Category Archives: THE HEARTFELT

PTSD: The Feminist Perspective

I am a feminist. If you asked me to describe myself, the first thing I would say is, “I’m a woman.” Many people are ignorant to exactly what feminism purports. . .especially those who fear it.


The Feminist Movement advocated for women’s rights and women’s sufferage: voting, equal pay, domestic violence and sexual harassment. The movement infers we must work to actively correct gender imbalances and abolish the exploitation of women.

by Instructor Kimberly Moffitt

Look at the world through a woman’s eyes and you will see what we deal with on a regular basis. The feminist perspective is to see things from a woman’s point-of-view in a society governed by men; also to be conscious, mindful and critical of men dominating women at home, work and out in the world.

My own Post Traumatic Stress has been compounded by acts perpetrated against me by men in my home (violent ex-husband), at work (sexual harassment), while running errands (humans without boundaries) and so forth. All aspects of my world, from childhood to current, were effected by the decisions and behavior of men. The first time I was five years old  [My First Kiss] and the last time was July 20th of this year. 

In college, I examined the history and psychology of women, and thus, am grateful to the women who endured before me; who suffered much of the same and worse at the hands of our male counterparts. Way back when, women who reacted to trauma were considered nothing more than hysterical. Today, society has so graciously begun to recognize that violence is a routine part of many women’s sexual, domestic and everyday lives.

Shortly before I was born, in the early 70s, post traumatic disorders were finally recognized more in women. I say “finally” because previously, our experiences as women were tenebrous; under the guise of “private life.”  The privacy society supposedly valued placed a barrier between HER and the rest of the world; rendering HER reality invisible, and HER voice silent. 

In my previous marriage, I was unable to speak up about my own life riddled by sexual and domestic violence. When I tried (a few times): his mother asked, “What did you do to make him hit you?” A friend said they did not want to get involved. A male marriage counselor said to me “Why don’t you give the guy a break?” A psychiatrist told me I was a Paranoid Schizophrenic. The psychiatrist asked if I had someone to watch my children because he wanted to hospitalize me for four to six months. He said it would take that long to see which medication(s) were right for me. This happened twenty years ago. At the time I didn’t know what a Paranoid Schizophrenic person looked like. I only knew two things: I was not mentally ill and the psychiatrist was yet another man who was trying to take or reduce my power. From early on I learned that speaking up about what was happening to me only served to invite further humiliation, and standing up for myself would not be permitted.

As a therapist, my goal is to design a confidential, validating, safe environment for one to speak their truth(s). I suppose I sought the career of a healer because no one offered me the space to overcome without re-victimization and further shame. I was rendered silent and could not point my finger at those who harmed me. I understand what it feels like to be prohibited from speaking about injuries.

A few years ago I had to go before my peers and state which theory/perspective I preferred to use in my work. My favorites are the psychodynamic and feminist theories. I chose to present the feminist perspective. That may seem odd, as my employ is within a male prison. Some presumed I did not know what I spoke of, but look at it this way: a feminist understanding empowers the marginalized to breach their barriers, to support one another, to take action and raise consciousness. My approach is to encourage the silenced; to give them a voice. 

I work with many traumatized people; individuals who have been physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused as children. The initial work on domestic violence and sexual abuse grew out of the feminist movement:when services for victims were organized outside of the traditional mental health system often with the assistance of professional women like Lenore Walker who inspired the movement [Lenore Walker].

Psychologist, Lenore Walker, began describing the psychological trauma of women who fled to shelters as “Battered Woman Syndrome.” In the early 1980’s when abused women and incest survivors spoke about their injuries, they were describing posttraumatic stress disorder; yet it was not clear that what was being observed in these survivors is essentially the same as what was seen in survivors of war.


The symptoms of shell-shock were due to psychological trauma and the emotional stress of prolonged exposure to violence and death. The symptoms produced in traumatized soldiers were like those seen in women who were exposed to continued physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

Who and how a person becomes  traumatized is irrelevant. A trauma is a trauma. . .is a trauma. If you want to be there for him or her do not shame them when they begin to speak their truths.  Treat them with dignity and respect. Do not silence them, rather encourage them to write and talk freely about their terrors. Invite them to feel safe. Do not question their overwhelming fears. Understand, they are haunted by unwanted memories. These things might protect your friends and loved ones against an acute breakdown; which can lead to rapid decompensation.

The focus from a feminist perspective would be to empower: I will not allow my truths to be forgotten. I refuse to be stigmatized. I do not need to convince others that my distress is righteous or justified. I will not be stripped of my dignity. Look at the world through my traumatized eyes when I am angry, crying, short-tempered, or lack affect and recognize that psychological trauma is a lasting legacy.

