Changing Things From The Inside Out: The Bankruptcy Is Within

It’s 2013. There is so much in our world that is distressing and frightening in these times. And we keep trying to fix it all by doing things out there in the world!  But no matter how hard we try, even if we seem to succeed – for a while – the changes we make in the outer world unravel and threaten to return to the way they were, or worse.

We’re not looking at what’s happening through a big enough lens. We’re not looking at what’s happening through enough dimensions . . . our view is so limited. To put it simply . . . We’re not seeing the big picture. We’re not seeing the whole picture.

We’re not looking far enough. We’re not looking close enough. We’re not looking wide enough. We’re not looking deep enough.  Stay with me to really understand.

As a depth psychotherapist, when I work with an individual person, (I use the masculine pronoun here to simplify, though it applies to both men and women) we look at what has happened in his life that has affected not only his outer world but also his inner world – the world of mind, heart, and soul. We look at how he reflexively protected himself against the pain of the distress or even trauma he suffered. We look at how the originally involuntary protections took hold and became defenses, hardening as time went on and eventually splitting off from their original intentions – first protection against what for a child was unbearable suffering, and later defenses against the pain that was still alive within that child.  We look at inner defenses and outer defenses. And we look at how those defenses created problems that a child couldn’t possibly foresee . . . including distortedly proving to that person what he originally decided about himself, others, and life in response to the original painful events. We look at the vicious cycle all of that sets up for the person’s life, both in his inner world and his outer world.  And the illusion that he and others believe as he grows into what we think of as an adult – a person in a big body with the child still alive within. We also look at how that vicious cycle in his life affects those around him – both up close and personal and also not so close. And, of course, we look at, talk about, and help him truly enter into the deep healing that is possible for him.

That’s a lot to take in and digest in one paragraph. Let me give you an example.

Joe is a 43-year old businessman. He’s married and has two sons, one 6 and the other 12.  He has a wife who loves him, but can’t tolerate his walls, his outbursts, or the power struggles she witnesses and experiences with him.

As a tiny baby, Joe had colic that went on for far too long.  He cried in pain too much of each day. His mother was, herself, distressed that she could not soothe him. Eventually at some point in the day she would put him in his crib, leave the room, closing the door behind her and turning up the volume on the music or T.V. to drown out his crying. His crying would change again and again from that of a hungry, wet baby needing to be responded to, held and loved, to that of a baby with a tummy in pain, to cries of frustration and finally rage at being left alone, hurting, uncomforted, unaided, till he cried himself to sleep. When he awakened, the cycle began again. Mom and Joe pretty much lived in the house without much exposure to the outside world until Joe grew out of the colic. So the only other person who would see this cycle was Joe’s dad. When his father was home, sometimes his father would become so triggered by Joe’s inconsolability and ceaseless crying, that he would throw Joe into the crib yelling at him and leave the room, slamming the door behind him . . . sometimes off its hinges.

Joe did eventually, thank goodness, grow out of the colic, and there was so much less crying. By comparison, almost none.

But when Joe did cry, even as an older baby, even as a toddler, even as a little boy . . . both mom and dad had reactions.  What was triggered in them when he was a baby, was again and again activated by the slightest sign of crying, as if it were a hair trigger. Joe learned to suppress and then completely turn off his crying. He learned to keep his chin from quivering. He learned to keep his eyes dry – no tears. He learned not to do the things that would cause his parents to react in ways that might hurt him enough to cry . . . or if they did, he would either pretend they weren’t hurting him or count the seconds until their verbal lashings or spankings were over. One day he told his sister that he made it through 5 whole minutes without shedding a tear or even wincing.  From his once vulnerable, powerless state as a baby, he had grown defenses that made him feel like the powerful one; he had become contemptuous, proud of his strength, and determined to show his strength whenever he wanted.  He had decided:  I’ll never be powerless again; those monsters’ll be sorry they ever hurt me; and life is a long wait till you get ‘em back. Only no one knew he’d made those decisions, nor that he was busy re-deciding them, even in his dreams and fantasies . . . not even Joe himself.

