Tuesday, January 31, 2012

WAITING FOR A RULING ON WENDI G.'S CASE

I know a lot of people are dying to hear what's going on with Wendi G. and her children. The answer is we don't know yet. She had a hearing on January 10th and 12th with a lot of important testimony. She expects a ruling from Judge Hulsing in about two weeks. I will let you know the minute there is more news.

Thank you for keeping her and the children in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A POWERFUL KEY TO HEALING FROM TRAUMA

We are designed, deep down in our genetic structure, to heal naturally from emotional injury, including trauma. Amidst all of the focus on modern invention and discovery, we are missing the oldest, and for most people the most powerful, route to emotional wellness: deep crying.

Crying is the most misunderstood aspect of human experience. If we could get this one right, we could get everything else right; our failure to grasp how crying works is in many ways the core of the difficulties faced by our species.

I read a book a few years ago about crying that went on for chapters and chapters about what a mystery there is about why people cry. But there is no mystery about tears; they exist to make us well. From the time we are born until we grow as old as the ancients, we cry to relieve our pain. There is no more effective pain-killer on the earth, and that’s what it’s there for.

But crying does much more than make us feel better; it literally heals grief, and does so more deeply and powerfully, and in a way that is much longer lasting, than any other emotional healing approach we know about. Tears literally wash our grief away.

So why are we putting so much energy into trying not to cry, and to trying to stop each other from crying? Here are a few of the reasons:

• We confuse the pain (the grief, for example) with the healing of the pain. We think that when someone is crying, that’s a sign of how much they are hurting. But it isn’t. It’s a sign that some of their hurt is getting out of them. We mistakenly believe that if we stop them from crying (by “cheering them up” for example, or by “getting their mind off of it”), that we have made them feel better. But we haven’t. We’ve stopped their healing process, and left them with all the same pain they started with, which will come up to hurt them another day soon… So remember, the sadness is the pain, and the crying is the healing of that pain.

• We’re afraid that people will feel sorry for us if we cry, and it doesn’t feel good to have people feeling sorry for us… So stop feeling sorry for people who are crying, and just love and support them, and hope that people will learn to do the same for you.

• We believe that crying makes people weak. But it doesn’t, it makes them strong, especially if they cry long and hard. (It’s true that hours and hours, or years and years for that matter, of shallow, hesitant, lonely, weepy crying can sap your power. But deep, gut-wrenching, cleansing crying will leave you with more strength than you started with.)

• We don't cry long enough and hard enough to discover its benefits. If you cry only a little bit, keeping it shallow and short, which is what most people do, you’ll come out thinking that crying doesn’t really do much. But watch how babies and young children cry; they cry with every fiber of their being, their heart just pours with grief as if the world were ending. And then – if no one makes fun of them for it or treats them unkindly – they keep it going for quite a while. And finally, they get the cleansing of their pain that they needed, and they are in high spirits and high energy for a long time afterward! Why are we denying children a healing process that obviously works so well? Just watch and see what happens when you love a child while he or she cries, and let them – in fact encourage them – to cry as long and hard as they need to. You will see what I’m describing.

• We’re afraid that we’ll get ridiculed for crying. And tragically, that is sometimes exactly what happens.

A study years back found that 80% of women and 70% of men said that they felt better after a “good” cry – meaning a deep and extended one. You will not find it easy to unearth any other healing approach that is successful with three-quarters of the population. Participants in that study also described numerous additional benefits, including that they found that they could think more clearly after crying, that they were capable of finding solutions to problems that previously had seemed impossible to overcome, and that they felt more loving and understanding towards other people.

And we are born to do it. No one has to teach us how to cry. It's in our biological programming.

Rather than being seen as a sidelight in the healing of trauma, we should come to recognize deep crying as the key.

This is the first round of a series of posts I am going to write about crying. In the weeks ahead, I will be answering questions such as: 1) How come some days I can cry my pain out and other days I can’t?, 2) But what if I’m one of those people who feel worse after crying, not better?, 3) How should I deal with my children’s crying?, 4) What should I say when a friend starts to cry?, 5) Does crying have to be a lonely activity?, and 6) How can I bring more crying -- and more deep emotional healing in general -- into my life?

In the mean time, I would love to have people write in with stories of transformative experiences you have had through crying.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A JUDGE PULLS CUSTODY STRINGS BEHIND THE SCENES

Several glaring pieces of evidence indicate that Judge Jon Van Allsburg in Ottawa County, Michigan, is working in violation of court standards to influence the outcome of a case on which he is not the judge. The case involves his sister, Ann M., and has been covered before on this blog (see "Judge Hulsing Jails Mother Because Her Kids Refuse to See Their Father," November 11, 2011).

A few weeks ago Judge Hulsing wrote the following letter to the attorneys on Ann M.'s case: "I write to inform you of a comment that was made in my presence by a judicial colleague regarding a disputed fact in this case. The comment was, 'the kids want to see him [their father].' This comment was not solicited by me, or in response to any inquiry made by myself - as I made no inquiry. That comment was not considered, nor will it be considered, by the court in this case." The letter is not dated.

We can't know with certainty who the "judicial colleague" is that Judge Hulsing is referring to, but it is only reasonable to assume that it is Judge Van Allsburg, who happens to be Ann M.'s brother and has become an active campaigner against Ann M., speaking in favor of her ex-husband despite the children's statements to various witnesses that they are afraid of him.

