Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I met my grief..we became friends. Now I'm on the other side...

The One Thing No One Ever Says About Grieving 

(And a 4 step plan to move through your grief.)

Another way to say that you are grieving is that a part of you is stuck in a moment in time. 
 Sometimes the cause of the stuckness isn’t the grief itself, but the fact that you don’t even recognizethat you’ve lost something and that you need to grieve. 
Grief is a word that is used interchangeably with bereavement, but grief is not exclusively about the physical death of a person.
Grief doesn't fit in a box, either. Some forms of grief take years to work through, other types take a few solid months, some take a single moment of deep acknowledgement.
Everyone grieves differently and for different reasons, but one thing remains constant in the process. It's the one thing no one has ever said about grieving:
“I did it right on time.”
Grieving is marked by a lag, a delay, a freezing, “Wait. What just happened?”
Grieving is also not a linear process
One moment you feel you’ve fully moved past something, the next moment it’s right back in front of your face.
That’s because grief is insidious, imposing and demands to be felt. Even if you’re able to somehow avoid it all day long, grief comes back to you in your sleep. It’s laying right on your heart as you wake up.
Grief doesn’t say, “I’ve been here long enough, I think it’s time for me to leave.” 
No. Grief crowds the heart, eats up all your energy and chronically imposes upon your peace.  But grief isn't some evil force that's only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need.  Perhaps how much you wanted something, how deeply you care about someone, how far you've come from where you were. 
As Mark Nepo so beautifully puts it, "The pain was necessary to know the truth, but we don't have to keep the pain alive to keep the truth alive."  
Still, grief isn’t necessarily a depression.  People can be grieving and heartbroken about something and not even know it.
Here are some examples of events that cause grieving:
A break up
The selling of your childhood home
What you always wanted but never got
A person who died
A person who is still alive but is electively absent in your life
The loss of a dream
Loving someone who is self-destructive
The loss of a pet
The end of a friendship
Job loss or the end of a career
The typical route for grieving begins with denial, and that’s actually a good thing.  
Ultimately, your defense mechanisms are there to protect you. Denial kicks in when it would otherwise be too overwhelming to feel it all at once. Ideally, denial slowly fades away and the grief is felt. (Ideally.)
More typically, you swallow your grief. 
 It comes up in small spurts when you’re not paying attention, then you numb yourself to it somehow, then it jumps up more forcefully, then you numb yourself more heavily.
That is the path of staying stuck in grief. The path loops. People lose themselves on that path.
Is there a better path?
The answer is yes. But you don’t have to walk it unless you choose to. 
Some losses are so exquisitely painful, in a way that no one else could ever fully understand, that no one would fault you for staying in the loop.
If you do choose to get out of the disorienting, dizzying loop of grief, here are 4 ways to begin:
1. UNDERSTAND - That your heart is broken, even if it’s not visible to others. 
 Keep in mind that there's no ‘right way’ to grieve and that grieving is not a linear process. 
Just because its been 6 months, 4 years, 15 years, whatever – none of that means anything to your grief. The clock starts when you begin to recognize your grief. In other words, when you genuinely begin to address what happened (or perhaps what never happened).
2. RECOGNIZE - Before you can grieve, you have to recognize that you need to grieve.
Something happened, or didn’t happen, that burdened you. 
Ironically, when you’re burdened, something is given to you and taken away from you at the same time. What do you feel was taken from you? What do you feel you are burdened with? The answers to those questions help you recognize what you need to grieve.
3. TOUCH - You have to touch the loss (as well as all the anger, sadness, bitterness, resilience, compassion and any other feelings you encountered during your loss). 
You're in touch with your grief when you make space for the feelings your loss brought into your life. It may feel counter-intuitive to go back to the feelings that you want so desperately to let go of, but there's simply no way to move through grief without making contact with it, without fully touching it, without fully feeling it. 
You have to pick it up, hold it, feel the weight of it in your hands, on your heart and within your life. You have to feel the whole loss. Grief demands to be felt with an insistence that needs no sleep.  You either allow yourself to encounter the feelings or you remain encased in a shell of yourself under a misguided sense of self-protection.  
4. MOVE - The feeling of grief can linger for so long that you almost befriend the grief.
The grief becomes oddly soothing in its familiarity and its predictability. Dealing with the grief means letting go of this familiarity and moving towards something less predictable and less familiar, which is scary. 
Still, if you want to genuinely address the grief, you have to continue to move through the peripheral, familiar parts of your grief and go right into the epicenter of your grief. As the classic hero's journey goes, you have to get inside the belly of the whale.  There (and only there) you will find the door to the unpredictable pieces of life that are patiently waiting for you on the other side of your pain.
Understand your heart is broken.
Recognize why it’s broken.
Touch the grief.
Move towards the epicenter of your grief, as it's the only path to other side of your pain.
Please remember, the grief you're experiencing is yours, and you can carry it with you for as long as you like. Let go of it only when you feel ready-enough, and if you never feel ready, that’s okay. If you do feel ready to move through it, recruit professional support here, or here, or here. Navigating through grief is unpredictable, dangerous terrain. You don’t have to do it alone.
Katherine Schafler is an NYC-based psychotherapist, speaker and writer.  For more of her work, join her newsletter community, read her blog, or follow her on Instagram

