Bobbi’s Saga: Wanting More, Receiving Less, and Still Wanting More

“The only time sex was fun when we were working on having children.”

-Bobbi

“After he was done with me, he showered and went off to have breakfast with a friend.  I went back to sleep.  I was shocked about what had just happened.  It took me back to when my stepfather began abusing me, first slowly talking, then touching, later putting his hand and some type of object inside of me … and then his penis.”

-Bobbi

“But I don’t know how to fight, all I know how to do is stay alive.”

-Celie, The Color Purple (1985)

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My Dear Readers,

I once again interrupt my self-imposed retreat to re-engage with my beloved readership.  My intent is to acknowledge the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration, and in doing so, honor the adversity faced by African American women as they walk the landscape of their lives.

It has been four years since I started writing Bobbi’s Saga.  Bobbi (an alias) is alive and continues to work towards emotional and psychological wellness. Since it is Mother’s Day, it only seems fitting that this post celebrates Bobbi continuing to grow and heal as not only a mother, but as a human being.

In this writing, I compare her experiences to that of Celie, the character portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg in the film The Color Purple.  Both works truly reflect the traumatic experiences of African American women who continue to “suffer in silence”.

In my work as a clinical traumatologist, I developed the “S Protocol,” a technique designed to assist patients who are experiencing severe emotional distress, having experienced and survived extreme psychological trauma myself.

The S Protocol refers to the structure of the therapeutic environment.  There are three main objectives. The first is to provide:

    • Safe and Secure
    • Space to Sit with in
    • Silence or/and Speak about
    • Submerged (unresolved) Stuff
    • Surfacing upon the psychological landscape.

The second objective of the S Protocol is to reduce the severity of the re-experienced trauma as it surfaces upon the psychological landscape through reminders such as memories and triggers.

The third objective is to help the individual stabilize and sustain their security and reinforce their self esteem and self-concept.  This is the process of self-discovery; the individual reinforces the psychological self, having achieved ABC: advocacy for self, balance within the internal world and calmness in the external environment.

It is within the work of psychotherapy that the therapist commits to the role of companion, consultant, and guide as the individual seeks to walk the landscape during the journey of self-discovery and in doing so, learn about the depth of the psychological self and acquire empowerment skills.  It is in the therapeutic work and the enjoining that the individual seeks to transform from the societal designation of “survivor” to the self-declaratory status of “striver.”

Bobbi’s saga is the story of an amazing woman who, in her journey of self-discovery, has transformed from being a victim and a survivor to a striver in the decades following severe childhood sexual abuse. In her journey of self-discovery, she has reached into the depth of her being and achieved self-empowerment.

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From Bobbi’s Journal:

I had a session with Dr. Kane today.  I was honest with Dr. Kane as usual.  I say this because we talked about intercourse. 

That is the wrong word.  My recent lovemaking with my husband, I can’t even say that.  I told Dr. Kane that I felt used.  I now feel bad about revealing that.

How do you feel that way after 40 years of marriage?  When he puts his hand on my thigh and rubs over my body, he is never touching the “real” me. I am having a hard time writing this. 

After 3 years of no sexual contact, he now had an urge that took less than four minutes to fill.  He then got up and left; talking about something insignificant, heading to the shower and then to have breakfast with a friend.  We never talked about what happened.

Years ago, we talked about the lack of sexual arousal or satisfaction.  I always thought it was because of my sexual abuse.  I don’t have experiences of lovemaking. I do believe my low self-esteem affected what I expected from sex. 

The one person I had sex with besides my husband, someone I was with by choice, I realized just wanted to use me for oral sex. I don’t think my husband had many sexual experiences before being with me.  He has refused to talk about previous relationships.  After repeatedly asking before and after we got married, I just stopped asking.

 I feel lighter about my past abuse.  The pain is less, but it is still there.  I no longer feel ashamed of myself, most days.  I know it wasn’t my fault all the times it happened to me.  I now never question that.

Even though I feel so much lighter, the abuse still affects me.  The flashbacks still distract me from what I am doing.  The triggers still happen often. I never know when to expect them to appear.

I feel that I am different from other people.  I grew up feeling not loved, not special, not pretty, not wanted, ashamed, afraid of everything; afraid the landlord was coming back to kill us, and especially growing up feeling that I was not smart.

Growing up in foster care meant I missed all the fun parts of junior high and high school.  I was so depressed, but no one noticed.  I was poor, having to live on the state allowance of $25.00 a month.  All of this continues to this day to make me feel different.

I want to be loved.  I know my husband loves me.  I want to be pampered and taken care of.  I want affection, real hugs and kisses, not those that make you feel you are kissing your grandmother.

There are so many nice things my husband does for the kids and me.  I want to think about my life in a different way.  It is hard for me to accept reality.  I know that is because of the awful things that happened during my childhood. 

There are still things that happened to me that I didn’t realize were abnormal.  I will never forget the look on Dr. Kane’s face when I told him that the care provider’s son put dirt in our cereal and we got worms.  It was just another part of my past to me. That memory, among others, were things I remembered but I did not think was bad.

