Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wondering What Gift To Give? Put A Little Sunshine In Someone's Life!

As the holiday season is upon us, it is only natural to think about what gifts we want to give and to receive. Everywhere we look, there is a ton of stuff from which to choose. And with all the advertisements in the stores as well as on our technology, there is no escaping the message – Buy!  Buy!  Buy! It can be overwhelming and expensive. And yet, there is something we can give that is not only completely free but it will give back to us as well!

What can this gift be?

Many years ago, I taught 8th grade English and literature at a brand new middle school in Southern California. I will never forget my first year there where I met an extraordinary student named Sunshine. With her long auburn wavy locks bouncing around her shoulders, her freckled face and pearly white teeth, and always wearing very simple and clean but worn clothes, Sunshine entered our classroom every day with a positive selfless attitude.  Whether it was before school started, or during lunch, or after 6th period, Sunshine did whatever she could to make my job easier and to work with other students who were struggling.

Over the weeks and months, Sunshine excelled in her own studies and yet, she remained constant in her giving attitude and generous spirit toward others. Every day after school while she waited for her little brother at the  neighboring elementary school, Sunshine washed the student desks, cleaned the white boards, stapled and organized papers, and even graded a few for me! She tutored other students in their writing and patiently encouraged others in their reading. Not only was she giving of her time, but Sunshine always had a kind word for everyone.  I mean everyone.  She complimented other kids on their clothes or hair or test scores, she approached kids who sat alone and made friends with them, and she found something encouraging to say to anyone for any reason. On several occasions, she shared her lunch with students who were without one.  Sunshine was all that her name represented – she made all of our lives a little brighter.

As the school year was coming to a close, two of Sunshine’s friends wanted to talk with me privately. We arranged to meet on a Friday, after school.  As Vanessa and Stephanie approached my desk, I saw Vanessa had a small white envelope in her hand.

“Hi, girls. Come on in,” I said.  “And don’t worry.  Sunshine is not here. She already left to walk her little brother home. The elementary kids have early release on Fridays.”

Smiling, the girls came closer. “Mrs. Kenley, we need your help,” Stephanie said somewhat shyly.

“Of course, girls.  How so?”

Vanessa continued. “Mrs. Kenley, Sunshine does not want to go to the 8th grade promotional dance.” She hesitated for a minute.  “You know how Sunshine lives with her grandmother…ummm…both her parents are drug addicts…and uhhh…I think one of them is in jail.”

“Yes, I know,” I replied. I knew of Sunshine’s background after talking with her grandmother at Back to School Night and at parent conferences. “What does this have to do with the dance?”

Stephanie explained. “Well, her grandma does not have enough money to buy Sunshine a new dress for the dance.  Sunshine doesn't have anything to wear, and…..she won’t take our money.”

Vanessa put the neatly folded envelope on my desk. “Stephanie and I put our allowances together, but we still don’t have enough to buy a dress for her…. We were wondering…”

Tears immediately surfaced and my voice disappeared into my throat. “Girls, please, let me help.”

Vanessa smiled, “Oh, Mrs. Kenley, would you?” 

“I will put in the rest, plenty to get a dress and whatever else she needs,” I replied.

Stephanie grinned, “Sunshine is so sweet, to everyone!  She is always giving….she never complains…she is the best person I know….we just want to give something back to her…for all she does.” Stephanie took in a deep breath. “Oh….thank you….thank you….”

I composed myself and added, “Girls, this is so special.  I am very proud of you both….  And, don’t worry, I won’t say anything. I will give the money to Sunshine’s grandmother and let her decide how to handle the shopping!  Agreed?!” 

Both girls nodded enthusiastically.  And just before they left the classroom, Vanessa turned, her face gleaming with joy, “For once, it feels so good to put a little Sunshine back into her life!”

In closing, whether it is holiday season or not, let's challenge ourselves to Put A Little Sunshine In Someone’s Life!  Every day, make it a goal to give someone one of these simple but priceless gifts, or others you can think of:
  • Compliment someone face to face on anything.
  • Post, tweet, or text a positive comment to a friend or someone who may need it.
  • Offer to help with homework, with a problem, or with chores.
  • Look around.  See who is alone or unhappy. Sit by that person, start a conversation, be kind.
  • Surprise someone by doing something special just for them. Then, tell them how special they are.            
  • Share your smile. Give others a reason to smile back.
 And then, get ready! 
As you Put A Little Sunshine In Someone’s Life, feel your life get a little brighter.

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Thank you! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Domestic Violence: What's Worth Got To Do With It?

