Sunday, August 16, 2015

(Part Two) TOO MUCH PAIN: IS THAT TRUE?

  The Work is a tool for self awareness and personal development.  It is not a subsitute for trauma therapy.

Here is a harder example of The Work, at work.

 I could barely breathe, and I couldn't move.
I was having a flashback of my father molesting me. 
 I've been having these flashbacks for over twenty years. While I am reliving the abuse it is as if it is happening right now.  Back then, I desperately needed help, but I was alone.
No one in my family knew or helped me when it was happening, and no one in my family believes or supports me now. 
Would the flashbacks ever stop?  
Would I ever heal?
 I wanted to die.

I called my Thought Coach, Evelyn, who does The Work with me.
I told her, "Evelyn, I need help.  It's too painful.  I can't handle this."
"What is too painful?" She asked. " What is going on?"
"Why do I have to keep remembering this?!" I gasped. "Why do I have to feel this happening over and over!?  And why can't at least one person in my family support me. I feel so alone! It is too painful!"

Evelyn asked me the first question of The Work,
 "Is it really true that it is too much pain?"
"Yes!" I responded
It really was at that moment.

Evelyn did not deny my reality.
She asked, "Are you willing to look at this belief, "I can't handle the pain" more deeply?"
I was.
"And whose business is it that you are in so much pain?" Evelyn asked.  Do you want to be in so much pain?  Did you plan it? Did you cause it?"
"No." I said.
"Than whose business is it?", She  asked again.
"It's God's business. I didn't want it then and I don't want it now." I answered.

"Let's look at this pain."  Evelyn said.  "What does it look and feel like?  Where do you feel it in your body?"
"It's a lot bigger than my body.  It's bright red.  It's burning me." My body was shaking, as it does when it remembers the abuse.
"How big is it, really?"  Evelyn asked. "Let's take a look.  Don't be afraid of it. Is it bigger than a country?  Is it bigger than earth?"
"Yes!  Way bigger.  It's bigger than all the planets.  It encompases everything and fills the universe.  Nothing else exists. Just this pain. I can't do this!"  My body hurt and I felt like I would throw up.

"How do you feel when you believe the thought that it's too much pain?  What do you do? What kind of a person are you?" Evelyn asked.
"I am dissociating." I answered. "I'm shaking. I want to die to get away from it.  I feel helpless and trapped. I want to smash my head.  I feel like God hates me and wants me to suffer."
"And what do you do when you believe this thought?" Asked Evelyn.
" I'm lying here flat on my back talking to you. I can barely move. I can't function." I answered.

 "Are you breathing?  Can you keep breathing?" Evelyn asked.
 "Yes." I responded.
"Are you feeling the pain." She asked next.
 "Yes." I responded.
Evelyn continued, "Now, what would happen if you believed the opposite thought? Can you try on the opposite thought? Can you say, " The pain is not too much.  I am feeling it.  I am holding it. I am breathing it."
I say it.
"Is that true?" Evelyn asked.  "Are you feeling, holding, breathing the pain?"
"Yes." I said.
"So is it really true that it's too much pain?" Evelyn asked.
"Well, I guess not. No." I responded.

How do you feel when you believe, It is not too much pain. I am feeling this. I am breathing through this pain?" She asked next.
"I am just feeling it."  I said. "I'm crying.  It hurts."
What kind of a person does that make you, when you think and believe that it is not too much pain?" Evelyn asked next.
"A strong person." I responded
Evelyn agreed, "Yes! You are a very strong person!"

Although I was still in pain, I was aware that I was no longer suffering. The pain was intense, but it was not going to kill me. I was no longer desperate. I was no longer fighting reality.
It was just pain.
It would pass.

And it did pass,like a wave on the beach rises and then falls.

And I was left with this truth:
 I am a very strong person.




Tuesday, August 11, 2015

THE WORK


One of the tools I regularly use to access the reality of God's unconditional love and acceptance is "The Work"by Byron Katie. 

My dear friend and 'Thought Coach' Evelyn Schnier has been doing The Work with me for almost two years.  
 Evelyn taught me that our thoughts are like our children.
 Our thoughts need our attention, love, acceptance, and guidance, because like children they will believe almost anything.
(Remember when your two year old was terrified of the bath because he thought he would fall down the drain?)

 When we become aware of our stressful thoughts, we can hear, listen, accept, love, and guide them, just as we do with our children. 

