Friday, July 7, 2017

post estrangement: healing encompases much learning

Obviously, anyone who is struggling to heal from trauma goes through many stages and steps toward recovery.  There are many ways we learn to make changes within ourselves, our thought patterns, our responses, discovering false core beliefs etc.

However one of the most valuable tools that I have discovered in healing is learning about the bad behaviour patterns of others.  The more I am aware of the types of actions used by Character Disturbed People (that is people who lack character and to some degree actually gain pleasure from using and hurting others) the more I realize that being proactive in recognizing these traits and categorizing them as "bad behaviour" and then making choices for my own defense the more "safe" I feel.

One of the aftermaths I experienced post trauma was a fearfulness.  For a long time I did not recognize what was holding me back, I just resisted virtually all social situations. I felt great anxiety or panic when forced to face such situations.  Now, as I have learned so much more, I have come to realize that this is my "flight" response in anticipation of being rejected and exposed to more of the same trauma.

I never learned about bad character in my life and so I was not prepared for encounters with bad people.  Most of my life the manipulators and controllers went under the radar!  Their jabs so subtle that that vague sense of un-ease I felt was my fault, I labeled myself as too sensitive.  Oddly enough this was often reinforced when I did dare to voice my opinion that I was feeling hurt!   You know exactly what I mean;...the well meaning advice "oh you are just being too sensitive". 

How many unkind words are spoken, how many put downs uttered, how many times are we made to feel inadequate and when we complain we are the "overly sensitive" ones; or we have no sense of humour; or we misunderstood.  And when the events of unkindness are small ones we tend to ignore our inner warning signs.

Here is an example from my past.  I redecorated a room. I put in hours of research, found pictures that spoke to me and made me feel good.  I was excited about creating this room and worked hard finding the colours and patterns to create my vision.  When done I was incredibly proud of what I had accomplished.  When completed, most people enjoyed the results.  However one person looked and said "I would never do a room like that!"  Now this was not a direct insult but it did imply that my room lacked appeal.  I ignored the warning signs that this was not a nice person. I continued to be friends with her. 

Years later when our children were teens and I confided in her my challenges with my son she blamed me for his behaviour.  It was my fault because I was not strict enough.  Now that of itself hurt, but she then went on to make sure my children knew that she felt I was an inadequate parent. She continued to undermine my parenting because my children started going to her for advice and ignoring mine.

Here is a classic example of how a "gut feeling" ignored early in the relationship led to this person remaining in my life to cause me harm later on.

The small warning signs should NEVER be ignored. First of course we need to know that they are in fact warning signs.  And sadly that is not something I was taught and I presume that there are many "nice, people pleasing" types of people around who fall into the same category of lack of knowledge, as I did.  We brush off the small slights maybe with a cringe, but we forgive and forget too easily.  For this reason a vital aspect of healing is to learn to recognize  these warning signs. That requires learning about what makes manipulative controlling egotistically full of themselves people tick! 

The second thing we need to learn is that we do not have to tolerate such behaviour!  We do have the right to respond with boundaries and limitation setting retaliations!   In the past my "I am a nice person" persona did not allow me to do this.  So my next step in healing is overcoming my fear of responding!

I can recognize bad behaviour, my "gut" always warns me.  If I feel bad I know I have been treated bad.  But now I also have the vocabulary to define what the bad behaviour is!

In the process of healing I have gotten good at removing myself from the presence of people who exhibit bad behaviour.  I call this my coward approach, but in my fragile state of recovery it was all that I was able to accomplish.  If you do or say something that is derogatory or harms me, I reserve the right to remove myself from your presence.  That is called "flight"

Now I face my next challenge, when I recognize bad behaviour to confront the person immediately with a response about how I feel about their behaviour and that I won't tolerate it!  That is called "fighting".

Most of my life I have used "fawning", doing things to try to get people to like me and treat me better, or "freezing", trying to become invisible, insignificant not worth picking on.  I never felt I had the right nor the option to flee or to fight. 

