Wednesday, October 24, 2012

PowerLife 101: Gender is Secondary

First time here? Visit my New Visitors page to catch up.


October is domestic violence (DV) awareness month, and this morning as I followed my usual routine, I ran across this video: Fox News DV awareness month Interview.  As I watched, My initial reactions were the information was well covered, and I applauded the people involved with helping to bring public awareness to DV. Later, though, a deeper reaction sunk in; I felt invisible. Before developing and following the Living PowerLife approach to health and wellness, I probably would have ignored my deeper reaction. I would have gone about my day and pushed those feelings deep inside; made them invisible to my consciousness. Now, I address my feelings head on and this post is the result. The theme is power through transparency.

I am a DV survivor. I have been for over 10 years, and most people who are, or have been, acquainted with me would not know. This is something that I kept hidden from most people and away from my own scrutiny. Even as a minister and counseling people who were living with DV, I kept the fact that I lived the same way hidden. I kept it hidden from others, but most important, I kept it hidden from myself. I did this because of many reasons, most of which fall under shame or fear categories. 

SHAME AND FEAR: In the past, I was ashamed of the fact that I allowed someone whom I loved to verbally, emotionally, and economically abuse me. My shame came from the fact that I knew from my education, professional experience, and common sense that what she was doing was wrong. Still, deep down inside I believed that I deserved no better treatment. This belief came from being told for decades that I was not good enough. In addition, I was afraid of being alone. I equated being single with personal deficiency. I was afraid of recognizing my DV status. I did not know what changes that recognition would bring in my life.

POWER THROUGH TRANSPARENCY: Today I live my life with as much transparency as safety allows because I believe this is how we give power and gain power. We give power by letting people who are struggling with similar challenges know they are not alone. We give power by showing people what we have learned from our own struggles. We gain power by facing life head on, with no dodges, no denials, and no distractions. The process of facing our problems and challenges head on teaches us where we are strong and where we need to improve.

This is why, when I found myself feeling invisible after watching the interview, I decided to write about my personal experience. You see, the interview focused on male/female relationships. This means that the information discussed was based on the assumption that in DV relationships, men were usually the offenders and women were the survivors. My relationship was same gender. People like me were not visible. Because of this, I write that gender is secondary in DV. 

DV is how one person gets, maintains, and misuses control over another. The size, background, gender, orientation, religious persuasion, economical status, education, profession, race, ethnicity, ... are all secondary. DV is about one person violating another. The violation can be as obvious as rape or as subtle as gently stroking where you do not want to be touched. DV is about one person isolating another.  The isolation can be as difficult as losing contact with your family or as easy as quitting your job. 

If you are in a relationship where you feel as though you have little control in your life, where your resources are being systematically eliminated from your life, where your options are decreasing rather than increasing it is time to talk and examine the dynamics of that relationship. 

Remember, you deserve only the best. Stay safe.

From my PowerLife to Yours,

2012. All rights reserved. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

PowerLife 101: Your Friends. Right Or Wrong For You?

First time here? Visit my New Visitors page to get started.


Here you will read about some common human behavior. Understanding them will help you determine the quality of the relationships that you value in your life. The examples are not exhaustive. Instead, they are a place to start. Examining your relationships in the light of how people behave toward one another is an important step toward getting the best out of the Living PowerLife approach to health and happiness.The theme for this post is health through honesty.

You will be surprised, as was I, by just how much you will learn about yourself and what motivates you when you honestly consider each relationship that you value and why. When I first completed this step, I started with a shorter list of examples. As I progressed, I added more. I suspect you will do the same. For brevity, I have three main categories to get you started: A) People who find the discomfort of others entertaining. B) People who need to be with us to be real. C) People who gossip. I chose these three because most of our destructive behavior such as physical/mental/spiritual abuse, cheating, or lying fall under at least one.

Also Included are real-life examples from past relationships. I do not blame or want to embarrass anyone, so I have taken great pain not to reveal the identities of the people in my real-life examples.

Along with your list of behaviors, another way to determine the value of your relationships is to take an honest look at how you are when you are with each person. If you like how you feel, and how you behave when you are with them, try to identify why this is the case. Conversely if you do not like how you feel, or how you behave when you are with them, try to determine why. Understanding the why is where you will gain more knowledge about what motivates you to act. Understanding why will also reveal how healthy a particular relationship is for you.

 Physical/Mental/Spiritual Abuse

The first group is people who find demeaning others pleasurable. I call them potential, or actual, abusers because on some level they enjoy hurting others. 

Some of the people who use this type of humor like to call it dark humor as defined on The Free Dictionary website. For our purposes, dark humor becomes destructive when people laugh at the pain, discomfort, or isolation of those considered as outsiders. One real-life example  that I can offer for this happened in a social setting where everyone appeared to be jovial and at ease except me. 

