Recently, while meeting the requirements for my continued accreditation and certification with EFT International, I was struck by the stress levels I shared with the other participants. Although we are committed to serving others through the best practices that have been evolving over decades in EFT communities, one crucial habit is less well established: using these amazing techniques on our own challenges, including the stress overload that can result in poor boundaries, over booking clients and classes, and discounting our own needs for regular self-care.
Today, July 6, is the Dalai Lama’s birthday.
However we identify ourselves spiritually,
let us honour this Embodiment of Compassion with
Love, Kindness, Peace, Healing, Joy, and Gratitude.
And let us smile.
Until next time,
In my seventies now, I remember the joy of celebrating the Roe v Wade decision that US girls and women had the legal right to choose what happened to their bodies. It was no small thing then, to Canadian girls and women, because we all share the traumatizing fact of our past as chattel, that is, the possessions of white men and boys in charge. Corporations had already determined to treat girls and women as bubble heads who wanted nothing more than to look good and be more popular than others. It was very much a case of the water temperature being turned up over time – suddenly, we found ourselves boiling in the murky idea that our body image and looks, our hair and our rumps, were more important than our minds and our spirits, our hearts and our self-determination. That 1973 court decision lessened the impact of profit motivated businesses selling insecurity and self-hatred to girls and women. At least the courts found us intelligent, responsible, and wise enough to decide a fundamental life choice for ourselves.
Now, even corporations are reacting to the court’s decision to reverse R v W; that’s how bad this current court’s decision is. The white supremist view that the ever-creative power of the Universe is white, male, and murderous toward those who haven’t swallowed this vile white supremacy lie has revealed itself in the highest court in the land. And we’re not having it.
Stephanie Foo’s What My Bones Know is the third memoir I’ve read in the last couple of years that has prompted meditations on my own father losses. Foo’s father was present during some of her childhood, but neglectful of her need for protection from her violent and unpredictable mother during her earliest years. When she was a young teen, her father left her alone in the family home to complete high school and navigate the college application gauntlet, with money – evidence of the reductionist belief that fathers are providers of cash but little else – but without any parental support. Because her mother had abandoned her earlier, throughout her pivotal teen years Foo was without emotional comfort, intellectual guidance, and consistent, loving parenting.
In the weeks before immersing myself in Foo’s important discoveries about her Complex-PTSD diagnosis, I read Viola Davis’s Finding Me, her narrative describing the triumph of a creative spirit and the importance of sibling support in the face of vicious racism, crushing poverty, and a father’s mood swings from attentive and loving to life threatening. Like Foo, Davis discovers how inner resourcefulness leads traumatized children and teens to seek something that brings joy, even while struggling with the challenges created by the worst of these family and cultural experiences. Davis’s seeking leads her to acting, the place where she expresses all the emotions she couldn’t express as a terrified child and teen. Early on, Foo’s inner resources lead her into research, writing, and, ultimately, journalism, a career that supports her compassionate understanding of her own traumatizing experiences and others’ traumas as well.
A couple of months before reading these insightful memoirs, I revisited Tara Westover’s Educated. Westover, an interviewee during Vermont’s Howard Center 2022 spring mental-health conference, reminded participants of her survivalist father’s beliefs and attitudes as a fear-saturated individual at war because of his perception of governmental intention to curtail his freedoms. Two years before her participation in the conference, I discovered Westover’s descriptions of how one form of education, the formal kind the privileged tend to take for granted, helped to create the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual safe spaces she needed to escape her earliest informal education as a terror-indoctrinated child.
All three women demonstrate the value of “telling” when answering the call to heal early trauma, their words providing a first-layer somatic release for the storied energies of trauma trapped in their bodies. Their telling also increases reader awareness of the necessity of total somatic involvement in our healing. These storytellers don’t simply tell. Each in her way describes the physically arduous work of befriending and integrating the toxic contrails of the myriad abuses she experienced, abuses that continue to demand compassionate, healing attention.
Foo’s personal relationships and journalism work require physical as well as emotional and intellectual processing in which she remains present to her need to understand her reactivity – the physical phenomena which are the many voices of unhealed trauma. Her courageous “showing up” guides her into new situations where her reflective bent allows her first to name her normalized violent experiences as traumatic. Once named, she can then seek help to understand and experience peace in the midst of her trauma generated, ongoing maelstrom.
Davis, similarly, experiences peace despite her childhood trauma’s aftershocks. In her teens, she discovers her path to equilibrium comes through the physical, emotional, intellectual, and soulful demands of character creation and expression. Driven by the terrors generated by family crises and racist experiences in the greater world, she doggedly pursues the whole-body exhilaration that comes with developing the skill, empathy, and courage required to bring a character to life before a live audience or a camera. Through her public expression of the transformed traumatic energies trapped in her flesh, she releases the trauma load she carries. Through this release process, she provides cathartic experiences for all who witness her work. Learning and teaching is Foo’s process; Davis’s process is dramatizing what she learns.