October is a busy month. Along with Breast Cancer and  Anti-Bullying Awareness , it is also a time when we turn our attention to Domestic Violence Prevention. Over the past several months, Domestic Violence has been in the spotlight as video evidence has surfaced of well-known individuals allegedly abusing their partners. Domestic Violence is a complex issue with numerous theories regarding causation as well as sound approaches that address intensive treatment for the perpetrators and recovering programs for the victims. I believe there is a missing piece - an underlying psychological component - which is not talked about.

Get ready as we answer the question - What's Worth Got To Do With It?   

Do You Feel Valuable?
As we consider the role of victims, let's take a look at two correlations between Worth and Domestic Violence.

First, many victims have a history of low self-worth.This lack of worth may come from difficult childhoods, dysfunctional relationships, or insecurities and injuries incurred from a myriad of personal, physical, and/or emotional experiences. Although many victims are aware of their feelings of worthlessness, many are not. And most victims, I believe, do not have an understanding into how their lack of worth positions them in a place of extreme vulnerability.

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending an authors' fundraising event in the Bay Area of California. As I was organizing my table, an extraordinarily striking African American author sitting next to me introduced herself. I will call her Gwen. Decorating our spaces, Gwen and I really connected. We gabbed constantly and shared our writings with one another. Looking over Gwen's book, I saw that it was filled with poems based on her experience as a victim of Domestic Violence. Before the doors opened to the public, Gwen turned to me, her face suddenly quite serious.

"Holli, may I ask you a professional question?"

"Of course, Gwen,"  I responded looking into her anxious eyes.

"Holli, even after all the work I have done on myself around the issue of Domestic Violence, and  I now have been happily remarried to a wonderful man for 12 years, sometimes I wonder how I got into a horrifically abusive first marriage." Gwen hesitated. "What do you think draws someone into an unhealthy relationship?"

Because I am deeply interested in the topics of worth and value, I asked Gwen,  "As a young woman, did you have a strong sense of worth? Did you feel valuable?"

Gwen laughed. "Oh yes! I was the youngest of nine children and I was spoiled rotten!" I smiled as she continued."Well, I was a little over-weight but I knew I was fine! I was popular in high school and had lots of friends."

I reflected back, "So you felt really good about yourself!?"

Gwen paused. Her voice softened and her eyes watered.  "Well, there was one incident." Gwen took in a deep breath. "After it happened, I never felt the same,"

Gwen went on to describe how one day after returning home from high school, she began arguing with her mom about some stupid thing. As she continued back-talking her mom really badly, her dad stepped in and told her to stop.With her rebellious attitude, Gwen kept on smart-mouthing her mom. Then suddenly, Gwen's dad reached over and slapped Gwen's face back and forth several times with his hand. Gwen left the room crying hysterically. Gwen explained to me that her dad had never laid a hand on her before and never did again. However, the incident was never discussed.

As I held Gwen's hands in mine and comforted her, Gwen regained her composure and spoke.

"Holli, up until this day, I have never thought about how that incident impacted me. When my first husband hit me, I excused it. In fact, I felt like I deserved it.... I was so vulnerable then. And, I didn't even know it."
Gwen's story is not uncommon. And when individuals enter into relationships with a weekend sense of worth, they not only are emotionally and psychologically vulnerable, but they tend to feel less empowered in their roles. And is often the case, when unhealthy boyfriends, girlfriends and/or spouses sense their partners' lack of worth, they take advantage of their vulnerabilities through abusive and controlling behaviors.  

Secondly, a low sense of worth strongly correlates with what we choose to invite into our lives.

With a lack of self-worth, it is only natural to look outside of ourselves to compensate for feelings of
Filling Our Needs
inadequacy or to fill voids. Sometimes we chose material items to boost our sense of worth: stylish clothes, nice jewelry, fancy cars, or other accessories or adornments that add to our value.Sometimes, we look to relationships to make us feel better. Having someone to love and who loves us back is extremely satisfying and full-filling. However, individuals with low worth tend to over-invest into their partners looking to fill their emotional needs. Already feeling that they do not deserve much or are not worthy of much, when abusive behaviors threaten the relationship, individuals who lack self-worth do not speak up, and they find it almost impossible to leave their primary source of worth.

Many years ago I worked with a female client who was in a highly abusive relationship. I will call her Valerie. Valerie was an attractive highly successful woman. And, she had no self -worth. Her childhood was heavily marked by abuse and trauma. Her worth was entirely tied up into her high school sweetheart, whom she married right after graduation. For ten years, he was her prince in shining armor. And then, alcoholism took over and the abuse started. Coming into see me after seven years of torment, Valerie painstakingly worked to detach her worth from her alcoholic abuser and began reinvesting into herself and into healthy areas in her life. However, even as we worked together, Valerie frequently returned to her abuser. In her rescuing of him, Valerie felt a false sense of worth resurface temporarily. It took a couple of years before Valerie was able to redefine and reclaim her true worth.

