Sunday Everyday

When Suffering Comes from an Angle you Never Expected.

Have you been in a season of great darkness, of suffering? Have you lost all sense of hope and faith?

This year for me has been one of shock, great challenges, bleak darkness and overwhelming sorrow. In fact the four words that would use to describe the last four months would be: “I have no words”.

Today I started to consider the two words hope and faith. What do they even mean? Have I lost all hope? Have I lost my faith?

What is Hope?

This was to be the title of this post. As I stared at a blank page I searched my soul to remember what it was that I had hoped for or in? In the face of great suffering and chaos hope is difficult to grasp. I pulled out some of my comfort books. Richard Rohrs Hope against Darkness and The Naked Now and John O’ Donohues Eternal Echoes. As I did and I zeroed in on the word darkness and unexpectadly stumbled into an Ah Haaa moment.

John O’ Donohue wrote these words that helped to reset my compass in the darkness.

“There is no life that is not called at some time to walk through the bleak valley of suffering. This is a path without hope, without shelter and without light. When suffering comes into your life it brings great loneliness and isolation”.

Of course…. ‘hello Darkness my old friend’.

Of course…. when things are dark you cannot see. No wonder I could not see hope or light. I was siting with my old friend darkness.

Suffering, when it comes, unhinges and dislocates us. Disorientated it takes a while to realise what is happening. “Suffering is the arrival of darkness from an angle you never expected” (O Donohue Eternal Echoes). It is a great shock that numbs us for many weeks and months. Gradually our poor soul begins to awaken from the shock to try and make sense of what is happening and when it does it looks around and can’t figure out why it cannot see. Why is everything so dark and bleak? Because the light has gone and we are sitting alone again with our friend darkness.

“When suffering comes the darkness has arrived. The light is out. Even your faith falls away. When you are at the heart of great pain, you enter a land of sheer desolation” (O’Donohue Eternal Echoes).

I call darkness our friend because it is one of our closest companions. Darkness is part of the natural order of life and soul. Just as the sun, moon and stars have their part to play in the cosmos, so does light and darkness have its part to play in bearing life and transformation both in the natural and in the spiritual.

Although we live and work in the light, we were conceived and shaped in darkness. You cannot grow unless you return to darkness.

Imagine the shock of seeds, born and raised in the sun to be suddenly plunged into utter darkness and smothered by clay and damp soil. “The seed has no defence, it must give way, abandoning itself to the new weave of life that will thread forth from its own dissolving” (O’Donohue Eternal Echoes).

New life and growth will eventually burst through the soil. Transformed into a new plant or tree. Its roots plunging down deep into the darkness, its branches reaching up to the light. This is the cycle of life and growth and transformation.

It is here that I find my hope.

What is it that I hope in?

I have hope in the fact that out of the darkest of nights and in the deepest of valleys, light and life eventually come. I cannot see at the moment but that is as it should be. The darkness does not last forever but it is necessary. The darkness may have come as a shock and from an angle that I never expected, but it has come to weave the magic of life and transformation in me so that what once would have been seen as incomprehensible suffering, will one day be seen as new life. A tree that will one day bring shelter and fruit to others who are suffering.

While you are cowering in a dark valley it is impossible to understand what is happening to you. You have to trust the darkness and wait. Light is a gift that suffering leaves behind. Out of the cold hard winter ground a new springtime of possibilities begin to arise.

All great spirituality comes through letting go. All transformation comes through the pathways of love and suffering. The most amazing thing about Jesus is that he taught us that God and change are to be found in mess, darkness, weakness, imperfection and disorder.

Today I feel joy begin to emerge as I realise that I still have faith in wisdom, truth, mystery and paradox. I have hope in darkness, transformation and life. I can hope in the mysteries of the seasons. That there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Some of us it seems are more familiar with the darkness. It is not my job to wonder and worry about this. It is my job to be patient and to trust that the darkness is part of the process of life and that it never lasts forever.

When we are called to stand in places of pain may we be blessed by seasons of light.

7 Signs You Grew Up With Childhood Emotional Neglect

Childhood Emotional Neglect is both simple in its definition and powerful in its effects. It happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs while they’re raising you. Emotional Neglect is an invisible, unmemorable childhood…

Source: 7 Signs You Grew Up With Childhood Emotional Neglect

By
15 Jul 2018

Do You…

1. Sometimes feel like you don’t belong when with your family or friends ?

2. Pride yourself on not relying upon others ?

3. Have difficulty asking for help ?

4. Have friends or family who complain that you are aloof or distant ?

5. Feel you have not met your potential in life ?

6. Often just want to be left alone ?

7. Secretly feel that you may be a fraud ?

8. Tend to feel uncomfortable in social situations ?

9. Often feel disappointed with, or angry at, yourself ?

10. Judge yourself more harshly than you judge others ?

11. Compare yourself to others and often find yourself sadly lacking?

12. Find it easier to love animals than people ?

13. Often feel irritable or unhappy for no apparent reason?

14. Have trouble knowing what you’re feeling ?

15. Have trouble identifying your strengths and weaknesses?

16. Sometimes feel like you’re on the outside looking in ?

17. Believe you’re one of those people who could easily live as a hermit ?

18. Have trouble calming yourself ?

19. Feel there’s something holding you back from being present in the moment?

20. At times feel empty inside ?

21. Secretly feel there’s something wrong with you ?

22. Struggle with self-discipline ?

Look back over your YES answers. These answers give you a window into the areas in which you may have experienced Emotional Neglect as a child. The more questions you answered “Yes”, the more likely CEN has affected your life.

Neither Here nor There – The Many Voices of Liminality

Source: Neither Here nor There – The Many Voices of Liminality

Neither Here nor There – The Many Voices of Liminality

‘Jesus, on whom be peace, said
This world is a bridge.
Pass over it but do not build your dwelling there.’

(Inscribed in Persian on Buland Darwaza, the main gateway to the palace at Fatehpur Sikri, south of Delhi, India
by the Moghul emperor Akbar I in 1601)

Last year, I had the opportunity and privilege to contribute to an anthology on a subject that I am most interested and passionate about – liminality. I have blogged on this topic numerous times. Here are some introductory posts:

This latest compilation is the brainchild of pastor, writer, editor and friend, Tim Carson, who has written a variety of other books. I love Tim’s definition of liminality in his chapter contribution:

The experience of liminality is feeling a loss of steady and familiar landmarks, the kind of security that accompanied past structure, even as the future has not yet materialized. With everything in flux, angst becomes the predominant mood. Very often action seems fruitless because some transitions cannot be hurried. One has entered an incubation period in which time shifts. The liminal person does not necessarily know that transformation is occurring at the time it is happening. Does a caterpillar have any idea that metamorphosis is about to take place as it enters the cocoon?

