Posting is going to be a little lighter here on spiritualselfhelp.org for a couple of weeks, for two main reasons:
1) I’ve got my hands full launching my latest book, The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife, which you can find out more about by clicking HERE.
2) I’m planning to start posting up some longer, properly researched posts here about how electricity is the missing link in human health and well-being, that will connect all the dots from the electrically-charged semi-conducting liquid crystal that is the human body, to the sun and its solar flares, and everything else in between.
God willing, I will start posting that stuff up in the next couple of weeks and let me tell you: it’s completely mind-blowing!
(I know I say that about a lot of the things I write, but hey, have I been wrong yet?)
So keep your eyes peeled for that, and in the meantime, there was a huge solar flare a few days’ ago that directly led to the massive storms currently ravaging the USA, and may also be causing you some weird, excessive sunburn, even if it doesn’t feel so hot at the moment.
I’ll explain all this in more detail over the coming weeks, God willing, but in the meantime - slap on the sunscreen and don’t be surprised if you find your mood very odd and changeable for no obvious reason at the moment.
The weather really does affect us much more than we think it does, and I hope to start sharing with you very soon exactly HOW that’s happening, and what it means for our health and well-being.
One of the things that I’ve often been asked - and sometimes also criticized about - is why I write so openly on my websites about my own personal struggles.
There have been many answers to this question over the years, but the one I currently like the most is described very nicely in Pete Walker’s excellent book: C-PTSD: from surviving to thriving. There, Pete writes the following:
“A central aspect of the truly helpful relational work was what John Bradshaw calls ‘healing the shame that binds’. I believe toxic shame cannot be healed without some relational help. Several therapists and groups aided me greatly to unbind from the shame that made me hide whenever I couldn’t invoke my perfect persona.
“Concurrently, I learned that real intimacy correlated with the amount I shared my vulnerabilities. As I increasingly practiced emotional authenticity, the glacier of my lifelong loneliness began to melt.”
As Pete Walker encapsulates so nicely, when you’re walking around trying to pretend that you’re ‘perfect’, or always 100% put-together, or always have the answers, or the faith that you’re meant to have, you end up feeling so very lonely on the inside.
Because you aren’t being REAL.
Even if you’re surrounded by millions of friends, and have a fulfilling career, and a big family etc etc, if you can’t be REAL (at least for a lot of the time) - then you will feel like the loneliest person on the planet.
Traumatized people often find it very difficult to let their guards down and be REAL, because they’ve usually experienced so much mockery, criticism, and lack of acceptance. When you grow up in a traumatizing environment, it’s safer to hide your flaws and struggles behind a big wall of aggressive perfectionism than to risk being made to feel awful because you aren’t always perfect, all the time.
Like it or not, Western society promotes and glorifies shaming other people in the cruelest of ways. I think mocking other people has taken the place of the gladiator sports that were so popular in ancient Rome, except now we cut people’s heads off with blog comments, ‘jokes’ and Facebook posts instead of swords and spears.
It’s understandable that so many people dive for cover in the face of this very unhealthy mode of interacting with others. It’s very, very hard to maintain ‘real’ around cruel, superficial, hyper-critical people.
(If you’re wondering how I deal with that myself, the short answer is that I try to avoid these people as much as possible, because otherwise they drive me completely bonkers and push me back into ‘feeling ashamed’ flashbacks within a nanosecond.)
But not everyone is like that. I’m learning the more I go along that there are some amazing people out there, who value and cherish real interactions. I think there are probably a lot more of us than is sometimes obvious, because as I mentioned, a lot of us hide our ‘real’ self away to avoid being attacked and mocked by the psychos.
And that’s one very big reason why I try to write ‘real’, as much as possible, because the more real I can be, the more those other people will also start to feel safe to express their own brand of ‘real’ in the world.
