July 2012 Newsletter
Are You Ready To Change Your Story?
Hello! Thank you for being integral to Verbal Abuse Journals. Your thoughts and concerns are at the top of my mind every morning when I wake up. I read all of your comments and emails. Some add to my dreams for my future and others remind me of where I’ve been. But no matter what stage of recovery you are enjoying now, I know you will take another greater stride tomorrow. There is no turning back once you know there is a better way.
I want to rush out and resolve all our issues stemming from abuse, but I can’t. You’ve learned (or are learning) that the only white knight on the way to rescue you is yourself. Every day I feel the knight getting more powerful, helping to rewrite our stories. We can and will create a healthy and loving life for ourselves!
I hope you enjoy and find this newsletter useful. You’ll meet Jodi Aman, a woman I admire, who has some ideas for rewriting the stories we tell ourselves. Please reply to it and let me know your thoughts!
Love, Light, and Laughter,
Kellie Jo Holly
Interview With Jodi Aman
In the spirit of finding our happy places, I am happy to introduce you to Jodi Aman. She blogs at HealthyPlace.com, but that is only the last in a long string of accomplishments for this brilliant woman.
I’m sure you will enjoy her insights and advice for healing.
Jodi’s Path To The Healing Arts
Jodi, you are an exciting and unique individual. Besides being a clinically licensed social worker, your bio describes multiple alternative healing certifications and degrees. It is difficult to find someone who embodies such a holistic approach to mental health. How did you evolve into the woman you are today?
Thanks, Kellie! Life is thrilling when I connect with lights in the world such as you! It has been fabulous getting to know you through our blogs at HealthyPlace.com.
My opportunity to learn holistic approaches to health came as most opportunities come to us–through a crisis. My own health crisis happened 15 years ago. Western medicine offered me no relief save, “It’s stress. Take this pill.”
This far from satisfied me. I had deeper questions, and a well of curiosity about the body, mind, and spirit to satiate. What makes us sick? What makes us heal? I wanted to know. I plugged into study, and tried everything, coming to a deeper understanding of my psyche than ever before.
I studied Ayurveda-traditional Indian medicine and Yoga first. Then, mindfulness, aromatherapy, and various spiritualities (especially the divine feminine). These made explicit the link between my health and my environment. I was a sponge (still am) to everything about alternative healing and living holistically.
At the same time, my spirituality was evolving. I saw the relativity of the world and how I could affect all that was around me. This had a huge impact on my healing, but also on me as a healer. I realized that as I healed myself, I could heal others and vice versa.
Narrative therapy taught me the power of our beliefs and how to help people rewrite them. As beliefs changed, I have witnessed over and over powerful, healing energy shifts, that cure people with spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical problems. Then, a few years ago, Spirit guided me to begin physical healing by sending light energy through my hands into a person, much like Reiki. I followed this up with a shamanic apprenticeship to learn how to help people make the shifts they want in their lives.
Rewriting Our Stories
What is narrative therapy? How does it help us to rewrite our story?
Narrative therapy is a talk therapy that believes that life is multi-storied. Even though there is an abuse story going on, there are also other stories that abuse makes invisible. Stories of connection, strength, love, and self-preservation are also present.
Narrative therapy seeks to breathe life into these preferred stories, changing the way people see themselves. We do it through asking questions, using metaphor, pointing out contradictions, getting details of events, repeating positive meaning, looking at an event from a distance, tracing the history of skills and knowledge, and changing the meaning of memories. It is a subtle but powerful process.
Healing & Staying In Abusive Relationships
What is your position on healing if an abused person wants to stay in their abusive relationship? What can someone in an abusive relationship do to help themselves?
This is a controversial question as many believe a victim must leave to heal. However, staying itself is a response, often judged by others to be “crazy.” This compounds the issue by concluding that the victim is too weak to know what is good for her.
But staying could be seen as a conscious choice with a purpose. (For example, staying until a good, safe plan is made. Or staying to protect someone else.) The abused person who stays can focus on her skills and abilities, building her confidence in herself.
It is important to have identities other than “abuse victim.” Anything that promotes other ways of seeing herself is helpful. For example, “a loving pet owner.” I love to help an abused person who hasn’t left find a community of support, and other people to reflect back the goodness in the person, so the voice of the abuser is not the only one heard.
Survivors Heal By Remembering Skills
Abuse survivors seek healing on multiple levels. We’ve been knocked down mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and all the rest. What approach would you take to best help someone who was abused but left the relationship?