I wept reading that. It resonated so deeply with my own life experience.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes the foreword for this book. Yes, I was slightly dizzy when I heard this and I went into serious fangirl mode. I love love love her writings. In her foreword, she acknowledges how most of the contributors did not consent to go on a liminal journey, but life took them there anyway. Some were catapulted into the liminal space through ‘war, illness, abuse, or natural disaster. Others found themselves there due to poverty, gender, apartheid, or immigration.’

Personally, I found solace and comfort in the stories of this communal motley crew of liminal travellers, sharing their bewilderment at finding themselves ‘betwixt and between’ where ‘the only way through is through. There are no guarantees … To engage liminal space is to live in faith, not certainty.’

This post would be too long if I discussed every chapter. Instead, I offer one of my favourite quotes from each chapter. If you are wandering the shadowy, mystical path of liminality, may it be a light to you in dark times.

I’ve heard some people describe liminality in the language of Celtic spirituality: a thin place, a narrow place, a place where the living and the dead commune, where heaven and earth all regard each other. Hell too, I hope. Otherwise, what’s the point?’ Pádraig Ó Tuama

I discovered my first hummingbirds as a small child in the gardens of the Theological Community in Mexico City where I was encouraged to nourish my love for nature while caring for others by cooperating, respecting, and sharing in the many social and spiritual activities with people from all over Latin America. Tucked gently away in my soul and mind is the gift of seeing the world from the borderlands, the in-between spaces, the nepantlera of ‘either/or’ and’ neither/nor,’ with thousands of beautiful colour hues and nuances of language and culture.’Elena Huegel

Ultimately, the purpose of pilgrimage is to bring the pilgrim, transformed in the journey, back home again.Kristine Culp

The liminal dimension undergirds all human experience. In some sense, there is nothing that is not liminal. We live our lives (and perhaps find sanity) by fashioning fixed structures of meaning and identity; selves and narratives that are generally static and contained. But that is not life, as much as it is the mask we put onto life. Meanwhile, the liminal waits for us.Joshua Boettiger

Liminality is essentially and always a middle. It is the moment of in-between-ness where what has been is gone, but what will be has not yet arrived. In Christian spirituality, it is the moment of Holy Saturday, when Christ has died but is not yet risen. There is nothing to be done on Holy Saturday except to learn how to die with Christ, in the hope that one day – but not today – life will be restored by resurrection.’ Michelle Trebilcock

War is a universal experience of social liminality. If the scale of hostilities is sufficiently large, war can expand to even global liminality. Societies and nations are cast into a time between the times, a state of being filled with uncertainty and dread. For warriors within these societies, war represents a rite of passage, a transition that changes the identity of those who enter warand the community of those who share it.’ Kate Hendricks Thomas

‘In the aftermath of the tornado, liminal time moved at its own pace, mostly slower than we might have preferred.’ Jill Cameron Michel

Adoptees exist between families for their entire lives. They are products of legal and biological families, but not fully either. This liminal space is their reality, and from it comes complex identity work. The extent to which adoptees engage with the liminality of their adoption status emerges as a product of individual, contextual, and familial characteristics.’ Colleen Warner Colaner

‘The literature of the ancient desert monks and medieval Celtic saints is extensive and filled with many tales like this. In this liminal time, when climate change presents us with an opaque and uncertain future, can the literature that emerged from the liminal experience of Christian contemplatives in late antiquity offer us any wisdom for navigating our challenges in better ways?’ Timothy Robinson

‘The liminal is the space between; it is a state in which the classifications of the everyday are bracketed to reveal an alternative order, a more basic relatedness, which undergirds the everyday power and position exemplified by given cultural norms.’ Adam Pryor

‘Cancer is the quintessential liminal experience as it includes all the stages – pre-liminal, liminal, reintegration – and all the classic elements of the liminal journey: end of one way of life, loss of identity and status, bewilderment, confusion, ambiguity, reversal of hierarchy, uncertainty. Patients are between life as they once knew it and an uncertain future.’ Debra Jarvis

‘When I crossed the threshold into the strange world of incarceration, I was ushered into a state of permanent liminality, a time and space between the past and some seemingly unobtainable future. My life was stuck in a time between the times, a place between the spaces. Unlike van Gennep’s Rites of Passage, however, there was no design for movement, for transformation in the liminal passage.’ Jacob Davis

‘The stories that we tell to make sense of our world and our lives simultaneously open up certain possibilities for action and close others off. They define and limit the options we think exist. The danger is that we become so enamored with our own narrative that we shut ourselves from the narratives of the “other.” What if each of us needs both the presence and the narratives of the other to navigate the ambiguities of liminality?’ John Eliastam

‘Our collective challenge for the future is to produce a society that accepts diversity, welcomes difference, and champions human rights for all its citizens. If accomplished, this might enable Turner’s view of positive social change through community building actually to become reality. One can always remain hopeful.’ Diane Dentice and Michelle Dietert

‘To examine the liminal, where it may reside, are we well advised to avoid the paved road where, by following the markers, we do arrive, but it just may be a camouflaged dead end?’Kenneth Krushel

Let me end this post with a quote from my chapter. Writing this piece was part of a healing journey. I am grateful.

‘The gift of liminality, presented to me wrapped in pain, exile, and humiliation has assisted me in recognizing many of my ego’s trappings and yearnings. In this place, I have been confronted and stripped of much of the baggage that I carried over the years … of trying to live up to all sorts of expectations. Liminality, like the character V in the film V for Vendetta, showed me the bars of my ideological and structural prison, all dressed up in religious moralizing – and once you see, you cannot un-see.’

If you would like to order this book, you can do so via Lutterworth Press

What is Hell?

What is Hell? by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

We are a product of our history.  Much of our theology has been formed by the ancient church, by medieval thinking and by our personal theology.   Recently I was asked, ‘Do you believe in Hell and if so what or where is Hell’?

What is my view on Hell?  This stumped me for a while?  I actually found it pretty difficult to answer.  So this post comes out of weeks and weeks of me digging around in my theology attempting to work out what it is that I believe.  I actually came up with more questions than answers but here goes.

Hell:

Our first images of Heaven and Hell came from the middle ages where heaven and hell were seen as places of reward and punishment.  You may like to read my post on What is Heaven?  

The most prominent illustration of hell from this period was by Dante’s Divine Comedy.  He portrays Hell as nine circles in the centre of the earth where Satan dwells  (Mc Grath).