Yet unconsciously, just like the rest of us, he re-enacted his earlier experiences again and again, transferring his parents and his experiences with them onto other people and his experiences with these people – like his teachers, his boy scout leader, his coaches, his minister. And every time someone hurt him, he hid the signs of the pain – even from himself – and instead acted strong and felt contempt for them that they had to hurt other people. But one day, when he was 12, his minister lashed out at him. Joe saw red and lashed back, this time physically, giving his minister a bloody nose. Joe’s father had a fit about what his son had done and hit Joe so hard he had black and blue marks. Joe took his defensive position with his father and decided again the same decisions he’d decided earlier in his life, this time more specifically personalized to his dad:  I’ll never be powerless again; you’ll be sorry you ever hurt me, you horrible monster; and life’ll be a long wait till I get you back.

In essence, Joe had run through a whole vicious cycle or maze, as I call it.

He’d gone from being powerless with the minister; he’d come to the end of the long wait till he could “get him back” and made the minister-monster sorry, only to be powerless with his father once again and reinforce those decisions for himself all over again. Joe’s classmates cheered him on for decking the minister (which they were afraid to do); they empathized with him for the bruises his father left on him; and secretly they were afraid of him. Somewhat consciously and somewhat beneath his awareness, Joe felt this combination, especially the fear, gave him a lot of power with them: he could turn them into monsters and get them back at any time, too. They knew their fear meant he had a lot of power with them, and did their best not to antagonize him.

But Joe’s father was oblivious. He had no fear of Joe, no inkling Joe was waiting to get him back, and not the slightest awareness that one day Joe would beat him up at the slightest provocation . . . when Joe’s own son was 12. Joe’s twelve year old son hadn’t a clue that his father would yell at him for what seemed like hours on his 12th birthday. And his business partners couldn’t even imagine the potential of the same occurring at work with one of them on that very day.  No one understood the trigger that age 12 had become for Joe.

Do you see how the cycle works and affects everyone? What occurred in Joe’s childhood, so early he didn’t remember it consciously, affected his life and everyone in it . . .

************************

Now let’s take a big step. There are many, many, many more people in our country than most people can imagine . . . who experience trauma in the form of some kind of abuse.* There are many more than most can imagine – both children and adults. Many more than most want to imagine. Many more than most want to know.  But we need to know. Because these people are not just the guy or gal across the world, across the country, or across town. They are the guy and gal across the street and next door. They are also us, right in our own homes, right in our own lives.

Some of them know they have been or are being abused. I’ve known people, even therapists, who are glad they were hit every day of their childhood . . . because compared to some of their patients who were more subtly humiliated and otherwise emotionally battered, they knew they were being abused. I’ve known others who were so glad they weren’t hit and used that as a defense to prove to themselves they weren’t abused, hiding from their own awareness the more subtle – but equally damaging – forms of abuse they experienced.

So again . . . if we weren’t in denial, we would find there are many more people in our country who have been abused and experienced in that abuse some form of violence. They are people who have buried their memories and their feelings, built defenses against the pain, made decisions about themselves others and life, and are haunted by all of this. They’re haunted by the buried memories, the buried feelings, the defenses they spend their energy keeping strong to hold the memories and feelings at bay . . . and the thing they’re unconsciously waiting to have happen as each cycle comes to a close.

This makes the possibility of abuse and violence acted out physically much more likely than most want to know. But it also increases the likelihood of our unconscious support of violence, a support that ends up as acting out violence and feeds the violence amongst us. For example . . . sports like football and boxing during which fans cheer the violence on; movies and T.V programs that are filled with violence, during which many cheer the violence aloud or secretly get off on the violence; there are those who disparage the paparazzi, yet it is our population who reads the “rags”; many decry human trafficking, yet it is our citizens who buy the humans and use them for sex; the whole political campaign season we just went through was violent in its own right – from lies to verbal attacks and more; not to mention the wars we are waging, often under the guise of laws, righteousness, patriotism, and “helping others”; the violence that’s been done to our economic system; and now after the Sandy Hook tragedy, mental health is in the spotlight – but mental health as a bankrupt system, without the necessary leadership, tools, support, and means with which to truly bring about the healing needed . . . all through society, all over the world.