Healing has taught me that I do have the right!  

As always, dear reader, I love to hear your thoughts on what healing has taught you.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2017 - 07 – 07

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Post Estrangement - Grappling with Mental Health Issues.

Mental health issues do not happen in a vacuum.  You don’t wake up one morning with mental health issues spontaneously in your life.   Mental health issues are created by the way people treat you! 

When people treat you as less than, as inferior, when people tell you what they think is wrong with you or how they want you to behave, they create insecurities within you.  You start to doubt yourself.  You start a thinking pattern that involves the words “I am not good enough”.  When you are rejected or shunned you feel unloved and unworthy.  These cause mental health issues that stem from insecurities about worth and acceptance.  

I find it surprising that the very people that create the drama in relationships, that focus on your faults and your shortcomings and constantly point them out to you are then totally unsupportive when you exhibit signs of mental and emotional trauma.  They are the ones that point out that they think you are sick and need help.  Often they even say that they don’t want to be around you because you are sick, when they themselves created the situation by undermining you at every turn, in effect they are the ones who made you sick but they use your emotional distress against you as just one more sign that you are unworthy.  

And yet all too often we see or treat mental health issues like they are some form of contagious disease.  We ostracize those who succumb to the pressures of being emotionally abused and who show signs of suffering based on the feelings of insecurity, abandonment, and low self-esteem induced by the bullies.  Meanwhile, the bullies in life, the narcissists, the sociopaths, the psychopaths walk around unimpeded by emotional trauma because they are the source of the emotional trauma in others, but they are the first ones to point out the damage they have done as a verification that others are crazy.  They point out the unworthiness of those they have destroyed, claiming it is their emotional instability that makes them unworthy, disguising that they themselves are the source of the emotional trauma.

If you suffer from low self-esteem, if you feel insecure, if you feel unloved or unworthy; all these signs of emotional and mental health issues; know this, you did not suddenly become this way, you did not suddenly start to feel this way in an emotional vacuum.  You are this way because of the way you have been treated by others.  And yet it is those very others who created your “un-ease” in the first place; who claim that you are the defective one! 

Part of healing is learning this.  For as long as you blame yourself for your emotions and feelings, you don’t put the blame upon those who are the source of your feelings.  The people who treated you badly, those who mocked and criticized and put you down, they are the source of your feelings.


Healing cannot take place until you find yourself in a place where you can see this clearly.  As long as you blame yourself for being weak or as long as you believe that by doing more you will become worthy you are not really addressing the depths of the problem.

When you realize that the forces that cause you to feel emotional pain are external you can figuratively or physically remove yourself from the source of the pain.  You can assign to those others who tormented you emotionally through their actions and words with the blame. And thus you empower yourself to create boundaries, to say “their actions, their words, their responsibility” and you then stop trying to “please them” by changing yourself. Instead you start to change yourself so that in becoming self-reliant, self-compassionate, self nurturing and self-caring; they no longer have power over you.

Oh but be prepared, the action of changing yourself, of setting up boundaries against abusive emotionally manipulative behaviour will bring out the worst in your oppressors.  

  • They will now tell the world that you have mental health issues, they will shun you for your mental health issues and tell others to shun you as well!  
  • They will make demands that you get help for your mental health issues and say things like “I can’t be with you until you get help”.  
They do this to cast aspersions upon you and to deflect others from seeing that they are indeed the perpetrators of the harm causing actions in the relationship. 

They really don’t want you back as a healthy well integrated person because then you are no longer a willing target to their abuse!  

They liked you in your dysfunctional self-doubting, self-denigrating, people pleasing, submissive, conflict solving role!  So even though they are the ones that told you that you were the “crazy” one and tell you that you “need help” and said that they don’t want to have anything to do with you until you are “better”, they don’t want the person you become in the process of healing either! 