There are a few differing doctrines on Hell.  “One, the traditional Christian model of hell, articulated by some of the West’s most historically significant philosophers and theologians, hell involves permanent, conscious suffering for the purpose of punishing human sin. According to annihilationism, the damned ultimately cease to exist and so are not conscious. According to the free will view of hell, the purpose of hell is to respect the choice of the damned not to be with God in heaven. Finally, according to universalism, there is either no hell at all, or only a temporary hell” (Ref).

The most common translation for the word ‘Hell’ in the New Testament is Gehenna.  It was an actual location in Jerusalem. The term Gehenna is derived from the Valley of Hinnom, traditionally considered by the Jews the place of the final punishment of the ungodly. It was an old rubbish heap outside the southwest corner of the old city.  A smouldering smoking rubbish dump. The valley was used as a burial-place for criminals and for burning garbage.  They used sulphur, the flammable substance we now use in matches and gunpowder. Thus when the Jews talked about punishment in the next life, what better image could they use than the smoldering valley they called gehenna? (ref)

‘What Jesus was meaning in this reference when he referred to Gehenna was not that they would burn in hell as our medieval ancestors have translated, but that if they did not turn away from their hopeless and rebellious dreams of establishing Gods Kingdom on their own terms, Rome would do what all larger empires do when they take over smaller ones,  Rome would turn Jerusalem into a smouldering stinking rubbish heap and that is exactly what has happened and it is still smouldering and stinking.  When Jesus said: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish”  that was the primary meaning that he had in mind’ (N.T. Wright).

Jesus did say that who reject God will go away into eternal punishment,” which is “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. Elsewhere in Matthew (8:12, 22:13, 24:51, and 25:30), Jesus invokes a rather different image, suggesting that hell is “outer darkness” (that is, outside heaven) “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  Though not always expressly stated, the implication is that the punishment will have duration and be endless.” John F. Walvoord in Four Views on Hell, p. 20

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Photo Cred:  Matt Lawson Photography

I come from the Christian worldview of eternal life. I think that heaven and hell are linked and that the goal is actually life now, not later and that it be a life that is demonstrating the goodness of God to those around us now and to the care of the planet.  N.T.Wright also confirms the connection saying that hell is necessary as part of the ethics of heaven.

Otherwise, it’s chaos. Unless God hates child murderers, child rapists, whatever, then God is a bad God. But God wants them to change. If they say, “No, this is the way for me to be human. I like doing this stuff,” then God will say, “Well, I’m sorry. There is no place in my new creation for somebody who insists on remaking their own humanity in that deadly way (Ref)

My view on Hell is similar to C. S. Lewis.  His book The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is a good picture of life without God – the frozen paralysing fear of Narnia.

Personally, my view of Hell would be considered the ‘free will’ view.  According to the free will view, one of God’s purposes in creation is to establish genuine love-based relationships between God and humans, and within the human community. But love is a relation that can exist only between people who are genuinely free. Therefore, God gives people freedom in this life to decide for themselves whether or not they will reciprocate God’s love by becoming the people God created them to be (Ref).

It teaches that God places the damned in hell not to punish them, but to honor the choices they have freely made. On this view, hell originates not so much from divine justice as from divine love.
Jesus prayed “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Lewis says in The Great Divorce:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” He is saying that Hell is actually life without God.

When someone says, “I do not want to have a relationship with God,” in that limited sense they ultimately get their way. The unbeliever’s “wish” to be away from God turns out to be his worst nightmare. The ultimate or eternal absence of God is an eternity without goodness where you will live with your own poor character.

“In one of his few treatments of hell in Following Jesus, Tom Wright employed a metaphor which would have made Lewis proud. He imagined a grand piano that had once played brilliant music, but it changed hands and fell into disuse. Eventually wormwood set in to the disused piano and it was chopped up and used for kindling (p. 91)“.
Second Thessalonians 1:9 describes hell like this:

“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord.”

Where God withdraws, there can be no good.  So, in Lewis’s terms, the unbeliever gets what he wants — God’s absence — yet with it gets what he doesn’t want — the loss of all good.

I hope that this has helped a little.  It is a very abbreviated look at these topics which I found a little overwhelming to be honest.  I would be interested to hear your thoughts. Happy to be corrected.

Featured Art by Matt Lawson:

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Love Lisa

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References:

Christian Theology by Alister McGrath

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, top-selling author and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright tackles the biblical question of what happens after we die and shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth–a difference that makes all of the difference to how we live on earth.

Beginning to see as the mystics see by  Richard Rohr

Why does it take so long for someone to reveal that they have been abused as a child?

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

**This article comes with trigger warnings**.  One in four adults has been abused as a child.

Why does it take so long for someone to reveal that they have been abused as a child?  

This is a question that I get asked a lot.  It is the question that every abused adult hates to hear.  There are many reasons why someone does not report childhood abuse. It is a complex and multilayered issue.

In this post, the word ‘abuse’ refers to sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect and emotional abuse.  All are horrific, all are damaging and all are the enemies of a fragile developing personality.

The World Health Organization distinguishes four types of child maltreatment: physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional (or psychological) abuse; and neglect.

Myths: Let’s get the myths out of the way.   These myths are all untrue and yet are still upheld by our current society.

1: It is only abuse if it’s violent.

  • Child abuse does not necessarily involve violence or anger.

2:  They are making it up to get attention. 

  • Research shows that it is extremely rare for a child to make up an abuse report.

3:  Children usually tell someone.

  • Most children do not tell anyone. They are often silenced through threats or fear of not being believed.  Some children don’t have the words to speak about what is happening to them.

4:  You can just get over it

  • You can’t just “get over” it.  Survivors need the right care and support to overcome the impacts of abuse, recover and live full and healthy lives.

5:  You can’t forget child abuse

  • For over one hundred years, traumatic amnesia has been documented amongst war veterans, survivors of natural and man-made disasters, and adult survivors of child abuse.

6:  If they were really abused why didn’t they report it or tell someone?

  • The average time for a victim to speak out is 22 years after the last incidence of abuse, but it can be much, much longer.
  • The Australian police used to have a ‘Historical Sexual Crimes’ unit.  It is now called the SOClT Coordination Team because it became obvious that most of the reports of childhood abuse were historical.  SOCIT stands for Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams.

In our society, it seems that people see violent sexual abuse as the top of the totem pole and rarely give value to other forms of crippling abuse.  Along with that thinking comes the value placement of the types of sexual abuse.  This in turns devalues the abuse that a child experiences.  If they have not been raped or experienced full on sexual intercourse, is it really abuse?

