Emotional Arsonist

emotional-arsonist

I was weary and ready for sleep tonight when it was time for lights out. I did not write yesterday because the words had not yet come to me. Then magically they appeared in the middle of the night as they sometimes do like a song stuck in my head. The longer I lay there trying to ignore them, trying to wait til the morning, the louder the song grew. Until there was only one choice to make, it is time to write.

I woke initially with a pain in my shoulder which makes sense because I am carrying a burden. A burden that weighs heavy on my heart and heavier on my soul.

Before I go further I would like to offer background for this post:
The Unraveling of a Family Tie
and
Boundaries are Hard in Families
will give some context to this post for anyone that wants it.

Out of respect for my family I have been doing what I consider shadow writing on topics related to family issues up to this point. For now I plan to continue to write in the shadows, I may feel differently about this as time goes on, that is yet to be seen.

So in these previous posts I have mentioned a long brewing issue that one family member is at the center of. In recent months another family member has become involved and when this took place a small flame was lit. A flame of negativity and malice, of confusion and mistrust. This small flame has resulted in a raging fire of destruction and disconnection that threatens to engulf my family.

Previously I mentioned that I am not the fire department and I hold no power to extinguish this blaze; that is still my truth. I am one person with a bucket though and today was the day I decided it was time to pick up my one bucket and use it before it was too late.

Up to this point this flame has been somewhat contained. There are two family members who started it and they have been trying to add small pieces of kindling but the fire has burned away from most of the rest of the family so we have been able to remain uninvolved with collective hope that this fire would burn out on its own given enough time. Today a flame from that fire licked my face and that was too close to comfort. It was time to set a hard boundary.

What took place was that my relative who is one of the fire starters emailed the entire family to speak their truth about another family member who they have a waged character war against. This was done as a way to further discredit this person and lambast their integrity. On this issue I remain neutral, this is not my quarrel. What I will not do however is accept any kind of correspondence that will cause further injury to my family. I did not read more than the first line of this person’s email, that was enough for me. From there I took a breath and decided to respond. My response was as follows:

_________________ ,

Please know that as I write this email I bear you no ill will. I believe that you feel that you are doing what you think is right.

With that said, I did not read your email and I will not read any further correspondence that means to further injure our family. When I say family, that includes everyone. You, ______, and _______ will always be part of my family and I will always have compassion for all of you, as I do everyone in the family.

I feel as though you have lost your way and I send you light and love during this difficult time.

As for  __________, there is nothing that anyone could ever say that would convince me that he is anything less than good hearted.

I hope we are able to heal as a family. The disconnection we are experiencing is hurtful and it does not have to be.

I am sending you love and forgiveness.

 

This was my bucket of water. This was my offering and my hope is that the healing energy of love and compassion would act as water to the flame. If not, I have at least set the boundary in an assertive way to let them know I will not accept this kind of correspondence going forward.

This person’s email was entitled “The Truth” and they spoke their truth. I took this as an invitation for the rest of us to speak ours.

I have remained silent and neutral up to this point, as the rest of my extended family has, for reasons I have listed before: hopefully this will blow over, it is none of my business, etc.

This is not blowing over, the flames are growing larger and the moment my relative sent that email to the entire extended family this situation went from being none of my/our business to this person making it our business.
There is a time for silence and a time for action and for me the time for silence ended the moment this person hit the “send” button and spewed this venom on the family.

I still remain neutral on the overarching issue because I do not believe it is my place to pass judgement on who is right or wrong. I might have my private feelings about that but I do not have the authority or the right to pass that judgement openly. I also do not believe that doing so will help me meet my ultimate goal for an outcome which is the healing and preservation of my entire family.

Judgement and anger and other negative emotions would only further insight this fire. To put out a fire you have to introduce a new element: sand, water, etc. Love is my water. Unconditional forgiveness  and compassion are my water. An invitation to heal is my water.

When I sent my response I replied all. No one else in my family had responded to this relative, this is still true. My hope is that I was able to set an example of love, an example that my family will have the courage to follow. My hope is that my family will see me here with bucket and join me with buckets of their own healing truth to share with this family member in an effort to extinguish this flame.