The first question to ask when doing The Work, is whether a stressful thought or belief is really true. 
 Is it one hundred percent true that I should have more money? 
 Is it one hundred percent true that my child should be neater? 
 Is it one hundred percent true that my mother should help me? 
 Is it one hundred percent true that my family should love me? 

 The answer is ultimately, "no" because If it really were true, than it would be the reality. 

Our reality, in each present moment, is ultimately what is best for us right now. 
This is the essence of emunah.  Hashem gives me everything I need in each moment. 
So, If I don't have something right now, that is proof that I don't need it.  

The second question is, how do I feel and behave when I believe a stressful or negative thought; when  I fight reality?
 What kind of a person do I become?  
The third question is, how do I feel and behave when I don't believe my negative thoughts?  What kind of a person do I become, then?

The fourth question is, what would happen if I believed exactly the opposite of what I'm thinking?  If I turn the thought around?

Could it be true that in this moment, I have enough money?  I have food in the refrigerator.  I have a roof over my head.
My child should not be neater, because he isn't. That is true enough.
 My mother should not help me because she can't, but I can help myself, or maybe I can help my mother.
  My family should not love me, because they can't, (or else they would!)   I can love myself.   Hashem loves me, and my husband, and my children, and my friends love me...

It sounds almost too simplistic, but The Work is profoundly deep, and has changed my life.

 I'll give you two real life examples.  The first one is easier, the second one is harder.

Yesterday I missed the bus to Yerushalayima and I knew I would be late for my appointment.  At first, I gritted my teeth thinking, "shoot, I shouldn't have missed that bus!  If only I had left five seconds sooner I would be on that bus now!"  I felt miserable when I believed this.  I felt stressed, and angry with myself and with the bus driver for not stopping when I ran toward the bus.  

 When I am suffering with negative feelings and I do the work, even though my reality doesn't change, my suffering disappears.  I learned that suffering comes, not from my reality, but from believing my thoughts about my reality. 

 So I asked myself, is it really true that I should be on that bus?  Is it 100% true?  Is that what Hashem wants for me right now?

Well, obviously not, otherwise I would be on that bus. 

 I stop fighting reality, and I accept it, and deal with it.  I accept that this particular bus, in this moment, is not the way I'm meant to get to my appointment. 

 And I start thinking...

 Maybe I can find another way to try to get to my appointment on time?  
Maybe I can grab a cab and catch that bus...
Or maybe I'll just wait for the next bus, and let them know I'm running late...
Or I'll call and postpone my appointment....  

In the end I waited for the next bus and I let my appointment know I was running late.  

 I was relaxed and happy and free, because I knew and felt this truth:
I did not want, or plan to miss the bus.  
And when something happens that I do not want or plan, then it is Hashem's business, not mine. My job is to stay in my business...

 My business is to deal with my reality in each moment with love and acceptance.  
And when I do that, each moment is perfect.  

The harder example will be in my next post.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

REALITY


I have always loved a good book.
Sometimes, I encounter a book that is so compelling I become completely immersed to the point where time stops and I become the characters in the story. I join them. I feel their emotions, intensly. I laugh and cry real tears with them.  
When I finish an engrossing book, I am full. 
My mind and heart are open.  I am grateful for the vision, that opens up before me.  A vision that I was not able to see or perceive before I read the book. Sometimes a book's message is so important to me, so timely, it will stay with me forever and became a part of how I think and who I am.

Movies are similar.
 I once watched a 3-D surround sound IMax movie about Antarctica.  I shivered when the ice glaciers and bursts of cold air seemed to barely miss my face.  I could almost touch the ice, the seals, and penguins, the cold air.  But, as crisp, and real, and beautiful as the Arctic was in the film, I knew that I was not really in the Arctic. The movie was simply a projection of truth.  It was showing me something very true and real, without me actually being there. A mirror of truth.

I believe that the physical world is real to the spiritual world, as an important book or movie is to our lives.  Movies, and books, provide a hint of what our lives are really all about.  Our life is our book, our story, our movie, if you will.

 Our lives matter.
Our physical lives are very temporary and leave an important message on our soul and the souls of those we encounter.
 But our lives are not real in the way our conscious mind thinks they are. Nothing in this world can ever really hurt us because when the "movie" of our life is over and we leave the "theater" of this earth, we return to a reality we can not fully begin to fathom while here.

