Category Archives: Soul

Time to “Divorce” your Toxic Parent?

Almost everyone has whined about their parents at some point.  We blame them for everything that’s wrong with our lives, for all the bad decisions we’ve made and more.

We forget the simple truth: Our parents are human, just as we are. They err, have failings, don’t have the right tools for the job but do the best they can.  We often find them lacking and generation after generation believes they can do it better than those that came before them and that they/we have all the answers.  We swear up and down that we “…will not do/say that to MY kids!” only to find that we had no idea what the pressures of parenting were really all about and had grossly underestimated the task or rearing young.  Whining about parental mishaps keeps the therapeutic community employed. 

That having been said, this is not what this post is about.  

No today’s post is about something more insidious.

What if you have a parent who makes life truly unbearable? You can divorce an abusive spouse. You can call it quits if your lover mistreats you. But what can you do if the source of your misery is your own parent? What if over the years you have tried everything to have a relationship with them, but only ever encountered pain, mind games, abuse (verbal or other) and upset.  What if they bring more harm to your life than good?  Do you put up with it out of loyalty, or take the painful decision to cut them off?

It is a well propagated myth, and as such a commonly held yet mistaken notion, that adults are not vulnerable to emotional abuse. The concept of mental harassment or torment was born in the offices of Dr. Marie-France Hirigoyen.  Very early on, she was interested in this particular form of violence that had, until then, been impossible to spot and, most importantly, to name.  In her first book (not yet translated into English) Harcèlement moral, la violence perverse au quotidien (Mental harassment, the perverse day-to-day violence), she named the psychical sufferings bringing to light this real social phenomenon.

Her book explores the very real facts behind this most insidious form of abuse.  She tosses out of the window any truth to the old adage “Sticks and stones my break my bones but words can never hurt me” – It IS possible to destroy a person with just words, looks and innuendos: it’s called perverse violence or mental harrassement.  In her book she analyses the “how it’s done” and its effects on the victims and cautions against treating any of these claims with banality or triteness.  She illustrates that it’s a slow form of murder, whether within a couple, a family or in the workplace and that the victims are dragged into a depressive, even potentially suicidal spiral. The perpetrators do things this way as a method of getting rid of a person without “dirtying their hands”. It’s specifically perverse behavior in that it is masked.  It is the weapon of choice for perverse narcissists. 

That is the façade that needs revealing in order for the victims to find their footing again and stop being under the influence of the aggressor. As a Victimologist, Dr. Hirigoyen places herself squarely on the side of the victims and the aggressions they survive and gives them a voice.  She has also started a call to arms in the legal world (for now mostly in Europe) to have this “true murder of the soul” recognized in the courts, going so far as to say that suicides may not all be “death for no reason”. 

If you live with this – you will no doubt notice that friends, family and even therapists have a bias to salvage relationships, even those that might be harmful to a person. In addition there is a second assumption that adds fuel to the fire: that parent’s are predisposed to love their children unconditionally and protect them from harm.  Unfortunately this is not universally true. Add the sense of embarrassment and failure that comes from not being on good terms with a parent, and you have the reason why the vicious circle often remains intact.  

Confronted with this, we think that it is crucial to be open-minded and to consider whether maintaining the relationship is really healthy and desirable.

It may be time to consider divorcing your parent(s).

Is it a drastic measure?  Yes it is, just like a divorce from a spouse should be, perhaps even more so.  We would even suggest it may be akin to amputating a gangrenous limb – but it can save your life or at the very least your sanity.  You still can’t erase the damage done, or escape from all the negative feelings that will come with the fallout (guilt, anger, betrayal) but you can protect yourself from further harm, find real freedom and a chance to heal.

Dr. J. L. Herman, a trauma expert who is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said she tries to empower patients to take action to protect them without giving direct advice.

“Sometimes we consider a paradoxical intervention and say to a patient, ‘I really admire your loyalty to your parents — even at the expense of failing to protect yourself in any way from harm’ ”. 

A complete and permanent split? Easier said than done, because relationships are rarely all good or bad; even the most abusive parents can sometimes be loving, which is why severing a bond is so tough and even feels “unnatural” – because in many ways, it is unnatural.  We are social creatures, basically pack animals.  Research shows that attachment in the form of relationships through bonding, both in humans and in nonhuman primates, is something we are hard-wired for – yes, even to those who aren’t very nice to us.

