Gratitude for Happy Things

If you are wondering which icky holidays are coming up, click on “Ritual Calendar: 2016″at the top right of this page.

Recently I’ve written about important but heavy and sometimes depressing things. So it is time to balance things out a bit. There are a lot of things I am pleased about and grateful for: here are just some of them.

I feel more sensual these days. The cats feel furrier, the sun warmer, the breezes softer. The same old sheets feel silkier. Everything is simply more itself.

All these years of exercise have started paying off in an unexpected way. When I move, I am aware of my muscles doing things. Some stretch, some tighten. The sensation is very pleasurable. And PT exercises faithfully done have made my core kick in by itself with no effort on my part when I get up from a chair or pick up something. Sometimes I notice it tightening at random for reasons of its own. Way cool.

I have great relationships with my daughters and sons-in-law. They picked guys that were right for them, lovable, loving, and steadfast. And things are good between me and my grandkids, some more than others, of course.

Given my start in life – Satanic ritual abuse – who would have expected this? It feels like a miracle. But the totally amazing miracle is that neither of my children were abused, not by me or their dad, not by my parents or their friends. Not by neighbors or teachers. And they protected their own children. The cycle of inter-generational abuse has been stopped cold in its tracks.

My home is getting tidier by the week – well, no, by the month. Parts of it look really great. Other parts still look like they belong to somebody who has trouble throwing things away. I do not feel guilty about this; rather I feel I will get to it fairly soon.

Today I reached my current weight goal. I plan to enjoy it for awhile and then set a goal of losing another five pounds. This take-it-slow strategy has worked very well for me. In ten pounds, I will get to where I want to be. And if I don’t, things aren’t at all bad as it is now.

The raccoons have left my garden for greener pastures. They have not been replaced by stray dogs or cats. Or buffaloes, for that matter.

Doves (not pigeons) made a nest between our house and the neighbor’s and raised two chicks. I think a hummingbird has a nest in my garden. I would love it if a mocking bird did, too.

I’m planning on going indoor sky diving with a friend. (I don’t have the courage to do it outdoors.) You put on a suit that make you look like a flying squirrel and lie down on top of a column of air. There is an instructor with you the whole time and, if you want, he can make you do some simple tricks.

I’ve found a new scheduling method called Bullet Journal. It is far better than index cards or “to do” lists on the computer because it is hard to lose. And it is better than the 31 day-folders/12 monthly-folders system because it takes up a lot less room. (That’s a little known efficient but bulky to-do list: one folder for each day of the month, one for each month. Works like a champ.)

Today has middle-of-the-road weather: not too hot, not too cold; partially sunny, partially cloudy; wind two miles an hour gusting to four. Perfect for picking lettuce.

There is more, of course, but this is enough to keep me happy for a loooong time.

That psycho b*tch in you?

I want to take a break from writing about therapy before plunging into discussing the therapy process itself. Boundaries, transference, counter-transference, termination; all those good things.

But for now I want to share this entry from Anna Kunnecke’s blog with you. Anna is a life coach who writes like a bandit — she makes me laugh and think at the same time. She calls her blog “Declare Dominion over Your Beautiful Life.” You will find it at

Here she writes about anger, that fierce, scary, protective emotion. She talks about inviting anger to the dissociative table — an immensely useful concept for everybody, not just ritual abusive survivors or other multiples.


That psycho b*tch in you? You need her.

Good girls don’t get angry.
Just be kind.
Try to see their point of view.
Have some compassion.
Anger won’t help.
Just move on.

Any of these sound familiar? Well-intentioned bits of advice.

And totally misguided.

Imagine a great banquet hall inside yourself.  You’ve called a council.

All the various aspects of you are there — there’s the smart savvy you surveying the scene, and the frazzled you checking her phone, and there’s the tender little-girl you dreaming dreamy things.  The cackling crone is waving her cigarette wildly. The mom with the kind eyes is passing out snacks.  The snarly adolescent is ready to tangle.

All of these versions of you are ESSENTIAL. When we’re whole and healthy, all the different aspects of us are welcome at the table because they bring their own brand of wisdom and insight. But for most of the women I talk to, there are quite a few aspects missing from their inner council.  Maybe parts of you went into hiding because of trauma, or maybe parts of you just weren’t ever nourished or recognized so they’re standing shyly behind a curtain waiting to be welcomed in. Maybe pieces of you got fractured off in a time of great fear or shame, or maybe they just drifted off to contemplate peonies and they forgot to come back in from the garden. 
But you know who’s most conspicuously missing?

The powerful, loving, bad-ass presence of anger.

Too many little girls are taught to lock their anger away in a cage or in a closet.

Use your inside voice.
That is not nice.
No one will like you if you’re like that.
Use kind words.
Oh come on honey.
Be the bigger person.

Hang out on a playground and watch how grownups talk to little girls.  In a thousand subtle and blatant ways, girls get told that they are not allowed to be angry.

That their anger is dangerous.
And unattractive.

The messages continue into adulthood:

And so the angry part of them goes deep into lockdown.

Anger is a powerful ally. It’s a signal that a boundary has been crossed, that something is happening that needs to be addressed.  It is there to keep us safe.  Just like fear, in its purest form, is always trying to keep us safe.

She is there to protect us.
To speak out against injustice.
To break the chains that need breaking.
To stand up for the little ones.

Without her, we agree to things we shouldn’t agree to.
We enter into contracts that rob us.
We put up with behavior that is abhorrent.
We make excuses for twisted patterns in ourselves and others.
We turn our eyes away from things that need to be seen.
We swallow truths that need to be spoken.

