One More Egregious Abuse of Power Under a Guise

My first response to the New York Times article, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape”* … Heartbreak! Horror! Outrage! Sickened! And then renewed passion to help with the healing so deeply needed in our world today. Renewed calling to keep inviting each one of us to heal individually.

So that we are not seduced. So we do not go numb. So we do not normalize. So we come alive with the knowing of the guise. So we awaken with the knowing of the abuse of power. So we do not accept it, but neither do we respond in kind or add to it. And neither do we contribute to the guise by saying what should be done in the outer world while neglecting our own inner work. So we hear and feel the call to contribute to the healing first by doing our own inner work … the only way in truth we can heal to the root communally.

My second response to the New York Times article is the preface from my book:

“Power is like fire, lightning, wind, ocean – like life itself – a raw, vibrant 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.

“Every form of power can be used well or misused.

“The law has been used to manipulate as well as to serve justice. Parenthood has been used as a means of captivity, and it has been used to nourish a soul, helping it grow into fullness. Sexuality has been used as a weapon to rape and dominate, as a substitute for unmet childhood bonding and physical touch, and as an exquisite sacred expression of love and union.

“Even God’s name has been used both to destroy and to heal. Christian Inquisitors burned midwives at the stake; zealots have committed acts of violence all over the world in the name of religion. In contrast, people of many religions pray for peace; practitioners all over the world speak different names for God as they lay hands on suffering bodies to touch hearts and souls and restore them to health.”**

There are really no other words to say right now. I have no other words to say at this time.

© Judith Barr 2015

* http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/middleeast/isis-enshrines-a-theology-of-rape.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below&_r=2

This article is horribly painful to read. The truth of what it reports is terribly painful to take in and process. Choose a time to read it that is right for you and during which you can take care of yourself and get support if you need it.

** Barr, Judith, Power Abused, Power Healed, p.iii

DEFENSES DESTROY

I have been silent for awhile … Pensive. Searching. Deeply saddened. Witnessing, as I imagine you are, all that’s going on in our world. Feeling the pain of what’s going on in our world.

People think about what’s happening differently from each other. Some think the destructiveness is just done by “bad” people or “sick” people. Some are in alignment with those who are destructive, normalizing and justifying what they are doing. Some feel completely helpless in the face of it all. Some want to rush into action and do things in the world to fix it. Nothing wrong with action – it’s just not enough by itself. Some increase their prayers to resolve it. Nothing wrong with prayers – but prayers, too, aren’t enough by themselves. And some don’t even want to know about it.

Most people I talk to are missing what’s really happening. And most of what I hear, see, or read via the media is missing what’s really happening … under the surface. Even many in my own profession haven’t been trained to truly understand or get to the roots of the situation. This “miss” feeds misconceptions, misunderstandings, the incapacity to discern well, and most of all … it feeds further destructiveness and makes it impossible to really solve the problem for good.

If we are going to help ourselves and our world, we are going to need to truly understand what is going on beneath the surface, beneath what we can see, hear, touch and currently understand. What is going on beneath the surface that drives us unknowingly from deep within and drives us in our actions in the outer world.

People are acting out again and again … not realizing what they are really doing. Not aware of what they are acting out. Not understanding what their acting out tells them and us about their early lives and about what from that time is still alive in their minds, hearts, bodies, and souls.

And there are so many people who don’t understand what “acting out” really means. I could say exactly the same things here that I said in the second and third paragraphs above.  In essence, people don’t really understand acting out and that lack of understanding feeds the acting out and makes the solutions impossible.

There are so many examples of acting out since my last newsletter, escalating in visibility and frequency, that it is mind boggling and heart boggling. Just to name a handful of them …

Georgia’s new gun law. It enables people to pack guns in places like schools, churches, bars, government buildings and certain parts of airports. Multiple tragic gun shootings have occurred in Georgia since then.

Vladimir Putin’s failed power grab in the Crimean Peninsula. A part of his post-Olympic acting out in the world.

The Sewol Ferry disaster in South Korea, due to negligence of the Ferry owner who ignored safety warnings and allowed the ferry to be overloaded with passengers.

Another Indian woman raped – and then hanged – by Indian men. The violence to girls and women in our world is heart-breaking and belies our wish to think of these times as civilized times. And the ones included here are known tips of the iceberg. What about all the violence to women and girls that is normalized and done in secret?

An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged.

Donald Sterling’s racist comments and the consequences, including all the attention garnered in the media.

Boko Haram’s abduction of Nigerian school girls with plans to sell them.

Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at … the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”

The ongoing money grabbing and the consequent destruction  — to people, families, businesses, economies, environments – by people who are rich enough in the eyes of others but never seem, in their own minds, to have enough money.

And our Defense Department, which may once have been presented as for protection, but has destroyed again and again and again in the guise of defense.

