Saturday, November 21, 2015

100,000 Views! Self-Worth vs Cyber-Worth!

Being an author in today's times, it is mandatory to embrace as many of the social networking platforms as I possibly have time for. As much as I resisted this practice in the earlier years of my writing career - blogging, posting, tweeting, texting, pinning, face-booking, sharing, uploading, liking, linking, and so on - have all become part of my daily routine! Along with the accumulation of multiple sources of networking, it is just as important - or even more important - to rack up as many followers, views, circles, friends, visits, boards, likes, posts, subscribers, groups, and so forth - in order to get in the game and stay in the game. And so for the past few months, I have been paying close attention to my Google + page, watching the number of views climb....and climb. Over the past few weeks, my cyber-worth has continued to soar. I've felt a bit of an adrenaline rush as I see it nearing a number I did not think possible for me - 100,000 views! I have to admit, the past few days I've been checking every morning excited to see where the number is! As soon as I do, I pause and allow myself time to enjoy this momentary and mostly artificial form of self-adulation, and then I take a deep breath, inhaling my truth -

 Numbers may determine my cyber-worth, but they will never define my self-worth.

I spend time in reflection of this truth, reminding myself of why I do what I do - to empower individuals through my written or spoken words to embrace healthier ways of being and of living. I intentionally recall the emails, letters, notes, face to face conversations, or others forms of expression where hurting individuals shared their respective journeys of release, relief, and renewal. I revisit the messages I've received of how a comforting passage, a simple exercise, an example of shared suffering, or a call for compassionate accountability moved someone from a place of pain to a position of self-awareness and a posture of recovering. I remind myself of the workshops I've given, listening to participants as they disclosed their  injuries and injustices and how their healing first took hold in feeling heard, connected, and understood. And I remember how I've wept after reading their evaluations, knowing a recovering strategy or insight touched their core and altered their course.

As I honor these deeply personal testimonies, I take time to absorb their accompanying significance. Most often, because of the work I do in the areas of recovering, I am unaware of the degree to which my words or my works make a difference in the lives of others. I cannot and do not rely on the daily dosages of "likes" or "views" or "shares" to signify my work is making an impact. Rereading the vulnerable messages or recalling the trans-formative moments from hurting to healing reminds me of what is real and what fills me with value. Continuing to reflect upon their extraordinary meaning in my life, I contrast their impact on my worth to the randomness of "hits" or "clicks", and I embrace a powerful truth -

My self-worth is authentic and lasting... and it is defined by me.
My cyber-worth is artificial and fleeting... and it is determined by others.

As I start to recenter myself and get ready for my day, I can't help but think about the importance of numbers with our social networking in relationship to our worth and how it may be impacting or affecting others.  I wonder how many individuals are experiencing any of the following: 
  • Feeling slightly bummed if their Facebook post or new profile photo isn't liked, shared, or has received no comments? Or, feeling a little less confident or unimportant if it didn't receive as many as wanted?
  • Feeling angry because someone's meaningless post or tweet or video received enormous attention with tons of views, likes, shares, etc. when your thoughtful or life-altering post was overlooked or barely recognized.
  • Feeling "less than" when you've accomplished something great or met a remarkable goal, and yet your number of friends, followers, or groups is nothing compared to individuals whose behaviors are meaningless and pointless. 
  • Feeling like you don't matter when you check your technology and social sites, and there is no activity which relates to you.  
  • Feeling your worth go up - even  momentarily -  when you do receive messages, likes, comments, etc. And then, wanting more...needing more. 
  • Feeling anxious or worried if you can't check or aren't able to check your technology - to see if anyone has called, texted, tweeted, or posted something to you or at least "tagged" you for something...somewhere.  Wondering who is thinking of you... or when and if someone will.

I know that if I have felt any of these, even if it has been slightly or for a moment, I believe that others must have experienced it too.  We are humans, easily conditioned by the behaviors of social networking and their respective tools of  reinforcement. With technology and the amount of time we are spending in relationship with it, we are especially vulnerable to defining ourselves by the properties which dictate features of worth or value or lack of.

Most likely, in a day or two, or perhaps three, I will reach 100,000 views on Google +.  The day will come and it will go. The numbers may keep climbing, reaching 200,000...500,000.... or 1,000,000? And then what? As I do every morning, I will remind myself of what I do and why I do it. One truth remains constant -

My core of worth is defined by me and  by what fuels and feeds it -
my purpose and passion for helping others.  