Anger is a loving guardian at the table, and she carries a big-ass sword.  We need her there, integrated and listened to.

The problem is, imagine taking any healthy loving human being and locking them up in a cage for 20 or 50 years.  Think how contorted she would get.  How desperate.  How filthy and furious and twisted.

This is what happens when we lock away our anger.

Instead of being a benevolent ally, our anger can feel like this evil force in us that makes us crazy or mean or spiteful.  (Not surprising — anybody would roar out of that cage with an unholy fury.)

And so my kind, loving, evolved, beautiful clients whisper to me that they’re so horrified when they find themselves getting so furiously angry.  Even with ALL THE yoga and meditating, dammit!!!

How they scream at their kids out of nowhere, leaving themselves appalled and shaken.
How they unleash on a rude customer service person.
How they nearly sabotage months of negotiations with a cold cutting comment.
How they take it and take it and take it and then they just explode.

They want to know how they can stop being angry.

But actually the way to feel better isn’t to avoid the anger — it’s to feel it all the way through and LISTEN to what it’s desperately trying to tell you.

The problem isn’t that they lost their temper.

The problem is that it took them SO LONG to lose their temper.

That anger is trying to show them where things have gotten out of alignment.  Our task isn’t to exile our anger even further — it’s to integrate her, to welcome her back to the table.  To give her a bath, and a safe place to sleep for as many days as she needs, and a return to her rightful place among the council.

Because with her benevolent protection, we’re infinitely stronger.  Safer.  Quicker to set boundaries and say no.  Quicker to cut cords that need cutting and keep dangerous people out of our inner circle.

And when we’re protected in this way, you know what happens?

We are kinder.  Clearer.  More loving.  All of our tenderness gets to bloom because we’ve got Anger standing there watching over us.  And the world could use more women blooming like that.

much love,  Anna


Ephemeral Equilibrium: Another Christmas

When it comes to Christmas, I seesaw between avoidance and doing what I think I am expected to do. (Notice I didn’t say embracing it joyously. This was true even before I remember why I had such a rough time with this holiday.) Each year, I try to get the proportions as right as possible: a certain percent avoidance, a certain percent something else.

As a kid, I did what my parents wanted me to do, of course. I pretended I was having a wonderful time and loved all the presents they had given me. I noticed, though, that they never gave me anything I wanted. If I asked why not, they explained in such a way that it was my fault. “We didn’t give you any books because you read too much. You need to spend more time on your homework.” Bullshit.

After I got married, I had a little more leeway. I still gave my parents presents, but fewer, and I put less effort into trying to please them. They continued to give me things I didn’t want. But I didn’t have to be there! I bravely told them I was going to spend Christmas in my own home. They pouted, but I didn’t care.

My husband loved food, so there was always a big feast. The food was great. When the kids came, I got pleasure from giving them presents and from spending a long time figuring out what they wanted, not what I wanted to give them. I think that is called “projective identification” — I treated them the way I wished I had been treated, and it took some of the sting out of past Christmases. Unconsciously, I identified with them and so I mothered myself in the process of mothering them.

Later, there were a few lonely years when I rattled around. My kids were grown, my husband and parents had died. I’d lost the structure and had no idea what “I” wanted to do. I wasn’t even sure there was such a thing as “I.”

Then came the memories. Frankly, I have no idea what the holidays were like those first few years. I had enough on my plate just to get through the day, any day, in a haze of pain, dissociation, and flashbacks. But gradually I got used to being a ritual abuse survivor and took some responsibility for managing my own life.

I told all my family and friends that I no longer was celebrating holidays because it was too painful. And I didn’t. No special food, no presents, no Christmas cards, no carols, no nothing. Instead, I spent the actual day doing a big job around the house. (This was in pre-arthritis times.) I chose things that would take at least a day and that would stay done for a while because I wanted to see the results of my work. One Thanksgiving I painted the inside of the garage and on Christmas Day I took all the finished compost out of the compost bins. (I live in California.) The work gave me pleasure for months, as intended.

The holidays were almost enjoyable! I thought I had hit upon a permanent solution to the problem. But in a couple of years I was once again restless, crabby, and lonely. I had grown out of the perfect solution without even noticing it.

So I started spending the holidays with those I cared about, although I made it plain that I wouldn’t exchange presents. Then I inched into giving presents to the youngest grandkids. It was okay. I could handle it. I could more than handle it; I could have a good time — at least for a couple of hours.

That turned out to be a phase, though, not a permanent solution. Next I tried spending Christmas with a good friend who ignored the day. It was very satisfying — we didn’t even noticed when the day came and went! This year I’ve traveled enough and want to cocoon with my cats. That’s okay. I can visit my friend later.

Thinking about it, I realize that each year I have different needs and wants because I am at a different place in my healing journey. The old solutions were good solutions, but they invariably needed  updating. So I finally have learned to ask myself each year, “What do I really want to do?”

Just being able to ask that question shows so much progress. And being able to answer it really shows mega progress!  What more could I want?

I hope each and every one of you can ask, “What do I want this year?” If the answer, no matter how deep down you ask, is, “I don’t have the vaguest idea,” remind yourself that’s okay, you are giving your selves an amazing new experience. Somebody cares enough about them to ask what they want (maybe for the very first time) and it’s natural they are speechless. If you ask often enough, you’ll start to hear a timid little voice making a suggestion.

If you come up with an idea, no matter how nutty, great! You are getting a sense of the “you” that has been buried so long under all the debris of the abuse. That’s fantastic!