Saturday, February 9, 2019

My Last Three Conversations With My Mother






Opening

On February 14, 2018, "Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness" was released. During the past year, one of the questions I’ve been asked is, “Holli, why would you write a book about mothers, daughters, and betrayal?” Others have inquired, “Are you angry with your mother?”

My response is always the same.  It is because I am in a place of acceptance with my mom that I wrote this book.  It is because I’ve done the hard work of healing many injuries and injustices in my life that I wrote this book. And, most importantly, it is because this book is not about blaming or bashing mothers. It is about Daughters. It is about Daughters who chose wellness over victimhood. It is about Daughters who did not get bitter; they got better. And in doing so, they came to a place of peace and acceptance – first with themselves and then with their mothers.

One of the many lessons in "Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness", is wholeness is not a destination.  It is a fluid, ongoing process in which we continue to integrate layers of healing into our being. As I welcome in the first year anniversary of the Daughters’ book, my journey is no different.

 My Last Three Conversations With My Mother

I LOVE YOU
I AM GOOD
LEAVE ME IN PEACE AS I LEAVE YOU IN PEACE




May 2015 – First Conversation

I LOVE YOU


With a great deal of recovering work under my belt and embracing wellness in my own life, many years ago I came to accept the reality of my relationship with my mom. I have chosen to be kind, respectful, and loving. For example, I’ve never missed sending a card or calling on her birthday and Mother’s Day. During visits, I’ve helped out with any needs of hers and done so with a caring spirit. Because I developed a very close and loving relationship in my adult years with my dad, I called often to speak with him, welcoming the oppor­tunity to talk with her as well. However, my mom never had much to say to me. I held no expectations of her. I was in a place of peace, until recently.

Fueled and fed by years of weakened toxic environs, betrayal’s can­cerous growth spread throughout our family system. The malignancy reached a critical stage, subsequently poisoning its paternal carriers and paralyzing their dutiful descendants. On April 8, 2015, both my mother and my father methodically planned, carried out, but did not complete a dual suicide. An overdose of medications did not grant them their last wish, but instead cast the final layers of brokenness onto an already fractured family. Both parents were found and hospitalized; my dad in critical condition and my mom serious but stable. My dad was moved home and passed on April 16th, 2015, under hospice care. Although my mom recovered, she was transferred to a nursing home for further rehabilitation. As our family hung in the balance by a thread, I both anticipated and expected for there to be additional betrayals with ensuing fallout. However, I was not quite prepared for the enormity or finality of being disowned by my mom.

Because I live a great distance from my mom, I called the nursing home frequently to check on her. My three sisters were nearby helping out; and thus, there was no need for my presence. Within a few days, bitter accusations and disputes started to arise between my mom and youngest sister against my two other sisters. It continued to escalate with disastrous consequences. My youngest sister, Stephanie,  moved into my mom’s house with her family, changed the locks, and took control of everything and of my mom.

During the chaos, I continued to call my mom, desperately defending my sisters and myself against a pile of lies and pleading with her to reconsider the baseless foundations for them. There were moments during our calls when I felt as though she heard me, but she would not change her mind. After several  weeks of upheaval and with threats being waged against my other sisters and me by my youngest sister, I made one last call to my mom.

When I called, I asked her for one request. “Will you please listen to what I have to say? Allow me time to finish? And then, I will listen to you?”

My mom agreed. For the next two hours, I talked to her about our family. I spoke softly and gently but with conviction. I described the brokenness—a family built on lies and secrets and enveloped in denial and shame. And with a heavy heart, I spoke of the betrayals, not just mine but those my sisters had shared with me. She listened.

When I was done, I asked her if she wanted to respond. My mom acknowledged what I said. She did not deny or dismiss it. There was a sadness in her voice and an owning of sorts about various pieces. However, there were no apologies. Toward the end of our conversation I needed to know what she wanted—from me and my two sisters—if anything.

I took in a deep breath. “Mom, with Stephanie moving into your house, how will I have any relationship with you? She won’t allow it.”

My mom knew well what I meant. She cautiously replied, “Well, I will try and call you when I can.”

I went on to describe my concerns about Stephanie’s unhealthiness and her inability to take care of my mom. I told her how I was worried about her safety and long-term quality of care. My mom continued to listen, even agreeing at times but not wavering in her position.

Before we ended our conversation, I made one last request guessing this might be the last opportunity I ever had to speak with her again. And although I knew, without question, what her response would be I wanted my mom to know where my heart was—in a place of love and forgiveness.

My voice was strong and filled with compassion. “Mom, choose us (my other two sisters and me). We love you. We can help you. Even though I live far away, I will be there for you. We can help you get settled—stay in your home or move to a smaller place. Whatever you want or need. We will be there for you.”

My mom’s reply was short. “I can’t. I need to be with Stephanie.”

I spoke once more. “Mom, she is not well. She cannot take care of you. Please, this once…this time. Choose me…choose us.”

Her voice was firm, but soft. “I can’t.”

I understood. I accepted what had been true for most of my life. I paused, waiting for the anchor lodged in my throat to come lose and allow my words to flow. “I love you, Mom. Goodbye.”

