Lies and Secrets are the Currency of Control.

Three things cannot long stay hidden:

The sun, the moon and the truth. – Buddha

In this post I will attempt to talk about two things that have deeply effected my childhood, adolescence and in fact, are still causing me pain today. 

Lies and Secrets.

I struggled writing this post.  Lies and secrets are interchangeable to me, so closely linked and at some times the same thing.  Others of you reading this will have a more defined understanding of these two terms but my mind is still unravelling the threads so I apologise.  

Lies and Secrets

Lies and secrets make up the major part of my life.  The effects of which are continuing to unfold in my life now.  Secrets do not go away. It may take decades but most resurface causing pain and trauma. Many of you may have read my story of finding out about my biological father on Ancestry DNA.  You  can read about it here.  When your Father is Not Your Father.

“Family secrets are like vampires. They never really die, and can always come back to bite you.” 

Alberta J. McMorris, Mercy: a love story

Even decades on when I thought I was free of the cult and free from my upbringing, secrets keep coming back to bite me.

My Childhood.

Imagine walking through kilometres of marshland and boggy soil.  One minute your foot is on hard ground, the next it is sinking in mud.  It all looks the same and it is impossible to tell the firm ground from the quicksand.   Inevitably you end up with both feet in the mire and you are sinking.  You reach out for help, shouting “ I’m sinking, this ground is unstable”. Only to be told that the ground is solid and you are making it up.  

“Don’t be silly, you’re not stuck, you are standing on rock solid surface”. 

This is what it is like to be raised by a pathological liar.  You don’t know if you are safe or sinking.  Up is down and east is west.  You don’t trust your own perceptions and you are constantly told that what you discern is wrong. 

They have you believe that you are: ‘making it all up’.  You are the one to blame.  You have a dirty mind, you are a liar,  you exaggerate,  how can you think such evil things?

It is a life of smoke and mirrors.   The abuser does this to regulate your behaviour and to control you. They are skilled at  hiding their infidelities, addictions, illicit behaviours and the best way to get away with it and cover the shame is to make you believe that it never happened.  

Another term for the behaviour of a pathological liar or narcissist is Gaslighting.  “Gaslighting” is a term that originated with the 1938 stage play, Gaslight, by British writer Patrick Hamilton. However, most people are familiar with the story through the 1944 film of the same name, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Boyer convinces his wife (Bergman) that she’s imagining things, most notably the occasional dimming of the house’s gas lights, as part of his plot to steal her deceased Aunt’s money and jewels. (The lights dim whenever he’s in the attic, searching for the treasure.) Over time, Bergman comes to believe her husband’s lies and, in turn, to question her sanity (Source).

Gaslighting is where the abuser convinces you that the lies are truth and that your truth is the lie.  Whereby you doubt yourself and your perception of reality, your memory and your sanity.   You lose your confidence and become immune to trauma and abuse.  In most situations you simply give up because you can never ever get to the truth.

“The thing about families, Arlo thought, was that there was always some question nobody wanted to answer for you, and it was like a stray thread pulling loose in a sweater. You could tug at it all you wanted, but in the end, all you’d have was a pile of twisted yarn.” 

Sarah Sullivan, All That’s Missing

To be honest,  when I have found out about some of the appaling secrets,  the overwhelming feeling is relief. “I’m not going crazy”.   The trauma of the secret is secondary to the revelation of the truth.  Abused children value the truth just about more than anything else.  “Just tell me the truth, tell me I am not going mad”.

“Nearly every person has a million secrets they’re carrying around,” says Barry Lubetkin, the founder and director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy. “They can be the silliest things, or they can be very significant, like I cheat constantly on my taxes”.

We all tell lies at some point even small lies.  However, narcissists and psychopathic liars simply don’t care about the truth. They prefer to tell lies and gain control over people than be honest.  They will never, ever, reveal their secrets.  

Their lies are the gatekeepers of their secrets and they are the best liars in the world.  Why:  because they fully believe their own lies.  They could take a lie detector test and pass.  It’s called cognitive disonnence.

For narcissists and psychopaths, secrets and lies are currency.  

Lies and secrets are two of the tools that they use to manipulate and control you. Secrets are their super power and lies are their shield of confidence.  

It is your word against theirs.  As they are usually in a more powerful position they know that if they hold their ground, you will eventually back down.  Without proof there is no truth.  Even with proof, they will still lie.

