Book Review: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

 

The Book Should I Stay or Should I Go? is co-written by Lundy Bancroft, who you might know is the author of the groundbreaking research on domestic violence and the related book Why Does He Do That? I picked up this book when I was at a pivotal point in my 15 year marriage, as obviated by the title of the book. Backstory: My husband of 14 years had been emotionally abusing me and neglecting me since the beginning of our relationship, right up until I snapped and had a grand epiphany that I wasn’t going to accept his treatment anymore. In the face of me threatening divorce and refusing to allow his mistreatment of me anymore, he changed. My home became a peaceful place and I no longer dreaded him coming home from work or being in the same room as him. But even though life wasn’t miserable anymore for me, it wasn’t happy either. Even then, I knew it wasn’t enough to heal; I wanted to THRIVE. Enter this book.

This book was extremely illuminating and helped me realize that I needed to raise my standards for how I wanted to be treated by the people in my life. These words in the book called to me:

“The decision of whether to stay in the relationship is not based on the question ‘Is this relationship doing me harm?’; instead, it’s about issues along the lines of ‘Is this relationship giving me what I need?”

We can apply this question to any relationship, not just our romantic partner, but friends and family–and even our relationship with ourselves. It’s not enough to do no harm; our relationships should lift us up.

“We don’t want you to sell yourself short. Your own needs, feelings, and dreams need to be a high priority.” See, that’s the thing about women, especially women who have survived trauma. We have been conditioned–by others and by ourselves–to put our needs and wants last. We do this for survival, we do this because the female role models in our lives are setting that example of self-sacrifice, and we do this because we’ve been taught by our culture to fear our own feminine power. As Marianne Williamson says…

emilysquotes-com-motivational-inspirational-strength-positive-marianne-williamson

Should I Stay or Should I Go? is, on the surface, about deciding whether or not to remain in your current romantic partnership, but it’s really about thinking consciously and in specific detail about establishing your own set of standards for how you want others to treat you. For that reason, I loved this book.

Lundy and Patrissi write: “We have known a great number of women who strike us as vibrant, capable, and talented. They seem filled with potential, poised to move into their happiness. It is obvious that they can succeed at whatever they choose. Yet they are inhibited. They don’t act on their talents and dreams because they seem held back. Once we talk to them, it soon becomes obvious that great amounts of their creative thought, emotional focus, and time are spent on managing their relationship.”

This was me, absolutely. And to see it laid out in writing like this was a game changer. Now, two years later, I have come to understand that we are each energetic beings, first and foremost, and where we direct our energy is of utmost importance. When the majority of our energy goes to managing a relationship–any relationship–then you, as a woman and as a person, cannot thrive. And thriving is the goal.

But this line was the kicker for me. I wrote it down and meditated on for weeks, and I still use it as a measure for all my relationships:

“Your relationship should create far more possibilities than it takes away.”

For so many women, we see our dreams or desires as unreasonably big, as needy or “high-maintenance”. That is simply not possible. If you feel that way, then your standards for your life are too low, as are your standards for your relationships. We are meant to be big and powerful. You are not too much. Your needs and desires and goals are not too much. If you are in a relationship that makes you feel like you are too much or that you’re holding yourself back, then it’s time to take a hard look at the way you’ve structured your life, including your relationships. This book is a great place to start.

 *   *   *

 

note: The book links are Amazon Affiliate links and any revenue earned goes directly to maintaining this website. Thank you!

Sound Healing: “Weightless” by Macaroni Union

I believe in sound healing as a supplement or maintenance tool for other body-based healing, so I was excited when today I came across an article by Melanie Curtain on the website Inc. that summarizes a new study to discover what the most stress-reducing music is. Titled, “Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by up to 65 Percent”, the article offers hotlinks to the song “Weightless” by Macaroni Union, as well as a ten song playlist that you can even tap into on Spotify.

You can even listen to a ten hour version of the song on Youtube:

The sensory input and energy you surround yourself with–from the people to the sights and the sounds–matter. Our energetic bodies consume energy and sensory information like our physical bodies consume food. If you eat low-quality junk food or food you are allergic to, your body is adversely affected. Likewise, if you surround yourself with energy or a sensory environment that is bad for you, your body will take that in and be affected by it physically and emotionally.

What if you listened to “Weightless” as you made dinner or paid your bills or while your kids got ready for bed? How might the quality of your day improve?

Just as you might strive to eat more conscientiously, the more conscious you can become of the sensory information you’re taking into your body, the better choices you can make about what you allow in your environment. Your nervous system will thank you for it.

Healing Has to Be Body-Based

What I had to learn the hard way, and almost by accident, is that healing the mind and the spirit was, at least for me, only possible by focusing on body-based healing strategies. And I can tell you that many, many women I’ve spoken to have found the same to be true.

The first thing I can tell you is that dissociation was a huge problem for me. My PTSD and other stress caused me to dissociate from my body. I’m not talking about a clinically diagnosable dissociative disorder. What I mean is that I felt like my body was a suit that didn’t reflect my mind or my personality. I felt trapped in a body that didn’t match my insides, a body that had betrayed me. A body that was numb and overweight and clumsy. Due to severe stress, I’d gained 75 lbs in two years onto an already-large body, and it had stopped feeling like my own. I know now that was part of my PTSD, the root of which was my childhood abuse. Later, I would discover research that concluded that adult women who’d been sexually abused as children were literally off-balance. We sway when we stand and often bump into things when we walk. In general, we are not spatially in-tune with our physical environments. The abuse has messed with our equilibrium.

See what I’m getting at? The body and the mind are connected in ways that science is only now beginning to understand, but that anyone who has suffered a trauma knows all too well. The thing is, our trauma has caused our nervous systems to get out of whack in a major way. In fact, for many of us, our brains have been rewired to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight.

Our goal in healing then because to ‘reboot’ our nervous systems back to the factory setting. You can’t reboot your nervous system in talk or group therapy, or by reading a book. The only way I’ve found to do it is through the body-based methods listed below. I’ll tell you right now that the method that finally succeeded in rebooting my nervous system radically at a cellular level, in a way that seems to be permanent, was Somatic Sexological Bodywork immersion retreats (see link below).

If you are not getting long-term results from mental-based treatment or talk therapy, I urge you to consider refocusing your efforts on your body. The first steps are to bring yourself back into your body, then to teach yourself how to love it and be present in it.

On this website, I plan to explore various methods that worked for me in great detail, but I’ll list some of them out here so help you on your journey:

Easy Practice: During your daily shower, tell each body part as you wash it how much you love it and how beautiful it is. Can you do that? For a long time, I wasn’t able to perform that exercise with certain body parts that I’d been conditioned to hate. It took me more than a month of daily practice to be able to speak kindly to my ankles, for example.

If you have found other body-based treatments that were effective for you in healing your Woman Wounds, please share in the comments. Thank you!

~ Melissa

 

 

I Find Myself

I find myself healed. Not only healed, but thriving. Finally. Talk therapy didn’t work miracles. It helped, sometimes. And sometimes, it set me back. What I know for sure is that it didn’t heal me. As I stumbled onto each new treatment or strategy that helped me heal, I grew more frustrated that I only seemed to find these things by stumbling upon them incidentally and with great luck. And only because I never stopped searching.

The more I spoke to other women, the more I realized I was not alone in my frustration at the lack of information. If you have cancer, there are so many informational sites and forums you can go to. If you suffered a physical trauma, like a car accident, there are support groups and forums ready to welcome you. If you are an adult child of an alcoholic, there’s a support group for that. I’m an adult child of an alcoholic, but that’s not all I am. And, besides, group talk therapy has never healed me, not fully. It has only helped me cope. There’s a big difference.

Do I sound angry? Sometimes I feel angry about how long it took for me to learn about all these effective ways to go about healing, and how much energy and money I spent on things that didn’t work. Stumbling around in the dark is no fun. Then again, I’m on the verge of 40 and I know from experience that I’m one of the lucky ones to have learned how to heal and thrive this young. So many women don’t allow themselves the time to devote to their healing until the kids are grown and gone. Or until they leave their husbands. Or both. So many women never fully heal. I’m not a psychologist or doctor. I’m not a professional healer. Who I am is a survivor of child sexual abuse, childhood physical and emotional abuse, domestic abuse, a failing marriage, a brain tumor, PTSD, and more. I have an ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score of 9 out of 10. To give you some context, a score of 4 or higher is the highest risk category. And yet, I thrive. I didn’t for a long time, but now, I can tell you that with confidence. I learned how to heal and now I am thriving.

You can, too. I want to help you explore how. I want to share with you what I’ve done, the books I’ve read, the Ted Talks and videos that helped, the research I’ve uncovered, the specific kinds of therapy and treatments that carried me through breakthroughs. I want to invite others who have healed and learned to thrive to share their experiences and knowledge with you, too. We need to create a forum where women can help each other learn how to heal, giving practical advice and testimony that other women can learn from. This is how you heal. With help from other women, with the right combination of tools and determination.What about men? Men need to heal too. You bet they do. But men need to heal themselves from different wounds then women carry, and I am not the one to lead that journey. As a woman, I’m here to support other women in their healing, as so many women have supported me in mine.

You want to heal. I’m here to help. We’re all here to help each other.