Bobbi’s Saga: #MeToo and the Magnificent Woman

 “I was not taught to love myself.  I was taught to love others.  It was strange to love myself.  To even think about loving myself was strange.”

-Bobbi

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice and now that I have it,  I am not going to be silent.”

-Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State 1997-2001

“It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone’s else’s eyes.”

-Sally Fields, accepting the award for Best Female Actor, 1984 Academy Awards Ceremony

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My Dear Readers,

The silence of mainstream society on the topic of sexual assault, harassment, tormenting, bullying, groping and other forms of sexual violence has finally been broken.

Today, thousands of voices, of all genders are saying “no more,” standing up for the human right of bodily autonomy, and specifically, for the respect of the physical and psychological well-being of women.

I want to tip my hat and express my appreciation to those who have raised their voices in the #MeToo Movement, many of which are Millennials or members of Generation Z.  These young people refused to keep silent, and rejected the societal pressure to excuse and accept that behavior the way preceding generations have, a recent example being the testimony of over 150 female victims of USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nasser, who received a sentence of up to 175 years for his abuse of female athletes.

What makes these victims particularly courageous is the fact that they faced significant obstacles by the leadership of that organization, which chose to enable Mr. Nasser and covered up this abuse, creating a decades-long reign of terror, resulting in the resignation of a university president and the resignation of the majority of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.

I want to hold steadfast to Oprah Winfrey’s words in her Golden Globes speech,

“I want all the girls watching to know a new day is on the horizon.”

However, I remain frustrated by the story of Recy Taylor, the young African-American wife and mother that Oprah referenced,  who was abducted by six armed white men, raped and left blindfolded by the side of the road in 1944 while walking home from church services in Abbeville, Alabama. Mrs. Taylor died 10 days prior to the Golden Globes speech.  She was 99 years old.  She was unable to receive justice during the Jim Crow era.  She never received justice prior to her death.

African-American women and girls have endured the era of Suffering in Silence of for more than 400 years.  The horrors they have endured have been ignored, and the lack of recognition of their plight continues to this very day.

Despite the national media attention the #MeToo Movement has gained, its founder, Tarana Burke, an African-American woman, has been largely ignored and discounted by the press, and her contributions to the struggle of women enduring sexual harassment and sexual assault have been silenced in the same way.

Racism has played a major role in furthering the sexual harassment and traumatization of African-American women.  However, the actions of African-American males, community leadership and silence within the African-American community have also played a key role in the silencing of these tortured voices within the community.

An example of this is the negative reception and public attacks toward the film The Color Purple (1986), which told the story of life within a rural African-American community during Jim Crow, including depictions of male chauvinism, incest, and domestic violence within the African-American community of that time, in addition to racism and segregation.

It was deemed stereotypical of African-American males by a Hollywood chapter of the NAACP that led a national boycott of the film.  It is a reality that the boycott influenced the denial of any recognition during the Academy Awards ceremony of that year.

It is my professional opinion that The Color Purple, despite its critics, is an excellent depiction of the impact of complex trauma within the African-American community.  Sadly, to protect an image of the African-American community, its civil and human rights leadership denied itself the opportunity provided by the movie to start a dialogue on psychological trauma impacting its population.

That was a missed opportunity in 1986, but, it’s a new opportunity for Bobbi’s Saga in 2018.  It is with that in mind that Loving Me More will publish Bobbi’s Saga on a twice-monthly basis.

Bobbi’s saga continues…

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Lately, I have been writing about things that really affect me: fear, trust and parents.   I started reading a book about Gabrielle Union.  She is a very famous movie star.  I’ve always thought of her as beautiful and never thought of her having any trauma.

 I started reading her book before I realized that she was raped.  I wasn’t sure how I would react to it.  Would I just skip those pages?  Would it make me feel terrible and remind me of my own rapes?  Would I be able to handle it?

Gabrielle Union was working in a Payless store.  The store was robbed.   The robber beat and raped her by gunpoint.  She told the story of having an out of body experience and having the gun to her head, and how she fought, but lost.

She talks about feeling damaged and having PTSD afterwards.  It got me thinking of never being the same after the rapes and seeing myself as damaged.

She was terrified being in front of a grand jury.  The robber/rapist got 37 years.  Gabrielle talks about the mistrust and fear she still has, 24 years later.  She writes:

‘Once you’re been the victim of violent crime and you’ve seen evil in action, you know the devil lives and breathes in people all day every day.’

That feeling of surveillance, of being hunted, never goes away.  Fear influences everything I do.  I saw the devil up close, and I see how naive I was. 

Of course, I can never truly have peace again.  That idea is fiction.  You can figure out how to move through the world, but the ideal of peace in your soul? It doesn’t exist.  She talks about moving from a rape victim to a rape survivor.

Reading this didn’t scare or bother me as I thought it would.  I identified with some of what she said.   I don’t think of actresses having such a hard life.  Gabrielle says sometimes people will recognize her and say “me too.”

I could tell how far I have come after reading about Gabrielle’s rape.  Four years ago, I couldn’t have read it without having terrible flashbacks and increased pain.  I wouldn’t have been able to make it through her story at all. 

So much has changed in six years.  I now know and don’t expect the memories, flashbacks, pain or fears to go away.   Instead these will become lighter.  I want it to become light enough that I can enjoy life, learn to do the things I enjoy and want to fulfill my life. 

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

Bobbi, in walking the journey of self-discovery and choosing to read the autobiography of Gabrielle Union, unknowingly found herself at a potential roadblock.  She discovered that an actress she had idealized was like her, a victim of sexual assault.

Without warning, Bobbi found herself at a crossroad.  She faced the option of going back to the old behavior of living in fear of sexual assault by seeking to avoid the readings.  Instead, Bobbi choose to utilize a therapeutic technique known as “The Five R’s of RELIEF,” grounding and empowering herself to live with her fears of sexual assault and continue the journey of self-discovery.

When Bobbi realized that Gabrielle had been raped, she momentarily took a breath (RESPITE), held and owned her emotions (REACTION), and considered her options/choices (REFLECTIONS).  This empowered her to make the decision to continue reading (RESPONSE) and to later reconsider the impact of her actions (REEVALUATION).

The outcome of this experience was threefold:

  • The recognition that others, including famous actresses, share similar experiences of sexual assault,
  • The understanding of the distance she has traveled in the six years of therapy and the ability to empower herself,
  • The awareness that although the experience will never go away, the emotional weight can become lighter and the psychological wound with therapeutic work can heal.

Bobbi’s therapeutic journey has a prognosis of success.  In the six years of individual psychotherapy she has transformed from the stages of simply existing and surviving her life to that of driving and empowerment.  Future therapeutic work will focus on other stages of empowerment, including striving (pacing and direction) and thriving (achievement of advocacy , balance and calmness).

Oprah Winfrey left us with these lasting remarks in her Golden Globes speech:

And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure they are the leaders to the time where nobody has to say “me too” again.”

Bobbi is truly a magnificent woman.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

 

 

 

 

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Bobbi’s Saga: Returning But Not Going Back

“I am able to tell my story. That is a huge accomplishment.”

-Bobbi

The Journey: Bobbi’s Saga

The word “saga” describes a narrative, telling the adventures of a hero or heroic achievement. The story of Bobbi’s life and her responses to the harrowing challenges she faced from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse beginning at the age of four years old shows her heroism and belief in her journey.

“I want to be at peace in a burning house.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

“Live the life you want, not the life you live.”

Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator

My Dear Readers,

It has been six months since the last blog posting. The year 2017 in the work of clinical traumatology has proven be a very trying and difficult journey. As we begin this new year, I want to reintroduce Bobbi’s Saga, continuing her story as she walks her journey of self-discovery.

For those of you who are not familiar with Bobbi, she is my hero. A 60-year-old African-American woman with Deep South roots who was born and raised in Seattle, she sought psychotherapy six years ago to heal the pain she has endured as a survivor of sexual abuse endured in her childhood and preadolescence.

One may ask the following:

  • What is so important about reliving such a horrific story?
  • Why not just let it go? Or,
  • It’s history, so just move on….

Bobbi’s Saga is important. It is a story of horrors that must be told and therefore never forgotten. It is the story of survival of a four-year-old child and the self-sacrifice of a grown woman. It is a story of innocence lost and betrayal by adults who were trusted with the welfare of the weak and powerless. Finally, it is a story of courage, empowerment, and the search for self-discovery.

