Triggers Everywhere – What Could it Mean?

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ~ Pema Chodron

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I haven’t written a blog in a long time – I feel very out of practice. I’ve been through two moves and the loss of my father, who I was blessed to have for 92 years. Much of my faith in God came from his example, and I’m so grateful for that priceless gift. Getting through the grief a bit, and feeling settled now, I can finally write again.

In the meantime, so much has been happening in the world. So much trauma coming to light. There are triggers everywhere these days for survivors of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. In the U.S., at least, we have been inundated with daily reports of powerful men being accused of sexual misconduct on a scale never seen before.

It has triggered me, as well. These stories are abhorrent. They’ve been followed by so many interesting reactions from people saying it’s overkill (really?) to men publicly admitting they are guilty of at least some of this behavior, and didn’t realize it was such a big deal. Really?

I honestly do not know a single woman who has not had to deal with unwanted remarks, cat-calls, touching or worse. So even though it’s triggering to have all this out there, I’m grateful it’s happening, and that so many people, not just women, are finding their voice and speaking out.

I believe we are witnessing the beginning of a shift, a revolution that has been a long time coming! Watching the news last night, I felt like this is just the tip of the iceberg, the beginning of so many stories that have been buried beneath the ocean, frozen for lack of a believing audience. Of course, there will be those who are just seeking attention or who will exaggerate to get into the conversation, but we can’t let them distract us from the plethora of detailed truths we will hear.

I feel these current events, with people facing accountability and consequences for sexual misconduct, are creating a dynamic shift that will go down in history as equal to any other great movement that has brought about lasting change.

As with all of my writing about the effects of trauma and the healing of it, I have to frame what is happening spiritually. How does God play into all this? Is this part of a Divine plan? How can we, as spiritual beings, help advance the possible enlightened growth available in these situations?

“In order to know the light, we must first experience the darkness.”  ~ Carl Jung

As Carl Jung stated, we have to first look at the darkness. That is what’s happening now. All of these cases and accusations and victims and perpetrators are coming forward to show us the darkness. This is truly darkness as these stories have been hiding in the shadows, some quietly paid off, some simply too frozen with fear to speak, for decades – actually, since prehistoric man.

This darkness can’t be healed until we look at it.  We cannot shine light on it and begin to heal until we truly see it’s ugly dark visage.

And what of the Divine? Are these victims being used to spark this healing movement? Possibly. And what of the perpetrators? Did they agree to fill that role this lifetime so this darkness could finally be brought forward and healed? Now that’s an interesting question! In her book, Sacred Contracts, Caroline Myss writes about such possibilities. It’s a mind-blowing read. She says: “In a Sacred Contract, an individual and the Divine commit to a mission that promises to expand that individual’s spiritual consciousness as well as further the expression of the Divine on earth.”

I can’t imagine the Divine designing the suffering of people through trauma as a way to raise the consciousness of the earth. But I can imagine that perhaps my own higher power would have agreed to that in this lifetime, if it would help to raise up others. How deeply, how painful, how profoundly do these sacred contracts go?

I don’t have solid answers here, I’m just sharing thoughts I’ve had about all this, and perhaps bringing up some important questions. Someday we will get the answers we seek. Until then, let’s pray for all involved here. The victims, the perpetrators, and those looking on – that these situations and the change, the tidal wave, that is coming, will be surrounded by God’s light and wisdom.

“That which is holding you down can become a powerful force that raises you up.”

~ Michael A. Singer

“Now are we blessed, and now we bless the world. What we have looked upon we would extend, for we would see it everywhere. We would behold it shining with the grace of God in everyone. We would not have it be withheld from anything we look upon.” – A Course in Miracles

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

11/30/2017

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The Power of Forgiveness

“But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.    ~Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

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This little gem in the pages of The Handmaid’s Tale is profound beyond words. As I sit with it, I scan my heart and soul for places I may be withholding forgiveness from someone.

As it relates to trauma and PTSD, I believe forgiveness is one of the most critical steps in our healing. It’s not a single act, either, but a process. Whether you are forgiving yourself or someone else, it rarely happens in one moment of mercy.

I began the process of forgiving the person who assaulted me soon after the attack. I’m not sure what led me to start working on forgiveness. I think it was a deep knowing that I would never heal completely if I didn’t get myself to forgiveness. I began to wonder what must have happened in this person’s life to lead them to a life of robbing and attacking others. I imagined the worst, and knew it was probably worse than I could imagine. It doesn’t excuse behavior, but it does explain it, and it got me started on forgiveness.

