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Trigger #2millionfourtytwo.four

Your leg’s not missing; you just need to think more positively.


Of course your leg is missing; everyone’s leg is missing, so buck up and suck it up, also like everyone else.

“I’m broken Dale” — that’s not a cry for pitty and love; it’s one of confusion.

It’s like having had a missing limb, and people continually telling you that it wasn’t missing. To a degree that created permanent confusion.

I’m constantly wanting to prove to you how broken I am, so that I can change my confusion around whether or not it is real. So you can say, “Yes! I see that!” Oh, what glorious words to me.

It’s soothing when circumstance brings the brokenness to show without my control, and in a way that is undeniable to others, in a way that confirms the missing limb, without any doubt or questioning.

There was a moment in our last session. I was telling you about the two ways I presented myself at the party, and when I spoke about the presentation of a successful career woman, you were saying that it’s not confusion, because I know that that presentation is not true – that I am not a successful career woman. You said that, looked at me, and added, “Right?”

I actually felt an enormous amount of relief when you said that. I was relieved that you weren’t saying “Yes you are; you will recover to being that. You will eventually be success that way. You are too talented not to eventually find your way back there. Don’t start selling yourself short in the world. Don’t underestimate yourself.”

I felt that you were admitting that aiming to be that may not be realistic with my injuries in this moment, but that I may get there in a much more unique and authentic way.

When I make the wound real, I can find the healthy loving response; if it’s not real, I can’t respond, and then that part of me is abandoned again. That part of me has had a lifetime of abandonment.


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what’s your book cover

I’ve been having book covers and titles coming to me. What, if anything, I ever end up doing with them, it seems like part of my therapy to express them. What is your book cover?


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way of council

Last Wednesday, i began a series of about 10 weeks of therapy every week, alternating between group and individual sessions.

I feel very lucky; not many people get this experience here, without paying for it themselves.

So, I have moved out from my Mom’s place, replaced my car, and begun this intensive period of therapy. I am beyond broke, currently living off what little I’d saved for my training in Systemic Family Constellations, which also begins this month. ‘Hoping to sell my car and a couple of other random items in the next week or so.

My first therapy session in these series was a clearing with my regular therapist, using the technique of Way of Council, with the assistance of another therapist. Both are also trained in Heart Centred Hypnotherapy, and this was also part of the session.

These are the notes the Way of Council therapist made on the session, and I wanted to put an image to them, do something with them other than have them on a lined piece of scrap paper lying around.

Next week, I begin the group therapy, which is a Way of Council group, for patients of my therapist only.


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step four — july to november 2010, the nose of the ship begins to go under

my post step four introduction is the context for this series of posts.

the form of the space and how all my things went with his furniture seemed so perfect. my heart sang to have a home space with my things in it. it seemed like the final landing place for the next era of being a student on a national leadership award. we called it the Zen Palace. I could finally grieve and recover from all of the upheaval in my life because I thought it was over.

On the plane to the leadership conference I attended in November as part of the award, what was on my brain to write about was my new roommate. we’d been roommates since July, and had entered an agreement to have a “jock & ben” (from the Haven) kind of friendship, where we practice radical honesty with each other in order to work through some of our issues around connection. I had come from the previous winter in a trailer park, then a basement suite sleeping on a massage table and living out of President’s Choice reusable shopping bags, then finally a local B&B in exchange for caretaking, to this beautiful appartment, shared with my Haven friend.

From my notes during the conference of speakers and workshops and such:

Meaningful service:
  • positive contribution
  • solves a problem, fills a need
  • meaningful to you, your passion, your goals
  • spark / inspire action in others
  • far-reaching, long lasting.

Depth & Breadth — breadth is the degree that it pushes yourself, and to which you engage others.

These notes were followed by pages of brainstorming on how I could make change in my community.

Looking at these notes of busy-ness, what they make tangible is the degree to which I pushed myself. How hard I tried, and how much I was trying to do, all at the same time, as an intensely sincere, thorough, thoughtful and hard-working person.