I was attending a social event made up of about 8-10 men and women. I remember feeling very uncomfortable and was confused because everyone there was laughing, talking, and seemed to be having a very good time. It was not until I started really listening for themes in the conversation, that I realized why I felt so uncomfortable. The conversation for most of the night consisted of one person sharing rude and crude remarks about conservatives, church goers, people from the 'wrong' side of town, or anyone who was not part of their group. Each comment or story was followed by hearty laughs and little digs from the rest. 

My discomfort came from the fact that I felt pressured to go against my inclination and join in laughing and poking fun at people viewed as others. Perhaps a younger and weaker me would have ignored my discomfort and joined in the behavior. However, that was the beginning and the end of my social contact with them.


The second group is people who believe that they cannot be themselves unless they are around us. I see these people as potential or actual cheaters, because they hide or show who they are and what they think based on who they are with. 

The first time that I encountered this puzzling behavior was at least 10 years ago. Because I was reared in an ethnically blended family, I was an adult before I first encountered affinity groups. These are groups of people who come together around a common political or ideological platform. Affinity groups can also form around racial affiliation. This particular real-life example illustrates my experience with the us vs them mentality and a connection to cheating.

I was attending a conference that was made up of racially diverse women. There was a break-out session for people who wanted to meet as a subgroup they called people of color (POC). Not ever feeling the need for this, and because my outsider's view was judgmental, I decided to attend based on the fact that I fell in their POC category. I wanted to see what happened in these meetings. I wanted to learn about why so many people needed these spaces. I wanted to see if my outsider's view was correct.

The discussion topic, interestingly, was about why POC meetings were important. When I heard this, I came to attention and prepared to take lots of mental notes. My disappointment grew as each person shared their thoughts, and I felt even more perplexed. While I cannot include personal thoughts shared by any particular individual, I can give an example that was used to explain the feelings in general.The comfort level that many people had while in POC settings was described as one where shoes and pantyhose could be taken off and no one would be offended. 

I was surprised, and immediately felt even more out of place. First, I did not wear pantyhose. Second, I considered it poor etiquette to take off my shoes, let alone my underwear, in a meeting. Third, I could not understand why POC meant that general privacy or courtesy standards no longer applied. Fourth, being in a setting where 30 to 40 people took off their underwear was not something that I wanted to experience. Fifth, and for me most important, I wondered how anyone could trust members of a group who hid who they really were from the rest of society. During the entire discussion, the underlying tone was of us vs them where the us believed that they could not be authentic in the presence of the them because... The why was never made clear to me.


Group three is people who gossip. I see these people as potential or actual liars because they spread information about others without knowing if what they spread is true. 

Gossip is a behavior that is commonly indulged in our culture. The print and Internet media have gossip columns and entire television programs are built around spreading gossip about celebrities. So many exist because so many are interested. Indeed, some people are so involved in getting or finding tidbits on their neighbors or other people that they have trouble taking care of their own responsibilities and relationships. The following is a real-life example of how people use gossip to ostracize others, distract attention from their own wrong doing, or to harm the good reputation of someone.

At one time in my life, I was affiliated with a person (I am going to label this person leader. I am also going to use the pronouns they, them, or their instead of he/she, him/her) who, to outsiders appeared to be quiet, self-deprecating, righteous, and passionate for defending the oppressed. On first meeting leader, I was very impressed and happy about the prospect of being under leader's tutelage (I was a student at the time and somewhat naive about people). 

It was not long before I was part of leader's inner circle. Once part of that group, though, I began to see a different-real side of leader. This side was abusive, dishonest, very insecure, manipulative, vulgar, and demanding. Anyone who questioned their authority was quickly and firmly slapped down. The stage was set for the two of us to part ways. That time came when leader unexpectedly fired someone within the inner group. 

This person was there before me, and leader gave no information about why the person was gone. I knew that there had been tension between leader and the person fired, but did not know why. I did not want to know details, but I was also not comfortable with behaving as though the fired person had never existed. I needed the time, space, and guidance to process the loss of someone who had become my friend and colleague. Consequently, I met with leader to voice my needs. This is where I learned that gossip can be much more than a silly behavior engaged in by small-minded people with little excitement in their lives. 

Leader told me that they had first hand knowledge about the person they fired. Leader said that they could not talk about the secret knowledge because they gained it during a confidential conversation. Leader said that what they knew illustrated the fact that the person fired was unethical and unfit for the position they had. I had no way of knowing how true leader's accusations were, and really did not want to know details about the decision. 