Since then, it’s been an ongoing process. I find that I can only forgive as much as I can in a given moment in my life. I have often felt “done” with forgiving. (There! Yay! All done!) Only to have something trigger my fear or anger again, which leads to bitter feelings, which leads back to another level of forgiveness to work on. I’m not consciously withholding forgiveness. I want to be complete in my forgiveness. But I can only forgive as much as I can in a given moment. And I’ve learned to trust the process and to trust that it will be complete some day. Perhaps even in another life. For there are, as in all our relationships, layers beyond our earthly understanding.

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”                                                                                        – Jonathan Lockwood Hule

What is the cost of not forgiving? Besides delaying the healing of our spirits, there are physical and emotional side effects of withholding forgiveness. Valid science now affirms what spiritual paths have always taught. The only path to peace of mind is forgiveness. According to Johns Hopkins, “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

We can all recognize the symptoms of harboring resentment, anger and fear. The thought that forgiveness calms our stress levels makes it not only appealing, but critical to moving forward. Haven’t we suffered enough without adding to our anxiety by harboring that ball of bilious bitterness?

To return to Margaret Atwood’s quote above, to withhold or bestow forgiveness is a great power. We can assuage someone’s guilt by forgiving them, or let them suffer, waiting for our forgiveness, wondering when it will come, if it will come. Often, when we withhold forgiveness, the person we’re not forgiving doesn’t even know we are embittered against them! So who is it hurting? Only ourselves. We bring on ourselves all those mental and physical side effects of not forgiving. And as difficult as it can be sometimes, we need to let it go. Not for them, but for us.

“All forgiveness is a gift to yourself.”    ~A Course in Miracles, Lesson 62

 

There is great power in either bestowing or withholding forgiveness. But only one will bring us true peace.

So how do we do it? How do we forgive? We start by acknowledging that forgiveness needs to happen in order to heal. When I couldn’t think about forgiving, or felt too angry to start, I would pray for God to soften my heart. When I know I’m withholding forgiveness, I pray for God to guide my healing. Guiding my healing will inevitably lead me to forgiveness. And we must turn it over to the Divine, to the forgiveness expert! Daily, hourly if necessary. The Holy Spirit will take our hard spots and soften them, leading us to healing, gently guiding us to forgiveness – to peace. If we but ask.

“If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.”                   ~ Pema Chodron

You Are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

3/19/2017

 

 

The Fabric of Our Lives

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“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue,

An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view.

A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold,

A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.”

                                                                        ~Carole King

            When I was young and would loudly sing along with Carole King in my room, these words were beautiful. As I grew older, they became profound. Now they bring tears, as they demand reflection. I hope I have many more years to live, and that I can live them awake and aware, knowing that with the good there will be bad, and it’s all part of the tapestry of my life.

Tapestries became popular during the Medieval era, largely because they were portable art, and people and kingdoms often had to move quickly. Originally tapestries told religious stories, then later in life they told tales of romance and fantasy. The process of following a large drawing and transferring that image onto a large, vertical loom is fascinating. The detail work is awe-inspiring. Perhaps our lives are tapestries, the big picture set forth at our birth, the details added as we grow and change.

“We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning.”

                                                ~Henry Ward Beecher

Our live are indeed tapestries, each day woven into the existing patterns of the day before, incorporating light and dark, good and bad, fear and safety, life and death. What makes life rich is not to have had only good, safe and happy experiences, but their opposite as well. The contrast in the patterns of the tapestry is what makes it interesting, what paints the picture, what tells the whole story.

As I’ve written in previous blogs, I would not want my traumatic experience to be washed away and taken out of my life’s tapestry. The Dalai Lama once said, “There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience is, if we lose out hope, that’s our real disaster.”

How do we live through trauma, grief, and sorrow and find our hope again? Through faith. Through turning it constantly over to God to heal. Through trusting the Divine will help us if we but ask. And through looking back at your tapestry so far. Look at how far you’ve come. Really see what you have survived, what gifts it brought you, what strength you gained. Examine the details of your tapestry. What small acts done by you or someone else, wove a new idea into the pattern? What help or compassion patched the place where the threads unraveled? Look at the strength of the whole piece. This has been created by the Divine, and nothing can tear it apart.

“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.”

                                                                                                ~ Richard P. Feynman

What a beautiful thought! It’s easier to realize this concept when we look at nature isn’t it? The patterns weave together and create the entire tapestry. I am filled with awe when I truly “get” this.

