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If…

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I wish we could turn back time, but since we can’t…

Thank you for being my friend over the past few months
For picking me up every Wednesday and making orchestra an anticipated event, a breath of fresh air to my week
For turning me on to The National, The Walkmen and that guy who sounds like Bob Dylan
For listening to me in anguish over my parents separation and stopping me to say
“Hey, I’m really sorry about your parents.” as I got out of the car
Like you may have felt my pain at a core deeper than I knew


 
Thank you for going out of your way to bring my sunglasses downtown
When I forgot them, for being so selfless…
When I tried to give you chocolate for your troubles to boost your serotonin
Your only concern was “I don’t want to take that big of a piece, it’s yours”
Thank you for laughing and joking around with me
Probably more than we should have in rehearsals
 
Thank you for crossing my path and reappearing at BARS
For laughing at my jokes in my vain attempts to entertain you and bring you joy
I wish I had known the depth of your pain
It wouldn’t have been a burden…
When thinking about the last rehearsal, our conversations
About whether we were or weren’t going to do the next set
And how happy you were at the concert
I am left to wonder:
 
If I would have dug deeper, would I have learned of the storm going on inside?
If I wouldn’t have said, “I don’t think I’m doing the next set” before I got out of the car would it have mattered?
If I would have agreed to come out with you and your friends on Saturday
When you invited me
Would I have had another opportunity to see a glimmer of your discontent
That we all could have tried to dissipate together?
 
If I had told you that I used to work on a suicide crisis hotline
Would that have opened a dialogue that might have averted this tragedy?
I don’t understand, why didn’t you say something?
Why couldn’t we have just postponed this irrevocable decision
Just a day, or even a few hours
Before you left this gaping hole on the earth where your spirit danced?
 
If you questioned for a moment whether your pain weighed more
Than the weight of the people who loved you
I hope you feel it now
I hope you are finally free and at peace.
And since we can’t change the past, and “What  if’s?” are futile
We can only breathe into this new reality
And take care of each other the way you would have
With a big helping of selfless care and a joke on the side

A memorial fund in the honor of Michael James Bishop has been established with the “Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance” and can be accessed at the following website: http://www.dbsalliance.org/michaeljamesbishop

April Fool’s Skool

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My second favourite day of the year is coming up, the first being the one that involves gluttony and tryptophan.  The one and only April Fool’s Day is coming up tomorrow and in order to fully appreciate this holiday in all it’s glory, one needs to prepare.  Not everyone can pull this day off.  The handful of people who do pay attention to it might pat themselves on the back for pulling down someone’s pants, or slapping a ‘Kick Me’ sign on someone. But this is child’s play.

The sky is the limit with this day – you have a good 16 hours to get away with things you should never get away with. You can discover people’s weaknesses, find out how someone might respond in a crisis (albeit a fake one, but they don’t know that yet), or take someone to the depths of despair only to swoop in and dissipate their tears of woe with three simple words: “April Fool’s Day!” and for a brief moment, you are a hero for telling your boyfriend after a very long two-hour dinner, “….Ok, maybe I’m not pregnant. April Fool’s Day!” 

In my days of April Fool’s past, there have been long and dramatic pregnancy stories that I have shared with my mother, brother and college roommate.  Since I was the only one in on the joke, I got precious information from each one of these missions. As I acted out these scenarios with loved ones, I got to flirt with a reality without really having to commit to it. I could find out that my mother would be distraught and full of judgment if I ever got pregnant out of wedlock and that it’s not something that she would be able to fake.  Or when I was 6 years old and hid my parents underwear on April Fool’s Day, I learned that those people I call mom and dad, short on undergarments would choose to wash the same pair rather than even think to accuse their 6-year old of stealing all of those Fruit of the Looms.

To be fully educated in the Skool of April Fool’s, one must needs be covert, unflinching, committed to the character and unapologetic when your victim discovers they’ve been had or have had vital psychological weaknesses revealed.  Now this may all sound a bit sadistic, but ’tis not. It must be done in the right way without truly hurting any one.  The underlying goal is to make them believe a particular reality or situation that either would be drastically terrible or would make them over the moon happy with joy, then jolt them back to reality with a loud thump and the words, “April Fool’s Day!”