  • “Oh he only used to come into my bed and massage my breasts every night, it really wasn’t that bad”.
  • “He didn’t rape me, he only used to rub himself against me whilst he inserted things inside me”.
  • “Mother used to give me enemas every week as a child,  it was very painful, embarrassing and uncomfortable but I guess I was constipated a lot as a child.  She could be quite mean to me and used to call me names like “Her little skunk, and her fat little piggie””.

In my experience, the ‘abuses’ are usually woven together in a complex web of fear.  Children rarely experience one form of abuse at a time. Recent research by McGill University (2015) showed that emotional abuse of a child may be as harmful as physical abuse and neglect, while child sexual abuse often occurs together with other forms of maltreatment.

Emotional abuse is also called psychological abuse (maltreatment). It is the most common form of child abuse. It is also experienced by children witnessing domestic violence. Emotional abuse often occurs together with physical and sexual abuse. Many parents and caregivers  are emotionally abusive without being violent or sexually abusive (source)

Along with the abuse comes verbal conditioning from the abusers – enter psychological and emotional abuse.

  • Normalisation:  if it is a parent or sibling the child grows up thinking that this is just how every family operates.  It is normalised.  They have no world view or perspective.  This is what happens in their family.  How are they supposed to know otherwise?
  • Minimisation:  The abuser often coos sentences like – “I love you,  I don’t want to hurt you”.  “This feels good, doesn’t it?”  “If you love me you will help me”.  The child feels guilty.  It’s not that bad.
  • Fear and threat:  “If you tell anyone I will hurt your baby brother”.  “If you tell anyone about our secret you will be put in jail”.
  • Pain:  Pain is a powerful protector of abusers.  The pain usually causes a child to dissociate.  They repress the pain into another place so that they can function.  Pain partners with abuse and plunges memories into a deep dark place that never sees the light of day.  If this happens often enough it creates a condition called DID.  Dissociation Identity Disorder.  Experienced and serial abusers will purposely harm a child, breaking bones and or causing extreme pain because they know that the child will never tell if the child never remembers.
     
    • Dissociation –  is a protective response to overwhelming stress and a common feature of diverse forms of trauma (Howell & Itzkowitz, 2016: 35).
    • Experience too overwhelming to be processed is dissociated, and becomes inaccessible to consciousness, and may subsequently intrude unexpectedly (be `recovered’)and consciously recalled.
    • You can read more about dissociation here.
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Why does it take so long for someone to reveal that they have been abused as a child?

Let’s unpack this question a little more and look at some of the reasons why an adult who has experience childhood abuse does not report it.

1: He/she does not know they have been abused. 

I suffered neglect and maltreatment as a child.  I was 50 before I realised this.  I had spent the last 10 years unpacking sexual childhood abuse, abandonment and spiritual abuse,  I didn’t realise that neglect and maltreatment were also present at the party.

2:  Shame.  If the child does remember who does she tell.  Who will believe him?

Abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing. The natural reaction to abuse is a feeling of shame. As a self-conscious emotion, shame informs us of an internal state of inadequacy, unworthiness, dishonour, regret, or disconnection.  So it is no wonder that shame avoidance can lead to withdrawal or to addictions that attempt to mask its impact.

3:  Language.  The child does not have the language or understanding of what is happening to him/her.  Imagine you are 5 years old and someone is sexually and psychologically abusing you.  What words do you have at five or six to make sense of your world? About all you can do is understand that: 1:  It hurts.  2:  It is scary 3:  It feels wrong but you don’t know why.  4:  You don’t want anyone else to get hurt.

4:  Confused reality and abuse of power.   The abuser is still in my life and everyone loves them.  What if the abuser if a very charming and charismatic mother or father.  What if your uncle is beloved by all.  What if your pastor or school teacher is a powerful person that everyone admires?  Who is going to believe your confused memories of what happened to you?  What will be the cost?  More shame.  More confusion. More rejection and anger?   Better to stay quiet.

5:  The need to forgetChildhood trauma – particularly child abuse by primary caregivers – is the most obvious context in which ‘forgetting’ provides survival value.  Because children depend on their caregivers for survival, the need to attach to them is paramount, regardless of how the child is treated by them.  ‘Many studies have demonstrated evidence that it is common to forget, and later remember, parts or all of the serious traumatic events such as child sexual abuse’ (Barlow et al, `Trauma and Memory’). While our brains are wired to remember experiences important to survival, in some circumstances ‘forgetting’ may assist survival (source).

Forgetting abuse preserves the attachment relationship when the victim depends on the abuser. Although there are various ways to remain blind to betrayal, perhaps the most effective way is to forget the event entirely’

(Freyd & Birrell, 2013: 58)

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defence. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself, and in any case, it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.”
Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

6: Memory

Broadly speaking, there are two types of memory: those that are explicit and those that are implicit, the former being conscious and the latter relatively unconscious.

(Peter Levine, `The Fabric of Memory’ 2015: 15).

`It is crucial to appreciate that emotional memories are experienced in the body as physical sensations’.(Levine, 2015:22)
  • Memory is not a single entity which only relates to conscious recall.  There are different types of memory which stored in different areas of the brain
  • `Explicit’ memory is conscious while `implicit’ memory is largely unconscious
  • Explicit (conscious) memory can generally be expressed verbally while implicit (largely unconscious) memory is not verbalised
  • Implicit memories are elicited by environmental cue/s such as a fragrance, sight or sound, and embodied in activities (e.g. sleeping) which occur without conscious awareness

This analogy helps us to understand the types of memory:

`The kind of memory that enables us to ride the bike is called implicit memory; our ability to recall the day we were taught to ride is explicit memory’.

Traumatic memories are a particularly intense and devastating form of implicit memory.
 
Example: 
 

The pleasant implicit memory of a happy summer’s day – emphasised by the smell of freshly mown grass.

A trigger such as an environmental prompt (in this case the smell of freshly mown grass) can re-traumatise someone who was assaulted in a field in which the grass had just been cut.

Trauma `triggers’ may seem minor to those who do not experience them in that way. But the traumatised person remains vulnerable as long as the trauma remains unresolved.

 

7:  Betrayal Blindness:  Betrayal blindness happens to both children and adults.  The need to survive, to keep the family unit together trumps remembering and exposing the traumatic event.

Another important factor is safety.  It may not be safe to disclose or acknowledge the memories of trauma even years after the initial trauma has occurred. 

  • Depending on the context and conditions, both remembering and`forgetting’ may be healing and/or destructive (Stavropoulos P.A. & Kezelman C.A.)

I hope that this has helped bring some understanding and language around the horror of childhood abuse.  I will be following this up with a post about when and how to report childhood abuse.

An article which I found extremely helpful was The Truth of Memory and The Memory of Truth: Different types of Memory and the Significance for Trauma: Stavropoulos P.A. & Kezelman C.A.  This can be found on the Blue Knot Foundation website.