Bobbi’s hellish nightmare of sexual abuse ended when her mother put her out of her house and into the streets, where she spent the next six years in the state foster care system, seen as a “bad girl” by members of her community. Today, Bobbi is moving towards her silver years, which has included a 30-year plus marriage, three children and a successful career in the corporate world. Once rejected by her community, she is now the picture of success.

Behind closed doors, however, Bobbi remains not being understood by others, emotionally distant from her spouse and pampered, privileged children who do not understand what Bobbi has sacrificed to give them the life they have and insulate them from the abuses she suffered.

We continue with Bobbi’s Saga in her own words…

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The Lack of Understanding by Others

I had a session with Dr. Kane today. I feel we are talking about more uncovered things about my past. I told him about my family not understanding why I continue to want to attend therapy. My children wonder why I still go after 50 years of no therapy.

I have explained to my husband that I have had a lot of trauma I don’t think he understands. He sees me journaling and yet has never asked anything about it. All of this leaves me feeling alone, isolated, and questioning myself at times.

I question so many things. I feel unsure of myself. I am unsure of past feelings, behaviors, fears, shame, and guilt. My mother made me feel guilty and ashamed of the way I looked and the darkness of my skin.

When I told her what her husband had been doing to me, she kicked me out of the house, calling me a whore and saying that I would was going to be a prostitute. That hurt me terribly then and still does to this very day.

Dr. Kane and I talked about shame, guilt and hope today. I asked Dr. Kane what I should do when the shame, guilt and pain becomes heavy, almost unbearable. He suggested going to a place in the house or inside of my psychological self where I feel safe.

Although I do that, there are times when the weight of it all feels so heavy. It is like a cloak of darkness over my head. A cloak that the sun can’t penetrate; warmth can’t penetrate. Love and joy can’t get through. Guilt, shame and pain get caught under the cloak and can never leave.

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Shame: The Reflection in the Mirror

One of my greatest shames is the size of my breasts. I have always wanted my breasts reduced. I think about my abuse every time I look at my breasts. My stepfather used to purposely rub them; saying massaging them will make them grow bigger.

Why can’t I believe that he wasn’t the reason for my breast size? I now know the truth, but my body and heart don’t feel that way. For fifty years, I believed my breasts were growing because I was molested by my stepfather. It was painful when Dr. Kane told me the truth three years ago. I wonder what my life would have been like if I didn’t hold on to this lie every day.

I have been thinking a lot about the rapes. I keep thinking these were my fault. I have been scared since the first rape. I know a child or youth can’t fight off a man weighing 200 pounds. Why can’t I comprehend that?

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The Disconnect: Knowing & Feeling

There is this disconnect that is so wide, regarding what I know and what I feel. I am trying to tell myself over and over that it wasn’t my fault. No one ever told me that until Dr. Kane did.

My mother never told me that; instead she blamed me. The staff at the Youth Center never told me that it wasn’t my fault. The nurse I told didn’t tell me it wasn’t my fault. Even the people in my foster homes didn’t say that. Maybe that is why it’s so hard to believe.

——

Self Sacrifice-Going Up In Flames

I have always wanted to please others. This has carried over into adulthood. Then Dr. Kane taught me about putting the self first. I had never heard that before. I didn’t think it was possible. Do others do that?

I didn’t even know how to say no, I said yes to everything, even if I didn’t want to do it. I went out of my way to do things that please others no matter how I felt. Why did I want to please others? Could it be because of the rapes?

I seem to be making progress. I now think of myself first. Now when I don’t want to do something I simply say no. It’s not even difficult to say no. This is after six years of therapy.

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Missing Hope & Replacing Hope with Fear

The preacher’s sermon was about hope today. There was a time in which I was missing hope. When I would have thoughts or flashbacks about the rapes, I would feel sad, defeated, and suicidal. I was totally overwhelmed and not knowing if I could continue to live with the guilt and shame.

The guilt and shame has lessened, but I am still bothered by it. I tell myself that I am safe and no one can hurt me, but I continue to feel the fear of the four year old that has had hope taken away from her.

I feel the fear of my two-year-old brother crying, locked in the bathroom. I feel the fear of the four-year-old whose panties are being roughly taken and little legs forced apart. I recall the fear of the threat of “I will come back and kill your mother and brother if you tell.”

Yes, my hope was replaced with fear, pain and guilt. I am afraid to sleep in the dark, being raped again and not finding out what I need and want in life before I die. Sometimes I am afraid of the flashbacks; they seem like it was yesterday. They cause physical reactions and transform me back to being four years old.

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Unrealistic Hopes

My mother died last year. Even though we didn’t have a good relationship, I hoped that would have changed. I had hoped that she would have apologized and accept responsibility for her actions towards me.

I had hoped to feel loved by her. I know that all of this is unrealistic but hoping for unrealistic things for me isn’t unusual. You always hope for what you don’t have.

It’s Christmas. I am hoping for a lighter year next year.

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Concluding Remarks -Dr. Kane

Bobbi’s writings represent an individual who, despite the horrific experiences of sexual assaults, physical violence, betrayal, abandonment and rejection by her family and community, continues along her journey of self-discovery.

Bobbi was victimized. She is no longer a victim. In traveling the journey of self-discovery, she is seeking to empower the psychological self. She is free now to… “Live the life you want, not the life you live.”

To my colleagues, fellow trauma specialists who sit through the many hours of listening to horrendous stories in order to heal and process the pain and suffering of those befallen, I thank you for your empathy, passion for the work we do and commitment to the healing. You are special people. Best wishes to you in the coming year.

Until the next time…Bobbi’s saga continues…

Bobbi’s Saga: Hold Your Tongue, Mind Your Business

CAUTION: TRIGGER WARNING. Contains descriptions of sexual and physical abuse. Please read at your own discretion.

“We wear the mask that grins and lies

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,

This debt we pay to human guild;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.”

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask  

 “When I get to heaven I’m gonna sing and shout

Nobody will be able to put me out

My mother will be waiting

And my father too

And we’ll just walk around heaven all day”.

Mighty Clouds of Joy (2010)

My Dear Readers,

What happens in this house stays in this house.”  It’s one of the first lessons we learn as we grow up—to keep family business within the family.   We also learn not to share how things are for us at home—we wear “the mask that grins and lies.” As a result, we also learn at home to “suffer in silence.”

It has been nine months since the last time I have shared an entry from The Journey: Bobbi’s Saga—a collection of excerpts from the journal of Bobbi (not her real name), an African-American woman in her early 60s who was sexually assaulted in her early childhood and pre-adolescence.

 

The Importance of Bobbi

 Sexual abuse is a shame that is hidden deep in the bowels of the African-American community.  Since a positive, honorable appearance and image is highly valued and sought in African-American communities, people who speak out about things that threaten that image is seen as “showing dirty laundry,” and thus, is looked down upon.

There are many people like Bobbi who have endured the traumatization of sexual abuse existing and surviving today.  There are some who, following these traumatic incidents, appear to go on to have successful lives, including marriages, careers and families.

Bobbi is one of the latter.  Following her abuse, she went on to graduate from college, remains in a 36-year marriage and has successfully raised three children who now as adults have achieved success on their own as a military officer, an attorney, and a business entrepreneur, respectively.

Despite the success of her family, Bobbi was unable to continue to ignore the abuse she’d dealt with for the last 50 years, and contemplated ending her life of pain and suffering by suicide.  However, before doing so, she decided to seek mental health treatment.

As of today, Bobbi has been involved in six years of mental health treatment.  Bobbi was doing well working in individual psychotherapy, and then four weeks ago following a long illness, Bobbi’s mother died.

As we pick up Bobbi’s journal, she is cleaning up her mother’s home that is cluttered with 60 years of horrendous memories.

—————

2.20.17

I just left a difficult session with Dr. Kane.  We talked about the way I was as a child.  I was thin.  I felt ugly, alone, not smart, not loved, not cared about or wanted.

What the landlord did to me made me feel worthless, dirty, like I was less than nothing.  I had no purpose.  I was full of shame and disgrace.  I was a disposable child.  I recently found out that after placing me in the foster care system, my mother bragged to her friends about how she put me out for being disrespectful to her.