Here’s where the larger picture really needs to be seen.  .  . or we will never work our way through the painful crossroads we’re at. If Joe, as I described him to you, were to be in serious financial debt and even go bankrupt, I, as his therapist, would not only work with him on the issues on the here and now practical level, recommending he talk with an accountant and/or a financial planner, and working with him on his relationship with money . . . I would also work with him on the debt within himself. I would work with him on the bankruptcy I have described to you above. I would help him acknowledge the bankruptcy within and heal it debt by debt by debt.  I would help him become conscious of his early decisions about himself, others, and life. I would help him both utilize them to access his early memories and feelings and heal them so he isn’t driven by them in his life in the future. I would help him build his capacity to feel the feelings he has been defending against.  I would assist him as he transforms the use of his energy to defend against his early experiences and feelings into a use of his energy and other inner resources for constructive, creative possibilities in his future.  It will be crucial that he does all this, beginning with acknowledging the inner bankruptcy, in order to resolve things from the inside out. He cannot simply fix the outer bankruptcy and stop there . . . it will just occur and recur again and again till the inner bankruptcy is acknowledged and healed.

And this is true of our society, too. What happens within individuals, happens also within societies.  What happens within individuals, happens within the society of the family, the community, the business world, the country, and the global society, as well. You can see it in the example of Joe above. And you can see it in our society today.  While our Congress purports to be trying to help us at the edge of a fiscal cliff, too many of its members are revealing their individual inner bankruptcies and our country’s inner bankruptcy. While our country purports to be fighting against violence, it is acting out its inner bankruptcy of violence right and left. While our country purports to value women and want to keep them safe, the inner bankruptcy of our relationship to woman and the feminine reveals itself in both male and female leaders and citizens every day.

It’s 2013.  It’s time to look at the big picture. It’s time to look up close – at ourselves individually and communally. It’s time to look to the depths – within ourselves and our national and global communities.  It’s time to see the bankruptcy that has been revealed both financially and in other areas of our lives.

It’s time to see the inner bankruptcy from which the outer bankruptcy has been created. It’s time to go to the root and heal this within ourselves and our society – from the inside out.

Each one of us who does that in ourselves, helps not only ourselves but also our society.  You can’t just work to heal societal inner bankruptcy and neglect your own.  It may not be obvious to you, but from my breadth and depth of experience . . . I’m quite sure there is some aspect of inner bankruptcy within us all. Where will you start? What will you do to heal your own inner bankruptcy and our global one as well?

It’s 2013. It is time to begin reweaving the underlying fabric of our society. It is the time of healing from the root, from the inside out . . . within each of us and all over our precious world.

************************

* Today I’m using the violence facet of the big picture – I could use any side to help us see the relationship between the inner and its outpicturing in the world outside. To help us see the relationship between the inner in the individual and society and the outer for the individual and society. The grief side, for example. It’s less than a month after the violence at Sandy Hook. The grief is tremendous. But instead of grieving, which would help us turn within . . . we’re fighting. About guns. About violence. About the mentally ill. About the fiscal cliff. About who’s right and who’s wrong. And instead of grieving, we’re pushing ourselves and those who have lost so much to get back to normal, albeit perhaps, another new normal. To let go of grief. To not weep for those who are in a better place. All showing our inner bankruptcies, personal and communal. Our fear of grieving and the resulting layers and layers of grief within us just waiting to be triggered.

After 9/11 instead of grieving, we began fighting. We went to war. We declared we were the axis of good and others the axis of evil. A sign of our inner bankruptcy. When the tragedy occurred in Norway, I wrote a public letter and urged them not to make the same mistake we made. . . not to let the grief ungrieved create still more events that would cause yet more grief. Are we really going to make the same mistake again? Or are we going to heal the inner bankruptcy now?

