Political Despair? Focus on the Journey.

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You’re safe. I’m writing to you: my Republican and Democrat and Independent friends . . . my companions on this journey. A series of conversations yesterday made me realize: We’re all stressed by the changes . . . yes, all of us.

If you lean to the right . . . you see masses protesting and feel disgust. Why do those people think they’re better than us?

If you lean to the left . . . you think, this cannot be! Does my voice matter? I need a martini. Let’s move to Banff.

You have trouble sleeping; your anger and hopelessness spike in public or when you watch the news. You watch your words. You have trouble tearing yourself away from social media. Waves of worry or despair get worse after dark. You lose friends.

If you have brown skin, it feels ten times worse. Your presence here is threatened (and threatening). You worry about being surveilled. You feel iolation and terror.

So, what I want to say is this: all the current events, all the devastation and disgust . . . none of it is real. Manipulation makes us fear each other. We’re not actually on different teams.

What IS real? The journey itself. The spiritual, relational space between us. How we treat each other. The rest is hologram, a stage set designed with challenges to grow us into maturity, if we stay awake to how we love.

A writer friend shared this poem with me today:

You have been telling the people,
That this is the eleventh hour.
Now, you must go and tell the people,
That THIS is the hour,
And there are things to be considered.

Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in the right relationship?
Where is your water?
Know your garden …

It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community,
Be good to each other.
Do not look outside yourself for a leader.

There is a river flowing now very fast,
It is so great and swift.
That there are those who will be afraid,
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being pulled apart,
And will suffer greatly.

Understand that the river knows its destination,
The elders say we must let go of the shore.
Push off into the middle of the river,
Keep our eyes open and our heads above water.

And I say; see who is in there with you,
Hold fast to them and celebrate!

At this time in history,
We are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves!
For the moment we do,
Our spiritual growth and journey comes to an end.
The time of the Lone Wolf is over!

Gather yourselves!
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done,
In a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are all about to go on a journey,
We are the ones we have been waiting for!

-Thomas Banyacya Sr. (1910-1999);
Speaker of the Wolf, Fox and Coyote Clan
Elder of the Hopi Nation

Contact me if you’re interested in a support group to deal with this leg of our journey.

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Voice Medicine: Connect & Create Change

Saturday was Voice Medicine for me. Not only did I march and yell, I connected with thousands (millions) of others and said, We All Belong Here. It countered the heavy weight of worry and dread I’d been feeling for the last two and a half months (maybe longer), made me feel lighter, less alone, more powerful, more able to speak.

Voice Medicine lets me know I’m not alone in noticing what is not normal.

  1. I breathe more deeply.
  2. I feel hope and humor again.
  3. I sleep better.
  4. I stop eating sweets.
  5. I get my voice back.

. . . which is why you need your tribe: people who get why you feel the way you do.

Build community and find your voice.

Nasty Women, Be The Change

Right now, more than ever, voice builds community.

All those years of sitting silently in my childhood church made me confused, isolated, and mute. But standing up with other women and men, BEING LOUD, lets me hear my actual thoughts and lets others know I’m there for them too.

Here are some steps toward Voice Medicine:

  1. Join (or start) a support group for survivors of abuse.
  2. Meet a new neighbor; find out what they have in common with you.
  3. Volunteer at your local domestic violence shelter.
  4. Seek out like-minded people online. Ask them to tell their stories.
  5. Take a group of friends to a senator’s office to voice your concerns. Tell them you’re paying attention to how vulnerable people are treated by our government.
  6. Make eye contact with people begging for help . Ask them what they need most.
  7. Start an action group to end workplace bullying.
  8. Reach out to someone being harassed or abused; reach across the color or gender divide.
  9. Form a walking group in your neighborhood.
  10. Tell your kids, connection matters; talk to their friends and their friends’ parents.

Tell anyone who will listen: voice changes things.

Please let me know if you are interested in becoming part of an ongoing Voice Medicine group. Be the change.

Contact Deborah

 

Why You Need a Higher Power Right Now

 

We all need higher powers.

I went through a hard-core atheist phase. In my 20s. I ran from organized religion and chafed at any mention of a higher power. This was it. Just the here and now. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade that liberation for anything. Throwing off all my childhood spiritual training meant tossing the baby AND the bathwater. It allowed me to start over to find my own sense of ultimate reality.

