Susanna Barlow https://susannabarlow.com Tue, 04 Oct 2016 16:31:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Misconceptions About Polygamy https://susannabarlow.com/on-polygamy/misconceptions-about-polygamy/ Tue, 04 Oct 2016 16:31:07 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=3115 Misconceptions

There are a lot of misconceptions and common stereotypes about the practice of Mormon Fundamentalist polygamy. As someone who was raised in polygamy, who has siblings that practice polygamy and who continues to have friendships and connections to people within the polygamist culture, I feel (somewhat) qualified to speak to at least a few of these misconceptions. Here are but a few of them and my responses.

All the men are in it for the sex and the power.

Yes, there are some men who are primarily interested in polygamy for the power and sex, (the stereotype exists for a reason).  And it is true that the polygamous culture favors men and gives them authority over women.  Some men abuse this power, using it to dominate and control. But most of the men I know that practice polygamy, spend their time and energies, not seducing young girls or abusing their wives, but working long hours to provide food and other necessities for their large families. And while they do believe in a patriarchal system, they strive to show fairness and responsibility to their wives and to be available, nurturing fathers to their many children. They are aware (some of them) that polygamy complicates their lives and creates a lot of stress and carries with it heavy responsibilities. They choose it anyway because they believe that polygamy is the correct marriage structure for their personal lives and the salvation of their souls. And yes, I have known some real creeps in the polygamous culture but not nearly as many as the media may have you believe.

The women want to leave polygamy but are too abused or brainwashed to do so. 

There are women in polygamy who are disenfranchised, abused both physically and emotionally and who suffer under the doctrine of male superiority. But I know women who have left abusive polygamous marriages, who have abandoned their cultures and embraced mainstream society. I am not implying that it isn’t difficult and that there isn’t tremendous pressure on women in the polygamous groups but to assume that the women are merely victims of their religion or have been brainwashed by the patriarchy, insults their intelligence and their convictions. They are some of the strongest, most opinionated and powerful women I have known. They believe in polygamy as a spiritual doctrine and a belief is a powerful force and one cannot be talked out of, what one deeply believes. If the women didn’t believe that polygamy was necessary for their happiness and spiritual salvation, they would never agree to it. Perhaps it is because of this, that many polygamist wives are the strongest advocates for it. Yes, they are deeply conditioned by their culture. But aren’t we all deeply conditioned by our cultures?

“I don’t know how those people can live like that.”

I have personally heard this phrase about polygamy many times. It may come as a surprise to some, that the polygamists, looking out of their gated communities and the windows of their homes at the rest of the world, say in complete wonderment, “I don’t know how those people can live like that.” While outsiders often pity members of polygamous groups and consider them brainwashed by a religious cult, likewise, many members of polygamous groups pity outsiders and consider them brainwashed by the media and other seductions of the world. I grew up believing I was superior to outsiders, that I had been blessed with greater intelligence and spiritual capacity. “Plural marriage is not for everyone.” I was often told. The implication is clear that only an elite few are worthy to practice polygamy. Just like only some people can get into a college like Stanford or Princeton, polygamy is reserved for those who have earned it. There is monogamy for the rest of the world. Of course, not all polygamists feel this way but there is an underlying belief of exemption. They believe that their lifestyle is a higher form of living. Intended or not, elitism is built into the structure of polygamist beliefs. Isolation is necessary to maintain this elitist viewpoint. Many polygamists have to deal with the discomfort of being stared at, judged, sneered, mocked and deeply misunderstood so perceiving yourself as superior takes the sting out this judgment.

Diversity

There is a common misunderstanding that all polygamists are alike but there is so much diversity among them. There are many polygamous factions with widely varying beliefs. Many are surprised to discover that none of these groups have anything to do with each other. Some groups embrace mainstream society quite readily in their dress, their homes and all the other benefits that it offers, while others find the appearance of the outside world utterly repulsive, shunning TV, radio, politics and current affairs. You will also find everything in between these two extremes. Some polygamists are  deeply spiritual, thoughtful and educated; others are friendly, curious and open-minded. Yet others still are self-important, opinionated, and socially backwards.

But then you will find all these sorts of people everywhere.

Much of what the media presents about polygamy panders to voyeurism. But to look beyond that, beyond the old fashioned clothes and the strange hairstyles; if you listen to them speak or watch them with their children you will see they are just like you. They are human beings with the same basic needs, wants, longings and desires. They want to feel understood and loved. They want to belong. Polygamy is misunderstood and nothing is easier than to make quick judgments about it. It is much harder but much more gratifying to seek out the familiar in the strange and to cultivate an understanding of what makes us different.

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Mistaken https://susannabarlow.com/my-short-stories/mistaken/ Tue, 19 Jul 2016 21:30:26 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=3032

Carl looked at his watch. It was twelve minutes past five. He had been sitting in his car for four long hours. A small circle of cigarette butts lay in the dirt next to the driver’s side door. He had been assigned a family and they had been under surveillance for weeks and still there was nothing. He was to collect information, to take down license plate numbers from cars that came or went, interview the neighbors, learn the routine of the owner. He flipped open the folder lying on the passenger seat of his Ford sedan, standard issue for FBI agents. Allen Warner age 30, former member of the LDS Church and excommunicated two years ago for allegedly practicing polygamy. Legally married to Marta Barstow age 28. Seven children. The family had lived at this address for eight years. The property was owned by Mr. Warner, formerly owned and purchased by his father in 1922. The house was a modest two-story bungalow with a small attic balcony. The porch had a single wicker chair in one corner and a few potted pink begonias rested on either side of the porch steps. The white cotton curtains were kept drawn at the windows and the dark front door with its white casings had recently been painted. Carl drew in hard on the cigarette in his right hand, let the smoke out of his nostrils and leaned back, watching the house with renewed interest. Even from across the street he could hear the clanging of dishes and muffled conversations. At one point an older girl had stepped out onto the porch, placed a bucket near the front door before closing it. He had seen more than a few children, running down the porch steps and around to the back of the house. Carl closed the file and was about to start the car when he heard the door open. It was a woman. She wore a plain colorless house frock and matching apron. She leaned heavily against the balustrade and rested her head against one of the white painted columns and closed her eyes. Her blonde hair was functionally arranged into a tight bun. Though she wore scuffed brown shoes and there were dark stains on her apron, she looked graceful, her sleeves rolled to the elbow, her arm brown from the summer sun rested on the railing. Most likely there was a garden in the back where she weeded rows of onions and gathered harvested peas in her apron skirt. She was very slim and short and could have easily passed for a child if not for the care worn expression on her face and the way she gave a little start, a short intake of breath, at the sound of a car pulling into the driveway. Carl sat up straighter, his eyes set in a furrow of dark brows as he watched the short, burly man in his brown suit close the car door. The blonde woman was smoothing her apron and tucking a few stray hairs behind her ear when he approached the porch. He looked around uneasily before speaking harshly to the woman. Carl couldn’t hear what he said but the man held the blonde woman tightly by the arm and led her into the house. She looked back toward the car over her shoulder. Carl slipped low into his seat, adjusting his own hat down over his eyes, hoping he appeared to be sleeping. When he lifted his eyes after a few moments the two of them were gone, into the house. He checked his file against the license plate number they had for Allen Warner. It was a match. This was their man. The woman was most likely Marta. Carl flicked the cigarette butt out the driver’s side window and drove back to the office to complete his paperwork before he could go home.

“Any luck today, Holloway?”

It was Donald, Carl’s supervisor, a tall, trim man with a tidy haircut and glasses who liked to walk about the office with both hands in his pockets, his vest swelling out in front of him.

“Nothing yet, boss.”

“Unlawful cohabitation,” Donald said, sitting down on the corner of Carl’s desk.

Carl looked up. “It’s hard prove.”

“I know. Kids?”

“Yeah, plenty. But who knows if they are Warner’s kids?”

“Kids will talk though,” Donald said. “Just ask them.”

“I have,” Carl replied leaning back in his chair. “You know what they tell me?”

Donald looked directly at Carl and folded his arms. “What do they tell you?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” Donald said, his eyebrows shooting up.

“That’s what they say to every question I ask them,” Carl continued. “I don’t know. Where do you go to school? I don’t know. Do you live here? I don’t know. What’s your daddy’s name? I don’t know. What’s your name? I don’t know. It’s damn frustrating.”

“They really say, I don’t know? To every question?” Donald looked surprised.

“They seem embarrassed about saying it too, like they have practiced it over and over so as not to slip up.”

“I’ll be damned.” Donald ran his hand lightly over his hair. “The lady of the house?”

“ I’ve seen her but I don’t want to approach her quite yet, afraid I will spook her before I’ve got something. She is real flighty, nervous as a hummingbird.

“Have you seen many visitors?”

“Sure, but it could be anybody, a neighbor, a relative, a friend.”

“An extra wife.” Donald tapped two fingers on Carl’s desk. “Look, we’re building a mighty big case against these men. We’ve got evidence enough to arrest two-dozen of them. This Warner, he’s a big shot. He is also slippery as an eel. We gotta go in careful.”

“The wife is already wary.”

“Don’t focus on the wife, she will have to testify in court if we can get her husband. And all we need to nail him is to prove the appearance of marriage to another woman.”

“I haven’t seen anything so far, except everyone acting suspiciously.”

“Ask the neighbors, follow the man to his place work and find out if any of his coworkers are willing to talk. Some of these men move the women from state to state when they know we are getting close. With the Mann Act we can charge them with human trafficking.”

“Why are we spending so much energy and resources on this?” Carl asked.

“We have agreed to work with U.S. Marshals and the Utah state police to eradicate this cult.”

“You think it’s a cult?” Carl knew he was pushing the edge.

“I do,” Donald said quietly. “A cult that abuses women and children. Don’t you?” Donald asked his dark slender brows turned down into a serious arc.

Carl fiddled with the pencil in his hand, rolling it between his fingers. “It’s more complicated than that. These men are willing to risk arrest and even imprisonment for claiming to be married to more than one woman. They don’t have to claim their second and third families. But they do. That seems pretty committed to me.”

“They’re brainwashed,” Donald said, a little exasperated at Carl’s reasoning. “Besides, they are breaking the law.”

“The wife did look afraid of her husband,” Carl said, lighting a cigarette.

“Sure, she is afraid of him. He probably abuses her to keep her mouth shut. I don’t know any woman that would put up with her husband taking other women if she wasn’t afraid.”

Carl nodded, thinking of the Warner wife, Marta, wondering what it might be like to live in constant fear of the one meant to protect you.

“Don’t get all cozied up to these people, Holloway. You’re not their friend. You are the law.” Donald put his hat on and left the office.

 

The next time the house was under Carl’s surveillance he parked two streets down, removed his jacket and walked to the brown and white house. The wooden stairs creaked as he made his way to the front door in the shade of the porch. The morning sun had already warmed up the balustrade and a breeze rustled his shirt. He knocked loudly on the screen door and then listened. He heard scrambling, a woman’s voice, shouting in a loud whisper: Go. Chairs scraping, feet trampling up the stairs, followed by silence. Then the door opened. Marta Warner stood at the screen door. Her blonde hair was pinned back and her apron had two wet spots on the front where she had dried her hands. He smelled oatmeal and saw the breakfast table with at least ten or more settings. There was bucket of milk on the sideboard near the door.

“Yes?” Marta asked looking carefully at Carl. He removed his hat and smoothed his blond hair, but Marta did not open the screen door. Her arms were folded tight against her chest as if keeping out some invisible cold.

“I’m looking for the office of the Salt Lake Telegram, and I seem to be a bit lost,” Carl said looking around him.

“You mean the newspaper office? You’re too far south,” she said, suddenly relaxing her arms and opening the screen door. She stepped out onto the porch. She looked so fragile, her tiny wrists were delicately shaped and her fingers were slender though the nails were cut very short. She pointed north. “It’s that way. Downtown. About three miles.”

“Thank you,” Carl said. He didn’t move and Marta smiled at him, her lips were dry and her smile was meant to encourage him to leave.

“I hate to bother you, but I didn’t catch your name?” he said after a moment.

“Mrs. Warner,” she replied, suddenly moving back inside the house. She held the screen door open but her face was closed. Carl noticed that several wooden crates were arranged around the kitchen table instead of chairs and that the curtains on the east window were actually flour sacks.

“It’s quite warm and I could use a glass of water. I’m walking, you see.”

“Yes, of course.” She exhaled. “Wait here.” She brought him a glass of water but did not invite him to sit in the wicker chair or to bring him into the house. She stood on the porch with her arms folded, her pale eyes squinting toward the road. It was her fear that drew him to her. He thought of Mr. Warner then, gripping this woman’s thin arm, his knuckles white with the effort and Carl gritted his teeth. He drank the water and handed her the empty glass.

