Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NYU Center For Violence and Recovery - Intimate Abuse Symposium

Kate and I attended this symposium last week in NYC. Linda Mills, director of the Center for Violence and Recovery and a big advocate of VA, invited us to speak and sit on a panel. The experience was very moving. Seeing Judges, Attorney Generals, Social Workers, Advocates from all over the US come together and discuss solutions to the social malady of the Power and Control Paradigm. It was an honor to be with them and to share how Violence Anonymous has transformed our lives.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Odd Man Out

I had a bit of a blow-up on Sunday, with a best friend and my girlfriend. I've been getting the sense that the last three times we've been hanging out (and working with the homeopathy stuff) it always ends up being the two of them who tease me and pick on me. After noticing this and starting to be uncomfortable with it after a couple of times, I decided to finally say something. I said very nicely and correctly when I told them that I felt unhappy with the two of them playing off each other and basically "ganging up" against me and always teasing me, and that it was uncomfortable for me and too much for me. The answer that came back from both of them was more or less that it was just me, that they weren't doing anything, and that I just had to look within myself for the answer to that problem. I felt hurt and finally got pissed off because I didn't at all feel like they had taken what I said seriously, and instead of trying to empathize and understand, they just simply sent it back to my address and told me it had nothing to do with them. Then my friend left, and my girlfriend ended up ignoring me. Even when I was pissed off I didn't yell or scream, but I did shut down the situation through my anger, and so my friend left.

I tested myself afterwards with my biofeedback method, even while I was in the middle of this completely messed up emotional state, and I found a huge conflict called "wanting to explode, repressed anger". I started taking these remedies, and the next day I went and got acupuncture, and this helped calm me down. But honestly I didn't want to see or talk to either of them after that, and I haven't seen my daughter since Sunday. I wrote a long message to my girlfriend, and pretty much the same one to my friend, explaining to them that 1. there are dynamics that happen in groups where people are excluded or picked on in one way or the other, even if these dynamics are not (necessarily) malicious or premeditated or even conscious; and 2. that even *if* it is a sensitivity that I have, if already I bring it up *nicely*, then I'd expect a partner and best friend to take it seriously and show some consideration. I also explained to them that it was important for me to be able to resolve this with them. I also apologized that I got pissed off and that this made things uncomfortable.

This situation brought up a very old hurt for me, which dates to when I was a child, which probably started already in my family (with my sister and mother and even my father), and which continued in school. I was often excluded and very specifically in 5th and 6th grade got picked on quite harschly. I was one of the smartest, which didn't help, but it did mean that I got out of there after those two years, and didn't have to stay in that kindergarden of a class. Anyway, this topic got reactivated for me, which is all the better, since now I can work out this old hurt and trauma as well. It also explains why I also continue to get very pissed off when my girlfriend is insensitive to me (I'm feeling relatively grumpy at the moment anyway).

I immediately started doing some research on the web, and found some interesting pdf articles on "mobbing", something which is well-known in Europe. It's extremely insidious and very hard to deal with, but it happens exactly in situations when the ones with more power pick on someone with less power, and a group of people gang up on a single individual, and finally it takes on its own dynamic. This research also confirmed for me that I was the victim of such mobbing when I was a child, and that this was extremely hurtful and destructive for me, and something that I've continued to carry with me, causing me to be antisocial in a general sort of way (and therefore also continuing the spiral of exclusion and mobbing which I experience). However, I feel that apart from getting pissed off in the end, I didn't play the victim in the situation, but decided to bring it up and say something about it, while remaining correct.

My friend recontacted me about ten days later, but basically explained to me that he disagreed with what I had written and that even though he thinks "that I'm someone who tries", he can't really do anything with all that. The call didn't end so well and so far we haven't been back in touch. It seems that our friendship, at least for the moment, is over. This is too bad, since he is someone I counted on as a close friend for a long time. It's worth mentioning that he was having a relatively tough time that day he came over, and that based on what he had said that day and also on the phone call afterwards, that he also seems to have a problem letting go of grudges - he drudged up something from a few years ago, which I had thought that we had resolved together.

My girlfriend wrote already that first evening that in thinking back on the afternoon, she could understand why I would end up feeling uncomfortable and hurt. She apologized and empathized, and said she was sorry for her part of all the teasing. She ended up showing me that she was on *my* side, something that I was grateful for. Considering when my friend started to tease me, my girlfriend jumped on the bandwagon, I'm glad that she finally got the point, and hopefully won't do this anymore.

My experience is always that when I say *NO* to something that I don't like, I end up being punished by being excluded or picked on even more. Interestingly enough, the solution to this "conflict" which I tested on myself, is to find creative ways of saying no and expressing anger and setting limits, and that it's possible to say no *without* ending up alone and being excluded. So although the situation ended up being a bit of a drama and emotionally quite traumatic, on the level of being able to resolve something from the past and bringing it back into the present, it was very useful.

And finally, I think no one likes being teased always by the same two people when it's a group of three. So in a way this is also a normal and ok that I finally said something. Too bad it turned into a drama and my friend left like that, hopefully next time it won't have to happen like this, and I'll find a way to say something *without* excluding myself.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My wife called the sheriff on me

Yesterday, while trying to create a plan with my wife on how we can get her to treatment for PTSD she triggered and convinced herself...  honestly I'm not sure what she convinced herself of, but it appeared that in her mind I became the abuser and she thought she was being controlled in some way.  For one of the first times in my recovery, I can actually say that I was not behaving in a controlling fashion.  I definitely feel a sense of urgency, since she has been ill for a year now and is getting worse, in my opinion, by the day.  At any rate, at my suggestion that maybe she wait to sell her horses after she returned from 30 days with professional help, she triggered and was unreachable.  Nothing that fell from her lips was rational at that point and our conversation as two adults working together was derailed. 