Friday, July 21, 2017

I am divorced

My new shape


40 years old

(Actually I'm 60)
When did this happen


but my gray sneaks in

I'm sure

Though I would never know

Because I love myself in

The "haircolor" bottle
I am fit enough

Maybe more fit

Then when I was 20

I have less hair

Thanks to an overactive thyroid

Stress induced they say

I use Latisse to make my eyelashes grow

I text 10 times a day

I have a scar

Above my pubic bone

From my C-section

When they lifted my

Darling daughter 
From my abdomen

I am newly divorced from my husband


Would have lost the ranch on that bet

Actually, I did…

Basically I am a blank canvas

Well not blank maybe-an unwritten chapter

Is perhaps the better metaphor

Sure I have a history

A hell of a one, actually

I am dinged-up
And weary and my heart is sore

But really in the most – essential way

I am as new as I ever have been and the best is not behind me


It's ahead of me for the first time

I never stood a chance before because I was

A slave to what I could not see

A puppet to past patterns
But I have taken a knife and carved myself free

It cost me dearly, but what I gained as myself

The truest treasure is he so who believes

In its own existence

And I believe! I am here!
I am showing up. I have to go slowly

So I don't skip by what this moment is

This is the best and worst time of my life

It is a death

A tragedy

A sad and fiery end

A dream I desperately wanted 
The loss of innocence for my daughters
And God how this breaks my heart

But it is also a second chance and I can't let sorrow or self loathing one of reproach rob me of the gift

From fire comes a stark silence as flame drives what is most essential deep inside

All else burned away

I let all else leave me

I keep only what is mostly truly me
Thank God for this fire bless this fire

Bless this new shape

I am sexual

I am spiritual

I am a mother

I am a playful child

I am unapologetic

It took me 40 years(60 years)
But I am here finally 
it has been hard-won
and you can bet I'm not giving it up for anyone
No more submissive posture

No more attentive shape

No more body bent like a question mark

I know what's best for me above all others

I reserve the sacred right to re-define myself as well

I can stand in my own power and not make myself small for anyone to make them feel safe

I will shrink myself no longer to make any human feel secure

I spent a lifetime being small for those closest to me but this is not the woman my daughters will know

My daughters will see my new shape 
my intuition speaking loudly 
They will see a woman integrated 
a businesswoman 
an artist 
A nerd and an intellect 
A heart 
for I am all those things

I am woman
Woman and 
whole Human

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How to survive gaslighting: when manipulation erases your reality

It seems to be all around  these days, the concept of gaslighting and manipulation, It keeps coming up in the microcosm, I'm sure, looking to be healed in the macrocosm.
This article was particularly worthy of sharing

Right now, many Americans listening to their president are experiencing what I experienced frequently a child. Nothing means anything, and reality is being canceled. There is confusion, there is chaos, everything is upside down and inside out. When facts and truth are being discredited, how is it possible to know what to believe, especially when it comes from someone we expect to embody both ethics and etiquette.
It’s obvious to those already initiated. To those new to the phenomena: the president and the current administration are gaslighting us. It’s a term we are hearing a lot of right now.
The term “gaslighting” refers to when someone manipulates you into questioning and second-guessing your reality. It derives from a 1944 movie – and the play and another film that preceded it – in which this happens to the heroine. What perhaps people don’t understand is how to manage and cope with it. For me, all it’s very familiar. I know this behavior well and I know how to navigate it.
As a child, I was experiencing a world where there was no emotional safety while being consistently told that I had a beautiful and happy childhood and that I was ungrateful. What was I complaining about? Yet what I was exposed to caused me to feel unsafe. And those feelings had a verifiable origin. Whether it was witnessing violent arguments or being on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior, when I confronted my mother with the truth, it was denied; my reality was disavowed and asserting it would only instigate conflict. I was told that what I saw with my own eyes hadn’t happened.
When I would confront my mother with things that she had said, or things that she had done, she would say I was making it up, that it was a lie. When I confronted her with facts, they were batted away. So it wasn’t just that my reality was canceled, but that my perception of reality was overwritten.