If someone has a secret on you, they can use it against you to control you. 

“Whether man or beast, the secrets you kept in the fathoms of your heart always held you to ransom.” 

Dianna Hardy, Reign Of The Wolf

I grew up in a large family full of secrets.  I was also raised in a cult who were adept at controlling people with secrets and lies.  Discretions and sins, told in the confidence of the confessional, became the currency of control.  If you stepped out of line suddenly one of those secrets would be released to errode and undermine your authenticity.  To keep you small.  To keep you pliable. 

“Did you know that she once had an affair? She can never be trusted”.

“I wouldn’t believe what he says,  he has been known to have a problem with pornography”.

Secrets are Currency of Control

Within this ,community my mother had an affair with one of the leaders.  The cult leaders used her affair to control me

I was told that I carried a familiar spirit of adultery which meant that I had to be monitored.  My natural sanguine effervescent personality had to curbed and contained so that I didn’t fall into sin.  Being born me,  meant that I could sin more, attract sin and be a sin.  An outgoing, talented, creative soul was a recipe for evil.  On top of all that,  I had to be careful that I didn’t lead others into sin and make them fall.  I was assigned monitors and was reported on weekly.   This monitoring or reporting to the elders went on for about 6 years on a weekly basis and then for the next decade but through the covering of my husband.  Of course the more information they got about me the more they could control me.  I am aware now as an adult that I was also being groomed by a sexual predator and that this was a way he could keep me close.  He was the leader of the cult at the time  (a story for another day). 

I recall one time when I was at home on the weekend.  It was a hot summers day.  We were lucky to have a backyard pool.  I loved to swim so was of course in the pool enjoying the summer day.  I had also just been given my first and only bikini by an aunt outside the cult.  I figured that I was home alone so I ‘should’ be safe to try it out.  Wrong.

Unexpectedly the music director/elder, his wife and young family arrived to enjoy the pool and escape the heat.  They were close family friends.  At the time I was 14.  The wife and children came into the backyard and I excitedly waved that little girls over to come and hop in the pool.  I looked up at their mother and noticed the look of disapproval on her face.  Where is ? I asked (her husband).  

“Lisa,  he is sitting in the car in the heat.  He could not come into the backyard with you looking like that.  You will need to go and change if you want him to join us in the pool”.

I thought I was safe in my own backyard.  Nope.  I was too naive to feel ashamed.  I was however very confused and felt blame.  I was horrified that my actions had caused someone to not be able to enter our home.  I raced to get changed,  apologising profusely.  Needless to say I never wore a bikini again.  I had been the cause of much offence.  This I knew would be used against me in the future.  I could be easily punished because of this.

When I reflect on this story now I laugh at the power of a bikini that would cause a grown adult male to avoid our backyard.  Also – how dare they.  I should be able to feel safe in my own backyard.  I was a minor enjoying the privacy of my own home.  Isn’t he the one with the problem?  Unfortunately logic is something that I had to learn after I left the cult.

 “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.” 

Iyanla Vanzant

A truly free person, according to Don Miguel Ruiz, is immune to both the neurotic and normal attempts of others to regulate his or her behaviour. The advice he gives us for accomplishing this is to make the following agreement with ourselves: “Don’t take anything personally.”  When we agree not to take anything personally, we regard all attempts by others to control us as statements about them, not about us. By refusing to take threats, criticism, evasion, complaints, praise, or disapproval personally, we act upon our own reality, not upon theirs (source).

The great teacher of truth Jesus, tells us that:  “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

How does the truth set us free and what is truth? 

Truth is rare.  In my experience anyway.  Some people don’t even know what the truth is or they fear the truth.  

Truth is fact,  it is reality.  When you are dealing with people who constantly invent their own reality truth is hard to find.

In the end the way to find the truth is to be true to yourself.  To come to a place where other people cannot define your reality.  We can live and act upon our own reality.  Be true to ourselves and to what defines us.  

Secrets and lies are always born and flourish in the darkness.  Truth lives in the light.  When we turn a spotlight on the darkness we find freedom.  We may find pain initially but we will eventually find freedom. 

 “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.”  (Iyanla Vanzan). Sometimes the truth is painful which is why it was hidden in the first place.  We are worried about what others will think.  

“What will people think of our family, of our marriage, if they find this out?”

