Uncategorized

Stay.Right.Here.

IMG_0255.JPG

Life seems to be serving up the same lessons that I seem to either forget or think I will eventually master.  In this week’s servings there was nothing over the top out of the ordinary, but none-the-less the challenges of parenting and adulting and relationshiping drudged up old responses that I thought I had out grew.  Just like an old, familiar space my responses were filled with anxiety and worry and a nagging voice that I-am-just-not-doing-enough and that I-will-never-be-enough.

These are the ghosts of my past who somehow fill my present and urge me to problem solve a future that still has yet to become.  

And so I do the old patterns that I’ve learned do not serve me well and this is that I try to control for the circumstances in which I have no control.  Usually how this looks is I try to out do myself– be better– be perfect– be a perfect mom– present a competent, well-put-together adult self for co-workers, be the best listener to my friends, have the patience of a saint for my children, stave off exhaustion or weariness, appear brave, commit to being a giver and resist being a receiver…

I know this is usually a fruitless, soul draining endeavor for me.  I know that the more I live in my head to be perfect and to present perfection the less I live authentically.  Authentic for me is to be in the moment– open to whatever life offers so that I can learn and grow.  Authentic also means that I am where I am… I’m giving what I have… I’m receiving what I can hold and I’m listening in the here and now.

And I’ve learned in the four decades of my life that the efforts to control exhaust me and wear me thin yet, I found myself doing this by default– just easing into this old pattern without giving it a second thought.  In my 20’s and 30’s this likely would go on for a long time, but thanks-be to the development of skills like mindfulness and self-awareness I was able to eventually notice that this pattern had snuck back up.  I was able to evaluate myself and make some different decisions regarding the anxiety and stress I was bearing and the response I wanted to extend to myself.

When I got down to it I realized that the anxiety I was holding was about an uncertain future that I have very little to no control over.  I mean to get really honest with myself I had to realize that I cannot predict or control what is to come and that scares the shit out of me.

I mean…

I can pour every ounce of parenting energy and wisdom into my children, but what they do with that… how they actualize is not in my control.

I can love with every ounce of love my heart and body can muster and I can’t control the outcome and the return of love or of loss or of illness or of death.  (Loving my mother meant taking care of her body and her health toward the fruit of her returning to complete health– I could not control for how her illness was going to compromise her and ultimately take her)

I can make all the ‘smart’, future forward career investment decisions to ensure a future of bright opportunities and financial security, but I can’t guarantee that these opportunities will be extended toward me.

And this lesson presented to me what it always presents to me– that what I have is right now.  I have today.

A few years ago, I did some crazy stuff.  I left everything behind: a marriage, a career, a community, a belief system– on the notion that leaving the toxic aspects of my life would lead to more health and growth.  I had a certain kind of optimism or hope about that decision.

In terms of my mental and emotional health I can say that I’ve seen the fruits of that decision produce the capacity for me to think and to breathe and to live in peace.  It’s in part, why I can presently be more mindful, but in terms of what the future holds I have no certainties and I think that some days I’m still waiting and watching with bated breath– I’m peering into the future, anxieties rising, lungs full– wanting, longing to control the outcomes.  And then life (sometimes in gentle ways and sometimes in not so gentle ways) brings me right back to where I am and says stay.right.here.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  You have today.  You have this moment.  Stay right here and listen– don’t lose this moment.  Don’t let it slip away.  Bask in it.  Let the sun shine on your face and breathe, because this is what you have and this is what you can be certain of– this- right- here.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

The Behaviors We Fail to Define as Domestic Violence

human-rights.jpg

Remember that the primary strategy of domestic violence is to control; to establish control; to maintain control; to exert control over another human being, in this case a partner.  This is the fundamental premise of domestic abuse: to control a domestic partner in order to preserve and perpetuate one’s identity, agenda & existence.

Theorists debate the reasons for domestic violence.  Why do people domestically abuse?  Feminists believe that it is due to the overarching patriarchal constructs in society that value the male experience over that of female experience.  In patriarchal societies male dominance, which lead to abuse is viewed as acceptable aspects of masculinity.  Family system therapists have questioned if it is an issue of learned behavior.  Do abusers learn to abuse by what is modeled in their home?  Ecological psychologists consider environmental systems.  Are those who are exposed to the stressors of poverty more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors under the pressure of extreme stress?

I get it– in identifying root causes perhaps we can predict and prevent (this is especially important for legislative and policy making purposes).  What we’re finding in the domestic violence literature is these root causes are complex and there can be overlapping contributing factors to abusive behaviors.  From an individual perspective, we can’t always identify someone as an abuser based on these variables alone.  In fact, sometimes reviewing these variables alone can be problematic, as some will utilize justifications for someone’s abusive behaviors when they can’t simply place the person or his/her abusive behaviors into a categorical box.