So I get it. And I appreciate your honesty. You don’t believe there’s anything out there that/who cares. You can’t imagine how a higher power could allow such domination, such violent inequality, to exist in our world. I feel you. In fact, I sometimes feel so estranged from “God” that I can’t give thanks or meditate on the healing of the world. That’s when I feel dull inside. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus. I relate to the void.

And yet . . .

Something like an invisible cord pulls me back to an awareness of presence . . . an indescribable sense of life force . . . a sense there’s more, a bigger picture just beyond my view. Then I’m awake, breathing again, in touch with my senses.

Having a Higher Power Means We’re All Going Somewhere Good

. . . and this is the main reason you need one.

Evolution Means God.

Evolution happens, whether we believe it or not. I see it in my clients, who learn and change: their faces look a little brighter, their energy more focused, with each new week. I see evolution in teenage boys, who deftly solve my bluetooth problems and show a generosity that will change the world. Evolution suggests presence. Presence suggests mind, learning, and growth. Good things are in the works. We are not standing still. We are moving forward. Toward higher consciousness and love.

Every morning, I write a letter to the Great Creative Force. I got this term from writer Julia Cameron, who says we don’t have to believe any particular thing, but we do need some sense of a presence that is larger or more encompassing than our own individual reality. Wise mind. Higher wisdom. Universal consciousness. However it makes sense to you.

Your higher power provides a listener for your thoughts and helps you trust them. It prompts the questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? If you answer, I don’t know, you may feel unsettled, untethered, in free-fall. I recommend experimenting: pretend you had a higher power. You can borrow mine if you want. Try it on for size. Speak to it. Imagine yourself in the presence of wisdom. Just pretend. See how it feels. Go from there.

Here’s what having a higher power does for me right now:

  1. Assures me the universe is moving toward higher consciousness, in spite of what looks like de-evolution.
  2. Gives me hope that today’s horrors are part of something larger that is ultimately good.
  3. Allows me to trust each person’s healing process and know it comes from a place of wisdom. We heal in spite of ourselves.
  4. Gives me patience for people who seem immature or willfully ignorant: even very mean or destructive people have good in them.
  5. Hints at how EVERYBODY evolves, so I can see myself, not as a big disappointment, but as a work-in-progress.
  6. Hears my disjointed morning ramblings; answers my questions; reassures me there’s a reason.
  7. Sends me dreams chock full of clues about who I am and what I need to keep growing.
  8. Calms and centers me. Reminds me, All is in Divine Order.
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Leadership Monologues: Take Back the L Word

Take Back Leadership

By presta from Tufts University’s Cohen Auditorium. (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Leadership (said with a sneer)

I hate the word, “Leader.” It’s lost every shred of meaning it once held for me. Leadership once meant authority and concern for the welfare of everyone in its reach. Now it sounds like a fake word with fake facts to support its nothingness. A poser, posing as a real idea. Maybe I’ve seen one too many bad leaders come into power and spoil the essence of what it means to guide a group of people toward a shared goal.

When Leader falls into the realm of fakeness, every part of society suffers in ways that are hard to identify. People go hungry for what’s real and they get depressed and panicky and eat too much sugar. Then we get fat and we judge ourselves for losing control. Emotional health epidemics have everything to do with dysfunctional leadership, or A Failure of Nerve.

So, I want to take back the word. Remember the Vagina Monologues? Remember how those actors reclaimed the various words used to insult women’s genitals? Like, C – U – N – T. They spoke it and saturated it with specific, positive meaning. I need to do something similar here, for my self, my family, and my clients, with the word, “Leader.”

Because I have to be one. And so do you.

Because, if you parent, teach, counsel, advise, or instruct, you lead. And thank God you do. We starve for your good leadership. Everybody needs a healthy leader (even if they don’t know it and try to sabotage it).

But look for one and you realize how few good leaders there seem to be in the world. The good ones don’t grab the microphone and make themselves obvious. They live in libraries and work in battered women’s shelters. They labor behind the scenes.

We confuse and conflate leadership with a bunch of other things.

To target this confusion, I give you a short list. I hope that by separating Leader from these other things, we can see more clearly what Leader is and cultivate Leader in our selves.