She whispered, “I love you, too.”

Over the next several weeks, a few more layers of betrayal followed - a certified letter from my mom and Stephanie warning my sisters and me to stay away from my mom's house and cruel voicemails telling us of the awful individuals we were. *

Despite these painful behaviors along with my mom twisting my words and lying about what was said during our conversation, I shared the truth when I said, "I love you."

*****

In June 2015, part of our family gathered for a two-day celebration of life for my father and my beloved uncle, who had passed away April 11, 2015 from age-related illnesses. Because of disagreement over who was invited to attend the celebration of life, my mother chose not to attend.  On the first day of the celebration, our family came together at my aunt’s house in San Francisco where we honored both my father and my uncle with personal messages and memories. I composed and shared two poems: one for my father entitled “I Think of You Today,” and one for my uncle, “Oh Mack! Our Uncle Mack!”  
Because both my dad and uncle loved sailing, on the second day of the celebration of life, part of our family had a ceremony out at sea in the San Francisco Bay. We chartered a boat and sailed out to one of their favorite spots, Angel Island. After the Captain anchored the boat, we each settled into our respective seats. I  stood and read “Poem for the Living,” which my father gave to me many years previously and asked me to read after he passed. Although it was very painful, while reading the poem I felt his spirit close to me. We then scattered my uncle’s ashes and because we did not have my father’s ashes, we released red roses for him. My family sat quietly as the red roses nestled among the sheet of grey ashes and continued their journey out to sea on a moving bed of sparkling blue waters and crisp white caps. 
While we were headed back to port, I made my way over to the starboard side of the boat. I reached into my pocket of my jacket and pulled out a few pieces of my mom’s costume jewelry she had given me. With the wind blowing against my face whispering, “It is time,” I leaned over the boat, held the hard shiny jewels tightly in my hand for a moment, and then gently tossed them into the moving waters. Although my heart was heavy from the multitude of losses over the past few weeks, saying goodbye to my dad and my uncle in ways that were purposeful opened up space, creating room for peace and acceptance to enter. Saying goodbye to my mother felt more like a formality. Because of my personal recovering journey and knowledge of healing from betrayal, I had worked through and accepted long ago the loss of her in my life.

August 2017 – Second Conversation


I AM GOOD


On a warm humid day in August 2017, my mother called me on my cell phone as my husband and I were driving back to Arizona from California. It had been over two years since we last spoke. Because I wasn’t positive whose number it was, I let the call go to voicemail.  Although I was nervous to pick up the message, I did.  In a raspy gruff voice, she spoke.

“It is your mother.  I am going to sell the house. I need the money for my care because I will be moving into an assisted living facility. Your father left you the piano and if you want it, you need to call me to make arrangements to get it. Call me back on my cell.  Bye.”

After Dan and arrived home, I started to unpack while he went to the grocery store. My mind was spinning. I knew I needed to make the call or I was not going to be able to sleep that night.  I stopped unpacking, came into my office, and took out a 5x7” index card.  On it I wrote three things:

First, I wrote down one statement. Do not call her “mom.” 
I wrote this because names are important to me. The word “mom” is especially significant. For me, “mom” or “mother” carries with it innate responsibilities to the role it represents. Over the years, my mom had not fulfilled those responsibilities in the ways I associated with healthy mothering. I was not in a place of resentment. I was in a place of honoring my truths. 
Then, I wrote two questions:
What is your timeline to get the piano moved?
Who is the contact person?
I sat down at my desk.  I pulled the landline closer to me.  I took a few deep breaths, calmed myself, and dialed her cell.  When my mom picked up, there was a lot of commotion in the background.  I could hear my youngest sister giving orders.  My mom’s voice was very harsh and she sounded angry when she answered.

She coughed and cleared her throat, “Ummmm….Hello.”

“Hello,” I said, “It’s Holli.” I did not pause. “I’m calling about the piano.  Thank you for letting me know. I would very much like to have it. What is your timeline?”

My mom explained briefly that the piano needed to be out very soon, within the next week or so. I asked who the contact person would be and she relayed that it would be my nephew, who was living in the house until it sold. Because she seemed quite agitated, I tried to get off the phone as quickly as possible.  However, for the next ten minutes she described her many health issues and challenges.

I mostly listened.  A few times, I reflected, “It sounds like you’ve made a good decision.” Or, “It sounds like you will be getting good care.”

After thanking her once again and reassuring her I would contact a piano mover immediately, I attempted to say goodbye. Before I could do so, abruptly she interjected, “Well, Holli, you sound good.”

I took a deep breath, and with a calm steady voice, I responded, “I am good.  I am very good.” Nothing came from the other end. I paused.  No words. I then added, “Thank you again for honoring Dad’s wishes about the piano. It really means a lot to me.” There was silence.

I gently said goodbye and so did she. We hung up.


*****

As I laid the receiver down, I looked up. Without my laptop in its usual position on my desk blocking my view, I saw the reflection of my face superimposed on one my picture frames showcasing a poster of my novel “Another Way. At first, it startled me.  Then, as I continued to scan the wall in front of me filled will the other frames of all my other books, I spoke softly to myself.