If this article has triggered a negative response in you –  please seek help.

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention

You can call 1800RESPECT  which is Confidential information, counselling and support service.  Open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.

The Blue Knot Foundation – National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma.  

Blue Knot Foundation is Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, empowering recovery and building resilience for the five million adult Australians (1 in 4) with a lived experience of childhood trauma (including abuse), their families and communities.

Formed in 1995, Blue Knot Foundation provides a range of services including:

  • specialist trauma counselling, information, support and referrals
  • educational workshops for survivors and their family members, partners and loved ones
  • professional development training for workers, professionals and organisations from diverse sectors
  • group supervision
  • consultancy
  • resources including fact sheets, videos and website information at http://www.blueknot.org.au
  • advocacy
  • research

http://www.blueknot.org.au
Blue Knot Helpline 1300 657 380

Final Quotes:

“Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Her innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused—pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a single tear, is cause for more severe abuse. Again, the only recourse is to shut down. Feelings go underground.”
Laura Davis, Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse

“Violators cannot live with the truth: survivors cannot live without it. There are those who still, once again, are poised to invalidate and deny us. If we don’t assert our truth, it may again be relegated to fantasy. But the truth won’t go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. The truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. It is invincible. It’s only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, protect future generations from ritual abuse.”
Chrystine Oksana, Safe Passage to Healing: A Guide for Survivors of Ritual Abuse

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis”
Ellen Bass, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been online since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Understanding Mental Health

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (WHO)

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Most of us at some time in our life will experience a mental health issue.  In fact one out of  four of us will experience  psychological distress at some stage.

Mental health or mental illness are interchangeable terms.   Mental health is as varied and individual as people themselves.  Some people fully recover after one episode and others can have recurring episodes or long standing mental health issues.  People from any background can experience mental health issues, although those who have experienced trauma or social dislocation are more vulnerable.

If we were to look at a ‘wellbeing’ scale: with 1 being good and 10 being awful, over the course of our lives we will move up and down that scale depending on what we are experiencing.  There is an ebb and flow depending on what is happening in our life.

1: ______________________________________________ 10

If we are in a season where we are struggling it is important that we get a diagnosis because it helps Doctors and Psychologists work out how to help you.

Many people feel that they don’t want to be labelled or defined by their illness.  A way to help you think about diagnosis is the jam jar analogy by Tim Read .

“When you look at the nutrition facts on a jar of jam many ingredients will be listed”

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“Diagnosis can be looked at as just one of the ingredients on the list.  The diagnosis is important but is does not represent the whole jar of jam.  It is just one part of it”.

Causes of mental health problems

A number of overlapping factors may increase your risk of developing a mental health problem. These can include:

  • Early life experiences: abuse, neglect, or the loss of someone close to you
  • Individual factors: level of self-esteem, coping skills and thinking styles
  • Current circumstances: stress at school or work, money problems, difficult personal relationships, or problems within your family
  • Biological factors: family history of mental health problems (Headspace)

mind artist

 

Step One:

The first port of call is your local doctor.  Preferably you will make a relationship with a family doctor who knows you and has some understanding of who you are.  A general practitioner will be able to put you onto a mental health plan.  This means that your visits to a psychologist will be substantially subsidised.  When you call to make an appointment please make a double appointment so that you have the time that you need to talk through your issues.

Step Two: Psychologist – Psychiatrist 

Talking therapy  is very valuable to your recovery.  This is a term used when visiting a psychologist.  A psychologist works directly with those experiencing difficulties, such as mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. They help people to overcome relationship problems, eating disorders, learning problems, substance abuse, parenting issues, or to manage the effects of a chronic illness.

A Psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has obtained additional qualifications to become a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and can prescribe medications.

First Hand Experience

I had a chat with my friend Tim Read who has experienced ongoing mental health issues and who also runs peer led support groups for mental health and wellness.  Tim explains that for his journey the turning point came when he read a book called “Back from the Brink”by Graeme Cowan

Back from the Brink is a brave book that offers practical advice:

“Centred on interviews with several people from of all walks of life, …Back from the Brink offers people with depression and bipolar disorder real hope and real advice, as well as practical tools for putting what they’ve learned into practice in recovering from their symptoms”(Source).

Tim goes on to say that he needed to restructure the way that he was thinking.  Instead of constantly looking for a cure or a fix,  he needed to look at how to manage his mental illness.  This was the first time that he felt in control and able to manage.

Therapies

There are many therapies that help with mental illness and your psychologist will talk to you about these.

One of them is Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a treatment based on the idea that how you think and act affects how you feel.

In CBT, you work with a therapist to recognise the patterns of thinking that cause you problems (Mind Health).

  1. First you will work with your therapist to understand what are the most troubling problems for you
  2. Then you work out what your thoughts, emotions and beliefs are about these situations.
  3. You will identify which of these thoughts, emotions and beliefs are negative or inaccurate.
  4. Working with your therapist, you find ways to challenge them. You might ask yourself: is that true? Or you might ask yourself: so what?
  5. Then you can find ways to think and act that are less harmful to you.

Dr Russ Harris, author of the international best-selling self-help book ‘The Happiness Trap’, is an world-renowned trainer of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). Russ’s background is in medicine. As a GP he became increasingly interested in the psychological aspects of health and wellbeing, and increasingly disenchanted with writing prescriptions.

woman meditating

ACT uses Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, focus and openness – which allows you to engage fully in what you are doing at any moment. In a state of mindfulness, difficult thoughts and feelings have much less impact and influence over you – so it is hugely useful for everything from full-blown psychiatric illness to enhancing athletic or business performance (Act Mindfully).

The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. ‘ACT’ is a good abbreviation, because this therapy is about taking effective action guided by our deepest values and in which we are fully present and engaged. It is only through mindful action that we can create a meaningful life.

Moving Forward

There is a lot of progress happening in the arena of mental illness.  Clinicians are increasingly looking at mental health from a holistic perspective.

Dr James Courtney is a Clinical Psychologist, lecturer and Placement Coordinator at the Monash Psychological Centre.  I had a chance to speak with him on this topic recently.

There is a huge push to look into the impact of genetics and DNA on a patient.  They have found for instance that panic attacks are 7 times more likely to have been inherited in your DNA.

‘Following a Biopsychosocial model of treatment, we try to look at a whole lot of influences including genetics and the influences that you had on you as a child.  We try to understand the whole journey”.

It is now possible to have a DNA test and have your medication personally fitted to your specific DNA.  A genetic test will reveal how you will respond to a drug, what suits you and what suits your profile.   This level of accuracy takes away all the pain and frustration of trying many different medications until you find the right one.  Through DNA testing they can custom fit your medication.