Anything that will help them shift the stories (meanings and beliefs) that living with abuse created about themselves and the world. Our very identity is formed by how we make sense of events, (i.e., Self-blame is an epidemic among survivors, blocking all paths to healing.) Also, many traumatic memories are half-memories. Survivors remember [a part of] what happened to them and judge it harshly on many levels.
What is lost to the memory is how the survivor responded. (This is often downgraded by the abuser or overshadowed by self-doubt.) It is crucial to make this response visible since it always says something about what the person gives value to. For example, the skills that survivors have to keep themselves safe say that they give value to themselves. Making these visible will make them even more accessible in the future.
How Can I Help Someone Who Is In An Abusive Relationship?
What do you believe is the best thing someone who loves an abused person can do? How would you advise them to handle the pain they feel for their loved one?
The best thing you can do is have confidence in them. Believing in their abilities to reclaim their lives will help them believe in themselves. This is crucial. Watch this video about how to love instead of worry.
Validate the person, reflect back to them the beauty that they are, their abilities. In the situation of abuse, it is hard to see all this since the abuse has made them feel worthless and weak. Being a counter-voice will give them the strength to shapeshift their situation.
Jodi’s Special Message For All Of Us
I have a feeling we’ve only touched on the basics of what you do and offer. Is there anything else you would like to add? What specific message do you have for us – people who are working to overcome abuse?
That is what is so great about shamanism and narrative therapy, there are so many ways to make meaning and change beliefs! I can
- talk with a person,
- cry with them,
- problem solve,
- walk in the woods,
- make posters,
- create ritual,
- take them on a shamanic journey to recover parts of themselves lost to the abuse,
- introduce them to spirit guides,
- invite them to new perspectives,
- help them uncover relationships that will support them,
- help them find spiritual meanings,
- and do hands-on bodywork to help move energy.
The sky is the limit. There are many ways to heal, and I don’t limit myself. But if I feel like another body-worker would be beneficial, I do make that referral.
Kellie, I love what you are doing with your website. Building this supportive community is one of the most important things that you can do. This is the first order of business when I am working with someone who has been or is in the midst of being abused.
I believe in them, and remind them that it is not their fault, but it pales in comparison to what a loving community can do when they reflect back the same. In isolation, the voice of the abuser is the only one they hear. It makes it near impossible to leave.
With lots of people telling you that you are wonderful, the soul becomes robust and deep healing can happen from this acknowledgment. The abused person now has options that she did not have before.
The best thing they could do is connect, start being around people who can reflect their goodness to them, as often as possible, for there are truckloads of negativity to counteract.
Turning Negative to Positive
I don’t know about you, but when I think of my abusive marriage, I remember the yelling and insults. MY yelling and insults. It’s true that I sometimes felt a little glow from flipping a zinger his way, but that was at the worst parts, right before I finally figured out he abused me in many ways that had nothing to do with verbal insults.
One of the very first journal entries from my marriage called Sex and Emotional Abuse, shows how horrid I felt after hurting him. I remember this clearly even today because I’d done something completely against my character and felt awful. This moment was pivotal for “us” as a couple. It’s the foundation for my guilt and my desire to prove to him I was a good person. The night described in Sex and Emotional Abuse haunts me.
What makes it worse is that I knew something bad was happening on his end. I asked all the right questions, but I didn’t answer them. (Thinking “stupid, stupid, stupid!)
How can I rewrite that memory? Where’s the “good” in altering my behavior and turning into someone I’m disgusted by to this day?
Well, the statement “he was cutting into me” reminds me that he was abusing me. I don’t remember exactly why he called me an actress, but to be an actress you have to act one way while being someone different. He attacked my integrity often, and this is probably one of those times.
I was afraid he was going to hurt me physically. He’d held my face right above a glowing red stove not long before. This day, he backed me into a corner of the hall after I’d run upstairs to get away from him. He wasn’t going to leave me alone, and he was puffed up and red in the face.
I was so scared! So I took the safest way out. I said something that I knew would make him run in shame. I poked a sore spot and my gamble worked. He did run away from me. He ran away from me because I was astute enough to know how to save myself. I valued myself despite what he thought.
Also, stuff like that didn’t fly out of my mouth daily. Typically I’m a very tactful person, willing to communicate in non-hurtful ways. His statements about me, disguised as jokes in front of his friends, oozed out of his mouth like honey. I am usually successful in my communications, even the tough ones; I’m proud of this, too.
And, unlike him, I told the truth. I didn’t resort to a lie to save myself or to “win”. I am honest even when the pressure is on, and that’s something to be proud of too.
Look for this topic in a future blog post…it feels good to remember the things I forgot and it’s helping me to rewrite my story. I invite you to take Jodi’s advice and work on one of your most painful memories. Then later, we can share!