In the end we cannot control this person or their reactions. We are not the fire department and we may not be able to put out this inferno. I will not stand by with my bucket and feel useless though. I will not watch my family burn and do nothing when I have a bucket I can offer. My family may be doomed to burn either way but at least I know I did my part.

Tonight I send out love and light to everyone in my family, we all are hurting in the wake of this crisis. My hope and intention is the light I am sending out be the light that guides my family back to a path of love and connection. We have to come back to each other in love and connection to heal and be whole again.

 

An aside: When I got out of bed to come and write I did what I normally do when I write in the middle of the night. I lit my candles to bring light and love to darkness, I lit my salt lamp with the same intention, and I made myself a cup of tea. Then I took my tea and nested in blankets on the couch for comfort. The tea I often make for middle of the night writing is a brand that has what I think of as “love notes” on the tag. When I looked at the love note on my tea it was as though the Universe knew what I am trying to do with my healing bucket of water and was sending me support and assurance in its own way.

cosmic-support

 

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“We Should All Be Feminists.”

These are the words my professor uttered a few semesters ago after a classmate stated, Well I don’t personally identify as feminist.

I don’t know if my professor meant we as social workers, or we as women, or we as liberal minded individuals, or we as in every single person ever (I personally lean towards the last option). And I know that professors “should” remain objective but I sure am glad she said it! I know I am not alone either.A lot of my friends in the class breathed a visible sigh of relief when the professor spoke up.

Every time I hear someone, specifically women, renounce feminism I feel myself hold my breath. Suddenly I don’t feel safe because if you are telling me that you do not identify as a feminist it makes me wonder if there is an aspect of equality that does not speak to you? And if that is the case then yeah, back to what I said, I kinda don’t feel completely safe around you.

This exchange led to a really awesome conversation. This professor is a huge feminist and very open about it. We discussed why some people do not choose to identify as feminist, some people in class spoke up to share their reasons.

The reasons ranged from: I don’t know enough about it, to my dad would kill me, to but I don’t hate men, to feminism is not inclusive, to I am not political, to I just don’t believe in it, to feminists are always so angry and I am not an angry person, to I’m not much of an activist.

My professor and some of the rest of us helped illuminate the discussion by explaining some misconceptions and answering questions.

So I wanted to share a little bit of the discussion for anyone else that may still think feminism is a dirty word.. Let’s brush some of that dirt off.

  1. Feminism is not about hating men. That is a totally different thing called misandry. Some Feminists may personally identify as misandrists but that is like some may identify as lesbian or Christian or Latina or male. You can be all of these things and be feminist but they are not the same. So to be clear: Misandry = dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men. Feminism = the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. NOT THE SAME THING.
  2. Feminism is all inclusive. Malala Yousafzai defined feminism as a synonym for equality and I personally agree with that definition. Now, this misconception is a fair one, but I would like to clear it up all the same. There are different branches of the feminist tree and some are less inclusive. For example, radical feminism has a history of discriminating against trans folks. Some radical feminists do not believe that trans folks belong in the movement. That is not the feeling of the majority however and feminism as it exists currently is very clear about its commitment to intersectionality and inclusion. Feminism has multiple branches, Liberal, Social, Radical, Womanism.. etc.. If you would be more comfortable getting super specific then I recommend doing the research and pick which one feels right to you. Or define it for yourself, that is a totally acceptable alternative as well.
  3. “I’m not political/ I am not an activist”. Cool, me either, but I am still a feminist. There are no rules to being a feminist, you get to define it for yourself. Let me repeat: THERE ARE NO RULES, YOU DEFINE WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU. I would not typically attend a protest personally because that it not usually the energy I want to put out into the world, that does not make me care any less about equality and women’s rights. I am also not super political. I think our political system is a joke and have very little faith in our elected officials. That does not make me any less a feminist.
  4. Not all feminists are angry. That is like saying all social workers work for DCF (my social work friends will get why that is such a cringe worthy statement), or all Christians are anti-gay, or all white people are racist. Those are pretty heavy accusations to make and THEY ARE NOT TRUE. Sure, some feminists are angry, and they have a right to be, consider what we are talking about here; protecting the rights of a group of people who have historically had their rights infringed upon based on their sex/gender. We have a right to be angry. And yes, some feminists bring that masculine energy into the movement, especially at protests. That does not mean all feminists are angry. Personally my brand of feminism comes from more of a earth-mother- nurturing place and I lead with a much more feminine energy. Again, there are no rules, you get to define it. Feminism belongs to you, and to me, and to everyone. We make the decisions about what it means to us. And I would like to make the statement one more time before moving on that there is nothing wrong with being angry. To focus on the emotion in a negative light like that serves to minimize the experience of the individual. People have the right to be angry, we all have the right to feel our feelings. There is nothing wrong or bad about that.
  5. My family/friends/significant other/social circle/kid/employer/grocer/dog/bus driver wouldn’t understand. THAT IS OKAY. This is not for THEM, it is FOR YOU. The things we believe in BELONG TO US. They are personal, they are sacred. No one is required to understand them and WE DO NOT OWE ANYONE AN EXPLANATION.