Whatever the cause/reason for domestic abuse the outcome remain: a domestically violent individual uses abusive behaviors and strategies to produce fear, submission and oppression of their partner in order to control.

Let’s talk behaviors.  For the majority of us physical aggression and violence in a relationship is recognized as domestic abuse.  Although, you will find people creating justifications for physical abuse, especially when they are having difficulty believing that a family member or friend could act abusively.  Research shows that only half of those who are exposed to domestic violence report it.  Statistically speaking between 25-34% of women are domestically abused (1 in 3 or 4 women; 1 in 7 men) and only half of these survivors will report.  The reasons for this include: 1) they fear retaliation from their abuser, 2) they believe they will not be able to access help (i.e. police won’t help, will not be able to access resources needed like housing, financial assistance, etc.), 3) they have had family and friends tell them that the partner’s behaviors are not abuse and that perhaps they are making a big deal out of nothing.  This is why advocacy and education is tremendously important because those that justify are complicit to the harm that domestic violence produces for the survivor.

Now imagine– if it is easy to justify or ignore an individual’s experience with physical violence– when there are physical representations of domestic abuse on the individual’s person– how easy is it deny a person’s disclosure and experience with psychological and emotional abuse?

Yes, domestic violence occurs in many different forms.  One form of domestic violence that researchers are documenting have to do with abusers using a partner’s credit and ruining their credit to make it difficult for the survivor to leave or to obtain housing on their own.  Some abusers use contraception as a form of control by poking holes in their condoms to increase the chances of the survivor getting pregnant.  The belief for the abuser is if she gets pregnant then 1) they will be linked permanently and 2) having a child makes it more difficult to leave and to live independently.  These are strategies of control and more often than not there are multiple strategies that are being used to control another person.  In times of domestic violence where the abuse is more subtle or difficult to quantify survivors are less understood or believed.

Psychological and emotional forms of domestic violence occur.  At times, these forms are difficult to identify for the survivor and that is why it’s important we talk about it.  These forms of abuse are often ignored by family and friends, which further isolates and makes confusing the process of identifying emotional abuse for the survivor.  We all need more education around this so that we can support survivors’ agency and human right to do what is in her best overall health and interest.

Survivors need this information to alleviate the isolation one feels when being emotionally abused.  Survivors need to hear that you are not alone and that you are not crazy.  The abuse is meant to make you feel crazy and to make you doubt your own inner voice, but you are not crazy.  Survivors need to hear that the pain you feel is legitimate and real and although you don’t carry visible physical signs of your wounds the pain is excruciating and can lead to many complex feelings of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Psychological/Emotional abuse:

Character Assassination: When an abuser picks apart the character or personality of their partner by stating that their character/personality differences are wrong or weird or unacceptable.  We all are different.  We all have different ways of navigating the world.  We all think and process things differently.  An abuser who uses this tactic views the difference of their partner as less than.  The abuser will see their way of being or character as superior to the other person and will make comments or emotionally sabotage the other person by planting seeds of doubt about what the other person does or thinks.  Abusers who sabotage their partner’s character do this in private, as well as by demeaning them in public or putting them down in front of family or friends.

Name Call: Emotional abusers verbally put down their partner.  They may yell at them and call them names and make them feel less valued or dumb or insignificant in the world.

Emotional Manipulation: Abusers typically know triggers and areas that are sensitive to their partners.  They know what kind of emotional dynamic or language to use to get a certain kind of outcome from their partner.  The survivor may have even said, “no” or “I’m not comfortable with this or that” and the abuser may use previous information or knowledge about the survivor to derive guilt or shame in order to get the outcome that they wanted in the situation.

Gaslight: Emotional gas lighting is a recent term that refers to the absolute denial and displacement of emotional abuse/manipulation by the abuser.  In other words, the survivor at some point may call out these behaviors and how it creates feelings of hurt and pain and the abuser will deny the behavior.  Additionally, they will use this opportunity to question the survivor’s emotional stability and acuity.  “Are you okay”?  “Why don’t you see that I just love you”?  “You know you’ve always had trust issues”.  “Why can’t you assume the best of me”?

Insistence that they are the Experts in your life/experience: Psychological abusers believe that they know the survivor’s experience better than the survivor.   They believe that they know what the survivor needs and what they need to be doing.  A survivor may try to explain that this or that doesn’t work the same in their experience and the abuser is convinced that they know the situation better.  They undermine the survivor’s experience by saying things like, “you know you have this habit of…” They will insist that the survivor submit to their perspective and opinion on the situation.

