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

Psychological Abuse

Verbal abuse resources

What is abuse ?


Balceroregontr said...

Great blog. Lisa shared some powerful insight about abuse. We all need to be aware of our bounderies and not let anyone break them.

Jericho Returns said...

Thanks Debby. Lisa does a wonderful job with this.

alpha99wolf said...

Very profound article by Lisa. It is evident in today's world that many have lost their own boundaries of respect. Others have crossed their boundaries to be disrespectful. Many don't realize what the word "abuse" means. Bullying, verbal belittling, name calling, etc. are done today without any remorse or accountability. Unfortunately, abuse is rampant and those that need to read such a profound article usually don't. Thank you so much Jane, for this wonderful information. How true it is.

OMYWORD! said...

Jane - thank you so much for giving me space on your blog to write about something meaningful to us all. Thanks to balceroregontr, jericho returns, and alpha99wolf for your kind compliments.

kystorms said...

wow, i have never in my life approached anything or any relationship and thought about how it impacted me! "whats in it for me" are words that are important, but I fear not too many people feel we have the right to ask this of ourselves :-(
thank you for this post, because it has made me see that some do feel it is okay to think about ourselves.

Jericho Returns said...

omyword, it was an honor to have you. Thank you.

Ky, I never thought about it either until later in my life. Sometimes I have had to accept that there is nothing for me in a relationship and I'm now able to get out of it. If we don't think about ourselves who will?