Upon my return from the conference, and only four months after I’d moved in, my new Haven roommate became emotionally cold, and informed me he didn’t want to have a roommate in his space any more and that I had to move out. This was the point at which the boat really started to go down. The feelings of being isolated, forgotten and ashamed were so intense that I found myself sobbing at the bottom of our empty bathtub after a bath. My chest throbbed with the kind of pain that is emotional and physical all at once — the kind that radiates down my arms right out to my finger tips.

I had exhausted all my friends couches, massage tables, trailers, basements and b&b’s; and I felt I had exhausted my friends themselves. The world was a cold hard, empty bathtub; I was naked inside, and clinging desperately to a  disintigrating mask of a national leader.

I declined to attend an awards ceremony because I couldn’t stand the thought of standing alone, not having anyone there with me, being an outsider. I just said I couldn’t go.

I had begun seeing the school’s free psychologist, but even she did not see the drasticness of the actions that were required. I did not sleep or eat properly again until arriving in the hospital 6 months later. By then, my stint of homelessness had seen me on a basement mattress for December, and into the school’s mature residence in January.

a handwritten note on a recipe card I found on the windshield of my car after work one day over the summer. Though I’d been reluctant to admit it, the car had become a real beater, with rust and a faulty muffler. It was the car of my marriage that I was still driving, while negotiating the sale of our house and working as a cashier; which, in a small town where I was previously famous, was the most humiliating thing I have ever done. At the time, I endured, thinking all would be well once school began in the fall. You know it’s time to get a new car if complete and total strangers begin leaving messages like this one on your windshield.


one’s positivity is another’s trauma

I’ve had several opportunities lately to affirm, identify and stand up for what is right for me in the face of what I perceive as being the popular culture’s view of health and well-being, and in some cases, ignorance, and a lack of respect or compassion. I’m learning to give it to myself where others fall short, and to give extra to others wherever I am able.

I’ve noticed that I aspire to the affections of one particular person in my professional sphere, to a degree that is a little bit unhealthy. I want her to be a certain way so that I can see her in a certain way. I see so much potential for us to be kindred spirits, and yet, we’ve now known each other for over a year, and our connection still has yet to be authentic. But the other day, I think I discovered a big part of why this is the case.

Y has built a life around spirituality and cultural practices, and she runs her business on principles of communication and community engagement that I admire. It’s interesting to notice people returning to spirituality via very different routes — some through trauma and loss and some through a sincere and heartfelt desire to create peace and healing in the world. In Y, I see the later. At times, we speak each other’s heart, but at times, I perceive her as naive and superficial; I perceive that she has not come to this place from having been to the breaking point and back and I feel that this keeps us separate. We were carpooling to a class a couple of days ago, and talking about changing habits and recurring dynamics in our lives. In her experience, she has been able to change these dynamics by making a conscious decision to change them. Always put her things back in their place so that she is not scrambling around looking for them and arriving late to her engagements; make a point of remembering names of musicians and actors and people in general by realizing the importance of doing so.

We were talking about the pattern of perpetual chaos — last-minute plans, changes, missing or losing things, etc. She spoke about it in her husband. I said I relate to him, and that this pattern seems compulsive and deeply rooted; that in order to change it, I have to discover what the root of it is. She responded with a metaphor of the ocean floor affecting surface wave patterns — that we can change the ocean floor by changing the wave patterns, with small acts of change in our daily lives. In the moment, I responded that it was a two-way communication. It wasn’t until retrospect that I realized this is really a very big issue for me, and that her analogy brings up a lot of shame in me. Why am I toiling away trying to get to the roots when I could just change the surface patterns and have the same affect? Am I stupid? And if I have tried for half my life to change the surface patterns by simply disciplining myself to make small changes in my life, and if I have failed, then I must be a total loser — stupid, lazy, … you get the picture.