  • An emotionally healthy person can’t be manipulated and controlled through fear of loss.  
  • An emotionally healthy person can’t be influenced or tricked into doing more or giving more to earn love and acceptance.  
  • An emotionally healthy person therefore serves no purpose in the lives of those people who enjoy having power over others, who enjoy using others to gain advantage for themselves.  

So when you are finally at a place where you are strong and emotionally healthy and ready to take no abusive behaviour from anyone, the original perpetrators of your “un-ease”, the perpetrators of your emotional break down and following break through, will still refuse to become a part of your life.  

They will continue to devalue you and tell you what is wrong with you and will continue to tell you that you must apologize for your reactions to their hurtful behaviors and they will continue to tell you must change before they will allow you back in their lives.

Do not be fooled into believing that they really have your best interests in mind when they tell you that you are sick.  Yes, even though they often use the phrase “I am only telling you this out of love”, their purpose  in telling you that is only to make you feel worse about yourself than you already do.  And do not believe that they will come back when you are healed, for the healed "you" sees right through their manipulations and they do not wish to be exposed.

Emotionally healthy people do not push you out or reject you for being in a state of “un-ease”.   Emotionally healthy people stand by you as you heal, they offer support and encouragement. 
Emotionally healthy people do not point out what is wrong with you they point out what is right with you.
Emotionally healthy people make you feel loved and lovable.

If you feel anything less than honoured, loved, supported, respected, nurtured in any relationship that you are in; then you are in the presence of someone who is contributing to your mental “un-ease”.  You are not the source of this un-ease, they are.  Your feelings are merely a response to what has or is being done to you. Mental health issues are created by those who treat you badly and they desperately hope that you never find that out. For once you do find out they are revealed for the unpleasant characters that they really are, and the unpleasant personality that they exhibit is exposed.

So you can count on one thing for sure; those who want you to remain mentally and emotionally unhealthy will do everything in their power to keep you from becoming healthy.  And this includes calling you crazy, isolating you and disparaging your tentative first steps at becoming healthy.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2017 – 06 – 26 

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Daily Reflections: the pitfalls of the comparison habit

I think one of the things that we learn as children is comparing ourselves to others.  

Maybe our parents started the trend, by saying things like: 
- “why can’t you be more like….”  Or 
- “look at how well ….. is doing.”  

These messages somehow stick as we grow up and we internalize them.  Once we internalize them we become our own worst critic.  We start to compare ourselves to others and find all the different ways we don’t compare favorably.  

It is a vicious circle, we feel bad when we compare ourselves to others so we do more of it and more of it always coming up short and soon we lose all sense of self-worth.  

At some point in time, for our own mental well-being, we have to stop this cycle, to move away from comparisons to celebrations of our victories. 

We need to learn to redirect those false habits that no longer serve and create new ones that serve to create wholeness within us. Sometimes that means totally relearning the internal habits of a lifetime, especially if we carried this childhood pattern forward into our adult life. 

Thought for today:
where do I still cling to the false patterns of comparing myself to others?

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2017 - 06 - 09

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Post Estrangement: the Dilemma of Forgiveness

Quote:  "Weigh the true advantages of forgiveness and resentment to the heart. Then choose."
~ Jack Kornfield

On my healing journey what has kept me focused on finding a way toward forgiveness is the weight of resentment, bitterness, grudge bearing and unforgiveness have upon my soul. 

Always when I felt those negative emotions growing in my heart I found myself feeling betrayed by my own thoughts and a heaviness would weigh me down in a dark place.  When I weighed the true cost of remaining in that place I recognized that the price was too high, for it means sacrificing the values that I aspire to as a human being.  I don’t want to live down to other people’s standards; I want to live up to my own perceptions of what a good person ought to do.

The only way forward for me was to work on those aspects of my response to sorrow diligently. No wonder healing is such a hard journey, when most of the time I have to fight against my own dark side, my need for vengeance, justice, payback.

To let go of the resentment and bitterness, to not be burdened by a grudge and to find a way to forgive is to fight that inner darkness that says, “they don’t deserve to be forgiven”.