I have obtained copies of numerous emails demonstrating Judge Van Allsburg's efforts to intervene in the case. An email he wrote to a relative on August 25, 2011 offers a crucial example: "I'm not surprised the kids are angry about the court ruling requiring parenting time - I don't think Ann would accept any other response from them, and they know it; therefore they're angry... Ann's anger and retaliation are the major issues at this point in the case. Doug's emotional instability and domestic violence are considered older history at this point..." From there he went on to explain what "the court has concluded" at this stage in the case. And at another point he writes, "Court employees with knowledge of this case already think Judge Hulsing is some kind of saint for the patience he's extended in this case."

There are several aspects of this email worth noting. First, Judge Van Allsburg is admitting that he is discussing the case with court employees, which appears to be an unethical effort to affect the case's outcome and strengthens the suspicion that he is the "judicial colleague" who spoke to Judge Hulsing. Ann M. has been requesting to have her case moved to a new jurisdiction because of her brother's efforts to affect the outcome of her case. With the combination of Judge Hulsing's letter and these emails by Judge Van Allsburg, there is plenty of reason to believe that there is inappropriate interference happening in the case. It isn't realistic (nor is it good ethical practice) for Judge Hulsing to claim that he won't be influenced by his colleague; Ann M.'s request for a change of venue should be granted.

Second, Judge Van Allsburg is acknowledging two major points:

1) That the father of Ann M.'s children's is a perpetrator of domestic violence, and
2) that the children are expressing their anger at being required to see him.

A mountain of research evidence has accumulated over the past twenty years showing how disturbing and harmful it is to kids to be subjected to violence towards their mothers by fathers or step-fathers. Many of these studies have also looked at the question of whether men who batter are more likely than other men to harm children directly, and the conclusion has always been yes. So it is both illogical and unscientific to conclude that these children's reluctance to visit unsupervised with their father is a product of poisoning by their mother. (And by the way, the email correspondence I obtained shows that other relatives don't share Judge Van Allsburg's conclusions at all.)

It is also important to mention that according to Ann, Judge Van Allsburg has not had contact with her two minor children -- the kids who are the subject of the litigation -- for over four years, so she does not understand how he could know what the children want. The fact that Ann's brother is siding with the alleged abuser is not at all uncommon in my experience; in fact, I wrote in considerable detail in my book Why Does He Do That? about why so many abusers succeed in recruiting one or more of the woman's relatives as allies.

Finally, I want to draw your attention to Judge Van Allsburg's statement that the court now considers the father's battering of Ann M. to be "older history." Regrettably, he may well be correct about this. Family courts commonly labor under the misconception that domestic violence perpetration has to be very recent to be relevant, despite all the research and clinical experience demonstrating that abusers do not change except through a long period of hard, serious work on themselves. The judiciary seems to be confusing domestic violence perpetration with a virus that will just go away over time. Note that in this case "the court" means Judge Hulsing, whose case this is currently; once again, Judge Van Allsburg is giving indications that he is in dialogue with Judge Hulsing about the case, since he is claiming to be reporting on Judge Hulsing's thinking.

Ann M.'s children are still refusing to see their father. She is therefore waiting in suspense to see if she is going to be jailed again, as a result of their entirely natural reactions to the serious and repeated violence that they say they have witnessed in the past.

Monday, January 2, 2012

AM I THE ABUSIVE ONE?

Living with an angry and controlling partner can become a twisted world where bad is good, down is up, and wrong is right. Many women over the years have said to me, “My partner tells me that I’m the one abusing him. He has said it so many times that I start to wonder if he’s right. How do I know if it’s him or me?”

We can look at some ways to answer that question, but first I would like you to read a few concepts, taking a deep breath after each one so that you can absorb it.

One: You are not responsible for his behavior. You do not make him do things. His actions are his own choice.

Breathe.

Two: You deserve to be treated well even when you make mistakes, and even if you make them a lot.

Breathe.

Three: Setting firm, clear limits for how your partner is allowed to treat you is not the same thing as controlling him, and should not be called control.

Breathe.

Four: Choosing to not always put your partner’s needs ahead of your own does not constitute hurting him, wronging him, or being selfish. You have the right to give substantial priority to your own needs and desires.

Breathe.

Five: If you scream and yell once in a while that does not mean that you are crazy or abusive (though he may say so). It depends on whether you are yelling degrading things, whether your partner is intimidated by you, whether you are yelling to control him (versus yelling to resist his control), and many other factors.

Breathe.

These five concepts cover most of the situations where angry and controlling men try to turn the tables on their partners. If you work on digesting each point, he will have a much harder time convincing you that you are really the one with the problem.

But I haven’t really answered your question yet. You may still wonder, “But what if he really isn’t the destructive one, and I am? How would I know?” Here’s how:

* He’s kind to you most of the time, and he treats you reasonably decently even when he’s mad or upset with you.

* He takes responsibility for his own actions, not frequently blaming them on you or on stress or other excuses. And he doesn't get scary.

* He has asked you repeatedly, and in a decent and thoughtful way (not in a stream of put-downs) to change specific behaviors of yours, and you seem to keep returning to doing those things he has asked you not to do.

* He has shown willingness to work on things you want him to work on, and has taken real steps regarding those issues (not just making promises).

If all of the above points are true then, okay, maybe you need to look at your treatment of him. But otherwise – and I’m willing to bet your situation falls into the “otherwise” category – your partner is doing what so many angry and controlling men do, which is turning things into their opposites in order to have even more weapons to hammer you with.