Recently I had an experience that made me lose my ground. It shut down ALL my chakras.
I felt the air sucked out of me. I felt like I had NO physical self. I was but a swirl of energy. Someone asked, “What are you thinking?” I said, “I am only feeling.” They did not know what else to ask. I felt like the wet towel on the floor. This feeling used to be very familiar. I worked hard to learn new behaviors, and worked harder to cement those behaviors.
Here is what I wished someone had said …. “Indrani, can you hear me? Shake your head if you can.” (I had no language. I only had preverbal behaviors like crying and flailing). I would have shook my head.
Then I wished they would have said … “Can you feel your toes, feet, legs, hips, belly, chest, arms, head?” In other words, I wished they had done the body scan on me since my brain was off line, and I could not have thought of this tool myself.
Then I wished they had said …. “Indrani, breathe with me. Look at me. Hold my hands.” I wished they had grounded me. But they did not. They did not know how.
So I collapsed in a heap on the floor.
My spine crumbled life a crushed egg.
I could not hold my weight.
The sonic boom I was not expecting, happened. The energy demolished me. It took me many days to recover from the daze.
Now I know. Now I understand that old behaviors that were not useful then are still not useful now.
Now I know. I will hold on to this knowledge.
Do you have someone to help you with energy surges? I hope you do. It will save your life.
I am very fortunate to belong to a community of practitioners called the Daring Way™.
I got here the hard way, by doing the classes from Dr. Brene Brown and taking tests and following their rules and guidelines.
It was a lot of work and I loved every step of the way.
I was very happy to participate in a research survey that the community sent out a while ago and decided that I should do my part to further along the research that is the foundation of her amazing books and teachings.
So I logged in a began.
It was long, I was getting a little tired of it and considered not finishing but then something about the answers that I was giving really hit me hard.
A lot of the questions were about my feelings of worth and whether I felt my life was going anywhere and also, did I frequently compare myself to others?
Half way through the survey it occurred to me that my answers to statements like “I do not like myself” or like “when I think of my accomplishments I feel I have done less than others” ( I did not pull these from the survey, they simply reflect the sentiments from the survey), I found myself answering almost never.
What did this mean?
Simply put, it means this:
I liked myself.
I feel accomplished by any ones standards.
This occurred to me about half way through the survey THEN I was pumped to complete it.
I even told myself to BE HONEST, that Brene wanted honesty so I reread the stuff I had answered and carefully answered the rest…
And what do you know?!
I actually like myself and I actually feel good about what I am doing and feel good about being able to laugh at my mistakes and do not allow others to determine what I think of myself.
This is NOT at all reflective of how I felt just 10 years ago.
As recently as 2005, I was still comparing myself to others, beating myself up for not being up to par or not as good as almost everyone else in the my world. I was not a good enough coach, or writer, or business person, or mother or, or or. The list went one forever.
Also I was always catastrophizing. If one thing went wrong, it meant everything else was going to go wrong. If someone disappointed me, it meant I would be doomed to a lifetime of disappointments.
It was quite exhausting to live this way. I knew no way out.
I put on a great show of being outwardly confident but I was always on the look out for evidence that I was not good enough.
The evidence always came.
It came in the form of people’s words about my life choices (I was a bad mom because I was pursuing a new dream) or in the form of a societal or cultural message
(You are traveling too much. Who takes care of your home? One family member even asked who cooked food for my husband.)
The evidence was ALL around me.
I had to really close my ears and eyes to all the messages I was hearing. All the nay saying that was trying to get into my psyche.
I even had to listen to close friends and family tell me how silly and unrealistic my dream of doing something about ending violence in the world was.
After all, I did not have a degree in psychology, or any experience in the real world. I never worked at a not-for-profit nor had I had a job in the last 25 years!
Yes, they were lined up to tell me the way I was living was not acceptable to them, not at all.
I had to be deaf and blind to those voices all around me and to try to tune into the voices within my own heart.
The inner KNOWINGS that I wanted to do more, be more than a housewife (I had done that for 20 years) and I wanted to create change in my world.
I saw that survey as a way to go back into my past and to tell the younger me that she would be fine!
I gave her examples of the questions that would have brought her to tears just a few years before, those same questions that now brought a huge smile to her face, warmth to her heart and ONE single sweet tear to her eye.
The tear of clarity.
The tear that acted like a magnifying glass through which she saw herself in all of the accomplishments and all the experiences and all the loving people surrounding her.
I sent my younger self blessings and thanks for not ever giving up and always finding ways to burn off the fog of unworthiness and shame.
Thank you Dr. Brene Brown. You may still be collecting your data, but you have already shown me my results.