To learn more, you can read these articles at my Huffington Post blog:
An Open Letter to Norway… Don’t Make the Mistake We Made at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-barr/an-open-letter-to-norway-_b_911739.html

Help Your Family and You Through 9/11 Anniversary and Terror Threats at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-barr/911-anniversary_b_956015.html

and these articles on my blog, PoliPsych:
Healing Clues in the Aftermath of The Sandy Hook Tragedy – in Newtown and All Over The World – The Clue Of Grief at
http://judithbarr.com/2012/12/17/healing-clues-in-the-aftermath-of-the-sandy-hook-tragedy-in-newtown-and-all-over-the-world-the-clue-of-grief/.

Healing Clues in the Aftermath of The Sandy Hook Tragedy – in Newtown and All Over The World – The Clue Of Safety at
http://judithbarr.com/2012/12/18/healing-clues-in-the-aftermath-of-the-sandy-hook-tragedy-in-newtown-and-all-over-the-world-the-clue-of-safety/.

© Judith Barr, 2013.

****

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

This year, make a true commitment to explore, find, and heal the bankruptcy within you . . . as one aspect of doing your part to help reweave the fabric of our society and our world. And as part of healing the bankruptcy within, make a commitment to explore the feelings that arise as you go about your day, tracing those feelings back to their roots in your early life,

And this year, make a true commitment to help bring this message to others in your world – the message of change from the roots, from the inside out.

If you feel called, pass this post on to those in your life you feel would be open and ready to receive the message. It might inform them, inspire them, intrigue them, or simply plant seeds in them. It might help them. It might help someone they know. It might start a dialogue between them and you that would, perhaps, not otherwise have begun.

We can all work together to heal our world, fully and sustainably – from the inside out — if we can commit to doing the inner work we all need to do to help create true and lasting change.

Beneath The Violence in Aurora, Colorado…

The tragedy yesterday in Aurora, Colorado, is heartbreaking. The cauldron of feelings it must have stirred in people in the theater, those left in grief, and those watching and hearing about it . . . also heartbreaking. But the cauldron of feelings in the ones who commit the acts of violence and destruction are also necessary to consider. We need to let those feelings break our hearts, too.

How many times are we going to have violent, destructive attacks – in our country and our world – and not look for the deepest root? How many times are we going to just look at why the shooter did what he did? How many times are we only going to look at computer games, television shows, movies  – or other superficial things – as possible causes? How many times are we going to call them “bad” and that’s it? How many times are we going to split hairs about who is mentally ill and who is just looking for revenge? Revenge is a sign of something unhealed.

Any person (male or female) who commits an act of violence and destruction is deeply wounded and needs help. No one is born destructive. Nobody is born violent. Not even Hitler. We are born and wounded by our families, communities, society. And we all need to look at this, to understand this.

Any person who commits an act of violence and destruction is deeply wounded and needs help. He needs help with feelings he has never had the help to build the capacity to feel and know what to do with. And how is he going to get that help in a family where the parents don’t have that capacity – were never helped, themselves, to be able to feel and use their feelings well. And how is he going to get that help in a society that doesn’t have that capacity to feel and use feelings well. A society in fact, that is complicit in numbing feelings, burying feelings, moving away from feelings any way possible. A society, for example, that supports taking medication to stop the emotional pain, instead of working to find the root of the pain and heal it. A society that allows its insurance companies to limit the kinds of therapy and the number of sessions for someone to do their healing. Limits that are bizarre in terms of any real healing being done. And therapies that can only possibly, perhaps, help the symptoms temporarily – like bandaids – never truly resolve the wound and its inner and outer consequences.

How is he going to get that help in a society that calls certain people ‘mentally ill,’ and refuses to look at the wounding in us all and in our society?