For more empowering tools, visit...

Holli Kenley

Reclaim your voice, reinstate your self-respect, 
and make healing choices based on renewed strength and spirit. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Get Ready To Get Empowered! Part II - Podcast Series


~ Another Way Wednesday ParentCast ~

An entertaining and informative series about the characters, the story-line,
and the lessons in "Another Way"!

Parents, Youth, and Youth Leaders!
Get a copy of "Another Way" and follow along!
Or, take a listen and learn! Either way...

Get Ready to Get Empowered!

Another Way Wednesday Series!
Part II

Parents and Guardians, because we respect you...please note this series is for you and your children - ages 11 and over.We recommend you listen first, and then listen with them! If you missed Part I, take a listen.

Lessons Six - Nine!

When our children stumble and fall, what are they feeling and how can they begin again? How does forgiveness relate to their worth and making healthy decision?

Another Way introduces a healthy and hope-filled application of forgiveness -"for-giving" ourselves times to heal and make healthy decisions.

Another Way empowers young people as they discover the relationship between self-forgiveness, self-worth, and decision- making.

"By harming others, we harm ourselves" - What does this mean? Why is it important?

Another Way introduces a powerful concept - when we harm another person, we also harm ourselves and we diminish our worth.

Another Way engages young people in a process of taking ownership of their actions, behaviors, and attitudes towards others.

What do Chloe's Circles of Worth represent and how do they work?

What does Tyrell's Code of Conduct stand for and how does he apply it?

How do these tools empower Chloe and Tyrell to live their lives "Another Way"?

How can they empower young people?

Another Way guides young people through the principles in "Another Way" utilizing concrete tools and strategies, making the concepts "their own" and applying them to their lives.

Another Way provides a dynamic three-part process for young people to discover, define, and determine their worth and make decisions based on their worth and unique levels of readiness.

Once young people decide to live "Another Way", how can they stay strong against bullying, teasing, and being excluded for  not doing what everyone else is doing?  How can parents support them?                                    

Another Way provides a process for continual implementation and integration of the lessons in "Another Way", supporting young people as they live out what is important to them and standing strong against outside influences or pressures.

Another Way is an ongoing source for parents and guardians, providing communication tools, support activities, and parenting guidelines.

"Like" Us on Facebook !

Friday, October 30, 2015

Get Ready to Get Empowered! Part I - Podcast Series


~ Another Way Wednesday ParentCast ~

An entertaining and informative series about the characters, the story-line,
and the lessons in "Another Way"!

Parents, Youth, and Youth Leaders!
Get a copy of "Another Way" and follow along!
Or, take a listen and learn! Either way...

Get Ready to Get Empowered!

Another Way Wednesday Series!

Parents and Guardians, because we respect you...please note this series is for you and your children - ages 11 and over.We recommend you listen first, and then listen with them! 

 Introduction - Meet The Characters & Discover What "Another Way" Can Do For You!

                        Who is it for and why is it important?

Another Way  is for YOU: parents/guardians, youth and youth leaders, mentors, or counselors.

Another Way is a compass - a road-map - a tool - to guide our young people in making healthy decisions!  




What are our kids thinking today about social behaviors? Who or what influences their thinking?

 Another Way introduces the differences between the concepts of "feeling ready" and "feeling it is right".
Another Way introduces the importance of "feeling like you matter".

Lesson Two - Am I Ready?

 What other messages does our culture send to our children about social behaviors? Who or what influences their thinking?



Another Way provides kids with a process for discovering who they are, what hey want, and how to make decisions  based on their their individual levels of "readiness".

 Another Way promotes the importance and power of personal worth and of "each one of us matters".

Lesson Three - He Really Loves Me

What do readiness and worth have to do with making healthy decisions? Why is it important for our children to feel like they matter?

Another Way provides tools for each person to discover what is means to be "ready".

Another Way engages young people in a process of self-evaluation, finding our why it is important to value themselves and how a strong sense of self-worth empowers healthy decision-making.

Lesson Four - I Don't Belong Here 

What happens when our children's choices don't support their worth? How can we empower our children to make decisions which support what is important to them?



 Another Way empowers young  people as  they discover how their choices impact their worth and how their worth impacts their choices.

Another Way offers parents and their children tools for making healthy changes.
Another Way connects parents with their children as parents learn effective tools for communicating about individual worth and value.

How can we teach our children to be honest with themselves about their choices?  How can we help our children create ownership for their choices and cultivate their self-worth?   

