The question was asked: How do you use your adventure attitude to shift all the fears, anxiety and negativity coming up because of the current news about #metoo or sexual abuse (or alleged sexual abuse, depending on your view)? This question, and the seeking of the answer, helped me find light in what has been some dark times.
In 2016 I cut the cord and turned off cable. This meant, basically, no watching the news live. After the election that November, it may have saved my sanity. Politics aside, I have never liked Mr. Trump. Living in NYC during the 1980s-90s, the newspapers were often filled with his egotistical stories. Trigger warning – narcissists are a sore point for me. They are people who, unfortunately, upset my sense of serenity. Narcissists dole out emotional abuse, often without consciously knowing the damage they cause as a result of their own self-centeredness. The good part of Mr. Trump’s blatant sexism is how he has motivated women to take action. The whole #metoo movement is helping heal millions, raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse, and inspire people to create change in our cultures.
I’m fortunate in that my #metoo story is not nearly as bad as so many others. Mine involved calling the cops on 90-year-old neighbor who was overly aggressive in his pursuit of being able to “rub up against me”. When I talk about it with the few who know the situation, we usually laugh because with his short stature, I could have easily pushed him over. Underneath that, though, I did pull out the beautiful azaleas in my front yard out of fear he would hide behind them and attack me some dark night.
The next level
Last Friday, the day after the testimony from Christine Blasey Ford and the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, the National Sexual Assault Hotline received 738% more calls (more than 3,000) marking its busiest day ever. To me, the difference in the exponential growth is due to the shifting of what now counts as trauma from sexual encounters. The “boys will be boys” excuse is being brought into the light. Minimizing behavior doesn’t make it right. Ms. Ford’s testimony has triggered memories of these more “casual” abuses than the cases against all the celebrities. She brought it to the level of regular girl at a high school party, which could be any woman.
My son and I were speaking briefly about the news. It was then I realized I too, had a story not far off from one of Kavanaugh’s accusers. It was also high school. It was my first time drinking rum & Coke. I remember vaguely not knowing how I ended up with my shirt off, and waking up to a “one-eyed snake” looming near my face and two boys whispering to each other. I know I bolted up from whatever blackout I had been in, grabbed my shirt and drove home. I may not have believed in God then, but someone was sure looking out for me. I know, now, that I buried the memory, ashamed. I disassociated from the event, which manifested as a stomach churning feeling anytime I was offered rum, and more specifically rum & Cokes. You know, they were just being boys. They were my “friends.” We never spoke of it, ever.
I didn’t tell my son all this, I just nervously laughed and told him I got revenge later in life. Truthfully, I didn’t get revenge, but I felt weirdly justified when I learned one guy later in life often cheated on his wife. I wonder how I would feel if this person became someone in a position of power. It was hard enough telling my mother this memory, some 35+ years later.
5 Tips to shift the negativity
While I am not a psychologist, nor any kind of therapist, I have a lot of experience in changing my outlook in life through Adventure. Often these coping tools are based in proven behavioral science, and filtered out through what works for me. Here are ways that I found helpful to shift all those fears and anxiety into a more positive place.
- Acknowledge and feel the anger. Stan, who does caricatures, helped me discover this answer. When I was growing up, and my mother too, anger was not an emotion women were “allowed” to express. Anger turned inward often leads to depression. When I was younger, crying was a safe alternative to feeling angry. Stan, by drawing a concept about the sham(e) of the hearings, was able to channel anger. His doing so helped me find ways to release my long-held feelings, in a healthier way than crying. What’s a positive way you can release/shift your anger?
- Practice radical self-care. Take time to focus on you, not in the narcissistic self-centered way, but in a way that fills you up so you then are able to better connect with others. I like journaling. Others discover therapy helps them through (positive support groups/systems do wonders – the trick is to keep from going deeper into the muck). Meditation, even if it’s the quiet moment you get while drinking a cup of tea. Surround yourself with loving people. One of my own tricks is to watch a lot of comedians – it helps to laugh at the news. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.
- Do something to be empowered. You may not have had control in the past, but you can choose to feel stronger now. You could get involved politically. Or donate (time/items/money) to a cause that helps those with real need. Take an exercise class to get moving and add physical strength. A friend showcased this for me while describing her desire to compete in the Boston Marathon, a goal she’s been chasing since 2013. Running empowers her, which in turn, influences those around her. What may feel like small steps can have big impact!
“There’s so much big, actually important stuff happening in the world that it is peak privilege to put so much mental and physical energy into a goal that ultimately means nothing to anyone other than me. It means something to my girls, though. And it means something to me. And I’ve decided that’s enough to keep trying.”
- Remind yourself that this is your journey, your story. We are all on our own path. Trust your story, and not the judgements of others. Reading negative comments on social media can be hard. Hopefully Christine Blasey Ford is strong enough (after all, she is a smart therapist) to know her own truth and not be knocked down by nay-sayers. Trusting yourself is key – so find all the paths to adventures which help you build your inner trust up.
- Be curious. Keep asking yourself the questions. Am I angry, or how do I feel? Can I let it go? Can I help others somehow? What are ways my fears around sexual abuse, mine or others, can shift and not be my grey cloud? What are ways that I can be positive and empowered, at least feel a little more that way?
I can’t (or won’t) say these tips are going to solve all our fears, and turn all our ordeals into fun. All I can do is to keep trying these tips myself, to move forward, to make life better, to shift my outlook even a little. Having an adventure mindset means to take ordeals and obstacles and shift into thinking they are challenges that can be overcome. The adventure is finding the way, and taking the risks to get there. Let me know if you used any of these tips, and if they help!