THE PETRAEUS SCANDAL – WILL WE UTILIZE IT TO STAGNATE OR TO GROW?

Most every year at the end of December or in early January, I write an article about commitment, since making and breaking New Year’s Resolutions is such a hot topic at that time. We’ve just had news, though, of one of our country’s esteemed and powerful leaders having broken his marriage commitment. So it seems to me, now is the perfect time to write about commitment.

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Friday, November 9th 2012, CIA Director David Petraeus (and former four-star General of the U.S. Army) resigned his position, based on his having had an extra-marital affair. It has become a scandal with threads and perhaps webs way beyond Petraeus’ affair (as, of course, breaking a commitment will do). While people are focusing on many difference aspects of the situation, I’m going to focus on the core aspect. Commitment.

It seems important as I begin, to talk about how our society holds commitment. If you listen to the media’s response to the Petraeus affair, it will be obvious. I’ve heard media pundits – mostly men but some women, too – say things like: “It’s human nature”; “Many powerful leaders have done the same thing before him and kept their positions”; “Thomas Jefferson and Dwight Eisenhower had affairs, too”; “They were just ‘randy buggers’”; “Men just like sex”; “It doesn’t affect his judgment in his military position, or his presidential position, or whatever high position he holds”; “It’s just between him and his wife, a family matter.”

Could they normalize the breaking of commitment any more? Could they accept the abuse of power that breaking a commitment actually is any more than they have by what they’ve been saying?

The task of leaders, among others, is to help us evolve into more matured, more developed beings – individually and communally. The response of our media to Petraeus’ affair is totally the opposite. They’ve been passing down myths of . . . “Boys will be boys;” and breaches of trust in one area don’t affect breaches of trust in another; and it’s none of our business, a private matter; and more. That’s how slavery was sustained; that’s how domestic violence has been sustained; that’s how the abuse of power has been supported and sustained for far too long. And if we accept that, we are part of sustaining some of the worst of what goes on in our leaders, our communities, our families, and ourselves. And we collude in keeping ourselves small, unempowered, and unmatured. Are we going to collude? Or are we going to make the choice to support, help, and take part in the growth that is possible here?

My intention is to help with our growth. So let’s talk deeply about commitment. When we make a commitment, we pledge our word and our trustworthiness to fulfill the vow we are making. We accept as our responsibility the fulfillment of that commitment. If we commit in a marriage to love, cherish, and be faithful to our spouse . . . we are giving our word that we will fulfill that commitment.

If we do not make a full commitment, we will not keep a full commitment. In other words, we will end up breaking our commitment in some way. Perhaps we will break it externally, as with having an affair. Or perhaps we will break it internally, as with feeling anger toward our spouse and not exploring the anger and what is causing it – in our relationship or within ourselves alone. Instead we will take our anger into our sexual relationship with our spouse and instead of being in connection with our partner . . . fantasize about other partners. Either way we break the commitment, we break it. In thought, feeling, or action.

It is broken. And so is our word. And so is our trustworthiness. There is a rupture not only between us and the one or ones with whom we have made the commitment, but also within us. Most people don’t really understand commitment. Most people don’t really understand what happens once we make a commitment. Most people don’t really get what happens that leads us down the path to breaking our commitments . . . or what could happen to prevent the breaking of our commitments.

Let’s look at commitment – the breadth and depth of it. First, if we don’t make a full commitment, we definitely won’t keep the commitment fully. Something will inevitably emerge that will either “lead” us to break the commitment or that we will use to justify breaking the commitment. And the outcome will not be all it could be. Making a full commitment means committing 100% of yourself to that to which you are committing. That could be, among other things, to a marriage, a child, a career, your own healing, growth, and development. It means committing your mind, heart, body, and soul…every aspect of your being.

Here’s an example of making only a partial commitment. You marry your spouse. You commit to love, honor, and cherish your spouse “till death do us part.” If you don’t really love your spouse, but have just settled for a companion, you have already broken your commitment. If you love your spouse, but when the honeymoon phase of the relationship is over, the underlying issues surface, and you start to have uncomfortable feelings come up – which they always do – you take some of your energy away from your spouse and start giving that portion of your energy to a co-worker who interests you, and with whom you can feel the new, honeymoon-like feelings again. With a partial commitment, this kind of thing will occur again and again. You will create, find, or stumble upon all sorts of excuses for breaking your commitment. You’ll basically be saying, whether you put it into words or not . . . “This is happening, and it is a reason not to keep my commitment,” or perhaps, “This is happening, and it is a reason not to keep my commitment fully.”