She was so proud about how badly she treated me.  She was so proud and I was destroyed.  At age 13, I was ashamed, sad, had no self-esteem, no friends.  I didn’t care about myself.  I just existed.

When I look at my life, it is either before and after the first rape and before and after the second series of rapes.  No one should have to evaluate their life like that.   I remember the first time my stepfather was inappropriate.   I was in the fourth grade.  He was in the living room.  I remember the lavender gown  and I wore and the little flower on my chest.  He told me to crawl to the television to change the channel.  While I was crawling, he looked under my gown.

He then took me to his bedroom and told me to “get in.”  He then forced his fingers inside of me.  It hurt so bad my body shook.  He told me my mother knew about this, but didn’t want to talk about it.  I wasn’t to talk about this or something bad would happen to her.

I limped out of the bedroom and went upstairs to my room.   I had pain that I did not know how to deal with.  At nine years old, I was naïve. I didn’t know that this pain was only the beginning.

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2.24.17

Regardless of how my mother treated me, I didn’t think that her dying would be so difficult.  I didn’t think that sitting with her in the hospital ward would be this exhausting.  Watching her decline, watching the pain she had to endure as the cancer continued to grow was frightening.

I know that I did the right thing by taking care of her and watching over her.  But there was a cost to me.   It made my sadness, fatigue, and depression increase.  While I know that I was right, I also know that I put my mother’s needs above my own.

My mother died over a month ago.  Sometimes I forget that she is dead.  Going back and cleaning up her house brings back many memories. I am having a difficult time.  I am remembering how I was treated.  These memories are hurting my self-esteem.

I want to stop thinking of my mother.  I want to think about having a positive future.  There are so many things that I worry about.  Not only am I feeling depressed, I am feeling lost… I am worrying about issues that I know with Dr. Kane’s help, will get lighter.

———————–

2.28.17

The last 48 hours have been tough.  The song “Walking Around Heaven” was in my mind all day.  I started crying hard, and I couldn’t stop.  My husband tells me that I should be over my mother’s death by now, but he doesn’t understand. I finally cried myself to sleep.

 

 

Concluding Words

“We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!”

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask 

The words of the famed African-American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar were written during the Jim Crow era (1877-mid 1960’s) of American life where a restrictive racial caste system traumatized the lives of black Americans. This poem clearly illustrates how white America treated and ignored the plight of its black citizens.

There are many people who live with the trauma of sexual abuse in the world today.  However, Bobbi’s story is particularly poignant in how it arises within a community that often keeps its guard up against injury from external sources, not threats that come from  within the community, such as sexual abuse. In fact, issues that come from within the African-American community are swept under the rug, considered to be less of a priority than threats arising from outside the community.

Bobbi’s Saga is important because it gives us the opportunity to understand the ongoing struggles of the sexually traumatized from their lived perspective.   Bobbi tells the story not only of her sexual abuse, but her struggles responding to the shame she has endured as the result of being cast out and abandoned by her mother as well as being “disappeared” from her community.

In these entries, Bobbi is in conflict and torn regarding  her feelings towards her mother.  Despite the physical/emotional abuses and abandonment, Bobbi knowingly sacrifices her own “psychological self” as she continues to seek and obtain what she never received as a child … her mother’s love.

Now that Bobbi’s mother, the tormentor and the “giver of life” is gone, Bobbi is left to review, relive and reflect on her life on her own.  As one can see in her words, she is deeply pained.  Although loved by her husband and children, she is not understood.

Yet Bobbi understands; in therapy she will continue to process her feelings and walk the journey of self-discovery.  In doing so she will learn to balance the traumatic experiences so these will become lighter as she continues to empower herself and finally be able to live the life she wants.

Until the next journey….Bobbi’s saga continues….

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For additional information regarding Dr. Kane, please visit http://www.lovingmemore.com

Bobbi’s Saga: Believing In Life

“I have had lots of clouds, but I have had so many rainbows.”

– Maya Angelou, Poet & Writer

“I wonder what and where I would be if I had a normal childhood.”

-Bobbi

My Dear Readers,

This month, we continue with another installment of Bobbi’s Saga, the story of a woman walking her journey of healing from repeated sexual abuse that she endured as a child and pre-adolescent.

Bobbi’s story is one of shame, blame, guilt and a lifetime of suffering in silence.  In this month’s journal entry, she shares her continuing empowerment and journey of self-discovery with the hope that someone else can also take the steps of self-awareness, discovery, and empowerment.

I always start out a new journal with a life update.  I am now seeing Dr. Kane once a week after 6 years of therapy.  I have gone from having sessions three times a week and phone calls on opposite days of sessions to two days per week and phone calls on days without a session.  Then I went to two sessions per week and no phone calls.  Now I am at one session per week and no phone calls.

At today’s session, we discussed why I’ve continued my therapy for the last six years.  It is only now that I can be comfortable in discussing how I perceive myself and how others perceive me.  At that point, I didn’t think there could be a difference between when I started therapy and now.  I realize now that there may be a difference between what I see and feel and the way others see me.

There is so much that I don’t want others to see. The shame and guilt is gone, but that doesn’t mean that I feel comfortable revealing my history and sadness.  It still shocks me that I feel so much less pain.  I am surprised that the suicidal thoughts are gone.

Yet, the nightmares continue to be a major concern for me.  I recently had one where someone was robbing the house.  I was frantic and upset, and I woke up sobbing.  I then remembered to plant my feet on the floor, look around and see for sure where I am, then getting up, going to a different room and acknowledging the fact that I am safe and that no harm will come to me.

Although I hadn’t had any suicidal thoughts in a while, I continue to have intense flashbacks of these small, baby-like white panties in the corner.  They remind me of how young, small and vulnerable I was when I was raped.

The flashback also reminds me that my mother left me alone in the house at four years old while my rapist worked in the yard.  Talking about it now helps.  It used to overwhelm me for days at a time.  I would become intensely depressed, cry, and not be able to concentrate on anything else.  Now I am aware of it and although it bothers me, it does not overwhelm me. I am now having both the nightmares and flashbacks less often.

The only good thing that I can say about my mother is that because of her, I became a different type of parent.  I am happy the way the kids turned out.  I am not sure I would have been so careful with their lives if my own life had not been so terrible.  I want to make sure they know they are loved, that they are cherished, and that there is nothing they could do to make us (my husband and me) not love them.

I want them to understand that to me, there is no other important job than being a mom.  I feel that I’ve succeeded at that.  If I die tomorrow, I know that I was a good mom.

As we closed out this week’s session, we talked about the progress I’ve made in the last six years.  Whenever I thank him, Dr. Kane asks me: “Who gets credit for the work done in therapy?” I know that the answer is that I do—the patient always does—but I don’t feel that I deserve any credit.

I have always questioned and doubted what Dr. Kane tells me.  I thought I would never get better.  I didn’t know if I would live.  I never believed I would get to a place of harmony.  I hung on to every word Dr. Kane said, listening, processing, and being aware when there was a disconnect.  I started to feel his words, then believe them.  My only hope was to keep listening, processing, hoping and dreaming of getting to a better place.  I didn’t believe it would happen, and yet here I am today.

I want to add the word “believe” to the outside of this journal.  I want to believe more in myself, believe I can enjoy the rest of my life.  I want to believe that there will be time to enjoy life.

Concluding Words

Bobbi has traveled a long distance in empowering the psychological self and the journey of self-discovery.  In my concluding remarks, I would like to provide some context for clarity as this relates to her journal entries.

Bobbi grew up blaming herself for the condition she had been placed within.  She isolated herself from others, feeling that others had the ability to look in her eyes and see into her past.

Recalling Bobbi’s comments about comparing herself to her mother and excelling in the role of mom, Bobbi in the role of protector, intentionally sacrifices herself so that her children could lead lives free of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.   When she says that she is ready to die, she is not being suicidal—instead, she feels complete, accomplished, and prepared to die with the knowledge that unlike her mother, she was a loving and caring mother, and doted upon her children.

Bobbi has done well in her psychological work over the last six years.  She has accepted that although she bears no guilt, blame or responsibility for her sexual, physical and emotional abuses, she can learn to balance the traumatic experiences that were forced upon her.  To gain balance, she has had to accept that nightmares and flashbacks may always be a part of her life. However, with processing and relaxation techniques, these flashbacks and nightmares can lose the potential to overwhelm her and consequently drive her to suicidal thoughts.

