Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Feldenkrais for the Battered Women of this World...

"You were kind to me," she said. He made a sound, of wonder or pain; his hold tightened.
        "I did nothing - "
        "Your eyes saw me." She paused, gazing back into those 
          strange, bleak years. 
        "No one ever saw me," she whispered...
                   - Patricia A. McKillip, the Book of Atrix Wolfe

Globally, at least one in three women and girls is beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime. (UN Commission on the Status of Women, 2/28/00)

Yesterday, I was working on a particularly delicate desktop publishing project that was all about getting the spacing correct, lots of tiny changes that, if not saved, are pretty much a ‘start all over again’ deal. Suddenly, the power cut off, and everything went dead. Years ago, I might have panicked. But, I have joked for years that I am the Queen of  Starting Over. I was not particularly disturbed.
As a survivor of the experience of growing up in an alcoholic home, I have a lot of experience with thinking about how to get what I need when it appears as if the power lines have been cut.  That feeling was pretty much an every day occurrence. Then, later, as an adult, I was a sitting duck for attracting abusive men. Why? I was so used to abuse I thought I deserved it. Water seeks it's own level. I will never forget facing the locked front door to my own home, hearing my six year old daughter screaming for me inside - but her father - God bless him - had changed the locks.
He was the King of the Perfect Family, and as such, since we were over as a partnership, was committed to getting me seamlessly out of the picture so he could find a new wife a.s.a.p. This new individual, this  a new mother, he would then insert into the space left vacant by my sudden exit from abject emotional servitude. Never, 'in my wildest dreams,' did it for one second occur to me that he would completely cut me off from my baby. 

When we had first discussed bringing our daughter into the world, we had made an agreement. We had agreed that if it ever happened that we did have to separate, neither of us would use her as a pawn to hurt the other. He probably didn't think twice about breaking that commitment I had made with such solemnity with him. From his perspective, I guess he thought he was protecting her. What he was really protecting was his ego. Love does not create separation.
For me it was a loss that cut to the very foundation of everything I held dear. As a recovering addict, six years earlier, having a baby had been a momentous decision for me. I knew it would be hard, not something to do lightly. But after much thought and soul-searching, I had determined to have this baby as a demonstration of my new-found commitment to life, an act of saying 'YES!' at a profound level of my own experience. An addict is committed to slow suicide. 

The commitment to Love, and to have the audacity to bring another living being into this world was a huge shift for me. For any mother, having a baby is an act of faith in the universe, of hope that the world is not such a bad place. For me, this was a step into trust far greater than any I had ever taken before. And, it was about to be tried almost beyond endurance. This is not the place for the whole story, but I will say that I never picked up again, no matter how close to the depths of despair I came during the next few years. I was a mother now, no matter how near or how far I was from my daughter.
When I left that house, where I had endured abuse both physical, mental and emotional, I was beaten, broken, ashamed, emotionally and physically depleted. At that point there was no question of fighting for what was true and right. This righteous father called the nastiest lawyers he could find into play and their tactics where as sleazy as they come.  I was broke, homeless, and had no skills to speak of. They say battered women have ‘Self Esteem Issues.’ Well try having no self esteem at all, at all. See how far you get in the world. People walk all over you, they take advantage, they step on you. There is no reprieve. And if you’ve just been through years of trauma that the violent relationship represents, you think you deserve it. Because that’s how you’ve been programmed.

When I tread the dry texts of psychology, that speak about me as if I were a rare specimen, instead of a common occurrence, they talk about having an unhealthy ‘Sense of Self.’ What IS that? Well, the text-book definitions are abstract, as are all attempts to categorize and study something from the outside. All I know is that the best way to understand what it means to have a healthy Sense of Self, is to try living without one!