ŠJů, Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Leadership. Does. Not. Equal:

  1.  making money or fiscal policy. But healthy leadership fosters creative growth, which, in time, helps more people generate income. Healthy leaders are patient for this.
  2. politics. Enough said.
  3. a quick fix. Leadership takes a long view of progress (see #1).
  4. controversy. Yet . . . good leaders take unpopular stands when necessary for the good of the whole body. These unpopular stands tend to bring out all our better natures by modeling wisdom in action.
  5. scaring the wits out of – or using people. It isn’t a tirade. Healthy leaders help us calm down and think rationally. Picture good parents here. A wise elder puts things into perspective so we can breathe more easily. “It’s going to be okay.”
  6. focusing on issues. It’s not driven by the anxiety or the problems in the group. Healthy leaders take care of themselves and keep the bigger picture in mind. They listen calmly to the issues of their people, but keep pointing to the transcendent goals of the community . . . what really matters in the long run (e.g., how we treat each other).
  7. neutrality. A healthy leader sees how the system works and calls out any dishonesty or bullying. Real leaders see and address dysfunctional behavior in a responsible way. They prohibit intentional and/or unnecessary violence.
  8. divisiveness. True leaders foster unity, because at some level, we are all one. They help us appreciate each other.
  9. self-aggrandizement. Healthy leaders exude humility in confidence. Yes, that’s a real thing. It says: I don’t know everything, but I can listen and learn.

In conclusion, we need to know the difference between: (A) health-promoting leadership and (B) health-compromising leadership. We need to distinguish between Leadership and the grab for power. We can learn this and do this. Like choosing broccoli over Cheetos. Like telling your kids, friends are more important than money. Like talking to your mate instead of shopping to fill the void. We can exercise our leadership muscles and take back the L-word.

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Why do I want this? Skip resolutions and Go Deep instead.

My Bodysmith friends and I have been asking ourselves: Do we even want to make resolutions for 2017? Does it make sense to replay the same self-assignments, year after year? The question makes sense if you think about how New Year’s resolutions have evolved over time. From ancient Babylonia to our present civilization, people tend to declare something anew at the beginning of the year.

But that new something keeps morphing as our worldview shifts over time . . .

When resolutions began, thousands of years ago, we reminded ourselves to pay off debts and keep the gods happy. If the gods were happy, the world ran smoothly. As society became more military, we pledged allegiance to a king as we prepared for the next round of battles.

At some point in modern history, our focus shifted inward, to self-improvement. We set goals to make us more physically, spiritually, financially, or mentally fit: give up sugar, pay off credit cards, start a running program, go to bed earlier, stop smoking . . .

But just a relative few years into the new millennium, people trend toward making no resolution at all. Why is that?

Why we’ve stopped making resolutions.

Yes, we still care about being in shape, taking care of our bodymind, but we see more deeply into that goal set than we once did . . . or we want to. We know more about our brothers and sisters living in poverty at home and abroad. Our resolutions start to look shallow in relation to the refugee crisis or human traffiking.

the bigger picture of our new year's resolutions

from “Borders,” www.lucabarberini.com

A question emerges – and I hear this question between the lines of every therapy conversation. Why do I want that? Why do I want to make more money? What makes me want to be thinner, calmer, and stronger? What drives me to want better concentration? Why do I care to read more books? Watch less TV? Spend more time in quietude?

Does it even matter? We glimpse a bigger and more complicated picture than just our own personal fulfillment. We see how we are connected to every living creature. We sense a deeper spiritual meaning in our quest for a smaller waist and we want to understand why we put so much energy there. Who am I? What’s this part of me that needs to be more solvent, improve my marriage, and give more to charity? What’s this part of me that needs to fit into my skinny jeans?

To see if a new awareness could be happening to you, try this exercise.

  1. Get your notebook, a timer, and pen. Light a candle. Get some tea. Write this question: What do I want? Try not to judge your answers. Just write them down. Make a list.
  2. Take several deep breaths and then write this question: Why do I want that? Pick an item from #1.
  3. Set your timer for ten minutes. Answer the why question. Keep your pen moving on the page without stopping, for the entire ten minutes. Repeat for each item on your list, or if they fit together, write about them as a set.

Talk to someone about this exercise and what you learned. You may suddenly see more deeply into your motives and needs. This deeper vision of your why is a way more powerful motivator than a simple list of resolutions. Your why is what your higher self knows you need to help you continue growing, becoming a better person, becoming all you can be, all you were meant to be. Return to this page anytime you need to remind yourself why you do what you do and see if it helps you get motivated to action.

P.S. My resolution is this: Protect myself from things and people that drain off my creative energy (more on this later).