Let's take a look at the role of perpetrators in relationship to Worth and Domestic Violence.

Although there are typically many variables that contribute to perpetrators abusive behaviors, I believe that once again lack of worth is a common contributor. We talk about the cycle of violence characterized by the presence of power and control which manifest with most perpetrators. These are important. However, it is critical that we address what is going on psychologically with individuals who deliberately injure another human being to whom they have professed and promised their love. I believe that whether it is physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse, most perpetrators feel deeply inadequate and insecure in one or more areas of their lives. Because they too lack awareness or understanding into their psychological makeup and how it is impacting their behaviors, perpetrators become blame-filled, angry, controlling, and abusive - all in desperate attempts to assuage the pain of their personal deficits and past emotional damage.

During my years in practice, I vividly remember counseling a vibrant young high school student. I will call her Jasmine. She was a cheer leader, quite popular, and committed to her studies as well as her interests in theater. Jasmine came in to see me at the request of her parents who were concerned about Jasmine's boyfriend (whom I will call Ricardo). After meeting with Jasmine for several sessions, she described how Ricardo was becoming overly possessive, constantly texting and questioning her whereabouts. He became jealous over her friendships with other guys. He had started belittling and berating her, privately as well as in front of others. Ricardo became critical of her appearance, telling Jasmine what to wear and how to fix her hair. Even though Jasmine understood the unhealthiness of her relationship, she wanted to try and make it work. She asked if Ricardo could join our therapy for one to two sessions to see if it would help.With the proper consent forms in place, Ricardo agreed to attend.

The first session went quite well with Ricardo openly sharing about himself. However, it was clear that he had a difficult childhood. Ricardo also explained that school was important to him, but he found it difficult to be social and described himself as a loner. Ricardo said that the best day in his life was when he  and Jasmine met in drama class where they instantly bonded. During our second session, I carefully questioned Ricardo about his possessive and controlling behaviors with Jasmine. Reluctantly, he acknowledged many of them. As I asked him about his self -worth and value, Ricardo became uncomfortable and slightly irritated. Then, as I continued gently probing into his insecurities and feelings of worthlessness, Ricardo became extremely defensive and angry. Before the session ended, Ricardo stormed out of the room. During our remaining sessions together, Jasmine continued to work on herself, building up her own feelings of worth and empowering herself in the process. Before she ended the relationship with Ricardo, he broke it off with her.    

In closing, it is human nature to avoid pain. Through  defense mechanisms such denial, detachment, and disassociation, many individuals are able to keep their feelings of worthlessness at bay, at least for a time. Others resort to unhealthy self-soothing behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, or other addictions and/or obsessions to numb their sense of worthlessness. And still, many individuals carry their wells of worthlessness into their relationships leading to tragic consequences for both victims and perpetrators of Domestic Violence. In our treatment and recovery programs, I believe it is paramount for victims and perpetrators to peal away the layers of pain, root out their sources of worthlessness, and begin rebuilding their lives on healthy foundations. As healing unfolds and self-worth takes hold, we not only make healthier respectful choices for ourselves, but we want the same for others.

Domestic Violence : What's Worth Got To Do With It?


* Note ~  Domestic Violence does not discriminate. It crosses all socioeconomic levels and all populations regardless of  age, gender, race, religion, culture, or ethnicity. And although I have used heterosexual relational examples, the literature strongly supports that Domestic Violence is a serious issue among same sex partners. "Feelings of worthlessness" do not discriminate either.

And lastly, in sharing my insights into Worth and Domestic Violence,  I am not excusing the actions of  perpetrators or holding victims responsible for Domestic Violence. It is my deepest desire to shed a bit of light onto this dark human behavior, bringing hope and healing to all. 

For more healing strategies and restorative tools, please visit  Holli Kenley Website.
~ You are not alone  ~

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Energy Zapper #6: Information Saturation! Take The Quiz!! 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!!

We are discussing Energy Zappers! What are they? Habits or social behaviors which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately they do very little to enhance our sense of well-being! Why? Because they deplete us! Take a look at our five precious zappers - Giving Advice , Drama , and Worry , Negativity, and   Shame - Part One and Shame Part Two - before reading our final Energy Zapper #6: Information Saturation! After having two serious blogs on Shame, let's have a bit of fun with this one! Before we get started, please take this little Information Saturation Quiz! The only requirement is that you are honest! And no one else needs to see your answers!

Information Saturation

Answer yes for 'almost always' and no for 'mostly never'. If a question does not apply to you, just skip it. Okay, here we go.

