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Sexual harassment does not adequately describe the pain, the fear, the shame and the anger that survivors go through after this kind of abuse. Read the rest of this entry »

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Yay, my friend, Dr. Adele McDowell, has done it again. Huffington Post Canada posted another of her articles. This time, very different from her earlier ones on suicide. In fact, this is the other side of depression and suicide. It is inspirational as she takes the fictional character of James Bond – 007 who can face any one and anything and comes out alive and whole.

Don’t we wish we could do that. It is no wonder that we idolize heroes (and heroines) who can face any danger, look a gun in the face, fight any fight! It is really because we wish that we could do that but don’t think we can. Then, Adele tells her own personal story of danger and courage. Sometimes, one never knows of what one is capable until faced with a dire circumstances. And, of course, there are many kinds of danger from which one can test courage.

For those who have undergone any kind of trauma – abuse, accidents, life threatening illness, etc. – it takes a lot of courage to overcome the incident or incidents. When one has been abused and put down at every turn, the message is that “you are nothing, you will never amount to anything, you. will never be able to protect yourself, you are a coward…..”. And, if the trauma is severe enough, then there is post traumatic stress disorder (ptsd) with which one has to go through. PTSD, for those who may not know, is not just a mental memory. When PTSD comes on – and sometimes the survivor doesn’t even know what triggers it or even what is happening – it is like the trauma is happening all over again. So the survivor is no longer his/her chronological age and doesn’t realize that he/she is actually safe, the memories that come flooding back impact the mind, the body reactions, the fears or shocks of that particular time.

I know because being a survivor or child sexual and physical abuse, as well as undergoing many life threatening illnesses, I am understanding more and more my work, as well as the healing work I’ve done with clients, in overcoming PTSD. I still get bouts of it, but having worked on these issues, I am now able to name the triggers as well as the times PTSD comes over me. I can’t say that I can get out of it immediately – although sometimes I can – but I can at least know what’s happening to me. What that does is that I know it’s not happening again, that I am safe, and that I can sum up the courage to speak up, to protect myself, or to help others. I remember that I am no longer 4 when I was abused, or 10 or 12 when I almost died from an illness. And even now, in dealing with cancer these last 4 1/2 years, I know I now can take the small steps to take care of myself.

Will I ever be a “James Bond”. Perhaps not, but in my eyes I let myself acknowledge each time I take any step to take care of myself, knowing each step only leads to more courage every time. This is what came to me as I was reading Adele’s article. For me, it came at a time when I’m not only dealing with cancer, but shingles these past few weeks. Shingles, unfortunately,  is only one physical ailment in a long line of many that shows me how depleted my immune system is and how much I need to be easy on myself as I navigate these waters.

Perhaps Adele’s article will mean something entirely different to you, but I urge you to read it and see. And, Adele, I’m so proud of you for sharing your very personal story and the courage you had in protecting yourself.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/adele-mcdowell/the-tao-of-007_b_8007488.html.

 

There hasn’t been enough information shared on this topic. It is because we don’t understand that the trauma, if unhealed, gets inadvertently passed down to the next generation. And, as a mother, I am appalled when I realized what I had done, even unknowingly. Yes, children receive the indirect impact of our trauma and, in their own way, are recipients of “secondary trauma”. It impacts their being as well as their lives because they must learn defensive survival skills to live with this parent or these parents. They they carry these skills throughout life. The terrible part about this is that our suffering gets passed down to those we love the most! And, we don’t even know it. In my work as a healer and psychotherapist, I didn’t even realize it for a long time, even as I was undergoing my healing. And, through no fault of my own, it was that the field of psychology hadn’t as yet discovered the severe effects of trauma even on those directly traumatized! Let me be clear then that this is NOT what survivors do on purpose, or even that they know that they do.  I, as a trauma survivor, didn’t realize it myself until my adult children and I started living and working together 14 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Fear

I woke up feeling afraid today. No, I didn’t have a dream or even a nightmare. Upon opening my eyes, my heart was pounding and my gut felt so tight, I had trouble breathing.  I have no idea what brought on the fear; it made no sense. Yet, there it was.

I learned in psychotherapy training that fear  is one of the 4 major emotions – mad, sad, glad and scare. All others, i.e., frustration, resentment, etc.  are combinations of those four. And, just so you know, emotions don’t make logical sense – those feelings simply are what they are.

Yet, as human beings, we seem to want to make sense of everything.

As a survivor of abuse, I have been afraid just about all of my life.  Only I didn’t know what caused it. Told over and over that I was too sensitive, I didn’t have anything to be scared of, that it was all in my imagination, I thought there was something wrong with me.

It wasn’t until I became a psychotherapist and worked with other survivors that I realized fear was their prominent emotion as well.  It makes sense to me now, especially with recent clinical research that has shown what trauma does to the brain. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to my experiences at NSAC.

One of the things that I’m always frustrated about are the concurrent workshops – 3 or 4 at the same time. Too many to choose from, I want to go to them all. While I usually learn a lot from the workshop I’m attending, I always wonder if I’m missing something else equally informative.