I took a time out, letting her know that I would return in 5 minutes to, hopefully, continue our conversation.  After 5 minutes, I returned, but she was still swimming in a sea of victimhood and I was helpless to help her back to the land of sane thinking.  I gathered my things to move back into a friend’s house to give her some space to get her head straight and took some time with my son to try to explain what was going on and when I would return for him.  He assured me that he was ok staying with mommy but cried that I had to leave.  As I pulled out of the drive, I was stopped by a deputy sheriff who demanded I stay and explain what was going on. 


The beautiful thing about it was that I actually had no fear of the deputy or the situation, knowing that I had used the tools of VA to stay cool and calm.  In the past I would have been shitting myself, knowing that I had actually laid a hand on her or screamed and shouted horrible things at her.  This time thanks to VA, none of that had happened.  It was embarrassing, since the cleaner was there and I had to call a client and cancel an appointment while the deputy cleared me to go.  I took the time to play with my son and did my best not to give him the impression that anything was wrong.  Thanks VA.





Friday, April 24, 2009

No more teaching my father. Anything.

Most of my life, I have felt the need to teach my father in areas where he is ignorant.  My father is very intelligent around making money, but lacks any type of emotional refinement.  The easiest example to describe is how he eats with his mouth open even after 35 years of the family asking him to stop.  It's as if he really has no interest in accommodating anyone.  About a month ago, he asked to come visit us in Austin with his wife to see our son and give him a birthday gift.  A seemingly easy request to grant, except that my wife has been chronically ill, I am doing double the work to keep the family together and my son has suffered his two largest injuries ever, under the neglectful watch of my father.  i.e.  we can't leave him alone with his grandfather, for safety reasons.  which means that I have to baby sit the grandfather as well as the son, so I'm doing triple duty when he's around.  Not restful, nor fun for me.  As you can imagine I politely explained that it would be best if they didn't come due to Kate's illness and left it at that.  An uncomfortable conversation to have but necessary for my sanity.  That was about a month ago...

Today I received a message from my father asking again if they could come visit in a few days. Usually you would assume the someone would at least acknowledge our past conversation and maybe ask about Kate's health, but not dear ol' dad.  No mention of it.  Only, "We'd like to come and give grandson a present."  I've decided, thanks to the reading in this weeks VA meeting about the role of the rescuer, not to even return the call.  I no longer need to educate my father on etiquette, nor do I have to repeat myself or my reasons to be "polite" while having the same uncomfortable conversation twice.  Thanks VA!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 19 2009

I'm starting this blog at the suggestion of my mother-in-law, who thinks it might help people and make it easier for me to find a publisher for the book Violence Anonymous - a program of recovery from violence, which I'm currently writing.  I also thought it might be cool to write a play-by-play of how I, a person who has resorted to power and control tactics to get what I want for most of my life, avoid perpetrating violence on my family, friends, colleges and business partners.  My hope is that this blog will inspire you to think about how you act/react to situations in a more peaceful and productive manner and how that can affect not only your life, but society as a whole.  

Today I brought my family home from a holiday in South Africa.  What I noticed was that I become very anxious and agitated in the airport, when I am lugging bags for myself, my wife and my son.  It's a 24 hour trip door to door and that's a long time to have an almost 4 year old on a plane.  My wife is also sick with an immune disorder and can turn into a wheelchair case if her illness gets the better of her.  So I'm already feeling stressed about the idea of getting all of us back home.  

At the onset of the trip, I had agreed to lug my son's car seat on this trip.  My wife felt is was best to keep him in his plane seat and even though I had arranged for her to sit a few rows away, so she could have a rest, which made me mr mom for the whole journey, I agreed to lug the useless thing from Austin to S. Africa and back.  I also had to haul a few other bags that I thought we unnecessary.  Any way...   the point is, I managed to keep myself from exploding with rage or shouting at my son, who was in need of extra attention that I couldn't give during the shlep through customs and security, but I felt like the fucking bore of the party.  I was the "don't do that, don't do this" guy and I could see the enthusiasm for life draining from my son and wife.  The best I could do was try not to speak while i seethed with resentment for getting myself into this.  What came to me was very simple.  Check the extra carryon bags and this fucking car seat and let him sit in the plane seat like everyone else.  I don't have to agree to every plan my wife has and play the flippin martyr so i look like the good guy.  This may seem simple to you, but it was revolutionary to me.  

I believe if I get myself into a bad situation in business, that It's my own doing and I should honor my agreement and never make one like that in the future.  This way I keep my clients happy by not complaining and next time I negotiate a better deal for myself.  that's the way I learn my lesson.  So it's the same with my wife.  there is no point in complaining, just change the situation and next time only agree to what will really meet my needs too.  So the new rule is, "if you can't carry it yourself it doesn't go on the trip".  very simple, no hard feelings.  Dad is no longer the pack mule.  once I made that the policy and let everyone know.  I felt great.  like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I turned back into fun James.  What's your story?