Westover, too, must constantly create and recreate her personal pathways to peace. After making a physical escape from her high-risk childhood environment, she learns to question the validity of the beliefs that exposed her to life-threatening situations. With her entire being – body, mind, heart, and spirit – she discovers more benign histories, more benign world views, more benign filters through which to view life’s order and chaos. In comparatively non-threatening learning environments to those in which she was first immersed, she can perceive the world in new ways. These fresh, expansive perspectives free the energy she needs to experience and name her early traumas as they express through constant hypervigilance and spirit-killing isolation. Slowly, she begins the work of reinvention, finding more hospitable and supportive environments in which to become increasingly aware of the wounded child who will, consciously or unconsciously, inform the work of lessening her traumas’ impacts on daily life.
All three of these creative, courageous women teach readers about father-lack and father-love, about father misguidedness, and, at least in possibility, about father transformation. Their fathers are not intentionally abusive although the damage they do to their daughters – to their attachment bonds, to their ability to trust, and to their sense of self and worth – is undeniable. Victims of the same toxic masculinity fueling mass shootings, domestic murders, fear-driven racist policies, and power-hungry global aggressions, these fathers demonstrate the truism that ‘hurt people hurt people.’
And yet, acknowledging this dynamic cannot change the status quo. Only the actions fostered by self efficacy – the deeply held belief in our individual value, resourcefulness, and problem solving capabilities – can support our transition from patriarchy to partnership, from isolation to community. Only our full participation in the world as it is creates this change.
For 2000 years, boys and men have been blinded by the power imbalances that are the inevitable consequences of systemic sexism. Simply being born into a male body representing each culture’s dominant class has ensured that many males are idealized as messiahs, gurus, moguls, priests, and government officials, with the right to exclusive sources of power. Throughout patriarchal cultures, the majority of girls and women have been subtly and openly coerced to surrender their power, creativity, resourcefulness, desires, and individual rights to fathers, brothers, husbands, and institutional authorities as fallible as the best and the worst members of our species. Here in the US, we see evidence of this power-over energy in current political moves to criminalize women’s rights to choose the best path forward for them when pregnant.
Without doubt, we are living through the transition from the dominating patriarchal energies of the past millennia to the formation of partnering cultures that require we work with one another, no matter our gender identities, to prevent yet more trauma – in our homes, on our streets, in our legislative bodies – and to end the war we’ve waged against our Earth Home. Naming our individual and collective experiences is vitally important, but this naming is only a first step toward the transformation we are creating together. There is no denying that we are, individually and collectively, living through a bloody transition in which innocents are sacrificed to moldering patriarchal beliefs. The memoirs of these courageous women illustrate just how bloody.
As we grieve the fathers who abused and abandoned us, as we rage at their cruelty and our culture’s complicity in this cruelty, as we fear the toxic masculine energy animating the traumatized boy-men who wield power legitimately and illegitimately, let us summon our own resourcefulness as Davis, Westover, and Foo continue to summon theirs. We too have voices. We too have the ability to make change by recognizing our own need for healing and acting upon this need. We, the offspring of violent and absent fathers, have the power to face our fears, express our rage in safe and productive ways, and grieve our losses in circles of safety and support of our choosing. The willingness to acknowledge our traumas and commit to our healing – not once, but over and over and over again – is the magic elixir supporting individual and cultural transformation.
Once we tell ourselves our stories, honestly, unflinchingly, we can share them with others, as Westover, Davis, and Foo have shared theirs. As these women have discovered, when we tell, with the intention of healing, of seeking support, we summon the courage to move out of isolation and victimization, the toxic residue of patriarchal beliefs that suggest we deserve our suffering, that it is somehow due to our personal flaws and not evidence of the toxic familial and cultural views that sanction the exploitation of human beings the world over. Freed from this poisoned yoke, we move into relationship-supporting communities offering mutual support, inspiration, and innovative ways to address our individual traumas and our shared transitional challenges.
Coming out of isolation and into community, we heal our father wounds.
Coming out of isolation and into community, we experience our wholeness.
Coming out of isolation, we live, not from fear, rage, and grief, but from love.
Until next time
Sometimes it is easy to believe the skills of reflection and discernment required when we work on our personal issues cannot influence the world we share with almost 8 billion other Souls. In this vast mix of religious beliefs, governing procedures, racial differences, environmental issues, gender discoveries, economic divides, and cultural mandates, the individual desire to evolve beyond reactivity into responsiveness may seem like a luxury none of us can afford. We have created a world in which we experience relentless pressure from every external source of information to abandon our inner lights, our discernment, our powers of reflection, so we might find meaning by merging into groups that assure us we are incomplete and inadequate unless we join them.
Celebrating the girls and woman who evolve, who begin as quietly obedient and become warriors of change.
Celebrating the boys and men who evolve, who begin in positions of power and privilege and become advocates for social justice and gender equity.
Celebrating all in transition from one gender to another or to many.
Celebrating patriarchy’s end and its simplified binary of man-woman.
Celebrating the new ways of governance replacing this archaic dominator model.
Celebrating full access to full services.
Celebrating our voices raised in support of healing.
Celebrating Post Traumatic Growth the world over.
Celebrating our shared experiences as Earthlings.