“I appreciate your hospitality, Mrs. Warner,” he said warmly, “and for the directions. Good day.” Carl put his hat back on his head and turned to go down the stairs. Just then Mr. Warner appeared from the side of the house. He had his keys in one hand and when he saw Carl he froze.

“This man is lost and I was just giving him directions,” Marta said in a too loud voice, still holding the empty glass in her hand. Mr. Warner approached Carl, his shoulders squared. His face was round and he kept his black hair cut into a military buzz.

“Go back into the house,” he said gruffly and Marta hurried inside closing both the screen and the door behind her.

“You got what you needed?” Mr. Warner asked Carl in a low voice.

“Your wife gave me excellent directions,” Carl said brightly but he could feel the muscle in his jaw grinding. He turned to leave, feeling a pair of eyes boring through him as he made his way down the porch stairs and to the street. Carl felt his face suddenly grow warm. He wanted to stay, to stand guard at Marta’s front door, to keep that bully from touching her. He imagined the satisfaction he would get from landing a blow to that smug face. He wanted to arrest him more than anything and was going to get the evidence he needed to see Mr. Warner removed from the home.

 

The Warner house was part of a larger neighborhood with a wide gravel road that curved around a small pond and headed west until it dead-ended; nothing beyond but a large hayfield and tall water tank. The home sat on a two-acre lot, with an orchard in the back, a few cows and a henhouse. The other houses surrounding it were smaller by comparison and many of them needed repairs with sagging front fences and weeds growing up through the floorboards of the porch. Allen Warner was likely the envy of his neighbors with his painted front door and cleanly swept stairs. The family was poor but there was industriousness about the yard and home that seemed to be lacking in the rest of the neighborhood. He had spoken to several of the neighbors already. Carl regretted his decision to talk to Marta Warner. If he was seen again, he might be recognized and he pulled his hat down lower as he talked to the neighbors, most of whom were willing to give Carl details of the Warner family. Several of them had claimed to see another wife, a brown haired girl and, according to the reports he received, she was no older than eighteen. Carl had not seen this person and doubted at times the motives of the neighbors, eager as they were to pass judgments. But Carl wanted to get Mr. Warner and he was working the investigation much more aggressively.

He stood at the front door of a run down house in the late afternoon. The original paint was nearly completely worn off and the wooden steps groaned dangerously under Carl’s weight. An old man opened the door, wearing nothing but suspenders holding up a pair of stained trousers. His skin was weathered and darkened by the sun. His white hair was matted down against his head and when he scratched himself Carl noticed the yellowish black nicotine stains on his fingers and instinctively looked at his own hand.

“What do you want,” the old man stated, his words hard and defensive. Carl stiffened at the sight of the old man, images of his own father loomed up in front of him. He removed his hat.

“I’m Agent Holloway with the FBI. We are investigating your neighbor, Mr. Allen Warner on allegations of polygamy. Have you seen or heard anything that would be helpful to our investigation?”

“I don’t spy on my neighbors.” The old man picked at his teeth with a greasy fingernail.

“I am not asking you to spy, just if you have noticed anything.”

“Which neighbor we talking about,” the old man asked looking over Carl’s shoulder.

“The Warner family,” Carl pointed toward the brown and white house.

“I’ve heard the rumors.” The old man hitched his trousers adjusting the suspender over his shoulder. “And there is whole passel of kids. The man runs a tight ship over there, keeps that little woman in her place.”

Carl felt the heat rise from his belly up to the hairs on his head. “That is no way to speak of a lady,” he said leaning in toward the man who backed up a bit. “She is Mrs. Warner and you will refer to her with some respect.”

“I see how it is,” the old man said stepping back into the shadows of his house. A hungry little smile curled at his mouth. “G’day to you then.”

Carl stood on the creaking porch staring at the discolored door. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it up before heading back to his car that was parked near the dead end. Carl noticed several kids in Warner’s backyard watching him. Two girls with black hair shooed several boys away from the fence and turned their backs to him. He threw the cigarette into the dirt and was anticipating the drive back to the office when he heard shrill screaming and the sound was coming directly from inside the Warner house. He turned and ran straight up the porch stairs. The scene was playing out right in front of him. Mr. Warner with both fists balled up in fury, Marta crouched against the kitchen table, a bruise forming along her cheekbone. No longer a little boy, Carl was broad and much taller than Mr. Warner. He flung open the door and instead of the drama he was expecting he found Marta standing at the stove removing a kettle that steamed up around her, making her blonde hair curl out away from her face. Carl was so confused for a moment he didn’t move. There were stack of towels on the counter.

“You,” she said looking startled. “You were here the other day.”

Carl didn’t say anything.

“You weren’t really looking for directions were you?”

Carl shook his head.  There was a brief silence between them as Marta realized the truth, eyes growing small and fearful.

“You’re the police,” she said quietly still holding the steaming kettle in her hand.

“FBI.” He felt small and found-out, though he towered above her in his dark suit and hat. They stood there suspended by the strangeness of the situation. Suddenly there was screaming again. An older woman came running into the kitchen, her sleeves were rolled up to her elbows and a bloodstained apron covered her dress. She stopped cold at the sight of Carl.

“Hurry,” was all she said but the look of fear in her eyes made Carl step back a little.

“Arrest me right now or get out of here,” Marta said in a low, gravelly voice. She turned her back to Carl and hurried down the hall with the hot water and towels. He followed her to the back bedroom where a young woman was lying on her back, her pale face was sheened with sweat and her long brown hair clung to her forehead and cheeks. He removed his hat and stared at the scene before him. The bed sheets were bloodstained and wet. The older woman, obviously a midwife was bent down in front the young woman’s raised knees. Marta poured the boiling water into a bowl near the bed and set the towels next to it. The woman was wailing and didn’t pay any notice to Carl standing in the doorway.

“The baby is presenting breech,” the midwife said in a strained tone. “Get her on her knees!” Marta helped the midwife turn the young woman who whimpered and made the most desperate sounds Carl had ever heard. They turned her from her back until she was positioned on all fours. The midwife was up on the bed and Marta too, holding the younger woman up. The baby was already emerging.

“You have to push with the next contraction, honey, you understand? You have to be strong and help this baby be born.” With the next contraction the young woman grunted and howled with pain. The midwife was pulling and working the baby out. Carl couldn’t see what was happening until the young woman finally collapsed on the bed sobbing as the midwife held the birthed baby in her hands. Carl held his breath as she rubbed the tiny grayish colored infant draped over her arm. The baby began to cry. There was a gush of relief that filled the room. Even Carl exhaled audibly. Marta was crying and the young woman was crying. Carl backed up out of the bedroom and hurried out toward the kitchen door. Marta followed him.

“Mister?”

Carl turned to face her. He had crushed his hat while watching the woman give birth and now he smoothed the rim.

“Thank you,” she wiped her tears and hurried back down the hall.

Carl didn’t move after she left. All that he had been so sure about dissolved in an instant. Marta was no longer a figure he watched from a distance, the young wife was now flesh and blood, literally. Had he really watched her give birth? Had he really been standing in her bedroom? He felt oddly complicit as if he were actually a part of it all.

 

It had been a week when Donald gave Carl the news.

“We arrested your man,” Donald said, “and presumably his younger wife. We caught them at the Mexican border and arrested both of them. They are in custody now.”

“The baby?” Carl asked without thinking.

“How did you know about the baby?” Donald asked taking off his glasses.

“I do my job,” Carl responded quickly.

“He is in the care of the legal Mrs. Warner.”

“What next for Mr. Warner?”

“Trial, hopefully a conviction and then prison.” Donald said emotionless.

“What of the family?”

“It will be much harder to get a conviction for the woman, most likely she will be released. She isn’t legally married to Mr. Warner so I am not sure what she will do.”

“Mrs. Warner?” Carl tried to sound casual.

“I don’t know. Divorce the bastard maybe?” Donald chuckled.

Winter had arrived and Carl was smoking in his parked car outside the Warner home. He had found himself sitting there often in the months during the trial and sentencing of Mr. Warner. He knew Marta checked the front door every night before retiring and on this night she wore a heavy woolen sweater when she came out to the porch. Her breath a white fog in the dark night air, before picking up the crate of oranges Carl had left on her step. Her figure was illuminated by the glow of the porch light over her head. She looked all around her, just as she did every time and then carried the crate into the house.

 

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Why Polygamy Should Not Be a Crime https://susannabarlow.com/on-polygamy/why-polygamy-should-not-be-a-crime/ https://susannabarlow.com/on-polygamy/why-polygamy-should-not-be-a-crime/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 18:47:08 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=3008 Whenever I am asked about my family, I take a deep breath, try not to pause for too long and then launch into a short explanation. I was born into a polygamous family and am the 23rd of 46 children. We were raised in an abusive household where many of us suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse. And no, I don’t support anti-polygamy laws.

Anti-polygamy laws have been pretty secure for over one hundred years, since it was ruled that polygamy was a felony, so I was surprised to hear that a U.S. District Court Judge, effectively decriminalized polygamy in 2013. In response to a lawsuit he determined that Utah laws pertaining to polygamy were, at least in part, unconstitutional making polygamy a misdemeanor. The ruling continues to be contested in the Utah House and in the Senate.

There are many who would like to see polygamy re-criminalized.  Some believe it is the only way to resolve the problems found in the polygamous culture. With tougher laws underage marriages might be deterred, welfare fraud could be more easily prosecuted. Sexual abuse and child abuse could not be condoned under the guise of religious freedom. Women, who were once in polygamous relationships themselves, have pushed anti-polygamy campaigns, hoping to create gender equality and to encourage women and children to leave the closed communities. With stricter policies and better education, polygamy itself might dwindle, especially if the laws against it were strenuous enough.

I grew up hearing the stories about the history of my Mormon Fundamentalist background where polygamy was practiced openly in Utah in the 1850’s until the 1890’s. When Utah finally achieved statehood and the Mormon Church formally stated that polygamy would no longer be practiced, plural marriages were performed in secret and polygamy went underground. The 1930’s through the 1950’s saw resurgence of anti-polygamy feeling and it was vigorously prosecuted during this time. Several massive roundups of offenders, known as raids, was conducted under the direction of the Utah executive branch along with U. S. federal marshals, FBI agents, deputy sheriffs, Salt Lake City police as well as Arizona law enforcement. Men and women, believed to be the leaders, were arrested and charged with various crimes including “unlawful cohabitation.” There were court hearings, trials conducted and many polygamist men were sentenced to prison. Women were separated from their children, many of whom were placed in foster homes.

All of this did nothing to stop the practice of polygamy and in fact, families grew larger, more devout and out of necessity, more secretive than before. The protective instincts of women prompted them to become strong advocates of polygamy, especially when the state threatened to separate mothers from children. This period of great secrecy and persecution, produced men like Warren Jeffs who, after rising to power, used the isolation and fear, to command and control thousands.

In 1973, when I was born into a polygamous family, the eleventh child of a second wife, I inherited the intensely isolated conditions and fearful attitudes that were nurtured in the previous decades. I grew up believing that breaking the law was necessary because God’s laws (plural marriage in particular) were more valid than man’s laws. I knew my family was different and I was taught to take pride in that. Other than God, my parents represented the highest form of government and authority and my entire world was constrained by the boundaries of home. Inside that home, away from the influence of an outside world was a different kind of existence. But it wasn’t all terror.

I loved my big polygamous family, every baby, a celebration that added to our ever-expanding tribe. I worshiped my older sisters and admired my big brothers. I loved sharing a room with seven other girls close to my own age, the beds lined up together so that we could jump from one to another without effort. At nights we sat on our beds and made up stories that usually began with, “Do you want to hear what I dreamed last night?” This made our stories somehow more real and valid. And then we would spin a yarn, wild and outrageous, full of danger, fantasy and romance while the others sat spellbound, in their nightgowns in the dark. Sometimes we recited the dialogue from our favorite movies or sang the theme song to Star Wars until we fell asleep to the murmuring of each others voices, the hum of a friend, only a hands width away.

We not only shared a room but we shared dresses, socks and shoes, borrowing from whatever the other had in her drawer without worry. We fought over the best spot in front of the mirror for combing our long braids and raced each other up the stairs in the mornings to get to the bathroom first. I remember fondly sitting at long, long breakfast tables and looking across from me, to the left and to the right, and seeing my brothers and sisters, their wet hair combed back and their faces eager for the food to arrive. These brothers and sisters were my whole world. We shared secrets and jokes and the mountain of daily work was made lighter knowing each one of them was there. I belonged to them. They belonged to me. I had a place in the world, however small, and I would have done almost anything to protect it.