Emotionally Withholding and Angry: When the survivor is unable or unwilling to go along with (fill in the blank) the abuser will be emotionally withholding, cold, distant and pout.  The cold stance may shift to anger over time and will manifest in putting pressure on the survivor to do what it is the abuser wants.

What happens to the Survivor?

The emotional and psychological consequences of this sort of abuse is extensive.  Survivors describe everything from depression to anxiety to feelings of inadequacy.  Survivors talk about how they have difficulty trusting their judgement.  They struggle to identify their own needs or desires because they hear the voice of their abuser overriding their own.  I’ve had survivors describe to me a sort of brain fog where they had difficulty thinking or focusing on anything.  When they did feel that they had an idea or opinion on a matter they weren’t sure if they could trust the new information.  Survivors describe feelings of doubt and self-blame about their situation.  I’ve heard women describe a somatic pressure on their chest or abdomen that are associated with exposure to emotional oppression and suppression.  For some the pain is indescribable– it is difficult to find language to describe the invisible pain.  Still others describe feeling completely isolated– left to navigate this emotional landscape on their own while in incredible pain and confusion.

I think one thing this blog can provide is a place to affirm that this suffering is real.

The suffering is real and survivors must not endure this suffering alone.  As one sojourner, I know the benefits of community and advocacy support.  There are no easy or quick solutions but I can’t leave this entry without giving some information to those who may need to reach out for assistance.  You can find that information below and know that I believe you and I hope for you– safety & relief from this pain.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence: https://wscadv.org

LifeWire: http://www.lifewire.org // 800-827-8840

Uncategorized

Don’t want to make waves…

200338038-001

Intimate relationships take a lot of work.  In partnerships there are always two sets of needs, desires, hopes, dreams, etc.  How does one balance one’s own needs, as well as their partner’s needs?

A problem that comes up often in figuring out a balance is when an individual hides her/his personal needs to meet the needs of their partner.  This gives off the feeling that the relationship is balanced.   However, what many find is that in hiding personal needs they realize their relationship is not balanced and this leads to resentment, frustration and loneliness.

It’s true there is no balance in a relationship where one is hiding his or her personal needs from the other.  This dynamic tilts the relationship toward one end of the relationship.

There are a variety of reasons why people hide their own needs:

1)    Trauma- one can’t identify personal needs because abuse and trauma have embedded a message that her/his needs are irrelevant, unimportant or non-existent.

2)    Family of origin issues- family of origin modeled a communication style that was restrictive and repressive.  The family did not communicate openly, authentically or honestly about their feelings, desires and thoughts.

3)    Belief systems—some believe that to have needs is to be selfish, self-centered or self-serving

4)    People realize that to have needs and to communicate those needs complicates the balance dynamic in a relationship.  Additionally, sharing one’s needs (especially when it’s not in alignment with the partner’s needs) can invite conflict.  It takes much more communication and work to identify one’s own needs, communicate them and listen and receive your partner’s needs.

I hear people say all the time, “I don’t share my needs because I don’t want to make waves”.  What if my partner gets upset with me or worse, yet, thinks I’m selfish.  As a therapist this tells me a few things:   1) It’s really scary to be vulnerable– even in the safest relationships.  2) it takes a lot of work to accept that as human beings we all have needs that are valid.  It’s not a selfish thing—it’s just a human thing.  Figuring out what those needs are and meeting them is complicated, but worth figuring out with your partner and 3) many folks do not feel that they have the skills needed to communicate in a way that honors both sets of needs.

Your needs are important.  It’s worth figuring out what they are and acknowledging them.  Part of the negotiating aspect will be to figure out how, when and where to meet those needs.  Your partner can be a supportive part of that process.  Identifying needs doesn’t necessarily mean that those needs get met immediately, but there is something relieving/kind/compassionate about taking time to figure out if, how and when they can be met.

Try it: take a moment to write down a need that you haven’t told anyone about.  Maybe it’s something you’ve been hiding for fear it would be interpreted as selfish.  You can write it down or draw it.  Give yourself the free space to completely explore this need.

–       What is your need?

–       Why is this important to you?

–       How can this need get met?

–       What resources can you identify to aid you in this process?  Is there a financial cost?  Will there be a sacrifice of time or energy?

–       What’s a timeline?

Remember this an exploratory process.  At this point, don’t get bogged down in logistics.  Just have fun with it.

I always encourage couples to identify their personal needs and learn skills to communicate those needs with one another and here is why:

Identifying needs bring greater clarity and empowerment in the individual’s life.  This exploration allows the individual to know her/himself more deeply.  This is a meaningful process as one becomes more aware of self.  I have seen nothing but liberation, freedom and acceptance in people who allow themselves to go through this process.