As headlines insist on the inevitability of a war that may pull the entire world into a pattern of destruction we – Earth and all Her Inhabitants – may not be able to survive, we know there are people who have faced the worst and found solutions by working together toward a common goal. Rather than watch videos of interviews with individuals who thrive on conflict and want to humiliate one another, we can learn from people who support the health and well-being of all. After hearing the rhetoric that suggests war is not only inevitable but the only way to solve conflict, in my search for the antidote to this belief I discovered an obituary of Dr. Paul Farmer. Through his obituary, I found Bending the Arc, a documentary that explores the birth of Partnerships in Health, a global outreach NGO improving healthcare and lives everywhere. Continue reading Bending the Arc Towards Justice and Peace: Our Common Purpose
Recently, like many people alive during these tumultuous times on our beautiful, fragile, resilient planet, I have felt the tug of despair. So many of Earth’s family members are suffering because of extreme weather events and extreme human reactivity. In this atmosphere of frightening instability, I’ve found it tempting to slump into the false belief of my impotence in the face of so many overwhelming challenges. In these moments of fear and discouragement, I forget that I can reach out to others, offer prayers for those whose needs I recognize, or simply read or listen to something that reminds me we are as capable of offering kindness as we are of doing harm. In performing these small but restorative acts, I contribute to the Love, Joy, and Peace that are the antidotes to despair.
When people have been seriously traumatized – I count myself a long-time member of this vast group – we often discover an inner Guidance System that leads us to comfort and beauty, harmony and safety, against all odds. This Guidance System operates in our every day lives and manifests as simply as, “I feel great here.” When we decode “feeling great,” we discover we have gravitated to experiences that accept us as we are. This sense of acceptance is demonstrated by our physical-emotional-intellectual-spiritual ability to respond to what is, to be present, to immerse ourselves in the flow of life.
From a very early age, I felt this profound acceptance out of doors, in our garden, at our neighbourhood park, and on the beach at Point Pelee. The sense of acceptance I experienced when ice skating, swimming, wandering in silence, and staring up at the sky from my bed of autumn leaves, summer grasses, or snow taught me that no matter what misadventures might be happening among the adults who were charged with my care, I could step out into what I have come to call The Eternal Mother, my Earth Home.
As I aged into adolescence, I learned to look up, to search out the moon and the planets, to connect with their rhythmic steadfastness. Parents might disappear, but the moon was always somewhere above the horizon and ready to shine on or play peak-a-boo with me. When I learned of the moon’s magical phases and their relationship with the sun, the most steadfast of heavenly bodies, I began to understand how light . . ., sunlight, made a profound difference in my life. I felt better when I could close my eyes and offer my face to the sun. I felt better when I could shed clothes and wander around seeing, scenting, and eventually sketching the world in which I found contentment and belonging.
Eventually, I learned an Old Celtic Prayer that honoured the connection I feel to the sun. I continue to say this prayer pretty much daily, my face upturned to the eastern horizon, my hands on my heart as I recite the words:
You, who are the source of all power,
Whose rays illuminate the world,
Illuminate also my heart,
That I too may do your work on Earth.
When I say the third line, “Illuminate also my heart,” I describe the biggest heart I can on or around myself. If I’m in a confined space, the heart I describe is over my torso. If I’m standing in my garden, the heart I describe includes everything my wide open arms can include, right down to my feet and the Earth supporting them.
Experiencing myself as an essential part of the natural, larger-than-human world has kept me alive despite my early, life-threatening trauma. Feeling this steadfast, unbreakable interconnectedness with the non-human world gives me a sense of kinship with animals and plants, earth and stone, that makes me more reverent than I would otherwise be. This natural-world connection reminds me that in spite of human failings, Life belongs to Itself and that whether others know it or not, I am and will always be a part of this miraculous expression of creative chaos that unfolds throughout our galaxy and beyond.
May we all feel this sense of belonging to the vast web of life as we know it. As the Light returns to the Northern Hemisphere, may we learn the dance of connection, of peace, of meaning, and of love. Happy Winter Solstice!
Until next time,
While I have called this post “When Sadness Comes,” I might well have substituted the word Rage for Sadness. In my experience, all feelings of anger and grief are inseparable although, depending upon care giver expectations, we may be unable to experience one or the other of these profoundly humanizing emotions. Some of us are born into families who permit the expression of anger but deny any grief that may lie below this emotion. And many are born into families where it is “safe” to express sadness, but absolutely forbidden to express any form of anger. And some, of course, must pretend a kind of cheerful neutrality regardless of what emotional landmines are detonating throughout the days and nights of family life.
Our journeys to wholeness require that we acknowledge and experience the feelings our early care givers insisted we deny, and this requirement is often very challenging. The reclamation of our forbidden feelings is a process similar to muscle building. We go through an initial period of painful resistance that requires we choose to persevere. Once we make this choice to reclaim our denied emotions, our new emotional breadth increases our emotional intelligence one hundred fold. This reclamation process takes the time and patience any worthwhile undertaking requires. Happily, energy tools, and specifically EFT, can be very helpful partners in improving our emotional literacy on the journey to wholeness.