Seabed (Photo credit: s__i)

There seems to be such a predominant notion these days that we can change ourselves from the top down. that we can choose how we feel. we create our own reality (surface waves). no matter the past or the balance of chemicals in our brain. I know this is meant to be empowering and encouraging. I speak here for someone who has experienced traumatic invalidation from her earliest years, and I know that I am not just speaking for myself here when I say that each ripple in the ocean floor — each invalidating experience, — especially those that have been shaped and hardened by years and years of denial and repression, needs to finally be fully seen and understood before it will dissolve. An invalidation is like a piece of me that has been lost, banished, shamed into exile. Changing the surface waves without seeing, acknowledging and reclaiming those lost parts of me is like re-banishing them, re-traumatizing them, digging the knife in deeper, rejecting myself all over again. To me, it is a violent act of dysfunction and destruction. The very essence of the dis-ease I must cure in myself, and the damage I must repair. These notions of top-down transformation, even though they may come with the best of intentions, are like a carcinogen to me.


At an afternoon of food and games with 3 other women, a woman I had just met discovered I am an only child and exclaimed at how totally normal and ‘ok’ I seemed (not like other only children she’d met). I immediately felt pressured to keep up the reputation, and almost instantaneously stopped being genuine. I was like an icon on a computer desktop that suddenly became greyed and un-clickable. No one noticed because 2 of the others then began digesting all their friends and family dramas. Someone’s husband had an anger outburst, and his wife had told one of the women at the table this day that “he can’t help it.” The woman telling the story rolled her eyes, and the other one joined her. Then the other one launched into a vent about one of her friends — how she had deeply wanted to come and play with us, but that she would probably be too sensitive. That she was one of those annoying people who would let things fester, and then bring them up several days or even weeks later. Do you think I said, “Wow, that sounds like me!”? No, I did not. I continued to laugh at appropriate times and make little jokes and chime ins for a while, but the two just continued on their catch-up vent session. I’m proud of myself that I eventually got up and went out side, not needing to explain myself or make judgements. I wasn’t even very aware of what was really happening at the time; all I remember feeling was bored, out of place, and then reminding myself that I was not obligated to stay in this situation, and liberating myself away from it.

What I like about this group of women is that they are incredibly free-spirited and liberated from the mainstream. I am shocked that the 2 gossipers are such good friends of the hostess, who I have known to be so open-minded and non-judgemental (while being extremely intelligent, sensitive and creative). I had been excited to meet her friends and begin a weekend ritual of scrabble and the likes. Now? I guess I am grieving that my little fantasy of this group isn’t true. Either I be willing to challenge them and learn whether or not they are receptive, or my quest for a sense of family continues. At this point, I cannot know them well enough to know whether it is even worth my while to find out more. So, that’s where I sit in this moment.


If all these women, and Y from the story above, had been dressed in leathers shooting up with heroin, it would have been more obvious that they are not my crowd, but the Universe does not always speak so black and white. There’s that damn subtlety again. The Universe speaks through the way I feel in my heart and body in response to any given situation or idea. I am exercising the muscle to listen and respond to these communications, as disappointing as it may be to let go of what I want a situation or person to be. Maybe I am being trained to listen on a deeper level.


self-sabotage and shame

'Self-sabotage behaviour can come in many forms' by Mark Tyrrell

‘Self-sabotage behaviour can come in many forms’ by Mark Tyrrell

In the process of writing my disability application, a person helping me asked me how I would define self-sabotage. He kind of answered for me when I hesitated because I didn’t really understand why he was asking; but three weeks later, totally out of the blue, this comes to me:

Self-sabotage is doing the same things repetitively to fuck things up; recognizing what you’re doing, and still not being able to stop doing it.

That was me, particularly intensely in my early twenties. I could feel my (inner) child clinging to others, and I could watch them back-tracking; I could understand what drove people away, but wasn’t able to stop what was happening, over and over again. I’m fairly certain I was one of those people who drained people’s energy, or caused them to unconsciously avoid getting too close to me, and yet there was nothing I could do about it.