Self-respect is defined by Nathaniel Branden as “the conviction of our own value. It is not a delusion that we are perfect or superior to everyone else. It is not comparative or competitive at all it is the conviction that our life and well being are worth acting to support, protect and nurture, that we are good and worthwhile and deserving of the respect of others; and that our happiness and personal fulfillment are important enough to work for.”
When a woman is forced into a marriage that she does not want, when she is forced to birth more children than she desires or is forced into aborting fetuses that are the “wrong” gender, that is not respecting a woman.
Some of these issues are couched in cultural language that makes it seem iron clad for women to “behave certain ways and accept traditional roles.”
I would like to float the idea that NOTHING is iron clad and traditions had to start somewhere, so we can be brave enough to make new ones.
This kind of bravery can only sprout from deep and abiding self-respect, nothing short of consistent self awareness.
We cannot fall asleep to how we live our daily lives, make daily choices and then wonder why our self-respect is in shambles.
“To appreciate why our need for self-respect is so urgent, consider the following : To live successfully, we need to pursue and achieve values. To act appropriately, we need to value the beneficiary of our actions. Absent this conviction, we will not know how to take care of ourselves, protect our legitimate interests, satisfy our needs, or enjoy our own achievements.” Nathaniel Branden
I urge you to read, no, to devour, Six Pillars of Self Esteem. It is by far one of the best books that anyone who has received abuse or is presently receiving abuse can read. It will give you the language to demand the respect you need for yourself, the respect you will expect from others and the strength to say NO, I will not accept disrespect anymore.
Self Responsibility… The “Philosophical Principle (that) entails ones acceptance of a profoundly moral idea. In taking responsibility for our own existence we implicitly recognize that other human beings are not our servants and do not exist for the satisfaction of our needs.”
The above quote is from the book Six Pillars of Self – Esteem by Nathaniel Branden.
Can you take some time to read the above sentence out loud, maybe more than once.
When I first came across this sentence in the book, I was stopped in my tracks.
If the above is true, and it is, then all of us who have been abused in one form or another would KNOW without the shadow of a doubt that we were wronged.
We would not have to ask others for their opinion of whether we were enough wronged as to take swift action and demand justice.
The married woman who is forced to be a servant to her husband and in-laws would know that she is not there for their implicit or explicit exploitation. She would know that she had the right to say an empowered NO.
If she could accept that she will not be made into an unpaid servant, how might she approach marriage differently? Might she ask the intended in-laws how they expect to treat her? Might she tell her future husband that she will not be forced into a life of servitude and sexual slavery?
I really have no answers to these broad issues but I do know that we must empower women BEFORE marriage to ask harder questions than “do you have a job and where will we live?”
The college woman who is gang raped would know that she needs to report the crime as often as she needs to until something is done. She would have to find the courage to stand against the friend circle who will most likely accuse her of being disloyal and being short sighted about her reputation.
Where did I get these examples of what the friend circle might say? It comes directly from the report of the gang rape at a frat house on the UVA campus.
The 18 year old woman was made to question her loyalties. She was made to stay silent about the horror that was done to her body and her mind by silently suffering.
If we could get women, especially High School and college women, to respect themselves as much as they respect what their friends say, we might be able to bring more rapists to face the music.
Please do not think that I am putting the burden of this whole thing on the shoulders of the survivor of the rape, I am not. I am, however, sure that taking responsibility for extracting justice for a crime that was done is one of the most powerful ways to begin the long and arduous process of healing.
We cannot expect society to change without each individual taking a stand for what is no longer acceptable.
This is how we got rid of slavery.
This is how women got the vote.
This is how dictators fall.
It is only speaking up, as often as we can, and as loudly as we can, that will bring change. It will still be slow, but we can never. ever give up.
Recently, I had the great fortune to be in Trinidad with my only brother, his lovely wife and our childhood friend, Ray.
We were all headed to the store to purchase a 60th birthday gift for another friend.
My brother was riding in the passenger seat up front while Ray drove and in the midst of recanting an old and funny story, he said very casually,
“Hey brother, what’s that red light on your dash?”
Ray, quite nonchalantly said, “Doh worry ’bout dat man, I put a piece of black tape over it, I don’t want to know what it is.”
And in typical Ray style, he started to laugh.
My sister in law, sitting next to me in the back then says, “So why is there tape over the locks in the back?”
Ray says, “Oh the locks are broken and I just don’t want people messing with them.”
We all start howling with laughter and start teasing Ray about his ability to block out the everyday annoyances of life.
I immediately say, “You know that I am going to have to write a blog about this, right?”
The thing about using black tape to cover up warning lights and broken bits of a machine made me think of the hoops we jump through to hide our shameful abuse from others.
Women will use any amount of makeup to try to hide the black eye.