While Bobbi is to be congratulated for her willingness to stay the course and continue to process this trauma, the work remains incomplete. One matter of concern is Bobbi’s desire to give the credit of her outstanding work to the therapist.   As Bobbi states in her own words about belief:

“I want to add the word “believe” to the outside of this journal.  I want to believe more in myself, believe I can enjoy the rest of my life.  Believe there will be time to enjoy life.”

This belief can only come once Bobbi takes ownership of the therapeutic work and its outcome.  It is and will continue to be the therapeutic goal that the patient can finally feel fully empowered within the psychological self.

Until the next time ….Bobbi’s saga continues…

Bobbi’s Saga: When Loving Me More Means Letting You Go

 

Sometimes you don’t realize you’re actually drowning when you’re trying to be everyone else’s anchor.”-Anonymous

“At some point you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.”      –Anonymous

All my life, I have wanted a good relationship with my mother and never had it.  To keep trying and let her make me feel sad, angry and guilty regarding our relationship does not make sense.  I know I will wonder how she is doing but I can’t help her.”  -Bobbi

My Dear Readers,

We return this week to the voice of Bobbi, who is sharing her journey of healing from decades of memories of sexual, emotional and physical abuse suffered during her childhood and adolescence, with her mother often in denial about the abuse or actively punishing Bobbi for speaking about it.

Following six years of intensive outpatient therapy, she no longer considers herself a victim, although she acknowledges that she was victimized. She has survived the repeated emotional, physical abuses, and sexual assault, but she is no longer a survivor; instead, she is now a striver on the journey we know as life.

Bobbi, now in her early sixties, is providing care and assistance to her mother who continues to reside alone and is suffering from mid-stage cancer.  The mother, now in her eighties is receiving a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.  In the midst of assisting her mother, Bobbi is working to come to terms with her feelings, which are a mixture of conflict, confusion and contradiction.  It is through her therapeutic journey of self-discovery that she learns to balance these feelings and in doing so, she brings clarification to her suffering and ultimately compassion for her mother.

In this excerpt from her journal, Bobbi writes about her feelings following an incident after one of her mother’s medical treatments.

PLEASE NOTE: FOR AUTHENTICITY’S SAKE, THESE WRITINGS ARE GRAPHIC AND MAY CREATE DISTRESS FOR SOME READERS DURING AND FOLLOWING READING. PLEASE USE DISCRETION WHEN SHARING WITH THOSE OF YOUNG AGE OR LACKING EMOTIONAL MATURITY.


Part 1: The Incident

I just left my therapy session and wanted to write down my feelings.  I was advised that writing would help dissipate my anger.   I left the session less angry than when I came, but I am still angry.  In the treatment room, my mother leaned forward towards me; there was about a yard between us.  She twisted her neck, turned up her mouth, flinched her eyes and raised her voice at me. The look my mother gave me in the treatment room brought back memories of my childhood.

It brought back intense memories of when I was a kid.  I hated the way she treated me then and I hate it even more now.  When my mother gave me that look, it brought back sudden memories.  It was the same mean look she had when I was a child.  The only changes were the wrinkles and sunken face.

It brought back vivid memories of how she used to get inches from my face, bulging her eyes, twisting her mouth, screaming and telling me what I should do and how I should feel.  I remember how scared I felt and how much I hated her.  I had wished so much that she wasn’t so mean.  I couldn’t understand what I did was bad.   I tried so hard to be good and not get into trouble.

I was always afraid of what she would do next.  I was so scared that I truly believed she would kill me.  She used to always get down on her knees and in my face and say “I brought you into this world and I will take you out”.   She wanted us [the children] to be scared of her and it worked.  It brought back a rage in me that I didn’t know that I had. The rage I had in the treatment room was like the fear I had as a child.  The rage was so intense I had to leave the treatment room.

As a child I never had joy.  I had fear, pain, shame and guilt.  There wasn’t much good in my life.  I didn’t know how other kids lived.  I thought everyone had a mother like mine.  My mother never allowed me to visit other kids to come over to our house.   She never played with us.  She wanted us [my siblings] to play by ourselves.

When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to have anger.  Now I have intense rage.  Rage that continues to build.  Rage that began when I saw her face.  Now I keep seeing her face and hearing her voice.  It is like a flashback happening over and over again.

Why?  Why am I so kind to people?  Why do I always want to do the right thing?  Why do I give a damn?  I want not to be angry.  I want that tight feeling inside my chest to go away.  I want the thoughts in my head to go away.  I want the flashbacks of how my mother looked when she was talking to me to stop.  I remember how much I hated my mother.  I hated her when I was young and when I left at 12 years old.

Part 2: The Next Day

Today, I feel sad and depressed.  I found myself frequently crying and hiding tears from public view.  I know that I did nothing wrong.  But I know that this was my last chance to make the relationship work.  I have tried all my life to make the relationship work.  Each time it failed.  I fear that my mother will not make it through this cancer.  This will mean that the last positive relationship I had with my mother ended when I was 4 years old. I hope the depressed mood goes away.  I feel my depression is getting worse.  Hopefully in the morning, I will wake up in the morning and feel better.

Part 3: A Few Days Later

This morning I woke up feeling not angry but very sad.  I kept crying every time I thought about my mother.  I have tried all my life to deal with my mother.  It always turns out the same way in her treating me badly.  I have decided that the relationship isn’t worth the pain she was creating in my life.  Coming to this decision my chest is less tight and I can now eat.  My sleep is now normal.  This is an unfamiliar feeling.

I have decided to stop participating in my mother’s medical care regarding cancer treatments.  I will not take her to her appointments anymore or make phone calls to her healthcare providers.  This makes me feel sad because the next time I see her she will be close to death or dead.  She has used up all of her chances to maintain our relationship.

All my life I have wanted a good relationship with my mother and never had it.  To keep trying and let her make me feel sad, angry and guilty regarding our relationship does not make sense.    I know I will wonder how she is doing but I can’t help her.  

I gave it a good try.

Discussion-Dr. Kane

In this entry, the common theme is the trifecta of emotions that Bobbi is experiencing as she attempts to come to terms regarding her unresolved feelings towards her mother.  This trifecta is conflict, confusion, and contradiction.   At the time of the original incident, Bobbi was involved in a confrontation with her mother while sitting in the treatment room of the healthcare provider.

The Conflict

Bobbi has spent her entire life seeking to resolve her feelings regarding her mother.  During the sixty years of her life, she has weathered the storms of the trifecta i.e. conflict, confusion, and contradiction, all which have severely weighed her down as she has embarked upon her own marriage and raising her own family.  As a four-year-old, Bobbi sacrificed her psychological self by keeping the secret of her sexual assault to protect her family.  Bobbi then went on to sacrifice her body as her mother’s husband repeatedly sexually assaulted her.  As a child, she kept the horrible secret for almost three years as she did not want to see her mother suffer emotionally for the actions of her husband, a man Bobbi’s mother trusted with the well-being of her children.

The Confrontation

The confrontation in the medical office resulted in Bobbi experiencing a flash that can best be described as an emotional response that occurred suddenly and was quick and intense.  This response developed into a series of flashbacks.  Flashbacks are sudden clear recurrent and abnormally vivid recollections of traumatic experiences.  As the situation unfolded when Bobbi’s mother gave her “that look”, it created a vivid memory that arose from that provocation as she experienced the incident.

The Confusion: Bobbi’s Mother’s Betrayal

It was only after being told by her stepfather of his intentions to “give her a baby” that she came forth and disclosed this horrendous truth to her mother.  Instead of receiving the protection, support and help she expected from her mother, she was viciously proclaimed a liar, threatened with blindness with a fork, beaten with a broom and ejected from her family home.  As she is ejected from the family home, it is her mother who, in seeking to maintain her “image” within the African-American church/community, spreads the story of being forced to eject her daughter because “she raised her hand towards me.”   As a result, the family honor is upheld, the sexual abuse remains the “family secret,” and Bobbi is sacrificed and tossed away into the state foster care system where she is shuffled between numerous families before aging out at eighteen.

