An unanswerable question asked,
A box not yet opened to the world of men,
The Boy, a story told but still hidden
The man shrouded behind a wall of guilt and longing.
A Box opened, a light on a dark space
The boy seen hidden in the man
A past denying a future
A past controlling the present
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For a number of reasons, linked to the same underlying issue – that of historic abuse it has to be said, I have been asked to think about what forgiveness means to me.
It has been suggested that part of recovering from the harm that was caused to me as a child, and has blighted my adult life, would be to forgive the person who abused me.
The whole concept of forgiveness seems to be rather stretched our of shape in this context, it isnt for example suggested that forgiving actually has anything much to do with saying what was done was OK or that the abuser doesn’t bare the responsibility. It seems more about accepting that focusing on the abuser rather than on your own needs is counter productive.
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The first of February sees the celebration of Imbolc, a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. It is seen as a positive time with thoughts turning towards the return of the sun to the land after its long sleep during the winter. We see the days becoming longer and the long nights, slowly at first, starting to shorten.
We look out for the first signs of spring, the snow drops in the woods, the shoots of the daffodils fighting their way through the soil to break into the pale morning spring light
Traditionally it is a time when new initiates were welcomed into a coven, again in a symbolic reference to the new life they are starting.
It is also the traditional time for us to celebrate new beginnings, to see the first indications of growth and development from the seeds and hard work of the previous year.
But sometimes we are confronted with the fact that not all of the seeds we planted, either actual real seeds, or more likely metaphorical seeds, have germinated. We look to the last year, all the hard work we have put in to change our situations, our lives for the better. Or Look at the foundations we have put in place and yet there seems no sign of growth, no sign that the desired outcome is beginning to take shape.
So why is it that all the work, the decisions we took and the sacrifices we made in the last year, seem to have come to nothing? Why are we as unhappy with our life as we were this time last year despite making commitments?
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Mid winter is a difficult time for many, for many different reasons. For me if I put aside the never-ending reminders that it has become a time for families to be together, something impossible for me in the circumstances, I think the difficulty is in what the midwinter solstice represents, how it allows us to interpret the shortest day and longest night and of course the change in direction towards more light and warmer days.
The two solstices have a feeling about them, a sort of stillness where the universe, having come to the end of range, holds it breath, hesitates before moving back in the opposing direction. Now yes, I know at the solstice is a local phenomenon, earth bound and experienced differently in the two hemispheres but we are not considering cosmology here but how this local turning of the wheel expresses its self to our limited senses and intuition. And remember everything is connected, everything impacts and guides the path of everything else, so a local phenomenon, a local point of inflection can, and does have universal impacts.
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I recently did an interview with some of the local press as part of the publicity for the Wall of Silence exhibition that came to Burnham-on-Sea.
It was difficult to talk about it but thought I might share some of the conversation with you.
First of all, if you could tell me a bit about what you went through
When I was about 13 I was sexually abused by a ‘family member’. Subsequent to the abuse there was a need for that person to control me, to make sure that I didn’t talk about what had happened. Tis was basically done by emotional control / threats. I remember for example being told, “Do as you are told or THEY will come and take you away”
The result of this was that I almost totally suppressed the memories, denied them even to my self.
The result was, naturally, that this had a major impact on my emotional development and ability to form and manage relationships for example.
There is a quote that sums it up well, I think
“Many remain fixed at that child level of emotional development, as though the trauma put a stop on time. Adult information and knowledge are added as they grow up, but the underlying guilt, fear and inadequacy remain and govern much of their decision-making. The governing power of these feelings is seen in the compulsion to sabotage such happiness as comes their way. Relationships are strained to breaking-point by constant demands for proof of love (which can never be believed), by chronic jealousy (which cannot be comforted), by endless emotional tests (programmed for failure) and by sexual dysfunction (since pleasure is not allowed to the guilty).”
― from “Rescuing the Inner Child: Therapy for Adults Sexually Abused as Children (Human Horizons)”
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Just over 18 months ago my father died. I was fortunate that I was able to spend time with his in his last few months and we were able to talk, not just about his illness and what he wanted at the end, or didn’t want to be more accurate, but about memories, both good and bad, times spent together and apart. Some things he said didn’t make too much sense at the time, but now I can see and understand what he was trying to say to me.
In his last few weeks I would sit beside his bed, and talk. I’m not sure he heard me, or if he did was able to understand but my presence seemed to calm his somewhat. In his last few days he seemed to become more agitated and while I wouldn’t say distressed certainly confused about where, or indeed who, he was.
This wasn’t a simple not knowing that he was in a hospice, or exhibiting the memory loss associated with dementia. No this seemed to be something more than that. Almost as if the world he was experiencing was very very different to the one we live in and he was struggling to make sense of it. Struggling to adapt to the new environment where all the learnt skills and expectations were of no use.
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Imprisoned in time, a boy, a young teen
Stuck in a moment, an event, a trauma
No door to exit, no windows to gaze out of
Silently Screaming as memories swirl and constrain
Betrayal by one who should have gave love
Innocence taken by one who should defend it
Trust destroyed by one most trusted
Memory too hard, too dangerous to keep.
Shackles of the mind, self-imposed on by the boy
Memories denied, hidden and rejected
To change the past, undo what was done
Something that couldn’t, mustn’t, have happened
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Harm None? How do we judge
Things have moved on a bit since I last thought about this.
I was asked to talk to social services, who informed me that they would want to consider what action they would take based on my story and that the natures of things was that they might have to also refer this to the police.
So the question became do I talk to them, to tell them my story or not? It is not in this case a simple equation of who will be harmed by my actions and what offset benefit might there be. It is a question of where responsibility lies.
The core of the problem is that if I was to open up to them then the control of what happened with information, and what the consequences were, would no longer be in my hands, and it would be me of my own free will giving that control over to them. How does that sit with the ideas of personal responsibility imbedded in the injunction to ‘harm none’?
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This post looks at how well some of the perceived characteristics of people who self-harm, Age and Gender, fit with the reality of Self Harm in the community.
For most non experts, and undoubtedly a few experts as well, the perception of people who self=harm is one of almost exclusively young, teenage, and predominately female. This is not surprising as the language, images and targeting of both press reports, Support and information organisations web sites as well as academic papers reinforce that perception.
While it is obviously difficult to fully and accurately understand the demographic makeup of the people who shelf-harm, it is often a secret activity, we can, I suggest, get a first level approximation of the issue from those presenting to hospital emergency departments.
Statistics from the south west of England do not support the stereotype that it is teens and young people – 15-29 that are the majority group.
In fact the 30-44 age range present at hospital in almost identical numbers with the 45 – 74 age group reaching 50% of the numbers of the younger groups.
The same statistics also show only a excess of females presenting in the 15-29 age group but with the gap narrowing in the older age groups
I think form this it if fair to say that self-harm impacts both genders and all ages, and while young females do seem to have a higher prevalence of self-harm the statistics do show that the perception of self-harm as a predominantly young female issues is far from the truth.
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I recently have had to begin facing a rather difficult question. One that at its core asked me to interprets one of the prime directives of Wicca.
“an it harm none, do as thou will”
The question boils down to this, if doing something that is needed for my own recovery & survival adversely impacts on the life of others the where do I stand with respect to the tenant expressed in the harm none rule?
Add into this that there is a moral and potentially legal component, in that the action I am contemplating is to formally report historic sexual abuse, and the who question becomes even more murky.
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