Tag Archives: shame
It’s been almost a week since the incident in our Al-Anon group. I’ve spent many hours praying, meditating and tapping to relieve myself of the trauma caused by your actions during our weekly meeting. It’s important for my own recovery that I become extremely clear on my thinking surrounding this incident as well as the motivation that prompts me to speak up. I’ve been haunted by the occurrence and my resulting reactions. Knowing myself well as I do, I work hard to clear these issues before speaking. It has been and will continue to be the best approach for me, to think before I speak.
But now, at this moment, I’m crystal clear on most of my emotions surrounding this and am ready to speak.
(In accordance to Al-Anon protocol, the members in this story remain confidential. I only identify them by first name and do not reveal the state or location of the group).
At a recent Al-Anon meeting which I sporadically attend, I was singled out and humiliated in front of the group for the location in which I chose to sit. I chose a seat at the edge of the group for reasons outlined below. The rest of the group (over 20+ people) were sitting at several conference tables pushed together and the meeting had already started as I was about 5 minutes late. I settled in, removed my coat and pulled my Courage to Change book from my purse. (Several times before when choosing this seat, I was asked, by two women in particular, to join the others at the table but declined with a no-thank you. It seemed to bother them each time but I dismissed it).
This last week, a member named Susie, got up from her seat during the meeting, came over to me, grabbed both arms of my chair and jerked on them. She says to me “We don’t let people sit back here”. I froze. In a split second I was triggered. I had been invaded in my safe space, without invitation, a clear violation of my boundaries. (She’s very lucky I have tamed my knee-jerk survival skills of physical aggression). When I didn’t budge, she continued to pull on my chair in some weird tug-of-war and I obliging stood up. She placed my chair where she thought it should be and I sat down. All eyes were on me. Whatever serenity I had achieved regarding my anxiety level was lost. My face flushed with shame, embarrassment and humiliation. I instinctively pushed my chair back from the table attempting to regain some safe space again. For a few minutes, I tried to center myself. The man next to me, who was also on the we-must-sit-at-the-table-with-our-hands-folded campaign, gestures for me to scoot up. I say No, thank you. He won’t give up. More words, more gestures. Now all eyes are on me AGAIN as he attempts to get me to comply. In a slow motion haze, completely triggered, I put my books in my purse and stand to leave. I do not hurl the words spinning in my head, I do not attempt to make my issues the issues of the group. I simply leave.
Dear Susie….here’s what you didn’t know or take the time to find out.
- I have logged over 25+ years in Al-Anon and am not a newcomer to the philosophies of the program. Having attended hundreds of meetings in many different locations, I’ve never had anyone question where I sat. In fact, most meetings allow for personal safety and comfort, making this a non-issue which has always been the beauty of this program.
- I am a trauma-incest-abuse survivor. That means I’ve maneuvered and survived masters of pathologies; narcissists, alcoholics/substance abusers, perpetrators of sexual abuse and violence along with the run-of-the mill shallow and unenlightened individuals. Acts of aggression which include the definition of assault, “Assault is an act which causes another person to have apprehension of imminent harmful contact”. If you lunge unexpectedly toward a survivor, especially using force to grab at them (in this case my chair), most times the trauma affected brain perceives that movement as assaulting behavior. In other words, you triggered me by your sudden moves, by grabbing my chair and with your words.
- I’m no slouch when it comes to personal development. My entire life is devoted to recovery, empowerment and mindful awareness. As a retired nurse, social worker, massage therapist and overall student of life, this has been my mission; transforming a childhood of trauma and despair to one that prospers in healing and kindness.
- I have a few residual health issues. The entire reason that I choose to sit in the periphery of the group is that I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Perfumes and laundry detergent smells are the worst of dangers to me and are often a problem when I attend. Sometimes I take a pre-emptive antihistamine just to be present. Sometimes I sit by the window in case I need some fresh air or just need to not be stuck next to someone who wears perfume. To a MCS person, these smells are toxic. They can trigger many different responses such as asthmatic symptoms, headaches, dizziness. I know my issues as well as my boundaries on this subject.
- I struggle with anxiety. It takes me days sometimes to psych myself up to attend a meeting. As much as I’m a social person, I also, because of recent circumstances, struggle with isolation. Several women from the group gently nudge me to join them for dinners, meetings, gatherings. I adore them for that. And I work on centering myself for hours before coming to a meeting.