This is the day for raconteurs and court jesters, for comedians and actors. May you share all of your ideas here and execute them flawlessly so no one around you realizes they are in a play of your choosing.  At the end of the day, all the world’s a stage, but April Fool’s Day is an opportunity to have a play within the play; it’s the day that requires we wake ourselves and everyone else up. Jolt your loved ones out of their routine and deeply ingrained patterns of thinking tomorrow. Make them laugh and remind them why they’re alive.

Tsunami Diss: Bay Area Jolted By Threat of Water Ripple

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(AP) San Francisco has been straddling excitement and a fear of obliteration after news broke with a tsunami warning which originated from an 8.9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Like a scorned wife who has been cheated upon or an emotionally-bruised, war-torn veteran, emotions have been vacillating at Mach speed in an attempt to digest what is not going to happen to them.
 
“We’re all going to die!” was a sentiment shared by Berkeley native Oceana Rainstorm. While attempts were made to calm and soothe her with predictions of mere one to three foot wave threats at Ocean Beach over a 12-hour period, the effort to silence was fruitless. “My daughters called me this morning and shrieked, “Get off the train! Get off the train!” And only through the swift determination of this local hero to exit the train platform with panache, was she able to wipe the sweat from her brow and forge ahead towards the office where she faced yet more panic and confusion. 
 
Indeed, Bay Area natives have been longtime sufferers of drama starvation due to town efforts to quash any attempts at drama or fun  “This town has really been biding its time in the last few years, just waiting for a notable event to make headlines. How long have we been waiting for the Big One? Why is God ignoring us? I mean, Chile, Argentina, and now Japan are all getting the nod. When will it be our turn? Folks have been anxiously waiting, pen in hand, to buy real estate after half this city goes to dust.” Although moods are resoundingly sullen, there is no question that Bay Area natives are carrying tides of anticipation and glee in spite of their feigned worry.
 
Meanwhile, as office trolls hoped to see some aquatic theater outside their office windows, the sea god Ophion, stubbornly kept the show on hold. “Sorry folks, show’s postponed! Times are tough and we didn’t have the budget this year for two tsunamis in a one month period. Now take it home, there’s nothing to see here.” San Francisco natives are reported to be organizing a protest at 5pm today demanding Ophion step down and be replaced with his wife, sea-nymph Eurynome. Says Bay Aquarium employee, C. Lemming: “Behind every great man is a great woman, and we think Eurynome is more fit to deliver the competitive edge that San Francisco needs to completely obliterate tourism. We think Eurynome could trump her husband’s impotent water ripples by transforming us into a rapidly emerging market in the tsunami industry. We would like to say to Indonesia and Japan: “Don’t underestimate the power of the puddle under the Golden Gate Bridge.”
 
Whether the planned protests this afternoon will succeed in prompting Ophion’s transferral of power to his wife remains to be seen, yet one thing is certain: If San Franciscans have lost their mojo after today’s tsunami disappointment, hopes are still flying high for the imminent earthquake which shall restore cataclysmic pride to the region and once again bring feelings of climatological relevancy.

Howard Stern: The Newest Victim of Twitter

What is the past tense of twitter anyway? I’m not feeling “twittered” or “twitted” so I’m coining a new phrase and I hope it catches on.  Howard is a certifiable twatbird now.  In fact, you might not believe this but Howard twatted eight times in the last 24 hours. That is once every two hours of his waking life, unless he’s twittering through his insomnia in which case it would be three.  But that’s neither here nor there.  I’m not complaining.  I am a fan of Howard’s truth-speaking and self-deprecating advertising of his neuroses and small penis.  I find it charming. Frankly, I find people who don’t get Howard, instantly find themselves in a category.  The name of this category is a compound word: the antonym of which is downloose. Can anyone guess what it is? That’s right, you got it.  Uptight.