As I wrote in my memoir, An Abbreviated Life, it wasn’t the loudest and scariest explosions that caused the most damage. It wasn’t the physical violence or the verbal abuse or the lack of boundaries and inappropriate behavior. What did the real damage was the denial that these incidents ever occurred.
The erasure of the abuse was worse than the abuse.
When I was in my mid-30s, I had an encounter with someone who recognized me from when I was a child. “Are you so-and-so’s daughter?” he asked. I nodded. He had been a guest at one of my mother’s parties. After I left, he said: “I had always wondered how that little girl would survive. I had thought her only choices were suicide or murder.”
When I was told he said this, I felt validation. And that line stayed with me for many reasons. This outsider observed what I was living through, and having him as a witness confirmed what I knew.
One of the most insidious things about gaslighting is the denial of reality. Being denied what you have seen. Being denied what you have experienced and know to be true. It can make you feel like you are crazy. But you are not crazy.
Dr Robin Stern, associate director at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of The Gaslight Effect says that usually “when people are abused there are signs that you can point to that are much more obvious. Someone who has been hit or threatened for instance – it’s easy to see and understand how they have been hurt. But when someone is manipulating you, you end up second-guessing yourself and turning your attention to yourself as the person to blame”.
To illustrate this, she cites an example that is easy to understand. A close friend of hers was always running late. Initially, she pointed this out to him noting that it was not respectful. His response was to tell her she was “too sensitive”. But over time, when this dynamic would continue to happen, it would lead to arguing and when she persisted he would say, “You really have a problem with time, don’t you?” and she in turn, ended up thinking he might be right. She began to doubt herself. “I began to think – what’s the problem if someone is late, maybe I’m not being flexible enough.’”
This is what she calls the gaslight effect. “Gaslighting over time leads to somebody experiencing the gaslight effect. Someone can try to gaslight you, but it can’t happen unless you allow it.”
This is the tricky part. Because when there is someone in a position of power or authority, someone you idealize, or even as in many co-dependent relationships – when there is someone you are afraid to lose – their insistence that their reality is the reality can often cause you to doubt what you know to be true.
“We are living in a time where a lot of people are having a tough time deciding what’s real and feeling like they are being manipulated,” Stern says. “If they know something is true and somebody tells you it’s not true, holding on to your reality is essential. You can’t be gaslighted if you stay inside your own reality and recognize the manipulation when you see it.”
What’s happening on a national level is activating and retraumatizing a lot of people who have been gaslighted in the past. The crazy-making, mind-bending, massive confusion-inducing effects of our current administration’s recklessness with the truth and disregard for verifiable facts is creating an emotional and psychological whiplash. It’s affecting people who have been subjected to abusive relationships; people who feel emotionally vulnerable and it seems to stoke a nearly unprecedented rage in those of us who can see it and feel powerless to do anything to combat it. When people in the mainstream media are being discredited, how exactly are you supposed to call this out?
There were some strategies – which I didn’t know at the time were strategies – that helped me survive. And in these uncertain times, it is a way to stay sane.

Remain defiant

When I was a little girl about five or six, I wrote a story about running away from home. When my mother saw that story, she demanded I change it. Why would you write this story? It isn’t about me, is it? She knew it was about her and the chaos at home. I refused to change the story and that defiance was key. Trusting my version of reality. Not allowing it to be altered on demand. Resistance. This anger protected me, because I knew what I knew. It couldn’t be erased. Being defiant does not make you difficult. It makes you resilient.

Recognize there will never be accountability

The person who is gaslighting you will never be able to see your point of view or take responsibility for their actions. They will never get it. They will never say, “Oh, you’re right – you have a point.”
Acknowledgement is not on the cards. And asserting yourself is not just useless but harmful. Because the person gaslighting will never be able to respond to logic and reason – and so you have to be the one to recognize that logic and reason can’t be applied.

Let go of the wish for things to be different

The wish for things to be different is very powerful and inoculates you to the tumult. It allows you to continue to believe logic and reason will prevail. You want to believe the person will change. You want things to make sense. But they won’t. You want to feel you are on safe ground. You have to let go of this wish. Because things will never make sense. You will never be heard.

Develop healthy detachment

I became hyper-vigilant about clarity. There was no room for misunderstanding; no margin for error. I needed certainty in an uncertain world. But we live in an uncertain world, so there has to be a way to find balance.
Detaching from the gaslighting does not mean total detachment. It means distinguishing between the world of the gaslighter and the real world.
“Someone can try to gaslight you and once you can identify what’s going on, you can begin to turn off the gaslighting and heal,” Stern says. She points out that often people are willing to give up their reality in favor of hanging on to a relationship rather than rupturing it.
There are, she says, many different signs to recognize when you’re being gaslighted. “You feel confused and crazy. You’re always apologizing, wondering if you are good enough, can’t understand why you feel so bad all the time, or know something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it. You thought one thing, they say another; you can’t figure out which is right.”
A tip she offers for handling things is to write down what actually happened in the conversation. “Once you are not flooded with emotion, you can reflect rationally. Look at the conversation and see where it took a turn.”
When someone is so certain about what they believe and they keep on insisting and trying to convince you – over a period of time – it erodes your own perception. And having to verify reality is in itself destabilizing.
Stern poses an interesting question. “Are people upset because current leaders are telling them something they know isn’t true, or is it because they are upset other people might be believing it?”
With gaslighting, it feels as though the ground is always shifting beneath you. There is no center of gravity. And while we’re being told up is down and black is white, the only way to make sense of it is to remain resolute. Let people have their alternative facts. You’ll stick to reality.

Since you’re here …

… we’ve got a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever, but far fewer are paying for it. Advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.
If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Starting over...

The fun is in the writing...