- I’m a writer and an advocate. I use my voice often even when it is scary to do so. It’s what I do. I have a blog dedicated to recovery of trauma. I serve as a moderator on a international FB page devoted to trauma recovery. I am a virtual assistant on Twitter for a national organization for Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse. My voice serves as an advocate for those that can’t speak. I made this vow after recovering my own memories of incest. I will use my story to empower others, giving them a safe place to speak. I am not afraid anymore.
Dear Susie…..here are my direct words to you.
- Examine your own agenda and ego. Why would you make your personal agenda one that trumps an individual’s well being?
- Please God, tell me you won’t treat a newcomer like that. If I were a newcomer, perhaps filled with anxiety and trepidation about my life with an alcoholic, desperate for resources to help with a life filled with chaos, issues of personal safety, financial problems, would you treat a person with such disregard? I hope not. It goes against everything that these meetings represent.
- How dare you compromise a resource that I needed. At this point in time, I need community. I’ve suffered the devastating loss of my husband and his family. I need to know that there are groups that can support me during this time. I’ve reciprocated to support others during their rough times and now need that support myself.
- Are you speaking for the group when you say “we”? Are you the self appointed gestapo of the group or has this group named you the seating relocation person? This should be verbalized in the opening statements of the group each and every meeting.
- Wondering if you’ve reflected on your behavior at all. As of this writing, after receiving no response to my text to you, I called. At first you didn’t know who I was. When I explained the reason for my call, you did recognize me due to the circumstances. While I did receive a “please forgive me”, you also defended and back peddled a bit as to your position. Apparently, you felt justified in what you did.
- You given me the “opportunity” for growth and got me writing again. In Al-Anon as well as other self help modalities, we learn to thank certain opportunities for individual growth. This situation gave me exactly that. I got to examine the types of people I choose to be with as well as how to assert and protect myself. There is always room for growth and self reflection, thank you for that.
- Your actions and words could be viewed an act of aggression to me as well as many abuse survivors. While you didn’t realize I was a trauma survivor, you also didn’t approach me with respect either. We must entertain these possibilities when dealing with populations of this sort.
Thank you to my friends who have talked me through the triggering incident and the losses associated with it…y’all are my lifelines.
I’m hoping that this post serves to increase awareness about many topics. It is imperative that we practice compassion in the moments of our lives.
When we know better, we do better.
It is a brave woman that can sit with her pain. Sometimes it seems as if that’s all I do. But I will trust you on this and feel the hope again.
*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.
Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want…
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Reblogged from Heal My PTSD by Michele Rosenthal.
PTSD makes communication difficult. Many survivors can’t find the words to express what they’re feeling. Even when they do, it’s very normal for them not to be comfortable sharing their experience. Elements of shame, fear, anger, guilt and grief often get in the way of a calm, focused discussion.
Friends and family (and anyone else who is not the source of the PTSD but is standing by while someone attempts to heal) need something that translates PTSD language. Armed with knowledge, insight and awareness you’ll have an easier time knowing how to react, respond and relate to your PTSD loved one during the healing process. The more you appreciate things from the PTSD perspective the more helpful and supportive you can be. Now is the time for empathy, compassion and patience.
The list below will give you an overview of things to understand. For more in-depth information – plus content specifically geared for you, the caregiver – check out the free archives of our radio show, CHANGING DIRECTION, which features professionals and experts weighing in on what you need to know about PTSD and your role.
#1 – Knowledge is power. Understanding the process of a triggering event, the psychic reaction to trauma, the warning signs and symptoms of PTSD, and available treatment options for PTSD allows you to help recognize, support and guide your PTSD loved one toward diagnosis, treatment and healing.
We need you to be clearheaded, pulled together and informed.
#2 – Trauma changes us. After trauma we want to believe —as do you—that life can return to the way it was; that we can continue as who we were. This is not how it works. Trauma leaves a huge and indelible impact on the soul. It is not possible to endure trauma and not experience a psychic shift.
Expect us to be changed. Accept our need to evolve. Support us on this journey.