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Be More Self-Centered and Save the World

image copyright Moyan Brenn

What does it mean to be self centered?

Your Self is your wise spiritual center. But outside this center, we live under a weighted blanket of stress and uncertainty, threatened by darkness and greed from all angles. We feel disconnected from neighbors and afraid of people on the other side of the philosophical aisle. 18% of the population suffers from a full-blown anxiety disorder and depression continues its 80-year rise in the general population. Lots of us medicate this pain with alcohol and other drugs. We separate from self.

When I glimpse the big-ness of our broken world, I often think: DO SOMETHING!!!! Reach out to more people! Give more money to charities! Convince people to stop hitting children and get themselves into EMDR therapy!!!

. . . And then I remember My Self. My limits. My small-ness and human-ness: my need for sleep and meditation and stillness.

All I can do is heal My Self, become calm and conscious, untangle from ego. Which means understanding who I am. Some spiritual teachers recommend constantly holding onto the thought, Who am I? The question takes us deeper into our spiritual center. This is what it means to be self-centered.

Who Am I?

How to use this question? Start with these lists and see what you learn.

  1. Make a list of things you know, for sure, about yourself (e.g., I work hard; I want to make more money; I like being by the ocean; I get upset when people don’t do their jobs . . .). Concentrate on the list and ask yourself, What does this mean about me?
  2. Make a list of your accomplishments (e.g., I finished college; I became a teacher; I had a family; I organized a new community board . . .). Study this list and ask, What does this say about me?
  3. Make a list of your failures (e.g., I didn’t pursue acting; I dropped out of college; I left my one true love; I can’t get rid of my depression . . .). Then ask, What does all of this mean about me?

Self Center as the Path to Enlightenment and Calm

Now you have some reference points for the question, Who Am I? Choose a few new habits to help you continue getting to know your inner self. Take long walks and allow your mind to wander. Start a quiet yoga practice. Begin doing Morning Pages in a notebook. Add five minutes of quiet coffee time to your morning. Allow thoughts and feelings to emerge; notice as they pass.

Insights and preferences may show up as you find your spiritual center. I prefer not to marry this person. I can change my religious habits. Alcohol robs me of mindfulness. I need to make music. I can best love that friend from a distance . . .

When we center ourselves in this question, we become less fearful, less narcissistic. We start to learn our cosmic roles and see ourselves as connected to the whole universe.

What Do I Do with My Self?

The question, Who Am I? deepens us over time as we start to see our roles in universal learning. One of my cosmic roles: shining a flashlight on what bothers me: hypocrisy, disconnection, and domination. Writing autobiographical fiction lets me illuminate these – with the hope that someone in my audience will benefit. It also keeps that question front and center.

As you discover your cosmic roles, you get the desire to do something, even if just to breathe and notice. Trust this impulse. Keep asking, What does this mean about me? Where does this idea come from? You also grow calmer and realize how your life history makes sense. There are no mistakes. Everything happens to further our development as connected souls. It’s all good.

P.S. EMDR helps this process along.

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Transform Holiday Stress into Mindful Rest & Giving

candles-1843668_1280

mindful holiday rest

Until recently, I resented the holidays. As in, Already???? We just did this, right? Except the years when my son believed in Santa and we put together tricycles and trains, after his bedtime, under the synthetic Douglas Fir, I got a sinking anxious dread just before Thanksgiving that let up after January first. Holiday stress separated me from myself, and everyone else.

I think it came from the following factors.

  1. Pressure, everywhere, to be gleeful: to clink champagne glasses, sing carols, bake things, throw parties, and wrap the house in colored lights.
  2. Reminders of loved ones from whom I’m disconnected, including my dad who got himself banished from family holidays for bad behavior.
  3. A sense that I should be experiencing something mystical and life-altering.
  4. Consumption and constant images of consumption that begin as soon as jack-o-lanterns are thrown away and continue until time for hearts and dark chocolate.
  5. The glaring contrast between the Lexus commercials and the young woman standing on a street corner begging for food money in 30-degree weather.

Last year, I decided to accept this about myself, rather than force a false cheer. I pared down. I hung one sparkly star on our front door, forgoing the wreaths and my ceramic tree collection. I said yes to only the most sacred holiday gatherings. I wrote about how weird and separate I felt. I also asked friends and family to donate to charitable organizations instead of our lavishing each other with things none of us needed.

And something unexpected happened . . .