I am going to end my list there and address the last reason separately, I just don’t believe in it. To me that is a cop-out. That is shutting down the conversation because for some reason you are scared. It is like when I used to identify as atheist because I knew if I said that when someone tried to talk to me about spirituality the conversation would die and I wanted it to die because spirituality was a scary place for me for a long time. My question is WHY? What stops you from believing it? What is holding you back? What are you unsure of?

If you do not believe in equal rights then say that, say I do not believe in equal rights that way we know where you stand. But to say I don’t believe in feminism without a reason is just putting the movement back and that is not doing gender minorities any favors I can tell you that. Saying I don’t believe in feminism is like saying I don’t believe that Black Lives Matter. Saying I don’t identify with the feminist movement is like saying I don’t identify with the civil rights movement, or the LGBTQ+ movement, or any other social justice movement.

Understand this: Being feminist is not about being better than anyone else, it is not about excluding anyone, it is not about hating anyone. It is about equality and the very fact that feminism is still considered a bad/dirty/scary/negative word to some people proves that the patriarchy is alive and well.

Now more than ever it is IMPERATIVE that you stand up for what you believe. That you openly identify with those beliefs. WE NEED YOUR HELP. If nothing else, please do me this favor, do the movement this favor.. If you can’t get past the label for whatever your reason maybe 1. Please reconsider and 2. Please do not renounce feminism. We are trying to change the world and make it safe for all people, every time you renounce us you are setting back time. Please,please, please if you can’t get past the label at least find it in your heart to be our ally. And as our ally please do not do or say anything that would negatively impact the positive work we are striving towards.

If my passionate advocating has not convinced you, give me one last chance: here are a bunch or celebrity feminists who get it, maybe they will change your mind. I mean who doesn’t love Will Smith?

 fem8fem7fem1

www.hdnicewallpapers.com
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fem5femfem2fem4fem6fem9fem10

The Future is FEMALE

feminist

I was in my office yesterday furiously knocking out a pile of documentation when a counselor who works in another department stopped by to say Hi. We were catching up for a bit and he asked me if I was going to the Women’s Rally downtown Saturday.

The what? I hadn’t heard about it. He gave me the details and a link to the website, which I will share at the bottom of this post in case any of my local friends who follow my blog would like to attend, and I checked it out.

It is essentially a feminist rally, it will be my first and I am so excited.

There will be speakers covering a variety of important topics, I am the most excited about the representative from Planned Parenthood. I was walking through the main area of my internship earlier this week and caught a snippet of an interview she was giving on the news. I am really impressed by this woman and am looking forward to hearing her speak in person.

So tomorrow morning hubs and I will get up, maybe stop by the vegan donut shop because Yum, and head downtown to support women’s rights.

Women’s Rally Link

Martyrdom is Manipulation

Martyrdom: a display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration.

Martyrdom is a form of manipulation.

Parents use it to guilt their children into doing what they want. I gave birth to you! After all we have done for you! Enter the martyr.