On a more serious note, I would like to venture a guess at what’s next. We have Facebook, which was entirely too much of a commitment of time, and then we have twitter, which is really manna from heaven for those who are both narcissistic and have ADD.

Facebook was that platform where we posted and advertised about how fabulous our lives are, even though, if you’re spending that much time posting about your life through status and photos, you probably don’t have one.  Twitter, of course, is a 10 second commitment as you vomit out a few syllables on your keypad to your few to many followers.  In fact, Twitter is brilliant because it combines sex and religion. You’re twatting to your followers as if you were Jesus of Cyberspace telling parables of 140 characters – or at least that’s the illusion you get to create for yourself. 

What I would like to know is, what’s next?  Are we on the brink of a new social media that lets us puke out one alphabet letter at a time, and if a certain number of people are staring at their computer screens or iphones when we post the little letter, they respond with their own alphabet letter? Let’s use our imagination here – if the letters match you immediately find yourselves in a private chat room. It might sound nonsensical but this where we’re heading: a purely autistic society where our only relevancy to connect is behind a screen.

The irony is, no one is really getting on Facebook or Twitter to read other people’s Twats or look at other people’s Faces while they are Friending strangers! They’re only getting on to post their own Facebook albums and Twat about their own Twats!  Something is very wrong here. Am I the only one that notices this, or does it just seem normal because everybody is doing it?

Come back from the ledge, Howard. Don’t get too close. Facebook and Twitter want your soul. Oh, and one more thing. We love your twats. Just don’t quit your day job. We need you.

 

Bleeding Tears & Bedtime Stories

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I have the unfortunate privilege of feeling everything now, instead of running through it by way of booze numbing.  I am told this constant crying is “cleansing” and it is healthy.  Perhaps.  But I can tell you that it’s quite embarrassing to have the floodgates release like clockwork every time I get on a bus and turn on my ipod.  You can imagine my jolt as I walked down the street at night, just minding my business lost in Bob Dylan when I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I took my earphones out. Well, how cute are they. Two “Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” soldiers working for the Mormons. I think they call them Elders, even though they were about 18 years old.  “Are you ok? We just wanted to make sure you were ok, because we saw you crying on the bus.”  “That’s very sweet, thank you.  But are you going to try to sell me on Jesus?”  “No, don’t worry.” they laughed and I exhaled my frustration “I’m never getting married. What is wrong with people? It’s contagious.” I announced.  “Marriage is a joke because divorce is always the punchline.” We parted ways and I took their pamphlet, politely.

Something about a moving bus always chokes me up. Ok, that and also the pain that is my broken family which is drowning in subterfuge, sewage and deception, mostly self-deception.  It is a very sick system, and there is nothing I can do about it.  I was crying for my family, the healthy system (or at least functionally healthy) of yesteryear.  I suddenly had a vision of when I was 11 years old, riding a bike with my dad, just he and I riding up a hill at night in Hocking Hills.  And he looked over, 100%  present and told me how much he loved me.  I think about the time when I was a small girl, and he would roll the toy car Transam down the length of the kitchen floor.  Those days of innocence are long gone.

Then one day, I took a 737 to Los Angeles and I left my family.  My dad looked at me with grave concern and said, “I’m worried about you.”  “Oh, don’t worrrrrry!” I reassured him with a cavalier wave of the hand. “Now that worries me more!” he protested.  And when I gave my one-way boarding pass to the stewardess at the gate and boarded the plane, I walked to the back of the plane to sit down.  A man with a Texas drawl tapped me from behind and said, “You know I was watching you and your dad at the gate.  You just ripped his heart out.”

I guess turnabout is fair play.  You got me back good, dad. You got us all good.  Alright then, we’ll call it a draw.

My tears come from the confusion around what is right and what is wrong.  I don’t have any confusion myself, my confusion lies only around the new paradigm, and what I am no longer asked to or expected to believe.  Suddenly, loved ones are changing the game to suit their own needs, like one might cherry pick the 10 Commandments in the Torah.  Suddenly, anything that is difficult can be overlooked, thrown out the window or tweaked to serve one’s own holy purpose which is themselves.