“I am good.  I am very good. It is sad that you don’t know me. I have a good life.  I have a good husband. I have a good family.  I have done good things with my life.  I am good.”

Warm tears rolled down my face. They were tears of gratitude, blessing, and reward. My two-year investment into The Daughters’ book had gifted me in so many ways.  However, I had not anticipated the phone call from my mom.  Because of the plethora of healing messages within the Daughters’ narratives which transformed my being with layers upon layers of renewal and resilience, I handled the conversation with grace, dignity, and self-respect.  I reminded myself, doing good work restores the good.

Almost one month later in September 2017, the baby grand Steinway which my dad learned on as a child, as did I, arrived at my front door. Her beauty fills my home still today

  

January 2019 – Last Conversation



LEAVE ME IN PEACE AS I LEAVE YOU IN PEACE

On an unusually warm day in January, I sat at the dining room table putting the finishing touches on an upcoming workshop.  My research materials and note cards were scattered on the table and piled on the floor at both sides of my chair.  After saying goodbye to my husband as he dashed off to the grocery store, I determined I was indeed finished with my project and started cleaning up the mess around me.  However, within a few moments of his departure, my husband Dan returned. The look on his face startled me.

Dan rushed over to the table and pulled up a chair. His eyes were watering. Immediately, I thought something had happened to our daughter. I choked out, “Is it Alexis?”

“No…no…” he quickly replied.  It’s your mom.  She passed away earlier this afternoon.”

Confused, I asked, “How do you know?”

Dan explained that he received a text from a family member indicating my mom had passed. Still in a state of bewilderment as to why Dan was informed first, I inquired, “Did the text say anything else?”

Dan showed me the text, “We were not sure if Holli would want to know.” 

For the next hour or more, Dan held me.  We didn’t say much to one another.  We didn’t need to. I was waiting for this day, not knowing what I would feel, or say, or do.

After Dan left for the store, I cleaned up the mess on my dining table and neatly placed everything in my office. As I did so, I felt my head start to spin. Thoughts were whirling around like a cyclone caught in a cage. I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t move. On auto-pilot,  I opened the cleaning closet, pulled out the vacuum, changed the bag, and frantically began vacuuming. I felt myself being pulled… pulled to go outside.

I dropped the vacuum cleaner, quickly changed into my walking clothes, and dashed out the front door.  The sun was starting to set.  I walked briskly down the street, onto a familiar walking dirt path that led to a series of man made lakes and waterfalls within our development. I walked faster and faster, trying to beat the sun before it slipped down behind the mountain range off to the West. My face was hot and I felt the eruption inside me fighting to get out.  I quickly scanned the boulders strategically placed around one of the lakes.  Directly in front of one of the waterfalls, I crouched down on one of the round smooth boulders clutching her strong sides with both hands. As I did so, the emotions within surfaced and spilled.

First tears. Then, a steady stream of  anguish accompanied with waves of grief. As the torrent came forth, my mind kept replaying, “So much loss…..over so many years.  So much loss….” I allowed the flow to continue until it subsided. I sat quietly, listening to the water splashing against the rocks below me. 

The sky turned orange as the sun slid further behind the statuesque mountains.  Hundreds of black crows were making their evening journey around the development before escaping to the West. As I looked up, suddenly one black crow left the others and made her way over to me. She circled above me, maintaining her position as though she was waiting for me to speak.

I did. Lifting my head and facing her, the words flowed from a place of truth and of compassion.

“Mom, it is sad that you did not have the life you wanted.  It is sad that you had much pain and many disappointments in your life.”  And then I took a deep breath, “I wish you had chosen differently.  You were a strong woman… you were intelligent….you were capable of much more as a mother and as a woman.” Tears flowed steadily but were couched in a calm spirit. “There was just so much loss…over so many years….for all of us.” I breathed in deeply. Then, the core of my grief was released in my truth. “As long as you were alive, I knew I had a mother, but I didn’t.”  A warm breeze brushed my skin and dried my face. I softly pronounced, “Now, you are free…as am I.”   

The black crow remained suspended above me, hovering closer. The other crows abandoned her, flying off into the darkening sky. Again, she waited for me. However, this time was as though she was asking my permission to go.

With love in my heart, I whispered the same concluding words I recited from my dad’s poem years previously, “Mom, leave me in peace as I leave you in peace.”

She circled one more time and then soared towards the mountain silhouette. She flew and flew, slowly entering the dusky sky.  Before she was out of my sight entirely, from the East a large black crow came alongside her. Together, they disappeared into the quiet night.

Although this was  my last conversation with my mother, I cannot say it will be my final one. What I do know today is .. it is well with my soul. 


*****
Closing

Betrayal, of any kind, is painful. No matter who or what has perpetuated the betrayal injury, it is only natural for us to want someone or something else to make it right, to make it better. When betrayal involves someone whom we love deeply and in whom we have entrusted with protecting, nurturing, and providing for our well being, it can consume us. It can break us.  