Resources and Organisation that can HELP you.

Tim Read facilitates Blur – Blur Support Group is a safe place for people suffering mind health issues, or for anyone who is currently having a hard time. It is a confidential peer led mind health support group that meets fortnightly at a cafe in Warrandyte.  You can find out more by contacting:

Now and Not Yet Cafe 148-150 Yarra St, Warrandyte VIC 3113
(03) 9844 0994

PHAMS:  PHAMS is the Personal Helpers and Mentors Service.  This is a federally funded program which works in an outreach capacity.  They meet with people and look at the issues that they are struggling with and help them to move through them.  They work closely with clinical services.  Its about sitting down with a person and mapping out a plan with them and supplying the services that they need.

PHaMs provides increased opportunities for recovery for people aged 16 years and over whose lives are severely affected by mental illness, by helping them to overcome social isolation and increase their connections to the community.  People are supported through a recovery‑focused and strengths‑based approach that recognises recovery as a personal journey driven by the participant.

White Wreath is a non-denominational, non-profit charitable organisation providing 24-hour, seven days a week help, assistance for those suffering mental trauma or considering suicide.

P: 1300 766 177 or
M: 0410 526 562

You will speak immediately to a human voice.

You can Text via Mobilie 0410 526 562

You can Emailwhite.wreath@bigpond.com

Headspace:  headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.   You can access headspace HERE.

Beyond Blue:   beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.  You can access beyond blue HERE

 

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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The Role of Men in Our Society

Lately, the role of men in society has been a topic that I am being asked about more and more.  Just today I had an interesting discussion with a male friend of mine at our local coffee shop about the new society we live in and men’s place in it. 

This is a little of how the conversation went:

“Lisa, I have a great topic for your blog.  “Men and where we fit’”.  

Where do we fit into this new society?  We can’t and don’t want to just be the arch-typical macho man.  We want to be more in touch with our feelings but society hasn’t changed enough that we feel heard or received when we share that we are struggling or not coping.  We get brushed off and told to toughen up.  

“Men don’t cry. Be a real man. What kind of freak are you for acting that way? Man up. Don’t be a girl. Stop being such a ##**x. Don’t get mad, get even.

It is a concerning trend that some men feel dispossessed and alone in society.  The rate of suicide in men is the highest it has ever been and remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.  Occurring at a rate of 3 times more for men than women.

The degree to which young men feel pressured to adopt traditional ideals of manhood has been revealed in a new study commissioned by Jesuit Social Services.  It was the first nationwide study of what Australians think about manhood, questioning 1,000 young men aged 18 to 30.

It found two-thirds of young men said they had been told a “real man” behaved in a certain way since they were a boy.

“This survey shows us traditional ideals of manhood in Australia are alive and well,” co-author Dr. Michael Flood said (The Men’s Project).

“Young men still see that they’re told by society that men must be tough, men must be stoic, men must respond to challenges with violence.”

My husband and I have six children ages 24 – 33 years old.  Five of our kids are adult men so this topic is very close to our heart. They are great young adults and I am very proud of each them.  

Before I continue let me say that there are many amazing men out there.  

Guys that are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. Men that strive to be good fathers, husbands, citizens and friends, to lead by example at home and in the workplace, and to understand their role in a changing world.

However, the question must be asked.  If some men feel out of sync with society, why?  Why is there so much loneliness and aggression among young men?  Why do some men seem to be immature and not connected to their emotions?  Why do some young men at 30 still act like they are 17-year-olds? 

As I began to dig into this topic a few thoughts began to bubble up.  These are my thoughts.

1:  As a society, we have lost the valuable social tool of initiation and ritual for our young guys which in the past help them navigate their place in the community as they pass from teenager to adult.

2:  Our society of winning and succeeding at all costs looks down on suffering, vulnerability and emotional work.  If emotional work is not done there is no change.  Men stay emotionally immature. 

3:  Institutions, media, mass communication and political correctness have dampened our ability to ask questions.  The 5 min sound bite has damaged our ability to converse, to question, to learn.

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The Role of Initiation

We are an uninitiated society.   Except for those who love deeply, pray deeply, or suffer deeply,  society has lost the historical role of initiation and we have forgotten the rites of passage.

In the ancient world the birth of a child, a youth’s coming of age, and the funeral of a respected elder are all events in which an individual undergoes a change of status.

Initiation, or the coming of age of a boy or girl, is a transition frequently marked by ceremony and celebration. The education of youths in preparation for the responsibilities of adulthood is often a long and arduous process sometimes taking  6 – 12 months. Initiation rites usually begin at the onset of puberty.

Boys, and to lesser extent girls, are separated from their families and taken to a secluded area on the outskirts of the community where they undergo a sustained period of instruction.  

 At the conclusion of this mentally and physically rigorous period, they are reintroduced to society as fully initiated adults and given the responsibilities and privileges that accompany their new status (By Dr. Christa Clarke, for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Most anthropologists, citing Arnold van Gennep’s major work, “The Rites of Passage,” will say that rites of passage exist in order to consolidate social ties, establish roles, and give members of a group a sense of purpose and placement.

Rites of passage are an important part of a person’s life because they mark the transition from one stage of life to the next. It was recognised that the future of the community depended upon having healthy men as opposed to overgrown boys.

If a young man between the ages of 13 – 18 is not presented with something that is big and challenging, he doesn’t think his life has any meaning.  On top of this, the fathers/leaders of our society have nothing more to add.  Today we have a lot of old men who really have nothing to say. Worse than that, many young men have no role models that are worth following.  Just look at the rise of aggression, domestic violence, alcoholism and apathy of some men in our society.  

Initiation Examples

The young native American teen sent off into the darkness with nothing but a bow and arrow and expected to return with a wolf pelt or two or three.

Apache trial of womanhood.  Apache girls take part in ancient tests of strength, endurance and character that will make them women and prepare them for the trials of womanhood.  It happens over a week of ceremonies where she moves through the stages of life, child, adolescent, and woman.  She has to live by strict rules and learn to set aside emotions.

In Australia the young aboriginal man goes walkabout – an initiation that induces a  deeply spiritual awakening and self-awareness that happens with solitude, aloneness, exercising survival and instincts, personal growth and other aspects that are fundamental to Walkabout (source).

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The Masaai warrior tasked with stalking and killing a lion in single combat.

The donning of a glove lined with stinging bullet ants to commemorate becoming a man in the Amazon.

Ritualistic tattooing, branding, or mutilation upon reaching a certain age or completing a certain task (source).

