of her daily experience off from her conscious awareness. So . . . anyone could have been abused. Anyone could be being abused. Anyone could abuse others. That is to say that anyone could have violence in his/her experience or potential.

Here are some more examples since the Boston Marathon bombings:

The police were caught – this time in Baltimore, Maryland – once again brutalizing someone – in this case, a woman who filmed their abuse, while her 2 year old child looked on, all alone in the car; the police threatened to take the woman’s daughter away, and refused to call the woman’s mother to take care of the child.

A man in Washington State, in ongoing dispute with his neighbors, bulldozed their homes down and cut the power to thousands in the community for up to 12 hours.  Neighbors said that he could be the kindest person and in seconds turn on you.  How many people could say that about one of their parents?

There are reports that the suicide rate in the US has jumped . . . sky rocketed.  For example, the rate has jumped from 1999 to 2010 for 35- to 64-year olds:  an increase of 50% for men in their 50’s and an increase of 60% for women between 60 and 64.

The numbers on child abuse in the US are staggering. Approximately 681,000 children were victims of maltreatment (unique instances) in 2011 alone. More than 78% of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one or more of the child victim’s parents.*

According to Unicef: “A small group of countries – Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland and Norway – appear to have an exceptionally low incidence of child maltreatment deaths; Belgium, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Hungary and France have levels that are four to six times higher. The United States, Mexico and Portugal have rates that are between 10 and 15 times higher than those at the top of the league table.”**

In the home: There are 35 countries in which corporal punishment of children by their parents is outlawed. The United States of America is not among them.  And none of the states in the U.S. has prohibited corporal punishment outright, although as the result of the wording of its child abuse laws in 2012, Delaware has effectively, though subtly, “banned” it.***

In the school:  There are 113 countries prohibiting corporal punishment in schools. The United States of America is not among them. **** In US schools, 30 states have banned any form of corporal punishment. But that means there are still 20 states in our country that allow corporal punishment in school. *****   Of course just because a law is passed, doesn’t mean it’s followed in the privacy of a home, or less so of a school; and it doesn’t mean that law is held in high esteem.

It is 2013, and there is only a single state in the United States of America that has legally banned the corporal punishment of children in their homes by their parents! It is 2013, and there are still 20 states in the U.S. that allow corporal punishment of children in schools! The meaning of this goes deeper than most people can or perhaps want to imagine. But we all need to imagine and know.

So many of us in the US consider ourselves so civilized – individually and as a country. And yet, we inflict such violence – by commission or omission – upon our children.  And violence inflicted upon children ends up coming back to haunt not only the children themselves, but also our society . . . and our world.  Not only today, but for generations and generations to come.  I was going to say, the violence haunts those in contact with the children once they’ve grown. But it seems the children are acting out the violence younger and younger as time goes on. Look at just a few of the most widely known violent events by young people in the past months:

* Adam Lanza, age 20, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut.

* High school football players in Steubenville, Ohio rape, photograph, and transmit the photos of a 16 year old girl they “handled” like a mere object.

* Three 16-year olds from Saratoga, California, raped 15-year old, Audrie Pott, photographed the attack and spread the photos online and off; Audrie killed herself.

*12-year old Bailey O’Neill, died after being brutally beaten by bullies in his school in Philadelphia.

Not only is the violence escalating and expanding and coming more and more out into the light of day . . . the ways of helping people deal with their experiences of violence are being distorted and constricted.  The kind of therapy that could help deeply heal what has created the violence and what is now creating the violence is being pushed aside in the U.S. by the APA, NIMH,****** and the prevalence and encouragement of short-term, “quick fix” therapies that help people “just function” and “just manage” their symptoms, in lieu of uncovering and revealing the cause and healing to the root.

With so much violence escalating in such a short time, we need to look back to ourselves…

Too many of us just turn away and don’t deal with the violence . . . don’t take in that it’s occurring and growing. Don’t look to see the cause, or to resolve it. Yes, it’s painful, but we can’t just ignore it. We can’t just hide from it. We can’t just bury it again and again.