Is nothing sacred anymore?  Don’t answer that. Are we entering a new era where we are only supposed to be concerned with ourselves?  Is the Age of Narcissism the natural offspring of the Age of Technology?  It seems like the logical next step, and it certainly seems we’re already there. I guess I’m just getting the memo: Narcissism is the new black!!!

Am I being too “traditional” in my belief that in a marriage, putting the other person before yourself is the whole point?  Is honesty, transparency and integrity at every moment, just a trend that went out of style with bellbottoms?  Or can we just throw those archaic values out the window with the DOS computers?  Is it written somewhere that when we turn a certain age we can, and we are actually supposed to tell everyone to F off.  Is it “All bets are off when you turn 60.  That’s when you start living for yourself and no one else but yourself.”  I wish SOMEone would have clarified that in their religious text.  “Do unto others as you would have done to you, unless you’re not feeling like it that day, in which case it’s ok, because neither did this person or this person, so everyone in the village will get used to it, and if they don’t, screw them!”

The Baby Boomers are really losing their shit.  The whole world is going Loco.  Really crazy…CaCa everywhere.

And now, for a bedtime story.

Once upon a time, a boy was walking down a dirt path.  He took this path to school every single day and this path was a busy thruway, full of travellers.  The village was small and the kind of tight-knit community where all of the parents and children were keenly aware of everyone else.  Cooperation abounded.  It was very much a tribal community.  There was an old woman, called Gerty, who ambled along slowly with her cane.  The boy on the path was a very sensitive and introverted boy, and  he always noticed her.  Everyone noticed her.  Sometimes a mother would put down her sack of flour and help her up the steep hill, down to the other side, and then return to pick up her flour, going far out of her way.  Many times, the old woman’s son would come with her on her walks, which was a challenge for him because he was young, fiery and impatient and had his own agenda of adventure.  But he didn’t.  Then one day, the son stopped coming as much, and the children started getting more careless and throwing balls back and forth in front of her path, forgetting she was there, then the mother with the sack of flour lost her child to typhoid, and became immobile, self-absorbed in her own pain and loss.  The little boy noticed all of this happening gradually and became concerned. With greater fervor, he would run up to the old lady’s side as soon as he saw her she would smile, glance down at the boy and wink.

One day, the boy got very sick and was struck with a fever. He had been throwing up all night and was turning jaundiced.  The boy’s father was distraught and feared for his life. But when he woke up the next morning and the boy’s bed was empty, he was gripped with panic.  He ran to every house in the village, trying to track down his son until someone told him they thought they saw his small figure crawling towards the hill.

“Son! What are you doing? You’re very ill, you’re in no condition for such a climb.”

The boy was clearly struggling. He was heaving, dripping with sweat, frothing at the mouth, but resolved and determined to crawl to the entry point of the path where the old woman was to show up.  The old woman appeared as the sun began it’s ascent and the boy summoned his strength and reached up for her hand.  Everyone had forgotten this woman in the village. This quiet, observant boy had watched it shift over time.  Slowly, people became more and more concerned with their own games, their own lives, their own agendas, chasing their own glory and happiness.  He knew that he was the only one left in the village who still cared about her.  His own father shook his head in disbelief that his son would push through such sickness and fever, just to walk the woman up the hill, and just as he was about to run for the boy to seize him and carry him home, the small boy grabbed the woman’s hand tight, looked back at his father and yelled:

“Helping this woman up the hill every day has been easy. When she became invisible to people because they began to think only about themselves, it was easier.  The hardest day to help her though, was today, and that’s how I knew I had to.” 

Suddenly, the woman lost 20 years on her face, straightened her back and lost her cane.  The boy’s face was restored with color and vitality returned to him.  His father started to cry.  His son had learned the lesson of the village, when everyone else had thrown it away. 