If you live your life without suffering anything or without any kind of effort, life will not be worth anything to you (Amazon Tribal Elder).

Every human being needs to feel like they belong to the group. Everyone needs a stake in a tribe, and rites of passage help provide that by establishing and formalizing this (source). 

Look at how initiation works.

  • Initiation is a universal recognised need
  • It is always done in nature
  • It is always done by older men to younger men.  
  • It is done by a same-gender leader who is respected.

We lost initiation in western society because we became successful and powerful in our own eyes and thought that we didn’t need it anymore.  

When the traditional pathways to adulthood broke down through the abandonment of these traditional practices and customs by the suppression of the church and or government authorities, adolescents did not learn how to become social adults (Biersack, 1998). Instead, they became ‘insurgents’(Honwana, 2006; Rosen, 2005) or village bikhets (Leavitt, 1998).

The Emotional Work 

‘Men are hard-wired to block suffering. “The male psyche is, by nature, defended; men have a difficult time allowing events, circumstances, or people to touch or hurt them. Such blocking may have allowed us to survive…the endless wars of history. But it has also restricted the male capacity to change” (Richard Rohr).

Whilst the path of suffering is the quickest path to transformation,  most men don’t change until they have to. Until economic disasters, moral or relationship failure, loss of job or health are forced upon them, the tendency is to project the incoming negative judgment somewhere else. 

“Struggling with our dark side is humiliating, men have been trained to compete and to win. When winning is the only goal, we can’t admit to anything that looks like failure, or even allow basic vulnerability. We have to project weakness and failure onto others, making them the losers. Such dualistic thinking and resistance to change only guarantee more war and conflict” (source). 

Asking the Questions

The word ‘quest originally’ came from the word question.  We have lost the community ritual of quest ‘to search’, along with the ability to ask good questions.  

If you haven’t been on a journey yourself you have nothing to say.  Most young men today have nothing to say because they have not embraced quest: journey, transformation, brokenness, pain.  Western society teaches us to hide our pain, to suck it up, to be a winner.  Not to share it, embrace it or express it.   

True initiation is when you experience who you are apart from everything you identify with.  Your class in society, your gifts, your nice house, your job, your nationality.  Initiation is when you experience who you are beyond all of those titles and categories and you question, what is it all for?  What is it all about? 

Signs of high intelligence include curiosity, openness, and adaptability. Neuro-biologists are now saying that the sign of a high IQ is not people who have answers, but people who ask good questions.

What is the real truth?

A young man does not know how to contribute to society, for him it is all about money, sex, and power.  He does not know how to be a team player, does not know about how to be inclusive, sensitive, compassionate and sacrificial.   An uninitiated young man is a loose cannon.  All ancient cultures understood this.  They understood that a hormonal young man was dangerous to the community.    

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In our society today you see many adults who have never grown up. Adults who remain selfish and self-centered most of their lives.  They still have the emotional IQ of a teenager.  We lost the bridge of initiation from children to adults and in doing so we have a lot of ill-formed adults.

The real truth is that there are stages in one’s life.  The young adult man thinks he is immortal, he is obsessed with the biggest and the fastest.  This macho attitude, however, is reserved for puberty, for challenges, for the quest.  

The real lesson for a man as he gets older is to bring his head down into his heart and to become tender, compassionate and kind.  As maturity comes, a man learns to live in peace and contentment.  He is not fighting for power, he is not fighting for supremacy.  

Psychologist Robert Moore took the concept of Jung’s archetypes and used it to create a framework that explained the development of mature and integral masculinity in men. Moore argued that the problems we see with men today–violence, shiftlessness, aloofness–are a result of modern men not adequately exploring or being in touch with the primal, masculine archetypes that reside within them. 

Like Jung, Moore believed that men and women possess both feminine and masculine archetypal patterns–this is the anima (feminine) and animus (masculine), (The Art of Manliness).  

You can read more about these four male archetypes in the book by Moore and Gillette called ‘King, Warrior, Magician, Lover’.   In this book, they explore the concept that mature, authentic, and revitalised masculinity is made up of four parts. 

Warrior, lover, wise man and king/father.  If you are only initiated into one of these areas,  you are not a whole man.  It takes your whole life to become a whole man. A journey,  a life long quest.  The father king holds together everything and you don’t make it to father king until over the age of 50.

So the question now becomes – how do we help young men today?

Here in the ‘civilized’ West, we expect our boys to change into men without any assistance and minimum disturbance for the rest of us.

Quite rightly our young people feel something is missing when they reach teenage-hood and beyond, but they don’t know how to fill the void. Unconsciously, blindly and without guidance, many teenagers are now creating ‘anti-social peer initiations’. Testosterone and alcohol-fuelled escapades which can cause pain and suffering for themselves and others.

Nick Clements From the Good Men Project explains his thoughts on the New Rites of Masculinity.  The Good Men Project was founded in 2009 in the United States by Tom Matlack and James Houghton.  This website examines the question, ‘What does it mean to be a good man in today’s society’?

The boy needs to find out what it is to be a man, what characteristics are needed, how he should behave. He needs to learn about humanity. As part of that process, challenge and bravery need to be built into any new rites, taught in ways that show the two different paths open for men:

  • ‘Warrior’: the path of competition, aggression and violence (the old way).
  • ‘Brave’: the path of bravery, courage, vulnerability, and the willingness to collaborate (the new way).

The boy needs to experience both, and be able to decide which path he wants to take because he chooses to, not because he is being forced into being ‘good’. There is good and bad in both.

There needs to be a mentoring and support programmes built around such rites of passage. The boy needs to be helped in his transition from boy to man by older men who are wise and supportive. 

Examples of Modern Initiation

  1. A good example of this is the scheme in the UK which teaches young mechanics how to service and maintain large trucks. Once they are familiar and adept, the truck is filled with rations and provisions, and the young boys are part of a team that drives the trucks from Europe to Africa. Breakdowns, failures and hard times are encountered along the thousands of miles. Eventually, the trucks are delivered to needy communities, and it is the boy’s job to teach and train the villagers to maintain the trucks. That’s a good rite of passage. Those boys come back as men.
  2. Another project enables young people to use advanced film and other technologies on the proviso that they first shared it with older people. For every hour they teach an older person how to use computers they gain an hour on the equipment for themselves. A bi-product is the creation of meaningful relationships between teenagers and pensioners which has radically transformed the local community.
  3. The Pathways Foundation is a National harm prevention charity that
    assists young people to make the fundamental emotional shift from
    being a child to becoming a young adult.  PATHWAYS TO MANHOOD is a contemporary, community based Rite of Passage for boys to Manhood. A 5 day bush camp for boys aged 13-15 years and their fathers or a male mentor.

