Category Archives: Therapy

First world problems…

A new found friend has taken up the mantle of victim advocate in Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the capital city of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.  She is wielding the weapons at her disposal against patriarchal traditions which are both native to her land and imposed from certain Western ideals.  As such, she is actively on the web setting up groups for discussion, message boards, etc. and is posting images of women who have suffered unimaginable brutality.  She’s emailed and discussed curriculum options for weekend seminars, and requested resources. She recently emailed me privately some photos: they are graphic and haunting–including fresh wounds from axes and bush knives, burns from hot irons, broken bones and bruises from beatings, amputations, and even images of a woman being burned to death and a beheading.

I am honored to be trusted with such images–honored and deeply humbled.

And traumatized.

Since receiving the photos I’ve not been able to sleep.  Days have passed and the images dog me, sneaking up when I least expect it. It isn’t that the level of violence is new to me: I witnessed ravages as such as a child growing up among the poor and prostitutes in the capital. I grew up not knowing that wounds weren’t normal–that amputations weren’t just a matter of course.  Rape was a real possibility (even if I’d gotten the logistics confused as a child).  I understood scars as women’s history written large on their bodies.    Yet as an adult, with feminist-educated eyes and a wealth of theological study behind me, the images sting anew: the status of women hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

And my initial response is silence.  I cannot bear the weight of these images alone, yet cannot share them–I don’t wish this sort of haunting upon anyone, especially those who for whom Western media has cushioned such blows (we don’t show dead bodies on TV or in our newspapers, they are censored out of our common news sources).  We witness domestic violence through movies–comforted that it is merely makeup we are viewing, and not real wounds.

I go talk to my therapist.  And I find I don’t care to introduce such atrocities to her psyche either.  I pour my heart out in frustration, but hold the pictures close to my proverbial chest.

I tell my best friend of them, and of the impossibility of sharing their burden.  He listens, pained at my frustration.  He allows me to hold them at a distance.  And finally, he offers to see them.  “I’m willing.”  And tears begin to flow freely.  And I consider it.

But I can’t help thinking back to my friend in PNG and the life-risking work she is doing on behalf of the women there.  How can I tell her that because of her pictures, I’ve been traumatized? That her emails have sent me to therapy?  That while she lives and breathes this atmosphere of violence, I spend $150 to talk to a therapist? That I fret because I’ve lost 3 nights of sleep? That I feel utterly inadequate and ridiculous?

Yet I live and work in this world: surrounded by high rises, wealth, and opulence.

Damn my first world problems and first world solutions. Damn them.





Dreaming as a TCK…

I’m haunted lately by a recurring dream after which I wake in a panic, heart pounding, sweaty, and often in tears.  Details of the dreams vary from time to time, but there are always core elements which remain the same:  I am on my way on a trip… there are problems with packing or the commute to the airport or something, such that I am worried I’ll miss my flight… I always manage to arrive in just enough time to catch the flight… only to discover as I encounter the TSA agent in the security queue that my passport expired THE DAY BEFORE MY TRIP.  From there the dream deviates between fellow travelers who are frustrated at me, extreme disappointment at not being able to take the trip, anger by someone I’m supposed to meet ‘there’ (wherever ‘there’ is?), or being somehow granted ‘grace’ by the security personnel, without a game plan on how in the world I’m going to return.  ACK!!

Why do I keep having anxiety dreams about expired passports?

Why do I keep having anxiety dreams about expired passports?

American sociologist David C. Pollock developed the following description for third culture kids: “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”  TCKs tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCKs from their passport country.

So what does it mean to dream that your passport has expired?  That I’m feeling stuck?

I’ve felt troubled over the years with my 3-4 year itch: the restlessness I’ve felt upon spending just a few short years with any given group of people or in any given location.  I’ve determined to fight this restlessness and make a home for myself.  I’ve now lived through this 4 times during my 12 years of living in Chicago.  I want a community; a place with some history; a place to call home.  I’ve made an effort to make this home for me. I’ve turned down jobs in other cities and other countries, and settled into a church community.  I’ve established long-term friendships, and allowed myself to have emotional ties.

So what does it mean that I keep dreaming about expired passports?

Therapy unleashed

After 8 years of intensive therapy, I know well the cathartic release of telling one’s story.  Airing the words which went unspoken for so many years has been a painful but healing exercise.  And I find myself at the point where I finally feel free to write (to put in print, so to speak) some memories and reflections from the ‘war zone’ of life growing up in the home of a holiness minister and missionary.  These ‘stories’ are occasional and won’t show up in chronological order. For numerous reasons that aren’t necessary to list here, I believe it is important for me to write these, and instead of fussing with the details of ‘when’ and ‘where’, get them down ‘on paper’ as they come to mind.  So if I’ve given you permission to read this, please forgive the disorienting time warps which might cause slight vertigo.  These are a collection of anecdotes, and singularly don’t tell a complete tale. However, I’m confident that their collective effect can be revealing.