Season 6 Episode 3 Girls

“I want to write. I want to write stories that make people feel less alone than I did,” Hannah, and Tina. 

But, not the whole point of this post. I dislike Hannah, and not a huge fan of the show, but something caught me when I saw the first episode of Season 1, and I’ve watched every episode since. It’s like a pulling to waste time. I’m weird like that. 

I like the episodes. This one, in particular, is exceptionally clever and Hannah seems to be finally growing up, into herself. I don’t know. Maybe she reminds me of how I once was, am, will be, and that’s why I don’t like it but watch it anyway. 

This episode, number three of season six, targets an issue that seems to be popping up for me in conversations, my friends’ experiences, TED Talks, everywhere. 

Consent, sexual violence, intent, power, imbalance. 

Relationships are difficult enough to navigate, attraction more so. 

I think it is safe to say that more often than not, women need closeness to be intimate whereas men feel closer after intimacy (thank you Kell, for putting it so succinctly). Women feel the attraction and want to know the man, but also feel ‘valuable’ and ‘special’ when men pay attention. It does seem to be the way that we are socially programmed. Our worth is intrinsically linked to the status of the men who ‘love’ us. 

I don’t completely believe this to be true unequivocally but it can be true. Meh. I should process before writing. In this case, trying to process through writing. 

Anyway, sexual violence changes a person permanently. This is true. A person, male or female, is never the same again after sexual violation. What constitutes the violation though? This area can be murky and grey. 

Tom Stranger (video link yesterday) reflects that he believed it was his ‘right’ to violate his drunk girlfriend, and that the culture he grew up in gave permission for this. Chuck Palmer, the writer in Girls, eloquently crafts a story that forces us to question his abuses of college girls and the extent to which he is victim too. 

Our society demonises perpetrators of sexual violence. I don’t this is wise. 

When I wrote the final piece for my Masters, I wanted to really write by exploring a voice that wasn’t mine. I chose to research and write the voice of the pedophile. One scene in particular made me physically ill but to be able to write the character well, I needed to find that part of myself that was a demon, for want of a better word. 

We are all capable of evil, of darkness, of violation. Maybe not in terms of sexual violence, but I remember I once killed a spider with bug spray and took delight in watching it writhe futilely (no, I’m not proud of admitting this). I became disgusted, repulsed, abhorred by my behavior, and don’t use bug spray or kill anything intentionally anymore. 

I learned the value of life in that moment, and the responsibility of power. It was a significant moment in my life. 

On Q&A on Monday night, Josephine Cashman, was quite condescending to the experience of Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger, and of the concept of forgiveness as it relates to sexual violence. I found her perspective way too literal and too rigid. Obviously, her context as a legal warrior has created this; she experiences the darkness of women in domestic violence situations who forgive others from fear only to be abused again and again. 

I believe that forgiveness is vital for mental health. When I hang on to anger, I am unable to live unencumbered. Forgiveness is not for others. Oprah suggests that forgiveness is really just giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. And when you do this, the weight literally lifts from your shoulders. Forgiveness is a gift that everyone who has ever experienced anything negative, any violation, deserves. 

Meh. Many thoughts weaving in and out of my consciousness. 

I think the way forward for all of us extends from people owning their behaviors, out loud and often. When we own our shadow selves, we bring light to them, and this reduces the impact of shame and guilt. The more light, the more voices, the healthier we all become. 

This is why I write this blog. I own my experiences, good and bad. Killing the spider, still seeing the delight I felt as I watched it die, reminds me that I have a shadow that thrives on power. I am vigilant to ensure that I do not abuse the power I have. But it does require vigilance. 

I emerged from a childhood devoid of power, and my natural instinct is to desire and covet power. I have met many adults, and due to dysfunctional pasts, in childhood or adulthood, they claim power against other people all of the time. 

They do this in a variety of ways, but mostly they keep others small by relentlessly putting them down. They stop others from being their best selves with criticism, by silencing their voices, through not creating an environment where others feel safe to just be, warts and all. 

I struggle in these environments, and I struggle to defend myself in these environments (when turned against me). My first instinct is to run. My second instinct is to shut a part of myself down, away from the ‘abuser’. When a person loses power to another, they try to address the imbalance by exerting power over someone or something else. If we just started by owning these times, I think we would all be happier. 

At the core of most sexual violence is the issue of power. 

