Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Family Secrets and Lies: What's your story?

Wow, this week's Real Love Show was deep. Amazingly, we were discussing a novel. But it was still deep. The title was "Address: House of Corrections" and I was privileged to have the author herself, Monice Mitchell Simms, with me on the show.

The book is part fiction and part real life, inspired by the author's grandmother. 

It's the kind of book that marinades and gets better the more you consider it's content. 

The heroine of the book, a young black girl named Merry, starts out life full of spunk, vitality and quick spiritedness. But life throws so many things at her and she succumbs to the streets, to drugs, alcohol and has 2 children all before the age of 16.

As Monice and I discussed the book, set during the time of the Jim Crow Laws, we began discussing the whys. I must say, for me, that the book threw a light on the person behind the drug addict. The person behind the alcoholic. The person behind the promiscuity. It made me ask, what is that person's story?

Merry's story was that she had been brutally raped at age 13 as she tried to protect her younger brother from the sexual proclivities of an older man. An older white man. A deacon in the church. The head deacon in fact. On running home and sharing her awful story to her grandmother she isn't believed. In fact she is sent away. 

I'm feeling upset and angry. I'm upset and angry for Merry  and girls like Merry.  Although we are not sure if this happened to the individual upon whom the story is based, it is clear this type of scenario was played out many times during that era. And what was the point of reporting this heinous crime?  A black family had no power to bring a case to court against a white man, a church man.  So, the best thing was to send her away and hope she would just get on with it. 

And get on with it she did. With the alcohol. With the drugs. With bringing into the world 2 children all before she was 16. 

It's not enough to be angry with Merry. Or indeed girls like Merry. It's necessary to ask why?

Merry had no father in her life. She had no one to protect her. No one to show her the love she needed and wanted and deserved. 

I wonder how many girls have the same daddy wound and are seeking some way to assuage the unpleasantness of that wound with sex. 

I wonder how many girls have been molested and seek to dull the pain and the memory with alcohol.

I wonder how many girls have not been believed when they told others what had happened and felt no one was listening. No one cared to hear. No one thought they mattered. I wonder how many girls seek to blot out that emptiness with drugs. 

What can be done? Part of my job as a life coach, as a relationship coach, involves listening. Sometimes just listening alone to my clients as they tell me their situation and offering nothing more than an ear and an attitude that is non-judgemental is enough for my client. That alone validates them. That alone honours them. That alone affirms them. 

Listening is a powerful thing. Sometimes we don't have all the answers. Sometimes we don't have the magic solution that will change their lives straightaway. But what we can do is listen. Let them share. Give them a safe place where their tears can flow. 

The tears are often healing tears. Their stories are their truth, and speaking their truth sets them free from the pain of secrecy, shame and emotional bondage that had kept them down. 

I remember a client I worked with several years ago who cried constantly during our sessions. It transpired she had been molested by her grandfather as a child. She had told no-one. No one at all. It was ruining her life, her marriage, and her career, now as a 35 year business woman. But speaking out and being listened to was her first step to healing and change. 

Compassion is a powerful thing. Knowing why someone acts the way they do gives us a chance to show understanding.  But what about if we don't know the why?

I'm going to encourage us to look around and consciously decide to be kind and compassionate to others even though we may not know  their story. Be assured, everyone has a story. Maybe even a secret or two.  It maybe someone not a million miles away. Maybe someone in your family. 

If you are the one with the secret, don't let it hold you captive any longer. You don't need to have the nightmares. 
You can tell someone. You can tell someone like me. 

Patricia Benjamin
Life Coach
Love & Relationship Coach
Radio Talk Show Host
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