#3 – PTSD hijacks our identity. One of the largest problems with PTSD is that it takes over our entire view of ourselves. We no longer see clearly. We no longer see the world as we experienced it before trauma. Now every moment is dangerous, unpredictable and threatening. Gently remind us and offer opportunities to engage in an identity outside of trauma and PTSD.
#4 – We are no longer grounded in our true selves. In light of trauma our real selves retreat and a coping self emerges to keep us safe. Believe in us; our true selves still exist, even if they are momentarily buried.
#5 – We cannot help how we behave. Since we are operating on a sort of autopilot we are not always in control. PTSD is an exaggerated state of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us. We act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control.
Be patient with us; we often cannot stop the anger, tears or other disruptive behaviors that are so difficult for you to endure.
#6 – We cannot be logical. Since our perspective is driven by fear we don’t always think straight, nor do we always accept the advice of those who do. Keep reaching out, even when your words don’t seem to reach us. You never know when we will think of something you said and it will comfort, guide, soothe or inspire us.
#7 – We cannot just ‘get over it’. From the outside it’s easy to imagine a certain amount of time passes and memories fade and trauma gets relegated to the history of a life. Unfortunately, with PTSD nothing fades. Our bodies will not let us forget. Because of surging chemicals that reinforce every memory, we cannot walk away from the past anymore than you can walk away from us.
Honor our struggle to make peace with events. Do not rush us. Trying to speed our recovery will only make us cling to it more.
#8 – We’re not in denial—we’re coping! It takes a tremendous effort to live with PTSD. Even if we don’t admit it, we know there’s something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there’s a problem that’s really code for, “I’m doing the best I can.” Taking the actions you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus from what is holding us together. Sometimes, simply getting up and continuing our daily routine is the biggest step toward recovery we make.
Alleviate our stress by giving us a safe space in which we can find support.
#9 – We do not hate you. Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, somewhere inside we do know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we may use your face as PTSD’s image. Since we cannot directly address our PTSD issues sometimes it’s easier to address you. Continue to approach us. We need you to!
#10 – Your presence matters. PTSD creates a great sense of isolation. In our post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by us. It matters that although we lash out, don’t respond and are not ourselves, you are still there, no matter what.
Don’t give up, we’re doing our best.
What have you experienced that you feel should be added to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments….
Michele Rosenthal is a PTSD survivor, author, speaker and Post-Trauma Coach. She is the author of Before the World Intruded:Conquering the Past and Creating the Future and Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices for Reclaiming Your Identity
Today I felt compelled to share this story. I share it as a 57 year old woman who wants to challenge the belief system of women, beauty, aging. Hats off to Robin for her naked and vulnerable story. Enjoy this article as I have and vow to continue to love ourselves fearlessly and to teach our daughters and future generations of women to do the same.
My ‘Naked’ Truth by Robin Korth
Naked, I stood at the closet doors with the lights on and made myself ready. I took a deep breath and positioned the mirrors so I could see all of me. I consciously worked to remove my self-believed inner image. I opened my eyes and looked very carefully at my body. And my heart lurched at the truth: I am not a young woman anymore. I am a woman well-lived. My body tells of all the years she has carried my spirit through life.
I am a 59-year-old woman in great health and in good physical shape. I stand five-feet, nine-inches tall and weigh 135 pounds. I wear a size six in both jeans and panties, and my breasts are nowhere near my navel. In fact, they still struggle to make it full-up in a B-cup bra. My thighs are no longer velvet and…
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In January 2014, best selling author, Rachel Thompson and therapist/author, Bobbi Parish, both survivors, began a Twitter chat #sexabusechat as a forum for support and healing for survivors of sexual abuse. With that resource quickly becoming so popular, they teamed with success coach and mentor, Athena Moberg to offer a Google Hangout on the evening following the chat to further process the topic of the week.
From there, these women have formed the NoMoreShameProject offering support, coaching services, publication and more. Within this project, there are many opportunities for a survivor to thrive, an opportunity which I find in short supply.
I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble upon these incredibly warm, inclusive, determined and very smart!! women. I’d like to pass this resource on to anyone touched by the issue of sexual abuse, child abuse or family violence. When we actually begin to find our voice and begin to hold each other’s hands, a miracle happens. Shame is released giving us long desired acceptance and freedom.