Mother’s Day, and later in the month, my 40th anniversary is coming up soon.  I still want to go away for our anniversary. I doubt that we will do anything.  I am going to be really upset, as I have been asking him about this for a year.  I am feeling really frustrated.

As a result, I certainly don’t feel cherished, cared for and loved.  What do I do? If I say anything, it will start an argument.   On Thursday we leave for Washington, DC to see our youngest son graduate from college. I hope we have a wonderful time.  I don’t feel relaxed, however. My muscles are tight and I’m having headaches.

I am also questioning my emotions.  Are they okay?  Am I feeling this way because of my past?  I’ve also been angry.  Anger is not an emotion I usually have; I wonder if I can let go of the anger surrounding my mother and of her treatment of me.

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Discussion- Dr. Kane

At the age of three, Bobbi became the protector of her mother and brother.  In a child’s mind, sexually assaulted and fearful of certain death for her family, Bobbi sacrificed the psychological self, holding her traumatic memories of sexual assault to herself, never telling her mother or another responsible adult.

Bobbi’s mother passed away last year.  Bobbi continues to struggle with the contradictory feelings of wanting love from and anger toward her mother and her mother’s failure to protect her, her mother’s attempt to blind her and her mother’s abandonment, i.e. putting Bobbi into the state foster care system.

There are significant commonalities between Bobbi’s experiences and those of Celie in the film The Color Purple.  Both are black women who exist in contradictory environments, that is, the public image of community in contrast with the underlying realities of emotional and psychological isolation.

There are several common themes at play here:

  • Physical and sexual assault in early and middle childhood
  • Abandonment and survival, that is, not knowing how to fight and struggling to stay alive.
  • Being involved with emotionally unavailable men.
  • Hopelessness & inability to remove oneself from ongoing traumatic impacting situations.
  • Lack of psychological or emotional supports

However, there are also differences between the two. In the film, Celie’s children are taken away from her, and she lives her life not knowing what has happened to her children. In contrast, Bobbi’s children become her reason for living. Like she did when she first experienced the sexual assault, Bobbi becomes a “protective force” around her loved ones, sacrificing herself to ensure that her own children would never be physically or sexually abused.

40 years and three children later, Bobbi remains in a marriage devoid of intimacy and affection, continuing to carry her traumatic experiences alone.  Her husband is now aware of her extensive history of sexual abuse and traumatization, but as revealed in her journal, he remains emotionally unavailable. Still, Bobbi has achieved her goal of protecting her children from harm or abuse, and revels in their success. Her youngest son has recently graduated from a major university.

Bobbi continues to work on her self-empowerment and continues to work on conceptualizing and understanding that trauma is a permanent etching on the psychological self. She is aware that she can be successful in advocating for mental wellness and balancing the traumatic memories and in doing so, she can achieve calmness in both the internal self and the external environment. Although the flashbacks of the abuse that she experiences are less frequent these days, she has accepted that the traumatic memories may at times subside but may never fully go away.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

For a moment, I want to reflect on the actions and behaviors of Bobbi’s husband. Like Bobbi, the husband is also psychologically impacted by trauma in his own way.  He is a retired African American male who has endured decades of covert/overt racism, rejection and disappointments.

Like many African American men of his generation, he keeps his pain within, choosing instead to “suffer in silence.” He is a loving father and dutiful husband by deeds of being a good provider (food, clothing, shelter.)  He makes himself available to carry out any task that Bobbi requests of him.  However, he simply does not express his feelings.

Bobbi understood this when she entered the relationship.  She was keenly aware that her husband was “emotionally unavailable”.  Where other men pressured or demanded sexual relations from Bobbi, when she and her now husband were dating, he made no such demands.  He was Bobbi’s “helpmate” and continues to be so today.

The problem here is that Bobbi has never received “true intimacy,” and it is not clear that her husband knows how to provide it.  Like Celie, Bobbi suffers in silence and accepts what little affection she receives from her husband.  Now, however, Bobbi is speaking up, advocating for herself, wanting balance and calmness in her life.  It is apparent that she will continue to make these demands on the relationship.

It remains to be seen, given the husband’s history of emotional unavailability within the relationship and his unwillingness to engage with the depth of his psychological pain, whether transformation in the relationship can be attained.

Still, it would be a failure for us to define him as a villain in Bobbi’s story.  He has also been traumatized by his experiences.  However, the difference between the two of them is that the husband chooses simply to “survive,” while Bobbi seeks self-empowerment, striving for a life where she can thrive.

It has been my honor and privilege to be Bobbi’s companion on her walk along the human landscape and be able to share in her wisdom arriving from the Journey of Self-Discovery.

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The Undiscovered Territory

The past is what it was.

The present is what it is.

In the future lies what is to be uncovered.

It is the undiscovered territory

Waiting for you.

-Dr. Micheal Kane 

 

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

More to come… Bobbi’s Saga.

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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…

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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: 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: 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