Another reason I wrote “Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness” is to share with audiences the journeys of seven Daughters who did not wait for their mothers to make it right for them. If they had, they would still be waiting. Instead, they chose another path. They chose to make it right for themselves. And in doing so, the Daughters healed their core injuries and built healthy foundations from which to navigate their lives and their relationships. They are living testaments to the power of choice, perseverance, and resilience. 

Every day, each of us has a choice. We can choose to remain in our injured places or we can open our shells to healing processes. It takes time and it requires much of us.  However, as we embrace our journeys of recovering , layer by layer we will move out of brokenness and into wholeness. The painful pieces of our past will become our sources of rebirth and renewal. *

Wellness awaits each of us. We choose the time.

Believe and Be Well

Holli Kenley
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*This excerpt originally appeared in the Daughters Betrayed by Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness to Wholeness, copyright (c) 2018 by Holli Kenley, Reprinted with permission from Loving Healing Press.  www.LHPress.com




Tuesday, January 1, 2019

No More Regret! 3 Tips For Putting Your New Year's Resolutions To Work!

Resolutions are statements about whether to do or not to do something. We make them, especially as the new year approaches, hoping they will encourage us to make shifts and changes in our quality of living. The problem is that when it comes time to implement them, most folks become easily discouraged, give up, and abandon them as quickly as they were made.  Unfortunately, after our good intentions have failed once again, we feel embarrassed. We feel regret.. and lots of it.

Although there are books written on this topic, we're going to keep it simple. Let's take a look at Three Tips For Putting Your New Year's Resolutions To Work!

Tip One: Start with realistic specific goals. 

One reason resolutions don't work is because folks avoid addressing "roadblocks." As you begin thinking about the changes or shifts you want to make, be honest with yourself about your current reality.
  • What obstacles do you face?  
  • What is your weekly schedule demanding of you now?  
  • What resources do you need? 
  • What other factors  might prevent you from reaching your goals?
Another of the most common reasons individuals feel discouraged and quickly give up on their resolutions is because the goals they set are too broad.

For example:
1.  I'm think I'll start exercising more.
2.  I'm going to look for a new job.
3.  I'm considering going back to school

First, answer the questions regarding any potential roadblocks.  Secondly, with these considerations in mind, plan out a series of manageable action steps (realistic specific goals). Set approximate timelines for accomplishing them. If needed, readjust your action steps and your timelines as you move forward. You are in charge. Do what works for you.

For example, if your goal is to go back to school next year, break it down into the following action steps with a workable timeline:

Action Step One:  Obtain information on application procedures, deadlines, etc.  (four weeks)
Action Step Two:  Apply for financial aid or other forms for assistance. (four to eight weeks)
Action Step Three: Continue working on application requirements: obtaining records; taking required tests or prerequisites; following through on additional documents or other sources needed for admission. (eight weeks)
And so on...

Each of these steps contains an "action verb" to move you towards your goal. Each of these steps states specifically "how" and "when" you are putting your resolution to work. Write them down and place them where you see them every day.

It is strongly recommended to take out or pull up your calendar and schedule time during your week to work on your goal/s.  This way, working on your action steps becomes a part of your routine. Not only does this feel good to do so, but it  helps when you are feeling pulled in other directions and keeps you focused on what is important.

If you start to feel discouraged, chances are the action steps you set are still too broad, too large, or too much too soon.  Break them down into smaller action steps. Slow it down a bit if you need to. Keep going.  Keep growing.

Let's move on to Tip Two.


Tip Two: Stick with a goal until you experience some degree of success or accomplishment. Then, celebrate it!

Although there may be overlap among the action steps, it is extremely important to stick with a goal until you experience some degree of success or accomplishment. This is important. When you achieve success, even if it is just a minor one, celebrate it!  One of the reasons folks abandon their resolutions is that small successes are not recognized or rewarded. We all like support and encouragement. We all need it. This time, however, it is going to come from you! What do I mean?

After graduating with my Master's Degree in Psychology, in order to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I had to complete 3,000 hours of internship. At first, this seemed impossible. It felt overwhelming. However, I broke this requirement into smaller action steps with reasonable timelines.  And then, every time I logged in another 100 hours, I rewarded myself with small treats or favorite pastimes: a new article of clothing, lunch with a friend, or sometimes an iced-coffee mocha did the trick. The months ticked by, the hours checked off, and the rewards I planned motivated me every step of the way.

Have fun planning out what your rewards are going to be. Get to work and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Let's take a look at our last Tip. It may not be what you expect, but this tip is perhaps the most important one.

Tip Three: Stop Complaining. Start Changing.

At times, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to putting our resolutions to work.  Our negative talk, whether it is to ourselves or to others, is a huge barrier to success.  If you find yourself reciting the same excuses, or rehearsing the same justifications, or you are quick to blame others for your lack of success, Stop Complaining. These negative behaviors are not going to get you where you want to be. It depletes you of the energy you need to move forward. And frankly, others get tired of hearing the same sob story over and over again. I know. I speak from personal experience.

When I applied to graduate school, I had one final big hurdle to overcome in order to be admitted on a permanent basis - score high enough on either the Miller Analogies Test or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). I had one year to get it done. After each failed attempt on the Miller Analogies Test, I reported to my graduate adviser, "I can't do it. I'm not a good test taker. Why can't I be admitted based on my transcript from obtaining my teaching credential? I had a 4.0!  I don't think this is fair."