In order for me to like who I become in the process of healing I have had to learn how to separate the person from the deed.  The next step was seeing the person as a hurting, lost child of the Divine, and to then forgive that lost soul and pray for their healing as well as my own.  

It is when I pray for their healing, that I am most closely in tune with the kind of loving person I want to be.  For my own healing I pray that I can feel that way more often.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2017 – 06 – 06 

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Friday, May 5, 2017

post estrangement: coming to understand aggressive behaviour

Learning to recognize actions that are wrong
and then speaking out, saying that it was unacceptable
is the first step to letting others know you will no longer tolerate such actions against you.

“all tyranny, bigotry, aggression, and cruelty are wrong and whenever we see it we must never be silent” 
~ Ingrid Newkirk

Far too often we think that all the evil and cruelty in the world is "out there" somewhere.  Out in the streets of an impoverished neighbourhood, in another country where there are injustices, in another place where there are ancient grievances still being rehashed generations later.

However even within our own personal lives, within our relationships with family, friends and co-workers there lurks the tyranny of aggression and cruelty also.  It is well camoflagued often with the flowery words of "I do this out of love" or "it is for your own good".  And because of the disguise we fail to recognize that hurt or if we recognize that emotional hurt, we flagellate ourselves for being too sensitive and we tell ourselves how wrong we are for feeling put down and being made to feel shamed and guilty when after all it was done with the best of intentions.

But healing is about learning to recognize actions that are wrong.  Simply because a verbal aggression has been justified as coming from a loving place does not make it less aggressive.

The cruelty of unkind, demeaning or belittling words is not diminished because the speaker of them professes to be doing it for our own good.

The bigotry of insisting on one set of rules for themselves and a different set of rules for us, is not lost because they are spoken by a family member!

The tyranny of being expected to be something for someone else to the detriment of what is good for ourselves is not ameliorated by the after thought "but it is for your own good."

When we experience wrong actions or hurtful words we have to learn to not only unmask them from the flowery sentiments used to justify them, we need to recognize them as bullying and aggressive behaviours perpetrated upon us in the name of love. 

We need to recognize that if the intent had been to show love we would feel love and not emotional pain and rejection.  When you feel the accusation of "you are not good enough" there is a reason.  The reason is that you have been told in some disguised form that you are not good enough. 

Maybe there was a sneer on the face or some other micro expression that delved deep into you psyche letting you know that the tidbit of corrective information was not meant as a loving suggestion but as a gleeful criticism of your inadequacy.

Maybe it was their body language that showed the separation of "me up here superior and you down there inferior".  Whatever triggered that feeling of "not good enough" it came through.  Your gut reacted, that deep primal part of you recognized it, even when the present you tried to deny that any offense happened, that you are just overreacting.

Our first step is to learn that when we feel emotionally hurt there was an intention to inflict that emotional hurt.  We have to stop denying this and thus protecting the aggressor.  There was some need in the "hurter" that was satisfied with delivering the hurting message.  As long as we deny that, we continue to be hurt by the same people over and over again becasue of the simple expedient, what they got away with once they have now learned they can get away with it again.

We have to learn that they won't change a behaviour that has been giving them good results until we change.

We have to learn that we have a right to speaking out and say, "that was unacceptable."  We have a right to say "I don't buy your excuses anymore".  We have to say "I see through your words because your actions are the exact opposite"

We, the acquiescing doormats, the perpetual people pleasers, the conflict avoiders have to take that first step to letting others know we will no longer tolerate such actions against us.  For if we don't change, if we don't set a higher standard of what we will tolerate, if we don't set personal boundaries of acceptable behaviour towards us; then those whose personality it is to be tyrannical bullies, even well meaning disguised tyrannical bullies; will continue their aggressive cruelty with impunity. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2017 - 05 - 04

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

My Daily Reflection: How does one connect to the relevant?

How do we let others know we find their thoughts and ideas relevant?