Since 1996, a group of men and women working with young people recognised they were underachieving, lacking in direction, self harming and initiating themselves into young adulthood through risk taking behaviour to ‘prove’ they were grown up. Understanding the need for young people to take part in conscious safe rites of passage and mark the shift from boy/girl psychology to healthy man/woman psychology was an essential ingredient Pathways developed their award winning contemporary rites of passage programmes.

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‘It would seem that initiation and ritual are not just about celebration, but a deeply spiritual time of life, a time of reflection, a time of gaining confidence in one’s own person and abilities, having a sense of their own spirituality, and realizing and experiencing their connection to the land and nature. It is a part of them as a person, a people — it connects them to the land, a higher purpose, and somehow to a higher plane of existence in some ways, and individually it is part of their identity as a man’ (source).

Prayer is Friendship

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a ” seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life”.  One of the major exercises in the book that Julia gets you to do is called “Morning Pages”.  This is where you wake up and write out three pages of your stream of consciousness.  Just get everything and anything out on paper.

It is a form of meditation.  The premise being that after you have emptied your mind of all the details that you are often distracted or consumed by, then you are free to begin to think creatively.  This discipline really helps to increase your creative output.

Recently I have been navigating a painful experience in my life.  Very dear friends of mine, who were concerned for my wellbeing, kindly made their home on the Gold Coast in Queensland available to me for a week.

Their exact words were, “Get out of here and work your head out”.  Lol.  So,  I tucked  myself away in silence and solitude, for a week and created space within the storm to  think, process, pray and reflect. A large part of that week was writing out my “Morning Pages”, my stream of consciousness and all of my negative feelings.  I recorded my nightmares in my journal, making notes, processing them and them releasing them to God.

By recognising and acknowledging my feelings, good, bad and painful, I was able to then communicate with greater intimacy with God.  By getting rid off all the white noise in my head I was able to be still.  I created a space to hear from Him and to listen to what He had to say to me. Prayer is simply friendship with God and friendship requires two-way communication.   Richard Rohr in his book ‘Simplicity’ says it this way:

“I don’t advise you trying to master your fears.  You can’t fix the soul…We have to ask, who is the ‘I” that has these feelings?

But most men and women in the west have never encountered it.  Instead they identify with their stream of consciousness, with their feelings… you should not suppress your feelings, you should name them  and observe them.  But don’t fight them and don’t identify with them.

Teaching this art is teaching contemplative prayer in its first stages”(P 45).

You may be wondering how this relates to prayer.  What Richard is suggesting is that prayer is firstly about getting ourselves out-of-the-way.  We don’t have to wait for God to come he is already present.  But our inner world is often full of worries, fears, ideas, plans, tasks, all clanging and bumping into each other.  We need to get these onto paper and out-of-the-way.

“All you can do is become quieter, smaller and less filled with your own self and its flurry of ideas and feelings.  Then God will be obvious in the very now of things.  It is so simple that it is actually hard to teach”(Rohr, R. 1991 p45).

You may feel that your experience is too personal or confidential to write down in a permanent place.  If so then write it out on a sheet of paper and then burn it.  Very cathartic.  I can’t stress how important it is to release these feelings that we often think are too big, too bad, too hard, too sad, too shameful.

Repress Repress Repress – It catches up with you.

If we continue to suppress and repress our feelings then sooner or later we will blow up.  It’s not a pretty sight.  When teaching on this I often use the analogy of a foam surfboard that I had as a child. In our backyard pool as kids we would practice standing up on this tiny foam surfboard.  It was incredibly buoyant.  This trick was to keep the surfboard submerged under the water and balance on top for as long as you could.  Obviously the winner was the one who could stay on the longest.

However, inevitably you would lose balance, tip off and the surfboard would rocket up into the air. Suppressed feelings are a lot like that.  We can keep them under the surface for so long but eventually we run out of energy and bam….. out it comes in an explosion.

Surf Wipeout Much better to put it on paper.  I have been doing this exercise for a couple of decades now.  It has helped me dramatically  with three things:

1:  My intimacy and relationship with God and others.

2:  My creative outflow. Fountain pen

3:  My emotional health – peace of mind.

In my journal I write out pages and pages of my worries, prayers, thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams.  Sometimes I draw them, or doodle them.  I have been known to use black nail polish if I’m really upset, or even black texta.  Sometimes I will draw  a picture, write down a  feeling or make a list. Then I write down the things that I am thankful for.

“As you begin to befriend your inner silence,

one of the first things you will notice is the superficial chatter on the surface level of you mind.

Once you recognise this, the silence deepens.”

( John O’Donohue Anam Cara: P146 )

After I have got ‘ME’ out of the way I go very still and very quiet.  I wait.  Often a flow of writing just starts as I begin to hear the Spirit of God speaking to me.  If I am still distracted I begin to write again,  I often start with a letter.  Dear Lisa,  ……..  and then I just begin to write.   Let me tell you, if we make time to listen, God actually has a lot to say to us.

Remember, a friendship is two ways, talking and listening.  How often do we listen to God?

I have been journalling for about thirty years.  It’s faith building to look back over the years and see the progress that has been made. IMG_2593 This is a picture of one of my journal pages.  You can see that I’ve written out on my journal page,  “Looking for a chance to breathe”.  Only a week later  my girlfriend suggested that I go up the coast and take some time to ‘catch my breath’.   This is a simple example of what I have been describing.  You may just want to write out your thoughts in bullet points, or do a mind map.  Whatever works for you.

Peter says this “Throw all your cares, worries and anxieties on Jesus because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7

I would really encourage you to start a journal if you haven’t already.  If yours is a bit dusty and unused it’s never too late to pick up a pen or laptop and get started.  Take some time for yourself, to unburden, to release and let go of your cares. Give them to someone higher than yourself, He does care for you and He knows that we can’t function properly when we are so consumed with worry and cares.  Even 5 min a day will make all the difference.

Let me know how you go. xxx Love Lisa.

Recommended Reading: 

The Artist’s Way Starter Kit includes Cameron’s two most important Artist’s Way tools: The Artist’s Way and The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal-bound together for a bargain price. This attractive package-shrink-wrapped and with a bellyband-will inspire anyone contemplating beginning the Artist’s Way program to plunge right into this life-changing twelve-week program!


The Artist’s Way Starter Kit
Anam Cara Discover the Celtic Circle of Belonging – this book will captivate you.  I can’t put it down. John O’Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for “soul friend,” the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death as:

  • Light is generous
  • The human heart is never completely born
  • Love as ancient recognition

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people.Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

https://www.patreon.com/SundayEveryday

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