If we want this violence to stop, we’re going to need to find a way to look at our own wounding – individual and societal – build our capacity to feel our feelings healthily and tell which feelings we need to safely explore for healing and which feelings we need to act on safely, and do the deep inner work to heal our wounds that caused us suffering, continue to cause us suffering, and will continue to cause us unnecessary suffering until we heal them.

NOTE: If you have read this and think I’m making excuses for those who are violent and destructive, or not holding them accountable, you have completely misunderstood or distorted the purpose and meaning of my words. I hope you will read it again and open your mind and your heart, so that you can see and feel my efforts to help us go beneath the surface to the levels from which we can truly help ourselves heal this kind of destructiveness in our world.

© Judith Barr, 2012

SANDUSKY – MORE THAN A SCANDAL

The striking statement from former FBI director Louis Freeh caught the media and the public on Friday, July 13:

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” *

The report, thank goodness, supports truth and justice. But if we only look at this report, this act of justice, this scandal . . . we miss what’s really going on deeper than this one scandal and broader than this one scandal. In fact, deeper than any single scandal or even the series of scandals that have been coming out into public awareness.

The root of the problem is this: sexual abuse is occurring far more than most of us can imagine – certainly in our culture here in the US, and I would venture to say all over the world. And the consequences of sexual abuse are far worse for the individuals who are sexually abused and for society as well . . . especially when the enormity of the occurrence is hidden. Especially when the severity of the experience and its effects are denied. Especially when the destructiveness of the abuse and its aftermath is covered up. Especially when the horror of the domino process of the event and its repercussions is normalized. And all of this occurs not only in the Sandusky scandal, not only in the many recent public scandals – the Sandusky scandal, the Horace Mann scandal, the Chabad rabbi sexual scandal in Australia, the sexual abuse scandals worldwide in the Catholic Church, to name only a few – but in the individual cases of sexual abuse that are never reported, never investigated, and that never come to truth and justice.

Keep reading . . . this is vitally important for all of us to know and understand.**

Freeh said there was a “cloistered culture at Penn State where doing what was right crumbled under the weight of fear at all levels.” This doesn’t only happen at institutions like Penn State. This occurs in families where children are sexually abused every single day and everyone is afraid to know or tell.  And the family is a “cloistered culture where doing what is right crumbles under the weight of fear at all levels.”

At the top, Freeh said, Paterno, Curley, Schultz and president Graham Spanier cowered at the notion of bad publicity for the university and its heralded football program. At the bottom, Freeh said, the janitors who witnessed Sandusky abusing a boy in a campus shower in November 2000 feared being fired if they alerted authorities. This doesn’t occur in institutions alone. This exists in every family where sexual abuse is occurring and some of those at the top – whether they be a parent, an older sibling, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle – “cower at the notion of bad publicity [and humiliation and other consequences] for the family.”  And in every family where at the bottom those who witness or overhear the sexual abuse . . . fear being threatened, attacked, or abandoned.

“They were afraid to take on the football program,” Freeh said. “They said the university would circle around them. It was like going against the president of the United States. If that’s the culture at the bottom, then God help the culture at the top.” Yes, tragically this happens in institutions – universities, private schools, coaching academies, religious institutions, and more.  But just as tragically, perhaps even more tragically since it can be so much more hidden, this exists in families. I have worked with many who have been sexually abused in their childhoods. The very real fear of revealing what happened to them, even if they weren’t threatened by the abuser, includes a foreground terror of “taking on the family.” They knew and know the family will circle around the abuser and the parts of the family that are in denial. And unfortunately, that happens more often than not. One person, the one who has been abused and decides to expose the truth, is too often attacked – emotionally and verbally if not physically – made out to be the “bad one” or the “crazy one,” and exiled from the family. In a family, the abuser usually has so much power – emotionally, the family members are so often in thrall to the abuser as though they were all children — that going against the abuser is to family members similar to going against the president of the U.S.

Are you getting the gravity of the situation? The breadth and depth of the situation? We are seeing scandals in institutions because of the enormity of the sexual abuse that’s occurring in families. The enormity of the sexual abuse that’s occurring in families and not being stopped. Not being brought out into the open for truth and justice. And definitely not being healed. 

