Is It Destiny or Do I Write My Own Story?

I’ve been musing on some of the concepts I’ve encountered regarding life paths and our choices and difficulties in life. One such concept is that we ‘choose’ our challenges or obstacles. Now I’ll agree that there are times when we can get in our own way so to speak, and it’s always important to examine ourselves for any possible self-sabotage, conscious or unconscious. Sometimes a block can be serving a deeper need of some sort, and if this can be brought into awareness and resolved it is possible to move forward. Also of course, our choices do have consequences, sometimes unintended ones, and maybe even years later. Accepting responsibility for our decisions makes it easier to accept potential consequences and also can empower us to deal with them. I also accept that within each one of us are particularly qualities and talents we have to potentially offer the world, and that finding a path we can take to achieve that gives meaning to life, although there are myriad ways to fulfil that. There may be times we feel we are ‘on the right path’. Everything flows and opportunities open to us. We feel that we belong. When we feel our life is on the right path it is because the choices and opportunities we take at that time are a good fit for our psyche and therefore we feel a sense of right fit or ‘destiny’.

However, personally I disagree with the maxim that we always choose our life circumstance. I’m sure that blaming is not the intention of those who hold these ideas, which are often shared to offer comfort or a sense of empowerment. However that is not necessarily the feeling triggered on the receiving end. Of the same ilk is the idea that things are ‘meant to be’ or ‘happen for a reason’. Underlying these is the same implication—that we deserve the hurts that happen to us—an insidious form of victim-blaming. To say that an abandoned infant, or a child in a war zone, an abused woman, cancer sufferer or murder victim ‘chose’ their situation would probably be a shocking statement to most people, but these extreme examples highlight the disturbing sentiment of such maxims. Ironically, suggesting that a person chose their situation can amplify a feeling of powerlessness. If the reality is that their current difficulty is caused by external factors beyond their control, and therefore they have limited power to resolve the situation, then the claim that they chose this implies that they ought to be able to fix it for themselves, leading to feelings of failure and inadequacy. Being told that we should be able to fix something that is beyond our power to fix creates even deeper feelings of being trapped and powerless.

I would like to undertake a reframing of these ideas, which I believe will conserve and enhance the self-empowerment and self-responsibility that is intended by proponents of these ideas, whilst removing the blame aspect. Rather than saying I chose or deserve a situation I like to take the attitude that nevertheless I can learn something valuable from it. This resonates with the perspective of Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis—that difficulties in life are opportunities for growth, encouraging a positive mindset without the negative feeling of self-blame.

The concept that ‘everything happens for a reason’ is related to ideas about destiny and predetermined paths in life. These are narratives that some people feel gives them a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and a sense of security. Personally it’s not a narrative that I find reassuring.

There is a difference between association and cause and effect. It’s a subtle but important distinction. We may learn something valuable from a difficult circumstance but that does not have to mean it was ‘meant to be’. In fact this thinking reverses the cause and effect; I learned something from this, ergo, it happened because I needed to learn it. What if reality is ‘it just happens’ and we make the best of it? This is not to dismiss that there are clearly times when we unconsciously re-create a situation in our social lives or relationships until we learn from it, often related to emotional wounds from childhood. But again, this doesn’t have to mean that the whole experience is occurring in order to create that learning, simply that we can’t move on from the experience until we learn the way out. Once out of it, we are hopefully wiser and stronger. But sometimes people are so damaged they can’t move on. Does this ‘happen for a reason’? It is always true that an individual can choose how they respond to a situation but sometimes their wounds prevent them from seeing or being able to act on all their choices, and sometimes their choices really are truly limited. The only choices then are how we look at a situation. I have been through a lot in my life. I don’t personally find it helpful to think that I ‘chose’ all that pain, or the pain I caused other people in trying to cope with it. But I damn well did choose to face it all and work through it and make the best of what I do have.