You know what.  I don’t even care anymore.  I am so tired of secrets and lies that I truly don’t care.  The pain of the lie/secret is so much worse than the truth.  I have always told my children,  I don’t care what has happened,  what trouble you have got yourself into, but don’t lie to me.  

Just recently some horrific secrets have come into the light within my extended family.  Too awful for me to write about.  When I found out the reality of what had happened I picked up the phone and told every single family member:  Aunt, cousin, sister, brother, uncle, son and daughter.  I heralded the news and wore the pain, shock and horror.

The buck stops here.  I pulled back the blanket, told the facts as I knew them to be and let the truth take its course.  It was crippling, it was painful but it allowed light and healing to commence.  Some family members were not happy and would have preferred that the truth remain a secret.  Most were beautiful, supportive and appropriately appalled. Additionally, I was aware that we had a whole generation watching how we handled this.  When I was a teenager trauma was minimised and hidden.  I wanted to be an example to the next generation, that the truth is worth fighting for.  It is worth the pain.  It is worth the disclosure.

We cannot heal or be whole if we are spending all our energy protecting lies and secrets.  Together we can face any problem but I refuse to entertain lies and secrets anymore.  

Maybe this is what freedom looks like?  

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

NOTE: When it comes to secrets I am aware that I live in a privileged time in history. In the past secrets saved lives. You did not have a child out of wedlock, it was not possible. There was no contraception, therefore – a lot of babies. There was social shame attached to divorce and unwed mothers. Sexual abuse was less understood and swept under the family carpet and mental illness and suicide not understood at all. Therefore I am aware we are dealing with a generation of older relatives who are conditioned to ‘not air the dirty laundry”.

This is a fascinating story about fear and lying by Dr. Habib Sadeghi. As I finish this post I thought that this was a great analogy of the deadly power of lies and fear.

“My wife and I were touring the Amazon jungle when our guide suddenly stopped. Carefully, he reached down and picked up a spider from a tree branch. He easily manipulated the hairy tarantula by its bulbous abdomen. We were amazed. It didn’t move. It was completely frozen, like a statue. Our guide said the spider wasn’t dead, just temporarily anesthetized. 

He pointed to a tiny, pearl-like object on the back of its abdomen and explained it was an egg, planted there by a parasitic wasp. The spider had been stung and temporarily immobilized so the wasp could transplant its egg. Soon, the spider would shake off the trauma and go about its life as usual; completely unaware of the danger it carried.

Days later and without warning, the tarantula would stop cold in its tracks. Within seconds, a new wasp, that had eaten the spider from the inside out, would emerge from its abdomen and fly away, leaving behind the empty carcass of its host.

Like the wasp larva, feelings buried alive never die, especially fear. Lying comes from fear. It’s born from our traumas, disappointments and betrayals and is always the result of something that’s happened to us. You may be late meeting someone and blame it on the traffic or cover up being fired to avoid embarrassment. The scenarios surrounding why we lie are endless. The fact is that our lies are born from our traumas, both big and small.

“Lying comes from fear.”

When we are stung by life’s traumas, especially the big ones like losing a job, relationship, financial security, or our health, we become frozen in place like the tarantula. We rarely give ourselves enough time to process the hard lessons (truth) of the situation. We may grieve briefly, but then we anesthetize ourselves and it’s on with life”.

DNA ‘Surprise’: You Have Three New Sisters

“Mental health research indicates that major, unexpected shocks have the potential to cause much emotional upheaval. As such, learning new and unexpected truths about family relationships can raise intense psychological and existential issues for individuals and families” (Psychology Today)

DNA Surprise: You Have Three New Sisters is part two to my story of finding out at the age of 56 that my father was not my biological father. You can read that story here When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test.

Surprise

Meaning: An astonishing or unexpected event.

I have to say that this is not the first surprise that my mother has dropped on me. Because of a history of feeling unsafe as a child and of historical trauma and abuse, my first concern was to minimise the triggering effect that this may have on me and in turn on my family.

Finding out that I had three half-sisters was most definitely ‘astonishing and unexpected’. I have never really liked surprises, this one was no different. What does this now mean for me?

Therefore my first port of call was to contact my psychologist.

A shock like this leaves you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. When traumas happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again.

My new sisters appointed Jade as spokes-person to help me not feel so overwhelmed. Jade kindly realised that this shock would take a while to navigate. As we were saying our good byes on that first phone call, she suggested that it may be helpful if she sent me some photos of her and the girls and also of our biological father. This was the text she sent after we had hung up.