1. I am on more than 5 social networking sites or accounts?                                            Yes          No

2. I post, tweet, upload, share information, etc. at least 10 times per day.                        Yes           No

3. I do not read most of the information on my connections' posts, tweets,etc.               Yes          No

4. On my home pages like Facebook, I scroll down quickly or skip many 
    of the posts.                                                                                                                    Yes          No

5.  I follow a few blogs, post, tweets, etc. faithfully, but I delete or ignore the rest.         Yes          No

6.  I will usually like a post to save time and to show I care, but I usually
     leave no comment.                                                                                                         Yes         No

7.  I have some connections, friends, or groups where I never read their stuff.                Yes         No

8. I am more interested in what I have to share and the responses to what I share
    than what others are posting.                                                                                           Yes        No

9. I find myself getting frustrated with my connections who flood my home
    pages with constant posting, tweeting, etc. of all their stuff.                                          Yes         No

10. There are times where I feel exhausted or depleted or saturated sorting
      through all the information on my social networking sites or accounts!                      Yes         No


Total up your answers!  

# of Yes _________
# of No   _________

We'll interpret the results shortly and give you a few tips for staying recharged, but for now, take a deep breath and know you are not alone in this time of Information Saturation! Why? What is happening? This is important, and I believe it is really pretty simply. Read carefully.

Our supply of information has exceeded our demand for it! 

Let me say it again.

Our supply of information has far exceeded our demand for it!

Disseminating Information!

It is so cool that we live in a time where most people who have access to technology are not only able to gather information but they can also disseminate it! In some respects, technology has erased the barrier between instructors and learners. We all have a voice! We all have something to offer! And it is just a click, tweet, post, or upload away! The problem is - if we are all so busy disseminating information, who has the time or energy to pay attention to it? Yikes!!  Not many of us!

Let's get down to business and interpret our results of the Information Saturation Quiz! Here goes!

# of Yes answers!

0 - 5:  You seem to have found a happy medium in your tech life! Your supply and demand ratio is in balance! Stay energized and keep implementing healthy tech boundaries!!

6 - 8:  Ouch!! You may be feeling slightly depleted and/or frustrated by the flow of information coming your way! Shore up your tech boundaries by checking out the tips for getting more in balance with your supply and demand ratio!  You'll feel less saturated and more invigorated!

9 - 10 : Yikes!!  Take a tech break and regroup!! Your supply of information is saturating your being! You need to pay attention to your demand (needs) and get re-energized  now!  Go directly to 3 Tips for Staying Recharged and begin implementing your tech boundaries!

3 Tips for Staying Recharged!

1. Tip One: Less is more!
Clean Out!

Take a  couple of days and clean out your sites and connections! Just like you would a cluttered closet, toss out the unused, worn out, or irrelevant items! Who cares of you follow 2000 people on Twitter if you never read their tweets? And then, readjust your settings so that the number of notifications on all your sites serve your purposes and lifestyle. You should not be spending more time deleting stuff than reading stuff! Make your connections mean something! Remember - less is more!

2. Tip Two: Quality - not quantity!  

This is a tricky one. This means you take time to evaluate what, why, and how often you are posting, tweeting, uploading, etc. your stuff. Remember, your connections are getting tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed by too much information being posted, just like you are!  And, they are ignoring it or deleting it - just like you! It really isn't about how much you post or tweet or upload - it's about how meaningful the content is. Save your energy for sharing what is really important to you - and it will be to others as well.  Quality trumps quantity!  

3.  Tip Three: Do an Ego Check!

~ Ego Check ~

Okay, I might be treading on thin ice here, but I must share Tip Three! And, as always, I include myself in this advice for staying recharged! As you get ready to post, tweet, share, upload, etc., ask yourself these two questions:

Will this benefit, inform, serve, enhance or entertain others?
Is this solely for self-promotion, self-gratification, and/or self-adulation? 

Hmmmm.... take some time and think ~

I realize for most of us the answer is likely a combination of both and there are justifiable and sound reasons for it. I realize also that there are individuals who fall to the extreme of either end of the spectrum - from only serving others to just serving self.  What I am suggesting is for you to do an honest Ego Check - and to  keep it in balance! The irony behind this tip is that as we turn our focus outward in serving ( benefiting, informing, enhancing, entertaining) others, we are instantly replenished and recharged! And the more  our focus is turned inward - the more self-serving we are - the more self-absorbed we become, still feeling depleted and seeking additional renewal and recognition. So as we are striving for that balance, let's remember that we all want to be respected, loved, and affirmed. Let's give others reason to do so.

In closing, during this time of Information Saturation, we will find ourselves staying re-energized and recharged...

 By keeping our supply of information meaningful, mindful and in moderation - 
as we balance out our demand for the same.   