I have seen both sides of the polygamy. I know how strong the community ties are, how bonded one can feel to an identity and a people that are misunderstood and misrepresented. I have seen both the good that comes from growing up in polygamy and its inherent weaknesses and abuses. The fear and isolation that protects polygamists from accusations and prison sentences also creates an environment without accountability.

The abuse we suffered as children was systematic and intentional. It was part of the rigorous system of corporal punishment used to train children and I have no memory of a time without abuse. Polygamy was normal and abuse was normal. I had no idea it was wrong. As I matured I realized that others, outsiders, believed that abuse of children was wrong but they also believed polygamy was wrong. What was I to believe? Even so, I began to question the abuse myself.

One day when I was fifteen I discovered a hotline for reporting child abuse in the local yellow pages. It was a free number and I could call anonymously and report the abuse happening in my family. Many times during the next few years, I would hold the phone in my hand, listening to the dial tone, my forefinger resting on that 1-800 number. Some days when the beatings were particularly brutal and I was feeling desperate to end it all, or to end my own life I went back to look at that 1-800 number.

But I never called.

It would have destroyed my world. I was afraid my father and mother would be taken to prison and worse, that my brothers and sisters would be removed from the home. I was intensely afraid of being separated from them. I didn’t want to be blamed when the walls of our world came crashing down. I didn’t want my brothers and sisters to feel betrayed. I didn’t want to be a traitor. I didn’t want to go to hell. No matter how extreme the abuse became the possible consequences of reporting it, were always worse. But if I had believed that I could have called that number and had the abuser in my home removed without destroying the rest of my family I would have called without hesitation.

Polygamy does not cause abuse. The secretive nature of the culture does make abuse more common but I have personally known polygamous families that are loving and functional. I have also known some that are dysfunctional and abusive. Just like all families. Polygamy as a marriage practice does not necessarily mean inequality between partners but it does make it more likely. I don’t condone or support underage marriages, arranged marriages, or abuse of any kind but as long as there is respect and consenting adults, to me, polygamous relationships are as valid as any marriage. So why criminalize it?

Making something a crime doesn’t necessarily prevent it from happening. As long as polygamy is a crime, polygamists will feel they must break the law and it’s a slippery slope toward disregarding other laws, in the name of God and freedom of religion. In fact, I cannot think of a single thing that would promote polygamy more, than to have members prosecuted and imprisoned for the practice. Mormon Fundamentalist polygamy is no longer a marriage issue but has become a cultural issue and their communities and traditions are only made stronger by the forces resisting them. Making polygamy a crime is not criminalizing a behavior it is criminalizing an entire culture. Polygamy is not the root of the problem, it is the shame and the secrets that have fostered dysfunction, inequality and abuse. And making polygamy a crime for which offenders can be imprisoned will send members back into hiding and secrecy in an attempt to preserve their cultural heritage and beliefs.

It is my opinion that as a direct result of relaxed attitudes toward polygamy, the polygamist culture is changing in positive ways. I have seen more equality between men and women. More polygamist women are attending college and earning degrees. Men are participating much more in the daily duties of child rearing. Underage marriages are in steep decline and in some communities are not even allowed. Welfare fraud is being exposed and prosecuted. Women are less afraid to get jobs to help support their large families. Parents are choosing to raise children using positive reinforcement and even past abuses are being addressed. As social attitudes have changed toward polygamy, polygamists are opening their doors, even if just a crack, to outsiders. As a result, organizations such as Holding Out H.E.L.P, and others, have been created to bring much needed services to polygamous communities. These programs are neutral on the subject of polygamy and are there to help those who want to stay and those who want to leave. They educate outsiders about the culture and have done much toward dispelling stereotypes. Women can reach out to marriage counselors to talk openly about their struggles in plural marriage. Young people who want to leave the culture have access to basic needs and support in finding jobs or receiving traditional schooling. Women who want to leave their husbands can get legal advice and help with childcare. Parenting programs and many mental health services have been made available to polygamous families in recent years.

With all of this progress though, there are still polygamous factions that commit abuses, who use fear of outsiders to control their members and where secrecy remains deeply embedded in their religious belief system. But as long as there is enough freedom, the generations of young people growing up in polygamy will be exposed to new beliefs and ideas and the polygamous culture will continue to evolve and change. And with these changes a child being abused will know it is wrong and will not be too frightened to ask for help.

Resources

If you are in a polygamous family and you are being hurt you can find information here for help. If you want to leave the polygamous culture but you don’t know how or where to begin; or if you want to remain in the polygamous culture or are in a plural marriage and you are seeking support or mental health services you may find help in one of the links below.

 

Holding Out Help http://holdingouthelp.org/

The Diversity Foundation http://www.smilesfordiversity.org/cod.php

Voices for Dignity http://voicesfordignity.com/how-to-help-survivors-of-polygamy/

The Family Support Center http://www.familysupportcenter.org/

 

 

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The Name https://susannabarlow.com/my-short-stories/the-name/ Tue, 28 Jun 2016 23:57:22 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=3075 Jon slid his arm across the bench seat of the Chevy Bel Air so that it rested along Joyce’s shoulder and neck. She relaxed a little under the weight of his arm, pressed against his thigh, their shoulders a finger width apart. He felt as if he was a counterweight, the force that kept her from falling over.

“What should we name him?” he asked her, breaking the silence. The black curls of her high ponytail grazed his elbow as she turned her head to face him. She instinctively laid a hand across her waist and smoothed the gathers of her pale blue dress.

“Don’t you think it’s a little early for that?” she asked, both eyebrows touching the fringe of her dark bangs.

Jon smiled and squeezed her shoulder before moving his arm and taking the steering wheel with both hands.

“It’s never too early to be prepared,” he said looking thoughtfully at the road in front of him. Jon had the compressed features of a leprechaun, smiling eyes, a round nose, his chin a firm curve, like a drawer handle.

“Couldn’t we think about it later?” Joyce complained.

“Let’s just think of a name so we have plan.”

A plan.

That was the one thing Jon didn’t have. He had never in all his life felt so inadequate and out of his depth. He thought of Deborah then, standing in the doorway in her nightgown, the two boys huddled in front of her. The three of them stood there until he had driven out of sight that morning. They had talked about Joyce coming into the family and she had agreed to it. Had she actually said yes? He was sure she hadn’t said no. Deborah had seemed smaller since he had married Joyce. He pushed Deborah out of his mind and smiled broadly at Joyce, whose slender lips were pressed into an irritable frown.

“Hey,” he nudged her with his shoulder. “How about we go with Robert for his first name, after your grandfather.”

“Okay,” she said tugging at the watch she wore on her left wrist. He pulled into the parking lot of Greenwood, Trust and Bank and got out of the car. She stayed in the passenger seat with the car running.

“I will be right back,” he said. “You ladies are expensive,” he added. Joyce watched him trot toward the bank. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and his shirt was tucked in exposing his belt and pockets. It was cold outside and he had left his jacket and green plaid scarf on the backseat. Watching him from a distance made him seem strange and exciting.

When he slid back into his seat stuffing his wallet into his back pocket, she announced, “Greenwood.”

“Huh?” he asked, head craned behind him, backing out of the parking lot.

“Robert Greenwood.” She nodded toward the bank.

“Robert Greenwood. He sounds familiar. Do I know him?” Jon chuckled before pulling onto the main road. He was grateful she was participating.

“You better know him, he is my husband,” Joyce said half serious.

“So, what does Robert Greenwood do for a living?” he said.

“I don’t know. Maybe he can work at a grocery store,” she said.

“No, Robert Greenwood needs to have a job that can’t be traced very easily, something that puts him out on the road, like a truck driver. And hopefully Robert Greenwood’s wife will stay inside and not attract any attention.” He thought she might laugh but when he looked over at Joyce, he realized that she had scooted to the other side of the car, her back toward him, leaning on her fist.

“Hidden in plain sight,” she said staring out of the passenger window.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“The best lies are hidden in plain sight,” she sighed and put her hand on her stomach again. “I hate the lies.”

“You know we have no choice and we need to have something figured out soon, before the baby comes.”

“We already had to wait two years before the Council would give us permission to marry. And now they want me to pretend to be someone else’s wife.”

“It’s for your own safety—and mine,” he said to her patiently. “After this last string of arrests things have calmed down a little. We don’t want to give anyone reason to be suspicious. We have to be careful or I will be the one getting arrested.”

He pulled up to the narrow drive that led to her trailer. It was an old trailer house that had been borrowed from a friend until Jon could provide Joyce with a suitable living arrangement. The trailer was off of the main road and partially hidden behind a screen of trees and a long narrow driveway. She opened the car door and got out.

“Can you come in?” she asked, leaning back in through the open door.

“I don’t know, it’s pretty late and Deborah—”

“I’m your wife now too,” she said boldly interrupting him. “We are going to have to figure out how to make this work.” She looked petulant. He knew she was scared.

“You’re right,” he said in a soothing tone, “but sacrifices will have to be made. On both your parts.”

“I am making sacrifices. I am married to Robert Greenwood, who is, quite literally, never at home.”

“No, you’re not, you are married to me.” He leaned over and pulled her toward him and kissed her on the mouth. “And if Bob comes around, I will sock him in the stomach.”

She was smiling. He turned the ignition off, got out of the car and looked around to make sure no one was watching. But he felt eyes on him. He knew they watched from houses across the street and the windows of parked cars. He wondered how many of the ordinary people they passed on the street were FBI informants or plainclothes policemen. He let Joyce get several paces ahead of him, allowing her to lead him into the trailer. He followed her inside. After he locked the door and drew the living room drapes, he kissed Joyce on the back of her neck as she was hanging her wool coat in the closet. But the thought of Deborah at home with the kids tore at his conscience. He knew he should go home, that Deborah was waiting for him. It was her night with him. He pulled up a chair at the kitchen table and sat down.

“Here,” Joyce pulled a pad and pen from bureau and laid it down on the table in front of him. “Practice writing Robert Greenwood’s signature. We are going to need it for the birth certificate.”

Jon picked up the pen and began writing the name.

“It looks too much like my handwriting,” he said.

“Try it with your left hand, it will look different that way.”
“Yeah it will look like a three year old wrote it,” he said laughing and switching the pen to his left hand. He chewed his bottom lip and tried to manage the signature with his non-dominant hand. Just as he was getting the hang of it there was a knock at the door. The two of them froze. He set the pen down quietly and stood up. He squeezed Joyce as he moved past her and into the bedroom. After a moment, Joyce smoothed her dress and opened the front door.

“Aunt Ginny,” she said in a loud voice. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” she said, stepping into the trailer and pulling her coat off and dropping it on the armrest of the chair. She pulled the net off her coifed hair, folded it up and put it in her purse. “Well?”

Joyce ignored the question. “Would you like to sit down?” she gestured toward the chair where Aunt Ginny’s brown coat lay crumpled.

“Your mother told me you were here,” she said moving the coat and arranging her legs beneath the folds of her mauve dress suit. “I don’t know why you feel like you need to assert your independence. The young ladies these days don’t know what’s good for them.” Aunt Ginny didn’t bother to remove her gloves as she held her purse with both hands, pressing her fingers around the handle.

“What can I do for you?”

“You can get married and settle down, that’s what you can do; like a proper girl your age should be doing, not living on her own like some sloppy bachelor.” She looked disdainfully around the trailer. “I told your mother I would talk to you. She is worried sick about you.”

“You can tell her I am just fine.” Joyce said roughly.

“But you obviously are not fine. Come back home.”

“I can’t Aunt Ginny, I can’t do it. This is my life now.”

Aunt Ginny stood up. “If you are going to be unreasonable I am leaving.” She gathered her coat and opened the door. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Joyce,” she said turning to face her again.

“Good bye Aunt Ginny,” Joyce said. When she was sure Aunt Ginny was gone she called out. “She’s gone.”

Jon appeared around the corner. “She’s right you know,” he said pushing both hands into his trouser pockets. “You aren’t fine.”

Joyce snorted. “You want me to go back to living with my mother, and just tell her I got knocked up.”

“Of course not, I am just worried about you.”

“If I was the legal wife we wouldn’t have this problem.”

“I can’t ask Deborah to do that,” Jon said, sitting back down at the kitchen table and fumbling with the pen and pad; Robert Greenwoods newly minted signature all over it.

“Do you want something to drink?” Joyce asked opening up the icebox.

“Do you have a Coca Cola?”

“No, I only have milk.”

“Forget it then,” Jon’s voice was tense.

“Fine, I will have some,” she said pouring it coolly from the glass jar. She tried to appear casual but Jon could see her desperation. Joyce was not safe from the prying eyes of the neighbors eager to report any and all suspicious activity that might go on in the little trailer. Unlawful cohabitation they called it. Her own family wouldn’t hesitate to turn him in. It wouldn’t be long before the neighbors, and everyone else, realized Joyce was pregnant. She was vulnerable and he wanted to stay and protect her. But his presence was as much a danger to her as his absence. He took out his wallet and handed her a crisp twenty-dollar bill.