“I hope you are okay. I completely understand this is virtually a tsunami of information. I will send through a couple of pics. I hope it helps. Please know that I am here if you need to chat, but I will just leave you to process the information from here and wait to hear from you when you are ready. Take care…. Jade”

She then sent through pictures of these glamorous creatures that were apparently somehow related to ME. Along with photos of my new nieces and nephews and a photo of my biological father.

I threw the phone across the room and started bawling like a baby. I raced down-stairs into the kitchen. My daughter in law Rachel was the only person home and the poor thing hardly knew what to do with her nearly hysterical mother in law.

She did the perfect thing and held me in her arms and cried right along with me even though at this stage she didn’t know what we were crying about. Bless her.

The next day I confirmed with Jade that I had spoken to my mother and that she had confirmed the affair, which meant that I was starting to believe her.  I then sent her photos of my husband Phil and our children.

Taking small digital steps to connect.

This was her reply.

Hi….

I’ve thought of you all day. What an enormous amount of ‘stuff’ to process with this bombshell. As I have said, I have sat on this information for so many years, only wanting to communicate what I knew WHEN you made contact with me.

I am so sorry darling, although I completely trust the process of how it unfolded, I do feel, in some small way, responsible for being the one who has delivered the news that has caused you shock and heartache.

As I said last night, I truly believe that you contacted me because you already knew.

I sincerely hope that you are okay and will follow your lead with however you want to move forward with this. NO pressure NO expectations.

Jade.

P.S. Your children and their partners are beautiful and what a gorgeous couple you and your husband make.

I included this correspondence because I think it gives such a clear picture of how Jades handling of me and the situation made the eventual contacts and ensuing meetings so much easier.

When I showed the message to Chloe and Rachel they were both shocked.

“OMG…….It’s like reading a text message from YOU mum. This is exactly something that you would say… its how you would react”.

This was not lost on me and made the mystery of our DNA connection even more insane. I will be forever grateful that I was taken care of by such a precious soul. There could have been a million reactions to my connection, but this was the one that meant that I could indeed take safe steps forward and not live under the bed for the rest of my life.

I am very aware that not everybody is held with such grace and wisdom in this unique journey. Many people are not so accepting. Some people are disbelieving, some people are angry, some people grieve the person they thought they knew and didn’t. Some people are incredibly grateful to find a sibling. Some don’t have the emotional energy or will to even care.

The choice of whether or not to reach out to these sisters was a difficult one. Was this going to bring more trauma into my life? Did my family need anymore upheaval? My psychologist, my family and friends were all amazing and echoed the same things.

This is your choice. You can control this. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. We will support whatever you want to do. They have known and waited for 10 years, they can wait a few more months.

When I showed my psychologist the message above from Jade, she just smiled and said. I feel really good about this. I think that this is going to be a positive experience for you.

“You’ve got this.”

She did advise me not to meet them all at once.

She said, ‘I know you, you will spend all your energy learning their stories and will exhaust yourself’. She suggested that I meet them one at a time on neutral ground and that I take someone with me the first time.

A month after the first contact I made a date to have lunch with Jade. I cannot even explain what this felt like. What do you wear to meet a sister for the first time? What to expect? Do we sit near the door in case I need to run out for air?

Chloe accompanied me and I will forever remember trying to look for the table where she would be seated. I had seen her photo but nothing could prepare me for the real deal. She jumped up and met me half-way and scooped me into a bear hug. We then sat and just stared for a while until the conversation and the questions naturally began to take over. Chloe was amazing. Hilariously she piped up early on in the piece with.

“I just want to say right at the beginning…. we don’t have any money”

Jade and I just looked at each other and exploded into laughter. She said that’s okay because we don’t have any either. lol…….

What followed was lots of questions, lots of long looks, secret studies of each other. Later Chloe explained it to her brothers like this when they asked what Jade was like.

“Well, it’s like having a really cool aunt. Like Jennifer Anniston on friends. What was really weird was that if you closed your eyes and just listened it was like you were sitting at the table with two of mum. They sound the same, they use the same words, the speak with the same sentence structures and have the same way of being careful of people.”

My poor husbands response: “OMG there is TWO of you” faint.