It is no great feat to love someone when we feel great love for them, ease around them, or even passion or lust towards them.  The real challenge is to love someone when we are fighting  every obstacle and stressor in life.  The real challenge is to love when our demons rear their heads and we are left not only to face ourselves, but to love them in spite of ourselves, or self-inflicted sickness.  The love that really counts, the real magical and valuable kind is given when we are so emotionally and physically bankrupt, that it seems that we can only manage to think of ourselves.  When we don’t feel it, that is when we must give it.

Self-centered happiness would have kept the boy sick and could have left the woman beaten and robbed. But the boy ignored himself and put another’s happiness, safety, comfort above his own, knowing full well, that it would restore him to health.  He didn’t try to help the woman.  He did it.  There was nothing complicated about what he knew he must do.

The ignorant village is rampant in today’s society.  It is a society of flimsy words and narcissistic propulsion.  Marriages are full of “trying” disguised by visits to marital counsellors (the equivalent of going to church to put on airs of being good).  Many couples close their marital chapter with the grand pronouncement that they paid their dues by way of marital therapy, and now they get to cut bait. The whole time the word ‘try’ is protecting one from any responsibility for how they are actually treating each other or interacting the other 167 hours of the week that they’re not “seeking help.” You don’t have to be responsible for anything you ever did in the past or are doing now because you “tried.”  

What many people don’t fully accept is that they will fall in and out of love through different periods in their marriage.  I’ve witnessed it with a friend of mine. She was so close to getting divorced, even seeking the solution to her problem outside of herself and in others.  Then she stepped back and looked at herself as the problem and focused all of her attention on the way she was reacting to him.  She took it upon herself to refuse to see him as the problem and only see herself as the driving force of their troubles.  She didn’t have to believe it of course, it didn’t even have to be true.   And something magical happened.  She fell in love again. He suddenly opened up to her again, rather than closing down out of fear that he couldn’t trust her. When she changed herself, he changed. Had she focused on him as the problem, they would have been locked into a stalemate forever.  As trust grew, they became more affectionate after a long dry spell of fear, blame and mistrust.  And that is marriage.  Staying constant even when one is not “feeling” it.

Our human village is ailing from a Me-Centered obsession with “happiness” which is illusory and not lasting.  The more people who ignore the woman walking alone on the road, the easier it is for everyone to do it.  And that is how the family unit is being decimatedbrick by brick, chasing after that ever-elusive phantom of happiness called Me, Me, Me, Me, Me and I, I, I, I, I.  Unfortunately, the more we chase and chase this golden calf of “me” and “I” the more we realize, we’re just chasing our tail.

The Dis-Ease of Worry

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For those expecting to hear how to vaccinate one’s self against being the family scapegoat, no scapegoat talk today, it’s too stressful and raises my cortisol levels.

None of us seems immune to worry, yet some of us tend to be extraordinarily better at it than others.  Growing up and well into adulthood, my father always imparted such annoyingly practical antidotes to worry – arguments that no sane or reasonable man could contest.  He said things like, “Well, don’t worry about it because it won’t do any good!”  Well, I knew logically that my investment of worry wasn’t going to keep the next huge earthquake at bay or keep me from getting a rare form of stomach cancer for drinking too much wine, but his words of reason never seemed to dissipate my neuroses.  His other argument packed a little more punch though: “I learned a long time ago that 98% of the things I worry about never end up happening.  That’s from personal experience.”  Ok, that I could buy into.  It made me realize that maybe this fear-based tendency to reside only in the future was actually not even remotely a good investment of energy.  In fact, it was silly and absurd.

For some reason, we tend to glamorize worry.  We know who we are, and we often say things like “Well, I’m just a worrier.”  or “I’m a worrywart.”  Our inner publicist tends to promote us as some kind of martyr of love for worrying.  I think we actually make peace with this vile and destructive enemy by telling ourselves we only worry because we care, and to some extent being concerned for a loved one’s well-being is an indication of a pulse and a human condition.  But is there efficacy in our “the sky is falling” approach? When worry grows to viral proportions overtaking every single aspect of our lives it is a silent killer and tremendously destructive.  And I do mean destructive.  It destroys our health and it energetically affects the fields of those we are living around. 