Yes, it would definitely be easier to write from a place of having a ‘perfect persona’ a lot of the time. I’d probably ‘fit’ into more people’s boxes a little easier, and stop pressing buttons in very repressed individuals who find honesty dangerous. I also wouldn’t open myself up to people thinking ‘less’ of me because I’m not perfect after all.
But you know what? The path of pretend perfection kills the soul. So I could end up looking like I was doing better from the outside (maybe…) but I guarantee I’d be feeling a whole lot worse. And a whole lot lonelier. A whole lot more like I didn’t really ‘fit’ anywhere in the world.
Being real is risky sometimes. Being real can sometimes alienate people who aren’t ‘real’ themselves, and who find it far too overwhelming to deal with. Being real means there’s no-where to hide when your flaws and negative character traits come roaring out at you.
But being real is also the way to truly forge deep connections to other people, and to God, and to ourselves. And if that’s the only benefit you get from being real (and I don’t think it is), it’s more than worth it.
Seeing as most of us are probably coming off a week or two of vacation and ‘family time’, I thought it would be timely to devote a post to ‘family outing flashbacks’.
From my experience, these tend to take two main forms:
1) An urgent need to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE at any price, and to avoid spending time as a family unit in the claustrophobic area called ‘your home’.
And / or
2) A violent dislike of going anywhere with your family, even for short day trips out.
Family outings contain the seeds of so many potentially traumatic triggers because there’s a lot of factors in the mix that can be very challenging for C-PTSD people, especially around the issues of controlling / being in control, and having to be in close proximity to others who may trigger feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, being invisible, and anger and depression (amongst other things).
And that’s just if you’re the kid!
If you’re the parent, there’s also the big risk that you may find yourself controlling, bossing other people around and ‘laying down the law’ in a way that suits you and what you want to do, but that severely curtails the healthy self-expression of other people in your family.
So, how can we traverse the potential minefield of taking a family outing and still avoid all these C-PTSD-inducing triggers? Here’s some suggestions:
1) Accept that flashbacks are going to happen - As soon as you realize you’re going into a meltdown about your family vacations being a mess, and your family life being stressful, and that you’re not a good enough mother or parent, etc, and that everyone is going to grow up so warped and unhappy because you DID or DIDN’T do [fill in the blank] on vacation…. press pause and acknowledge you’ve gone straight back into flashback mode, and aren’t thinking rationally.
Only proceed with your vacation plans once you’ve calmed down, followed these steps and have moved out of flashback mode.
2) Make decisions as a family and be prepared to compromise - Easier said then done, I know, but healthy interactions are based on the art of compromise. No-one can have it all ‘their way’ all of the time unless they’re a dictator, narcissist or psycho, so be prepared to back down on some of your own preferences.
10 common areas that require compromise and that should be discussed and clarified beforehand include:
3) Figure out WHY you want to go on an outing.
This maybe sounds obvious, but so many people do family outing because they think they SHOULD, and not because they really want to. If after discussing all the details it becomes clear that a family outing is just not really workable or doable at the moment, then don’t do it! If a kid really doesn’t want to go, don’t force them!
If there’s something you really hate doing but you’re feeling pressured into it - either find a way to make it acceptable, or don’t do it.
4) Allow yourself to not go on a family outing.
So many of us have C-PTSD issues around family outings as adults precisely because we often experienced some very difficult, horrible situations while we were meant to be ‘enjoying’ the family time.
If it’s not going to build your relationship with your family, or if it’s going to put you and others under tremendous amounts of emotional stress and pressure, skip the outing and do something else less intense and more productive.
I know ‘everyone else’ is still doing it - but you only have to take one look at the long faces, the stressed expressions, and the arguments and tension going on around all these family outings to realize that often, it’s a much nicer idea in theory than it really is in practice.
I used to struggle with huge feelings of insecurity about my size and appearance when I lived in London. It always seemed to me that ‘everyone else’ was the perfect size 10 (or size 6, if you’re American); that ‘everyone else’ had the perfect hair; that ‘everyone else’ knew how to dress stylishly, while yours truly just always seemed to be about as well put-together as a scarecrow.