“I have to go,” he said abruptly standing up. She didn’t try to stop him but looked down at the glass of milk that was dripping condensation onto the cold linoleum floor.

“See you—whenever.”

Jon glared back at her, his hand on the doorknob. His hair, usually so groomed, suddenly appeared slack and drooping as though an abrupt movement would cause it to slide off his head, leaving him bare.

“I’ll be back, soon. You know where the pay phone is if you need me.” He left in a swift, single movement closing the door carefully and tightly behind him. She pulled back the curtain above the kitchen sink. The winter sun was gone and a gray hue tinged the hayfields. Two blue silos in the distance stood defiantly against the horizon. The darkness of night was thundering down the mountain toward her trailer and she had no way to defend herself from it. She sighed before dumping the glass of milk down the sink.

Deborah was asleep in the chair when he came into the bedroom. A pang of guilt wriggled through his belly like an eel. He leaned over her and drew her auburn hair away from her face. She was deep in sleep her mouth slightly open. Her blouse was unbuttoned and her breast was partially exposed. The baby was sleeping against her softness. His pale skin showed the blue veins at his temple and a trickle of milk had dried in a jagged stream down his chin. He admired Deborah’s body, the way it grew, birthed and then fed their children. He thought of his other two sons sleeping in the room across the hall. He reached behind her and closed the curtains at the window.

“Hey there,” Deborah said in a husky voice. She sat up straight and pulled her blouse closed, buttoning it with one hand before laying the baby on the bed. “I saved some dinner for you,” she said leading him out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. Deborah tucked her white blouse into the navy circle skirt she had finally gotten back into after the baby had been born and fussed with a hairpin that had come loose. Jon sat at the table and put his head in his hands. She wasn’t used to seeing him this way. Jon had exactly two moods: happy and confident or impatient and angry.

She had only seen the angry side of Jon a few times. Once when he was courting Joyce. The three of them had gone to the weekly dance held by the church. Deborah sat watching Jon and Joyce do the Virginia reel. And each time Jon took Joyce’s hand and twirled her Deborah’s stomach jolted. She sat next to the piano. The musicians were members of the community and they played right on the dance floor. When the dance was over, Joyce, breathless and laughing, nearly backed up into the row of fiddlers. It was then that one of them had reached out with his bow and good naturedly jabbed Joyce in the ass, winking at her when she turned to look. Jon suddenly loomed, thrusting the man out of his seat, holding him upright by his maroon necktie. His instrument dangled from one hand, his bow clutched in the other. Jon was over six feet tall and his size did most of the talking.

“Keep your bow where it belongs,” he said, his voice was loud and quivering and it reverberated across the wooden floors, like a string pulled taut. By the time he turned back to Joyce, his face had been reshaped into a crescent moon, all smiles and twinkly eyes but for the strand of hair that had fallen down over his forehead. But it had scared Deborah.

She placed the dinner plate in front of him, a baked potato and meatloaf. Gloomy and miserable was a version of Jon she had never seen before.

He looked up at her, “Sit down, I need to talk to you.”

She pulled up a chair and slowly sat down, nervously fixing her collar.

“I am going to ask something of you. It will be hard to do and I don’t expect you to like it. But I think it is what is best for our family.”

Deborah nodded chewing her thumbnail and feeling that familiar jolt of her stomach.

“What is it? All this talk is making me nervous. Just get on with whatever you need to say.”

Jon swallowed and poked at his potato. “Joyce should be the legal wife,” he said quietly.

Deborah sat perfectly still. Jon looked up at her and reached out for her hand. She slid it out of reach and into her lap.

“You want me to give you a divorce? So you can marry her? So I can be the wife that lives in hiding?” she said her own anger surprising her.

“Look, I know it sounds bad but nothing will change. Not really. You have your whole family. You have all the support in the world. Joyce is alone. Her parents would love to see her move back home. They don’t know she is pregnant and it is only going to get worse for her if they find out that she is in a plural marriage.” Jon was talking fast. “It’s just a piece of paper, it has nothing to do with our real marriage. We don’t care what the world thinks of us,” he said reaching out for Deborah’s hand, “do we?”

Deborah slowly raised her hand from her lap and let Jon take it. But her face was broken in two.

“Say something,” Jon pleaded.

“Do you know what it was like, watching you court her? Do you have any idea what I have sacrificed so that you could live the principle?”

“We. We are living the principle. We are a family.”
“Do you know?” Deborah asked again, tears running down both cheeks. “What if I was with another man?”

“It’s not the same,” Jon shook his head. “It’s different for men, it is how God made us.”

“What about our other children? The ones that haven’t been born yet? Did you think of that?”

“Yes, I did actually. Joyce and I came up with a name and an occupation. Your fake husband’s name will be Robert Greenwood.”

“So you and Joyce have got my life all figured out for me,” she could feel her face getting hot.

“No, Joyce thinks the husband is for her. She is beside herself with worry. She is in bad way Deborah. I could go to prison too. It would be safer for everyone if I made her my legal wife.”

Deborah was deflated. She didn’t know what to say. It was true. And she knew that her family would be completely supportive. But she felt like she was losing the rest of Jon to Joyce. What part was left for her? She nodded, a new stream of tears flowing down her cheeks.

“It will be so much easier this way,” he said relaxing his posture. Just then the phone rang. Jon hurried into the hallway and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

“Jon, it’s me Joyce. You said to call you if I needed you.” She sounded upset. “I know it’s Deborah’s night with you but I need you. She has had hundreds of nights with you all to herself.”

“It’s a bad time, honey,” he whispered.

“I’m scared. It’s cold here and I can’t get the heater to work.” There was silence. “I need you. You promised that if I needed you, that you’d come.”

“Okay, let me take care of Deborah and I will be right there.”

Deborah was still sitting silently at the table. Her back erect but her bun was sliding down toward her neck. He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, leaned into her auburn hair and whispered, “You are my first love and always will be.”

He felt her shoulders shudder as she sobbed. He held her that way until her tears were spent. When she stood up from the table she brushed her skirt and wiped her face with her sleeve.

“Who was on the phone?” she asked gathering up the uneaten plate of food and covering it with a piece of foil.

“It was Joyce. I need to go over there tonight. She needs me.”

Deborah set the plate down, gripping the edge of the counter with both hands. “What?” she asked, tightness still in her throat and her back toward Jon.

“The heater’s not working. It would be easier for me to go over there and fix it and spend the night. That way I can make sure it’s working.”

“It’s my night,” Deborah said turning around.

Jon buttoned up his jacket and adjusted his fedora down low. “It’s just one night. I will have the papers drawn up before I come tomorrow, then you can sign them.”

“It’s not her night. It’s my night,” Deborah said stubbornly folding her arms. “You told me you would be fair. It’s my night, you should stay here with me.”

“Is it fair for me to leave Joyce in a cold trailer?”

“Fix her heater and then come back,” Deborah said her voice cracking a little.

“It’s silly for me to come back, a waste of gas too. I will stop by here on my way to work in the morning,” he said.

“But it’s my night,” she whispered as he walked out. She stood there at the open door, listening to the car start and the sound of gravel under tires but she wouldn’t watch him leave. She closed the door against the wind and the darkness.

The bed was cold that night as she climbed under the sheets.

 

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The Good Wife https://susannabarlow.com/my-short-stories/the-good-wife/ Sun, 05 Jun 2016 19:30:46 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=3015 I could tell that David had slept with her again last night. I tucked the sheets around her mattress and smoothed it until there wasn’t a single fold or wrinkle. The heavy blue quilt tugged against my efforts to get it up to the headboard. After I arranged the pillows, I folded the gray afghan and placed it on the end of the bed. I had crocheted it last winter and I thought it turned out really nice. As I picked up a pair of her nylons that lay in a heap at the bottom of the bed, a black lace bra came up with them like a water snake caught in a fish net. Seized by a sudden heat and a lump that grew heavier in my belly, I closed my eyes swallowed hard. It wasn’t even Beth’s night with him. I carefully unhooked the bra from the nylons leaving a tiny hole. I ran my fingers across the sheer nylons, smoothing the hole until it was nearly invisible and draped them over the rocking chair. David’s socks were in two black wads that had rolled across the room. I bent over and picked them up, shaking them hard, before tucking them together leaving them next to Beth’s nylons.

Water sloshing from the bathroom told me that Beth was climbing out of the tub. I glanced at the crib in the corner by the window. Eva was still sleeping. She had a thumb in her open mouth and it hung across her fat bottom lip. Her body was curled up like a dry leaf and her pale yellow pajamas were so small that her big toe had broken the seam and protruded in a pink bulge. I walked toward the crib and stood with one hand hovering over her black hair, the tiny folds of her ear, the whisper of her dark eyelashes. I tentatively touched her white round cheek and was surprised to find it cool. I reached out and felt her fist. Cold. I ran my hand along her back. She was freezing. Without thinking I pulled the gray afghan off of the bed and tucked it around the sleeping baby, adjusting it so that it covered her whole body and even around the back of her head. Just at that moment Eva squirmed and without waking, she grabbed a fistful of the afghan and pulled it up towards her chin, a hum escaping her lips before she was silent again. I was about to leave the room when the bathroom door opened and a plume of steam followed Beth as she entered the bedroom. She was wearing a thin, white satin robe that was barely tied at the waist creating a plunging neckline that revealed her breastbone and part of her abdomen. She sat down on the edge of the bed and lifted a bare leg, propping her foot on the arm of the rocking chair. The round curve of one breast was visible as she bent forward, rubbing her hands up and down the inverted V of her leg.

“You forgot to open the blinds,” she said, not quietly.

“Oh right, of course.” I looked over at Eva. She didn’t stir. Beth was rubbing lotion all over her legs, her manicured toenails painted with a clear polish. Her blonde hair was wet and had been brushed back from her face. I opened the blinds and tried not to look at her long, smooth legs, her pale skin so pristine it was as if it was made of silk and fitted to her body without a single seam. I was suddenly ashamed of my bony hands, cracked and dry, the pilled brown skirt that covered my legs and the old shoes that I had tried to repair myself with a heavy needle and brown thread. I rubbed both hands on my floral apron, feeling for the patch pockets I had sewn onto the front of it.

“If you don’t need anything else, I have to start breakfast.”

Beth looked up at me, her brows furrowed. She was looking at something in my hair.

“What’s wrong? I asked. “Is a hairpin showing?” I touched my hair lightly.

“No, I was just noticing how much your hair has grayed.”

I had found both pockets and was fingering the wadded up tissue inside.

“I guess that’s what happens when you get older,” I said, forcing a smile.

“I don’t need anything else.” she added before looking away.

We had all finally moved in together. One house, one family, one husband. It was something we had been working toward for years. Four wives, four corners of the house, west, east, north and south. I walked through the house waking up the kids in each of the six bedrooms, turning on lights and pulling blankets off warm bodies. I left each room to the sounds of sleepy groans and the squeak of springs on bunk beds. When I arrived at the kitchen Rose was just entering the house, the screen door slamming behind her. She was carrying two metal buckets of warm milk, one in each hand, her pregnant belly showing underneath her heavy coat.

“Here,” I said, reaching toward her, “let me help you.” I hauled one bucket of milk to the counter and she heaved the other one next to it.

“I am getting too old for this,” she said catching her hip as she hung the coat on the hook behind the door. I noticed a thin string of gray hair that threaded its way into the long red braid that hung to her waist. I felt oddly comforted by Rose, in a way I hadn’t felt toward her before.

“Why don’t you sit down and rest while I start breakfast.”

Rose didn’t resist but pulled out the end of the long bench that was tucked under one of the long tables covered in a plastic tablecloth and plunked herself down onto it. I pulled out a dented twenty-quart pot and filled it half full of water and reached into the salt tin and sprinkled a little salt. The sound of Donna’s square heels startled me and I turned around to see her already dressed and ready for work. She was a secretary for a dentist’s office. She wore a white blouse and maternity jumper that showed just the new curve of her growing belly. She filled up a glass of water and swallowed two pills. I turned back to the stove and put a lid on the water that was just beginning to boil.

“Where is David?” Rose asked, standing up and gathering two big handfuls of spoons and arranging them on the table.

“He didn’t stay with me last night,” Donna said licking her lips and placing the empty glass next to the sink. Rose was carrying a tower of plastic bowls to the table. She set them down and leaned heavily on the counter.

“It was your turn wasn’t it?” she asked.

Donna rolled her eyes. “Since when did that matter?” she said, putting her arm in the sleeve of her long camel brown coat and buttoning the big brown buttons around her belly. “I heard his car start around five-thirty this morning. That’s all I know.” She grabbed the keys from the small plate next to the screen door. “I will have the car all day. Call me if you need it for something and I will see what I can do,” Donna said, to the sound of the screen door banging shut.