And so we move forward daily, not usually aware, our tapestry growing and changing and becoming richer until the end. So we must accept the entire tapestry, the good and the bad, the frayed edges, and the solid images, the times we were deeply afraid, and the times we were profoundly safe. The times we withheld love, and the times we gave it freely. Accept it, because in the end, what counts is everything, the whole picture ~ the complete tapestry. It’s all part of the fabric of our lives.

“Into Christ’s presence will we enter now, serenely unaware of everything His shining face, and perfect Love.”   ~ A Course in Miracles – WB 157

You Are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

2/28/2017

Four Things to do Today to Help Heal Your Trauma

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“True healing is the willingness to treat yourself and others better than the past ever did.”                ~ Matt Kahn                 

I’m fond of being cerebral and spiritual. But sometimes we just need a list, right? Here are the directions. Just do this and you’ll feel better. Don’t give it too much thought, just do it. So here is my practical suggestion for four things you can do every day to help heal your trauma. (Still with the cerebral and spiritual quotes, because they’re awesome and healing in their own right.)

1. Quiet your mind.

“Listen – are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?   ~Mary Oliver

Breathe deeply. Set aside some time today to breathe deeply and quiet your mind. Settle yourself in a place you can feel safe, stick some nice music in your ears, whatever you need to just sit still with yourself. And BREATHE. Breathe deeply and profoundly.

Empty your brain as best you can, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Thoughts will trickle in, just gently say to them, “not now.” And return to the emptiness.

This is like pushing a reset button on your nervous system. And I know it’s hard when you’re a trauma survivor. I KNOW. Sometimes being alone in your own mind can seem scary.

I promise the more you practice, the deeper you breathe, and the more you disempower your random thoughts, the less scary it will be. It will start to be a safe harbor, and at some point become a necessity. This is the space we need to remember that we are one with God. 

2. Find something in Nature to marvel at.

“I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.” ~ John Burroughs

We are all so busy, aren’t we? And here I am telling you to squeeze more time into your day to marvel at some Nature. But this doesn’t have to be a hike in the woods or a trip to the park. Even in a big city, Nature is literally all around us. Watch snow fall out the window, watch your cat or dog sleep, be amazed at the strength of an ant carrying a crumb across the kitchen counter, look at the moon or watch the stars come out. If you have a yard, sit in it and look around you. Just notice. Is there a gentle breeze, perhaps, stirring the leaves in the trees? Are there birds going about their busy day? Do you see things growing all around you?

Nature restores our faith by being so constant and accessible. It heals our trauma by reminding us that life goes on and to rely on these good and steady displays of God’s love.

Practitioner hint: to save time, you can combine #1 and #2 – in fact, I highly recommend it!

3. Take another step toward forgiveness.

“Today I decided to forgive you. Not because you apologized, or because you acknowledged the pain that you caused me, but because my soul deserves peace.” ~ Najwa Zebian

Forgiveness is critical to healing. It’s not easy and it won’t happen all at once and you will need God’s help to get there. But today, just take one more baby step closer. Not for their sake, but for yours. We truly keep ourselves in prison when we refuse to forgive.

Studies have shown, too, a correlation between the ability to forgive and the severity of PTSD. Holding back on forgiveness means holding on to some rage, which keeps our bodies in fight or flight status and can lead to increased anxiety. So by not forgiving, we are stuck in trauma. I know you don’t want that. You deserve better.

So just for today, hold a little thought, “I will forgive you, because my soul deserves peace.” Notice how saying “will” forgive can mean either you’re doing it in the next moment, or just maybe someday. Wherever you are in your healing will determine the timeline.

 

“The intelligent way to be selfish is to work for the welfare of others.”  ~ Dalai Lama

Selfish? But if I’m giving of myself Dalai Lama, how is that selfish? Because there is no quicker path to healing than to help someone else! Service takes us out of our own drama and reminds us of our ability to contribute in a positive way to the world around us. Service can restore our faith, not only in God, but in ourselves and our fellow man. Service can be anything! It doesn’t mean you put in many hours at a soup kitchen, although it’s great if you can! It can be many small things throughout the day – times you leave your own head, your own drama, to see what someone around you might need.

Trauma can be so hard on our self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as how lovable and capable we feel in the world. Service helps us regain some of that. We can again see our value in the world, we make a difference, however small, and we are capable of giving and receiving love. So do something, today, for someone else.