~ Balance Our Supply and Demand ~

* Please note - this concludes our series on Energy Zappers! I'd love to know your thoughts or if you have any other Zappers?!  And, if you think this series will benefit others, please share.

 Until next time ~ be well.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Energy Zapper #5: Shame! 3 Healing Rays for Re-Emergence!

* Please note - this blog contains sensitive material. Suggested for mature audiences.

In our previous blog Energy Zapper #5: Shame! Taking Shame Out Of Its Shadows! ,we discussed the unique anatomy of shame and its three sources of causation – betrayal by someone, betrayal of someone, and betrayal of self. To get the most out of today’s blog, please go back and take a read. And then get ready to move on to part two: Shame! 3 Healing Rays for Re-Emergence!   

As we move out of the shadows of shame, let’s remind ourselves of what shame is through this acronym.
  • S = Self
  • H = Hatred
  • A = And
  • M = Malignant
  • E= Embarrassment
Read it again ~  Self -Hatred And Malignant Embarrassment ~

It’s a heavy emotion. It’s dark and debilitating. And, left unattended, it smothers one’s body, mind and spirit. How then, do we begin to re-emerge from shame?As we start, read and ponder this healing acronym.
  • S = Shared
  • H = Healing
  • A = And                                                                                
  • M = Mindful
  • E = Existence
Say it again, slowly ~ Shared Healing and Mindful Existence ~ 

What do I mean by shared healing? I mean that we must take shame out of its shadows and bring it out into the light. We must share our shame with trusted individuals and allow healing to fill its place. However, it does not mean that we must announce it to the world. It means that we honor and respect our voices by thoughtfully sharing our shame with those who can safely hold it and validate it. And then after releasing our self-hatred and malignant embarrassment, we move onto mindful existence. This means we begin living our lives with purpose and direction - mindful of what is healthy for us and honoring our truths in the process.  

Although the journey of re-emergence is unique to the three types of betrayal and their ensuing manifestations, I want to give you three recovering principles (rays of healing) that I believe are paramount in re-emerging from the shroud of silence, secrecy, and stigma that envelope shame.

  • Healing Ray One – Sharing  Your Truth        

Ray of Sharing
It is key to remember that shame lives in silence. It survives and thrives there. Although it is excruciatingly painful to disclose a betrayal by someone (especially if it is a very intimate and personal betrayal), or to admit to a betrayal of someone or to a betrayal of self, the first step in healing is to share your truth with a trusted individual. This may be your spouse, partner, best friend, person of faith, or mentor. Or this may need to be shared with a professional counselor or therapist. Often, it takes the tender skills of a professional to access the root of the shame, and thus, monitor the individual in the process.

As I think back to so many of my brave clients and their stories of betrayal -  an extraordinary professional adult male fired abruptly during the recession, a long time recovering  female addict falling  back into a dark period of relapse, a gentle mom of two adorable toddlers coming to terms with the childhood sexual abuse by her brother – all of them cried, their faces cringed, and their bodies crumpled up as they mouthed the words, “I feel so much shame.” And then, as their truths slowly surfaced, they shared them.

 In the safety of the setting, the suffocation ceased 
as the accompanying emotions of guilt, blame, and self-doubt were also released. 
Taking in new breaths, these clients began their process of re-emergence.  

  • Healing Ray Two – Validating Your Voice           
    Ray of Validation
Because of shame’s insidious self-deprecating nature, feelings of confusion, worthlessness and powerlessness are quick to smother out seeds of re-emergence. In order for healing to grow, it is critical that your truths be validated – by you and by trusted individuals. This can take form in many ways. Here are a few:

1. Journal your truths each day. Read over them, again and again. 
2. Write down your narratives.  And then, read over them, giving yourself time to      process and to affirm what is true for you.
3. Surround yourselves with healthy routines and environments that support and validate you and
         your truths.
      4. Turn to a trusted small circle of confidence: a friend, a support group, or place of worship. Soak in
    their words of encouragement and affirmation.
      5.Continue to work with a therapist, counselor, or other wellness individuals, practices, or programs.

Many years ago, I worked with a fragile and broken young adult female who lived under a mountain of shame for most of her life. Her alcoholic father molested her as a toddler and her babysitter did the same as she got older. As a teen, she discovered her father had a secret life with a second family as well as a criminal record. And when she came in to see me, her beloved husband has just discovered her secretive promiscuous life.  Although the work was arduous, painful, and lengthy, this young woman began to peel away the layers of shame. As she uncovered her truths and spoke them, she began to write them down. She wrote and she wrote. Pages and pages were filled with her anguish. She wept – she screamed – she grieved.

And as she read her truths over and over again – 
to herself and to me – she began to breathe.
As she validated her voice, she re-emerged from the mountain of shame...
 and started to believe in herself and her truths for the first time. 