In the midst of the gloom, which I allowed myself to feel without any self-judgment, little sparks of joy appeared. A simple candle and some homemade bread, cozy at home with family. With lowered expectations for gaiety, I felt satisfied, warm, and thankful for my inner circle. And with some of my attention turned outward, to the needs of the wider world, I felt more connected to the universe.

Turn dread into mindfulness.

If you’re someone who hates the holidays, try on this list of suggestions to see if your mood lifts and your perspective changes, just a bit.

  1. Look for ways to give that really count. Find charities that you can endorse and ask family members to give to them, in lieu of your new bathrobe. Here’s a collection to get you started.

http://www.thekitcheninc.org/our-programs/rare-breed-youth-outreach-center

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/

https://www.nrdc.org/

http://refugeerights.org/donate/

http://www.naacpldf.org/

  1. Write about your holiday distress. Putting emotion and story on paper will both help you clarify the roots of your blah mood and improve your immune functioning through the winter months.
  2. Do less. Only go to the events you find most satisfying. Spend more time resting. Limit your decorating, socializing, and gift-giving to a few simple things. Tell loved ones you’re putting bounds around your busyness and consumption.
  3. Spend time in quietude. Turn off the holiday music, the news, the movies, and listen to your own thoughts for a while. Just notice them and let them go. Pay attention to emotions and let them move through you.
  4. Consider EMDR therapy to target bad feelings associated with the season. If your childhood holidays meant disappointment, separation from a parent, or heightened family stress, you may need to reprocess those memories and reclaim some present-day joy.

If these suggestions don’t help you feel better, just be where you are. Feel what you feel. Observe yourself without judgment. You’re enough, just as you are.

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The Air We Breathe: Panic, Mental Health, & Misogyny

,woman-with-mouth-covered

Woman-Hate=Mostly Unconscious Fear of Women’s Empowerment.

One day, in 1992, I had a panic attack. It came out of nowhere. I got up early and dressed for work, made breakfast and started a load of laundry, turned on the morning news while I finished my hair and my (ex) partner snored peacefully. I stood in front of the TV as a string of commercials hypnotized me.

In one commercial, an attractive young woman mopped her kitchen floor, wearing an outfit cute enough for a dinner party or church. She looked so satisfied. Next thing, I was on the floor, my heart hammering. The apartment spun and the oxygen disappeared. I tried to yell for help, but nothing came out. I thought I would vomit or die and I grabbed desperately for cold table legs to stop the flames in my face and neck.

Ten minutes later, nothing. I got in my car and left for the day, wondering what the hell had just happened. Years later, I connected the dots.

A Woman’s Distress and The Fear of Women

Misogyny (woman-hate) comes from fear: fear of change, fear of disruption to the existing social order. Misogyny fills our cultural consciousness right now, because people fear the change that comes with women’s power.

How do I know?

Here’s how: These signs show up in my office and social life every day. A woman’s panic attacks, her sense of being flawed, her belief she is ugly . . . all point to a bigger problem. She is surrounded by other women just like her, with those same panic attacks, that same guilt.

Symptoms of Woman-Hate Culture

Misogyny is a mental health issue. Notice how many of these symptoms apply to you. Now, more than ever, I see the problem of gender inequality and panic in the presenting problems of my clients. Cultural woman-hate creates individual distress.

  1. Child sexual abuse in our family history.
  2. Hating our bodies.
  3. Not being perfect enough.
  4. “Family Values.”
  5. Depression that comes and goes throughout the lifespan.
  6. Post-partum depression.
  7. Guilt about not being nice enough.
  8. Fear of our sexual desire.
  9. Not having any sexual desire
  10. Resenting other women for looking better or accomplishing more.
  11. Panic attacks or anxiety that’s sort of always there.
  12. Fear of telling him how we really feel; fear he’ll leave if he knows how strong our feelings are.
  13. Being called crazy and believing it.
  14. Thinking we’re too sensitive, too easily triggered, too selfish.
  15. Focusing so much on fashion that we don’t have time to write.
  16. Taking care of everyone else, but not getting enough rest.
  17. Fear that we’ll be one of those bitter women.
  18. Fear of aging.
  19. Being bullied by other women. Not trusting them anymore.
  20. Thinking, “I expect too much.”
  21. Thinking anger makes me ugly.
  22. Believing a good leader acts like a man, looks like a man.
  23. Feeling that my very nature is broken, fallen, sinful, and unlovable.
  24. Forcing ourselves to wear clothes and shoes that feel bad, because to refuse them would mean we’re not feminine.
  25. Believing our gut feelings are silly, our emotional responses irrational, our intuition untrustworthy.