Altruism

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One of my final courses during undergraduate studies was Philosophy of Religion. I figured I’d enjoy the class because I found the notion of religion fascinating.
I imagined regular colloquies about religion, its birth and demise.
While what I envisioned about the class was correct; I learned I disliked philosophy.
I prefer consistency and concreteness over general ideas and precepts. I wanted answers and found myself frustrated by the waxing and waning of things floating around our collective minds.
It took a while, but I finally understood: there would not be any answers because our mission was to examine concepts and beliefs;
there would not be any answers because our philosophies reflected our individual human experiences.

One afternoon we were instructed to ponder whether altruism existed. Some posited altruism could not exist because humans were selfishly motivated to commit acts of generosity. Others were unable to fathom doing things for others out of pure kindness. They believed humans to be motivated by reciprocity, and feeling good about doing good negated altruism.

I took a moment to assess my own motives.

Do I feel good when helping others?
Usually.
I help others because I believe we are all connected. When I see someone who needs help; I see that I could need help and I would want someone to help me.
Who cares if one feels marvelous when aiding others?
The point is, you are helping others. Those inclined toward altruism feel an obligation to alleviate suffering and further the pleasure of others.

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I think about helping people a lot and decided to ask a few others about their thoughts and feelings.

I.
Me: What do you think about altruism?

Deborah: It appears that altruism exists to aide in keeping balance. When I think about altruism, I think about certain cultures and true monks. There are also people in third world countries that are very giving and living in harmony.

Me: So in your view it exists?

Deborah: Yes.

II.
Me: What are your thoughts about altruism?

Nicole: As in do I think its good, or does it exist or. . .?

Me: Yes. Both.

Nicole: I think it can be good. Shit, if more people were altruistic, I think a lot of situations would be better. But, there are times where altruism may be the good thing but not the right thing.

Me: When is it not good to be altruistic?

Nicole: Altruism isn’t always the best practice when doing a disservice to yourself or when bettering someone else has negative consequences on others. Its not a good example, but someone giving away their last dollar to a starving individual, but then the altruistic person no longer has enough food for himself or his family. Sure it was good to help that hungry person, but now, not only are you affected, but also your wife and kids are hungry too.

III.
Me: What do you think about altruism?

Michael: I think selflessness is what makes the world go round… Especially with leadership and management, because it increases morale and production. Putting your people first… Also, I think we are born with it, but cultures and upbringing effects personalities. Have you ever noticed, if you give animals food the alpha males will eat first, but still share… Even if you give a homeless person a ton of money they typically will share it with their homeless friends.

IV.
Me: What do you think about the idea of altruism?

DJ: I believe Altruism has something to do with doing good or being selfless. Fairness etc. So having said that I’m curious as to whether there is another way to look at it,other than its kinda morally and ethically right.

Me: It Seems to be individualized in that aspect.

DJ: I guess its an individual trait but just think; many have hoped to see it one day as a societal norm or something to strive towards.

Me: It would be a nice norm. I wonder if it’s the norm anywhere on planet.

DJ: Ha ha. Maybe in convents or temples. I just looked it up and glad to see I was on the right track. The kind of work we both have persued comes indirectly from that altruistic kind of spirit or I should say internal sense of doing something for others. ….in a small way helping to make the world a better place.

Me: Why do you think you wanted to work with youth?

DJ: It was an extension of things I had gotten involved in. We were pretty idealistic back in the day. Black Panther Party….turned out to be too crazy. Nation of Islam….crazy in a different way but nicer clothes. I tried them because I wanted to be involved in something that worked for change in our community.

Me: What organization were the kids affiliated with?

DJ: Initially, New Life. On the lower east side [Manhattan]. But over the years I’ve been involved with a lot of different community based organizations.

Me: Had it been rewarding? You’ve done it forever.

DJ: Definately rewarding. Martial arts at its roots is rewarding, but like any coach we end up helping to steer our kids through lifes obstacles. But from a purely martial arts perspective I never really could see myself being able to consistently turn out good students the way I have and now I am kind of at the top of my game and thinking of building teams as well as good individual students. All the previous years and kids I’ve taught prepared me for this current group which will be one of my best teams ever.

V:
Me: What are your thoughts on altruism?

Tony: That’s me to an extent. . .short of sacrificing life. I personally spread myself too thin with generosity especially with my wood business. I donate a lot of it and sell more cheaper than I acquired it.

Me: Do you feel resentful when you spread yourself too thin?

Tony: Not so much resentful. But stressed because I feel like I have to do it.