Teenagers will lie to their friends and wear long sleeves to try and hide the cutting they started as a result of the incest they are suffering in their homes.
Young children know that they dare not tell about the knock down drag outs that their parents engage in and they instead begin to create a fairy tale family that they trot out to mask their pain.
Recently, during a Train the Trainer, one of the participants told the group that he never knew his parents because the state had taken him away due to abuse. He then explained that he made up a fairy tale of benevolent parents and used to tell fairy tale stories about the imagined family.
We use black tape in our everyday lives so effectively that we often forget the tape is there.
We begin to see the tape as the reality and we fight for the right to deny the reality of our pain.
What parts of your life have you taped over?
What is the tape hiding?
What would happen if you pulled the tape off and allowed yourself to face the truth?
I pull the tape off my own bruises every time I tell an audience that my abuse began in my childhood. When I am honest with my listeners and when they are able to receive the truth of what I am saying, they witness the absence of black tape.
I let them see my scars.
I let them in on my pain.
As a result of my being vulnerable, they give themselves permission to do the same.
Will you remove some black tape from your life today?
It struck me today that one of the first steps we all must take in the fight against gender based violence is to start actively paying attention and noticing gender based violence.
How we each do this will be different, but for me, since starting my work at ILF, it means filtering the world through a new lens and quietly asking myself “was that gender based violence?” or “is there a message here about gender based violence?”
When someone like TMZ decides to post a video that is an extreme and obvious case of gender based violence (as in the Ray Rice situation) it is easy for everyone to say “well yes, that was a case of gender based violence, we need to do something about it.”
But what about all of the non-obvious, non-in-your-face examples?
What about the two kids that I always see playing in the local playground, sometimes with their 2 year old sister. Why do they NEVER want to be at home?
What about the gym teacher at the local high school who constantly smirks at his male students when one of the more well-endowed girls jogs by in class?
What about the sad little girl who went to the day home next door to my house that nobody noticed until the caregiver’s husband went to jail last year for molesting her?
If we are observing the world like everyone else all of these may slip below our radar.
But, if we start actively watching for gender based violence (and I am not saying this is easy, so take care of yourself) the number of incidents starts to become more and more clear, and it is only then we start to realize how important the commitment to ending gender based violence really is.
So, what was it that struck me today and brought this realization into the light?
The song Face Down by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. This song has been out since 2007 and is tied as the longest-running song on the Modern Rock Tracks chart at 52 weeks. I have heard it countless times and thought nothing about it other than “great song, I like it”.
Today I watched the music video, with my new found GBV filter, and, wow, was I missing the point:
*Psst.. Did you know you can highlight any sentence in this post to automatically share it via Twitter or Facebook? Go ahead, give it a try!**
There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!”
The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.
He does this a couple more times and as the story goes….
Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”
But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again and so they didn’t come.
I remind you of this story, because in my own way I have cried wolf. Unlike the shepherd boy, however, I was not lying about the wolf.
The wolf in my life was depression. In my cry of wolf (which came out as cries of pain, tears, sadness) loved ones came for a while and I was heard but quickly dismissed because they could not see the wolf.
The wolf was always lurking. My cries took the forms of chronic stuttering, pacing, insomnia, weight-loss and these all compounded my tears and my pain. People could see signs of trouble but no one saw the wolf so they turned away.
Then the wolf, chewing on me, was devouring me and my life. I made the final cries that I wanted to die. “Help me! Can’t you see I want to die?” And yet the ones who I thought loved me the most were deaf to my pleas. Worse yet, those who heard me held me in contempt.
I never lied about the wolf in my life.
As the little shepherd boy cried out to get attention, yes I did too. The attention I needed was in the form of help.
If someone you know is crying out for attention, they may have the wolf known as depression in their life. Take time to look through the trees to see if they have wolves in the shadows and are in need of help.
Don’t turn away from a cry for help.
It is the loneliest feeling in the world when you reach out to those you love for help and they walk away.
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A dear friend, Keisha Gallegos compiled this list of strategies for dealing with depression and we want to share it with the world. Please share if you know someone struggling with depression. We hope it helps.
First of all, if you are not functioning well or if it takes an inordinate amount of energy to get even the smallest task accomplished- medication. Be evaluated by a psychiatrist. That’s their specialty.
If you don’t like the first one you see, go see a different one. The first medication you try may not work, I had to try several before I got one that worked well.
In my opinion, untreated depression is much worse than possible side affects from medication. Your body can’t heal when you are depressed. That should tell us how debilitating depression is physically.
Later when you are stabilized, you can consider how long staying on medication is right for you. Sometimes it’s for a few months, maybe a few years, possibly for the rest of your life.