Evolution & Health

My list barely scrapes the surface. But you know what I’m getting at. Those perfect images make us feel sick, but pressured too. We panic because we breathe the fear and loathing of women in the air; not because we’re weak or paranoid or mistaken about the world. We didn’t make this up.

But. On the Upside. We Evolve. Whether we intend to change or not. A pendulum drags us through the whipping wind. We feel afraid. And we change. In spite of ourselves. This change is the heart of my novel, Wife Material: one girl’s evolution and empowerment.

Every empowered woman helps us all evolve. She makes the world a healthier place for all of us.

 

  How to Cope with Woman-Hate Right Now

  1. Know that change is happening for the better.
  2. Try to relax, breathe deeply from the belly.
  3. Look for good in the women you know. Even the ones you don’t trust.
  4. Repeat this mantra: I embody goodness and love.
  5. Make eye contact with as many people as you can, regardless of their gender. Send them love.
  6. Meditate on all the art and music being made in the world.
  7. Focus on something beautiful.
  8. Do physical anger work. Whack a punching bag and hurl obscenities. Let it out of your body.
  9. Get as much rest as possible.
  10. Know that it’s all going to be okay.

 

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Woman-Hate and Somebody else’s PTSD

Traumatized patriarchs learn woman hate as neglected little boys.

traumatized patriarchs

The Political is Personal for Every Woman

My woman clients said, this week feels scary, out-of-control. Sunday evening, I had heartburn like sawdust in my throat, before, during, and after the presidential debate. When I tried to sleep, my guts roiled.

I usually try to keep politics (mostly) out of my blog, so it took me all week to write this. When several woman friends told me they had migraines or were up all night after watching the debate, I decided, it’s time to stop censoring myself and just tell you what I see.

I came to graduate school at 23, fresh out of conservative Christian college, groomed to be an obedient wife. My professor handed me Carol Hanisch’s 1970 essay, “The Personal is Political,” and it turned me upside down. I still sort of blamed myself for not being sweet enough. Hanisch wrote that those impossible standards for our looks and behavior – and the rampant violence against women – were not about us as individuals. She said women’s problems were deeply systemic. I thought a drug addiction and an unwanted pregnancy were a woman’s own fault. Hanisch said, in effect, that woman is all of us.

Hanisch believed we should stop blaming ourselves for these problems and start talking publicly about our real lives.

We recoil from the morbidly obese woman; we shake our heads at the woman who loses her children to a state protection agency. But deep inside we fear becoming like them. What separates me from her? Maybe an understanding grandmother. A college education. Not being prostituted as a young girl. We know this. But we absorb the loathing (fear) for women and women’s problems from the larger culture. Then we see it in our sisters. We see it in a sister who has the audacity to run for president.

We need to forgive ourselves for not fitting a mold manufactured from somebody else’s PTSD.

I forgive me and every woman.

Our guilt and body hate, fears of being alone, dread of growing old, revulsion at women who act too masculine . . . all come from the traumatic attachment processes of countless powerful patriarchs over the centuries.

traumatized patriarchs

traumatized patriarchs

Those so-called “locker-room” comments (an endorsement of rape culture) have their roots in early childhood attachment trauma. This Frontline episode explains much of the early trauma that created Donald Trump’s woman-hate. See if you can detect how unmet need for secure attachment leads to womanizing and a desperate bid to possess and control female energy.

It’s not about us.

If we see how someone else’s trauma drives the misogyny in our culture, we forgive ourselves for weighing more than 120 pounds. If we trace the history of boys’ early childhood attachment trauma through the generations that lead to masses of men supporting Donald Trump, we let ourselves off the hook for being real humans with need. And if we see Donald and his men as desperate baby boys who did not get their needs met, we can support our sisters (including Hillary Clinton) instead of criticize them for being too much whatever.

Traumatized patriarchs learn woman hate through emotional neglect.

traumatized patriarchs

Remember that all those traumatized, woman-suppressing patriarchs were once little boys raised to deny their emotions and hide their need for mothering. They had no choice. But we have choices about how much of their rhetoric we buy. We have choices about how we treat each other. Choices about how we spend our money and judge our bodies and judge the bodies of women around us. We can raise our boys with nurturing. We can listen to our girls. We can meditate for Donald Trump and all the other traumatized patriarchs out there who starved for unconditional love.