Me: What happens if you don’t?

Tony: I feel guilty, but rarely do I not follow through.

Me: Are you generous with your wood because it’s a hobby to attain it?

Tony: Partly, but more so because I know there are a lot of older folks out there that don’t have the resources to acquire the wood needed for heat. I also feel God has blessed me, so I feel somewhat obligated to assist others. I use discretion: like if I know older folks that need wood can’t afford it, but have a few abled body kids, I factor that in.

Me:When I asked you about your purpose in life, you said “wood.” It is clear how you use what you enjoy to help others.

Tony: Interesting observation. I hadn’t thought about it that way.

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CONNECTED: The Prodigal Son, chapter 3

woman, mother, wife, therapist, blogger, enlightener, AVENGER

[originally posted 5/2015]

My first born turned 27 years old this year. He stands six foot; three inches tall and his skin color varies with the season. He is a handsome man: half of me and half his father who is Mexican. He is his fathers son despite my bestowing upon him a name I hoped would shape him. A name that means, god•man.

He wears the features of his sire: same face, same expressions and if you read about my domestic violence history with my ex-husband; you will understand when I say; my sons temperament and lack of insight rivals that of his fathers. 

He was never arrested as a juvenile, but he did have interaction with the police. I’m going to wager he had more dealings with the law than what was brought to my attention. 

As a youth, he was in fights often. It wasn’t that he initiated combat; he just loved being where there was drama and excitement, which is where trouble typically lurks. Thus, he was associated with trouble and trouble became his reputation. His mark preceded him and his siblings. The Lopez kids. Teachers, principles, students knew them all, because they all knew my first born.

In school, he was in trouble regularly and I received a lot of phone calls from faculty. My son was brilliant; he had a lot of energy, and school bored him. He had trouble sitting still. Once or twice a month I would leave work to sit in his classroom. Of course he behaved while I was present. On one occasion, I was sitting in his 9th grade class and observed every student in the class out of control. The students did not know who I was, nor did they care; judging by the way they continued to act out, throw things and remain out of their seats. I was humored by my sons angelic behavior. I could tell he was usually part of the mayhem because the students were puzzled by his demeanor and repeatedly attempted to get him to engage. He just sat there; aware his mother was four seats behind him.

I was surprised when his teacher said, “See?! That’s what I’m talking about. He always does that.” She was referring to the way he tapped his pencil on the desk. I understood what she meant. He was restless. Some part of him was forever in motion.

His suspension record was lengthy and for a variety of infractions: fighting, cutting class, disrespect to faculty. I remember one of his high school principals called to inform me he was suspending my boy for calling him a “nigger.” It wasn’t quite like that, My boy said something to the effect of, ‘Why are you always on me nigga?’ which is still very much disrespectful, but different than a racist comment. Faculty did not care for my son. They watched him closely and suspended him whenever plausible and possible. He was suspended once for jaywalking. When school was out, my boy crossed the street while the light was red and was suspended. I had that suspension reversed.

His last suspension occurred when he was 18 years old; a high school senior. It was two weeks before graduation and the principal told me he did not want to suspend my boy, because if he did it would mean he wouldn’t be able to graduate with his class. My son and two other young men were caught with stolen yearbooks. The principal wanted my son to tell the truth about what he had done. Telling the truth and taking responsibility is something my son continues to struggle with. He never told the truth about stealing the yearbooks; even though a few were discovered in his backpack. The principal was saddened by this, but permitted him to graduate. The principal, a Latino man, said he did not feel right about holding my son back from graduating since the rate of high school dropouts continued to rise. His fear was my son would not return to finish, or if he did return he would continue accruing infractions and perhaps end up expelled. The principal did not want to chance it. So, we made it: made it into adulthood, made it through high school.

I spent a lot of time focused on my first born; which took attention away from my children who were doing well. I saw my eldest had the potential to do very well in life; or fail very well in life. He was failing. I tried to save him. I sought out the best high schools with the best athletic programs. First, I tightened my budget and put him in a private Christian School. We were not Religious and I didn’t know how I would pay for four years of private school, but my boy liked it. It wasn’t long before I started receiving calls from the school. My son had an issue wearing his uniform the way school policy required it to be worn. Either his shirt was untucked, he was sagging his pants or he took something that did not belong to him. After blatantly and constantly dismissing rules and authority, the school said my son could no longer attend. He lasted three months and cried when he was asked to leave.

I sent him to New York City to stay with my father for a while. My father works with young people. The thought was, my son would have a job with his grandfather; close guidance from a positive role model; he’d see different possibilities which would nurture the good in him. Instead, my boy did what he does. He looked past all the positive and found drug dealers to hang on the corner with. He was disrespectful to my father, which pained me, because my father tried to help him. My son was back home in two months.