The shame was crushing, but the most horrible thing about it was being aware of it, even while it was happening, but not being able to stop it. I guess I’m writing this because, although it has shifted quite a bit for me since then, it still comes up now and again, and I still feel the instinct to deny it to others and bear the weight of it myself. That is shame:

Shame is the instinct to hide a truth about ourselves because if others knew about it, we would not be loved. Shame makes us feel like a liar or a fraud at our deepest core, afraid of being discovered.

No one has ever confirmed for me that this dynamic was really real. It has taken a very long time for me to step out of the confusion, and trust that what I experienced was real. The notion that my mind was making up ‘stories’ and thus creating my anxiety did far more harm than good by prolonging this confusion and the healing it prevented me from experiencing, and this is exactly the root of why CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) was such a waste of my time in so many ways. I still find this notion so invalidating — that the adversities in our lives are not founded in anything real at all (so we are even crazier than we’d thought) — change your thoughts, and suddenly you were never abused, rejected and avoided in your life; none of that really happened. Our minds created those stories and all of the grief, depression and anxiety that has fucked us up all these years. So just stop listening to your mind and your senses because they are full of shit. They cannot be trusted. Our perceptions cannot be trusted; they are distorted. Ignore the stories in our minds at all costs and we will be fine.

'Monster in the Closet' by Efrem Palacios

‘Monster in the Closet’ by Efrem Palacios

I’m influenced here by Brene Brown’s talks on vulnerability and shame. It seems like when we can be brought to expose what we are most deeply ashamed of (impossible if we are still thinking that the source of our shame might actually be just a story in our minds), it is an act of deep vulnerability — the kind Brown describes as “the birth place of creativity, innovation and change.” There is so much healing in putting words to “it” (whatever it might be that is itching us inside). The things we are ashamed of are what create the pattern of chronic self-sabotage; but these things are able to be transformed by acknowledging them to the extent that they can be expressed, exposed and understood — the opposite of what our shame would have us do.


what’s your broken record, shame & a step ten interpretation

broken record image

unknown source

I’ve been hiding from blogging lately, having the inner critic step in. Inner Critic (IC) says something like, “You are so self involved. Why would anyone be interested in the inner workings of your brain?”

I’ve continued writing, but have not posted anything because what I have written seems somehow unfinished, extremely brash or out of character, and I have not brought myself to post any of it. This is a side-effect of identity confusion.

In response to the re-emergence of my IC, I remembered writing on a fridge whiteboard two Falls ago, “What’s your broken record?”. I’d written it in the spirit of the relationship between me and my new land lord there (this is really not where I thought this post was going). Although we hadn’t ever really hung out, we’d at least known each other for both having gone to the Haven.

The thought that inspired me to write that was that broken records destroy lives because we can’t get them to stop playing. They need a good dose of understanding and validation to let go of their grip on us — the grip of Shame (in the spirit of Brene Brown’s talk on TED entitled Listening to Shame). When we remove shame, we can see what’s underneath it; we can see an event or characteristic of ourselves for what it is when we stop being ashamed to the point of denial about it. Because as long as we remain in denial about it because the shame is too painful, we can never integrate that event or characteristic into the rest of ourselves. We remain split, between an inner world and an outer one; shame creates that.

I wrote a definition of Step 10. It’s much shorter than the definition of Step One I had written (and posted) several months ago.

Step Ten is a daily practice of noticing and surrendering our answer to the question, “How is your relationship with your Higher Power today?”

It’s strange to come back full circle to the realization of “What’s your broken record?” now seeing it in the context of Step Work. What comes out of me can seem like a broken record, but the only way to heal it is to keep talking about it. That’s what I keep hearing from fellow members who have encountered this type of IC before. The only way to heal it is to keep talking about it. And to sit in a room full of women who have been through child abuse and violence and suicidal depression saying that, I do feel the truth in it.

Integrating is hard work, and no one who hasn’t had to do that can truly understand it, the fact that it requires us to become willing to sound like a broken record to see what our broken record actually has to say and finally respond to it.

This is my scattered brain today. I will put the links in this post in later.