At the same time, so many of us find ourselves riveted to the television reports of violence, while simultaneously bemoaning the violence we’re seeing. Pointing to the “perpetrators” and calling them “the evil ones” and “the monsters.” Even supposed television “psychological experts” acknowledged that Castro in the Cleveland tragedy must have been horrifically abused and sexually abused as a child, yet insisted he is “a monster.” In fact one purported expert, used “monster” as his “diagnosis” for Castro. Even the experts, like the one mentioned above, feed the violence – blaming others and not taking responsibility for their own part in the violence in our country and in our world.

Have you ever wondered why you are so riveted to the reports about the violence?  It is because of the violence within ourselves. The violence we experienced as little children, up close and personal and also nearby – whether on the television, in the neighborhood, in our country. It is because of the violence we experienced in relation to our own families, our own parents – even our own mothers. It is because of the wounds still alive within us related to violence somehow, but rooted in our earliest experiences.

The riveting is because of the meanness, the cruelty, the abusiveness, the violence . . . that was normalized one way or another, in our homes and in our culture. A few examples:  I’m not being mean; you’re just too sensitive. How else am I supposed to control you? Get you to do what you’re supposed to do? I wouldn’t have to discipline you, if you would be a good boy/girl. This is how we do things here. Turning things around against the child. Blaming it on one’s “job” as a parent. Doing it under a guise, like “discipline.” Citing the laws and mores of the culture. You can’t imagine how many conversations I hear or hear about where people are justifying their yelling at, spanking, hitting, pinching, their children. Verbal, emotional, physical, and spiritual violence, too – all accepted, all excused, all dismissed as okay in “our world.” This kind of violence causes a child to shut down his/her feelings, burying them, giving them a place to fester and become violence later in the child’s life.

That riveting is because of violence within . . . unresolved. If we can look at the violence outside us and keep our attention on it . . . we don’t have to focus on the violence within us. The violence that perhaps we experienced or witnessed as children. Some of it conscious and some of it buried in our unconscious minds, our hearts, our bodies. And the violence we feel in response. Some of it conscious and some not conscious at all. Some of it we may have acted out in our lives; some of it we may fantasize; some of it we may try to keep from acting on; and some of it we may one day act out . . . harming ourselves and others.

Whatever our individual relationship with violence – past and present – we need to explore and heal it to the root. Otherwise, it will create our relationship with violence in the future. It will create our individual relationship with violence. And it will participate in co-creating our communal relationship with violence in the future.  It will show up somehow – subtly or blatantly – in our violence with our children, our partner, our peers, our selves . . . with everyone in our world. And if we don’t heal this to the root . . . we will get caught in a vicious cycle of escalating violence. We already are caught in that vicious cycle. But we are not yet so caught that we can’t free ourselves. We need to extricate ourselves from the cycle of violence in a healthy way – by healing it one by one by one in those who have experienced violence in their childhood – and to dissolve that cycle fully.

This is not about people who are deemed “mentally ill.” This is about all of us. We all need to pay attention. If we don’t pay attention, we will continue to feed the cycle of violence, individually and on a large scale. We will continue to be wounded, violent people; we will continue to “create” wounded, violent people, and we will continue to create a wounded, violent society and a wounded, violent world.

If you grow up with violence – blatant or subtle cruelty – you will have within you many feelings, including anger and hatred, both of which are feelings that are warranted in those situations. Both of which need safe expression for your health. Neither of which can cause any harm if they are simply felt and safely expressed. But that kind of feeling and expression is not safe in a family where there is child abuse, violence, and cruelty. Alice Miller talks about this at length in her book For Your Own Good:  Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence. There are so many excerpts from her book that I would like to include in this article . . . too many to be possible. But here are three quotes that stand out amongst the crucial understandings she offers:

“Since the path to safe, verbal communication based on a feeling of trust was blocked for them, the only way they were able to communicate with the world was by means of unconscious enactment.” – p. 241 [My note:  What she called enactment is also often called “re-enactment” or “acting out.”]

“Not until the end of the drama is reached do these enactments awaken in the world feelings of shock and horror. The public at large unfortunately does not experience such intense feelings upon hearing reports of battered children.” – p. 241 [My note:  So . . .  the Newtown tragedy got our attention, but the mistreatment of Adam Lanza at his school did not. And in similar manner, Ariel Castro’s kidnapping and raping of three girls and particularly their escape, got our attention, but the abuse Ariel Castro suffered at the hands of his parents and the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of an uncle when he was young . . . did not get our attention. We need to see this in individual cases, but also in the societal norms, when the patterns of child abuse don’t get our attention until they are somehow acted out in horrific enactments.]