If we really wanted to know, if we really looked deeply, and if we were able to find and gather the information we needed to truly understand … we would likely find that each of these instances emerged out of wounding that occurred certainly in an individual’s childhood, but also generationally in a family, and culturally, too. In any one instance, which came first, the chicken or the egg, the culture or the individual, isn’t the most important thing to figure out.  We certainly do need to know that what is normalized in a culture impacts the individual families and the individual children. What is normalized in a family impacts the individuals in the family and, of course, others in the life of that family. And what befalls a single child impacts many more people than most of us want to imagine.

When a child is wounded, that child will build defenses to keep from feeling the pain of the wound. What the child is reflexively trying to do is stay sane and alive in the face of those who are causing the wounding.  The child isn’t thinking this all through. The child is acting unconsciously and involuntarily. But the child does not have any idea what those defenses will create in the long run.

First the defenses may seem to protect the child, whether a girl or boy child. But soon the defenses start to harden and become part of a way of life. Walls are built. People are shut out. People are considered enemies and fought against, sometimes righteously and others viciously. Often revenge is sought, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly.  Consciously or without realization, the person may believe that whatever she is feeling gives her permission to act out … with herself and others. Aware or unaware, the person may use the harm he experienced as a child to justify acting out later in life. Substances are taken and activities are done that distract and numb the person against the pain of the original wound. Even though there is pain in the repeated re-creations of the wound, the pain of the original wound is the worst, the deepest, the most intense, the most raw, and the pain the person is actually defending against, whether it’s in or beneath awareness, whether it’s five or fifty years later.

Through all the years of my work as a depth psychotherapist, I have consistently seen that the defenses end up creating in a person’s life what they were originally meant to prevent in the life of that person as a child. This is why I teach people that defenses destroy. This is why the title of this article is “Defenses Destroy.”

Let’s use an example from the list above. Georgia’s new gun law:  You may want to defend your right to carry arms. You may want to defend your right to defend yourself, your family, your property, your values, your thoughts, opinions, and feelings. But if your defense comes in the form of a weapon, like a gun, your defense can and very likely will destroy.  Passing a law to allow guns to be carried especially in places where people are vulnerable – like schools, churches, certain parts of airports – is a license to hurt and destroy vulnerable people.

How much clearer could the meaning be?  If you were hurt or destroyed in some way when you were a vulnerable child, your defense and acting out could end up with your doing the same thing to others when you are old enough to do that. Others in your family – younger siblings, pets, children, or vulnerable people in places like churches and schools.

A second example:  An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. She tried to extend her hand to greet him, but the elderly official leaned over for the kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that in one accounting of the incident it states a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged and even imprisoned. In another, a group of men and women are seeking her imprisonment. I am not a learned student of the religious beliefs in Iran.  I have, however, seen individually and culturally the consequences of patriarchal laws, religions, mores, values, practices. Even if the cause may once originally have been or may have been purported to be the protection of women … there has also definitely been the effect of women being treated as objects, possessions, in essence the slaves of the men in their lives and their cultures.  This is true not only in Iran but also in many countries and in pockets in some countries.  India, for example, is amongst those countries.  And so is the United States. So … if the original cause were the defense of women, that defense has created torturous destructive experiences all over our world.

And even in the situation of the Iranian actress, why would other women in the Iranian culture demand her punishment? As part of their own defense against their individual and communal pain under the same cultural defense system?

One more brief example … Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at… the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”  He openly stated he wanted revenge against women. The deeper information isn’t publicly available (at least yet). But how can we look at what he did and not wonder what happened when he was young in his relationship with the first woman in his life? How can we not wonder what he felt? How can we not wonder what defenses he reflexively created then that came to be destructively acted out just a short time ago at everyone’s expense?  And how can we keep blaming the guns and blaming the gun lovers and blaming the mentally ill, and this time I even heard blame for this young generation?

I don’t hear anybody asking what it is that we, the parents, have done that has caused our children to be so wounded!

I don’t hear anybody in public asking how we, the parents, are acting out our own wounds and our own defenses in ways that have hurt our children, our families, our countries, our world.

I don’t hear anybody in public asking why we, the parents, don’t do our own healing work as our part of ending the cycles of wounding/defenses/wounding.

It is time for more of us to see and understand this. It is time for more of us to speak up. It is time for more of us to speak out. It is time for more of us to become involved in this way of seeing and resolving the problems that are so out in the open in our world today.

At times when I teach, people will say that this is all so depressing. Or this is all so painful. And they’ll sometimes ask me, “Where is the hope?”

The hope is right here. The hope is that we can heal. The hope is that we can choose to not slap on a bandaid. The hope is that we can choose not to find something to help us bury the real causes once again. The hope is that we can choose not to seduce ourselves into getting rid of the symptoms so we falsely believe the “problem is solved.”  The hope is that we can choose not to keep ourselves unconscious … of what’s there in our inner world and its effect on the outer world.