 I can relate to stories of people who have had near death experiences, but, I can tell you that it is not necessary to die and come back to life in order to perceive this reality. I have experienced a magnificent, vast, and magestic spiritual world that is right here, wrapped around me, and somehow inside me at the same time. I am aware that my physical brain often blocks me from percieving it fully. It is a world of beauty and light and love.  A world where evil and suffering do not exist.  

I used to be afraid to die because I thought I would be gone.  Now, I am closer to my soul.  I know that I can think, see, feel, hear, smell, and communicate, without my phsycial brain or body. In fact, my brain filters reality, and separates and dulls my senses.

Our physical world is a projection of the truth.
 Although we all eventually die here, nothing can ever really kill us.  There is nothing to fear.  Our soul is eternal.  I fight every day to swim through the muck that sometimes feels like 'real life' to touch and feel this truth.

The truth:
I am embraced by the Creator of life and truth, who is connection, unconditional love, and acceptance.  I am loved.  I am real.  I am important. I will always be.
This is reality.
This is eternal.  
Nothing else will last.
Not evil, and not death, and not suffering.

Evil and suffering are a product of our physical reality. They are vital to our important life's work here on this earth. The possibility of evil provides for our independence, and ability to choose the kind of life we will live, and leave behind.

Yesterday, watching my husband paint, I became aware that we are each an artist with a canvas as long as our years on earth.
This morning I thought about the news of murdered children, Israeli, and Arab.  I prayed for those who are feeling depressed and hopeless.
Prayer is so very powerful.  My thoughts and prayers create my reality.  I have seen this over and over in my life.

When my mood is dark, when my thoughts are dark, and when my heart is closed, I am aware that I am blocked from reality.  I pray that the Creator of life and love, open my heart and my mind to perceive the beauty, the truth and the joy all around me.  A spiritual reality is always right here, existing on a parallel frequency, one that we are fully capable of accessing.   

 There are times when my initial reaction to a life event is fear, shame, pain, and despair.  I have faced death, survived rape, and lived beside rapists and murderers in a mental hospital.

Perhaps because I now know these were gifts, I am not afraid.
Perhaps because of these gifts I have a different view of reality.  I am not afraid of hateful people because I know they are confused and suffering.  I know that nothing can happen to me that is bad.
 I am not afraid to question my thoughts and beliefs about good and bad.
 I am not afraid not to know, and to just be.  I am not afraid of life and what it has to offer.  I am not afraid of pain or loss, nor am I afraid to die a physical death.

I cannot ever lose my soul, my connection to the Creator who is love and truth and life.  
And that connection is all that I will ever need.  



Sunday, May 17, 2015

Is It Always True: Mitzvah L'sapper?


Recently a close friend, who also happens to be a therapist, asked me an important question about recovery from trauma.  

She asked about Holocaust survivors, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, many who moved on and created new lives for themselves without talking much about the traumas of the past.  
 In many cases silence, avoidance, and “forgetting” (repression) is precisely how Holocaust Survivors survived and thrived, post World War Two.

My friend also mentioned Vietnam war veterans who also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They were encouraged to seek therapy and talk of the traumas of war and
many of them ended up committing suicide.

My friend asked, Is it always true, “Mitzvah L’sapper??

We know that in treating trauma we must be very careful in how we do it. 

When the trauma is still raw and painful, when we still feel like a victim, talking about the trauma can be re-traumatizing, for ourselves and those around us. 


For a survivor of ongoing abuse, a trained trauma therapist is vital in healing the long-term effects..  Cathartic quick fix therapies, just don’t work long term in healing trauma.  

The saying, “slower is faster” is absolutely true when processing traumatic memory.  

First and foremost, we must have safety in order to do the work.  Feeling safe is a prerequisite to processing trauma.  
In my expeirence growing up in my litvish, yeshivish family, we never got to the point where we could feel safe in the post Holocaust world. 

 I was told more than once as a child, that the Holocaust could happen again, any day, in America, and that I shouldn’t feel safe or think I could ever trust a non Jew.  

“Today he will be your best friend and tomorrow he will kill you” is the message I grew up with.  

This fearful message is a denial of Hashem’s close presence and influence in our lives. 
I am not blaming victims for their fears. It is simply the reality, that victimization causes fear and denial.  
Fear and denial block us from connecting with ourselves and from feeling God's presence.
 