After listening to my whining and complaining for months and with time running out, my adviser stood up and barked at  me, "Obviously, the Miller Analogies Test is not your strength. Take the GRE. You have time to study and get it done. And, Holli, don't come back here and complain to me again."  When I left, I was so mad and....hurt. But from that moment on,  I responded differently. I Started Changing my attitude. I channeled my anger and disappointment in myself into motivation. I bought the study materials. I studied hard and completed practice tests. I studied harder and completed more practice tests. With time running out, I scheduled the GRE and took the test. I passed with a score far beyond what was required. I couldn't wait to show my adviser and to thank him for not putting up with my pity-party.

Attitude is so important. It can make us or break us. More importantly, it's one of the few things in life we can control. Let's take full advantage of it.

In conclusion, we are only as good for others as we are to ourselves. Let's put away your regret. Let's Put Your New Year's Resolutions To Work.  And then, get ready to reap the rewards.


For more works by Holli Kenley, please visit Holli Kenley - Author, Speaker, Workshop Presenter
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Institutional Abuse: Why Apologies Are Not Enough

*This post contains sensitive material appropriate for mature readers.

In light of the recent revelations of pandemic sexual abuse and assault within prominent faith-based organizations and their ensuing cover-ups, it is important to remind ourselves that apologies to the victims are not enough. Although this post focuses on examples from within our military, the consequences endured and the steps for moving forward are applicable for victims from any form of institutional abuse. 


Over the past several years, we are hearing more and more about assault and abuse cases within professional organizations, as well as social, political, educational, and spiritual institutions where the culture of bullying and of extreme cases of abusive conduct and sexual assault have not only been cultivated and condoned, but they have been concealed by the very leaders and/or members who serve within them.

It is within these Environments of Betrayal, that victims are frequently blamed for the aggressive acts imposed upon them, they are seen as being 'less than or cowardly' for not being able to endure the culture of violence, and their personal and professional lives are in jeopardy for speaking out against the very organizations or  institutions that have perpetuated these normative abusive behaviors.

In recent years, our attention has been drawn to high-profile bullying cases within professional sports organizations and educational systems as well as to horrific abuse cases within our spiritual and university  institutions.  More recently, we are being made aware of the wave of sexual assault, abuse, and rape that is sweeping through our military ranks.Within these Environments of Betrayal, it is a wonder that many victims find if difficult - if not almost impossible - to heal and to move forward with their lives.

The Invisible War
The documentary, The Invisible War, depicts and details the narratives of numerous military service women and men (representing thousands) who have been attacked and traumatized by fellow military members and/or their superior officers. And within the culture of their military organizations, these brave service members' injuries and injustices are magnified by multiple betrayals imposed upon them by the very institutions in which they have served and have risked their lives.

In 2009, after I spent a great deal of time analyzing, researching, and studying the anatomy of betrayal, my findings were published in a recovery book entitled Breaking Through Betrayal 2nd EditionAs with much of work that I do in clinical psychology, it was critical that I give readers two key concepts when recovering from a betrayal - of any kind:

 First, understanding what they are feeling and why.
 Secondly, how to move forward - step by step.

For the purposes of today's blog, it is my intention to share a couple of key principles about betrayal and how they relate to the victims' degree of injury and impact. There is more information on today's show on W4CY Radio -  Environments of Betrayal: What Victims Need To Know And Do. I hope you will take a listen.

So often former clients would say to me, "Holli, I don't know why I feel so betrayed? I thought I was getting past this, but I can't seem to move on."  Or, "Holli, I was doing fine, and then....something happened and I feel re-betrayed all over again. What's wrong with me?"  This is completely understandable. Let me explain.

The first key to understanding is the following:

1.  We feel betrayed because we have invested greatly into someone or something, or we have trusted profoundly into someone or something, or we have believed strongly in someone or something. When that investment is rejected, when that trust has been violated, and/or when that belief has been shattered, we feel betrayed.


And, the degree of our investment, trust, or belief is a predictor of our degree of injury or impact. 

Watching the documentary The Invisible War, it is clear that the women and men who shared their stories were extremely passionate about their careers in the military. Several came from military backgrounds where family members had served for years. Most felt the calling to serve and joined with enthusiasm, dedication, and pride.And thus, because of their unwavering commitment to their profession, to their fellow service members, and to their chosen military branch, the victims' degree of injury - physically, psychologically, and emotionally - from their betrayals is deeply embedded and ingrained within the core. It is to be expected that their inner beings are breaking, their foundations are faltering, and their spirits are suffocating.

The second important principle of betrayal is the following:

2. We feel betrayed or continue to feel betrayed because often we are exposed to our betrayer or our betrayal environments, or we are triggered by events/memories/symptoms from our betrayal experience. In other words, if we experience chronic (or on-going) betrayal, or recurrent (or episodic) betrayal, or multiple betrayals, or the manifestations of PTSD from any trauma, we will continue to feel violated.