Jade later explains that seeing Chloe was like looking at a younger version of herself. She said. “I fell in love with Chloe the moment I saw her”.

The overwhelming summary of that first meeting was safety. We felt safe.

A little pause before I chat about the meeting of the other two sisters. This is a thumbnail sketch of the backstory of Kallan so that you can understand the somewhat complicated birth order of the four sisters.

At the age of 15 Kallan and a 15 year old work colleague had a rather short affair which resulted in the birth of a baby girl Felicity. It was the late 1950’s and an era that was not kind to single unmarried mothers. The young mother was put into a girls home to have the baby which was then put up for adoption. Felicity was raised by a loving family but was always on a journey of searching for her birth father.

In the early 60’s my mother and Kallan had an affair and I was conceived. Two years later Kallan and his wife had a baby daughter they called Jocelynn and not long after that baby Jade arrived.

Felicity had been on a search for her birth father for some time. We call her the ancestry sleuth. Felicity eventually found details about the other two girls by searching through death notices. She contacted the two girls expressing her desire to meet. You can imagine the shock of Jade and Jocelyn. They initially thought it was me trying to contacting them. Instead they were confronted with the news that there was ANOTHER sister.

Not long after my meeting with Jade I arranged to meet with Jocelynn. We decided to meet in a cafe in Abbotsford. I arrived first and waited anxiously for my half sister to arrive. There was no mistaking her. When she breezed into the cafe I jumped up and after a huge hug we just sat staring at each other. It was pretty confronting. I felt a little like I was looking in the mirror. We had the same build, the same colouring, the same eyes, the same chin. Talk about a mind spinning moment.

Growing up I was always told that I looked like my mother and never really identified with my siblings or father in regard to similarities. Here I was sitting opposite the other half of myself. To say I was a little wobbly was an understatement. We hit it off immediately and chatted like old friends. She was so kind, so gentle, so loving, so funny.

The meeting with Felicity was a little more orchestrated. The other two sisters advised that one of them should be there with me as I might feel a little overwhelmed. They were now understanding some of my story and were very protective of me. They had nothing to worry about. Although Jade accompanied me, Felicity was adorable. Bright, bubbly, gregarious and a lot like a puppy. She is very chatty and with a heart bigger than texas and a soul of teflon. We joke that Felicity won’t be happy until she has collected a full set of sisters.

So here I stand considering these three beautiful souls who have walked into my life. Each a vibrant expression of myself in some way. Parts of myself that are finding a place to belong for the first time. Jade the spiritually seeking, wise owl. Jocelynn the maternal, loving caregiver who cannot say ‘no’ to anyone. (Insert my daughters voice here. “As if you can say NO to anyone mum”). Felicity the bouncy, energetic sleuth who is responsible in some ways for connecting us all.

You never know when you are going to hit an epic bump in the road people and you can never prepare yourself – just hang on for the ride.

I am very aware that my experience is unique and not everyone has such a positive story to tell of DNA revelations. We are on the cusp of a new journey together and are currently planning an event where my sister, and our friends and families can all meet. We have been holding them all at bay while we navigate this space.

I now can’t imagine my life without these women in my life. I am not sure if I would have wanted to meet Kallan if he were still alive. I haven’t quite processed that yet. For the first few months I had a lot of referred anger toward him. It doesn’t make sense I know but that was how I was.

In those first few months when my life was like swimming under water. I stumbled through google trying to find resources. Unsuccessfully Googling sentences like “what to do when you find out your father is not your father”. I wrote to ancestry.com asking what support they provided for such earthquaking revelations that DNA tests revealed. This was the response I got back.

Hello Lisa,  Thank you for contacting Ancestry in regards to your DNA results. 
We’re sorry for any shock that this has caused.


Regrettably, we do not have any services like you described. Though we we completely empathize with your predicament, as a genealogy company your best bet for help with this would be to discuss this shock with your local GP who may be able to refer you to a family counselor.


  If you need additional assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or call us at 1-800-251-838 between the hours of 9 AM to 8 PM AEST, Monday through Friday or between the hours of 9 AM to 4 PM AEST, Saturday and Sunday.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara

Customer Solutions Associate Ancestry

Thanks for nothing Barbara.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many psychological resources available for people who stumble across family secrets with DNA testing. It is an ethical minefield. Support can be given by professionals like psychologists but there is little knowledge or training about these issues, perhaps due to the recency of the phenomena and the associated lack of research.