So there it is. Four things to help heal trauma that you can do today. But to be truly healed, you know, we must do them tomorrow too, and the day after that, and then the next day. We don’t do it because we have to. We do it because we are brave and healing is our right, our destination, and our beloved journey.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” ~ Brene Brown

You Are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

January 17, 2017

LOVING ACCEPTANCE

“To feel the Love of God within you is to see the world anew, shining in innocence, alive with hope, and blessed with perfect charity and love.” – A Course in Miracles, lesson 189

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I am still beloved. I believe this down to my core. No matter what I may have done or been or survived, the love of God for me is constant. I know God has been there through every trauma, and will be there always. This kind of faith doesn’t come easily, and perhaps you are not there yet. But know that it is true. God sees you perfectly, and God see you perfect.

I can accept this. I can accept that God sees me this way. God is, after all, God. The Divine is Love that is all encompassing and beyond our understanding.

My difficulty is seeing myself the way God sees me.

Does this resonate with you as well? You have a spiritual practice, you’ve survived trauma, you pray and meditate and turn everything over to the Divine – but still, still you judge yourself, withholding from yourself the very thing you need: love and acceptance.

I do it all the time. I’m still learning and trying and growing and becoming. But I know that this step is critical for healing.

When we withhold loving acceptance from ourselves, we set ourselves up for continuous disappointment. We set ourselves up for depression, anxiety and addiction. Seeing ourselves as God sees us leads us out of this cycle.

How do you start? I had to start with others. For a long time, I wasn’t at ease within myself, both because of the trauma I had been through, but also because I regularly withheld love from myself. With a strong desire to heal and change this, I started by trying to see others as God sees them.

This requires such vigilance on our thoughts! We are conditioned from a very young age to make judgments about the people around us based on their appearance, their words and their actions. When we consciously practice looking on others with love, we start to see their innocence. We begin to glimpse what God sees. We grow in compassion and understanding for others.

You are a creature of Divine Love connected at all times to Source. Divine Love is when you see God in everyone and everything you encounter.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Non-judgment is a muscle that needs constant exercise. Left idle, it will grow fat cells and spread. Like exercise, it probably doesn’t come naturally to us, so we have to be vigilant and dedicated. And like exercise, it is worth it, for it can be your path to self-acceptance.

Through continuous practice of non-judgment of others, I found it easier to forgive and love myself. I began to see myself as God sees me more frequently. This is a tool for healing that grows stronger the more I practice it. The less I judge others, the less I judge myself.

For some, the path to self-acceptance may start within you and then extend to others. This is also a valid path. And who’s to say you can’t walk both paths at once? There are many paths to seeing yourself as the love of God. The path doesn’t matter, what matters is the dedication to the path and to healing.

Give love to yourself today. Give yourself the gift of seeing through God’s holy eyes. See those around you with those eyes. Look within and truly see your glorious light of Love.

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”                 Buddha

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

05/15/2016

 

A New PTSD

“To feel the Love of God within you is to see the world anew, shining in innocence, alive with hope, and blessed with perfect charity and love.” – ACIM, Lesson 189

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See the world anew. What a concept. What a challenge. What a daunting task some days. We often go through so many days in a row that all feel the same, a little numb, a little tired of the day-to-day business. With PTSD, we are tired of summoning courage each day, tired of fighting down the fear each day, and tired of swallowing down the rage.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t live like that. I can’t. I made it my daily task to find something, anything, each day that gives me hope. There is no surviving PTSD without it. And here’s the tricky part: it is as easy as shifting your focus, and it is as difficult as shifting your focus. Ha.

Because some days shifting our focus is easy, right? We have that attitude as we set out on the day, and the universe rewards us with baby birds, friendly cashiers, compliments from strangers, hugs from kids. And we sigh and say, “I DO have hope. Life is good. Things are getting better!”

Then there are the days when, try as we might, our focus won’t budge off the damn trauma. We could encounter the same rewards as before, but they would seem trite, ordinary, meh. Right?

Don’t despair on those days. Our healing minds and spirits are like muscles. I learned this trying a new exercise where I got into position, then the instructor said, “Now, lift your leg.” My leg wouldn’t budge. She immediately, wisely said, “If your leg won’t lift, imagine it lifting, and do the count.” I did. I did this for two more classes. On the third class, my leg lifted.

So on those days when we are trying to shift our focus and it doesn’t feel like it’s working, we are still actively engaging that part of our minds and spirits that so deeply desire to heal.

In the spirit of seeing the world anew, I recently decided I needed a new meaning for the acronym PTSD. Not to dismiss or belittle my trauma, but to transmute it, as is always my goal.

So here it is:

Pray

Transform

Surrender

Deepen

These are the steps I take, almost daily, to heal.