Remember, the degree of exposure to our betrayer and/or our betrayal environment is a predictor to the degree of injury or impact.

In The Invisible War, a brave young woman named Kori described her horrific betrayal.  She was assaulted by a fellow service member while she was serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. Not only was Kori's face injured during the attack but she was brutally raped.  Along with suffering the manifestations of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Kori - today - is in constant pain from disk and bone damage done to her face during the attack. Not only must Kori live with these chronic reminders and triggers of her assault, but she is still fighting the VA which continues to decline her medical claims. Her ongoing and multiple betrayals make it even more challenging to move forward and to recover.  However, it is possible...

With understanding these two principles about the anatomy of betrayal - how it works - I hope that readers will experience an initial level of healing. Because although the betrayers and the environments in which they cultivate their abusive cultures would like you to believe that you just need to 'toughen up' or 'be woman or a man enough to endure it' or that by 'voicing your betrayal you have turned against them', I want you to know that you have one powerful tool right within you - your truth.

Survivors....
  • You know your degree of investment, belief and trust....that is your truth.
  • You know your degree of exposure to your betrayer and/or your betrayal environment....that is your truth.
  • And, you know the degree of impact that the violation of each has had on you....that, too, is your truth.   

 No one can take that from you....
Now, it is your time to honor your truth and use it as you move forward.

For a step by step process for recovery from any kind of betrayal, consider...Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within 2nd Edition

For today's show Environments of Betrayal: What Victims Need To Know And Do

For our women and men who have bravely served in the military (or who are currently serving),  please go to Protect Our Defenders for support and healing.


Remember, although we each need to to our own work, we don't have to do it alone.
For more healing resources, please visit Holli Kenley
New Release & Amazon Best Seller
 Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness
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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Detached and Depressed: Rediscovering Meaningful Connection

Depression. It pops up in the news, especially when we lose celebrities like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. For a few days or a few weeks, there will be caring and compassionate conversation around their losses and the causal factors surrounding their suicides. News anchors, reporters, and experts are disclosing explanations around mental illness, past and present struggles with addiction, and various relational, financial, professional and personal life stress factors.  All of these are important. They should not be minimized. At the same time, as statistics illustrate a dramatic increase in depression and suicide rates since 1999, it is also important to consider environmental and social influences.

With our reliance and dependence upon electronic devices dramatically increasing for communication, entertainment, and social interaction, are we becoming more disengaged from one another - more detached from human connection - and thus more isolated and depressed?

Many experts say YES.

In Irresistible:The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked (2018), professor and researcher Dr. Adam Alter describes one of the consequences of increasing usage of mobile devices: "Up to 59 percent of people say they're dependent on social media sites and that their reliance on these sites makes them uphappy. Of that group, at least half say they need to check their sites at least once an hour. After an hour, they are anxious, agitated, and incapable of concentrating." Just recently,  well-known TV producer Simon Cowell , reported that after giving up his Smart Phone for 10 months, "It absolutely made me happier," and he was able to concentrate more fully.

Because of his strong ethical compass and his dedication to discovering healthier ways to interact in this digital age, former Google product philosopher Tristan Harris founded two organizations: Time Well Spent and the Center For Humane Technology. In Harris' words, with Time Well Spent, "We want technology that cares about helping us spend our time and our lives well - not seducing us into the most screen time, always-on interruptions and distractions." And in joining with Common Sense Media , the mission for  The Center For Humane Technology's is "To reverse the digital attention crisis and realign technology with humanities best interest." With both organizations, the goal is to help us all rediscover the health benefits of meaningful in-person interaction and human connection.

In Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy - And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (2017), psychologist and researcher Dr. Jean Twenge reports: "Teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy; and those who spend more time on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.  There's not a single exception: all screens are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness" (page 77-78). In outlining the results of one of many studies (page 82-83), Dr. Twenge states: "...the link between screen time and mental health issues is distressingly clear: teens who spend more than three hours a day on electronic devices are 35% more like to have at least one suicide risk factor." Although Dr. Twenge is quick to recognize the benefits of teens feeling connected to one another even when they are apart, she has also uncovered that indirect connection "...doesn't assuage their loneliness; in fact, they are lonelier than they were just five years ago. A stunning 31% more 8th and 10th graders felt lonely than in 2011, along with 22% more 12th graders. Teens are now lonelier [more isolated] than at any time since the survey began in 1991" (page 97). 

Thus, it is not surprising that in February 2018,  the American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines to screen children for depression: pediatricians are to screen all children 12 years and older for depression. In a recent article by Melanie Michael , "It turns out, teenagers are on the front lines when it comes to battling mental illness. According to experts, one in five teens is clinically depressed. In addition, two out of three teenagers with depression go undiagnosed."