  • Healing Ray Three -  Living Out Your Truths
Ray of Living
Once we have voiced our narratives of shame to ourselves and with selective others, and as we continue to validate our voices to ourselves and with trusted others, we must then act upon our new-found but vulnerable healing place. This is hard work and it is a continual process! However, it is what prevents shame from its resurgence! Each and every day that we live in wellness, work a program or process of recovery, live out our beliefs and stay true to our foundations, embrace the practices that sustain and support us – we live a  shame-free existence; we live a more mindful one.

Each day that we live honestly and authentically with our truths, 
we continue to re-emerge and….we smother out the smoldering ashes of shame.   

A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a phenomenal man. He was in his mid-sixties and a highly successful businessman, looking forward to retirement.  A 25 plus year recovering alcoholic and addict, he was worried about relapsing. During his intake, I discovered a multitude of betrayals in his life – from others, of others, and of himself. In fact, his story could have been something from an episode of The Sopranos! However, what he had accomplished and how he had lived his life during his years of recovering was extraordinary – helping others, giving back, funding programs, making restitution for his wrongs, and building a strong family unit. As the weeks went by and we continued to work together, I sensed a fissure in his soul. It was a buried beneath layers of silence and secrecy. Tenderly and slowly, he began to dig deep and uncover a shame from long ago – years of childhood molestation by an older female.  It was a wound never before cauterized, cleaned, and cared for. 

During our time together, as he shared his suffering and validated his voice,
 a vibrant man re-emerged – working his program of recovering, 
staving off relapse, and living out his truths.

As we close, I am well aware that there is much more to say about shame. Because we have just scratched the surface, I have provided you with some recovering references below ~

However, I leave you with the knowledge and the hope that although shame does not discriminate, 
neither does re-emergence from it.

Start today. Start now.
Step out of the shadows of shame. Feel the rays of sun shine on you. 
Get ready to re-emerge through ~

Shared Healing And Mindful Existence

* For more information and recovery tools on healing from all kinds of betrayal, I invite you to read
Breaking Through Betrayal 2nd Edition: And Recovering The Peace Within

* And, for more information and recovery tools on healing from shame, I invite you to read 
Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding The Way Back...One Breath at a Time


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Energy Zapper #5: Shame! Taking Shame Out Of Its Shadows!

We have been discussing Energy Zappers! What are they? For the most part, they are habits or social behaviors which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately do very little to enhance our sense of well-being. Why? Because they deplete us!  If you haven’t had a chance to read them, go back and review  #1 - Giving Advice#2 - Drama ,#3- Worry #4 -Negativity.You might find them helpful in keeping yourself energized! Today, we are going to take a bit of a departure and talk about a zapper that really isn’t a habit or social behavior – it is an emotion. However, because of the silence, secrecy, and stigma around this emotion – it often goes unattended and unaddressed – eroding the core of our beings. What is Energy Zapper #5?  It is... Shame. And because of the complexity of shame –its anatomy, its sources of causation, and its unique healing considerations – we will spend two blogs on this zapper!

Self- Hatred

Over the past couple of years, it seems as though there has been more of an interest in shame. It has made its way into our academic conversations and there is more of an acceptance of it as a legitimate source of self-harm. At the same time, it is a deeply personal emotion that is difficult to own and to discuss. What is it about shame that silences our voices and suffocates our spirits?
As we gain a better understanding of it, let’s take a look at the anatomy of shame though this acronym:

  • S = Self
  • H = Hatred
  • A = And                                                                        
    Malignant Embarrassment
  • M = Malignant
  • E = Embarrassment  

Let’s say that to ourselves again ~ Self-Hatred And Malignant Embarrassment ~

No wonder it is so hard to hold this emotion - let alone speak of it. At a closer examination of the word self-hatred, it implies much more than a dislike or dissatisfaction with oneself. This is a degree of self-loathing and self-contempt that is intolerable and frequently leads one to medicate with unhealthy self-soothing measures.This intensity of self-hatred is entwined with other toxic emotions such as guilt, self-blame, and debilitating disgust. Unless addressed, these self-deprecating emotions are further exacerbated by malignant embarrassment  - a terminal humiliation that envelopes us in its secrecy and stigma. 

What a heaviness to carry... 
What a blanket of burden weighing down one's body, mind and spirit. 

What is the source of shame?What are its powerful causes that deplete us and erode our sense of well-being? I believe that shame is rooted in one of three kinds of betrayal.
  • Betrayal by someone
  • Betrayal of someone
  • Betrayal of self

Let's begin with examples of betrayal by someone. Although it doesn’t seem right or even sensible that someone who is betrayed by someone should feel any shame, it happens to most victims. Do you know someone who….
  • Was let go or fired from a job unjustifiably?                        
    Betrayal by Someone
  • Was left by his/her partner or spouse unexpectedly?
  • Was scammed by a person or company?
  • Was abandoned, abused, neglected or rejected by a loved one, family member, or friend?
  • Was lied to by a trusted individual?