Let’s light this up. Let’s fix it at the most basic level in all of us. Let’s change our world. Together. With many united voices. 

When you put my beliefs down, it makes me feel worthless and like you don’t care, and then I don’t trust you. When you don’t own your behaviour, our relationship breaks down. When you do own your behaviour, we both flourish. 

The Hero’s Journey

I was just watching Oprah and Liz Gilbert on Super Soul Sunday talking about the hero’s journey (Joseph Campbell’s ideas). Specifically, they pointed out that theirs and my generation of women are the first women who were not just expected to leave school, get married, have babies and support a husband on his journey. 

And it’s true. 

Joseph Campbell has always maintained that women do not have a hero’s journey because their journey has always been clear – have babies, keep the species alive. There has been no room for the Unknown. 

Yes, a simplistic view of it all. 

But the next point is that as a result women of my age struggle for role models which makes it difficult to take the leap of faith to live a life that is ‘other’.

For me, it explains why I adore and respect both women so much. Unable to bear children, their choice not to be mothers makes my infertility that little bit easier to wear in our society. I am still abnormal, but I’m not alone in that abnormality. So to speak. 

Also, women who have been pioneers in following their bliss, make it that tiny bit easier for me to accept that old adage, which I abhor, that everything happens for a reason. Infertility permits me to keep trying other things, mixing my life up a bit, dabbling in many things, to the point where I now believe that my role here in this incarnation is to continue my work as a healer. 

And I now embrace that. 

And am happier for it. 

That’s not to say that I no longer wish for children. I do. Every day, at least once, but it isn’t as intense a pain, more a yearning. 

I still can’t go to baby showers. I still struggle with the pregnancies of friends. I still dream and think of falling pregnant. 

But I don’t cry. 

There is an acceptance within me that that just wasn’t my path. And so a desire to find my path, and do the work, has substituted my baby dream. I am more resilient than I was. 

My wish for the younger women of this world is that they too, find their own path, realising that gender doesn’t preclude them from any path that they want to follow; they just might have to fight harder. 

There is not just one way of living, but many, and they are all equally valid and valuable. As are all people. 

The Shadow Self

Continuing on from Saturday’s post relating to schemas and the shadow side of our self, by chance, because I have arrived home from another emotionally harrowing day at work, too tired to walk or to mark, and thought I would watch a recorded episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. Laughing as Oprah introduced Debbie Ford who has worked extensively with the shadow self. I am hearing you universe lol.

The shadow “is the part of us that has been wounded; it’s what we try to hide about ourselves” (Debbie Ford, Super Soul Sunday). It is the part of us that if we ignore, stops us from living a full life, and feeling real, continued happiness and peace.

Usually we are wounded in childhood, but for some, the wounding occurs in adulthood when you lose a loved one or find yourself in a toxic (or series of toxic) relationships. And the wounding can take many different forms.

As I think about it, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, all endured as a child, left me feeling ashamed of my body and my self. I didn’t feel valuable. It manifested in me protecting others (they are valuable), and doing for others (give, give, give; expecting nothing in return because my purpose is to serve), and eventually I filled that wounding with food.

As an adult I continued those behaviours because people responded positively to me for those behaviours (of course they did, they were gaining without expectation of giving – no reflection on them, it is how I set the parameters of my relationships, and of course, there were exceptions). Doing for others provided me with a sense of my value in the world. I would never be the beautiful one. I would be the giver, the nurturer, the do-er. As a result I wasn’t giving to myself, I wasn’t nurturing my own life.

“I was so busy giving, I didn’t have time to receive love.” – Debbie Ford

When I started to gain a sense of self-worth, some relationships buckled under the new parameters that I was trying to mould for myself. It is only today that I am able to articulate that fully. When I started to demand something in return, people were taken aback and didn’t quite know how to respond to an alternative Tina. Not their fault.

But I am understanding those fractures now. I started to confront the invalidity of my shadow self and confront some of the language I had been using about myself, and as I did that with older and wiser eyes, I had to discard some of it because it no longer served me. Yes, I am a nurturer and a giver, but I also deserved to be the recipient of those same things. And I think that I really started to realise a worth inside of myself, outside of just giving, at the time I miscarried.

Everything happens for a reason. I hate the truth of that phrase now cliche lol.

“When you’re in harmony with yourself, you’ll be in harmony with everyone else.” – Debbie Ford

And so, ironically, whilst I would have said that I was happy before, I started on a new path towards happiness through reconciling the different aspects of myself; blending the positive that arose from my shadow with the healing of the wound that created the shadow, “bringing the light in” to the shadow.