By the time breakfast was over, the house was in its usual morning commotion. The five big girls began gathering dishes and filling up the sinks with hot water. The eight older boys followed Rose outside where she had them cleaning sheds and feeding the animals. The little girls in their long wet braids hurried away from kitchen table, to play outside with the boys, who were already on the broken tractor like a troupe of circus monkeys. The little ones wandered the house, toddling from room to room until I sent one of the big girls to gather them up. I thought of Eva again. Had she woken up yet? It seemed awfully late in the morning for her to still be sleeping. Just then Beth came down the stairs. She was wearing a fitted yellow dress with a shiny black belt and matching flats. Her hair was combed up and a pile of blonde curls rested a top her head. She was buttoning the cuff of her left sleeve when she looked up. I was staring at her.

“What are you looking at?” she said roughly.

“Nothing . . .I mean, you look nice.”

Beth slipped on an ivory pea coat and picked up her leather purse.

“The baby is awake, she needs to be bathed and fed.” she said without looking up. “She stinks.”

“Of course, I will go right up,” I said, trying not to look too eager.

“By the way, who put that blanket in her bed? It’s ugly as sin,” she said digging through her purse and pulling out some lip balm. She looked at her reflection in the living room mirror and applied the lip balm as though it was bright red lipstick. She turned back to me.

“Where are the keys to the car?” she asked.

“Donna went to work this morning,” I said.

Her brow furrowed instantly and her face grew dark. “I am meeting David for lunch and I need the car.” She huffed toward the telephone in the hallway to call David.

I hurried upstairs and found Eva crying in her bed, the gray afghan thrown onto the floor. She stopped crying the instant she saw me and stretched out her arms to be picked up. I gathered her up, her wet pajamas were cold against my arm. She sat on the floor of the bathroom while I ran the tub full of warm water. I removed her wet clothes and diaper. After testing the temperature with my elbow I placed her in the tub. She cooed and splashed, gasping when the water got in her face. I hummed a little song while I lathered her up with soap and washed her body and her dark hair. When it was time to rinse her hair, I laid her over my arm and submerged her head into the water to rinse the soap away. She looked up at me, her body suddenly so still, her arms floating out away from her sides and her tiny feet bobbing silently like two toys. I stopped and held her steady, her dark eyes wet and needy, the steam dampening my skin. And then she smiled, broad and open, her small red mouth boasting two little white teeth. I broke into laughter and at that moment she kicked her feet, splashing the soapy water onto the front of my apron. I pulled her out of the tub, wrapped her in a towel and carried her to the bedroom on my shoulder, her wet hair dripping onto my sleeve.

Eva went back down for a nap at two and I was cleaning up the kitchen from lunch when I looked out the window. Rose was on the barn roof, her dress blowing in the wind, her pregnant belly rubbing along the shingles while she hammered angrily, three black framing nails protruding from her pursed mouth. David had been promising to fix the roof for months. I folded the towel I had been using to dry the dishes and opened up the screen door.

“Do you need any help getting down from there?” I called out to Rose. She looked up at me from all fours, her expression a determined scowl.

“I am not getting down until this roof is fixed.”

I went back into the house and closed the screen door. I couldn’t help but stand there and watch Rose with awe. I turned back to the kitchen and wondered if Eva would wake up soon.

That night, after cleaning up the dinner dishes I sat down in the brown armchair in the living room. I pulled the small basket of mending from next to the chair and settled on a plaid shirt of David’s that was missing three buttons. I threaded the needle and found the first blank space on the shirt placket and began moving the button into place with one hand and feeling the needle from underneath with the other. I heard a voice and David appeared in the doorway. He watched me for a moment pulling the dark thread up through the hole and then back down again. I knew my hands would not fail me.

“You okay?” David asked, walking in and sitting on the couch opposite me, the lines in his long face and angular chin were like permanent shadows.

I didn’t respond but continued to pull the needle in and through and back out again, always feeling for the prick underneath with my other hand, tightening the thread over the button, securing it in place.

“I know you are having a hard time,” he said reaching toward me. “It’s understandable; anyone in your place would be upset.”

I folded the shirt over the needle and placed it on the armrest of the chair.

“But remember what the doctor told Beth,” he continued. “This has been really hard on her, too.” He put his hand over my kneecap and squeezed, his gray eyes softening. “It was the right thing to do.” At the sound of those words my eyes welled up, blurring my vision.

“It feels like the most wrong thing I have ever done in my life,” I said quietly, wiping my eyes with the wadded tissue that was still in my pocket from this morning. There was a short uncomfortable silence and I rubbed the tissue between my dry fingers. David ran a hand over his dark thinning hair. He sat forward on the edge of the couch and spoke.

“That is what the devil wants you to think. That’s how you know it is the right thing to do, if the devil tries to make you believe it’s wrong.” David was leaning toward me, his dark suit coat pulling at his shoulders. I could see the roundness of his stomach straining against his white shirt that was fraying along the front. His eyes showed concern and he kept one hand on my knee. I took a deep breath and looked up at him, ready to tell him the truth, that I couldn’t do it another day. It was tearing me up inside. But instead of speaking, my mouth twisted tight and I nodded.

“You have been a good wife,” he said patting my leg and standing up. “God sees your sacrifice and you will be blessed for it.” I looked away, reaching for the shirt with the needle and thread hidden inside of the folds, to finish the job.

“She will be alright,” he added placing a hand on my shoulder. I gave him a slight nod. “Remember, she was never your baby in the first place,” he said. “She was given to me and I did what I thought was best.”

Later that night I stood outside Beth’s bedroom door in my nightgown, my hands balled up into fists at my sides. Eva was crying. It was a tired cry. She just needed to have someone rub her back while she settled down. I could hear the sounds of Beth pacing the room, her voice trying to calm the baby. Finally, after a few moments, I knocked on the door and slowly opened it up. The lamp was turned on, illuminating a small corner of the otherwise dark room. Beth was holding Eva who was arching her back and crying. When Eva saw me she reached out with both arms for me and wailed even louder. Beth’s face grew dark.

“Do you need a break?” I asked trying not to sound too eager. “I can take her for a while if you need me to.”

“I am fine. She needs to learn to go to sleep when I want her to. And you can mind your damn business,” Beth said in a flush of anger, still bouncing the baby.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to interfere.”

“By the way,” she said, bending down to pick up the gray afghan. “Keep your ugly things out of my room.” She threw the gray afghan in my face, the force of it startled me and I took a step backward.

I walked down the darkened hallway to my own bedroom and closed the door against the continued sound of Eva’s cries. I carefully folded and smoothed the gray afghan and placed it neatly in the empty crib.

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Understanding the Magician Archetype https://susannabarlow.com/on-archetypes/understanding-the-magician-archetype/ https://susannabarlow.com/on-archetypes/understanding-the-magician-archetype/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 14:31:17 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=2860 The Shape of Things To Come by Michael Bilotta - Downloaded from 500pxIntroduction

The Magician is an archetype associated with mystery, alchemy and transformation. In the shadow it can be used to deceive, distract and manipulate by altering perceptions of reality. The Magician has an innate relationship with potentiality and possibility. The Magician is a thinker, a weaver, a creator of sacred space, a visionary and an intuitive. The Magician is a powerful and dynamic archetype with many variants. Those with this archetype usually have an interest in, or specialize in quantum physics, technology, psychotherapy, mythology, mysticism, astrology and other esoteric fields. The Magician is associated with the intellect and can easily bridge the inner world of mind and spirit to the outer world of creation and physical manifestation. The Magician usually has charisma and is well-liked and admired by others. The outer expression of the Magician can be seen in the constant learner, the drive to gain knowledge of the outside world and understanding through books, teachers and other formal methods of education. The inner expression of the Magician can be seen in the intuition. The Magician learns from the inner experience of intuiting and then trusting that inner information through action.

The Stage Magician

The stage magician is a way to look at this archetype and see it in action. The stage magician uses illusion to create an atmosphere and can be used to distract or give others a false impression. Magician shows are dedicated to creating an otherworldly atmosphere where anything is possible. This allows the audience to suspend reality and open their minds to possibilities. Think David Copperfield. But in this day of total transparency and exposure otherworldly isn’t impressive. Criss Angel is a good example of an illusionist who does not rely on atmosphere. That is one reason he is so amazing as an entertainer. He doesn’t manipulate what the audience sees but what the audience does not see. He also doesn’t claim to be anything other than an illusionist and even uses his skills to uncover the fakes and frauds who are claiming to be more than they are.

The Fool and The Magician

The Fool archetype and the Magician archetype are two opposing forces in the shadow and absolutely complimentary in their enlightened states. The Fool can expose the Shadow Magician revealing the Magician’s techniques for illusion. The Shadow Fool does this to humiliate and discredit the Magician. The Magician on the other hand, is not duped by the Fool’s pretense at innocence and humorous tactics. The Shadow Magician seeks to undermine and outwit the Fool. Penn and Teller, the magician duo, use the power of this relationship between the Fool and the Magician. Penn is the Magician, more serious and intellectual and Teller is the Fool, the silent sidekick that adds the element of humor using mime-like behavior. Their show sometimes exposes how certain magic tricks are done, using the exposition to their advantage by creating credibility and respecting audience intelligence.  Another example of the Fool and Magician combination is the comedy act The Smothers Brothers, with Tom as the wise Fool and Dick as the skilled Magician. The Shadow Magician will be wary and uncomfortable with the Fool archetype but in the light, the Fool will serve as a teacher and supporter.

The Many Masks/Hats of the Magician

The archetype of the Magician has a natural ability to wear many hats. Because the Magician knows that they can tap into skills and abilities beyond what is tried and true in the physical world, they are able to take risks and trust in the power that is available to all of us through intuition and the collective subconscious. For example, someone who  has this archetype may show up at the scene of an accident and simply take charge. Others will instantly look to them for guidance and support and then find out later that person was simply a bystander. The Magician is able to wear the hat of confident decision-maker without having any previous experience. With just a little knowledge they can appear to be a professional at nearly any skill. This can be very useful but only if the Magician does not keep this information a secret. Transparency is vital for the Magician to maintain integrity and act in its enlightened state. The Magician is the perfect example of the catch phrase”Fake it til you Make it.” But just to clarify things, the Magician is not actually faking it, they can of course be total frauds  (mask) but the real talent is their natural trust of their intuition. Their natural curiosity allows them to tap into the great wellspring of human collective knowledge and skill through intuition. When the Magician is in the shadow this skill is a mask, designed to deceive or elude others. When the Magician is acting in the light this skill is a hat revealing both the hat and the wearer.

The Shadow Magician

All archetypes are patterns of behavior that define the way we perceive and exercise power. The Shadow Magician uses their power to create illusions, personae and false realities as a way of maintaining control of their own lives. Secrecy is part of this archetype and will show up in the shadow as one who keeps crucial information from others to prevent them from becoming self-empowered. Because they typically have an astute understanding of how things work, cause and effect, human behavioral responses etc. they are good at manipulating others into seeing only what the Shadow Magician wants them to see. They can be secretive, especially about who they are deep down, their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and anything they feel may threaten their identities. The passive side of the Shadow Magician is to create a persona of innocence, a kind of “who, me?” pretense. This passive quality is used to make others believe that the Shadow Magician is not responsible for their actions, they were simply unaware. It is much more subtle than the archetype of the Blonde, (which is related to the Fool) because the Blonde uses youthful inexperience and a lack of knowledge to play the innocent. The passive Shadow Magician keeps the persona of intelligence and skill (because they want to appear smart) without taking responsibility for their behavior. They want status without responsibility.

Illusion vs. Reality

The Shadow Magician understands the power of illusion. He or she creates illusions that serve their own purposes. Here is one example of Shadow Magician behavior. Think of the typical used car salesman that can get you so excited about a good deal or the car the he is trying to sell you that you fall under the spell of the illusion. It is only later when you go home with the purchase you didn’t really want that you realize you were duped. The car salesman may use any of your visible emotions to create an illusion  that will make you feel better. The salesman may also encourage you to open up and share your problems or concerns by being a charismatic listener and then he will use this information to create solutions to your problem. This false interest causes the potential buyer to invest emotionally and sooner or later, financially. The Shadow Magician is a quick study of human behavior and human needs and will use this knowledge to manipulate others to his or her advantage. The Shadow Magician is adept at getting others to do or say things that they want.The Magician is sensitive and aware of the power of ambiance and the subtleties of atmosphere and seeks to create environments the can support the illusion he or she needs to create. he Shadow Magician creates illusion after illusion until reality is a undetectable. The Shadow Magician is tricked into believing their own illusions.