When an individual is betrayed by someone else, the victim’s truths are no longer so.

He has been robbed from what he had, redefined from who he was, 
and often relinquished to a lesser place/status than he knew before. 

These losses are compounded with thoughts of  “If only I would have…”, or “I should have…” which in turn fuel and feed the descent into shame. It is a dark and difficult place to be - feeling wronged and taking on responsibility for it.

Betrayal of Someone

As we move on to betrayal of someone, it might seem ironic that the deliberate or planned violation of trust against someone would incite feelings of shame. And of course, there are individuals who for various reasons feel no sense of remorse or guilt for their actions. However, I believe that most healthy individuals involved in the betrayal of another person – either intentional or unintentional – experience tremendous shame.  It may not show itself in obvious ways; it may lay dormant for an extended period of time; and it may never be outwardly revealed.  But eventually, the shame festers and the secrecy of it begins to manifest in a variety of unhealthy reactive and/or repressive behaviors. Have you experienced or know of someone who has exhibited any of the following attitudes, emotions, or behaviors after betraying another individual?

  •          Bitterness
  •          Anger
  •          Resentment
  •          Blame
  •          Narcissism or other self-inflating characteristics
  •          Addictions or other unhealthy self-soothing behaviors
  •          Depression
  •          Anxiety

Attempts at masking the self-hatred and malignant embarrassment are usually futile.  Over time and without acknowledgement of wrongdoing accompanied with appropriate restitution or resolution, shame takes on a persona of its own. And, it smothers the true self.

Lastly, let’s take a look at betrayal of self.  What do I mean by betrayal of self? This is important.

  Whenever we relapse or regress into any unhealthy pattern of thinking, behaving, or feeling –
 we betray ourselves and we experience tremendous shame. 

For example, have you or someone you know… 
  • Regressed into a former pattern of unhealthy behavior such as anger, rage, or control?
  • Returned to toxic relationships or abusive friendships?
  • Relapsed into drugs, alcohol, or other addictions? 
  • Abandoned or turned away from a program of recovery or a process of healthy living?
  • Left an environment that is healthy and healing – a place of work or living, support systems or friendships?
  • Let go of spiritual practices that tether individuals to their worth or purpose?
  • Rejected cultural or ethnic norms, traditions, or customs and forfeited the foundations of your heritage?
  • Denied your true selves – who you are, your roles, and your identities?
  • Let go of your truths - held onto past mistakes, secrets, injuries or injustices; lied to yourself and to others about them? 
Most of us have experienced one or more of these! And, let's be honest - who wants to admit it or talk about it? Why? Because the most painful and shameful part of betrayal of self is that we chose it. No one forced us or coerced us into the betrayal. We made the decision! We own it! And thus, the self-hatred and malignant embarrassment seep into our inner core and begin to strangle our spirit. As we go about our days, shame surfaces here and there as triggers remind us of our self -betrayal. And, it takes tremendous energy to push it down - to keep it away. And then, left unattended - shame will linger and leave us increasingly depleted.
Betrayal of Self

In closing for today, I know that this blog has not been energizing! However, I do hope it has been enlightening! By taking shame out of its shadows – understanding its anatomy and its sources of causation - it ceases to survive in secrecy! And that is where we must start! 

Next time as we look at 3 unique healing considerations, we will move from...

Self-Hatred And Malignant Embarrassment 
              to a recharging acronym...         

                            ~  Shared Healing And Mindful Existence  ~                                  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Energy Zapper #4: Negativity!! 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!!

We are discussing Energy Zappers! What are they? Habits or social behaviors which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately they do very little to enhance our sense of well-being! Why? Because they deplete us! Take a look at our three precious zappers - Giving Advice , Drama , and Worry - before reading Energy Zapper #4: Negativity! Whether you tend to see the glass half full or whether you want to limit your exposure to individuals who drain your glass, read on!
Seeing the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?
First of all, let’s make it clear what we are talking about when we tackle negativity. Most of us must admit that we experience a bad day every now and then! Or, perhaps we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed! So, let’s give ourselves permission to have those whiny days! And, let’s also clarify that we are not talking about expressing our opinions or participating in passionate discussions in a civil and respectful manner. And lastly, we need to acknowledge that many individuals suffer from physical, psychological, and emotional disorders or are navigating through situational stressors/crises which not only affects their outlook on life but also make them susceptible for a myriad of mood disorders, especially depression.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a working definition of Energy Zapper #4: Negativity!