Where is the hope?
The hope is right here. The hope is that we have the choice – and the responsibility –
To heal … truly heal … to the root.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

Now is the time for each and every one of us to make a commitment to do the inner work necessary to dissolve the defenses that stand between us and truly healing our wounding.

As you hear about, read about, think about the individual issues facing our world today,  try to become aware of the possible roots of those issues… the real, inner roots within each and every one of those directly or indirectly involved. And don’t stop there … feel into those same roots in yourself. Do you ever, for example, feel the need to make a “power grab” as Putin has? Or do you have racist thoughts and feelings – conscious or unconscious – as Sterling has demonstrated?

What we see when others act out, as those in the examples above have, is their defenses against their own inner pain and wounding. Ask yourself: what are my defenses? And what feelings am I using them to defend against? Often we need the help of a good, caring, integritous therapist to help us find and dissolve those defenses, so the healing can begin… Commit to finding a therapist who is a right fit for you to help you begin or go deeper into this healing journey.

The issues facing our world can seem overwhelming… but there is hope, if we can see what is really happening, if we can spread the word so others begin to see, too, and if we commit, one by one, to do the inner work to heal individually, to help our world heal globally!

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE WOMEN?

We have been hearing, especially lately, so much about the destructive attitude towards and treatment of women in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Africa . . . among other places. We have been learning about the inhumane treatment and the torture of women in these places . . . and more. They are treated like possessions of the men in their lives and in their society. They are sold into marriage by family. They are not allowed to divorce. In effect, they are trapped. They are tortured if they disobey — anywhere from acid thrown at them, being stoned or killed some other way, or raped and beaten at home. Some even have their clitoris destroyed (female genital mutilation) to deprive them of pleasure and their right to pleasure! And to show them “who has the power.” We have been told, even in the news, how poorly treated women abroad are.

But who’s telling us of the destructive attitude towards and treatment of women right here in the United States of America? Who’s telling us of the inhumane treatment of women right here at home? Who’s aware of the torture women experience in our “civilized” country already, with attempts to expand that torturous experience?

  • There have been escalating attempts to deprive women of the right to choose what happens to them – physically, emotionally, financially, and health-wise – under the guise of protecting life. *
  • There was recently an attempt in our House of Representatives to redefine rape – limiting it to forcible rape and excluding date rape, statutory rape, the rape of a woman who has been drugged, the rape of a mentally incompetent woman, the rape of a woman who “gives in” in order to avoid being killed by her attacker, and the cases of incest who are not minors . . . under the twin guises of protecting life and our economy.
  • And now a bill was just passed in the House (and will go to the Senate) that does not allow government funds to be used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger. But . . . small businesses and individual women who themselves buy insurance that covers abortions will have imposed on them tax penalties. Perhaps the worst penalty for women who survive rape and incest and seek abortion care will be that they have to provide proof to IRS investigators of their assault. It’s not torturous enough to be assaulted the first time. It’s not traumatic enough to have to relive the assault when reporting it to the police and going through a court proceeding. There is no excuse for adding the inhumane torture of having to live through it a third time with an IRS investigator. This, once again, under the guise of protecting life and our economy.

What is really happening is that there is a backlash in our country against the empowerment of women that has been growing for decades. Certainly at least since 1919 when the 19th amendment was passed legalizing women’s right to vote; and then growing still in 1973 when Roe v Wade was decided, giving women the right to make choices about their own bodies in a new way. This backlash is an extreme misuse of power by those scared of the power of women. And believe it or not, those scared of the power of women are not only men; they include women themselves. **

How could this be?

I invite you to honestly look at yourself. If you are a man, do you prefer to have the power, rather than share it equally with a woman? Do you have unresolved, unconscious feelings of powerlessness from early, primal experience with the first woman in your life, your mother? Feelings that beneath your awareness feed your wanting to be the powerful one in relation to women? If you’re a woman, are you somehow, out of your early wounds, stuck idealizing men who have power over you? Or ceding your rightful power to them? If you are a woman, do you know in the marrow of your bones and the substance of your soul the experience of being devalued, disempowered, objectified, belittled, and more in a society that is still struggling with its relationship with women and the feminine? Do you take for granted the rights you and other women fought so hard for? Do you disconnect from your innate power as technology seems to offer you a gift – to use a pill to avoid going through the monthly cycle of menstruation? Have you lost all touch with the true power of that time?

Who is going to help women now? What are we going to do about this? We women who feel the agony of it? And the men who support women and women’s causes, who have watched their mothers and sisters and wives and daughters suffer, and who have come to understand?

Look within for your own growth and healing. Look within for the future of women. Look within for the future of our society and our world! For without women being equal, empowered partners in our world, the future is at risk. And then take actions – inside and out – that help to heal us all.

© Judith Barr, 2011

* Although I do use words such as abortion and pro life in this post, that is not what this post is about. This post is about the destructive treatment of women not only abroad but also here in America, both out in the open and also under the guise of other things!

** To learn more about my work with Women’s Mysteries, click here.

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