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Uber Calm in a Narcissistic World

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Several years ago, I did a talk for a local GLBT advocacy group. I stood at the front of a large meeting room and talked about discrimination and ignorance, the need for education. A topic I lectured on every week in my classes. But in the middle of my presentation, not one, but two bullies, from two different parts of my life, strode in together and stood at the back of the audience – both of them tall with chins held high, both having exploited my trust, attacked my reputation, and interfered in my relationships.

I choked.

My throat like sandpaper, my oxygen disappeared. My speech evaporated into meaningless dry word-strings. I cut it short because I couldn’t inhale and I slumped into a chair on the front row. Later, a student of mine came over to (I suppose) be friendly and said, “Not a public speaker, are you? Me either.” I wanted to slap him. I wanted to explain how Broca’s area shuts down in the presence of danger . . . but that part of my brain was still frozen in (irrational) fear.

From that moment forward, I used the words Bully and Narcissist interchangeably, because they’re almost synonymous.

A world full of narcissists?

It seems like it these days. And the more grandiose the bully, the more apparently successful in this world. If she lacks conscience, she can bend the truth to create alternate planes of reality that favor her. Lacking empathy, he can use people, make them feel inferior and in need of him. Our narcissism epidemic springs from widespread attachment trauma, early childhood neglect, and the indulgent, self-absorbed elements of our capitalist culture.

We all deal with narcissism, ours or someone else’s. Some looks obvious: inflated ego, meanness if you stand up to them, destruction toward other people’s work and relationships. But a lot of narcissism happens covertly as emotional sabotage.

I grew up around lots of unwitting bullies. In my family’s fundamentalist religious group, boys had too much power over girls. They learned, from their fathers, to dominate. Families passed down traumatic attachments through the generations. And the combination of sexist dogma with early emotional deprivation made these men very afraid of sharing power with women. They abused, gaslighted, and made women feel ashamed of their bodies and sexuality.

I grew up primed to be bullied by a narcissist. Now, with distance from the fundamentalism and the bullying, I see narcissistic patterns in every part of our society.

More than ever, we need to notice bullies for what they do to us. We need awareness of how we’re being manipulated to feel fear and shame.

Who’s Your Narcissist?

Who makes you nervous? Who do you dread? Who triggers all your feelings of inadequacy, unattractiveness, and insignificance? Who do you over-admire? Who seems so cool and smart you could never be good enough for them? Maybe a leader. Maybe someone who’s made your work miserable. Maybe someone close who drains you, leaves you lonely and confused with each contact. Maybe someone you love.

Narcissistic people try to silence us. They overpower with bluster, triangle themselves in our friendships, and invalidate our thoughts. Narcissistic people don’t always look like criminals. Sometimes they look like our parents or neighbors.

You need a way to differentiate from the narcissist, become more you (less apologetic, less nervous, less someone else). With narcissistic people, you need a way to stay grounded and know who you are.

Consider a radical act: Get calm in the presence of your narcissist.

The disobedience of calming helps you become more you, not so compliant or ashamed, not so easily manipulated.

You already do yoga. You meditate. You tap. You have a mental calming place . . . a mountain cabin, a treehouse, a hammock. You take deep breaths and exhale slowly. You think of your most trusted friend.

Calm at the Center

Calm at the Center

 

Try this . . .

  1. Think of your calm place now. Breathe.
  2. Notice what happens in your body when you think of your favorite chair, your yoga mat, your run.
  3. Notice the center point of stillness as your body-mind slows down.
  4. Now, imagine having this calming process while in the presence of your narcissist. Allow that person to do whatever they do, to be agitated or aggressive (they are always more anxious than you), while you stay still at the center.
  5. Just notice everything. Watch with curiosity. Come back to your breath.
  6. Affirm yourself: I can leave if I want to; I have my own thoughts and feelings; I can keep myself safe.
  7. If you notice guilt, pressure, or anxiety, just acknowledge it and let it slide away from you.

Now write for 10 minutes about this exercise. What do you notice about yourself? What is it like to get still and focused on your inner calm while the narcissistic person is there, doing whatever they do?

This exercise will not solve the entire problem of being bullied or dominated, but it will help you start seeing differently. It may even help you regain something you lost (like, um, your voice).

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