Trapped in a mire of conflict, confusion and contradiction, Bobbi has spent the majority of her life believing that she is not is not worthy of love and protection, that she is responsible for the horrendous crimes committed against her, and consequently, that she deserved the outcomes that came with those crimes.  It is only following six years of intensive therapy that Bobbi is able to empower the psychological self and in doing so, sharpen her own awareness and understanding of parental failures as well as understanding why her acquaintances, family members, and the African-American church and community accepted what happened to her.  Yet, she continues to be trapped in a mire of conflict, confusion and contradiction as she seeks to achieve the love now as an adult that she never received as a child.

Rage

At the beginning of the journal entry, Bobbi wrote, “I was advised writing would help dissipate my anger.”   Actually, because of the intensity of the traumatic experience and the traumatic recall of her childhood interactions with her mother it brings with it, what Bobbi is really looking to achieve is the dissipation of her anger. Instead, she should be looking to process the incident, not to dissipate the anger.

Anger is a natural, and most of the time, healthy response to an incident that promises harm. However, it does not disappear before its time and before healing has occurred.  Healing can only come after we process the incidents that generate that anger.

The Triad

Where the Trifecta refers to negative experiences, the Triad serves as a healthy response seeking to bring balance to difficult situations.  The Triad is commitment, clarification, and compassion.  Although Bobbi is initially reluctant to heal and inclined to hold onto her rage, starting this process allows her to realistically review her childhood relationships and the role her mother played in stunting her development.  Bobbi wrote:

“As a child I never had joy.  I had fear, pain, shame and guilt.  There wasn’t much good in my life.  I didn’t know how other kids lived.  I thought everyone had a mother like mine.  My mother never allowed me to visit other kids to come over to our house.   She never played with us.  She wanted us {my siblings] to play by ourselves.”

Looking at her childhood, Bobbi begins questioning her commitment to others and what she wants for her psychological self.  She writes:

“Why am I so kind to people?  Why do I always want to do the right thing?  Why do I give a damn?  I want not to be angry.  I want that tight feeling inside my chest to go away.  I want the thoughts in my head to go away. “

As Bobbi begins to examine her commitments, she also reviews what she has done to create a healthy relationship with her mother.  She now finds herself moving towards the acceptance that despite her best efforts, she hasn’t been able to create that healthy relationship, and that she has done all that she can do in that respect.   Given this, Bobbi begins the process of “letting go” of her mother as she begins to accept both the impending death of her mother and the inability to establish a healthy relationship.  Bobbi states:

“I know that I did nothing wrong.  But I know that this was my last chance to make the relationship work.  I have tried all my life to make the relationship work.  Each time it failed.  I fear that my mother will not make it through this cancer.  This will mean we never had a positive relationship after I was four years old. “

Bobbi completes the objective of the triad, which is to bring balance to difficult situations by affirming compassion for the self as she measures the cost of continuing the relationship with her mother despite the pain it was creating in her life.  By developing that compassion for her self, Bobbi finds the desire to focus on her own self-care.  Bobbi writes:

“I have tried all my life to deal with my mother.  It always turns out the same way in her treating me badly.  I have decided that the relationship wasn’t worth the pain she was creating in my life.  Coming to this decision my chest is less tight and I can now eat.  My sleep is now normal.  This is an unfamiliar feeling.”

The Epiphany

Towards the end of the entry, Bobbi has a moment of sudden insight or intuitive understanding, also known as an epiphany.  Bobbi concludes her writing by realizing that despite her best intentions and actions, she will never achieve a healthy relationship with her mother.  As a result, she has decided to stop participating in her mother’s medical care, and thus, accepting the impending death of her mother, since she will not bear witness to the ongoing decline, and she will likely not see her mother again until that death has occurred.   In doing this, Bobbi has decided to respect her own life and come to the acceptance that her mother has wasted her chances of creating a healthy relationship.  Bobbi writes:

“I have decided to stop participating in my mother’s medical care regarding cancer treatments.  I will not take her to her appointments anymore or make phone calls to her healthcare providers.  This makes me feel sad because the next time I see her she will be close to death or dead.  She has used up all of her chances to maintain our relationship.”

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane

The trifecta of conflict, confusion, and contradiction has mired Bobbi for almost six decades of her life.  It is through working within the framework of the triad of commitment, clarification, and compassion that allows Bobbi the ability to release herself from the need to achieve her mother’s love and a healthy relationship.  As a child and as an adult, Bobbi sought from her mother that which she was incapable of providing: love and a healthy relationship.

We don’t know that much about the history of Bobbi’s mother.  Factors arising from journaling and therapy sessions conclude that the mother knew of the truthfulness of the sexual assaults by her husband and chose to sacrifice her daughter in order to maintain her marriage and image/standing within her extended family and local community.  Both Bobbi and her mother share several characteristics: they are both residents of a closed system that is isolating and non-sustaining and both have been psychologically impacted by complex trauma which resulted in permanent emotional scarring and long term psychological injury.   The difference is that Bobbi’s mother chose to betray, sacrifice, and abandon her daughter, where Bobbi chose to continue to provide compassion, care and resources to the person who had forsaken her.

It is through walking the therapeutic journey of self-discovery that Bobbi has empowered her psychological self to seek love from within and in doing so she is capable to create emotional distance between her mother and self.  It is possible that although Bobbi decided to cease assisting her mother in her cancer treatment, she will return to help out.  If she did this, it would not be a failure, backslide or error.  It would simply be another example of the compassion being exhibited by this extraordinary individual who, despite repeated incidents of poor treatment and abuse, returns to do what she feels is the right thing to do.   The positive note is that Bobbi, in the process of empowering herself, is loving herself more.

Join us her next month for the next installment of Bobbi’s Saga.

Dr. Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

 

Bobbi’s Saga: Reclaiming Your Body and Honoring The Therapeutic Work

“There are tons of kids out there who endure chronic abuse and suffer in silence.  They can’t trust anyone, they can’t tell anyone, and they have no idea how to get away from it”

-C. Kennedy, Omorphi

” I think scars are like battle wounds –beautiful, in a way.  They show what you’ve been through and how strong you are for coming out of it.”

-Demi Lovato

My Dear Readers,

For those of you who are joining us for the first time, Bobbi’s Saga is the story of a woman recovering from childhood physical and sexual abuse.

Since aging out of the foster care system at 18 years old, Bobbi has “survived” her childhood sexual abuse.  For forty years she has lived in fear: fearful of what people, especially in the African-American community would think and say about her if they knew her secrets.  For forty years Bobbi held on the memories of childhood sexual abuse, suffering in silence.  Finally, no longer able to tolerate the emotional pain, she decided it was time to end her life and bring the suffering to an end.

Instead, Bobbi made one last attempt to reach out, this time to seek psychotherapy to relieve her suffering.  Historically, psychotherapy in the African-American community has been taboo.  Strength, not the weakness associated with seeking therapy, is what is valued and respected in the African-American community.

My name is Dr. Micheal Kane; I am a clinical traumatologist, which basically means I specialize in treating individuals suffering from psychological trauma.  I view my role as a guide and companion to those lost in emotional darkness and psychological suffering, and my goal is to assist my patients in finding the light of day.  The work I do is known as The Journey of Self Discovery.

As a result of hundreds of years of racism, oppression and discrimination, African-Americans are often psychologically disempowered and strongly impacted by shame and humiliation.  The basic nature of chronic or excessive shame is that the person enduring shame feels unworthy, defective and empty. Humiliation is the infliction of a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves the victim with a deep wound within the psychological self 

Those who have been victimized by the actions of others have the right to live their lives without silence and suffering.  This is the basis of my commitment to this valued and difficult work.

Bobbi no longer suffers in silence.  She is no long a survivor of sexual assault.  She is now an individual who was victimized during countless sexual assaults. Rather to be labeled as a survivor for the rest of her life, Bobbi prefers to be identified as a “striver” as she continues to move along her Journey of Self Discovery.

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The Emotional Pain in Reclaiming One’s Body and Honoring the Therapeutic Work

I just came back from a session with Dr. Kane.  We discussed my journaling, my mother and my body reactions as an 8- and 9-year-old.  In therapy, I admitted how ashamed I have been for 40 plus years as my body reacted to the rubbing of my chest by my stepfather and me not fighting enough.