But then, God gave me a little break and helped me to earn enough money that I could start buying clothes that were so well tailored, they could make anyone look svelte and stylish. Dressing expensively didn’t remove the problem of my low self-esteem and mega insecurity about my looks, but it helped me shift it on to the back-burner more often than not, which was a huge blessing.
When I moved to Israel, I hit a new clothing issue: none of my ‘stylish’ clothes really suited the hot weather of Israel, or the more ‘covered-up’ way religious Jewish women dress here. I have struggled with my clothing here for more than a decade, and every time I think I’ve finally worked out my style, or taste, either the shop closes down, or stops manufacturing long skirts in favour of mini-skirts, or fashion kills whatever nice skirts were being made last year.
That said, most of the time I don’t think so much about my clothing or appearance, and I very rarely have panic attacks about it these days.
Except for when people come and visit me from the UK.
And when those people also happen to be extremely wealthy, well-dressed, obsessed with labels and anti a ‘religious’ lifestyle, I find my anxiety shooting through the roof again.
I’m expecting a visitation from the UK shortly, and without realising it, it threw me back into a flashback of feeling like the fat, weirdly-dressed outsider again. But I didn’t realise what was going on until I came home in an extremely bad mood, because I couldn’t find anything to wear for the upcoming Pesach holiday.
I felt like everything made me look fat, or frumpy, or somehow not good enough, and that none of the headscarves would really ‘work’ for me etc. Man, I started to feel SOOOOO fat and icky, and then
I got very confused, because I couldn’t figure out how I got fat eating what I eat and doing what I do.
Even though I’m not a hardcore sprouted spelt person all the time these days, I’m still on the ‘healthier’ end of the scale, and I hate most sweet things (baring chocolate…) Could eating four ‘healthy’ chocolate biscuits and a bag of crisps on Shabbat make me fat?
Then, I started beating up on myself for not exercising enough because I can’t seem to get my life together, which segued into feeling bad that my house is so small, so I can’t really exercise at home the way I used to, which segued into me feeling like a complete, 100% loser in every area of life….
Long story short, by the time I got home I felt completely disgusting and horrible, and like I just wanted the earth to open up and swallow the whole mess called ‘my life’.
As I was moping on the couch, my poor husband decided to come home - and got a barrel right between the eyes. Why didn’t he tell me I’d got fat?!? How could he let me get so out of shape without mentioning anything to me?!? Why isn’t our house big enough for me to exercise in?!?! Why
can’t I afford designer clothes anymore?!?!?
The poor guy.
Another long story short, after hearing the whole story and seeing what a mess I was in, he was as bemused as I was.
“You’re really not fat,” he told me. “You’re the same size you always are.”
That’s what I’d thought too, until I went shopping this morning and couldn’t find a single thing to wear. As the meltdown continued, my husband suddenly had a brainwave.
“Rivka, you’re having a ‘flashback’,” he told me, rushing over to the fridge and grabbing the handy ‘flashback’ infographic-thingy I’d printed out and stuck there in one of my more lucid moments.
“This has nothing to do with now, and everything to do with how certain people used to make you feel back in the UK. You just ‘flashed back’ to how awful you felt THEN, and that’s why you’re feeling so bad NOW.”
Don’t you hate when the husband is right?
But right he was, and after five minutes, I begrudgingly acknowledged that he’d hit the nail on the head. I worked the flashback through, and I started to feel much lighter and happier again.
Just to be on the safe side, I also decided to cut back on the chocolate biscuits and to try to exercise a bit more as well, but today’s episode showed me two things:
1) Flashbacks can severely warp our sense of self, and our grasp of reality
2) Superficial, money-obsessed people from the UK (and elsewhere….) are really, really bad for me.
But at least now I know what’s going on, so I can stop ‘the flashback’ before it destroys my happiness and relationships.