If, on the other hand, you have made a full commitment, when the honeymoon phase of the marriage comes to an end, and issues and feelings come to the foreground . . . you will see clearly what is happening: that the part of you who made the full commitment is showing you right out in the open, this is the next thing in you that needs to be healed in order to take the next steps in following through with and fulfilling your commitment. This is a more matured way to understand commitment. That once we make a commitment, whatever exists in our psyche and soul that needs to be healed in order for us to fulfill that commitment will definitely surface for healing. And it is up to us to see that and utilize that for the purpose of healing . . . not for the breaking of the commitment.

So let’s say you have been married for a year and things have settled down from the excitement and the high of the courtship, the marriage, and the start of your life together. And now you are finding you’re hurt by certain things your spouse does. Maybe he’s not spending all his spare time with you anymore, but starting to do some of the writing he’s always wanted to do instead of taking dancing lessons with you. Or maybe she’s not spending all her spare time with you anymore, but beginning to meditate early every morning, just the time you like to cuddle and be intimate. If you haven’t made a full commitment, you could use this to justify doing more things on your own, drawing further away from your spouse, investing some of your energy in someone else, or eventually, even having an affair. If you have made a full commitment and you understand the process of step by step following through on and fulfilling your commitment . . . you will first explore within you what is getting stirred up.

If your husband is spending time writing that you want him to spend with you, maybe it’s triggering a memory – even if you’re not conscious of it yet – when you were a year old and your mother got pregnant again, giving a chunk of her attention to her pregnancy that had been going to you. And maybe if your wife is spending early morning time meditating when you want to be close to her, it’s triggering when you were a year old and your father was working the night shift. He would come home early in the morning and want to be cuddly and intimate with your mommy, when you wanted her to sit and rock you back to sleep after you awakened too early to get up for the day. These are things that, with a full commitment, you would, of course, find a way to work with and work through – not just on the level of understanding, but on the feeling level, too. Perhaps you would find a good therapist who would help you heal these early places of hurt to the root.

I hope you get the essence of the difference between making a full commitment and only a partial one. The difference between breaking your partial commitment or having made a full commitment, finding a way to heal what comes up inside you that needs to be healed. This difference is crucial.

Further, if you break a commitment in the face of something in your life – inside or out – bringing up uncomfortable or painful feelings within you . . . that isn’t just contained in one area of your life. You can have uncomfortable feelings that you aren’t aware of triggered by anything in any arena in your life. What is triggered could cause you to exercise poor or distorted judgment in any arena in your life, even to break a commitment in any arena of your life. Any arena, personal or public.

The other important thing to be aware of, when you break a commitment: you have an effect not only on yourself, but also on the person to whom you made the commitment . . . and even to others, as well. In the example of a partner in a marriage having an affair and breaking a commitment to the spouse, not only will the spouse be affected, but also the children, the extended family, the person with whom the affair is taking place, that person’s family, and perhaps many more. If the affair is with someone at the office, the whole office can be affected. If the affair is at the office and the office is a country’s government, who knows how many people will be affected…people not only in the country but all over the world?

I teach all of this to my clients over the course of their working with me. I help my clients step by step in the process of learning about and working with their commitments. I assist them in seeing what is coming up that tempts them or leads them to break a commitment, and to see it as something within them calling to be healed . . . so they can return to their commitment and continue with it to fulfillment. And I have the privilege and honor of watching them grow and develop as a result. This is what our leaders need to be modeling for us. This is what our media needs to be helping us to learn just in the way they present the news to us. This is what we need to be insisting on from our leaders, from our media, and both from and for ourselves. Otherwise, we stay undeveloped, unmatured beings who don’t expect any more of ourselves today than we did yesterday or tomorrow than we do today. Is that what we want for ourselves and our children?

© Judith Barr, 2012.

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

As we near the end of the year, and the beginning of a new year, instead of making a resolution this year, commit to explore your own relationship with commitment, and the impact it’s made on your life and the lives of those around you.

Ponder the commitments you’ve made in your life . . . commitments to your relationships, to your children, to your career, to others, to yourself . . . What did you feel when you prepared to make that commitment? When you actually did make the commitment? Was it a full commitment, or were you only partially committed? Were you aware of the partial or full nature of the commitment you were making? And after you made that commitment . . . did feelings arise in you that led you to want to break your commitment?

Before, during, and after you make a commitment, explore the feelings that arise in you, things that may lead you to break your commitment. Have you felt this way before? When? And when before that? Trace those feelings back as far as you can in your life. And, of course, if you need help exploring and healings those feelings, rather than acting out on them, seek the help of a good therapist to untangle your present feelings from your ancient wounds, and truly heal your feelings about your commitment to the root.

One of the most important commitments we can make is to the healing of our relationship with commitment. Imagine the effect on our lives, the life of our country, and the life of our world . . . if everyone healed this to the root, and could make full, real, lasting commitments!

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!