It is a used in relationships. I would do anything for you and you can’t bring yourself to do this one thing for me! 

It is used in religion as a way to shame followers into submission. He died for your sins.

It is used at work as a means to increase productivity without incentive. Look at Sue she works 10 hour days and weekends and never comes in late, why can’t you be more like Sue?

Manipulation at its simplest is about control. It is about getting needs met. It usually refers to negative, underhanded ways of getting needs met, but at the core that is what manipulation is.

Martyrdom is an exaggerated form of manipulation that uses guilt trips, and shaming, and extremes, and generalizations to get these needs met or exert control.

martyr

In my life I have personally been the victim of this kind of manipulation and I have used this kind of manipulation in past relationships. I am not proud of that fact of course but it is true and I am at a place now where I can show that piece of myself love.

This form of manipulation is very triggering for me none the less. It reminds me of times I have been hurt and times I have hurt others. Neither are memories I like to go back to.

Martyrdom is a thing in social work. It is not only a thing, I feel that it is glorified. I feel it used against us as a way to keep us down. To keep accepting low pay, and high case loads, and long hours, etc. etc. These things become expected and we become the martyrs.

Part of what took place in supervision the other day was manipulation. We listened to a long story of martyrdom and were told that we were not as good because we were not doing it this way.

I was triggered for two reasons mainly, for a moment it took me back to the absolute worst employment experience of my entire life.

I worked for a company for 5+ years that was completely toxic because I loved the work and the population. I finally left after my papa died. That is when I realized I had totally lost sight of what was important in life. The night he died he was surrounded by his family. I was not there. I had worked a 12+ hour day and was too tired to make the drive to hospice. He was stable, I would go to him first thing in the morning. He did not make it to the morning.

Following his death I took no time off to grieve. I was in charge, I could not take time off. I thought my job was the most important thing. I realized after experiencing prolonged complicated grief that I had that all wrong. It took me a long time to forgive myself for the time I lost at the end with him. He was more important. I don’t even work there anymore. How could I have ever thought that work, no matter how noble the work I was doing, was more important than the people I love?

The other part of the trigger for me has to do with my mother. Growing up and even into my twenties my mother used martyrdom, shame, and guilt to control me and get her way. It took years for me to recognize it for what it was. It was not until I recognized it in myself that I was able to see it in our relationship. She no longer has that power over me but the pain is still there. It takes a while to heal that kind of wound, especially when you are trying to learn to love and forgive yourself at the same time.

Social work is a primarily female field. Guess which gender struggles the most with work-life balance in general? Guess which gender is the most over-worked and underpaid? I think it is sad that we do not see this as the feminist issue that it is. It is true that many of us, myself included, do not enter this field for the money but that does not mean that what we do is not valuable and I do believe that we should be advocating for ourselves here. It is not just social work either. I feel the same way about teachers. It is another field that is heavily populated with female workers and is very demanding and treated in a similar way.

As women we are programmed by society to feel shame for wanting to be heard and seen and to have a place at the table. How are we supposed to break the glass ceiling if some of us do not even see how we are being manipulated and controlled by those who would rather keep it in place?

Martyrdom is manipulation. I will not believe anyone who tries to convince me I am not worthy of being seen, and heard, and that I have a place at the table. I will not be a martyr, I will be an advocate for myself and minorities like me who are being manipulated into believing we deserve less.

martyr

Shine a Light

This morning hubs and I woke early. Truth be told I don’t think I was ever fully asleep. I went to bed earlyish last night because I realized with the direction the vote was going in there would be a good chance I would not sleep at all if I heard the results before bed. This measure to protect myself from bad news and attempt to get a sound nights rest was somewhat futile unfortunately.

So we woke up this morning with the anticipation of two children on Christmas morning only this was not a joyous anticipation.. It was the anticipation of two children who knew they would not be receiving gifts this Christmas but hoped against hope that by some miracle Santa had come and delivered presents to their home. I am sad to report that Santa did not visit America this election season. There were no overnight miracles just the sad sinking in of our new reality. A reality that many of us, myself and hubs included, are not ready to see.