As a student, I went to leader with a need for help to process an unexpected change, a need for space to incorporate that change into my growth process. My need was ignored and overshadowed by leader's defensive, self-serving response. Yes, leader failed as a mentor, but what I got instead was far more useful in the long run. What I got was a lesson in just how easy people can use the cloak of confidentiality or anonymity to spread damaging gossip about anyone they see as a threat. 

Why Bother?

This is important because the energy you keep around you and send out to others is the same energy that you invite into your personal life. Making an assessment of the relationships that you value most is difficult. You may realize that people you love, trust, or feel you cannot live without are actually not good for you. You may learn that you behave in destructive ways in your efforts to keep certain relationships. While difficult, the assessment is also a crucial part of living your power in your life. Once you go through this process, you will come out on the other side stronger, more confident, and more able to see where you are either being true to yourself or letting yourself down.

From my PowerLife to yours,


2012. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Living In Reverse III

First time here? Visit my New Visitors page to get started.


Since describing the improvements in the Living In Reverse I and Living In Reverse II posts, I have noticed changes in myself that reveal just how much my mind, body, and spirit were struggling before I started following the Living PowerLife approach to health and well-being. The theme for this post is without responsibility there is no freedom.

Until about 4 years ago, I took very little responsibility for my health and happiness. In fact, instead of following a plan with goals and accomplishments, I simply let health and happiness happen. While I did go to the gym, I had very little conscious awareness of the connection between what I ate and good health. I also paid little attention to how my thoughts determined how happy I felt. 

I do not want to give you the impression that until 4 years ago, I was lazy. The opposite is true. Over the years, I earned a master's degree, worked full-time, had an active social life, ran a successful non-profit, published my first book, managed 2 websites, produced several public access television programs, produced and hosted two radio shows, was in a long-term relationship, and had an active writing and speaking profession. The difference between then and now is illustrated by where I focused my energy and why. 

Before, most of my energy was focused outward with very little left for inner connections. I went from one project to the next, sometimes juggling several at once, without really taking the time to learn about what frightened, energized, soothed, excited, emboldened, inspired, or inhibited me. 

In other words, I became very good at helping people recognize what frightened, energized... them but horrible at doing this for myself. I lived this way because, on some level, I was rewarded. I was rewarded financially, socially, and personally. The rewards, however, came with a few price tags.

First, focusing most of my energy on others, resulted in me I living a disjointed life. I was not connected to my inner guidance and spent most of my time honoring the guidance of other people. This affected my professional and personal relationships. Because I valued an inner compass that was not mine, I came across sometimes as conflicting and unpredictable.

Second, I became depended on others for feelings and conditions that I should have controlled for myself. I did not take responsibility for my own health and happiness. I did not value myself enough to do the work that was needed to learn about me. Instead, I allowed others to project their expectations and hopes on to me in exchange for a false sense of acceptance and love. I lived in a gilded cage, but I was just as trapped and miserable as any wild animal in the woods.

Now, most of my energy is focused inward with some reserved for outer connections. Instead of moving from one project to the next without regarding how the project fits into my life story, I take the time to see which is best for me. 

Before reaching out my hand in friendship, which I value greatly, I take the time to get to know the person so that I can determine if friendship is possible. If I ever decide to consider another long-term relationship, I plan to avoid being bowled by my emotions. I will take the time to determine if the relationship would be healthy for us both.

So, what other changes come with my new direction? Well, my memory is back to where it was in my 30's. By claiming responsibility for my own health and happiness, I am free of the constant anxiety over what other people think about me. The mental energy that I once used to attend to this fear of rejection, is now free to be used in other ways.

I have no joint pain or clicking noises in my knees when I walk up and down the stairs. This can be attributed to the fact that I am eating better, and drinking more water than any other liquid, but I also think that having a more relaxed body overall helps too.

I sleep more soundly, I wake up feeling refreshed and actually smiling. When I do stay awake too late, stray from my usual routine, or eating habits, I am not affect as dramatically as before. I bounce back faster.

I no longer have the feeling of loss as before. Once I lived with an incredible feeling of loss. I could not identify the source of the loss, but was constantly aware of the feeling. Now, I understand because as I continued to reconnect with my inner guidance the feeling of loss lessened.

I am not afraid that I will lose my confidence, sense of safety, or internal peace. In my gilded cage, I lived with the constant fear that the rug would be pulled out from under my feet. In fact, that was the state of my life back then. Just as I felt I was getting my emotional and mental footing, someone would pull the rug. Now, because I have taken responsibility for my sense of confidence, safety, and peace I do not let fear of the unknown stop me from trying new things like I did before.

From my PowerLife to yours,

2012. All rights reserved.