Deal with the shit you have been repressing your entire life. Take it out, look at it, and feel your feelings. The fear of dealing with it is far worse than actually dealing with it, I promise you.
You don’t have to lay on a couch for 40 years contemplating your belly button- that’s ridiculous. Try a large and regular dose of self compassion.
When you are good and sick of your own story, possibly try coaching. Coaching works because it teaches you good mental health hygiene.
Learn what your triggers are. For me, I don’t watch the news- it’s a distorted view of the world- focusing on the negative and magnifying it to astronomical proportions. Our nervous systems are not made to handle the details of every single heinous atrocity committed on every corner of the globe.
I make sure I eat well and sleep enough. I don’t hang out with people that treat me badly or make me doubt my sanity- even if they are family.
I protect my energy like the queen guards the crown jewels and I infuse my life with positivity.
Put together a box where you put in a note of every single thing you remember that makes you happy. When you are depressed, you can’t remember what makes you feel better so have something readily available. Have a happy playlist. Learn to detach from painful thought patterns that create suffering. Practice random acts of kindness, read good news, cuddle with pets, go for a walk, spend time in the sunshine for vitamin D, make yourself go to gatherings where you feel loved.
Don’t retreat. Keep involving yourself in life.
Do things that feed your spirit.
Most of all, treat depression as the serious disorder that it is. Medicate it if you need to and don’t be ashamed of it. You are not weak or ungrateful.
I’ll never forget when I went on medication and I was doing some self shaming about “needing” it. I asked my sister what people did before anti-depressants, and she said, “They drank, Keisha. Take the meds.”
We all have internal voices that regale us with how many things we do wrong.
This voice seems to take great pleasure in rendering us helpless in the face of challenge.
It happily reminds us about all the things we failed to finish. It shifts and disrupts the ground from under our feet with all the things we can’t do.
If we believe these internal onslaughts, we remain tightly wrapped and bound by our failures instead of being able to open up those failures and glean the lessons in each.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with Wolves tells us we can “dismantle the assaults of the natural predator by taking to heart and working with what is truthful in what the predator says and discarding the rest.”
If my internal predator says “you are so wasteful, you have so much fabric and never finish any quilts”…I can calmly tell myself that I have made and finished more that 12 quilts and each child has at least two quilts handmade completely by me.
This example is quite tame. It can happen, however that my internal predator can tell me something like:
“Oh, so you think you are so special and want to end Gender Violence? Well missy….YOU have been yelling at people all your life. You even yelled at someone last week! Who are you to think you can do this?”
I will then have to have the presence of mind to remind myself that I am human and while I still do yell, I am trying to stay calm in situations and to treat others as I want to treat myself.
If I can do these exercises with my OWN internal predator, then I have a fighting chance to speak MY truth in the face of an external predator. The person who wants to abuse me physically, emotionally or verbally is an example of an external predator, whereas, an internal predator is the negative voice that tries to bring me down.
The external predators can do serious damage to my psyche and if I do not develop the internal muscles against my internal predators then I have very little chance of standing up to external predators.
Estes tells us that we can “dismantle our predator by maintaining our intuitions and instincts and by resisting the predator’s seductions.”
How do you hone your instincts when the world is ready to tell you that what you feel is false and that your instincts are stupid?
The only answer is that YOU must believe in YOU!
You have to be courageous enough to know that you have deep understandings about life.
You can sit in prayer or mediation and recall times in your life when you did listen to your instincts and were happy because you did.
Like any skill, listening to your instincts is a muscle you must build up.
You must have patience, and practice on little things.
For example, if someone asks you to do something, instead of answering from your head, take a few minutes to notice the way your body is reacting to the request.
Do you feel happy and joyful, or heavy and dark when you think of the request?
Only you will be able to read the signs that your body give you.
Then, you have to be courageous enough to follow your natural instincts.
This may mean that you have to say NO to things you used to say YES to.
I know someone who recently told her boyfriend that she would no longer take part in orgy sex. She was very scared to do it and felt he would leave her if she refused. Whenever she had done it in the past, she felt dirty and less worthy but he always told her that she was the prettiest one in the room. She so badly wanted to hold on to him, she continued with behaviors that left her feeling empty and nauseous.
When she finally decided to stop the orgy sex, she delivered her decision and he promptly left her. He found someone who would do exactly what he told her to do.
It took her a while to recover but now she is happy that she found the courage to end that part of her life.
She had to get used to a new normal. A life without big lavish parties…but now she has her life and her body and self worth.
When you decide to counteract the internal predator it will mean that you must get used to a new normal.
Give yourself time to craft the new way.
Give yourself a pat on the back every time you kick the internal predator to the curb.
Love and light,
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