Nowadays, things are very different indeed. As a FELDENKRAIS practitioner, I work with healthier ways of shaping and molding the way we perceive ourselves in relationship to our environment all the time. Now if that sounds like jargon, it’s because in the abstract it is. Without relationship to something actually happening, it’s theory. But within myself, or within the people I work with, it’s a tangible shift in perception. It’s a way of relating to self and the world as if I matter. It’s connecting to the sense that what I think and feel is important on both an internal and an external level.

What I sense IS how I notice that I am thinking and feeling. For people living in the trauma of a constant crisis, either in the occupied territory of a war zone in a foreign country, or, in the war zone of their own home if violence is the norm, sensing and feeling is INTENSE.  So intense, in fact, that it’s common to turn it off, tune it out. It’s the only access to any sense of peace internally, even if it is illusionary and temporary - until the next predictably unpredictable outbreak erupts.

The problem with this is that if I turn off my ability to feel anything, I actually make myself even more prone to being taken off guard, to being hurt, to being a target. So victims, family members and war veterans alike usually more than compensate with developing a heightened sense of awareness to the ‘vibe’ around them. 

Hypervigilance is a symptom of trauma and it runs rampant in the homes of the multitude of dysfunctional families all over America. Wake up people, this is not an uncommon issue. (I was called for jury duty once. They had to eliminate potential jurists who had prior experience with domestic violence. One by one as each person was called and questioned, they were eliminated. By 10:00 a.m. about two thirds of the potential jurists had been released; approximately nine out of ten people, in this small American town in California, could not claim to have never been in contact with friends or family dealing with some form of domestic violence...)
Post traumatic stress syndrome is not just a veteran’s diagnosis. And, from my point of view, it’s not much of a diagnosis at all; it’s a symptom of a shattered sense of self - something entirely responsive to the gentle and safe environment of AWARENESS THROUGH MOVEMENT as a path home, back to a clear sense of how to feel. When used as a practice, it's delivers powerful juju: you discover how to create an internal sense of security and comfort from within.

And, so the process of healing the pattern of choosing destructive relationships, is to learn, slowly and gradually, to give credence to the possibility that what we ARE matters. Thinking my needs are completely insignificant is a learned behavior, and unconsciously shaped by the environment of emotional blackmail and manipulation that is pretty much the norm in the dysfunctional family dynamic. The good news is, you can unlearn it.
When I allow myself to feel, I can sense when conflict is immanent. Anyone has this ability. Just walk into a room where people have been arguing and it’s clear. I can also begin to sense when people are not emotionally safe, or trustworthy. When I give credence to my own perceptions, I can nip those patterns in the bud. With each new encounter, I can begin to open up only to what feels safe. It’s a feeling, and one that is so unfamiliar after so many years in a virtual war zone, that it takes dedication and time to relax into.

It actually takes a leap of faith that it’s possible. It takes a leap of faith in the process, because the process is often uncomfortable. It takes an ability to be with not knowing and to allow that by hanging in there the path will be made clear, eventually.  And, if it’s really challenging, it’s going to take a leap of faith that you could find someone trustworthy to support you in the process. 

If this history rings true for you, if you relate to it, it may be that I'm the person that can take you from numbness to aliveness, from the patterns of the past to a pattern of finding new options, new ways of coping, living, loving, and moving through live both on the mat and off with a spontaneity you have been denied for most of your life. If you feel it IS time for you to reclaim your power, please contact me and I will take you through a number of strategies for releasing old patterns that you can do safely, without drugs, in the comfort of your own home no matter where you live in the world. If you think you might be ready for a self-directed way of moving your life into the next level of growth, please, please contact me. Been there, done that and won't it feel good when you are on the other side of all that baggage?

We are not born knowing how to live! Be compassionate with yourself!
Check out the Interview I did with FELDENKRAIS Trainer
Dennis Leri for

What would Moshe Do?

"The process of Functional Integration® and Awareness Through Movement® 
  brings us into our human-ness by helping us understand how we function and learn."
                                                                                -- Dennis Leri

Come for the release from tension; 
stay for the discovery of your own path to
living your best life!

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