Unhealed sexual abuse can cause many problems. Two major problems among them . . . the ones who were abused repeat the sexual abuse, acting it out upon others as it was acted out on them; or the ones who were abused are frozen in the face of sexual abuse around them and participate in the collusion when the next cycle of sexual abuse occurs – perhaps a generation down the line or in some other context they are part of.

In a recent panel discussion on the American porn industry, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry acknowledged something I’ve rarely heard in the media. The essence of what she said was that there are “bad things happening in porn in terms of sex trafficking and vulnerability” . . . and “the fact is that all of us are complicit.”*** A fellow panelist responded, “That’s a great point,” and went on to something else. The whole panel needed to stay on that note of complicity. We needed the panel to go deeper with that acknowledgment. We all need to go deeper with the issue of complicity.

If we have more sexual abuse in our world than we can imagine, then it is more than likely that more than we can imagine of what we live with in our society is rooted in sexual abuse. Pornography. Sexual harassment. Sexual Addiction. Prostitution. Rape. Sex Slavery. How many of the victims of these things were sexually abused as children? How many of the perpetrators and providers of these things were sexually abused as children? How many of the consumers of these things were sexually abused as children? My instinct and experience tells me . . . far far far more than we could imagine. Far far far more than we are, perhaps, willing to imagine.

And what do we do about all this sexual abuse? We help keep it hidden, we deny it, we cover it up, we turn away from it, we normalize it. We let insurance companies interfere with the healing that could actually occur – both individually and societally. We let insurance companies have personal information that will be accessible forever about people who have already been deeply exposed, wounded, and taken advantage of. We let insurance companies limit the depth of healing and the extent of healing by paying for only short term therapy that treats the symptoms and makes people “functional” . . . but leaves the memories and feelings deep inside the abused person to haunt them and drive them in ways that aren’t good for them or the world. 

By allowing this, we let more and more new forms of quick-fix bandaid therapy be developed so that their originators and followers can do the new therapies and be paid by the insurance companies. I’m not saying that all insurance companies always interfere and never help. Just like with everything else, the insurance companies can misuse and abuse their power, or they can utilize their power for magnificent good. And I’m not saying all therapists gravitate to the quick fixes in order to get paid by the insurance companies. Thank goodness there are some integritous therapists who are truly committed to helping people heal to the root.

And what do we do about all this sexual abuse? We allow the pharmaceutical companies to buy their way into the business of healing and the insurance industry so that one of the quick-fix bandaids is pharmaceutical drugs. I’m not saying medicine is never an aid to someone’s journey toward healing. It is just not always needed; it always has consequences; and it is definitely not the vehicle that accomplishes the underlying healing. 

In other words . . . what we do about all this sexual abuse is to collude – whether knowingly or not – in preventing the healing of sexual abuse. We are complicit in preventing the real healing of individuals. And in preventing the healing of sexual abuse in our world.  We may not want to see this. We may not want to know this. We may not want to acknowledge our part in this. That in itself makes us part of the problem. Anyone of us who interferes with the healing is part of the problem. Anyone of us who allows interference with the healing is part of the problem.

I have been a depth psychotherapist for 37 years. Included in my practice for most of that time have been people who were abused sexually as children. I know it is possible to do the depth root healing. It takes deep commitment. It takes a trustworthy therapist with deep integrity, with solid boundaries, with an ongoing commitment to his or her own inner healing to the root . . . that is what’s needed to be able to go with someone who has been sexually abused in childhood all the way to the core healing. (A therapist cannot guide or even go with a client to depths the therapist has not gone him/herself.)

And every time one person does his/her own depth healing, that person has a huge impact on society. The healing needs to be done one person at a time. But the individuals who are healing from their own experiences of sexual abuse cannot accomplish this alone. Every single one of us can help both with the individual healing and the healing of society . . . if we do our own healing. If we stop allowing ourselves and others to interfere with the true healing that is possible. If we do our own healing, we will stop being complicit with the sexual abuse that exists not only in our families but also in our communities – in person and second-hand, like online.