Dr. Mehmet Oz, one of the most respected surgeons in the U.S. and the director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons surgeons of today has said, “Energy medicine is the next frontier.”  What he’s really saying is, the old paradigm is becoming the new paradigm again.  Energy medicine is not some amazing, new discovery in the history of the world.  It’s been around for thousands of years.  It has been at the crux of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years.  TCM is based on the manipulation of energy meridians to keep Chi or the life force moving in areas of stagnation (read: the beginning of disease).  And it turns out that the Chinese physicians who intuitively mapped acupuncture meridians thousands of years ago were right.  From the book “Energy Medicine for Women” by Donna Eden:

“A body that had been mummified in a snowbound mountainous region along the border between Austria and Italy around 3000 B.C. had tattoos on exactly the point that are indicated in traditional acupuncture for treating the kind of lumbar spine arthritis revealed by an X-ray analysis of the body.  Nine of the fifteen markings were along a meridian that is used in treating back pain, including one on the precise acupuncture point that is considered the “master point” for back pain.  Forensic analysis also revealed that the body’s intestines had been rife with whipworm eggs, and indeed, some of the other markings were on points that are traditionally used for treating stomach upset. Similar tattoos have been found on mummified bodies in other regions, ranging from South America to Siberia.”

“So what.  So what does this have to do with worrying?” you may be wondering. I think we all know that stress depletes the immunes system and opens us up to illness, this has been proven on the most basic scientific medical level.  Does worry cause stress?  Case rested. What are the implications for spreading worry, panic or hysteria to those around us?  The truth is, in a married couple if one person has always tended towards optimism and the other is a debbie-downer or compulsive worrier, over the years, the optimist will tend more towards negative thinking. Now we might assume that the positive influence pulls the other person up with a confident, cheery, everything will work out mood.  Statistically speaking, the opposite is true unfortunately.  The optimistic person starts feeding into the other person’s worry until negative predictions or foretellings of future events becomes habits for them as well.

Some say, “Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.” and we’ve all heard, “You’re going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.” But before we all begin beating ourselves up for worrying, or worrying about our worrying problem, because we honestly believe we “can’t help it”, let’s peel back another layer of illusion.  First, when we are in the habit of worrying about a result in the future that hasn’t happened, we’re actually creating pathways in our brain.  Every time we are creating the illusion of control by “worrying” about a future event we are making these pathways or grooves in the brain deeper, until the habit is no longer conscious, it’s automatic.  Modern science calls this neuroplasticity which says that we are actually have the power to re-create or re-program our brain at every moment and decision point.  So to banish worry when it has been a security blanket for so many years takes conscious behavior at the start.  It takes asking yourself “Is this really true?” and immediately replacing it with the opposite scenario “In this present moment, this is just as likely to be true and it feels much better.”

Lastly, for those who are only open to hard and fast, pure science and logic, consider the following. What causes this predilection in our loved ones who are monopolizing the airwaves around us with negative predictions, doubt and worry?  The first culprit that comes to mind would obviously be the brain which is the computer and driving force behind most human behavior – at least at the most basic level.  Let’s call it the mothership which controls our predisposition.  Unfortunately, when it comes to human behavior, most people see only the tip of the iceberg, quickly separating the wheat from the chaff.  Good behavior, bad behavior. Curious people ask questions though, and often there are explanations for everything.

In this case, serotonin deficiency is a significant perpetrator behind excessive worrying (one of many manifestations of mal-adaptive behavior, others being forgetfulness, sleep disturbance, loss of sexual interest, social withdrawal, low self-confidence.)  The tragedy bears itself out in the following two scenarios: 1) The strong, silent or proud types rigidly insist on trying to “think their way out of” their misery, or defeatedly announce, “That’s just the way I am.”  or worse yet, get caught in a cycle of feeling bad about the fact that we are feeling bad. 2) We go on synthetic antidepressants which are cheating the body’s natural tendency to heal itself with correcting and healing the balance naturally and also cause abhorrent side effects such as such dead states of feeling flat and numb (I call such “solutions” Humanity Thieves.) 

