Sunday, March 2, 2008
OMyWord: Overcoming Abuse
I met Lisa last September after we both participated in BlogCatalog 's End To Abuse. Lisa won first place for the post you can find here.
After realizing that people are continuing to find the post I did with my friend, Beth, I decided it was time to do an update. I wrote Lisa to ask for a comment which turned into her graciously agreeing to do this guest post.
I was living in Laguna Beach, California in the late 80s, working my corporate job while unconsciously trying to connect with my deeper, hidden self. I tried to wear the requisite Dianne Feinstein 80s corporate dress...the grey long-skirt suit, the white curved-collar blouse, the dainty ribbon-bow tie, the definitely-not come-f***-me pumps. But, I failed. The lurking communist, artist, big bad girl in me kept popping out. Yellow spike heels. Orange linen suits. Cheesy Dollar-Store underwear. The fact that I chose to live in Laguna, versus Newport Beach, was telling. Newport was slick and Republican. Laguna was gay, artistic, Democratic.
But one day I was lured to Newport, by a friend of mine who wanted me to hear this new motivational speaker, Pat Allen. I felt I had to dress accordingly, before crossing that line from the trailer park in North Laguna to a bar on the Pacific Coast Highway unhappily if appropriately named The Quiet Woman (headless, of course) in Corona Del Mar, to the sterile, consumerist Rolls Roycean '80s champagne and caviar Robin Leach-ian shores of Newport's Fashion Island. So, I wore flip flops and raggedy jeans, with a white blouse to confuse the gendarmes. It was to be a gathering of acolytes to hear the message of the new crusader psychologist, Pat Allen. I had never heard of her, with my head buried deeply in the shifting sands of corporate America.
The room was packed. Hundreds of people. There were several people up on stage, some decidedly too hippieish for Newport Beach. One of whom, Jeri Kissler, a Jungian art therapist, was to become my life-long friend. Finally, Pat Allen stood at the podium, and her voice burned into me. She spoke of women and men and the archetypes deep inside of us. She spoke of the mystical roles each of us played in the evolution of humankind. She introduced me to Jungian psychology for the first time.
But Pat Allen wasn't simply esoteric. She was practical, infinitely practical. There was much too much abuse in the world, perpetrated upon us by others, and by ourselves. If we are to evolve, it must stop. How? We all, all of us, every one of us, every single one of us in the room, must commit to play our given roles, to become conscious. We cannot shirk. Pat won't let us. She would find us, and know. (At least I was thinking this, being perpetually guilty.) And so, all of us raised our hands, and repeated after her. I did it. Me, the person most resistant to joining any group movement. Me, the corporate lamb, imagining myself every day, as a wolf.
"Women!" she demanded our attention. "Raise your hands!" We did. "Repeat after me: I will never, ever, ever give anything to anybody, unless there is something in it for me."
The word "boundaries" has become a trendy psychobabble catch phrase. But it's the basis of potential abuse. As a woman, I grew up thinking I had no right to object. It was better to comply. In this inherently unsafe world, the first inevitable abuse breaks the boundaries, or pushes through where none had previously existed. The first breach can be small or catastrophic, but it can open up the floodgates and make abuse a lifestyle. What if we all asked ourselves this question before we nodded our assent, opened up our hearts, let the stranger in the door: "What's in it for me?" We could begin to define our boundaries. The ones we never had, or the ones we lost.
This is what Pat Allen taught me. It was not about selfishness. It was about self-fullness. It's about declaring our right to discernment, to choice, to existing as fully-formed, righteous human beings, solidly planted, with a right to exist on this planet, to take up space without apology, and express ourselves gloriously. To decide, after a moment - or even a year or more - of reflection, whether or not there is something in it, for us.
Emotional and verbal abuse
Verbal abuse resources
What is abuse ?