A pervasive pattern of pessimistic thinking characterized by conversation 
which is critical, corrective, or complaining in nature.
 The pessimism is typically rooted in a restrictive mindset of
 “My way is the right way” or “That’s not the way I think it should be”.

Yikes!  Not an attractive aura to possess or to be around! And perhaps more importantly, not a healthy one! Why is that?  Contrary to what many of us believe to be true, how we feel does not determine how we think! This is important.

How we think determines how we feel. 
 Let me say it again.
 How we think determines how we feel.

Thus, when we dwell on the negative aspects of our life or when we continually embrace our surroundings with an attitude of pessimism, we not only zap our positive energy and well-being, but we also set ourselves up to feel a spectrum of toxic emotions. These emotions can range from mild disappointment, anger, resentment to major depression, rage, and extreme bitterness. As these negative emotions take over our being, we then begin to react and to respond to our environment in unhealthy ways.

Our negativity is most reflective of us through our attitudes and most obvious to others in our conversations. In our pessimistic persona, we respond to people and things with criticism and judgment. We find fault in how others are being or in what they are doing, and we tend to want to correct them or show them the right way. And perhaps, one of the most depleting characteristics – for both the negative person and for the listener - is the incessant complaining of how things should be.  

Although negativity certainly doesn’t discriminate from gender or age group, I notice that as I get older there is a tendency for seniors to adopt this zapper!  Because of a stream of health issues and of a continuum of losses in their lives, elders often have a hard time focusing on more positive aspects of their lives. However, it  is possible!

~ A Good Life ~

Just a few nights ago, my husband invited a lovely 83 year old man -Giovanni - whom he had met in a tea shop to have dinner with us.  Although Giovanni has many senior friends, his close family lives very far away and he does get lonely. Overall his health is quite good except for an increasingly serious decline in his memory. After my husband picked him up, Giovanni entered the house gifting us with a bottle of wine and a small package of macaroons. And, he brought over his favorite CD of Michael Bolton. As we ate our way through the appetizers, dinner, and desert of vanilla ice-cream and macaroons while Michael Bolton serenaded us in the background, Giovanni told us stories of his life, his work, and his family. He asked us questions too, sometimes more than once. And as he apologetically acknowledged his cognitive decline, he never once complained. In fact he said, “I’ve done well. I’ve had a good life. I have no regrets.” While my husband helped our gentle guest downstairs to take him home, Giovanni's words stayed with me - "I've done well ...I've had a good life... I have no regrets." 

Building on Giovanni’s positive outlook, let’s take a look at 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!

Tip One:  An attitude of gratitude!
Remember what we learned - how we think determines how we feel!  So, whenever you start to
Resentful or Grateful?!
dwell on the negative, stop that thinking and focus on something – anything – that you are grateful for! Say it over and over in your mind, meditate on it, journal about it - be thankful! Every time you return to your pessimism, replace it with gratitude! We cannot be resentful and grateful at the same time. Right now, choose how you want to think, feel and be!

Tip Two: It’s all relative!
It’s so easy to complain about minutia. We all do it – or at least most of do! We want things this way or that way, and we want it now! All we have to do is turn on our TV’s, computers, or radios and…what a reality check!! Most of us are so fortunate – we have nothing to whine about!!  And yes, there are horrible injustices all around us, but let’s do something positive and proactive about them. Let’s be part of the solution – not add to the problem with our negativity, depleting ourselves and draining others in the process! 

Readjust and Release!
Tip Three: Readjust our restrictive mindset! Release the regret! 
We started out by explaining in our definition that negativity is rooted in a restrictive mindset  such as “My way is the right way” or “That’s not the way I think it should be”. First, readjust your restrictive mindset. Replace your thinking with phrases such as "Although it's not the way I would want it to be, this works for someone else" or "Although I don't agree, he/she has a right to his/her opinion". Secondly, it is my experience that individuals who have navigated from a negative position have alienated or at the very least created a distance between themselves and their friends, loved ones, etc.  It’s never too late to take care of businessidentify and own any hurt you may have caused; acknowledge your regret and release it.  Let it go! Apologize to those who need it and deserve it.  Most importantly, re-energize your being by implementing an attitude of gratitude and keeping things relative! Remember who and what is important! Let the rest be.

And, just a quick note for individuals working to stay energized in an environment of negativity! Revisit  Energy Zapper #3: Drama .The 3 Tips for Staying Recharged will work for Energy Zapper #4: Negativity!

In closing, I so look forward to having Giovanni over for dinner again soon. I know it will be a pleasurable evening filled with wise words and worthy subjects... and Bolton songs!  This young 83’s presence not only completes our dinner table, but his aura complements our souls.


Next time, Energy Zapper #5: Shame!


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