Please! Look at yourself honestly. Please do what you need to for your own deep healing. Please take a stand to stop others from interfering with real healing . . . individually and communally. The health of many people depends upon you. . . many more people than you can imagine. The health of our society depends upon you. . . as well as every single one of us.  And not just sexually but on all levels of our being. The health of our world depends upon you. . . as well as every single one of us.

We are not powerless. We need to do the healing to find and claim our power and use it well . . . not only in behalf of ourselves but also in behalf of us all.

© 2012, Judith Barr

*http://articles.philly.com/2012-07-13/news/32664511_1_freeh-report-sandusky-schultz-and-curley
**Quote source: http://citizensvoice.com/news/freeh-s-scathing-report-details-cover-up-at-psu-1.1342879

***http://video.msnbc.msn.com/melissa-harris-perry/48105138#48105138 (4:11 TO 4:19)

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

This month, commit to truly become a part of the healing so needed in our world. You can start by helping to spread the word about how we can truly heal sexual abuse, truly and to the root . . .
If you’ve never commented on a blog before, comment on this one.
If you’ve never passed a blog post on to other people, pass this one on to everyone you know.

If you’ve never let an organization know about the link between individual and communal healing and the possibilities for assisting, let your favorite organization know.

If you’ve never looked at and worked to heal the roots of how you might be complicit, do that exploration and healing now.

We can heal sexual abuse – in its many forms – in our world . . . individually, communally, nationally and globally, if we are committed to healing to the root!

IT HAPPENS MORE THAN WE’RE WILLING TO KNOW . . .

As a depth psychotherapist and seeker of truth, I have witnessed for decades what we hide from ourselves in an attempt to “stay sane,” what we hide from others in an attempt to stay safe or even alive. What family members hide from each other and families hide from the outside world to try to stay intact and keep from being exposed and shamed.  What institutions hide, what communities hide, what states hide, what nations hide . . . in an effort to keep the tides from crashing down over them and changing them, however slowly or quickly.

On the level of the individual psyche, I so well know the need to help people open up the truth and grapple with reality at a pace their mind, heart, body, and soul can handle safely. And attuning with their pace is an exquisite part of what I offer in my work with people.

At the same time, individuals hiding from truth are members of families hiding from truth are members of communities hiding from truth . . . all the way to a world hiding from the truth.

The truth is coming out. We need to see its emergence as part of the healing, individually and globally. We need to help the truth come out and help ourselves and each other with the truth as it comes out.

Very recently, an article came out in the online New York Times.*  It was entitled “Prep-School Predators.”  It exposed decades and decades of sexual abuse at Horace Mann, an elite private school in the Bronx, New York. Sexual abuse of children by faculty members. Sexual abuse that was hidden most of the time . . . or perhaps ignored.  The courageous author, Amos Kamil, wrote in the article:

When the Penn State scandal came out last year, I kept getting tangled  in the questions everyone else was getting tangled in: How does an institutional culture arise to condone, or at least ignore, something that individually, every member knows is wrong?. . . The questions of Penn State, I realized, are the questions of Horace Mann and perhaps every  place that has been haunted by a similar history.*

We can be silent. We can try to pretend it all away. We can try to explain it all away, as is so often done. Under the guise of protecting our own positions or benefits. Under the guise of protecting those we care about or love. Under the guise of protecting the institution or even the culture. We can try to normalize it away for the same reasons, under the same guises. But underneath the pretense, beneath the explanations, lying right beneath the normalizing is the truth . . . just like every malady in our world, there is far more sexual abuse in our world than we are willing to know. It comes in limitless forms, among them – pedophilia, rape of adults, sex slavery. It comes in limitless places – out on the street, in school, at houses of worship, right next door, or even at home. It is acted out by limitless people – fathers and mothers, older sisters and brothers, babysitters, teachers, doctors, clergymen and clergywomen, therapists, and more. But as with sex slavery, it is not only acted out by those who take slaves; it is also acted out by the people who pay to have sex with those who’ve been enslaved. It has an impact on the children – the girls and the boys – who’ve been sexually abused; it has an impact on the women and men who’ve been sexually abused; it has an impact on everyone who comes in touch with those who’ve been sexually abused, including their partners if they have partners; it has an impact on a society that is rampant with sexual abuse. Rampant and more than we’re willing to know.