I was more ashamed of that than being sodomized by him.  I always felt that my body should not have reacted to his rubbing of my chest.  He told me to rub my chest every night to make my breast grow. I had no breasts then.  When my breasts grew large, I believed it was because of the abuse.  I hated my breasts.  In fact, I still don’t like them.  I hated my breasts because they reminded me of my abuse. For 50 years, I believed my breast size was because of my abuse.  I am employed in the healthcare profession and I never stopped believing my breast size was due to my abuse. It was not until Dr. Kane told me that rubbing my breasts would not make them grow.  Yet, I still was not sure.  I asked my primary care physician as well.   She seemed disturbed by the question, but agreed that manipulation of the chest will not make breasts grow or influence their size.

Dr. Kane said something today that I will never forget.  It was one of those moments where something just clicks.  He said that my chest being rubbed is just like my primary care physician checking my reflexes by tapping my knee- what I experienced was an automatic reaction. Dr. Kane let me know that just like I could not stop my knee from jerking in response to the tap, there was nothing I could have done to prevent my chest from reacting to the rubbing.

Dr. Kane also stated that no matter how much I fought, it was not enough to withstand the assault.  He wants me to focus on the fact that I survived the abuse.  Him saying that is so important to me.  I have felt guilty because I didn’t fight.  I also felt guilty and ashamed because the rubbing he did made my young body react to it.

I don’t remember it feeling good, but I do remember it feeling different from anything I had felt before.  Fifty years of shame I am now able to let go of.  I feel so proud and good about achieving that.

Dr. Kane has a way of making things that are so painful to say make sense.  His explanations reduce the shame and guilt.  His explanations make it possible to see what is most painful in a totally different way.

I left today’s session feeling good. I left with the understanding I no longer need to carry that part that I was most ashamed of.

I can let it go!

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In Bobbi’s writing, she acknowledges a major achievement.  Notice the term being utilized is “achievement” and not utilizing terms which symbolizing “overcoming” or “breakthrough.”

In the process of in-depth trauma therapy, the focus is on balancing the traumatic events as the individual continues as a traveler in the journey known as life.  It is essential for anyone impacted by a traumatic psychological wound to understand that the traumatic wound remains as a permanent entity within the psychological self.  To be clear, the traumatic wound can heal; it will never ever go away. It will remain with the individual until death. Understanding this, Bobbi is learning to balance the traumatic wounds associated with her sexual abuse, abandonment and parental betrayal within her psychological self.  In doing so, she is able to find new meaning and value.  Furthermore, validation comes from within and as a result, Bobbi becomes less vulnerable to the shame and humiliation aspects of her disempowered community.

It is important to understand the power that shame and humiliation can have over those impacted by trauma.  Bobbi held to the belief that she, and not her rapist, was responsible for her abuse.  Specifically, Bobbi held to the belief that since she was unable to stop him, she was responsible for size of her breasts. This trauma can be so debilitating and thorough that despite Bobbi’s training and employment as a healthcare professional for 30 years, she held on to those beliefs. This insures the maintenance of her shame and guilt as well as the belief that she is “a bad person.”

In-depth trauma therapy is also essential to respond to Bobbi’s feeling that  “I did not fight enough.”  Bobbi used this for 40 years to justify blaming herself for the abuse that she endured.  Role-playing in the therapy session allowed Bobbi to finally let go of this premise.  Notice that I used the term “let go,” instead of “surrender”.  Surrendering is forced; letting go is voluntary, and therefore empowering to the psychological self.

The scenario we used was that of a 9-year-old rape victim sitting in the office waiting room, with the therapist directing Bobbi to bring the child into the therapy room and tell her directly that she, the child, was responsible for her sexual assault.  Specifically, it was to be Bobbi’s responsibility to affirm to the 9-year-old that she was responsible because she either failed to fight or did not fight enough to keep herself from being raped by a 250-pound adult.  It was only after presenting this scenario that Bobbi was able to clearly put her traumatic experience into perspective.

Bobbi’s achievement in reclaiming partnership with her body is critical to within her healing and her journey of self-discovery.   However, of major concern within the therapeutic work is her willingness to “hand over” credit for her achievements to the therapist, instead of reinforcing the foundation of her work—her own willingness to do the work.

When the therapist commits to the journey, he/she provides an environment where difficult and often horrendous issues can be explored.   When the time comes for the therapist (as the guide) and the patient to go their separate ways, it is essential that the patient leaves with a solid personal and emotional foundation, the sense of resolution from the work, and a desire to continue on their own journey.

The way to respond to the patient’s desire to acknowledge the involvement of the therapist is to encourage the patient to honor the work that was achieved in the therapy.  In honoring the work, the patient also honors the therapist.

To clarify, the role of the therapist is that of guide and companion.  Nothing more.  To honor the work in therapy is to honor the therapist. C. Kennedy suggests the following:

Abuse does not define you.”

I disagree.  Abuse will define you if your community is allowed to write the words that define you. Validation must come from within the psychological self, and it will always be imprisoned as long as another person, group, or community holds the key to his/her freedom.

Join us here next month for the next installment of Bobbi’s Saga.

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

Bobbi’s Saga: Justice, Forgiveness, and Balance

CAUTION: TRIGGER WARNING. Contains descriptions of sexual and physical abuse. Please read at your own discretion.

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

-Langston Hughes (1902-1967), The Negro Speaks Of Rivers

My Dear Readers,

In January, we introduced Bobbi’s Saga as a true-life example of the journey towards healing from childhood sexual and physical assault.  We did this because it is important to us that the readership have some understanding of what a person who has been victimized like this may endure as she/he works towards recovery. Too often, victims of sexual assault live in the shadows and “suffer in silence.”

Bobbi (not her real name) does not consider herself to be a victim or survivor of sexual assault.  Instead, she views herself as being victimized and a striver after sexual assault.  The purpose of the wording is directly associated to Bobbi’s recovery. As part of her journey, Bobbi has worked on empowerment of her psychological self and in doing so, she no longer accepts or views herself with the survivor mentality. Instead, Bobbi seeks to reclaim what was stolen. One of the ways she is doing this is to provide excerpts from her daily journal and allow you, our readers, some insight into her recovery.

When we started Bobbi’s Saga, we committed to posting one entry of Bobbi’s journal on the first Monday of each month for a period of six months.  Now that we have reached the sixth posting, we have built an audience of over 1500 readers, and have received many positive responses.  We understand that this resonates with you, so we will continue sharing Bobbi’s experience and her journey of self-discovery. This month, Bobbi acknowledges the many years of carrying emotional pain along with shame, guilt, and denial of self.  Walk with her as she explores forgiveness.

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Journal Entry 1/23/14

I was thinking about what Dr. Kane said about the little girl in me.  I am mostly not aware of her, but I have felt her recently.  It feels like a small child who missed her childhood.

I just watched a movie called Woman, Thou Art Loosed.  It was about a woman on death row who looked back over her life.  Her stepfather talked to her about becoming mature the first time he met her. He married her mother and raped the little girl who was, at that time, 12 years old.  The mother didn’t believe, comfort or support the little girl.   The stepfather told the mother the little girl was “fast,” and not telling the truth.

I know that I could not have watched this movie one year ago.  There were so many things in this movie that reminded me of my own experiences.  The mother in the story who didn’t believe the daughter had been raped as a child herself. The 12 year old is told in so many words, “What does not kill you will make you stronger.  Get over it.”  The daughter eventually shoots and kills her rapist at the church’s altar.  This is how she ends up on death row.  The rapist is apologizing as she shoots him.

The emotions shown in this movie are so real: shame, guilt, loss of childhood and separation of the relationship between mother and daughter.   This is about a woman and an inner child that just wants to be loved. Forgiveness? Or is it the need to forgive the self?  They spoke about how life is never the same once you’ve been raped.  It is true; it takes a part of your soul away that can’t be replaced.

The movie brought tears to my eyes.  I have felt and worked on all of the emotions with Dr. Kane.  I don’t know why I watched the movie all the way to the end.  I think I was waiting to see the rapist being killed.

Killed, for all he stole from the little girl.  Killed, for all the years he had denied and lied about it. Even in death, his life was better than the little girl he raped.  But, he wasn’t killed by me. I will no longer focus on his life. The life I will focus on is my own.

It was a good day.

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Concluding Words

As we listen to Bobbi’s words, what can we learn from her experience?

It is feasible that Bobbi the adult has had difficulty in connecting with her inner child.  In viewing this movie, Bobbi has not only allowed her inner child to be heard, but more importantly, assured her that her experiences of sexual assault and the resulting feelings are validated. The movie mirrors Bobbi’s experience of being not supported and abandoned by her mother.  However, this is where the mirror falls away—the character in the movie gets something that Bobbi and her inner child never received: justice.