The Manipulator

The Shadow Magician is a master manipulator always seeking ways to control their experience, their sense of self and how others perceive them through manipulation and misdirection. The Shadow Magician takes pleasure in manipulating others especially for the pure fun of watching them fall for it. Sometimes this manipulation moves into more dangerous and ugly expressions as the Shadow Magician makes others feel small so that they can maintain their illusion of greatness, intelligence, their skill or whatever the Shadow Magician’s strength may be. For example the Shadow Magician can put others down while creating the illusion that they are building them up. Their manipulative strategics can be exhausting as they try to manage their whole environment by manipulation but because they love to feel more important and better than others they will do whatever it takes to maintain this feeling. They will pretend to have special knowledge that others don’t have and if they do have special knowledge and share it, they will withhold part of the information so that they can maintain the feeling of having something others do not. Sometimes the Shadow Magician will use this special knowledge as a weapon against others when their identity or self-importance is threatened.

The Power of Secrets

The Shadow Magician can be secretive and tends to keep most of their private life inaccessible or mysterious to others. The Shadow Magician lives in gray world, where morality and immorality, dark and light get mixed together. They are classic evaders. Their deception can get them into sticky situations because the Shadow Magician does NOT like to take a stand. Maybe is a shadow magician word, they like to keep things off balance and uncertain. They prefer others to wonder about who they really are, rather than reveal what is deep inside. Appearances are very important to the Shadow Magician as it allows them to create an image that will protect them from being seen. The Shadow Magician easily falls into arrogance and self importance and constantly needs others to reinforce this belief. But the Shadow Magician also suffers a profound loneliness because there is usually only room for one in their secret world.

The Know it All

The Shadow Magician is a know-it-all. (The Fool on the other hand is a know-nothing, the same power used in the opposite.) The Shadow Magician will go to great (and often deceptive) lengths to avoid appearing stupid, uneducated or foolish. They have already read everything, heard everything, seen everything and are loathe to admit any weakness in the intellect. They feel a compulsion to “one up” others and keep their position of mystery and hidden knowledge intact. The need to know everything stems from their lack of self-worth and their abject fear of vulnerability. Their knowledge, whether real or pretend, protects them from any feelings of vulnerability. But according to the author, Brene Brown vulnerability is the cornerstone of self confidence and the source of our connections with others. The Shadow Magician’s fear of vulnerability exposes their lack of confidence and complete disconnect from others. Being the know-it-all comes at a high price as the Shadow Magician drives everyone away to protect their position and mystery. The old phrase, it’s lonely at the top is a fitting warning for the Shadow Magician.

The Split Self

One of the most profound side effects of the Shadow Magician is the splitting of the self. There are always multiple personae to manage and this can cause mental strain and even nervous breakdown and in extreme cases can facilitate mental illnesses. Those who have this archetype simply struggle to maintain a healthy and clear sense of self. They like the highs of being special, (skilled, talented or knowledgeable) but they suffer deep lows when they confront their loneliness and disconnect. The two (or more) selves are in constant conflict and the authentic self is often trampled underfoot, deceiving even those closest to them. But the greatest deception of all is the one the Shadow Magician uses against him or herself and the consequence is the loss of the basic awareness of the true Self.

The Enlightened Magician

The Enlightened Magician instinctively understands the laws of the universe and can alter perceptions of reality for the benefit of others. The Enlightened Magician is a master of win-win creative solutions and can hold the big picture while still examining the minutiae. They have a natural gift for specialized knowledge and are often interested in technology because to the Enlightened Magician technology can be a powerful vehicle for creating magic. They may also show interest in metaphysics, shamanism or other esoteric fields. The idea of dimensions and invisible worlds is totally natural to the Enlightened Magician. But the real gift of the Enlightened Magician is their ability to monitor their own egos and to trust in the wisdom of life itself. They choose to act consciously, knowing what they are doing and why, acknowledging their motivations and understanding their own intentions. The Enlightened Magician takes action, doing what needs to be done, realizing their potential by making what’s possible, become real. The Enlightened Magician will practice what they preach holding themselves accountable for their actions. When the Magician carries out a plan it often produces magical results. The Enlightened Magician makes a strong impact on those they meet.  They have a vision of what is possible and they can bring impossibility and the possible into healthy relationship.

Initiation and Sacred Space

The Enlightened Magician has the natural ability to create sacred spaces for the purpose of change and transformation.The Enlightened Magician will have experienced some kind of initiation, often painful or humiliating, that opens the doors to their own transformation from shadow to light. They can then, become vehicles of initiation for others seeking transformation and even healing. The Enlightened Magician is an excellent listener and can sense what lies beneath the surface of others words, reaching deep down into the heart of a persons intentions and feelings, drawing them forward, to be seen. They are adept at making others feel at ease and they recognize and can name the value in each and every person. They can see the silver lining on every cloud because they know the power we all carry within us to create that silver lining. In this sacred space, NOTHING is impossible to the Enlightened Magician. The Enlightened Magician  becomes a catalyst for others, willing and able to be a vessel, channeling whatever is necessary, for the benefit of others.

The Healthy Skeptic

The Enlightened Magician is a healthy skeptic, using their natural skills and ability to see through the masks. They use skepticism to get at the deeper root of things, to see intentions of others and spot ulterior motives in those seeking to control or manipulate. The Enlightened Magician is not easily fooled or tricked because they have learned the difference between skepticism and cynicism. The cynic doesn’t trust anyone or anything always seeking some evidence or proof before they will allow themselves any room for belief. The skeptic on the other hand, is a wise questioner, seeking the truth that is often hidden before accepting something. The skeptic trusts their own intuition about what they see around them. The Enlightened Magician is a healthy skeptic and can reveal others who are frauds. They can point out false advertising and help others know when they are being manipulated and used. Their skepticism comes from a deep curiosity about the origins of things rather than pessimism or fear of being manipulated.

Transparency

The Enlightened Magician exposes the underside of things. They are especially careful to expose their own egos, motivations and the source of their abilities. Transparency is vital to keeping the Magician in its enlightened state. Humor can be a powerful tool for the Enlightened Magician and learning to laugh at themselves makes the transparency comfortable. Learning to be completely open and visible is the journey of the Magician, to allow others to see the deepest part of them, to intentionally expose this to others. The Enlightened Magician is a skilled diplomat and is able to navigate extremely sensitive or explosive situations, deftly. They can carefully reveal others needs and concerns before things get out of hand because the Enlightened Magician can see what lies beneath and addresses the problem at the source. They are excellent responders rather than reactors. If you have a difficult conversation that needs to take place, its always good to have an Enlightened Magician with you. They make excellent hostage negotiators, political diplomats, therapists and marriage counselors.

Self-Trust and the Power of Play

The Enlightened Magician naturally trusts their own intuition and their ability to handle life as it is, rather than trying to manipulate in an effort to avoid pain and fear. The Enlightened Magician has developed the self-trust deeply enough that they learn the power of play. Play is an act of trust and vulnerability. The Enlightened Magician does not fear being discovered, looking silly or being vulnerable so they are able to enter the intuitive world of play. The Piano Guys, a group of instrumental musicians, are an example of Magicians who use the power of play and improvisation in hugely creative ways. To watch them play, both their instruments and in an emotionally open state is almost a form of play in itself, inspiring others to experience more deeply each moment. They bend rules rather than defy them, creating music that is both familiar and unique. The Enlightened Magician is fun to be around and their creativity is contagious. Through the power of play the Enlightened Magician can work the greatest magic of all, to bring simple joy to themselves and others by reconnecting to the wonder, creativity and mystery of life.

Improvisation and Vulnerability

The Enlightened Magician’s powerful intellect is always guided by their heart. Their motivations are heart-centered rather than ego centered. They know that vulnerability is the doorway to a more mature and developed intuition. The more they embrace their own vulnerabilities the more their other skills and talents shine. To transform the Shadow Magician into the Enlightened Magician requires a high degree of vulnerability because the Shadow Magician rejects anything that resembles vulnerability and views it as a weakness. So vulnerability is a key aspect of this transformation. But once this vulnerability is recognized as a strength and a support for the Enlightened Magician, a whole new world is opened up, especially creatively. Improvisation is an example of how vulnerability can produce amazing, creative art in all its forms. Consider the work of pianist Keith Jarrett. Jarrett is a professional composer and improvisational jazz pianist. He has taken improvisation to the highest level, performing solo piano pieces entirely by “the seat of his pants.” His work is emotional, spiritual and totally off the cuff. He is a Magician, trusting in his innate access to the creativity within and the magic of improv. In speaking of creating music and  performance Jarrett says: “I go in emptier than you can get because, I actually have to wipe myself clean of any thoughts of music when I walk out there. If it doesn’t start from silence and then just go into sound, the rest of the piece suffers.” Jarrett is the perfect example of the Magician. He understands the importance of transparency, to let the audience know that he is improvising on the spot as well as not needing to capture everything but that by allowing some things to disappear other things can become real. He also understand how important vulnerability is to performance and creativity. Jarrett confessed that he actually played better when he felt emotionally vulnerable or sick. The walls of the mind were weakened even more forcing him deeper into self trust and his heart. I highly suggest reading some interviews with Jarrett about his process and why he does improvisation to understand the Magician archetype. A fascinating but lengthy interview with Jarrett conducted by the author David Shenk. The magic Jarrett produces by entering a concert completely unprepared is the power of his performance. It is the very thing that draws his fans and makes him a compelling and unusual musician.

Variants of the Magician

The Magician is a very old archetype and as such many different expressions have developed over the centuries. While there are too many variations of the Magician archetype to list, below you will find some of the more common types. You may strongly relate to just one or two of these sub-types or you may see yourself in all of them. Either way, they all follow the basic pattern of the Magician archetype.

Priest/Priestess

The Priest/Priestess archetype has special knowledge connected to religious rites or spiritual life. This type may use religion or a connection to the divine source as a mask for ulterior motives. The shadow side of the Priest/Priestess can be seen in some of the medieval priests that used the specialized education they were given to keep the peasants and other uneducated masses under control through manipulation, pretending to have power over their spiritual lives, such as promising salvation or forgiveness of sins. An example of the enlightened Priest/Priestess is the monks and nuns that created sacred spaces where people could come to pray and reconnect to the divine power. They were also advisers to kings and rulers. The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs’ priests were also referred to as sorcerers or magicians. Religion of old was also seen as a kind of magic and anyone who had access to the rites was considered to have access to the invisible world.

The Improviser

The Improviser is a clever survivalist able to make anything work out of nearly nothing at all. The TV character MacGyver is an example of this type of Magician. More practical than some of the subtypes the Improviser is willing to take risks knowing that all the ingredients for success exist at a base level. The Improviser, to a greater degree than some of the other sub types lives off the cuff. This ability to improvise will express itself in whatever creative talent the person has, whether it is art, cooking, running a business or any other endeavor. The Improviser can handle a crisis and make it look easy. But they also struggle to let others see them in their challenges or admit to failures. This type can make failures look like successes and walking the line between being fake and improvising can be really difficult.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist has the ability to draw out and confront their own and others darker sides and allow the shadow to be transformed into the light. While the Exorcist has associations with casting out devils and evil spirits that is only the symbolic aspect. The Exorcist can maintain their personal light in the face of tremendous evil and darkness. Viktor Frankel is an example of the enlightened Exorcist. He survived the concentration camps and returned to his work as a therapist and wrote one of the most well known books on human behavior called Man’s Search for Meaning. He discovered the light within the darkest evils human beings are capable of and went on to help  thousands of other people find their own light in dark situations. This archetype may find themselves drawn to psychiatry, therapy, social work and other careers that require them to deal with highly negative and ugly situations. They may also be drawn to police and detective work as they hunt out the dark in society. The Shadow Exorcist is unwilling to look at the dark impulses in themselves and can use their talent to help hide evil behind a facade of good.  The light side of the Exorcist sees through the dark and can help bring the light forward by expelling the darkness with their own light.

The Shaman

In many Native American cultures and other tribal cultures the shaman appears as an important part of the community. As an archetypal pattern they perform a kind of magic for those seeking initiation or spiritual enlightenment. The Shaman archetype is drawn to the invisible world of energy and spirit. This type will find themselves interested in healing, transformation, astral travel, animal spirits, past lives and many of the other “out of this world” modalities. Like all Magician types finding integrity and maintaining transparency is difficult. In the light, the archetype uses ritual to create a sacred space or portal for others to access the invisible world of healing, visions and personal enlightenment. The shaman is a conduit between worlds. In the shadow, the Shaman can use his skills to threaten and exert control over the minds of others.