And this continues to be a work in progress. And I am at peace with that. For me.

But if we stretch this notion of the shadow out, knowing it is a wounding that is suffered, and we move it beyond the parameters of the individual and into community, society, the world, what implications does that yield? Can there be a communal shadow?

Quick answer: yes. Think Holocaust. Think genocide. Think racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia.

I had a very quick chat with one of my close colleagues today (a friend that I work with really), and she had been reflecting over the weekend with her husband about how emotional our kids currently are. He suggested that, as silly as it might sound (but it isn’t; it’s really quite perceptive and astute), that with weaker leadership at the helm in our country’s governance, is it any wonder that everyday people feel unsafe and unworthy. Interesting notion when you consider that the core language/belief of the shadow includes statements like: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m unlovable”, and “I’m unworthy.”

When parents are struggling to make ends meet, which causes tension through tiredness in the family making families time poor, and our leaders and elected representatives are ignoring the wishes of their constituents en masse, is it possible that our kids are starting to feel and manifest the impact of the broader world of instability in politics in their lives? Wow, long question. Yikes.

Oprah suggests that we all know that we deserve happiness, but many of us perceive that we are not worthy enough to be happy. Debbie Ford then suggests that worthiness comes from knowing and believing that you are connected to others, and things bigger than yourself. That we need some sort of spirituality to frame our experiences.

So could we then argue that happiness stems from these same things: worthiness, connection, spirituality?

Tina obviously thinks so.

As she has let the light in to her shadow, her sense of connectedness has grown, and she is forging friendships with people that serve these new parameters without foregoing those that have journeyed with her this far. My spirituality is strong and I am starting to believe, almost one hundred percent of the time, that I am worthy of being loved, of being a writer, of receiving respect.

And oddly, these things are manifesting in my life. And my happiness is growing and is really forming a consistency that is unprecedented.

Yes, I still have bad moments and sometimes, bad days, but I am more resilient because of the strategies I have in place: gratitude, prioritising my time, sensible self talk.

The shadow will always be there. Shadows, after all, exist in sunlight. It is with me always, I can’t escape it, but I can let it breathe by letting the light in.

Visiting the Past

I am not feeling well at the moment; nothing major, a small chest infection, but it is causing me to not overload myself at the moment. This is definitely not a bad thing lol.

And so I am watching Dr Phil. I think most of my healing as an adult has been through Dr Phil and Oprah. They deserve medals lol. They have both championed the rights of people like me for as long as I can remember; I am grateful to them both.

And in this particular episode there is a fifteen year old girl who screams at conflict. I cried when I saw her do it because it triggered memories of when I was her. And at the same age. If there was conflict at home I would just start screaming. Not screaming like a scared scream. It was a scream from deep, very very deep within my soul. And it carried with it everything I could not give voice too.

And it scared my parents.
It also terrified me.

I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know where it came from. I didn’t know why I did it. One time it resulted in my father dragging me by the hair up the hallway to get me away from where I was so that it would stop. Remember – it scared my parents. It didn’t stop me. He called my mum and by the time she arrived I was crouched in the corner of my bed against the wall still screaming. I saw her fear too.

But watching Dr Phil today, seeing my fifteen year old self on the screen through this other girl, I started to understand.

And then Dr Phil articulated it.

Kids who have spent their lives living abuse almost every day try many different coping strategies. They also try different things to make sense out of the chaos; try to find the sanity in the insane. Invariably over time when none of these work, a guttural scream arises. And at the very least it is something the child can control and it provides the soul with temporary quiet, ironically.

I have spent most of my adult life trying to sort out the wounds from my childhood and attempting to minimize their impact on my life, well the negative effects.

Some of what has assisted me has been confronting my parents and not backing down when excuses were given, but more significantly I think, from them after this, their ability to say to me what they never did or could when I was growing up. They have said ‘I love you’ and more importantly, ‘I am proud of you’.

The parents on today’s show are nowhere near that point, might never be, but I am proud of my parents for their ownership of their mistakes and their ownership in finding solutions.

They both grew up in a very different time in a different world. Understanding their contexts moved me closer to forgiveness. It also opened communication channels because they were my only source of finding out about their lives as children. I have good relationships with both of my parents these days and the screaming girl no longer screams.