Check them out, grab a hand of a survivor friend and let’s circle the world!
The little boy comes to me with stifled tears, head bowed, chin jutted out, lips pursed together to keep in his words
I lie down behind him smoothing his long graying hair off his neck
He fights so hard; not to feel, not to disappoint, not to let the little boy get too far away from the only place he knows to be safe
I ache for his longings; his undiscovered freedom, stifled passions, joy without limits
I hold space for his gentle heart even when he can’t
He silently slips into sleep as I place a butterfly kiss on his salty neck and watch him come alive in his slumber, leaving tormented consciousness behind
Slowly at first, then with urgency, his legs start to twitch and run
I pray for godspeed to his running soul
and to please find my husband and bring him back
Photo credit: Image from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Its an awkward junior high dance of where to place my feet, what do I do with my hands, how can I stop sweating each nuance of my being?
I suppose each day brings me closer to my truth. I’m not sure why my truth has been so buried. Who decided that it was to be my life’s journey to dig through the muck and proclaim my findings a treasure? Why is it taking so long? My post it notes that line the area above my desk say to practice acceptance. They also remind me that I’m entitled to make mistakes and that I can’t start the chapter of your new life if you keep re-reading the last one. I wonder if I’m not assimilating the lessons of my life or if I just have too many post it notes?
Today’s biggest question is one of my voice. Usually my biggest questions are regarding my voice; where it is, how loud is it, how do I use it to the greatest good? But underneath those questions lie the deepest challenge I face today. What do you do when it is apparent that your voice and message make those in your life uncomfortable? Where is the line of discernment between how the individual should proceed when they form a part of a larger group and what is their responsibility to the greater good? Should one compromise the group for personal benefit? Does one pray for the fear to be released from the family/community/church/friends with whom you’ve made a life with or does one practice a life unspoken or better yet, a life carefully spoken to those only ready to hear? And if so, how does one know the difference?
I’ve been quite drawn lately to the plight of the gay person who struggles with whether or not to come out. I find this a struggle that is similar to mine in the sense that neither can reveal the story truest to themselves without wondering how detrimental or incredible the outcome might be. How does one make that final, irreversible decision and action? It’s a long standing fantasy of mine to be able to tell the story of an abused and compromised child only to break the shackles of shame and liberated by the act of coming out. It seems as if it would be freeing beyond belief. Not taking the steps toward fulfilling that fantasy is a sort of slow emotional suicide. That scenario involves lots of pretending, not stating the obvious (well at least the obvious to me) and leading my life with as much rhythm as a flat line on an EKG. A basically unappealing and empty existence.
Is the solution a matter of re-framing one’s thinking to accommodate only thoughts of gratitude and a positive nature? Isn’t that denial?
Could the whole matter of avoiding the tough subjects in life some sort of grace that I’ve yet to develop? Isn’t that fear?
Should I practice more acceptance of what is and isn’t in my life and resign to a life without unabashed celebration of my total self? Isn’t that numbing and settling?
I’d love to hear from anyone who not only has had the same questions but any solutions to this personal crisis as well. Wishing I had more answers than questions, I leave that to you.
Over a year ago, I lost a situation that was pure joy for me. I lost it due to my emotion regulation problems that are a result of abuse. My lifeline of joy that fed and distracted me from the pain is gone. I’ve not been successful at replacing it yet although I do try each day. I push through. Just like my friend A Heart of One does in her blog post. The particulars of her life are a bit different yet the result is the same. Our hearts are broken and we just don’t know how to fix them. That’s all there is everyday….heartbreak….
All of my life, I’ve been pushing through…pain, grieve, exhaustion, lack of supports. I’ve made it work, kept going. Do or die. If I felt myself getting sick, I’d will myself to not be sick, keep going, don’t have time to be sick, take a rest, stay home, do nothing.
I tried to push through today, still want to on some level. I tapped into a painful memory last night. Curled into a ball, on my side, clenching my bottom, mouth shaped into a scream, eyes wide, head jerking back, shaking all over, then crying. Me, but not me. A past me. In pain, terrified. He did not care about pain he caused or the fear that I felt. It was a moment of complete horror. I lived it and lived through it again.
Full article at http://aheartofone.blogspot.com/2013/01/pushing-through.html