I choose to see the good in my life and in the world around me. I don’t deny the pain, but I don’t let it blind me. I don’t believe it ‘happened for a reason’ but I do believe I can choose a narrative of my own that helps me make sense of my life. Sometimes a painful experience can lead to a positive outcome you may not otherwise have had. Like the current in a river, a boulder can redirect the flow in a different direction. One door closes, but another one opens. Humans have an incredible capacity for hope and renewal. We can make good out of the bad. We can take our pain and remold it to make something good. We can choose our own narrative interpretation of experience. If ‘everything happens for a reason’ or ‘I chose this life’ works for you in your own life, that’s great, and I respect that, but please consider it may not be helpful for other people. The problem is not in having that for your own narrative, but in projecting it onto others. We can support each other to see what choices we do have, and to find our own sense of meaning and purpose. Empowerment means writing our own story.

©️Janey Colbourne 2017

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On the #metoo campaign and #victimblaming

Trigger warning: content discusses sexual violence

I’d like to thank the Guardian for the detailed and clearly written article  ‘Harvey Weinstein: a list of the women who have accused him’ by Caroline Davies and Nadia Khomami on 21 October 2017. This article conveys how the women felt they were manipulated and intimidated, and in some cases physically attacked by Weinstein and I think it’s important to hear those voices as a counter to the victim blaming that I have been seeing on social media— in some cases, most alarmingly, from other women survivors of sexual assault. Not only are perpetrators dominating, controlling and destroying lives, they also have the satisfaction of seeing the women blame each other for it. This demonstrates the level of their manipulative powers and that misogyny is deeply endemic in our culture.

According to the allegations in this article, the victims were all terrified of Weinstein. When a man unexpectedly removes his clothing in inappropriate circumstances the first thought of a vulnerable woman (or man) is, how far do his lack of boundaries go? Can I get out of here alive? What do I have to do to get out of here alive? This is not a man who is taking no for an answer. If you’re going to run or fight, you had better be sure you can get away. And you have a split second to think about it before he makes his move.

As a society, we need to have a conversation about what constitutes consent. Acquiescing out of fear is not consent, whether it is fear for our safety, career, or anything else. As it happens, many of the women quoted in the Guardian article said they found some way to escape. Nevertheless, judgement should not be laid on those who did not feel safe to resist his advances. The shame of compliance in the face of sexual intimidation is one of things that keeps victims quiet, that allows the perpetrators to get away with it, to continue getting away with it, committing sexual violence to so many others. Weinstein preyed on the young and naive,  allegedly telling them, “This is how Hollywood works”. Power is the keyword here. Sexual violence is all about power— a cycle of using power to maintain power. Abuse of power in order to abuse in order to have power. A powerful cycle. Manipulation. Charm. Lies. Shaming. Gaslighting. Being in a position of power or authority. Physical violence. Threats. Blackmail. Bribery. Do not underestimate the psychological powers of a predator.

Gaslighting is a term to describe a technique of manipulation where a victim is made to doubt their own sanity, memory, judgement and perception, through the use of mind games and deceit. This enables the perpetrator to keep the victim trapped, dependent and compliant. If as victims we are blaming and silencing each other, then we have all been gaslighted.

No victim should be made to feel ashamed for what happened to them, or for how they dealt with it. For some, the #metoo campaign has been profoundly triggering. For those who cannot bear to speak of their pain, I hope that those of us who do may offer some comfort that our voices challenge the acceptance of this violence as a normal and inevitable part of life, in the hope that all our daughters may have a better, safer future.

Janey Colbourne 2017

Related content:
https://heartseer.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/what-is-freedom-nationalpoetryday/

Expanded awareness: being in the present for emotional wellbeing

When I’m feeling stressed, frustrated, tired or even just bored I like to expand my awareness out of myself. I begin by focusing my awareness on my points of contact with the world: the sun or wind on my face, the ground beneath my feet. Then I extend this awareness from my feet into the earth, down deep and also outwards across the curve of the Earth. I am conscious of the vast earth that supports and sustains us all, and of all the beings that live in or on the earth. With practice, this can be achieved in seconds, and can be done anywhere, quietly and discreetly. For me this provides a sense of security and of perspective.
It’s a form of meditation that allows you to still be present and aware of your surrounding circumstances, in fact all the more so, whilst maintaining a greater equilibrium. It can be momentary or more involved; there is no need to complete a process, so it is not an issue if you are interrupted. I would exercise caution when driving or other similar activity.