“For parents to be aware of what they are doing to their children, they would also have to be aware of what was done to them in their own childhood. But this is exactly what was forbidden them as children. If access to this knowledge is cut off, parents can strike and humiliate their children or torment and mistreat them in other ways, without realizing how they are hurting them; they simply are compelled to behave this way.” – p. 262  [My note: If we hide our own young experience in our own unconscious – under the guise of idealizations, illusions, normalization, or just plain denial – we also hide our cruelty toward our children behind those same walls of silence and defenses against pain.]

Going back to last month’s Mother’s Day newsletter article and looking ahead to Father’s Day in the month of June. . . This is what a loving mother or father would teach us.  And the most loving thing a mother or father can do. They would do their own inner healing work with their experience of violence . . . with a commitment so strong that nothing would get them to break it. Although painful, they would want to know and work through their own childhood experiences of violence. Although painful, they would want to know and do their part to work through the consequences that their childhood experience of violence had on others in their life later.

Truly loving parents would want to help us see our experience of violence and our acts of violence, as well. Truly loving parents wouldn’t just – under the guise of love – let us keep up our hardened defenses against our early experiences of violence, and wouldn’t just – under the guise of love – let us keep up our own acts of violence, however subtle or blatant, and be silent about it. Truly loving parents wouldn’t just use a mask of love to “make” us feel good about ourselves, instead of truthfully bringing us face to face with the parts of ourselves that need healing and with the real fulfillment that can come from our being willing to heal.

Truly loving parents are self-responsible parents and teach us to be self-responsible. Truly loving parents would offer to help us see ourselves and our need to heal . . . and love us through the healing. They would join truth and love together. Without real truth, love is just a wishy-washy imitation. And truth can be just a brutal battering, a form of violence in itself, if we don’t join it with love. Truly loving parents join love and truth together and love us through wherever it leads us in our healing and our becoming our fullest, most positive potential self. . . .  individually and communally.

© Judith Barr, 2013

MY NOTE:  After I wrote this article, but before I posted it, the tornados in the mid-west occurred. So many died in them. And so many children died in the tornado in Oklahoma. It is tragic.  My heart breaks for everyone who suffered from the tornados. I send many blessings.

My heart also breaks for this:  Why do so many parents feel the vulnerability of their children when they go through a tragedy like the tornado or like Newtown, but don’t feel their children’s vulnerability on a daily basis in their own homes . . . where they yell at their children, ridicule their children, spank their children, or otherwise do harm to these same children?  If your heart breaks when I ask this question, I encourage you to reread this article. I encourage you to re-read the quotes from Alice Miller. I encourage you to read Alice Miller’s book. And I encourage you to find a therapist who can help you reconnect with your own vulnerability in your childhood and heal the wounds you experienced and affect you and those around you still today.

* At the time this article was initially published, The National Children’s Alliance posted the statistics for 2011 mentioned in this article. They have since removed that page. You may view the most recent statistics (2013 and 2014), which are alarmingly similar, here: http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/media-kit/national-statistics-child-abuse.

** http://www.unicef.org/media/media_14661.html

***http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

****http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_corporal_punishment#Country_by_country

*****http://school.familyeducation.com/classroom-discipline/resource/38377.html

******http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/nimh-vs-dsm-5-no-one-wins_b_3252323.html

****

WHAT YOU CAN DO
TO HELP MAKE YOUR AND OUR WORLD SAFE . . .
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

This month, commit to helping end the cycle of violence in our lives and in our world, by beginning to explore your own involvement in the cycle of violence – both conscious and unconscious. By beginning to explore your own history with violence – both receiving it and acting it out.  By beginning to explore your own currents of thoughts and feelings of violence within your psyche. Or if you’ve already begun, by taking the next step.

How do you feel when you hear reports of violent events that have happened in our world? Do you join in the castigation of the perpetrator . . . the labeling and naming of the person as a “monster”? What do you do with the fear, sorrow, anger or hatred that wells up within you? Do you act on it? Do you silently indulge it? Do you try to repress it? Or . . . do you try to safely explore and feel it?