 Hashem does not want us to live in fear.  There is no mitzvah to be a victim.

 The ability to contain the memories and feelings, to keep from becoming overwhelmed and flooded,  as well as the ability to stay grounded in  the present, are also necessary prerequisites to trauma work.  

These are learned skills which take practice over time, and are easier said than done. 

A support system of close nurturing people who can help us hold the memories, as we remember and process them, is also vital.

Then, and only then, can we visit the trauma in very small pieces always returning to safety, grounding, containment, and nurturing, before we tackle the next piece.  

When we sit at lail  haseder we are touching our past and our present in the same moment.  
We are at the point where we can hold our past proudly.  We were slaves, but now we are free.  We know that without our past, without Hashem, we would not be the incredible, indestructible nation that we are today.  Our past becomes our strength, and no longer a gaping wound. 

Our past formed us into who we are.  
My past formed me into who I am.

I was a victim of child sexual abuse. I was shamed and humiliated. But now I am free and proud of how I came out of that situation, and of the person I am today.
My survival was and is a miracle.
I could not have done it without Hashem's help.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Guest Post by Genendy's Husband on, Barry Freudel

I don't now why I want to write this about Freundel. To heal my own poisoned sense of Judaism, or to help the case.
Maybe to clear my own name. Maybe to confess.

I knew Freundel very well for many years. I always knew him, in his own weird way, to be very sensitive and extremely ethical.

I was Barry Freundel's personal computer tech some time ago, maybe 15 years.

I volunteered. I wanted to help him out with one of the few ways I could, with my computer skills. Contribute to the community and his work.
He had several computers. He needed things like upgrades, and backups, sometimes installing a new computer.
One time I was doing something or another, and discovered dozens of bookmarks in his AOL browser for porn sites.
I paused and thought. Was it him or someone else who had access to the computer? It wasn't the first time I'd discovered
something like that on someone's computer. There were times at work too. It was very unlikely to be someone else's.
He made no attempt to hide them.

I don't remember if it was then, but I think it was sometime later, I discovered an archive of porn videos on a computer of his.
I didn't examine the whole archive, but what I saw looked like garden variety light porn, and not illegal.
At that point I knew it had to be his. 

At the time, I was involved with another community and Rabbi for spiritual matters, but I still considered him a friend and someone to 
talk to about Judaism and answer questions. He had never been the type to be an example of a pious individual.
So I wasn't crushed and without a spiritual guide like I could have been.
He had a certain irreverence toward Judaism which was kind of refreshing. He was deeply analytical, but not spiritual.
When he prayed, he did so with no feeling behind it as far as I could tell.
At least he didn't put on heirs. Nobody's perfect, anyway.

I thought for a while about what to do. I figured my choices were:

Confront him? That would be awkward as hell and I didn't feel I was up to it. I still viewed him as far superior and stronger than I.
That might be a bad idea. He would get angry and I would freeze up.

Tell someone else? That would be worse.

Tell Sharon? It was better she didn't know. I would surely lose their friendship.

None of those choices were likely to get him to stop. At work, I would have considered it a breach of ethics if I had discovered something on a personal computer.
A work computer was something else. But even with those, I had access to everything and saw many things that were company secrets which my ethics said I had to forget.

Do nothing?

I figured, well he's a friend and a source of a particular type of advice. A lot of people succumb to this thing. I should just feel bad for him that 
he was snared by it. I could still be his friend. But it was disappointing. So I did nothing. I told nobody.

One time I was in his office, I saw that a bunch of computer cables were deliberately cut.
He told me he thought a child visiting had done it. I didn't believe that. I didn't believe him. 
 I figured he or maybe someone else became desperate and took out their frustration.

As time went by,he still asked me for help. I tried to get out of doing anything more on the computers. But some things I had set up and I was really the only one around who could
fix it. He practically begged me. He was really stuck.

I came over and told him I needed certain data disks to do the job he wanted. He then said something to the effect of "Ok, but you have to realize that a lot of these are other people's. They give stuff to me all the time. I don't know everything that's on it. There could be pornography for all I know."

My immediate thought was how insulting this was to my intelligence and how easily he thought he had cleared any possibility of suspicion with such a bad lie,
to a computer expert. I guess over the years he kept on thinking it was very easy to fool people. He had always been aloof. Brilliant, but aloof. I was pretty irritated. I was not going to spend my time helping him back up his porn collection. I saw him less after that, but kept in touch. I never helped him again.