©Janey Colbourne 2017

A Piece of Me (spoken word)

A Piece of Me

Sometimes it feels
Like everyone wants a piece of me
Shaken like a dog’s bone
Knawed raw
A dried up orange
Stale and weary
I have no more to give
Squeeze out the last drops
Never enough
Never satisfied
A never ending game of ping pong
And I’m the ball
Just want to be alone
Run away with butterflies
On a Spring morning

Why must I always be on call?
Why must I be the referee?
Then in the blame game
It is my name
On the card
Family dynamics
Too dynamic for me
I want a piece of me
For myself

The weight of needs is crushing
I’m not a one-stop-shop
Mediate, negotiate
Consulate, try not to retaliate,
Like a carton under tyre
Too high a
Pressure
Makes me pop
And then you say
What’s up
With you?
You’re wound too tight
You have a problem
Yeah I do
It’s you

© Janey Colbourne 2017

A Message for Girls

Girls, when you are finding your feet in this world, on the cusp of being an adult and looking for ways to show it, you have no idea how beautiful you all are, in your individuality. Don’t let the world tell you how you need to change; remove hair here, paint it in there. Do not judge each other harshly. What is most beautiful is your soul shining through, expressed in your unique shapes and gestures, the sparkle in your eyes, and your fresh faced youth. No need to hide behind a mask. Beauty is greatest in self acceptance, for then our souls truly inhabit our bodies and make us glow with life. This is not just platitudes, it is truth. Enjoy who you are now, for youth does not last. Our bodies stop growing, but if we allow it, our spirits just keep on expanding.

© Janey Colbourne 2017

My Strength. A poem.

My strength is not in holding back my emotions,
but in being prepared to face the darkness.
My strength is not in never showing fear,
but in holding its hand and walking on.
My strength is not in immunity to pain,
but in perseverance throughout it.
My strength is not in lack of tears,
but in letting them go and moving on.
My strength is not in being invincible,
but in being flexible.
My strength is not in body,
but in heart and mind and soul.

© Janey Colbourne 2017

 

#ADHD and #ASD do they make a good couple?

It is not uncommon for ASD and ADHD to be given as a dual diagnosis. I’ve been considering if, when they occur together, rather than being comorbid, they in fact complement or compensate for each other. The classical symptoms of ADHD include distraction, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The classic symptoms of ASD include obsession/hyperfocus, a love of routine and predictability and a tendency for social isolation. Clearly this is stereotypical but I am simplifying here for a moment, while I explore an idea.

I have ADHD and my mind flies around, bursting with ideas. I can be impulsive, with a tendency to blurt and easily get overexcited. I also have autistic traits, awaiting diagnosis. My autistic side loves predictability, hates excessive demands and prefers solitude and quiet contemplation. These two might seem contradictory, but they act as moderators for each other. They coexist at the same time, although sometimes one or other may be slightly dominant. Sometimes they conspire to get me in a panic. Overall I think they help each other.

My ASD hyperfocus helps my ADHD to get focused and stick to a task. On her own my ADHD gets so excited about something that she wants me to leap around shouting, or alternatively she gets bored and wanders off. My ADHD is bursting with ideas and darts off in unexpected directions to bring back a fresh perspective. This helps my ASD to open up and not get too stuck in a rut. My ADHD has a tendency to blurt what I’m thinking before I’ve assessed the situation. My ASD might not be great at assessing the situation either, but has sufficient inhibition and dislike of making a fuss to make me bite my tongue. My ASD gets tired easily, especially when it comes to auditory processing and is another way she calms down my ADHD from throwing me into excessive social peril. Together ADHD and ASD love to think and create. ASD helps my ADHD to stay on track and not run off chattering inanely to the nearest person, so they can work together. ASD needs ADHD’s bright ideas and energy. ASD can get the quiet she needs if ADHD is kept occupied with some exciting revelations to chew on. ASD has some awesome topics that she wants to work through and ADHD is only too happy to bounce these around and see what she can make with them. She can also spot when ASD is overthinking and pull her out of her ruminations.

ADHD doesn’t like to be too constrained by rules and routines. She finds them too boring. She might get into trouble. ASD craves predictability and likes to do things correctly. She might sometimes miss out on opportunities. ADHD and ASD are good together, like Howard Moon and Vince Noir.