There is a better option.  Instead, we can assist our body in what it wants to do naturally, by taking 5-HTP which is metabolized from tryptophan, the precursor for serotonin.  L-Tryptophan was threatening the anti-depressants business  in the pharmaceutical industry because it was helping patients, banned and then brought back on the market.    Also, Vitamin D3 deficiency is rampant and shows up in autoposies of cancer patients across the board.  Especially if one haggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder, taking 5,000 – 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 a day will make a huge difference.  Vitamin D comes from the sun, remember?  Moods improve with the sun and light to which many with seasonal depression can attest. Are we in danger of taking too much Vitamin D?  Doubtful. 

“In 1999, in an even more interesting study, vitamin D scientist, Bruce Hollis, teamed up with Michael Gloth and Wasif Alam to find that 100,000 IU of vitamin D given as a one time oral dose improved depression scales better than light therapy in a small group of patients with seasonal affective disorder. Gloth FM 3rd, Alam W, Hollis B. Vitamin D vs broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. J Nutr Health Aging. 1999;3(1):5–7. All subjects in the vitamin D group improved in all measures and, more importantly, improvement in 25(OH)D levels levels was significantly associated with the degree of improvement.”

Combatting worry, if not for our loved ones environment and mood, for our own health and peace of mind is often just a matter of going a little easier on ourselves, creating new pathways in the brain, and giving the brain what it’s calling out for.  And dad was right, what I’m spending so much energy on probably isn’t going to come to pass and with life being as cruelly short as it already is, why don’t we reach for our own oxygen masks so we can relax, breathe easy and help others?  Then we can all enjoy life and escape the world of doom and gloom forecasting, a sordid affair for all.

The Legend of the Scapegoat

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Scapegoats in families have long been the living “thermometers” of the health of a family system or dynamic.  They are  but one expression of family dysfunction and often play a very important role.  In modern society, scapegoats are generally accepted by licensed therapists to be the one who tells (or acts out) the truth in the family, the elephant in the living room that no one is talking about.  It is this act of truth telling that makes them the target for family rebuke and this is why they are often the first person the therapist wants to talk to.

More on that later.  What most people don’t know is the legend of the scapegoat:

The Scapegoat is an old Jewish custom.  In the days before meteorology and biology, ancient peoples who experienced plagues, famine or drought often believed that God was punishing them for a sin.  But they did not know who among them had committed the sin.  So they performed an ancient ritual.  A goat was brought into the center of the community.  (No animals will be harmed in the writing of this article.  I promise.)  A ritual was performed which allowed each member of the community to heap their individual sins upon the goat.  The goat was then driven out into the desert, away from the community.  The hope was that the goat would remove the sins from the community in order to glean favor from God and have the punishment lifted. 

Now at this point I know you’re probably asking yourself:  How do I become a scapegoat?  I wanna be a scapegoat when I grow up!  You want the job?

Well, according to a licensed therapist’s writings,  The Scapegoat must have two characteristics in order to be able to perform their function:

1)  They must be the strongest.
The Scapegoat has to bear the sins of the entire family.  They have to survive, alone, in the “desert” without the comfort or support of the family.  So they must be strong in order to carry the burden.

2) They must be the most loving.
The Scapegoat sacrifices themself for the benefit of the family.  Again, this is somewhat subconscious, but only some level they know they are doing this.  They give up themselves so the family may appear to be “OK”.

One of the downsides of having 20/20 vision by virtue of sobriety is a re-acquaintance, re-wounding, or re-introduction, if you will, by way of utter emotional clarity and “awakeness” to the aberrant family dynamics.  The catch-22 is that when the scapegoat dares to shine a light on a family system or any moving parts that are unwell, the light of truth is immediately resisted and refracted back to the scapegoat or their behavior.  The below was write up by Robert Burney, M.A., about the typical moving parts in family dysfunctions or family systems that are unwell.