The impact is massive. Especially when we realize that sexual abuse begets sexual abuse. Those who sexually abuse most likely were sexually abused themselves . . . and therefore in need of healing in their own selves. Those who were sexually abused end up in many places on the continuum, among them – they may fight against sexual abuse, numb themselves and close their eyes to sexual abuse, end up abusing someone else, or work with deep commitment to heal from the sexual abuse they experienced. Those who close their eyes and their hearts to sexual abuse  . . . we wonder if they had sexual abuse in their lives in any way, and if so, how. 

The impact is enormous.  Especially when we realize that the trauma of sexual abuse creates deep, intense, raw feelings . . . terror, agonizing pain, hurt, confusion, rage and more.  It creates these feelings in a society that doesn’t want to know about, witness, or especially feel feelings. A society that wants to numb and bury the feelings with whatever can be used to medicate the feelings away and make the person functional once again . . . even sex.

The impact of sexual abuse is larger than we can imagine. Sexual abuse destroys trust . . . in your world, if it was a stranger who sexually abused you. In your world, in people, in those close to you, in yourself . . . especially if it was someone you trusted. How do you trust again? How do you know whom to trust again?  How do you repair the mechanism within you to trust yourself to discern who is trustworthy and who isn’t?  To protect yourself from someone who isn’t trustworthy? And to allow yourself to relax and be connected with someone who is trustworthy?

This is one example of how sexual abuse affects everything in every arena of life. How do you know who is telling the truth, who is manipulating your trust, and who is seducing you under a guise? How do you know up close and personal? And how do you know further away. If family members, priests and coaches, teachers and scout leaders, doctors and charity leaders, senators and congress people, and even presidents can have such wounds to their sexuality that they, in turn, sexually abuse others . . . how do we know for sure even who our candidates are as they run for high offices? 

The only way we can know is to be willing to know.  To be willing to end the silence, end the pretenses, end the normalization, end the excuses, end the lies. The only way we can know is to be willing to know the truth.  The only way we can know is to be committed to the truth. The only way we can know is to be willing to do our own inner healing work with whatever the truth awakens and brings forth in us. Only then will we know and only then will we know what to do with our knowing. 

Only then will we be able to forgo misusing the truth. Only then will we be able to refrain from using truth as an axe, a bomb, or any other weapon. Only then will we be able to partner truth with love and use it as the healing instrument it truly is.

Oddly enough, in a school like Horace Mann where the truth was not brought out into the open, the beginning and end of the school alma mater is: “Great is the truth and it prevails.”   Horace Mann might have betrayed its alma mater, but each of us has a choice.

Will we also betray the truth? Or will we commit to the truth with a full commitment and follow through on that commitment day by day, step by step, breath by breath?

© Judith Barr, 2012
*
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/the-horace-mann-schools-secret-history-of-sexual-abuse.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

NOTE: One truth that is crucial to know: It is possible to heal deeply and to the root after having been sexually abused. It takes a full commitment, lots of patience, and a really good, seasoned therapist with integrity, good boundaries, an open heart, a commitment to doing his/her own healing work, and someone who is not afraid of feelings.

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

This month . . . Explore honestly within yourself your relationship with truth. Ask yourself: How afraid am I to find and know the truth? How experienced am I in finding and knowing the truth? What has my experience been when I’ve found and known the truth? How committed am I to finding and knowing the truth?
If we are committed to finding the truth, knowing the truth, and bringing the truth to light…imagine how different our world would be!

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