Another Way introduces the concept of the power of self-respect.

Another Way empowers our children with healthy strategies as they discover how to be honest with themselves, their choices, and with the outcomes of their decisions.

 "Like" Us!!

          Another Way 4 You!!

Next blog - Get Ready to Get Empowered!  Part II - Podcast Series

Lessons Six - Nine 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Pt. Two - And Then We Were Three: Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

Note ~ There are ten personality disorders listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. Their etiology is extremely complex as is management of them. The purpose of today's blog is to shed some light on Borderline Personality Disorder. Names have been changed for confidentiality.    First, I invite you to read -
Pt. One - And Then We Were Three: A Troubled Relationship with a Borderline Sister

Part Two - And Then We Were Three:
Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

It was towards the later part of the lengthy eighteen year span of upheaval when I entered graduate school to pursue a career as a Marriage and Family Therapist. In one of my first psychology classes, we began studying the Axis II Disorders (often referred to as personality disorders) cataloged in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 1V).  One evening in class as the professor moved through the ‘Personality Disorders’, my attention was immediately drawn to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). As I scanned the diagnostic criteria, my mind grabbed hold of key words or phrases such as frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment…a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships… identity disturbance…and chronic feelings of emptiness.  I couldn’t believe what I was reading!  Of the nine criteria listed that described the manifestations of Borderline Personality Disorder, I could see my sister Kelly clearly in at least seven of them.  Here it was – the explanation as to what was wrong with Kelly!  Finally, the puzzle made sense!!  Perhaps there was hope for her! She could get help; she could get better!  Things could change.  We could be sisters.
As my weeks of study continued and as the professor knowledgeably guided us through the challenges of all the Personality Disorders, a sobering and sad realization set in.  Paraphrasing our diagnostic manual, the professor acknowledged that with ‘personality disorders’, there is a pervasive pattern of some measure of unhealthy behavior, affect, etc., beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.  In simpler terms, these personality characteristics are not an explanation of stages the individual is going through – these traits describe who the person is. This is the individual’s personality. This is their state of being. In my naivete as well as with my deep desire to know more, one night in class I raised my hand and asked the dreaded question, “With Borderline Personality Disorder, can an individual who seeks out professional counseling or therapy heal from the issues of abandonment or intense rejection and lead a more healthy stable life?”  For the next hour, the professor led us in an intense discussion on this topic.  There were no concrete answers. I was reminded that the practice of psychology is a study of human behavior and when working with injured individuals, there are always many variables to consider.

Although there were no absolutes, the professor lifted my hopes a bit with a few concluding words. “Personality disorders are very hard to treat. Borderlines are especially challenging because they often do not stay in therapy long enough to create any kind of healthy change.  But, there is always hope. This is why we, you and I, have chosen this field – to bring healing to others and to give them hope for a healthier way of being.” With his encouraging words, I was determined to gain a deeper understanding of the disorder.  After class that evening, I asked the professor for any additional readings that he could recommend on BPD.  Without hesitation, he replied, “Get a copy of ‘I Hate You- Don’t Leave Me’.  It’s really the best little book on Borderline Personality Disorder I’ve ever read!”

As soon as I purchased the book, I devoured it. I read it again and again.  I shared my new insights and understanding with my two other sisters and encouraged them to read it as well. Although about half of the book describes in detail what life is like for the Borderline and how the individual came to that place of being, the remainder of the book gives specific strategies for those in relationship with the Borderline.  Several of the most important tools I learned were how to communicate with the Borderline, how to set realistic expectations for the relationship, and how to honor my own place of being in the process.  However, the most unsettling truth that I confronted and came to terms with was  no matter what I did or didn’t do in my desire to achieve a healthier relationship with my sister, it would not change her.
About twenty years have passed since I first read "I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me”.   Although there has been more of stability in Kelly’s life during these years, the relationship between Kelly and me as well as my two other sisters has not changed.  There have been periods where the four of us came together in celebration of a family event and we were able to sustain a calm reunion for a while.  And then, the peace was once again shattered by an insensitive comment or an indication of exclusion on some unfounded basis.  In 2006, our mother became quite ill.  While we all rallied around our mom to give support and help, there was a glimmer of hope that it might draw the four of us a bit closer given there was a deep shared concern.  But even amidst the recovering  process, words of care about our mother were mis-perceived and again, phone  conversations ended abruptly and the familiar slam of the receiver pierced our ear drums.  