You want to see what forcing an idealist to come to terms with reality looks like? I started my day in tears. I cried for myself, I cried for my future children, I cried for every single person in my country and in the world who has even more reason to mourn today than I do. I have certain amount of privilege that will insulate me from any havoc this new reality may wreak, I know many who have far more reason than I to cry this morning.

So I gave myself space this morning to have my reaction. My hubs had his as well and we supported one another through it. There were a lot of unanswerable questions. There was a lot of reassuring. There were lots and lots of hugs and snuggles.

The truth is I didn’t really want to get out of bed. It was hard to find the motivation. I wanted to stay in that negative frame of mind and dwell.. Then I was scrolling through the mournful reactions of my friends on social media I saw something that reminded me of my truth..

shine-your-light

My whole perspective changed in that moment and I remembered who I am and what my life purpose is. I am a badass idealist who sees what can be not what is. I am a light in dark places and sometimes “the real world” can be a very dark scary place. Yes, I got dropped kicked in the face by reality this morning and yes for a moment I felt shattered. What the outcome of the election has showed me though is right now my light is needed.

There is a reason there has been so much negative energy brewing lately and a lot of us, again myself included, thought that after election day that energy would finally clear.. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. That doesn’t change me or my life mission though. I could not feel stronger in my resolve as an idealist in this moment.

Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Bernie Sanders, John Lennon, Rosa Parks.. All of the heroes of the world who stood up for something bigger than themselves were idealists! They saw beyond what was to what could be. They believed in the goodness of the human spirit and what the world is capable of through love. They shined their lights so bright the world could not ignore them.

So today take your moment. Mourn, or celebrate if this is not a sad occasion for you, or get angry.. Do whatever you need to do for you then go out and be a light for others. Show our brothers and sisters your humanness, your ability to love, and to meet negative energy with pure kindness and compassion. Be example. Shine so bright that it is lights up the dark and blinds those whose lights are turned down.

While I was in the shower thinking about all of this and meditating on my truth and my own mission in life I started singing. Without realizing it at first I was singing a song from my childhood.. When I was little, 6 or 7 I think, Disney came out with Polly. It it a favorite movie from my childhood, it bestowed on me valuable lessons. My gift to anyone reading this is this song from the movie… Now go out and shine your light today. Be the reason someone does not lose hope today. Help remind the world what love feels like. It is time we turn up our light.

On Not Hiding

I just have to say this because it is important.. I have been open about the fact that I am therapy since starting back over a year ago. I have talked at length about my intention behind being so open as a way to reduce stigma. I think this intention has made an impact because in the last year so many of my friends from school and in my personal life have come to me asking about my being in therapy and then proceeded to start with a therapist themselves. The big one though is that two of my family members who said they would not be open to therapy in the past are now not only in therapy but are doing deep trauma work like I am.

I have not tried to convince anyone, I have not given unsolicited opinions or advice.. I have only spoken my truth and only when appropriate to do so. One of my family members started their first session tonight and called me after to tell me that their therapist is a “wizard” and that my therapist (who made the referral for them) “hit it out of the park”.

My heart is so full knowing that just by choosing not to live in shame over the fact that I am taking care of me by going to therapy so many others are now taking care of themselves and not feeling shame about it as well.

I encourage anyone who is doing their work to be open about it. By giving yourself permission to be authentic and vulnerable in this way you are allowing others to do the same. You do not have to give anyone your reasons for therapy, you do not have to share your story, there is no shame in taking care of yourself though and that is something to embrace fully.

Everyday I feel myself connecting more and more with inner self and sacred truth. This is my hero journey, I embrace it fully and without fear.

The Double Standard

therapy

Last summer when I started my journey back into myself through therapy one of the last questions I asked my therapist before hiring her was, are you currently in therapy? Her answer to that question had a huge weight on my decision to work with her or not. Her answer was yes.

During one of our first sessions the topic of therapists in therapy came up. I believe that if a person wants to do therapeutic counseling as a career they should either be seeing a therapist at the same time or have seen one in the past (I prefer the former though personally). The bottom line is we all have emotional work to do and I think some therapists try to ignore that fact. They try to put themselves in higher position than their clients, they are the expert, they do not need help themselves. I call that denial.