Instead, Bobbi finds herself contemplating forgiveness as a substitute for that justice.  Having been raised within the African-American church, Bobbi has been taught to forgive those who trespass against her, but she has now come to the realization that she can reject the teachings of the church.  She is able to determine that it is in her best interest not to focus on forgiving the rapist, but instead focus on seeking atonement for the psychological self for the four decades she carried the burden of this pain and suffering.

In rejecting the values of her church, Bobbi is able to empower the psychological self.  She acknowledges that she is no longer a “survivor” of the experience and rather is a “striver” of her recovery and therefore, is able to choose not only to let go of that experience but to decide the direction in which she will travel.

In Bobbi’s journey, the experience has not made her stronger.  Instead Bobbi has learned to balance the horrendous experiences she has suffered with the vision of who she wants to be within the psychological self.  In doing so, rather than looking for power or strength, she has achieved transformation.

In the movie, the daughter achieves justice by killing her rapist, but Bobbi is able to let go of the desire for his death or the need to forgive him because she has made this about SELF and not about HIM.

As Bobbi closes this saga of her journey of self-discovery, she acknowledges it was a good day.  In empowering the self, she is able to balance her experiences with who she wants to be and what she wants her future to be.  As she moves forward, she does so with optimism that there will be more good days to come.

 

Join us here next month for the next installment of Bobbi’s Saga.

Dr. Kane

Clinical Traumatologist

 

Bobbi’s Saga: The Gift of Life Is Not A Debt: I Owe You Nothing!

“Free at last, free at last.  I thank God I’m free at last.  Free at last, free at last.  I thank God I’m free at last.”

American Negro Songs by J.W. Work

The gift of creating, bringing, and giving life can be the greatest experience of our lives. For the most part, we cherish these events. However, the question arises: what do our children owe us for giving them life? We, as parents, could have opted to not create, bring or give our children the opportunity to breathe air and live in this world.  Still, does this mean that our children bear an obligation to us as parents?

Do we have the right to expect our children to be grateful to us and give back to us in return for what we have given them? Doesn’t the Bible itself say “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land?”

This month, in Bobbi’s Journey of Self-Discovery, Bobbi seeks to empower her psychological self in order to withstand the demands of her mother, who often employs the very arguments above.  This month, Bobbi stands at her own crossroads as she confronts her own internal conflict: being beholden to her mother, who is tightening her clutch on Bobbi as she comes to the end of her life.

The Gift of Life Is Not A Debt: I Owe You Nothing! (Journal entry 1/22/14).

My sister Ginger and I spoke about funerals again.  Mother is expecting us to pay for her funeral.  Mother also hinted that I was the one to do it since  she didn’t have anyone to take care of her when she gets older.  She is expecting me to call her.  I don’t feel that I owe it to her.

Why do I need to take care of Mother when she abandoned me when I was a child?   She chooses not to remember forcing me into the state foster care system at the age of twelve after threatening me to put my eyes out with a fork when I told her that her husband had been sexually abusing me for almost three years.  I was in the system until I was 18 years old.

She chooses not to remember the hell that I can never forget.  I am not going to enter her “land of make believe.”  In her mind,

  • She was this wonderful mother who met my needs.
  • She was a loving mother who was not abusive.
  • She was a mother who gave unconditional love to her children.

Mother was none of these.  Now that she’s getting older, she wants me to be responsible for her?  She feels I am indebted to her simply because she gave me birth to me?  I don’t feel that my children owe me anything, so why am I indebted to her?

I am not angry or even surprised at Mother’s complaints.  She is doing exactly what I expected from her: she is refusing to let go of her delusions and face her own reality.  I am not going to call her to discuss any of this.  If any conversation happens, it will be because Mother put forward the effort.  But, I know she won’t call.  Instead, she will seek sympathy from her friends, telling them what a terrible daughter I am.

I know that Mother will not be happy with my decision.  It’s not that I don’t care.   I do care.  However, for the first time in my life, I will be an advocate for myself.  I will place what I want and what I need over those of my mother.  I am no longer more concerned about her feelings than I am about my own.

I can listen to the sounds the rain is currently making.  For once I am listening to my own voice.

Today is a good day.

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Concluding Words

We can see from Bobbi’s entry that the external control her mother once exerted is now over.   In her therapy sessions, Bobbi often shares that in the past, she has shielded her mother from her own painful experiences with domestic violence, poor parenting, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse and finally, the betrayal by her mother in being tossed out as a child following her disclosure of many years of sexual abuse.

As death sits patiently waiting to greet her, Bobbi’s mother has used her birthing of Bobbi as a debt that has come due, now that she is older, frail and becoming more dependent on others.   However Bobbi, reflecting on her own motherhood, has come to her own realization in retouching those memories of raising her children.

As Bobbi stands at the crossroads she acknowledges her own joy in motherhood, affirming that “my children have brought joy and happiness in my life.  They owe me nothing.”  Bobbi is able to compare the actions and behaviors she has initiated for her children to what she received as a child.

In her therapeutic work, Bobbi is able to sort through the contradictions and confusion as to what a mother does for her children out of love.  It is that clarification that allows Bobbi to fully assert her own personal power and distance herself from her mother.

Bobbi views her children as gifts to be cherished, treasured and loved.  In acknowledging that her children owe her no debt, she is able to view the debt as asserted by her mother as an illusion without foundation.

Bobbi now acknowledges the yoke of shame, guilt and self-denial she has worm for the past four decades.  Standing at the crossroads, the shackles that bind her are now broken.  Bobbi will no longer bear the weight of the yoke.

As Bobbi’s mother enters her remaining years of life and prepares for her last days, it will be Bobbi’s choice and not her mother’s attempt to shame, guilt or create a debt that will decide whether she will make herself available to assist her mother.  By advocating for her psychological self, Bobbi has set herself free.  She is free to walk her journey of self-discovery without hindrance from her mother.  Free.

A word for the journey

Be careful how you treat or interact with others while you are in the prime of your life.  One day as you will decline to your final rest, you may have to depend on or interact with those same people.

I invite the readership to stay tuned for the sixth and final entry of Bobbi‘s Saga and her journey of self-discovery.

Dr. Kane

 

 

 

 

Bobbi’s Saga: Role Models

 

Larger societal groups such as family, community, and society have historically played a large part in reinforcing the concept of “role modeling” within individual people.  In reviewing numerous definitions of the term, I came upon several that suit this month’s installment of Bobbi’s Saga:

  • A person regarded by others, especially younger people, as a good example to follow.
  • A person who serves as a model in a specific behavioral or social role for another person to emulate.
  • Someone who another person admires and tries to imitate.

The first definition seems somewhat “canned,” and lends itself to excessive vanity. The second one would probably assist in earning the grade of “A” on an academic assignment.  The third sounds more “real” and thus will be the one we use this week.

Many people go through life consciously attaching to models stating, “I want to be just like him (her).”  However, role modeling can be, and usually is, an unconscious action derived from observing and following the behavior and actions of another.

Just as a role model can be defined as a person that others seek to emulate, a role model can also be someone who demonstrates behavior that others reject and avoid.

This month, Bobbi’s Journey of Self -Discovery continues as she takes conscious action to not be like her mother and as a result, her mother becomes her role model as to how not to treat or interact with her children.

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Role Models: My Mother, The Woman I Wanted Not To Be: Journal Entry 1/20/14

Sometimes, when I feel I need to be held and kissed, I wonder if it is because I wanted so much more affection as a child.  I don’t remember my mother telling me she loved me.

She could have told me I love you often.  I just don’t remember being nurtured and feeling like I was important or special.  Like no matter what I did in life, I was loved.  I wanted to have unconditional love.

I remember things Mother said like:

“I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.”

“If you ever go to jail, don’t spend your dime calling me.”

“You are going to be a prostitute.”

She called me a whore.  It would be nice to have memories like being told you are special, important, smart, beautiful and wanted.  But that was not my life.

I used to tell my children I loved them from the time they were conceived.  I used to talk to them and tell them how much I loved them before they were born.  By the time they were born, I knew them.

There was nothing in life that would ever make me not love them.  I would tell them multiple times a day.  They understood and felt my love.  As a mom, making sure your children know how loved and cherished they are, is your most important job.