On another note, I am very grateful to have choices, something I didn’t experience a lot growing up Asian and a survivor of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

At this conference, I gravitated towards the round table leadership discussions: women of color caucus and Asian Pacific Islander   – all practitioners in the field of sexual assault.  I felt such a close connection to these participants, as we spoke about some of the specific issues that people of color face that Caucasian practitioners/survivors do not. Read the rest of this entry »

My apologies for not keeping in weekly contact with you over the past few weeks and not letting you know about the remote group healing. We’ve been dealing with some unforeseen issues which seem to be resolving themselves. I will notify you of the next remote healing session.

Back to the above book.  As I mentioned in my previous posting, I would write on subjects that held meaning for me. The topic today is social isolation for trauma survivors.

This isolation, usually coming in the later stages of a survivor’s response to severe trauma, occurs when “old defensive behaviors prove useless or counterproductive in response to new threats…” (p.69)

What happens then is that the survivor doesn’t understand why what’s worked in the past is failing  now, and the blame gets placed on external factors. This blame, when extended to those who are part of the survivor’s support group, further isolates him/her from those who are so crucial to the healing and recovery process.

Scaer further explains that the propensity towards isolation is a response towards exposure to “ambient environmental stimuli that are associated with social intercourse”.  (p.69) Stimuli that would be otherwise exciting and pleasurable, i.e., laughter, music conversation,  is often perceived by the trauma survivor as irritating.

As a survivor myself, I never understood why I hate crowds and loud noises. I could never go to something like Times Square for New Year’s Eve without feeling claustrophobic. Even a radio station that is turned on too loud physically hurts my ears. And, my own clients have told me that they feel overwhelmed, hemmed in, and that the noise level in crowds sounds violent.

Dr. Scaer comments, “These feelings are associated with more specific symptoms of constriction, low-grade fear, and profound physical exhaustion. The symptoms suggest that such people enter into a state of freeze/dissociation with exposure to very nonspecific but nevertheless threatening stimuli”. (p.69)

As a survivor as well as a practitioner, I reiterate that having a support system is crucial to healing. While I would prefer to be a hermit, I know that social interaction is critical to my mental and even physical well-being. The reason for this is because going through the trauma itself is isolating and forces us to turn inward, to have a deep distrust of others and external circumstances.

While, in the short-term, counting on ourselves may have helped us in the beginning. Over a long period of time, it perpetuates for the survivor a sense that no one can help us. It keeps us in a state of trauma.

Believe me, I had to learn to be a social being all over again. Even today, while others have told me that I seem outgoing and friendly, it takes a lot of conscious effort on my part to place myself in a social situation. It takes even more effort for me to trust another with my experiences.

Opening to a support group, even simple social interactions, have been the most difficult for me to do. Having done so, I know it’s helped me tremendously in my healing process.

And, because I’ve done so, I know other survivors can too.

After seeing the movie Precious and hearing Sapphire at a book signing, I had to read the book, Push. I wanted to see if the movie followed the spirit of the book.

While the movie did follow its spirit, I found the book to be much more descriptive in its depiction of the sexual abuse. The narrator in the book was Precious. The reader got a much clearer picture of what goes through the mind of a child being raped, being molested. Precious, in her own words, describes her pain, her confusion, and her anger.  She didn’t understand what was happening to her, or why. Read the rest of this entry »

I just finished listening to Caroline Myss’ new CD, Navigating Hope. As I have mentioned before, Caroline has been a key spiritual teacher and mentor for me since 1995.

Once again, she gives a brilliant account of what hope is, why we’ve lost it, and how we can get it back.

I do not intend to review her CD, but to comment on how trauma destroys our ability to sustain hope and why hope is so crucial to our will to live. Without hope, we are only surviving, sometimes barely making it through from one day to the next. Trauma sucks the life out of us.

Hope can bring it back!

Let me start with a synopsis of Caroline’s definition of hope. Read the rest of this entry »

This must be the year for stark realistic portrayals in films.  First, we have “The Hurt Locker” about bomb removal units in Iraq. Then, we  have “Precious” a film that truthfully depicts the horrors of child physical and sexual abuse.

I, for one, am glad to see these kinds of films. Yes, they are hard to watch. We don’t want to see that humans can be so cruel, so twisted in the treatment of children. Not a minute too soon, the time has come for us to face what monsters lurk inside our homes, how we are destroying the very future of this nation by terrorizing our children.

Of course, we are not all abusers. However, when we don’t speak up when we see abuse occurring, we perpetuate the message that abuse is acceptable!

ABUSE OF ANY KIND IS UNACCEPTABLE, ESPECIALLY WHEN DIRECTED TOWARDS DEFENSELESS INNOCENT CHILDREN!

The following speaks  to the psychological impact of abuse rather than as a critique of the movie or the actors. Read the rest of this entry »

To continue the NICABM Conference, but this time, I want to talk about the people there – participants and speakers.

But, first, a little background! My decision to attend was part of a process that started even before I listened to the teleseminars. It  started when I read Belleruth Naparstek’s book, Invisible Heroes, where she stated that research showed the success of using alternative methods to heal trauma survivors.

I realized that I had used qigong 25 years ago to successfully heal survivors of  post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd) derived from child sexual abuse. Following this realization, I intuitively knew that I am to return to working with survivors of trauma, again using qigong.

I had come full circle.

I knew that the conference would put me in touch with experts in the field of trauma. My goal was not only to learn about the latest treatments from these experts, it was also to network and share my dream with other practitioners.

So, I launched a blog on this subject the Sunday before I got on the plane. The 1,000 business cards I ordered had arrived.

I was ready! Read the rest of this entry »

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