My therapist during this session I referenced was saying how she was impressed that I asked about her being in therapy when we first talked. She said that when people in her personal life come to her for advice about choosing a therapist that is the very question she tells them to ask. She says that she would never see a therapist who is not doing their own work, I agree.

Even in the program right now, so many of us are in therapy doing our own work and you can almost pick out those who are not. You can feel the difference.

The thing that has always been baffling to me is the double standard that exists in this field as well as many other helping professions about seeking out therapy. There is something kind of shamey about it, like this feeling of, you have no business being a therapist because you are just as screwed up as the people you are wanting to help. News flash: WE ARE ALL SCREWED UP. Get off your high horse, no one makes it through life with out emotional bruising, and scarring, and worse. That IS the human condition. I want a therapist who is not in denial and who is making them self a priority, we all need to be modeling that behavior for our clients.

Side note: this rant has classist undertones and I know it. There are many clinicians and aspiring future clinicians who are not in an economic position that allows them to spend the money on their own therapy. I am not trying to shame anyone here, I am just saying that for me this piece is important. Really important. And some clinicians who can afford it still do not do it because of the double standard.

So let’s get back to that double standard for a moment.. How is it that a person can go through all the energy of becoming a therapist and not actually believe in therapy themselves? I want to be a therapist but I do not believe in going to therapy. OR worse:.I think therapists who go to therapy are broken in some way and should not be practicing.

I am putting a lot of words in a lot people’s mouths right now, I see that. I making broad generalizations about attitudes felt towards clinicians who are in therapy themselves. Let’s be real, there is a whole middle area. In that middle area there are therapists who do not go to therapy but think no less of those who do. There are therapists in therapy that judge other therapists for doing exactly what they are doing themselves. This, like everything, exists on a spectrum. (If there is only one thing you ever take away from my blog it will be the idea of the gray area).

My truth is though that I have experienced some weird energy around my admission to being in therapy. I am not at all in any way in the closet about being in therapy. It is the best gift I have ever given myself and I refuse to feel shame about this amazing thing that is changing my life and helping me in a way I have never ever been helped before. Still, when someone says, Hey can you get together this day at this time to go over this project, and I say Sorry I have therapy at that time, I can do this time. I have definitely seen the other person squirm. And when in class we talk about self-care and I share that this is part of how I do self-care the class go silent like I just admitted I am a leper or something.

It is time for this to be normalized, for it not only to be acceptable but expected and encouraged. Some of my professors have straight up told me that when they were in college they had to go therapy, it was expected of them because counter transference is real and you need to work your stuff out before you go out and try to work with vulnerable populations, especially if the work you want to do is therapeutic in nature.

What I can tell you is that sense being in therapy and being so open about it I have noticed a shift at school. For example, the class where I disclosed that therapy is part of my self-care – the next week two more students disclosed the same thing – the week after, three more shared they were in therapy as well. In these classes we are there to learn from our professors but we are also there to support each other while we are on this last leg of our schooling. I am glad that we as a cohort are able to be more open with each other, and in turn decrease the stigma around asking for help.

There is so much stigma around mental health issues, how is that going to change if the clinicians who should be advocating for their clients are partially responsible creating that stigma. If we are judging our colleagues for seeking out help we are feeding the flame of stigma around mental health issues, because our colleagues are clients as well. If we cannot advocate for ourselves, for our colleagues, how can we do it for our clients?

On an airplane they tell you before take off that in case of emergency put on your own oxygen mask before helping your neighbor with theirs. That is all this is. Trauma, and conflict, and family issues, and relationship issues, and mental health issues are all part of the human experience. So we, as clinicians, need to be modeling the behavior for our clients. We need to be putting on our masks before we try to help them with theirs. AND we need to stop doing it in the shadows. My openness about being in therapy is one small step I take in my commitment to break down the stigma around mental health and seeking out help in general.

A Case for Personal Therapy in Counselor Education