I don't know now if I should have done something different. Maybe he was once an ordinary porn junkie and became something much worse, and it could have been stopped.

But a lot of things he did started to make more sense. Standing above and behind brides at weddings 'to make sure the groom was not assisted when putting the veil on'.
He went into the women's section on Simcha Torah to give every woman a misha berach. And how he railed against the degeneration of American morals.

I wonder sometimes if something he did, was halachically justified, or something he made up to gain access. Now, I regularly question myself when I do something that is according to his 'minhag'. It's distracting in shul. It's like my experience has been poisoned.

-Genendy's Husband.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

...From Egypt, to the Desert, to Israel...From Trauma Victim, to Surviving, to Thriving!

...From Egypt, to the Desert, to Israel...
From Trauma Victim, to Surviving, to Thriving!

As a nation we are trauma survivors. 
Hashem shows us through the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim how trauma affects us, as individuals and as a nation. 

 We are commanded to remember every day that we were slaves in Egypt.  Hashem knows, that when we don't remember, acknowledge, and talk about our traumas, we are doomed to repeat them.
As victims, we tend to minimize, rationalize, forget, deny...and then repeat.
Therefore, we are commanded by the Torah to remember, to discuss, and to own our trauma, to own our past and , to own our recovery.  We are commanded to acknowledge that it is Hashem who walks us out of an abusive situation, into the desert of recovery.
Therapy after trauma takes a long time.
As a nation it took us forty years.
Recovery is full of mistakes, and acting out, and consequences.  We complained, we whined, we wanted to go back to Mitzrayim, because at least it was familiar.
At least there, we knew what to expect.
In Mitzrayim, among our abusers, we had an identity. 
 We were slaves.
 Victims. 
 In the aftermath we rejected the truth in front of our eyes and worshiped a golden calf.  We denied and ignored reality.
  As victims, we were so busy defending against real and imagined threats we could not introspect.  We could not look at our world honestly.  Victims can not acknowledge any weakness, lest it be taken advantage of by real and perceived perpetrators.
As trauma victims leaving Mitzrayim we struggled to make sense of what happened to us.  We forgot and we still forget, that we are being held by God.  We deny that our every need was, and still is, being cared for.
God understood, and understands that trauma survivors, as individuals and as a nation, are needy, immature, and confused.  We are struggling for a sense of identity.  Who are we, if not victims?  What happened to us?  Was it really so bad?  Maybe abuse was better than this lonely and confusing desert of recovery.
Mitzvah L'saper. 
 God wants us to talk about it. 
 Even if talking exposes our family's and communities, mistakes and embarrasses us. 
Surviving and getting to Israel took a lot longer than we thought it would. Trust was a major issue.  We struggled to trust Moshe and even to trust God. 
Yet, we survived the years in the dessert as difficult as they were.
We did get to Eretz Yisrael.
But It was not without tremendous struggle and tremendous loss. Many didn't make it.
Without God, we could never have survived.  It was God, who took us out, who saved us, and loved us unconditionally as we healed as a nation.
It is God, in every generation who takes us out of abusive situations, who loves us unconditionally, in spite of our mistakes, and who holds us, and provides for our every need, as we wander sometimes for years on end in the confusing, hot, and lonely desert of recovery.
Mitzvah L'saper.  Talking about Trauma is the secret of our survival as individuals and as a nation,
 then, now, and always.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

...All I Need To Survive

Sometimes God takes away everything that we think we need in order to survive...
Our safety,
Our home,
Our family,
Our mind, 
Our body,
Our community...


I know what it is like to lose everything, because it happened to me. 

 I was molested by my father and grandfather and other men in my grand-father's yeshiva, many years ago.  My story is still being denied and covered up by my community. 
 My father still works with children every day.

And yet, I am OK.  
Usually.
When I lost everything, and everyone I loved, I was left facing a painful and beautiful truth about life:
There is only one thing we REALLY need to survive. 
It is our eternal soul, and our connection with God. 
Nothing can take this away, not even death.
My heart broke, when I heard about seven siblings who died in a fire this past Shabbos.
Some part of me wonders if the surviving sibling feels at times as I do. 
 I wonder if she wishes, as I sometimes do, she would have died in that fire too.
  Sometimes the thought of dying is less painful than surviving and being so hurt and alone.