When people do the work of understanding themselves and they are transparent about who they are in their relationship it brings deeper intimacy in the relationship.  I really think that the reason why we couple up is because we desire to know and to be known.  Unfortunately, when we hide certain aspects of who we are our intimacy with our partner is cut short.

Yes, it is scary, vulnerable and hard work to live in a transparent relationship, but it is also beautifully satisfying to take the risk and find love on the basis of being known for who we really are. 

Book resources:

Couple Skills Making Your Relationship Work by Matthew McKay PhD, Patrick Fanning and Kim Paleg PhD

Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson

Uncategorized

UPDATED: ‘About’ Page…

tumblr_m7myxl2uJu1rzb6xwo1_1280

The ‘About’ page has been recently updated and will give you more information about what you will find on this blog.  This blog is meant to be a resource for the community, as well as a place to dialogue and share ideas!  Here is the new missional write up for what this blog is ‘About’.  I hope this can be a resource for you and please, please, please (not to sound desperate or anything ;)– I just think we’re all better for hearing from one another) share your ideas with the community.  We need your voice!

***

What “Created for More” is all about:

Welcome to Created for More.  This is a blog about sustaining and maintaining healthy lives and relationships.  In this blog you will find tips, ideas, life lessons and advice on balancing your life.  

My name is DeAnza and I am a licensed therapist in Seattle.  I have devoted my life’s work to assisting people to living lives more authentically and compassionately.  I am passionate about helping people to thrive, grow and hope.  I acknowledge the fact that we live in a society that does not embrace all people.  There are many ‘isms’ that push people to the margins of society.  Yet, despite that stark reality– I think there is a way to live liberated, brave, courageous lives through self-acceptance, compassion and hope.

As much as therapy is about healing and acceptance in the individual, I believe therapy/psychology is also a vehicle for justice and advocacy.   Societal stigma tells us that to struggle or to be different is bad, unacceptable or wrong when in reality being human is challenging.  We all have challenges and that doesn’t make us bad or wrong it makes us human.

Psychology challenges stigma by giving accurate psychological health information to the public and advocating for those suffering with mental health.  Mental health is a part of our overall health.  Did you know our brains are just as susceptible to disease, dysfunction and malfunction as any other organ of our body– why wouldn’t we take care of it like we do other parts of our bodies?

We need to live without shame in that.

In this blog you will find different articles to healing, establishing healthy relationships with self and others, educational information on psychological issues and ailments, advocacy information and opportunities.

This is a blog about life– growing, learning, developing, creating and the things most important to us like: family, community and relationships.  Topics may vary and include the following: therapy, trauma, theology, feminism, health, sexuality, identity, LGBTQ, race, gender,  society/ culture, justice, compassion and more.

Join in the movement of living a life that is free, liberated– fully embracing all your potential.  You are Created for More then the status quo– what do you dream about, hope for, desire?  And know that you are important, needed and vital to this community!

Uncategorized

It’s a popularity contest…

always has been…  always will be?!?

What do you do?  What degree(s) do you have?  What school do/did you attend?  Where do you work?  What neighborhood do you live in?  yada yada yada…

This is, in general, a brief survey we conduct with each other whenever we are just meeting or in the beginning of just getting to know someone.  We all do it.  We get a brief snapshot into someone else’s life and then we determine from there if we desire to continue to associate ourselves with that person.  Does it seem a little cut-throat?  Well, it is.

I can’t get over how dehumanizing the whole ‘getting to know someone’ process can feel.

A good friend of mine who does valuable work with the non-housed here in Seattle gets invited to conference after conference to share a little about the work he and a few others are doing.  He finds himself immediately discouraged as he hears others sizing up the books they are writing and when asked when he will be writing a book he states, “I don’t have time to write a book my friends on the streets need me”.

Since when did we put ‘what we do or what we have’ as a priority over the raw existence of another human being?

And this is why many people find speaking with a homeless person so freaking awkward.  In addition to all the myths and the stigmas and the stereotypes we hold about the homeless at the very foundational level we are unable to extend relationship because the homeless just do not fit into our mode of ‘who’s in and who’s out’ or at least the way in which we come to that conclusion.  It is simply too awkward to use the survey method on someone who is homeless, because the answers may be too jarring.  They certainly do not fit the categories that we have pre-prescribed in our heads.

Now I wonder what would happen to our social constructs if we started asking the question, ‘how are you’ in our introductions.  Not just simply ask the question, ‘how are you’ but heighten the value around the curiosity regarding a person’s state of being.  Hmmmmm.

It would certainly be cause for much discomfort and perhaps awkwardness because it would mean we’ve got nothing to hide behind—can’t hide behind degrees or status or material possession when asking or answering the question, ‘how are you’.  Perhaps this could be the start of a revolutionary movement to see each other differently—to see each other with value simply because we exist.