On their website, Healthy Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics explains why overuse of digital media and screens may place your child or teen at risk of the following:
  • Obesity
  • Sleep problems
  • Problematic Internet use: Internet gaming disorder and increased risk for depression at both high and low ends of Internet use.
  • Negative effect on school performance
  • Risky behaviors
  • Sexting and privacy and predators
  • Cyber bullying 
The AAP outlines their recommendations for usage (from birth - teen years) and provides families with am amazing tool for creating healthy guidelines and balance in their media usage - Family Media Plan

In the past dozen years that I have been researching, writing, and speaking about cyber bullying and screen dependence, every expert agrees that although we cannot ban technology from our lives, we can learn to balance it.  However, it is not enough to reduce screen time. We must learn to replace our screen time with face-to-face interaction and activities which promote a sense of acceptance, belonging, and empathic connection. We cannot know if our children, family, loved ones, friends, or colleagues are hurting when we are so consumed with our phones that we do not "see" the other person. We must be willing to put down our phones long enough to look deeply into their eyes, converse with them, listen to them, and be available for them. Their lives may depend on it.

I leave you with a beautiful video which illustrates how individuals are starved for meaningful connection and how easy it is to rediscover it.


For parents, guardians, and for those entrusted with the care of our children, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Power Down & Parent Up: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children.



And take a listen to a powerful podcast on Insights Into Education  where we discuss screen dependence, its effects, and how to create and sustain healthy change in our digital lives - Screen Kids: An Audio Series!

We can do this.  Let's start today. 
Let's start now, rediscovering meaningful connection.







We can't change what we don't acknowledge. And we certainly can't change what we don't know.  I and others care about your children. I and others are here to help.  Parents and Teens: Are We Addicted To Our Screens?


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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An Author's Tale From Bonehead English To Audiobook Beauty!

I always liked to write. But, I never considered myself a writer. I was a musician - first a pianist and then a flutist. From fifth grade on, my flute became my companion. I worked hard in my academics, but my flute was my future. I was going to play professionally, someday.

As I entered college, I was eager to advance my musical talents and feeling quite confident about my academic abilities. However, because I had scored quite low on my SAT's, I was required to take Bonehead English. I was actually quite embarrassed by this labeling of intellectual deficiency and a little confused. After all, I had really good English grades in high school.

I struggled through the class along with other students. The professor seemed to derive pleasure out of highlighting our inadequacies and shaming us further for falling below the University of California standards. I passed the class, but learned very little, if anything. I finished the next four years of college feeling quite academically disadvantaged, especially in English. My prowess on my flute assuaged my insecurities; however, not being able to write well made other classes more challenging.

As the ironies of life unfolded, after graduating with a Bachelors in French and music, I returned to school and obtained a K-9 teaching credential. My first teaching job? A fifth/sixth grade combination class teaching English, mostly writing. Ugh!  And, because of the way sixth grade was configured, I taught English to ALL sixth graders - all 100 of them!


After teaching sixth grade English for three years, I moved to middle school. I was hired to take over a position from a teacher who had experienced a nervous breakdown. Yikes! The position - 8th grade Gifted and Talented English and History! With three double periods a day, I once again taught between 100-120 students. I taught grammar and punctuation, and I was required to teach the four domains of essays: personal narrative, persuasive, problem / solution, and expository. Over the next seven years,  I corrected thousands and thousands of papers! Over the next seven years, I taught my students how to write. During those seven years, I learned from them as well.

In my twelfth year of teaching, the laws regarding credentials changed. If I wanted to continue teaching English at the secondary level, I was required to return to a school of education and obtain a Secondary Supplementary Credential in English.  I did just that. The first class I took - Expository Writing! Ugh!!  Professor Stevens was strict and scary. The tall imposing gruff teacher informed us the first night of class, "One third of you won't be here after the first mid-term. Another third of you won't pass the class." I was shaking in my boots. But, I was determined to not only pass the class, but this was going to be my opportunity to learn how to write!

I've never worked so hard for a class in my life. Professor Stevens made us write, and rewrite, and rewrite our papers. He placed us in groups and we edited each other's papers, learning from our individual weaknesses and strengths. I came in after class for tutoring. I reworked my essays. He marked them up.  I rewrote them.  He marked them up, less. At times, I cried (at home). But, Professor Stevens wouldn't settle for anything but exceptional. And, neither would I. I kept on. I learned.  I passed the class.  I earned an A-. After taking an English Language class (grammar) from a fairly good teacher,  I signed up for Analysis of Poetry from Professor Stevens. I knew I was going to learn from him.  I will never forget him. At age 38, I finally felt I was a "writer."


A few years later, I authored my first book, The PMS Puzzle (1993, Joy Publishing). Shortly after its publication, I entered Graduate School to obtain a Masters in Psychology. Because I knew how to write and I felt confident in my writing, I not only enjoyed school, but I eagerly embraced the plethora of essays, research papers, midterms, and final exams. I graduated with High Honors.


After earning my license as a Marriage and Family Therapist and practicing for over a dozen years, I authored my second book  Breaking Through Betrayal:And Recovering The Peace Within. Based on original research, it took me over a year to write this comprehensive recovery book. I did my homework, researching publishing companies which would be a good fit  for my genre and who were accepting unsolicited submissions. After several months, Loving Healing Press, Inc. accepted my manuscript, and Breaking Through Betrayal made her debut at the end of 2009.

Over the past nine years, I have authored seven more books (all published with Loving Healing Press, Inc.). I know there are millions of writers out there who are much more gifted than I am. I don't compare myself to others. I do what I am called to do. I write because I am driven to bring healing and hope to others. At the same time, I never stop honing my skills.