“The emotional dynamics of dysfunctional families are basic – and like emotional dynamics for all human beings are pretty predictable. The outside details may look quite different due to a variety of factors, but the dynamics of the human emotional process are the same for all human beings everywhere.

 Emotional dishonesty is very often at the root of such family dysfunction.  When the role model of what a man is does not allow a man to cry or express fear; when the role model for what a woman is does not allow a woman to be angry or aggressive – that is emotional dishonesty. When the standards of a society deny the full range of the emotional spectrum and label certain emotions as negative, or any emotions as negative, for that matter – that is not only emotionally dishonest, it creates emotional disease. ”

Within family dysfunction, some children maintain one role into adulthood while others switch from one role to another as the family dynamic changes (i.e. when the oldest leaves home, etc.)  A child may play all of the roles at one time or another.

“Responsible Child” – “Family Hero”

This is the child who is “9 going on 40.”  This child takes over the parent role at a very young age, becoming very responsible and self-sufficient.  They give the family self-worth because they look good on the outside.  They are the good students, the sports stars, the prom queens.  The parents look to this child to prove that they are good parents and good people.As an adult the Family Hero is rigid, controlling, and extremely judgmental (although perhaps very subtle about it) – of others and secretly of themselves.  They achieve “success” on the outside and get lots of positive attention but are cut off from their inner emotional life, from their True Self.  They are compulsive and driven as adults because deep inside they feel inadequate and insecure.

The family hero, because of their “success” in conforming to dysfunctional cultural definitions of what constitutes doing life “right”, is often the child in the family who as an adult has the hardest time even admitting that there is anything within themselves that needs to be healed.

“Acting out child” – “Scapegoat”

This is the child that the family feels ashamed of – and the most emotionally honest child in the family.  He/she acts out the tension and anger the family ignores.  This child provides distraction from the real issues in the family.  The scapegoat usually has trouble in school because they get attention the only way they know how – which is negatively.  They often become pregnant or addicted as teenagers.

These children are usually the most sensitive and caring which is why they feel such tremendous hurt.  They are romantics who become very cynical and distrustful.  They have a lot of self-hatred and can be very self-destructive.  This often results in this child becoming the first person in the family to get into some kind of recovery.
 
Ah yes.  Sounds familiar.  As with most things in life, however, we can only take responsibility for our part in family wreckage by increasing our own self-awareness. And what if the designated scapegoat begins to eradicate the most obvious sins that helped the family in ignoring their own part? It doesn’t matter, the scapegoat will still feel the intense emotional dishonesty among the family members and will retain the blame. Actually, the group at this point has a big investment in not listening to the Empath or Scapegoat. Now that their tension was gone, they wanted to keep it that way. If the scapegoat was not to blame, then they’d have to take their feelings back and perhaps bring those feelings to painful consciousness.

As for the other family members, their insistence on making the Scapegoat the problem made it impossible for her to have a healthy relationship with them. However, with one or two members who were willing to look at how they helped create the situation, a new relationship was able to develop between them and the Scapegoat. The irony about the whole affair was that the scapegoat did bring the hidden feelings of fear of losing family cohesiveness to a head: the family’s worst fears were realized. But, instead of using it as an opportunity to heal, the family most likely will continue to keep the Empath as the scapegoat and become even more entrenched in holding the appearance of a happy harmonious extended family from that point until the next family crisis and opportunity for healing arises.

Being a scapegoat is a horribly painful situation to fall into as an Empath. In order to avoid it happening, Empaths must learn to tell the difference between their emotions and other’s emotions. Also, when they notice a group of people becoming worked up over someone else or an issue in a negative fashion, they must be careful not to sympathize so as not to risk being caught in the emotional whirlwind. The best action is to stay detached, and if that is too difficult, to quietly leave the scene.

Tomorrow –  Part Two: Are You in Danger of Becoming a Scapegoat?  Heal Yourself, ThenVaccinate