After his return, I tried him in different charter schools but to no avail. The issues were always the same because he never changed. He was stuck. I received calls during grade school, throughout middle school and high school. Fighting, stealing and lying carried over into his adult life. There is a side of him that can be considered kind and giving. Perhaps the battle between his fathers genetics and my own.

His father is a sociopath. My son is the oldest and witnessed his fathers violence toward me and his siblings. For example, when I was eight months pregnant with my second son his father was beating me and trying to strangle me. I ran from the bedroom and grabbed the phone in the kitchen and called my mother for help. My then husband ripped the cord from the wall. He tackled me to the floor and drug me to a spot on the living room floor near the front door. He had me pinned to the floor and was gently speaking threats and disparaging remarks with a smile on his face as he sat on my my pregnant belly. When my mother arrived, he refused to get off me. My mother said,”I can see you sitting on her stomach through the opening of the curtain and you’d better get off of her. He did not. My mother threatened to use force. She’d brought her weapon. I screamed my sons name. He was four years old,  crying and rubbing his eyes with his little fists. I gently told him to open the door for his grandmother. My son walked passed his father who sat atop me; got a step stool, carried it to the  front door, stood on the stool and undid all the locks. As my son unlocked the door my husband released my wrists from his grip and sat up. He was sitting on my thighs and saw my pants had come off from being dragged along the carpet and said,”If I knew your pants were down I would have raped you.”

There were times my son would tell me what his father did to his siblings in my absence. He was a baby himself and I don’t believe he remembers; but I’m certain he remembers seeing his fathers abuse toward the girlfriends that came after me. I’m also certain the horrors he doesn’t remember, are singed into his subconscious and contributed to shaping the man he is today. That man is a lot like his father.  

When my son was a junior in high school, I was contacted by an enraged mother who told me my boy had grabbed her daughter and shook her. Apparently, my son had become jealous after seeing text messages from another boy in the girls cell phone. I empathized with the girls mother and apologized. I asked her how she wanted to handle the situation. She said she wanted the apology to come from my son, and she wanted him to stay away from her daughter “for now.”

I spoke to my son many times about how abusing women is wrong. He said he understood. I suggested many things he could do besides being abusive. I told him not to ever expect that I would side with him just because he is my son. I told him I believe people should be held accountable for their choices and actions. I said,”I will help you improve if you want to improve. That’s it.” He gave me a hug and said,”Thanks mom.” My boy did not give me many issues inside the home; aside from bullying his siblings, lying and taking things that did not belong to him. He was usually respectful to me and when in my presence.

My son relates to his paternal side of the family, lots of drama, machismo, lying, acceptance of disrespect to women and because I work in a prison I often wonder how my son would fare if incarcerated where the Mexicans and Blacks are at war. They kill one another. They are enemies. I wonder which side he’d choose; because he would need to choose. I thought,’the blacks wouldn’t trust him.’ He has LOPEZ tattooed across his chest in huge letters as well as tattoos I think he believes are cool; but are actually insignias for dangerous Latino gangs. Marks that might get him killed in prison. I can only hope he doesn’t place himself in that predicament.

knew it wasn’t good for children to live in a household where there was violence. It’s common sense; not rocket science. It was overwhelming for me as a young mother. I didn’t think I had the support or means to get my children to safety and maintain it. I was planning, but in the interim my children were being effected.
“Whether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where their fathers abuse their mothers. Children whose mothers are abused are denied the kind of home life that fosters healthy development. Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way. Because children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. Abusers typically play into this by putting the mother down in front of her children and telling them that their mother is “crazy” or “stupid” and that they do not have to listen to her. Seeing their mothers treated with enormous disrespect, teaches children that they can disrespect women the way their fathers do. Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. They may replicate the violence they witnessed as children in their teen and adult relationships and parenting experiences. Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes. For girls, adolescence may result in the belief that threats and violence are the norm in relationships. Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.”

http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/effect-on-children.html

When I did escape, it was a nightmare. I really do understand why some women stay, conform and keep their mouths shut.  For me, that was not an option. I didn’t want my daughter to think it was acceptable to be mistreated by a man. I didn’t want my sons to think it was normal; culturally acceptable to mistreat, abuse and/or devalue women.  

My son allies with his father; he’s been in fist fights with his father, uses drugs and alcohol with his father; they are amused by the harm caused to others; they have simpatico.  