The surprises thrown up by DNA ancestry testing raise a set of complex ethical, psychological, and social issues.

Support groups have sprung up over social media like the NPE Facebook community founded by Catherine St Clair. It has a rigorous screening process. (You can’t join the group unless you’ve actually gotten the DNA rug pulled out from under you. Lurkers need not apply.) NPE stands for Not Parent Expected.

In the following posts I will be exploring the power of DNA on a person and how profound it is as opposed to nurture and family of origin. I will also share some truly mind bending episodes of meetings with the sisters.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

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Love Lisa

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Can We Please Stop Judging Each Other?

Can We Please Stop Judging Each Other? by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Rarely a week goes by when I am not asked about my thoughts on homosexuality.

To be honest it is not an issue that worries me. I think there are far more pressing concerns in the world today. Also, please note: I am definitely, not an authority on this issue, I have just recorded my views a few times on this blog over that last few years.

I will put links at the end of this article for those who are interested. 

Just today my gorgeous local barista asked me what I was writing about on my blog at the moment.  He said, “I know what you should write about but we don’t agree on it”.  I said:  “Sam,  it’s perfectly fine that we don’t agree on things. That doesn’t even matter to me.  What matters is that I adore you and nothing will ever change that.  It is healthy to have discourse, discussion and disagreements.  What is important, is that it is done in love.

It annoys me that we spend so much time debating with each other about things that Jesus never once spoke about.  Jesus never once talked about birth control, homosexuality, and abortion—bodily “sins” because the body can most easily carry shame. We shouldn’t disregard bodily shame or addictions, but they are not the core problem. Jesus focused on issues of power, prestige, and possession—which all of us have largely ignored. 

If you are a follower of Christ and then your main concern should be love.  Jesus command was that we were to love God and love our neighbour.  He actually instructs us NOT to judge.   

I wonder what it would be like if we spent more time actually focussed on issues of power, inequality, prestige, consumerism and injustice instead of constantly pointing the finger and judging others.  So my opening comment about this topic is that we should lead with love and not with judgment or theology.  

At the very least, if we are not sure or don’t have the answers, don’t judge. 

The apostle Paul wrote, “Judge not, but wait for the Lord. He will bring to the light things now hidden in darkness, and disclose the secret purposes of the heart.

It’s actually not our job to judge.  We spend way too much of our time making up our minds about people.  Making decisions about them and  judging them. Are they right are they wrong?  Are they good or are they bad.  When you practice love you will stop judging others. You will love unconditionally.

God’s job is to judge, and ours is to love. 

“To die to our neighbours means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Notice the reason Jesus warns against judgment. The danger in passing judgment on someone is that we’ll have our own standard come back to haunt us.  We don’t know the full story, we don’t know the end from the beginning.  How can we judge when we are ourselves fallen, broken and have darkness within us.   When we form judgements about others we actually become hypocrites.

“Or how can you say to your brother, Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?” – Jesus

“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight ….And you look at the tree and you allow it. …You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” Ram Dass

But what about the biblical texts I hear you saying.  

Well there are many theologians who have grappled with these issues.   My own experience is that most of the clobber texts that are thrown around today against homosexuality are actually taken out of context.

My perhaps oversimplified ‘view’ at this time is that most or all of the Biblical passages about homosexuality are spoken about persons who are exercising their lusts and passions in selfish and/or violent and abusive ways, certainly not consistent with self-giving, sacrificial love.

No one is trying to make a case for promiscuous sexual behaviour regardless of what sexual orientation we may be talking about.  In fact, most of the sexual perversion, aggression, abuse and violence done in the world today is by heterosexual men.  I could write for days about that!

“What we are talking about today is a small percentage of the population across racial and geographic boundaries composed of same-sex oriented persons who genuinely desire to give their lives in self-giving, sacrificial loving covenant relationships with each other.  This is in my view very different from the matrix of most or all of the passages mentioning homosexuality in the Bible and I realise that scholars are divided on this”, (“Biblical Authority and Homosexuality” by Hardy Steinke)

I think Jesus gives us a very insightful clue of what awaits in the age to come.  There will be no marriage in the way that we now experience it. Matthew 22:30

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels[a] in heaven.

I will end this little discussion by leaving you with some quotes on sexuality by some very well respected theologians who have a lot more gravitas than me.

Tony Campolo is an American sociologist, pastor, author, public speaker

Rest assured that I have already heard –and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. 

Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again,

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church

Julian of Norwich sometimes refers to God as Father and sometimes refers to Jesus as Mother. Gender means almost nothing to her because she is beyond that. There’s something deeper than gender. As alluring and as important as gender is, as it is our metaphor held in our body, it is not our ontological identity. It is not our foundational, essential truth. Your gender is not the True Self. It’s part of the False Self.

That’s what Jesus is referring to when he says, “…in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25). But because gender is so deep in our early conditioning, in many of our lives we cling to it until the very end.

Male and female are most different at their most immature levels and most alike at their most mature levels. When you have matured to the point where you are beyond the dualisms that our dualistic minds have imposed on reality, then you know you are children of the resurrection. You are children of light and there is no male or female, as both Paul and the Gospel of Thomas say. 

People who already begin to experience such unity in this world will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward lesbian, gay, and transgendered people, because they know that the True Self, who we objectively are in God, is prior and superior to any issues of gender, culture, or sexuality. Gender is important, but it is still an “accidental” part of the human person and not its substance.

The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same for all genders: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, forgiveness of offenses, and generous service to the neighbor and the world. Here “there is no distinction…between male and female” (Galatians 3:28). Mature Christian spirituality leads us toward such universals and essentials. Yet people invariably divide and argue about nonessentials!

Walter Brueggeman is an American Protestant Old Testament scholar and theologian. Brueggemann is widely considered one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last several decades.

“I know those texts are in the Bible, but the Bible is a dynamic tradition that’s always on the move to new truth. If you track that out, probably the ultimate statement about that is made by Paul in Galatians 3, that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor

Barbarian, slave or free. We are all one in Christ. And what we know in the gospel is that God’s love reaches toward all of God’s creatures. To sort them out in terms of who are the deserving and the qualified and who are not is imposing a judgment on human reality that simply cannot be done.

But some Christians fear disobeying God when it comes to LGBTQ issues. Because of What the Bible says, they fear that they are compromising the gospel. Well, what we do is to pick and choose things out of the Bible that conform to our fears. It’s not a matter of obeying the Bible — it’s about obeying the gospel. The gospel is about God’s saving love that wants to restore all of humanity to full communion. To reach back to an ancient text that has now been corrected by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is simply a bad manoeuvre and poor methodology and theologically irresponsible. Those texts are not the determinative texts.

The texts that are determinative are those that talk about the love of God that has been shown to us in Jesus. We can’t compromise that.”

Links: Homosexuality A Chat

Homosexuality and Human Rights by Vicki Beeching

Welcoming but Not Affirming: Getting to the Slippery Truth by Nicole Conner

Why I Love the Gay Community by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

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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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.

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.
Unknown

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”

figf

“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

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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).

Where Are the Heroes?

Where Are the Heroes?

The last decade has seen a rapid de-escalation of the publics trust of religious leaders, politicians, educators  and community leaders.  The Royal Commission has exposed unprecedented sexual abuse of minors by the church and other institutions.  Politicians are argumentative, combative and come across as privileged and disconnected from every day life.  Most pastors/religious leaders are out of touch with the post modern world and the institution of the Church in general is no longer trusted, nor is it held in the place of honour it once was in the community.

Issues of safety, gender, equality, privilege, power and the abuse of these trusts has led to a time in society where ‘the persons in leadership’, who once held high the moral compass, are now held in disregard, suspicion and with much cynicism.   As my Nana used to say:  “Oh how the mighty have fallen”.

The community at large is frustrated by inequality, mismanagement and fraudulent behaviour.

Where are our heroes?  The ones we can trust to lead us.  The ones who put the nation and community above their own agendas.

I have compiled a small list of Aussie leaders and their signature quotes which express what they stood and fought for.  As John Howard famously said, “The things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us.”  We must remember this.

CHIFLEY, BEN 1885-1951

He strove to better the lot of ordinary people with a combination of public and private enterprise. He said: “We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind … If it were not for that, the labour movement would not be worth fighting for.”

BROWN, BOB 1944-

Born in Oberon, Robert Brown became a doctor and then a conservationist, leading the fight against the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania and spreading environmental consciousness as far as Germany and the Greens Party. Australian of the Year in 1982, he shared in 1990 the US Goldman Foundation’s environment prize, the world’s richest. “Wild places connect us to the universe,” he says. “There are no answers written on stone. But in the stones, the trees, the skies, is fulfilment for humanity.”