The Shape-shifter

The concept of the Shape-shifter is an old one. The ability to take on another skin, to completely transmute or take on another form is the unique quality of the Shape-shifter. The Shape-shifter does not allow any situations to become static or ideas to be stated as absolute. They question what appears real and challenge others to see that nothing is what it seems. The Shape-shifter knows that life is formless and all forms are but expressions of formlessness. The Shape-shifter sees all dimensions as equally real. The dream world, the intuition and other magical realms as part of the formless. The Shape-shifter uses this tool to become whatever is necessary for the moment. The shadow Shape-shifter loses their authentic self in an attempt to control their life or how others view them. The Shape-shifter can be anything to anyone. The motive behind shape-shifting is to create the illusion of possibility. The shadow Shape-shifter uses this illusion to deceive, manipulate and exploit the vulnerability and trust of others by hiding their intentions and loyalties.

The Visionary

Visionaries can see what might be possible rather than what is. They can look into the future with their strong intuition and can see the possibilities as more real than the average person. Their talent is often used to bring forth creative endeavors that benefit societies and cultures. The always have the big picture in mind seeing what is just beyond the horizon. The light side of the Visionary is highly creative and optimistic seeing the future as full of hope rather than doom. This type is similar to the inventor but is less pragmatic and more of a dreamer. They see what will be important to the world just a bit before others. Their magic lies in their ability to envision the possibilities and help bring them into reality. Examples of Visionaries include Steve Jobs, Marie Curie, Walt Disney and others.

The Alchemist

Transformation is a deep calling to the Alchemist archetype. Artists that transform trash into beautiful sculptures are examples of the Alchemist. There is a strong need to create through transformation. Self transformation though is the real purpose the Alchemist feels called to perform. This type has an almost magical ability to turn dark into light, despair into hope and to elevate even the basest concepts into transcendence. The shadow will use this skill to turn a profit, to maintain superiority and in its darkest form, to turn good intentions into evil acts. They can also transform themselves into whatever persona bests suits their needs. The Alchemist is most interested in how creativity and ideas can be brought into form. They can use this natural ability to create businesses, charities and other entities that can exist independent of their creator.

The Inventor

The Inventor is one of the more practical variants of the Magician applying their knowledge and magic to the physical world through inventions. The Inventor must have a vision of what is possible and then believe in that vision strongly enough to carry it through, magically bringing it in to form. The Inventor sees that things can be better, more efficient and more useful. They see possibilities in the mundane and are always looking for ways to improve things. They can be secretive about their inventions and may fear others will take the credit for their creation. Highly curious and always willing to take action, many of todays visionaries and inventors are doing so through computers and technology. Examples are Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and others.

Conclusion

The Magician is an archetype that is hard to pin down. But through transparency, honesty and self awareness the Magician can be a powerful force for change and transformation. By transforming the self, the Magician can then bring surprise and even miracles to the rest of the world.

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Unbroken https://susannabarlow.com/on-reading/unbroken/ Thu, 17 Sep 2015 16:33:30 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=2765 unbroken-cover-1Unbroken  by Laura Hillenbrand is the true story of a young boy named Louis Zamperini, the son of Italian immigrants, during the Great Depression, seems to be destined for a rough life. He is mischievous beyond the average kid and causes more trouble than his poor parents can handle. But Louie is also indomitable and amazingly resourceful, if not a bit criminal. But it is through the mentoring and love of his older brother Pete that Louie gets into running. He is then able to channel his intensity and need for challenge into an activity that brings him fame. He is on the cusp of becoming one of the worlds fastest runners when WWII breaks out and Louis joins the Air Force and becomes a bombardier on a B24 bomber. He survives a plane crash into the Pacific Ocean and his harrowing ordeal forces Louie to call on all of his strength of spirit to survive.

Hillenbrand gives the reader a glimpse of the challenges faced by so many unnamed and unknown survivors of war. From the inexplicable evil of “The Bird” to Louie’s own postwar struggle to deal with the unimaginable scars his experience left him. Louie Zamperini goes through more hardship than seems humanly possible and yet he survived.

To learn more and to check out Laura Hillenbrand’s other book, Seabiscuit got to her website.

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Are you Inner Focused or Outer Focused? https://susannabarlow.com/on-relationships/are-you-inner-focused-or-outer-focused/ Wed, 22 Jan 2014 18:28:27 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=2867 iStock_000010445241MediumAfter having an interesting conversation with my son about the similarities and differences between himself and his siblings I noticed that people in general tend to be either inner focused or outer focused, with of course some folks falling right on the median line between the two. After thinking it through and talking to other people about their experiences I have created a short personality test to determine which way you lean.

First of all, I would like to say that the test is not meant to label people or put individuals into a box. But I do like to think about human behavior from a wide range of perspectives and if I can learn something about myself or how I relate to those around me then it is worth the exploration. This test is for fun and gives the reader an opportunity to look at their behavior through a different lens. I like to think of it as similar to shopping for clothes. Sometimes when you try on different styles or colors you see yourself in a different way than before.

The test uses the word always and often quite a bit. Don’t take them too literally. So please, before doing the test, consider the reason you are taking this test and what you hope to learn about yourself by doing so. All answers must be yes or no. This test does not take into consideration the work you have done on yourself. It only determines what your tendencies and predispositions are, so please keep that in mind when answering. Also, be willing to sit with the questions for awhile and really consider them before answering.

Disclaimer: This is not a test that determines introversion and extroversion. As far as I could tell, many introverts are outer focused as well as inner focused with extroversion in both types as well. I used the terms inner and outer because it sounded better than saying me focused and them focused but that is exactly what the two terms mean.

Instructions: Simply write down the number on a paper when the answer is yes. Ignore the numbers if the answer is no. The test results are found at the bottom of the questionnaire, so to keep it real, no peeking!

 1. Have you always considered yourself to be independent?

2. Do you prefer others to make the final decisions?

3. Have you always known who you are? (Or at least thought you did)

4. Are you hyper-aware of others reactions, even when they don’t involve you?

5. Do you feel uncomfortable making decisions that you know others will disapprove of?

6. Have you always been irritated by people who worry too much about what others think of them?

7. Has saying no to others seemed like mission impossible?

8. Do you find that you always consider how a decision will affect you before you consider how it may affect those around you?

9. Are you aware of how others around you are feeling or responding to the environment?

10. Do you enjoy being the decision-maker or do you feel insulted when others do the decision-making without you?

11. Have you always been considerate of others feelings and reactions how your behavior may be affecting those around you? (Especially as a young person)

12. Are you often unaware about how others perceive you? (Such as, whether or not people like you)

13. As a child were you often accused of being selfish or self-centered?

14. Do you blame yourself first, when things go wrong?

15. When something goes wrong do you usually feel that someone else is at least partially to blame?

16. Are you opinionated? (It still counts if you choose not to state your opinions)

17. Are you a good listener? Do you find other people very interesting?

18. Are you always looking for how situations can be beneficial to you? (What’s in it for you?)

19. Has serving others or being in service been something of a challenge for you?

20. Does taking care of your own needs feel easy, effortless?

21. Do you find that you often allow others’ needs to interfere with your own?

22. Have always been conscious of what others are doing but not sure about why they are doing it?

23. Do you feel comfortable being in charge of others or delegating tasks?

24. Do you like to work on your own, to be your own boss, as opposed to working with a team or under a supervisor?

25. Has it always been important for others to have good impression of you?

26. Do you like to recharge by doing something alone or by spending time alone?

27. Are you inclined toward service, helping others and being supportive?

28. Do you often use your likeability to get what you want and need from others?

29. Are you typically aware of your motivations? In other words, do you have a clear sense of why you act the way you act?

30. Is being a good friend important enough to influence your behaviors?

31. Do you enjoy being part of team, supporting others when your support may go unnoticed?

32. Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Even those abilities that have been untested?

33. Do you often doubt yourself and what you are capable of doing?

34. When you compare yourself to others do you tend to see yourself as superior or better than the other person?

35. When comparing yourself to others do you find that you are always falling short or feeling inferior?

36. Do you prefer to hear what others are saying rather than offering your own opinions?

37. Are you often jealous of others accomplishments?

38. Do you find that you need to be admired by others?

39. Have you noticed that you are willing to give up too easily when things become difficult?

40. When things are difficult, do you find greater strength through the challenge?

41. Have you always been interested in understanding yourself and others? (i.e human psychology etc.)

42. Are you able to handle confrontations pretty well?

43. Are you a peacemaker or at least willing to make sacrifices to avoid a confrontation?

44. Do you give in to others when under pressure?

45. Do you have a strong central compass, easily knowing what direction to take and what is best for you?

46. Do you feel genuine excitement at others’ success and accomplishments?

47. Has connecting with others always been an important motivation for many of your actions and decisions?

48. Do you feel that life is here for the taking?

How to get the results for the test:

You should have a paper with all of your YES numbers written down. Using the numbers below compare how many of the inner focused numbers you answered yes to, compared to the outer focused numbers you said yes to. Remember that all the numbers you wrote on your paper were YES numbers. Many people taking this test will find that they answered yes to about half and half. That’s okay. You are a median personality rather than an extreme personality. Go over the numbers that you answered yes to and down at the bottom of the page you will see a list of strengths and weaknesses for both types. Using your answers notice where you are weak and where you are strong. It will at least give you a chance to  work on areas that need attention.

The numbers for a positive result for the inner focused personality are: 1,3,6,8,10,12,13,15,16,18,19,20,23,24,26,29,32,34,38,40,41,42,45,48

The numbers for a positive result for the outer focused personality are: 2,4,5,7,9,11,14,17,21,22,25,27,28,30,31,33,35,36,37,39,43,44,46,47

Understanding the Two Types

Inner focused personalities are naturally more internal and are more aware of their response to external stimuli whereas outer focused types are more aware of how others respond to their behavior. Both types try to control their experiences by manipulating what they are most aware of. For example, outer focused types try to please others in an effort gain a sense of acceptance; they seek out others to tell them about themselves because they tend not to be in touch with their own inner experience. Outer focused types can also express this through rebellion and belligerence because that also causes an outer reaction. Inner focused types are much more concerned with how they see themselves, than how others see them. While all of us at times seek acceptance from others outer types NEED others to help them define who they are. Inner types already think they know who they are and are more interested in getting others to see what they believe is their personality.

Inner focused people are more self-aware but also tend to be selfish. They are usual quite aware of their selfishness, they just don’t see it as a problem. They are motivated by what they like, what they think and are usual fine dealing with others criticisms as their opinion of themselves is more important than others opinion of them. Outer focused types are very aware of others, how others are feeling and they concern themselves with others perceptions of them.

Outer types tend to be good listeners and are service oriented. They usually enjoy a big get-together, as it gives them a chance to reconnect with  many people at the same time. Inner types are not as concerned with connecting to others but are more connected to themselves. Inner types are naturally self-aware and know what motivates them and how they operate but they are not always aware of how others are feeling though and tend to be oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Inner types can seem rude to outer types who are VERY aware of how their words and actions affect others. Outer types are genuinely interested in the lives of others. The connect easily to people and are usually well liked but not necessarily admired. Inner types tend to garner admiration but are often disconnected from others.

Inner types usually take good care of themselves and outer types take good care of others. Inner types do not know how to express their compassion or caring for others and find it extremely awkward. Outer types are naturally expressive of their warmth and tenderness and would feel stifled if they could not show their compassion. Outer types have a good bedside manner and are often nurses or caregivers. They are more sensitive to others and the experiences of others affect their lives personally. Inner types make great leaders and guides. They are able to set aside their personal feelings and make decisions without being influenced by others. Outer types make better managers because they are interested in the personal lives of the people they are responsible for.

Inner types are driven and direct in their pursuits. Sometimes they end up trampling on the feet of those around them in an effort to get where they are going and to do what they are driven to do. Inner types are motivated by challenges and are not easily pushed around. Outer types are overwhelmed by too many expectations and often give in to pressures from others, because they value what others think of them more than what they think about themselves. Inner types are usually opinionated and they seem very sure of themselves. Inner types  tend to think of themselves as better than others in at least some ways. When comparing themselves to others they usually come out on top rather than on the bottom. They blame others more readily because they believe that they already know who they are and if they were to blame for anything they would have already dealt with it. Outer types, because they are less self-aware, assume they are at fault and blame themselves. They also believe it prevents problems when they shoulder all the blame rather than pointing fingers.

This is just a sample of the behaviors and tendencies of the the two types. Both types have strengths and weaknesses and becoming aware of our strengths and weaknesses can be useful. All awareness is valuable and is the beginning point for all change or improvement. We cannot change that which we are not aware of. Below is a list of the strengths and weaknesses of the two types.

