Monthly Archives: March 2010

Transition

Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 08:23 PM AST [General]

I have always thought of spring and fall as the transitional seasons. This is especially true here in the northern part of the United States, where people often will say “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”. Things do indeed change quickly; one days there’s snow, the next , 50 degrees and sunny. These sudden changes can often reflect events that are occurring in our lives. For survivors, change be welcome, unsettling, exciting and frightening all at once.
Maybe that’s why the transitional seasons evoke so much nostalgia. Maybe they trigger memories of times in our lives where change was immanent or needed. These are powerful times. Most survivors know the fear and anticipation mixed with hope that can accompany change; especially change for the better. We desperately want to be out of our abusive situations yet we fear the unknown. We fear our abilities to cope with the demands of a “new life”. We have probably been convinced by our abusers that we are incapable of caring for ourselves. And yet with the tenacity of a crocus reaching toward the sun, steeling itself against the unexpected snowfall and finally blossoming in beauty, we press on, we survive and finally, we thrive. But just as the crocus bulb is genetically encoded to retreat and rest after blooming, waiting to return next the following spring, we remain aware that change is an inevitable and necessary fact of life. We don’t always welcome change, like the unexpected snowfall, but with tenacity we can hang in there until the next sunny day.
Happy Spring
© 2010, Jenifer Hazard


Inclusiveness in healing communities

One of the strengths of a survivor community such as a support group or non-profit agency is common ground. Women who have survived abuse share a bond that transcends age, race and economic status. The more inclusive we can be in our communities, the stronger we become. We have much to benefit from each other’s strengths. Our combined stories create a legacy that becomes more powerful with each contribution. When we are united as survivors we can promote much more awareness and community support than as individuals.
It is essential that the community effort offer diverse representation. Although survivors share many common factors, there are also factors that are unique to cultural background, poverty, race, age sexual orientation and gender identity. There are many patterns to abusive behavior, but those patterns play out differently based on individual and cultural factors. In order to provide a holistic and unified approach to prevention and healing, we must put aside our biases and assumptions and truly listen to one another’s stories.
It is my hope to create a forum where all survivors can feel comfortable to speak their truth openly, and to ask questions of one another. Our persistent misunderstanding of one another’s cultural and individual differences is too often perpetuated by the fear of asking questions and speaking openly and honestly, to have the courage to admit what we don’t know. This fear is often ironically the result of a sense of political correctness that warns us against appearing ignorant or, worse yet, of offending someone.
Of course it is possible that someone may take offense in this situation, especially if we forget basic boundaries and communication skills. Within a group setting, this issue can be addressed at the onset, when the group’s guidelines are being established. I always prefer to have group members establish their own guidelines at the first meeting; this helps them to take ownership for the group process and to establish a pattern of value for individual contribution to the whole. On a more informal or personal level I find it’s best to have these conversations within a relationship that has established some level of comfort and mutual respect. A sense of humor is a valuable tool, especially the ability to be able to laugh at ourselves. Offer to share any questions the other individual has about your culture, generation, lifestyle etc. Of course we must be willing to accept that others may not want to respond to our inquiries at that time or to certain issues. To get back to the group setting it can be useful to have an entire group session devoted to understanding diversity. This is especially true if there is already some tension within the group.
Having the shared identity of survivors offers us an opportunity to open the doors of communication to begin to understand our differences, and by breaking barriers and stigma we become a stronger more cohesive force for change.
©2010 Jennifer Hazard, Nanakoosa’s Place


Dreams

Dreams:

Often times individuals who have experienced trauma will relive that trauma in their dreams, or rather nightmare, which replay or imitate closely details of their abuse. For women in recovery from substance abuse the dreams often appear in the form of sudden and unexpected
using or drinking. These dreams are commonly known in the recovery community as “using dreams”. These dreams occur commonly in the early stages of recovery and healing but they may also make surprise appearances years later, often seemingly “out of the blue”

 

Most likely these dreams and sometimes accompanying flashbacks are triggered by some cue that we may not have consciously recognized. “Triggers” can come in many forms, a person who somehow

reminds you of your abuser, hearing of or witnessing violence on television or in the news, or being at an event where alcohol is being consumed are all examples of some obvious triggers. Although these triggers seem obvious enough we often brush them aside, especially after many years of distance between us and the original incident(s). We don’t realize, or don’t want to admit, that those events can still affect us negatively. It is not always our own unwillingness to acknowledge the power our memories still have. Sometimes memories stored deeply can be aroused without our conscious awareness of a triggering event.

Sometimes we are triggered by subtle stimuli, a song, a scent, a sense of déjà vu that awakens an image or feeling from our past. In our busy day we may pay no mind to that feeling and continue on with our business. But at night when we sleep and the subconscious mind takes over, the trigger is still there and unrestrained by the well meaning orderly ego. This is when those pesky dreams may appear.