My most recent book, Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness, is the most professionally challenging but personally rewarding book I've written. It took two years of research and writing to complete the first rough draft. It took another six months to get to a final draft. A printed edition and a Kindle  edition were released February 14, 2018. An Audiobook was released May 2, 2018. It has been an Amazon #1 New Release in Recovery for several weeks.

Last week, my husband and I traveled to California and then back to Arizona. Driving to and from, we listened to the Daughters Audiobook. As I soaked in every beautiful interpretation by recording artist  Kristine Bowen, I couldn't help but return to that classroom of a lifetime ago - Bonehead English - and recall my feelings of embarrassment and inferiority.

However, I didn't stay there long. Hearing my words on Audiobook, I chose instead to focus on my purposeful journey, and on each and every path that prepared me for where I am today. 

The lesson I leave with you is not to allow "set backs" to set you back. Take stock of what you are supposed to learn from it. And then, do learn from it. Not every situation will benefit you in the ways you want, but how you approach the challenge and your commitment to seeing it through will advance your repertoire of skills. Don't give up or give in. Stay the course. Remain open. And then, prepare yourself for something far greater than you ever imagined!

Oh, and by the way, where is  my musical companion - my flute?  She is close by, bearing witness to the years and years of practice required to deliver a polished performance!


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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Betrayed? Why Do I Have To Make It Right? The Betrayal Whisperer Is Here To Help!

We are discussing Betrayal. In week one, we covered Feeling Stuck From Betrayal Injury?; in week two, we dug into the meat of  betrayal discussing Why Is Betrayal Injury So Painful? ; and in week three we uncovered three important principles in our discussion of How Long Will I Hurt From Betrayal?  If you have not already done so, please read those posts and then join us here as we discuss Why Do I Have To Make It Right? The Betrayal Whisperer is here to help!


If today's topic is sounding familiar, it is because we briefly discussed it in week one -
Trap #1: Waiting for someone or something else to  make it right.

Let's review why this thinking is a trap.

This is the biggest trap that victims of betrayal fall into and it is a completely natural feeling to have. Although this is not the case for everyone, most individuals wait for the betrayer to come to his/her senses, to apologize, or to make amends or restitution. Other victims of betrayal may wait for relatives, friends, or connections of the betrayer to side with them and to convince the betrayer of his/her wrongdoing.

Freeing yourself from this trap means doing the hard work of righting yourself.
The consequences of not doing so include the following: 
  • Waiting for the betrayer puts our healing on hold. 
  • Waiting for the betrayer will not heal the hole in our heart.
  • If we do ask the betrayer for what we need or want, it often invites additional re-injury, rejection, or dismissal.
  • If we do get what we asked for from our betrayer, what work have we done or what growth and healing came from the quick fix?
  •  Lastly, if we settle for less than we deserve or need or what is healthy, what messages does that send to others about us and our worth? How do we feel about our worth?
Part of getting through and beyond betrayal injury is taking back our power to make choices; to determine our time-lines for recovering, and to make our lives the way we want them to be. Tethering ourselves to the uncertainty or the unhealthiness of others will not allow us to move forward. We must choose to right ourselves. *

One of the most beautiful discoveries from the Daughters' narratives in Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness  is that each daughter made the deliberate and intentional choice to right herself.  Each daughter did not wait for her mother to fix it, to make it better, to change, or to apologize.  Each and every daughter did the hard work of breaking through her betrayals, embracing diverse and long-term recovering programs, and each came to a place of peace and acceptance - first with herself, and then with her mother. And then, each daughter redefined herself and her life, taking back her power and determining what her relationship with her mother would be (or not be) by implementing strong healthy boundaries which would sustain her well-being.

This is important.

If the Daughters had waited for their mothers to make it better - to make it right - 
the Daughters would still be waiting. 

Read that again.


If the Daughters had waited for their mothers to make it better - to make it right -
the Daughters would still be waiting.

This is your challenge right now - righting yourself. If your mind is saying, "But he did...but she needs to....but they owe...". say it one last time and stop. It has not gotten you anywhere and it won't. It has not changed anything and it won't.*

Sadly, you won't get better.  You will stay broken. 

On the other hand, being willing to right ourselves gives us the freedom to reclaim and redirect our course in life. It gives us the opportunity to grow while doing so.

Although this concludes our series on Betrayal and Recovering, there is more help and healing available. Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within 2nd Edition is a compassionate guide and comprehensive self-help book designed for recovery from any kind of betrayal injury.

Wellness awaits us. It is ours for the choosing. Choose today. Choose now. 

*Excerpts from Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within 2nd Edition,           "Chapter 7 Recovering Part One: Right Yourself" are meant to encourage you on your recovering journey.

Regardless of the type of betrayal injury, consider picking up a copy of Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving From Brokenness To Wholeness.

Their stories of the power of choice, perseverance, and resilience
 will inspire you and empower you.  

You are not alone in your pain. 
Others know it.  Others recovered.  You can too. 

#1 New Release in Recovery on Amazon Audiobook!






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