In a day and age of impersonal social media how does one stay in touch with reactions, quality, and meaning? Are we helpful or redundant? Are we contributing or wasting our time and energy?

In face to face contact we read facial expressions and body language.
When speaking with someone we can register their comments and their feedback.

On social media we voice our thoughts, our concerns, our motivation and our aspirations into a void.
Is what we have to say even reaching anyone?  
If we are reaching anyone do they even care?

The exercise of communication is to interact with others. However, when we don't even know for certain if we have made a connection, are we deceiving ourselves that what thoughts are important to us, when shared even matter to others?

One must inevitably consider the possible futility of randomly connecting. When our reaching out becomes a random attempt to communicate with others about the essence of experiences; about the nature and quality of life; the question becomes is our message only reaching the cosmic void?

What we experience in life matters.  It shapes our perspective.  Sharing our perspective offers us opportunities to learn from the experiences of others and sometimes make adjustments to our own habitual responses.  What if our perspective is way off base and we continue down an errant path because no one points out a better road?  What if we make a break through and no one is there to celebrate and encourage? 

It is when I ask questions like this that I realize that social media can either enhance us or isolate us.  When we engage in conversations, when we have feedback and different points of view we are connecting, growing, learning being a part of something greater than ourselves.  However, when we spill our thoughts into the void with no response, with no critical feedback, with no alternate points of view; we become more isolated than before the arrival of social media. 

It is then that we have to wonder if social media is contributing to or detracting from the essence of our humanity, our ability to connect in a meaningful way with others. 

Is social media training us to become experts in non communication?

Renate Dundys Marrello

2017 - 04 - 13

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Monday, March 20, 2017

My Daily Reflection: Listening to understand

To understand another person requires listening.....

Really listening with the intention of understanding not with the intention of making a rebuttal.

And yet for the most part, in most conversations, I find people listen with only one intention, to find a opening where they can insert their point of view or their story.

How often I come away from a conversation feeling unheard and then I wonder why there was no connection made with the person I was speaking with. 

I remember the old saying "people like to talk about themselves so when there is a lull in the conversation ask a question about them."  As a good listener I have learnt so much about others using this technique.

Here is the strange bit though that I have discovered; most people are not good listeners.  Most people do not ask me questions to discover more about me. My interest in others most often seems to be one sided. 

No wonder I feel more isolated and alone in the company of others.  For the real me, the me that pours out in my written work is never heard in conversation. 

My thoughts and opinions are almost never solicited.  And even when I am asked my opinion I am cut off in mid thought and told that I am wrong as soon as I propose something that they disagree with. 

And when on a very rare occasion my advice is sought, I get replies that indicate that what I have suggested is too hard to attempt or I get some other excuse to let me know that my help wasn’t really sought after all; that what they really wanted was a sounding block for their troubles and possibly a commiseration that they are indeed in a sorry place.  They did not really communicate with me for a path toward a solution. They communicated with me for company in the pity party.

So then I pause to wonder.  If most communication is about seeking company in misery rather than about finding common ground and working toward solutions by exploring those paths which are less comfortable; no wonder we so rarely really connect.  Connecting is more than sharing a heart ache and a grief.  Connecting is about opening doors and discovering that there is more yet to be discovered. 

I have often thought of myself as shy or introverted.  But possibly I am the way I am because if feel uncomfortable in the superficial.  Banal communications tire me out.  After one way listening I am in dire need of seclusion to recharge.   On those rare occasions when I have met a kindred spirit, one eager to dive into the strange and uncharted world of thoughts and ideas with me, I felt strangely electrified and alive.   Sadly mostly I meet kindred spirits in the authors of the books that I read; where once again the conversation is one way, me listening and actively engaged in thought provoking thoughts.  

When I sit here writing, knowing that some of you, my readers, are actually listening, I wonder, do you feel as I do that most of the time no one is really listening to hear what you have to say, but rather they listen so they can get the opportunity to say what they have to say?

Renate Dundys Marrello
2017 – 03 – 18

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