Now if anything happens to me I know they knew they are loved.  That makes me happy.  I felt I have done a good job.  I made sure they were loved the way I was not.

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In this entry, the common theme is her commitment to her children knowing that they were valued and loved by her. It is in her repeated validation of them that she affirms her true and deep love for them.

The urge that drives Bobbi may be the fear of the life that she herself was forced to endure, which rose from the inability to attain the basic human need of unconditional love of the person who gave her life.  This urge may be viewed as the psychological self, working in advocacy for her children to provide the nurturing that she herself was denied.

In a way, Bobbi may be working in anticipation of her own death by her own hand.  It may be the intensity of her pain and suffering on this earth that drives her to suicidal ideation.  Yet, it is the love for her children that maintains her existence.

Not being shown love by her mother, Bobbi does not know how to live; she knows only how to exist.  As her love grows for her children, she continues her efforts to survive so her children can have the life that was denied to her.

In this writing, we can see Bobbi’s conscious decision to accept her mother as a role model in the lives of her children. Bobbi demonstrates not only the behavior she wants for her children and also, what she “wants not” to model for her children.

Bobbi’s love, unlike her mother’s, is given unconditionally.  She struggles valiantly to insure that her children, as they grow to adulthood, do not suffer the emptiness she herself has experienced during the four decades following her ejection from the home and placement in the state foster care system.

During the preceding four decades, Bobbi teeters between the states of existence and survival.  It is only following the attainment of adulthood for her children that Bobbi will become free to begin the next saga of her journey of self-discovery, driving and the empowerment that accompanies it.

This stage, the third of five, dwells within the transitional and experiential stages of the “Journey for Self Discovery,”  the stages of which are existence, surviving, driving, striving and thriving. This usually begins with the individual living in their fear, as opposed to living with their fear, and Bobbi’s journey is no different.  During this journey, however, Bobbi will learn to balance her fears so she can live with fear instead of in fear as she begins to acknowledge that these fears are a permanent fixture in her life.

Please continue to join us as we walk with Bobbi on her journey!

Bobbi’s Saga: The Body Remembers What The Mind Struggles To Forget

My Dear Readers,

The mind and body are in essence our reality. The mind is like clouds in the sky, with thoughts drifting in and out.  As we drift, we use our thoughts to escape the psychological and emotional pains of our experiences. We can play games with the mind, but there is no escape from the body, which remembers all. The body is like the oceans.  Its depths hold on to the pain and sorrow that make up the foundation of the journey of self-discovery.

Many people say that “time heals wounds,” but in reality, this is merely a trick that the mind plays on itself in its attempt to protect itself from that painful experience.

The truth is that time is meaningless when it comes to the process of emotional healing. It is not time that heals the emotional or psychological wound, but the therapeutic work one does to heal the wound.  Simply put, no therapeutic work, no healing.  Instead, one tucks the traumatic memory of the incident away only for it to surface at an inappropriate time. This is how I originally came into contact with Bobbi.

In time, the individual realizes, as Bobbi did, that the “brain dump” is just a strategy utilized by the mind to cover the pain, while the body continues to hold onto the trauma.

Dr. Micheal Kane

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Bobbi’s Saga continues…

Recently Bobbi saw her mother at the funeral of Gail, a friend of the family.  Gail was a friend who as a child, Bobbi could count on during those time prior to being placed in foster care. During those times when Bobbi was either physically beaten by her mother or forced to sleep on the porch, Gail and her parents had allowed Bobbi stay at their home.

Bobbi’s mother has never acknowledged that she received a letter Bobbi wrote to her detailing her sexual abuse history. As a result, knowing that her mother would attend Gail’s funeral ceremony, Bobbi came to session hours prior to the event. After the funeral, Bobbi wrote me this email:

Dear Dr. Kane:  

Thank you for the session this morning.  I went to Gail’s funeral.  I sat in the back.

 I found myself crying during the funeral.  I could feel the tears rolling down my face. Not only for Gail, but for the memories of playing with her as a child. I remembered her parents’ house as a place I felt safe.  I could go there when I was being mistreated at home, even at night. 

When I came into the church, I saw my mother sitting close to the front.  She turned, smiled and waved.  I waved back.  As the preacher talked about Gail’s life and the person she was and her kindness to others, I wondered if my mother thought about what he was saying.

It was a long funeral.  After the service, there was a repast downstairs in the church.  I didn’t go.  I didn’t want to give my mother an opportunity to hug and kiss me, acting like nothing was wrong and everything was perfect.

I thought about how I would handle the situation if she did approach me, and decided that if and when we do talk, I want her to make the first effort to speak to me.  I do not want to be the reason why she draws attention to herself.   I knew she would put on her best performance , since she had friends who would also attend the funeral.  

I was also tired.  My Saturday morning sessions with you are draining, and I don’t have the energy to process the feelings, think and feel my past and reflect on the possibilities of the future.  I usually give thought to my sessions for a long time afterwards.  Although I did not speak to my mother, I was holding on to intense feelings, which came out as a result of the funeral.

So, following your advice to release these feelings, I wrote a letter to my mother in my journal that I would like to have shared with her.  

 Dear Mother:

When I was twelve years old, you told me I was a prostitute and kicked me out of the house.  I was never a prostitute.  You never believed me.

You threw me out, forcing me into the foster care system.  First to a receiving home; then I went to a foster home. Then, another foster home, and another.

How did you think I felt?  I was thrown out like trash.  I felt abandoned and alone.  I had no one who cared about me. I was alone, sick and I wished for death.  I wanted to die.

I had no reason to live.  But I didn’t know how to die.  If I’d known how, I wouldn’t be here today.

You made me feel like dirt.  I missed my adolescence. I was being repeatedly raped and forced to keep my rapes secret.  When I went into foster care, you abandoned me.  I had little  clothing.  I had to purchase all of my personal items and clothing.

I was not like the other kids.   I was scared of everything.  I spent so many days crying.  My life was changed with no hope for the future.

You now deny the pain you caused me.  You also seem to forget the things that happened.  I question whether you ever loved me.

How could a person claim that they love someone and treat that person the way you treated me?  I remember all the things that happened to me. Mother, you hurt me.  You hurt me to my soul

I don’t ever remember being so sad.

Concluding Comments- Dr. Kane

Bobbi’s email is a clear indication that the emotional wounds created by the sexual abuse as well as the betrayal trauma dealt by her mother is still present to this very day, even though it occurred more than four decades ago.

Betrayal Trauma is defined as a violation of implicit and explicit trust.  Extensive betrayal is traumatic, and the closer the relationship, the greater the degree of betrayal and thus, the trauma that results from the psychological wound.

There is no greater betrayal that can happen to an individual than a mother betraying her child. Even through Bobbi was reeling from betrayal and the resulting trauma, her inner child continues to seek the love and acknowledgment from the mother figure that she was never given.

When it comes to the therapeutic work, there clearly is much to do here.  Among the many concerns, there are two that are the primary areas of focus:

  • Continue to clinically treat the inner child.
  • Assist the psychological self in continuing the process of self-empowerment by healing the traumatic damage and psychological wounds.

The objective here is to reinforce the psychological self and in doing reinforce trust in her actions taken based on her feelings.  It is clear that as we look at Bobbi’s responses, these areas have been severely impacted due to the betrayal by her mother, and this is what I shared with her in my response to her email.

Dear Bobbi,

Your mother did what we expected.  She may never acknowledge your abuse.  To do so, she would have to acknowledge her role in it and the reality of her parenting skills (or lack thereof.)  Instead, she chooses to maintain a life within the fantasy world that she lives in.

Understand the differences between you and your mother.  She has chosen to merely exist, where you have chosen to truly live.  She is just waiting out her time.  You are now empowered to live your life.  Therein lies the big difference: EXISTING & LIVING.

Best regards,

Dr. Kane

As Bobbi continues to do her therapeutic work, she will be able to accept that her mother’s inability or unwillingness to discuss her own failures is an example of “unhealthy narcissism,” and thereby unable to be available to fulfill the wishes of Bobbi’s “inner child.”  With time and therapeutic work, our hope is that Bobbi will recognize her own inner strength as well as her ability to fulfill the wishes, needs and desires of her own inner child.

I invite the readership to stay tuned for Bobbi’s ongoing journey, and to watch as she continues to work towards healing.

Dr. Micheal Kane