DUNLOP, WEARY 1907-1993

His tireless work made him a hero in World War II, along with other doctors, on the Burma-Thailand “death railway”, where he defied Japanese officers to save PoWs. He promoted friendship between Australia and Asian nations and was Australian of the Year in 1977. He said of the prisoners, 50 years after the war: “To this day I feel uplifted and borne up by their unquenchable spirit and patient endurance of suffering.”

MABO, EDDIE 1936-1992

Born on Mer, in the Torres Strait, Eddie Koiki Mabo made up for his lack of education with tenacity and a formidable intellect. Upholding his claim for native title to the Murray Islands, the High Court overturned the doctrine of terra nullius, the legal fiction that Australia was unoccupied before European settlement. Mabo, pronounced Ma’bo with emphasis on the second syllable, died a few months before the judgment. He had said: “My family has occupied the land for hundreds of years before Captain Cook was born.”

STREET, JESSIE 1889-1970

Born in India, Jessie Mary Grey Street graduated from Sydney University in 1910, joined the League of Nations Union and feminist organisations. She joined the Australian delegation to the conference that established the United Nations and successfully lobbied for a charter for women’s rights. She campaigned for the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal rights. She quoted Emerson: “God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose … You can never have both.”

WRIGHT, JUDITH 1915-2000

Was one of Australia’s foremost poets. She wrote biography, short stories and children’s books and campaigned for conservation and the Aborigines. She said: “The mateship ingredient in Australian tradition was always and necessarily one-sided; it left out of account the whole relationship with women.”

It is 2019 and across all areas of society women are still under-represented. The Chinese say “they hold up half the sky”, but relatively few made their presence felt in the distribution of power and influence until the last three decades of the 20th century. But change is slowly coming.  So slow that if we continue at this present rate it will take 200 years for women to earn the same amount of wages as men doing the same job.

Where are the heroes?  They are out there I am sure of it.  They look a lot like you and me.  The ones who will stand up and make a difference.  Who are willing to wade upstream against the current and who are able to confront the status quo and make a change.  People do not like change.  They may acknowledge that it is needed but they rarely like it when it comes.

What makes a hero?

 “A hero is someone who can be looked up to for their actions. Bravery is usually the biggest trait of a hero. This person has usually overcome huge obstacles to survive or to rescue others. Heroes come in all sizes. Sick children, grown firefighters, doctors, missionaries, philanthropists are all examples of heroes.”

What makes a true leader?  Lets look at just three core values.

Humility

as demonstrated by a sense of humbleness, dignity and an awareness of one’s own limitations; open to perspectives different from one’s own.

Integrity

as demonstrated by moral courage, ethical strength, and trustworthiness; keeping promises and fulfilling expectations. It still takes honesty and integrity to breed trust and credibility – the cornerstone of strong relationships.

Respect

as demonstrated by self-respect and respecting others regardless of differences; treating others with dignity, empathy and compassion; and the ability to earn the respect of others.

If we had leaders demonstrating just these three values the world would be a better place.  Accompanying these of course is love, wisdom, courage, tenacity and endurance.

If you are a follower of Christ you have the greatest responsibility as a change agent.  Jesus said ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’.  This means that it is here now.  Not in 10 years or 1000 years but now.  The presence of God is within us.  The ability to love, bring peace, truth and justice is within us and is at hand.  It is not a distant reality.  The time that Jesus spoke of when the blind would see and the oppressed would be set free is now.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

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This cartoon could say:  Get Love, Wear Love, Fly…………

Brian Mc Laren says it this way:

‘The time has come today to cancel debts, to forgive, to treat enemies as neighbours, to share your bread with the hungry and your clothes with the naked, to invite the outcasts over for dinner and to confront the oppressor. Not with sharp knives but with unarmed kindness’.

Imagine if followers of Christ actually did what they were supposed to do and followed the way that Jesus loved, freed, healed and included people.   The world would definitely be a better place.  It’s time for the Christian to come out from behind the walls of the church and actually practice the gospel of Jesus to a scared and anxious world.  Stop talking and teaching it and start doing it people.  Be the hero your neighbour and workmate is looking for.  Connect with your neighbours with unarmed kindness and NO AGENDA but love and friendship.

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