Often, boys who witness their fathers abuse, either ally with the father or have the urge to protect their mothers. I counsel lots and lots of men who were once little boys who saw their mothers abused. As boys they felt helpless; unable to protect their mothers. and stand up for themselves. When men feel helpless, anger tends to be the ensuing emotion and young men aren’t very good at coping with emotions in general. These little boys grow into men who are sometimes violent toward other men, while worshipping women OR they become the ones who hate women and/or associate love with violence. {Of course there is grey area.}

I haven’t had much interaction with my first born for more than two years. A few years ago he was homeless and we invited him to live with us for a few months. My husband and I were invested in helping him get on his feet. He never quite landed. He has been terminated from many jobs because of poor work ethic, along with some of the same behaviors that kept him in trouble during his school years.

While at our house, he stole things. Although, stealing wasn’t his worst offense. I told him not to bring people to my house; he did. He was instructed not to drive our cars because his license was suspended, but he did anyway. We had to lock all the car keys in a safe. I told him, he was expected to stay sober in my home, but it wasn’t long before I suspected he was using drugs.  He began exhibiting odd behavior like sneaking out windows when he thought everyone was asleep. He was an adult; 24 years old. If he wanted to leave he simply could have walked out the front door. 

He was unpredictable and erratic. A recipe that did not mesh well with my PTSD. The last time he snuck out, I texted his cell-phone and after reading his bullshit reply about why he snuck out a window; rather than using the front door, I told him I couldn’t help him anymore. He was angry, but came to collect his belongings a couple days later. 

Roughly two weeks passed before he returned while no one was home; kicked in the garage door, entered the house and kicked in my bedroom door. He stole some of my jewelry. He didn’t take much. He just wanted to make a point. He felt angry with me and probably rejected. I kicked him out of the house when he was 18 years old and there were guys harassing my younger children because of things my eldest boy was associated with. I warned him over and over and over, before I told him he had to go. It was a difficult choice, but it had to be made. I made peace with the man he is and the choices and paths he chooses. I know it is not my job to enable him or fix him. He is 27 years old. He makes his choices and I make mine. I don’t want to be around unpredictable behavior when I’m not at work. Safety is very important to me. My first born makes me feel very unsafe. 

I had an acquaintance who gave me the nickname “History of Violence.” He said,”You’re quiet, but I know you have a violent history.” He meant I had the propensity toward violence. At least I thought that’s what he meant. Perhaps he saw through my vigilance and recognized some sort of survivor. Either way, he was correct.

 

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20027920

Antisocial personality disorder is a type of chronic mental condition in which a person’s ways of thinking, perceiving situations and relating to others are dysfunctional — and destructive. People with antisocial personality disorder typically have no regard for right and wrong and often disregard the rights, wishes and feelings of others.

Those with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others either harshly or with callous indifference. They may often violate the law, landing in frequent trouble, yet they show no guilt or remorse. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. These characteristics typically make people with antisocial personality disorder unable to fulfill responsibilities related to family, work or school.

Antisocial personality disorder signs and symptoms may include:

  • Disregard for right and wrong
  • Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others
  • Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or for sheer personal pleasure
  • Intense egocentrism, sense of superiority and exhibitionism
  • Recurring difficulties with the law
  • Repeatedly violating the rights of others by the use of intimidation, dishonesty and misrepresentation
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, impulsiveness, aggression or violence
  • Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others
  • Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behaviors
  • Poor or abusive relationships
  • Irresponsible work behavior
  • Failure to learn from the negative consequences of behavior

Antisocial personality disorder symptoms may begin in childhood and are fully evident for most people during their 20s and 30s. In children, cruelty to animals, bullying behavior, impulsivity or explosions of anger, social isolation, and poor school performance may be, in some cases, early signs of the disorder.

Although considered a lifelong disorder, some symptoms — particularly destructive and criminal behavior and the use of alcohol or drugs — may decrease over time, but it’s not clear whether this decrease is a result of aging or an increased awareness of the consequences of antisocial behavior.

Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes everyone unique. It’s the way people view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how they see themselves. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of these factors:

  • Genetics. These inherited tendencies are aspects of a person’s personality passed on by parents, such as shyness or having a positive outlook. This is sometimes called temperament.
  • Environment. This means the surroundings a person grows up in, events that occurred, and relationships with family members and others. It includes such life situations as the type of parenting a person experienced, whether loving or abusive.

Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Some people may have genes that make them vulnerable to developing antisocial personality disorder — and life situations may trigger its development.

There may be a link between an early lack of empathy — understanding the perspectives and problems of others, including other children — and later onset of antisocial personality disorder. Identifying these personality problems early may help improve long-term outcomes.

Every year, between 11-17 May, we help to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues.