Thursday, 27 June 2013

When things fall apart...

“things fall apart, the center cannot hold...he has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart...”

This quote is from one of my favourite novels: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. I’ve been having a few weeks, where it feels like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. I feel like I need to go off and hibernate for a while, in the hope that when I wake up again, everything will be much better.  Unfortunately, that’s just a pipe dream, so I’m doing the next best thing- working it through in writing.  I know I’m not the only one who is/has had a spell like this and it got me wondering: how does one get through times like this? What helps a person to keep going and not just give up? I’ve written before about this before, but this time I’d like to look at 3 traits that can help us to build resilience.

My number one pick is faith.  I am a practising Christian and the number one thing that keeps me going, when things get rough, is my belief in God.  If I thought that what I see all around me, is all there is, I would probably have to go and lie down in a darkened room and receive intravenous injections of chocolate and/or vodka! For those who don’t believe in God, this is probably an admission that I believe in fairy tales and need my head checked out.  For those of us who do believe, it’s the comfort of knowing that there is a Person who cares for us, has a plan for our lives and wants what is best for us at all times.  It’s a reassurance that even though I don’t have all the answers, I am in safe hands and it will all work out in the end.

My number two pick is very closely related to faith and it is hope. That adage that “there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel” is simply talking about hope.  A life without hope would be unbearable in my view.  How could you go on, if you felt that there was no change in the future? What would you be living for? I guess it must be that very view that leads people to attempt or actually commit suicide.  Because let’s face it, if there is no reason to hope, why go on?  For anyone who feels hopeless, I say, hold on, tomorrow is another day and it can be better, if you hope and trust and open your heart up to love.

And that leads me neatly onto my last pick- love.  Whether it’s the love of God or family and friends is irrelevant.  The knowledge that we are loved can go a long way towards increasing our ability to keep going.  Human beings aren’t designed to live in isolation. We live our best lives, when we are in relationship with others.  Unfortunately, a lot of us have been wounded by other people and it makes us retract and become untrusting as we try to protect ourselves from more hurt.  Some of the worst hurts in my life have come from people, but the best healing has also come from people.  People who have laughed and cried with me. People who have gone to battle for me. People who have defended me.  And people who have called me to order, when I have stepped out of line, because love involves giving and maintaining boundaries.

When all is said and done, I know that this time, like all the rough times before it, will pass.  What I will have left is my faith, my hope and the love others have for me and that I have for them.  And hopefully, I would have become stronger and better able to deal with life as it unfolds.

I dithered about whether or not to write this week’s piece.  I thought maybe I needed to find something a little more upbeat.  Or something more topical. In the end, it all came down to authenticity.  Am I able to “walk my talk” or am I going to hide behind a mask? A lot of us are hiding behind a mask, because it feels too risky to unveil ourselves to the people around us. I say “wear a mask and stay hurt, take off the mask and be healed”.

If you’ve been affected by anything in this post, or want to speak to someone in confidence, then contact us through the website.
Until next week, go well.


Thursday, 20 June 2013

What's your story?


Ever since I was a child, I have loved to read.  In fact my earliest memory of myself involves being in a library and being super excited by the sheer number of books I could delve into. I don’t have as much time as I’d like these days, to read, but a couple of weekends ago, I had a marathon catch up session.  I got through 2 ½ books in one weekend.  I was sleep deprived at the end of it, but they were so worth it!  I think what I love the most about reading is the fact that you get to go on an adventure with the characters.  I don’t shout at the characters in books like I have been known to do, on the tv, but I come pretty close, when I’m caught up in a good book.

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young people recently, who are preparing to head off to university.  As I spoke to them, it struck me that they were getting ready to write another chapter in their story.  None of them knew how it would unfold, but it was exciting nonetheless.  It also got me thinking about my own story- the different twists and turns and plotlines.  The different characters who had journeyed with me along the way and the times, when I’d had to learn the lesson on my own. This week’s post is all about stories- beginnings, endings and the bits in the middle that we sometimes want to hide, but which have played a huge role in shaping us. Enjoy.

The first thing I’d like to say is ‘start with the end in mind’.  This may seem like strange advice, but it’s turned out to be some of the best advice I’ve ever had.  When you know how you want your story to end, it helps you to make the right decisions for you.  It helps you get back on track, when you lose your way (because you definitely will at one stage or another) and it gives you something to aim for.  When I was training to be a lawyer that was the advice our advocacy tutor gave us.  He said the starting point for preparing your case, was the verdict you wanted the jury to come up with in the end.  If you want to become a world class athlete, then you’ve got to know that lying on your couch and eating doughnuts, just isn’t going to make the grade!

Secondly, don’t let supporting characters, hijack your story’. What do I mean by this? I mean those people in your life, who attach labels to you and think that’s all you’re ever going to amount to.  Some of us are walking around wearing some very painful labels.  Some of us have been called ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’ or ‘ugly’ and we have believed what those labels say.  On the other hand, some of us have been called ‘the clever one’, ‘the smart one’ or ‘the pretty one’.  I’m guessing most of us would wonder what’s wrong with those labels? My point about labels is that they limit us. What happens to the smart one, when they come across a situation that they don’t immediately flourish in? What happens to the pretty one, when age begins to take its toll?  Labels don’t empower us to build the inner strength of character we really need, in order to live our best lives.  Labels don’t give us the space to grow.  They don’t make allowances for the fact that we are not just one dimensional and that we change and grow, as we go through different seasons in life. Unfortunately, labelling is very tempting and easy to do and I’m sure we’ve been just as guilty on occasion.  My motto is: labels belong on tins and not people!

Finally, ‘as long as the story’s not over, you can change it’.  I am an absolute sucker for a happy ending.  It doesn’t matter what’s gone on, before the final chapter, in the end I want it all to work out.  The beauty of life, as opposed to a book or film, is that if you don’t like how your story is going, you can change it.  There are various milestones where our stories will change, almost automatically: becoming a teenager, with all the emotions and hormones; going away to university; getting married or having a child.  But there are other times when our stories change.  Those points when we have a flash of inspiration or awareness, that we are more than we thought we were or what people have told us we can be. For a woman in an abusive relationship, it’s the point where she understands that what is happening to her is abuse.  For a young woman, it’s the point where she comes to understand that she is more valuable than how she looks or what she weighs.  For a young man, it’s the realisation that real men don’t abuse or exploit the women around them. Whether or not, we choose to do anything about it immediately is irrelevant.  The truth is we are now aware and somewhere inside us, we begin to think about how things could be different.  If we can think it, we can say it and if we can say it, then we can do it and if we can do it, then we can bring the change we want to see.  This is also the point, where coaching could be the most effective, for helping you to start the journey.

Have you been affected by anything in this blog? Want to change, but don't know how? Contact us through the website for your free, 30 minute consultation and let us help you get started.

Until next week, go well.


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Daddy's Girl


In my day job, I work with women who either are or have experienced domestic violence.  I usually get a couple of standard responses when I tell people what I do.  One of the most common is “what about men? domestic violence happens to them too you know!”. For the record, I know that domestic violence also happens to men, I just happen to work with women. I also know that a lot of men get a bad rep, because of the behaviour of other men.  This Sunday is Father’s Day and I’d like to celebrate all the dads out there.  I say dads, because anyone can be a father, but it takes more to be a dad.  Here are my top 3 characteristics of a good dad.

Firstly, being a good dad means being a good husband.  Why is it important for you to be a good husband? Because it sets the standard for how your daughter will relate to other men in her life.  It will show her how she should be treated, it will give her the confidence to say ‘no’ to those who would disrespect or abuse her.  A quote that I really love says “the main reason why a daughter needs a dad is to show her that not all the boys are like the ones who hurt her”.  As a dad, you have a chance to give your daughter the best blueprint for what a healthy, loving and respectful relationship looks like.

Secondly, being a good dad, means being committed. It means spending time with your daughter.  Investing the time it takes to instil the right morals and values in her.  It also means loving her enough to give her clear boundaries and disciplining her, when it’s needed.  There are a lot of well dressed, young women, with all the latest gadgets out there, but they would trade it all in, for your time and affection.  Don’t get me wrong, making a financial commitment is important, but it’s not enough on its own.

Lastly, being a good dad is about leaving a legacy, by raising tomorrow’s leaders.  It’s so important to teach our children that they are tomorrow’s leaders.  That the decisions they make today are important.  My dad isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  Something he did really well though, was to instil the confidence in me, that I could be anything I wanted to be.  He taught me that I could achieve anything I want and that being a woman is no reason to have small dreams.

So, for those dads already raising children, I say, be brave, do whatever you need to, to make sure that you are investing your absolute best in them.  For those of you aspiring to be dads, I say, learn from the lessons of those who have gone ahead of you.  See where they got it right and copy shamelessly.  See where they got it wrong and run like hell in the opposite direction.

Here’s wishing all of you a great Father’s Day.
Until next time, go well.

This piece was originally published in the June edition of TW magazine




Thursday, 6 June 2013

When rape isn't rape

I’ve come up with a new defence to burglary and it goes something like this: “I couldn’t help it Your Honour, the house looked so pretty, that I had to burgle it- it would have been rude not to!”

Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it, but that’s in effect what one of the comments in a new book by Nick Ross (former presenter of Crimewatch) translates to. I’ve just read the Sunday Times spread on Mr Ross’ new book and I can tell you that it makes for very scary reading if you’re a violence against women activist.  Hey, never mind activist, if you’re a woman!

The line that gave me the inspiration for my new burglary defence goes like this: “...for a woman to be raped, at least it’s an affirmation of her sexuality; that they’re attractive to the opposite sex”.  Now I get this.  This was a young man who had been raped by another man and he was probably trying to make sense of the horror of the situation.  But actually rape is never about affirming the attractiveness of the victim.  It’s not about affirming the sexuality of the victim.  How exactly does the rape of a 5 year old girl affirm her attractiveness? Or how does the rape of an 80 year old woman, affirm her sexuality? It’s about power and control.  It’s about the perpetrator feeling a sense of privilege and entitlement to take what he wants, when he wants it and use force if necessary. 

It just goes to show that there is still so much mythology out there about rape: the perpetrators, the victims and why it happens.  And like all mythology, it’s dangerous, because it’s about lies, half truths and sometimes just plain ignorance.  A pervasive myth that just doesn’t ever seem to go away is the one that says, “not all rape is rape”.  What does that even mean? In my experience, that line gets trotted out in 2 scenarios.  One where the victim is found to be morally wanting in some way like, she was wearing a tight dress or a short skirt; she drank too much; she was high on drugs or God forbid, she flirted with the perpetrator! The second scenario? When it’s to complain that the rape agenda has been hijacked by ‘angry feminists’.  Rape is sexual intercourse, without the consent of one of the parties. Woman says ‘no’ and you go ahead and have sex? That’s rape.  Woman unconscious and you have sex with her? Guess what? That’s rape too. Woman says yes, but changes her mind a little later and says no? Yup, you guessed it, it’s still rape.  This is not rocket science!

Finally, Mr Ross uses victims of rape as ‘proof’ that we’ve got our thinking on rape wrong.  He says that about half of the women who have been raped [my words, not his] did not think that they had been raped.  Particularly when it involved a boyfriend, the victim being intoxicated through drink or drugs, they led the perpetrator on or they didn’t make themselves clear.  What Mr Ross fails to understand here, is that women are part of society. They hear the commentary about rape and rape victims.  They read the coverage of rape trials.  They hear about the horrifying experience of rape victims who actually manage to make it through the criminal justice system and give evidence.  Most importantly, they internalise the message that unless the victim is beyond reproach morally, she is always at fault somehow for the rape.  Here’s a novel idea: how about we stop policing the behaviour of rape victims and start policing the behaviour of perpetrators? Perpetrators rape because they know that there’s a very good chance that they will get away with it.  They know that a large number of victims will blame themselves and chalk it up to experience.  They know that the ones who make it to court will be vilified by the criminal justice system and they are unlikely to be convicted.  In a nutshell, perpetrators rape, because they can.

I’d like to say that I’m surprised, but I’m not. I’d like to say that I’m shocked, but again I’m not. What I am, is angry that another chance to dispel some of the mythology of rape has been squandered and that we are still having to fight the same misconceptions and lies about rape. I can’t speak for others who do this work, but it’s pieces like this, that help me stay focused, because the work is not done.  No woman is safe, until we are all safe.

Been affected by anything in this post? Want to talk to someone in confidence? Contact us through the website, for a free, 30 minute consultation.

Until next week, go well.