This time . . . instead of acting on, indulging, or trying to bury those painful feelings . . . try to trace them back, as far back as you can go in your life. When have you felt that particular ‘flavor” of feeling in your early life? Can you recall the first time you felt that anger? That fear? That sorrow? That hatred? Who in your very young life would you have called a “monster” – if it had been safe for you to do so?

The delicate exploration and healing of the violence and hatred within each of us often requires the help of a trained, professional, integritous, and caring therapist, to help us tease apart the here-and-now feelings from the ancient ones. To help us be and feel safe enough to explore, talk about, and feel. If you need help to heal those currents within and would like to explore doing that with me . . . I would welcome your email.

We can truly heal violence in our world . . . if we are willing and committed to healing the violence within.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! LET’S BE HONEST ABOUT THE POLITICS OF ABUSE IN OUR COUNTRY!

Enough is enough! Let’s really deal with the politics of abuse in our country!

Plainly . . . and tragically . . . abuse is legal! I have worked with enough people who have either experienced or been close to abuse, where they should have been but were not protected!

Women were not protected. Elderly were not protected. Children were not protected. And at times men were not protected. When they needed to be and should have been!

The police “could” not protect them because . . .
The court “could” not protect them because . . .
The department that serves children and families “could” not protect them because . . .
Always an excuse given as a reason, a legal reason.

Enough is enough!

Last week I was required by law to make a report to the department that is supposed to protect children. I made the call and the report as mandated. Once made, I discovered something that brought pain and outrage! I discovered that most of the child abuse I had just reported was not something they would investigate, because the law in that particular state did not make it illegal for a parent to discipline his/her children with physical means or with an instrument. That means, an open hand can hit, a brush, spoon, or belt can hit . . . as long as somebody determines it’s not excessive force.

Incomprehensible! What century do we live in? What country do we live in? What a bizarre guise we offer that we are a civilized society! What absurd masks we wear that we are a loving people! What hypocrisy to bemoan the bullying that goes on among our children, when we adults are bullies in the home behind closed doors!

I know this may not all apply to every one of us. However . . . every one of us needs to look deep within ourselves to discover which parts of this does apply to us. And to heal those parts to the root! Without that exploration, we will continue to say good things about ourselves, while we normalize abuse and deny it.

I investigated in another state to see if the same was true. The department would not tell me, but rather said it “could not give any guidelines or information about this,” and referred me instead to its website, “where,” the person said, “it covers what’s reportable and what’s not.”

And then I found an article from a newspaper that said outright, “In Connecticut, in and of itself, striking your child as a form of discipline is not illegal. According to state statute, a parent or guardian may “use reasonable physical force … to the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of such minor.” (New Haven Register Friday, June 04, 2010, “New Haven man faces assault charges for ‘discipline’ of teen with belt.”)

It goes on to describe in the article what was said by a retired police officer who trains recruits at the police academy in domestic violence and child abuse: “If you’re driving 66 mph in a 65 mph zone, it’s clear-cut that you are breaking the law, he said.” And then it quoted him as saying, “This has a lot of gray areas.”

What is gray about physically abusing a child? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

The journalist who wrote the article acknowledged, “Clearly, over the decades, society as a whole has shifted away from corporal punishment, but it still remains a common disciplinary tool in many households. For years, many child-rearing experts have said spanking is ineffective and may promote aggression in children.”

It also promotes great fear and the re-enactment of the very traumatic experiences the children had at home with others in the future . . . with their spouses, with their children, with the elderly to whom they are close. The original abuse goes on and on and on . . . from one generation to another, from one person to another. And it spreads like a wild fire from the individual level of society, to the communal . . . from families to communities, to states, to countries, and all over our world.

The laws of our country are still supporting abuse. The politics of our country are still supporting abuse. No matter how much we try to deny it, it is undeniable! Among others, it is the parents who abuse their children who vote for the Mayor or Town Select Person, the State Senator, the Governor, the US Senator, and the President. This is screaming out to be healed in our time. The healing starts at home . . . within each of us. Each one of us needs to look at the ways in which we abuse children, others, ourselves, our power. Whatever we change in the outer world will not be sustained unless we take this step . . . each one of us!