Although these dreams can be disturbing, leaving us feeling jumpy and unsettled all the next day, there is value in their occurrence. We may learn and heal with the help of these dreams if we know how to use them to our benefit. And if they are causing undue stress and lack of sleep, there are ways we can learn to cope. At this point I want to remind my readers that a general rule of thumb is that when thoughts, events, emotions or physical symptoms advance to the point that they are interfering with one’s daily functioning, it’s usually time to seek professional help. Assuming however you are not to this point there are a few tips to help you use your “bad dreams” as tools for enlightenment and healing.

Keep a dream journal- this practice can be helpful for a few different reasons. First, writing the dream can help you process the feelings behind it just as talking to someone about it would When we are able to put our feelings in the light it often takes away some of the fear and confusion embedded in them. It is when we repress these feelings and fears that they come back to harass us again and again. Secondly a dream journal helps you keep track of when these dreams occur which may possibly help you to link them to events and situations that may be triggering for you, Finally, dreams are often confusing and seem to make little sense at first review, I have found that by looking back at my dream journals weeks or even months later, meanings and impressions are much more clear than at first glance.

Another practice that can be helpful (and some people find it easier to do this than others, but I guarantee with practice it becomes easier) is to prepare yourself before going to sleep. Tell yourself that if you have a nightmare you will be safe. Have a plan for how to confront it. It may not work the first time, but like anything new it takes practice. At one time I was having repeated nightmares of my ex-husband ridiculing me and verbally abusing me. I kept practicing preparing myself before going to sleep and finally I was able to walk away from him in one dream. In the next I turned to him and screamed “leave me alone you can’t hurt me anymore!” It worked. I rarely dream of him anymore and if I do I am no longer in a victim role in the dreams.

There are many additional techniques to use when confronting triggers and flashbacks and I am currently working on compiling a recommended reading list to share with my readers. I would also love to hear from my readers as to your experiences with taming the dragons of unwanted memories, flashbacks and nightmares. We all have a lot to offer each other by sharing our paths to healing!

Peace and Blessings and Sweet Dreams!

Nanakoosa


Crashing the party of "normal" society

after many years of working on recovery and healing I still tend to feel like the “weird girl in the corner” at social events. I had always been somewhat socially awkward all of my life. In fact that’s the prime reason I started drinking at an early age. The first time I got drunk I was suddenly transformed (in my mind) into a charming chatty debutante with no fear of the boys at the party. What a great solution! I can’t vouch for the charming ideal, and I certainly was no debutante, but I was definitely chatty…and fearless. And I definitely made acquaintance with many boys, most of whom I would have been better off without!
But it was not only the boys who intimidated me, it was also most of the girls in school. The popular ones, the pretty ones, the ones who buzzed around in little cliques like a hive of bees, usually following every whim and turn of fashion that was dictated some Queen Bee. The kind of girls that when you passed by them while they were giggling, you were almost certain they were laughing at you.
As an adult I have had a few good friends who have been with me for most of my adult life. Others have come and gone, but my circle has always been small, trustworthy and like minded.
and when I am at social events, such as parties or weddings I still tend to feel like I don’t fit with the women I meet. I suppose there are a good many reasons for this some rational and some not. What I do know is that I’ve come to a point where it no longer bothers me like it used to. I have also uncovered another amazing discovery. Most of my “isolation” has been self inflicted. Imagine that.
I had the opportunity last weekend to attend a women’s Spirituality Conference. The keynote speaker was one of my favorite author/activists and I was thrilled at the chance to hear her speak. When I first heard of the conference, two months ago, I began canvassing my little group of women friends to find someone to go with me. When I realized that no one would be able to I decided it was time to take the plunge, put on my brave face and just GO.
I have to admit I was more than a little nervous on the first day of the conference. But I took a deep breath walked in and immediately struck up a conversation with the woman next to me at the registration table. I soon found it was quite easy to make ‘small talk”with the other women and by day 2 there were a few of us who were already comfortable with one another from the day before.
The point of my story is that all that self inflicted isolation came from fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not being accepted. And, this is a big one, fear of someone knowing my big secret, that my life hasn’t been perfect. I realized at the conference, where no one knew me, or my past, I could simply be judged as who I was presenting myself to be at the moment. I was a clean slate, just another new person. It felt pretty good. I had a great time at the workshops and browsing the vendors and especially hearing the keynote address. And I met many kind and friendly women, because I allowed it to be, because I didn’t let fear hold me back. Because I didn’t believe that the shadow of my past was hovering over me like a dark spirit saying “look at her, she’s been abused, she used to be a drunk…” and like most scary monsters if you don’t acknowledge them, they have no power over you.
By the way I did happen to knock over an entire shelf of hand made pottery in the vendors area, causing every head in the room to spin in my direction and utter a perfectly harmonized oooooohhhhhhh. But I survived with my pride mostly intact.
After all I am no debutante!
Peace and Blessings,
Nanakoosa

copyright 2010 Jennifer Hazard, nanakoosasplace.blogspot.com