Inner focused

Strengths:

  1. Decisive
  2. Good Boundaries
  3. Self-Aware
  4. Leader
  5. Confident
  6. Determined
  7. Independent
  8. Self-motivated
  9. Takes Care of Self
  10. Self Respect

Weaknesses:

  1. Self-centered
  2. Overconfident
  3. Arrogant
  4. Blames Others
  5. Breaks Others Boundaries
  6. Lack of Respect
  7. Ambitious
  8. Irreverent
  9. Unprincipled
  10. Callous

Outer focused

Strengths:

  1. Good with people
  2. Kind and compassionate
  3. Aware of others
  4. Unselfish
  5. Service-oriented,
  6. Interested,
  7. Considerate,
  8. Respectful,
  9. Good friend,
  10. Open-hearted

Weaknesses:

  1. Worried,
  2. Confused or Unsure
  3. Lack of Boundaries,
  4. Self-Abuse,
  5. Feeling Inferior
  6. Needs Others Approval
  7. Easily influenced
  8. Lack of Direction
  9. Unassertive,
  10. Unmotivated

So what’s the purpose of seeing things you probably already knew about yourself? For me, I gained two things by doing the test myself. As an inner type, I was reminded of the valuable qualities in outer types. Secondly, I saw clearly ways that I could practice learning the skills of the outer types and incorporate the things that I valued in that type. I have learned that skills gained that don’t come naturally are often worth the most to me. I will always be good at things that I am naturally good at. There isn’t much value in tooting your horn, especially when you didn’t have to work and develop the skills you are tooting. I liked seeing exactly what areas I needed to work on and it give me an opportunity to reassess myself. (That’s my inner focused nature!) As I stated before this test is just for fun and I hope you have as much fun taking it as I had making it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on Gratitude https://susannabarlow.com/on-spirituality/reflections-on-gratitude/ Sun, 24 Nov 2013 21:19:09 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=2836 Power of Two by Christian Schweitz 800by450 - Downloaded from 500pxEvery year when Thanksgiving comes around I consider again the meaning of gratitude. My thoughts about gratitude are not limited to a single time of year but Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to write about and share it during a time of year when we celebrate the goodness of life. So, what is gratitude?

When people, (sometimes myself included) say they are thankful or grateful for something it often means they are relieved at not having to suffer some inconvenience or tragedy. It can be defined simply as a feeling of relief and this is the way it used by most of us, most of the time. This kind of thankfulness is not what I am referring to when I use the word gratitude. Let me just share a few of my ideas on what I think gratitude really is.

Gratitude is a way of being, not just a feeling. It is cultivated and practiced rather than attained or achieved and it has the power to change ones life. There is a distinctive feeling associated with gratitude; a kind of utter awe, indescribable and beyond expression. When I have been immersed in true gratitude it has been one of the most powerfully spiritual experiences I have ever had. it is so overwhelming it almost always brings me to tears. It feels like being aligned with truth and the closest sense of who or what God is that I can imagine. Gratitude feels like a gift when it arrives, sweeping me off my feet and dazzling me with its magic. It takes a lot of practice and returning back to the moment to be able to stand in the center of gratitude, to hold it like bits of stardust, but the effort itself is infused with gentleness and ease. Gratitude is like a camera that captures the essence of life that is always there but not often seen or recognized. It is indescribable really, but I will try anyway.

Gratitude is seeing with your eyes all the way open. It is having far vision and close-up seeing at the same time. Buddhism has a name for this: vipassana. The word, literally translated means, clear seeing and refers to moment-to-moment mindfulness. But gratitude is more than just being in the present moment. It is the result of the present moment; it is what happens when we step into the moment. Gratitude sees without judgment, recognizes the wisdom of life as it is and has an expansive, all encompassing quality that is a powerful paradigm shifter. Viewing life through the lens of gratitude means seeing through the eyes of love; comprehending the wholeness and perfection of life as it is, without mistakes. Gratitude arises out of sense of deep trust and humility, the not-knowing mind that expands the sense of possibilities beyond any limits. Joy arises out of gratitude, as does compassion. Some of the most life altering insights I have come to know, have arisen out of a state of gratitude.

 As Thanksgiving Day approaches I think about the opportunity to be with family and friends and to bring myself back to that central point of life—to marvel at the profundity and perfection of all of life in its totality. To embrace life fully, means to accept it fully and to do so is to discover the alternate universe of gratitude.

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The Five Stages of Emotional Healing https://susannabarlow.com/healing/the-five-stages-of-emotional-healing/ https://susannabarlow.com/healing/the-five-stages-of-emotional-healing/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 17:25:56 +0000 http://susannabarlow.com/?p=2823 The Lair by Karezoid Michal Karcz  - Downloaded from 500pxOver the years I have been asked by a number of people, the process by which I have been able to heal myself from emotional trauma. I have never been able to provide a satisfying answer. I have been pondering this for some time and have been observing the process with more awareness and attention. I have also noticed the work that other people have done in their own healing of emotional hurts and I have discovered a pattern that is consistent in my own life, throughout all sorts of challenges. This pattern was followed, unconsciously, over and over again as I dealt with one aspect of my past after another. While there are as many paths to healing as there are human beings, this was pattern I discovered in me, something that helped me a great deal during my own healing. I wanted to share it here, in case it could be of help to someone else.

Introduction

These five stages of emotional healing are based in an awareness. Awareness is the first step to any kind of awakening, healing, solving, creating and overcoming etc. As you read through these stages it is important to note that each one is experienced through a high level of self-awareness. Also, these stages are cycled over and over as we become more skilled at managing the stages and eventually the healing occurs in a spontaneous manner. The stages are more defined when observing them afterwards. They overlap each other and blend together. I have separated them for ease of understanding and to create a language for something that defies language and expression. Healing is a mystical, undefinable experience that is part of being human. This is an attempt to identify a process that can aid and support your own path to healing, whatever it may be.

Avoidance

The first stage of my emotional healing always begins when I notice that I am avoiding something. It may be that I find myself unfocused on my work, or that computer games and television shows have a little more sway over my willpower than usual. Something that I notice in myself, is the craving of food when my body is not hungry. This lets me know that some emotional issue is emerging and will need to be processed and honored. There are many ways to avoid looking inward at the challenges of healing emotional wounds and it is important to discover what your particular methods are and what avoidance looks like in your own life. As I stated in the introduction, your awareness of avoiding something is what this stage is about. I avoided looking at my emotional issues for years but I was not aware that I was avoiding the issues by reading books, talking incessantly on the phone, texting, overeating or watching too much TV. Without awareness nothing can really move forward, nothing can really change. So the first stage is awareness of avoiding something and the methods by which it is avoided. I believe that avoidance is necessary as a conditioning period, preparing me for the next stage by easing myself through gentle, gradual degrees of awareness.

Confrontation

The second stage is confrontation. That doesn’t mean engaging in a personal conflict with someone you believe has hurt you. Instead it is a confrontation of the emotional issue that you have been avoiding and noticing yourself avoiding. I found this stage to be a great relief. Running away can be wearying and stressful in its own way. By recognizing when I am ready to confront an emotional issue and then facing it, is the second stage of my healing. Confrontation will look different for each person. For me, sometimes I find myself having a heart to heart conversation with myself; an honest investigation of my actions, behaviors and motives of my avoidance. I often do this in the car, while driving. I will talk out loud to myself as if I am speaking with a friend. The shower is another great private place to talk it out. I find writing to be highly effective as well as doodling on a paper and letting myself draw images that come to mind. This helps me get a handle on the truth of what is going on inside of me. Another method may be looking at old photos that conjure memories where the issue is stored. This confrontation happens on its own too with simple awareness. You may notice yourself crying during a movie that wouldn’t usually elicit such strong emotions, or you may notice that some small image or item has a strong effect on your emotions or your thinking. Once you are aware that you are in the confrontational stage it is important to be able to name the issue. For example, I have had this old issue of having to go it alone. As I have worked through it and continue to do so I find it helpful to think about it as separate from me, from who I am as a person. It is my “do it alone, don’t ask for help” issue. Being able to name the issue and feeling clear about it, ends the second stage.

 

Staying with the Emotions

The third stage is working with emotions. Emotions are powerful movers of energy. It is the emotional stage where the real work gets done. It is often the most challenging. Be patient with yourself as you may become overwhelmed in this stage and revert back to stage one. This is perfectly normal. Stage one allows you to work back toward the strong emotions in degrees and with a level of safety and distance. Staying with the strong emotions requires a high degree of awareness because intense emotions can hijack our reasoning powers. Maintaining awareness during the emotional processing will allow you to “ride the waves” as I like to call it. I have found the work of Karla McLaren and her book, The Language of Emotions to be highly useful in navigating the intensity of the emotional stage. In her book she shows the power of our emotions to guide us through the challenges of our lives. The obstruction of emotions creates blocks in the energy system. The emotions themselves are teachers and can add greatly to our awareness of our own inner experience. They can also guide us right to the source of healing. Understanding the messages that our emotions are trying to communicate can expedite this stage dramatically. For example, McLaren writes that anger is a message about broken boundaries, sadness offers the gift of release, guilt and shame contains messages about restoring our integrity, jealousy connects us to our lack of self-regard or self-worthiness, fear intensifies and amplifies our intuition and instincts. McLaren writes warmly and with great wisdom about the power of the  message our emotions offer. This can lead to profound understanding and aid in the healing process. Since discovering her work I have turned back to it again and again for guidance, gentleness and support. Staying with the strong emotions of healing doesn’t have to take a long time. Once emotions are no longer obstructed and are allowed to flow naturally the process can be over very quickly. I think of my emotions like a train ride. In stage one, I am deciding whether or not I want to ride on the train. In stage two I decide on a destination and buy my ticket. But it is stage three where the movement happens and sometimes that train ride can be a little bumpy but as long as I don’t jump out of the window I will eventually get to my destination.

 

Clarity and Action

After the hard work of staying with my emotions I discover a great sense of clarity, as if the clouds part and the sun comes shining through. I see so clearly and I know exactly what I need to do. This varies from issue to issue and situation to situation. But after working with the emotions, I gain the insight that allows me to know what I need to do. Sometimes the doing means talking to someone that I have a difficult relationship with, or it means de-cluttering my closet. It might show me that I need to change my behavior toward a person or I may need to separate myself from a toxic relationship. It might be something small, like drinking more water or sleeping in late on the weekends. Whatever the action is, in this stage I am absolutely clear about it. I know what I need to do and how to do it. I have the confidence to move forward with purpose toward an action or goal. To stay with the train metaphor, this stage is where you get off the train. You have arrived at your destination and the purpose of your travel. I have found this to be a very exciting stage and the action needed is not something I shy away from. I feel ready and able to accept the consequences.

 

Epiphany and Gratitude

The fifth and final stage of emotional healing is a spontaneous shift of perception or viewpoint. It is the “aha moment” when the world as you have always known it (regarding the issue) turns on its head. Everything looks and feels different.  This stage sets everything firmly in place. Once this epiphany or shift in thinking occurs, the old way of thinking, feeling, reacting and behaving is over. This results in a release of old pain, thoughts or other hurts that have lingered and I feel lighter, freer and less encumbered. These moments have always been highly charged and incredible turning points in my life. All of us have experienced the power of having our eyes opened to a new way of seeing an old issue. The epiphany is almost always a ridiculously small event that packs a powerful transformational punch. I know for myself, once I have had the lights turned on, I have entered the “No Return” zone. This is met with enthusiasm and excitement because I don’t have to worry about falling back into the old pattern and getting stuck there. Sometimes I will revert to the old pattern but it simply doesn’t work, it is no longer effective and the power of the epiphany keeps me grounded in a different truth. I usually experience intense gratitude during this stage; gratitude for the whole, gloriously messy process that has brought me to a beautiful new understanding of myself and others. This gratitude is an important part of the closing of the process because it lays the groundwork for the next issue. Gratitude allows me to be open and willing to do more emotional healing. It heightens my awareness and sharpens my skills for another round.

Questions to Consider

  • What does avoiding feel like in me?
  • What is my preferred method of avoidance?
  • How do I practice awareness without judgment?
  • What do I do when I am ready to look at an issue?
  • Are there patterns in my own life that I can discover?
  • Can I name the issue I am confronting, can I separate it from me?
  • What are the most consistent emotions I deal with regularly?
  • What can those emotions teach me?
  • What is the message these emotions are conveying?
  • What does resistance of my emotions look like behaviorally?
  • What does flowing emotions feel like in my body?
  • Are there times in my life when I have known exactly what I needed to do?
  • What were those times? What led to this clarity and willingness to act?
  • Can I take a moment and remember a recent or life changing epiphany?
  • Can I see how it has altered the course of my life, leading to greater change?
  • What does gratitude feel like in my body?
  • What kinds of thoughts are connected to gratitude?
  • How does gratitude affect the quality of the healing process?

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that this process is my own experience and is in no way a definition of yours or anyone else’ healing path or experience. But I hope that my experience and this article about healing will get you thinking about your own process.

 

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