For almost two years, I once again was one of three sisters.  Then, my daughter’s wedding in 2008 opened a window for the possibility of being one of four, at least for a short period of time.  To my surprise, Kelly and her husband did attend the wedding, and it actually was the beginning of a healthier time for all of us.  For me, much of what I had learned in my readings and studies of BPD helped me immensely. In addition, I had worked with several clients who were Borderlines, and those experiences taught me how to navigate through the challenges of the personality. Maintaining strong boundaries, shoring up realistic expectations, and keeping communications around safe territory were paramount to sustaining any kind of relationship.  Also, shortening periods of contact aided in the stability of the time spent together.

In the summer of 2008, my husband and I moved closer to family.  My sister Kelly and I spent more time together than we had in over thirty years.  We went to a few movies together, had dinner as couples with our husbands, and joined together as one large family for special celebrations.  For the first time in my life, I felt I was indeed one of four sisters. As strange as it was, it felt good. And then, in the Fall of 2009, the inevitable happened.  A comment shared by one of my sisters to Kelly was perceived as a deliberate attack on her family. Kelly exclaimed her feelings of unforgivable hurt and ultimate rejection.  There was no rational reason for Kelly’s response or discussion of it. In a moment, the relationship with Kelly was over.  My sisters and I were disowned.   I was, once again, one of three.

It has been almost exactly six years since the last exile from sisterhood.  During my own personal journey through this experience with Kelly as well as coming to terms with my own healing truths, I have come to understand two important tenets which have freed me from the troubled relationship with Kelly.  First of all, all relationships take work, even healthy ones.  But, when any relationship consistently injures, harms, or erodes the integrity of my being, it is my responsibility to take care of myself and step away from it.  Because this unhealthy dynamic involved a family member, I had let it go on far too long, and I had disrespected my well-being in the process.  It was time to release it and free myself from it. Secondly, the more I learned about BPD, the more I came to grasp fully how Kelly’s issues of chronic abandonment and rejection stemmed from other sources and other deeply embedded traumas in her life. It was never about what my sisters and I did or didn’t do or what we said or didn’t’ say. With one simple yet profound insight, I  realized my sisters and I were the triggers or the reminders of such injustices, and thus, we became the recipients of the brokenness which flowed from her fractured self.  We were never to blame for Kelly’s pain; it was merely projected onto us. 
It is freeing to acknowledge that Kelly, to some degree, feels less threatened without my two sisters and me in her life. Distanced from us, Kelly can be an only child who can create her own sense of safety. Perhaps, she too, in her solitary world, is more free.   

Recommended Readings:
I Hate You, Don't Leave Me by Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D., and Hal Strauss

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

And Then We Were Three: A Troubled Relationship with a Borderline Sister

Note ~ There are ten personality disorders listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. Their etiology is extremely complex as is management of them. The purpose of today's blog is to shed some light on Borderline Personality Disorder. Names have been changed for confidentiality.    
Part One - And Then We Were Three:
A Troubled Relationship with a Borderline Sister

  I was overly excited as I slid out of the driver’s seat and walked briskly to the entrance of “Carats” – a specialty boutique filled will all sorts of bling.  Although there were shelves lined with shiny sliver -stoned purses and glass cases protecting rows of sparkling chains and bobbles, I had my eye out for a delicate but extraordinarily elaborate picture frame.  I had been into the shimmering little shop a few weeks previously; it was then I spotted the perfect 60th birthday gift for my older sister.
     As I approached the nearly six-foot tall glass enclosed locked case, I breathed a sigh of relief.  The smooth forest green unique circular frame dotted with multi-colored tiny jewels and gems awaited my purchase.  A striking petite woman with a thick silky grey page-boy style hair poised herself next to the display case and asked if she could help me.  Within just a couple of minutes, I was at the counter paying for the special gift and we began to talk.  