© Judith Barr, 2011

Domestic violence abroad . . . and right here at home

In these times of financial, religious, social, and political unrest, those who have not learned to handle their feelings responsibly are increasingly lashing out at other . . . especially those with whom they are closest. The article below is a glimpse through one facet of this issue.*
 
The attitude of men and of the judicial system in Iraq toward women and girls, as demonstrated by the article referenced below – It’s Ok to Slap Spendthrift Wives** – is outrageous, tragic, heartbreaking.
 
You may think this is limited to Iraq . . . or at least countries other than the United States. If you do, you have a shock in store for you!
 
I have worked with women, in the supposedly cultured and advanced northeast United States, who were abused in their marriages and frankly! Even more in their attempts to divorce. These women were, in the process of divorce, abused by their husbands, their lawyers (men and women alike), the judges, and the legal system.
 
Some of the women would have been homeless had it not been for the resources of their families of origin. Some were unable to feed and clothe their children because the courts did not assure them the money to live on even during the divorce process. I’ve seen women lose their children. I’ve seen women lose all their savings. I’ve known of women who stayed with their husbands for fear the courts would make the children have visitation with a father they were terrified by.
 
Don’t tell me courts expected the wives, whose husbands had insisted they stay home and take care of the children, to suddenly be able to get the level of jobs that would support them and their children . . . especially when all the while their lawyers were telling the wives not to get jobs or they’d get no alimony and child support.  Don’t tell me the courts can’t see abuse when it’s right in front of their eyes, for example wives, who had been so abused that they had no confidence in themselves anymore.  Don’t tell me the courts do such voluminous business in divorce and don’t know the shame the wives feel in their plight. Don’t tell me the courts were fooled by the husbands’ attempts to wriggle out of their responsibilities to take care of even their children . . . by claiming they’d lost their business, by claiming they didn’t have the assets they had.  And don’t you dare tell me that the courts are so heartless that they favor the wallet of the abusive man over the means to heal the heart and soul of his wife and children.
 
Now . . . I know that each woman needs to do her own work about the early wounds that may have caused her to end up with an abusive husband. About the early wounds that may have caused her to be frozen when wanting to leave. About the early wounds that may have caused her to perhaps even leave and then return to her abusive husband.  And it is true!

Each woman in this situation does need to do her own inner healing of psyche and soul – so that she doesn’t recreate the same situation all over again! So that she models the deepest healing for her children! So that she heals on the inside, too, to the very root of the wound, and not just the outer level.  
 
So that she knows her part and doesn’t disempower herself by pretending it was only his responsibility. Yes! If she makes it all his responsibility, she does, in fact, disempower herself. She keeps herself from finding the roots in her own life of her becoming entangled in an abusive relationship.  And no matter what anyone says, that is extremely disempowering . . .  for if she doesn’t know her part in the creation and perpetuation of the abusive relationship, she does not have the power to heal it and to prevent a recurrence.
 
Both of these elements must be attended to.
The abuse from the outer world . . . particularly the court system.
And the disempowerment not only from the outer world but also from the inner world of long ago.

If you are a woman who is in an abusive relationship . . . please get the help you need, and don’t stop until you do.

If you are a woman or a man who knows a woman in an abusive relationship and want to help . . . keep your heart open both to her current situation and also to the childhood wounds that are still alive inside her. And please do your own work, so you don’t act out of your own childhood wounds, and so you don’t act in her behalf to avoid your early wounds. If you have additional time and energy, help to work for exposure of and changes in the system . . . the lawyers, the judges, the legal system itself, and, of course, the law.

Now let’s go back to the countries like Iraq, where dealing with domestic violence is different in significant ways than in the USA. Where women are, in essence, prisoners in their own homes and their own countries, by government sanctioned practices? What can we do to help those women? Pray for them. Dedicate our own healing work not only to ourselves but also to them. Find organizations that we know will help them and contribute to those organizations. Found such an organization. Organize a fundraiser to raise money to contribute. Gather our friends and colleagues to brainstorm and heart-storm other ways to help . . . both at home and abroad.

This issue of domestic violence abroad and right here at home is a clear example of the crucial need for prayer, outer action, and inner healing combined if we are going to resolve problems in our lives and our world and sustain the resolution and changes both inside and out.

 (c) Judith Barr, 2009

*I could write on this theme for days . . . months. There are many facets, including domestic violence in which women are violent to their husbands. But today, I am writing about the woman receiving the violence. 

**http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/05/10/saudi.court.wife.slapping/index.html