Pray – Prayer is action. Prayer is never static. It is a dynamic way to engage your spirit with the Divine (from whom you are not separated anyway!) When I feel helpless, prayer is my catalyst to act.

Transform – If you’re stuck in an emotion, identify it so you can transform it. If you’re anxious, it is fear. If you’re depressed, it could be unexpressed anger, which stems from fear. A Course in Miracles, and many spiritual paths, state there are really only two emotions: fear and love. To transform fear in any form, you must love. Love yourself, those around you, pets, God, find someplace to send love. Love will return to you a thousand-fold.

Surrender – Surrender to God. Surrender to your feelings. And it’s okay to surrender to your trauma in order to heal it. You can accept it by surrendering to it. It happened. Now surrender to the Divine for your healing.

Deepen – Truly healing from trauma means to confront ourselves and our fellow man on a truly profound level. If you just try to get on with your life, without a thoughtful examination of your life and your psyche, your trauma will revisit you. This healing must be deep. Take a full breath and dive in. Reflect on each day and deepen your awareness of your healing.

That is my new PTSD. It feels active and loving. I hope you find some healing there too.

 

You are Still Beloved.

 

Victoria McGee

2/10/2016

Who Will Save Me?

“Nothing outside of yourself can save you; nothing outside yourself can give you peace.” ~ ACIM Workbook 118

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Truly the Divine is not a place, not inside you or outside you, but everywhere. The Course in Miracles is saying don’t look to things outside yourself for the healing and peace of mind you need. Spiritual teachings assure us that we already have everything we need to heal ourselves.

Our problem is we have all this other stuff.

We humans are so good at distracting ourselves, especially in this day and age. We are surrounded by distractions from phones, TV, the Internet, a million available apps, people, work, etc. It’s a bottomless pit. Never before in history has it been so easy to distract ourselves.

What is the danger of this distraction for those of us with PTSD? Sometimes it feels so good to just numb out and put mindless stuff into our mind, instead of the haunting thoughts. Our minds, left unattended, often drift to unwanted memories. I admit, I still do this sometimes. Sometimes I just don’t want to “think” any more! Sometimes numbing out is the right prescription for the moment. As long as it doesn’t become a crutch, or a frequent tool for avoidance. Balance is always key.

Keep this in mind always, “Nothing outside of yourself can save you; nothing outside of yourself can give you peace.”

When we constantly look outside ourselves for our healing, for our relief, we are actually impeding healing.

Of course, I’m not talking about therapy because good and valuable therapy should lead you to healing yourself anyway. I’m talking about the dangers of putting the burden of your healing on other people, or things or events.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”                           -~ Buddha

When you place the burden of your healing on your love relationship, a friend, or a family member, it only delays your healing. It’s as if you’re climbing a mountain and you give your pack to your companion, who is carrying his or her own as well. Eventually, they give out under the weight and you end up with your own pack again. But your path is slower because your companion is weakened, and probably resentful, that you gave them such a burden. These people who love you will help you on your path, and catch you when you stumble, but placing your burden on them will only weaken the relationship.

When you place the burden of your healing on things, you are activating a dangerous portion of your brain. There is a place in our minds that believes we can make ourselves feel better if we only buy this thing, look at that thing, go to this event, drink this, eat that, get high, stay busy!!!! It’s part of the instant gratification neurology of the brain. It’s understandable. It’s a PTSD warrior saying “I want to feel better now!”

Scientists used to think people who could delay gratification were simply more patient people. However, here’s some interesting information about that from a recent article in Scientific American, by Melanie Bauer.

“A recent study by a team of researchers at Washington University in St.   Louis found that when people waited for a reward, patient people were seen—through the lens of a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine—imagining the future.”

Is it possible that people who have been through trauma, or suffer from PTSD, have trouble imagining the future? This rang true for me. There is a part of you with new wisdom that realizes life as you know it can change in an instant. So live for the moment.

But we know how shallow that instant gratification is, right? Or we wouldn’t have to keep doing it. We keep trying to fill the same hole. Placing the burden of your healing on things, is like playing Jenga. That tower will come down, and you will ultimately be left with yourself again.

So, who will save you? You. God cannot save you until you invite God in. Once God is in you, then God is you, and you are God. Feel that. How joyful to know it is available in any instant of your life.

Trust me on this. When you are silent, and not distracted, and close your eyes, and sincerely invite God into your heart and mind, the tools for your healing will present themselves. It is as inevitable as the tide. Nothing, nothing outside yourself can give you peace.

“Be silent. Only the hand of God can remove the burdens of your heart.” ~ Rumi

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

1/24/16