     “Is this a gift and would you like me to wrap it for you?” the soft-spoken woman asked.
     “Yes, it is,” I smiled.  “It is for my sister’s 60th birthday. And I would like it gift-wrapped.  Thank you.”
     “How lovely,” she responded.  “She must be very special to you.”
     “Oh yes,” I confirmed.  “She gave me a surprise 40th birthday celebration many years ago, and I have always wanted to give one for her.  My younger sister and I have spent weeks planning a surprise luncheon at one of her favorite places with a group of her very close friends.  We are so excited!  It’s hard to put one over on my older sister, but we think she will be completely shocked!”
     As the sweet woman carefully wrapped several pieces of tissue paper around the frame before placing it into a frosty pink and black bag, she quietly asked, “So, you have two sisters – one older and one younger?”
     Immediately, a lump lodged its way into my throat and I found it hard to swallow. Although seconds seemed like minutes, and I had been in this same conversation many times before, I always found myself caught off guard. While I searched for the right words, a stream of responses replayed themselves through my mind:
No, I have a third sister.   But she has disowned us.   No…that is not a good answer. 
Well, I have a third sister but she doesn’t talk to my other sisters and me – at least not right now.
Or, should I just lie?  Yes, I have just two other sisters.  No, that doesn’t feel right either.
      I took in a deep breath, sighed, and responded to her question.  
     “I do have three sisters – another one who is younger – the youngest of the four of us.  Unfortunately, she is angry with the three of us right now and is not speaking to us.  This happens a lot.  It’s just the way it is.” 
     I was waiting for an uncomfortable look or perhaps an “I am sorry” response from the gentle lady.  I paused not knowing if I had said too much.  She looked up at me with sorrow in her eyes. She placed her hand on mine as it rested on top of the cold glass.
     “I know what you mean.   I have ten brothers and sisters.  Of the seven of us that are still living, two of them still do not talk to the rest of us.  I let go it a long time ago.  Nothing I can do about it.“ A soft smile crossed her face.  “Life is just too short and too hard.  It is easier this way.”
     “I know,” I said, “I agree.”  I picked up my pretty gift-wrapped bag and started to leave.  “Thank you so much.  It looks lovely!”
     “Have a wonderful time at the surprise party for your sister,” she added. 
     “We will,” I responded as I made my way to the door.  Turning one last time before I exited the shop, I smiled and said, “It will be a beautiful and memorable day!”
     Walking to my car, I couldn’t help but think of my youngest sister – Kelly.  She would not be a part of an incredible joy-filled day.  Once again, she would be missing at an important family event – a sister’s birthday.  Once again, I felt sad.  And then, I recalled the little lady’s words, “It is easier this way.”
    I had known that for a long time.

     As far back as I can remember, life was a struggle for Kelly.  I was six and entering first grade when she was born.  I remember a fussy baby, lots of crying, and no one really being able to comfort her.  Throughout my elementary and junior high years, I remember Kelly’s presence and yet, I cannot recall vivid memories of her.  I was a senior in high school when she was just twelve.  That was when she first started getting sick a lot –even hospitalized.  Her allergies to medications intensified her illnesses.  While away at college, I really did not know her well.  Coming home for mandatory school breaks, I remember how Kelly argued with my other sisters and with me. I can still hear the yelling, the screaming, and bedroom doors slamming with never any hope of resolution or apology.  She was difficult.  I don’t remember her being happy or settled. 
     One of the few times I felt I got a glimpse into Kelly’s being more closely was when I was in my late twenties.  Three days prior to the school year starting, I had unexpectedly and thankfully been offered a teaching job in my home town. I moved in with my parents and would stay with them until I could get my feet on the ground and secure my own apartment.  My youngest sister, in her early twenties was still living at home.  Although I would certainly not consider myself a tower of stability at the time, I did have a good job and was determined to get my life on track.  During the ensuing year, my sister and I enjoyed one another’s company.  I remember that we even double-dated a couple of times, and we shared our newly-found true romances with one another.   I recall Kelly laughing, and at times, I thought she bottled up a free spirit within her that was bursting to get out!  And then there were so many other occasions when her fragility and sensitivity to the outside world seemed to come crashing down on her.  Her trust in others was paper thin, and the slightest inference of rejection tore at her being and she recoiled instantly. 
     By the end of the school year, I had saved enough money to get my own apartment and to start living independently again.  Although I remember that Kelly was sad to see me move out, I was ready to go. However, I remember how much I worried about her. Kelly’s life was like riding a rough roller-coaster of sorts with lots of bumpy ups and downs and sharp twists and turns.  I knew I needed to distance myself from the drama that surrounded her, some self-inflicted, and some that appeared to always find her.
     Over the next eighteen years, my other two sisters and I remained close.  Although we all married, had children, and lived quite a distance from one another, we still managed to see each other especially on holidays and for family events.  Although each of us certainly faced our own challenges, for the most part the three of us grew from those experiences and we turned to one another often for comfort, compassion, and companionship.  It was during the same eighteen year period that Kelly’s life was filled with turmoil and tragedy.  There were numerous failed relationships.  She endured a violent marriage for many years and struggled to raise children in a myriad of environments that often proved ill-suited for her and for them.  To add to the instability, Kelly’s health was also fragile.  With life-threatening diseases that always had a diagnosis but rarely had effective treatments, Kelly managed to cope with life, but not much more.
     During this tumultuous period of time, my other two sisters and I would help her in ways that we could given the demands on our own lives and the lack of proximity from her.  Whether it was phone calls with offers for assistance, or keeping her children for a period of time, or listening to and encouraging her during a time of challenge, or just being available to help with some aspect of her life, the three of us gave to our youngest sister because we loved her. However, a pattern of behavior started to develop that soon began to erode at the relationship between Kelly and each of us.
     Regardless of what the situation was in Kelly’s life and in spite of what one of my other two sisters or I did in response to it or did not do, there was always a price to pay.  A phone call to Kelly would turn into an argument over what one of us did or said.  A monologue of self-pity would often turn into blame-filled accusations and then full-on rage.  Screams of how the three of us always abandoned her, excluded her, and neglected her flowed from her lungs quickly followed by a slamming down of the phone.  Other times, when we met in person, the exchanges would start off with a level of calm and civility. But one mis-perceived comment would lend itself to a flood of ‘poor me’ scenarios with angry bursts of ‘you don’t care and you’ve never been there for me’ heating up the room. And as time wore on, it also became a pattern that at the conclusion of one of these dramatic episodes, Kelly would inform the three of us that she wanted nothing to do with us...we were disowned.

     And so it would be, that for a period of time – perhaps a few weeks or a few months or even a year or so - I would be one of three sisters. Then, because we felt sorry for Kelly, or the holidays were approaching, or the dynamics of the family pulled on our guilt strings, one of my other two sisters or I would give Kelly a call – to apologize.  It never went really well.  It was like walking a tight-rope, trying to stay balanced and focused while someone is shaking the wire. But, typically, the mission was accomplished and our rejoining as four sisters stood for a time, although neither of my sisters nor I expected the connection to last.  As this unhealthy dynamic continued throughout the years, my two sisters and I felt its burden upon on.  The constant expenditure of energy that it took to navigate through the relationship with Kelly was exhausting and exasperating. Never being able to do enough or be enough for her was irritating and defeating.  And always being judged by the last deed that was done for her and being told that it fell short in some way was crazy making. Never knowing if we were in her favor or out and so often not having a clue as to why, caused my sisters and I to withdraw and to protect ourselves.  It was just too hard.

Next time: Part Two: And Then We Were Three: Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Feast of Face to Face Connections - No Technology at the Tables

What I am about to share is based solely on anecdotal experience and observation.
 Nothing more.

My husband Dan and I recently returned from a vacation to parts of Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Thrilled to have an opportunity to share places I had visited as a college student and then as an adult, I couldn't wait to explore the wonders of other cultures with the love of my life! And, he was just as excited to experience it for the first time.

Arriving first in Paris, we set out to visit as many of the tourist attractions as we could fit in during
our stay there. In spite of the untimely heat wave, we did just that.  But because Dan and I are "foodies", we reserved our meal times for sleuthing out specialty restaurants and boutique cafe's nestled between quaint shops and greeted by cobblestone streets.  One afternoon, we stumbled across La Saotico - a gem of a restaurant. After being warmly welcomed by the owner, we made ourselves comfortable while studying the menu and sipping our cool drinks. As we enjoyed our lengthy lunch hour and other patrons sauntered in, La Saotico's quiet beginnings turned quickly to melodic "Bonjour's" and harmonious compositions of communication. During the ensuing two hours, Dan and I savored every morsel of our crepes, salade, pommes frites and we shared a petite but decadent chocolate truffle! Because we loved the food and the liveliness so much, we returned the next night for dinner.

As Dan and I pondered what we would order from the extensive exquisite dinner menu, we were mesmerized by the number of families, couple, and friends gathering together to share a meal...and to share fully in the presence of one another.  There was talking, laughing, hugging, kissing on both cheeks...and then, more of the same. Heads were up, not down. Eyes - dancing, tearing, focusing - were held captive by animated speakers and attentive listeners.  Adults were actively present for their inquisitive children, inviting and engaging them in conversation. Small children, crawling and climbing up on laps of adults, were chattering away - hungry for food but more for lively interaction. Dan and I looked at each other, wondering...

                   when the last time was that we had witnessed a feast of face to face connections - 
                                                       with no technology at the tables. 
                                                                 We couldn't recall.

Over the remainder of our time abroad - throughout numerous countries - Dan and I tried to discount what we were observing. Maybe it was just a fluke?  Maybe we were biased by our own concerns of an over-reliance on technology? We wondered why other cultures seemingly were not as dependent upon their technology as Americans, especially during social gatherings?  Of course, we saw individuals on the Metro, on buses, or walking down the busy streets of capital cities or little villages, or in Internet cafes connected to their favorite phones,games and music. However, time and time again,  we couldn't refute our findings...

we didn't see their reliance on technology spilling over into their meal times
 and social times of communication, celebration, and connection.
And we, too, were able to experience it.

During our many excursions, we lunched with individuals from all over the world. We looked at one another as we exchanged our stories. We talked, we listened. Our faces remained up - our focus horizontal. Mutual respect and regard for one another's words filled our spirits, and we beckoned for more. One day, Dan and I ventured out on our own exploring a little village high on top the island of Corfu, Greece. After meandering through  the quaint shops and soaking in the breath-taking views, we stopped for lunch at local restaurant. Before long the owner sat with us, telling us about his country...his worries...his fears...and his hopes.

 Only by facing him - looking into his eyes -
 would we know the extent of his pain and would he feel the fullness of our compassion.

Returning home, I began to prepare for two pod-casts - both related to "our relationship with technology". It's something I have studied, written extensively on, and spoken about for several years. I want my audiences to know that I love my technology! I wouldn't be able to share my messages of healing and hope without it! At the same time, as with most scientific and social advancements as well as technological wonders - there are both positive and negative consequences to the degree of access or exposure to them or consumption of them. The challenge before us is really quite simple and sensible - finding a healthy balance of our tech intake and making a commitment to implement it.

A great place to start? 
No technology at the tables....
Just a feast of face to face connections.

If you would like to become more aware of how we are changing and evolving as we become more dependent upon our relationship with technology, I invite you into a very candid but comfortable conversation with an incredible guide and mentor of conscious explorers -   Michael Neeley - Consciously Speaking  .                 .

Join educators Dan Kenley and Ed Berger as we discuss Cyber Bullying on "Insights Into Education". What role and responsibility do schools play in addressing this toxic behavior? What are some of the most effective and implementable approaches?

And for an informative and restorative podcast on how our relationship with technology fuels and feeds a culture of cyber bullying, please take a listen - Autism Expert & Podcast Host Paul Louden - Theories of Mind.

For more healing tools, please visit Holli Kenley!
Follow us on Twitter!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sexual Assault Thrives in the Secrecy and Silence of Closed Systems - An Update

With the news coverage of the secrecy and silence surrounding a plethora of sexual assault cases within a "closed system" (this time a USA gymnastics organization), it is important to revisit steps for  Proactive Parenting in the protection of children and in the advocacy of victims.

For the purposes of today's  blog, I am going to focus on Proactive Principle #2. Visit Proactive Parenting (full blog)  for Proactive Principle #1 . Tragically, because of on-going sexual assaults of students on our college campuses and universities, examples and statistics will be incorporated to illustrate specific concepts and principles.

Proactive Parenting Principle #2  is a tough one - rarely discussed but critically important. Again, integrate it into your mindset and apply it to your parenting style. Here we go. Let's look at how we can protect our children and prevent them from being at risk in predatory, secretive, closed environments  or systems of abuse and/or assault. 

#2   - The degree of innate trust ascribed to a closed system can be a reliable predictor of an abusive environment and/or where perpetrators carry out their dangerous agendas.

Before you read that again, I want to define two terms used in this principle:
  • Innate trust - This kind of trust comes with the entitlement given to the trustor accompanied by the natural subjection or compliance of the trustee. This kind of trust usually carries with it a power differential.  Examples are parent- child; pastor - parishioner; coach - athlete; mentor - student; doctor - patient. Tragically, as with many sexual assaults - on-campus perpetrators are usually someone the victim knows and trusts.
  • Closed system - This is a term which refers to any kind of  family unit, organization, place of worship, or any type of grouping of individuals where there is a system of rules or regulations in place (written or understood) which can be protective and constructive in nature but can also be secretive and isolating. A closed system typically has a person or persons of authority, power, or position who enforce or impose their rules or regulations. Given the hierarchy of some systems and their alliances, often times individuals in authority protect or cover up the offenses of the perpetrators.   Examples include families; places of worship; children's teams, classrooms, organizations or clubs; or familial extended relationships or friendships. Horrifically, universities and colleges protect themselves first, before the victims. Victims, in fact, are discouraged from going to the police because colleges and universities do not want a public record.  In 2012, 45% of colleges reported zero sexual assaults (Washington Post,2012), even though 1 in 5 women report being raped or sexually assaulted (The Hunting Ground, 2015).
With these explanations in place, read this again.

The degree of innate trust ascribed to a closed system can be a reliable predictor of an abusive environment and/or where perpetrators carry out their dangerous agendas. 

While I understand that child abusers can be random individuals and criminals, it is sadly and tragically more times the case that they are in our own homes, families, and within the organizations and/or groups of individuals with whom we and our children socialize and trust. Over the years treating victims of sexual abuse and trauma, I was constantly sickened by the perpetrator's identities: baby-sitters; step-brothers; uncles and aunts; step-parents; close family friends; biological parents; friends of older siblings; coaches; teachers; grand-parents; faith leaders; biological brothers and sisters; campus acquaintances and friends. And the list goes on.

The point is this - children have a natural trust in those individuals whom they turn to for love, nurturing, and fulfillment of their basic needs. Horrifically, some of those same individuals are sick human beings who can manipulate a closed system by instilling fear, shame, guilt and secrecy in children in order to victimize them.

Although I am going to give parents more concrete strategies in next week's blog, Proactive Parenting Principle #2 works hand in hand with Principle #1.  As you are assessing your children's degree of access or exposure to anyone or any environment, parents - you must scrutinize the degree of innate trust that you have ascribed to that person or personsand you must evaluate the dynamics of the closed system.

Ask yourself the following questions regarding innate trust ascribed to a person or an environment:
  • Why do I trust this individual or organization? What proof or evidence do I have?
  • Have I done a background check or done my research? Currently, over 100 universities and colleges are under Federal investigation for sexual assault on their campuses.
  • Have I just assumed that this person or group is safe? 
  • Have I checked up on my child  when he/she is alone with this person or group?
  • Are there any unhealthy symptoms, signs or red flags with this individual? What does my gut tell me?
  • Am I ascribing too much trust to this person or group? Am I aware and paying attention to my instincts?
And ask yourself these questions regarding the healthiness or unhealthiness of a closed system: 
  • Do your children feel free to talk to you about anything? 
  • Are they fearful or afraid of someone in  your own family, neighborhood, university/college campus or other?  Would you recognize their fear, anxiety, or other distress symptoms?
  • Have you asked your children lately if they feel safe? Have you asked them what they do if they didn't feel safe? 
  • Have you talked with them about their bodies - what is private and what to do if someone touches or hurts them in any way?
  • Is there someone that you are afraid of or who is abusive to you? Have you asked yourself what messages you might be teaching your children?  Have you asked them how they feel?
The next few questions are critical!
  • Have you talked with your children about secrets and threats? Do you know if anyone has asked them to keep a secret or threatened them if they didn't?
  • Do your children know, without a doubt, that you will believe them, protect them, and take care of them if they tell you something bad?
  • Are you a safe harbor for your children?

In closing for today, I know that this is a lot to take in. And I know that some individuals reading this are themselves survivors of sexual abuse or trauma. It is never to late to reach out and get help. There are so many good people with the same or similar story who have dedicated their lives to helping others and who are passionate about preventing child abuse. Next time, we will discuss more specific Proactive Parenting strategies, but for now I want to leave you with a few resources.  These warriors are nationally and internationally known, and I am honored to be associated with them. Please, visit their websites and their materials.

~ Proactive Parenting is not optional...
It is our responsibility  ~

For more protective parenting strategies, please read - Proactive Parenting - Part Two.

Rise and Shine Movement - "We equip parents to protect kids from sexual abuse. Because it is not a stranger.  It's someone you know."

RAINN is a national site that provides a myriad of resources and support. RAINN - Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network

If you are a victim of abuse or your son or daughter has been a victim of abuse within our military, please visit Protect Our Defenders .You are not alone.  Support and resources are available for you.

If you are a parent/guardian of a teenager (or a tween- teen) looking for guidance in discovering their worth based on what is important to them and in  making healthy decisions for their life, get a copy of Another Way  by Holli Kenley, M.A., MFT.

National Safe Helpline -   877 - 995-5246

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