Attachment is the sense of security, stability and comfort which people derive from their relationships. Attachment is designed to keep people together. The first attachment partnership we form is with our parent (s) so when that relationship comes to an end, people suffer a tremendous sense of loss. The loss of an attachment partner takes away one’s sense of security and stability. As such, this type of loss is one of life’s most negative experiences.

Attachment partnerships help create stability, but there is a downside. Attachments are less concerned that you are happy and more concerned that you stay together.  In addtion, love and attachment do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.  In fact, many people form an attachment to someone who they do not like as a person. It is quiet possible to form a deep bond to someone who is less than an ideal romantic partner for example – this happens everyday.

Interestingly, science has proven that prolonged stress can kill cells in the brain area critical for memory (hippocampus). The good news is that adults are able to grow new neurons in this area thanks to therapy and some of the new anti depressants available on the market today.  So, it’s no stretch, then, to say that having a toxic parent may be harmful to a child’s brain, let alone his or her feelings; but the great news is that the damage need not be permanent.

We believe that, sometimes, as drastic as it sounds, living a well balanced, healthy life means letting go of a toxic parent … or two. How you go about doing this should be looked at on a case by case basis and we recommend you include a professional (yes – a shrink).  Don’t do this alone.  Loss is loss and a support system is crucial for the divorce to work.

 If this is you – we wish you strength, self love and perseverance.

Other resource.

5 Comments

Filed under Mind, Soul

Winter Solstice

We were watching Bones last night off the pvr, and we couldn’t help clap our hands at the reference to the origins of Christmas. The line “You should celebrate Christmas in March” was a particular favourite. Why you ask? Here is a compilation of information to answer the question.

People are often quite surprised at how enthusiastically Pagans celebrate the ‘Christmas’ season. Even though they prefer to use the word ‘Yule’, and the celebrations may peak a few days before the 25th, they nonetheless follow many of the traditional customs of the season: decorated trees, carolling, presents, Yule logs, and mistletoe. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the true history of the holiday, of course.

If truth be known, the holiday of Christmas has always been more Pagan than Christian, with it’s associations of Nordic divination, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism. That is why some leaders of the Reformation abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it (to them, no day of the year could be more holy than the Sabbath), and why it was even made illegal in Boston! The holiday was already too closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods and heroes. And many of them (like Oedipus, Theseus, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Apollo, Mithra, Horus and even Arthur) possessed a narrative of birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to that of Jesus. And to make matters complicated, many of them pre-dated the Christian Savior. Bill Maher refers to this in his wonderful documentary Religulous.

Ultimately, the holiday is rooted deeply in the cycle of the year. It is the Winter Solstice that is being celebrated, seed-time of the year, the longest night and shortest day. It is the birthday of the new Sun King, the Son of God — by whatever name you choose to call him. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth. It makes perfect poetic sense that on the longest night of the winter, ‘the dark night of our souls’, there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World.

That is why Pagans have as much right to claim this holiday as Christians. Perhaps even more so, as the Christians were rather late in laying claim to it, and tried more than once to reject it. There had been a tradition in the West that Mary bore the child Jesus on the twenty-fifth day, but no one could seem to decide on the month. Finally, in 320 C.E., the Catholic Fathers in Rome decided to make it December, in an effort to co-opt the Mithraic celebration of the Romans and the Yule celebrations of the Celts and Saxons.

There was never much pretense that the date they finally chose was historically accurate. Shepherds just don’t ‘tend their flocks by night’ in the high pastures in the dead of winter! But if one wishes to use the New Testament as historical evidence, this reference may point to sometime in the spring as the time of Jesus’s birth. This is because the lambing season occurs in the spring and that is the only time when shepherds are likely to ‘watch their flocks by night’ — to make sure the lambing goes well. Knowing this, the Eastern half of the Church continued to reject December 25, preferring a ‘movable date’ fixed by their astrologers according to the moon.

Despite its shaky start (for over three centuries, no one knew when Jesus was supposed to have been born!), December 25 finally began to catch on. By 529, it was a civic holiday, and all work or public business (except that of cooks, bakers, or any that contributed to the delight of the holiday) was prohibited by the Emperor Justinian. In 563, the Council of Braga forbade fasting on Christmas Day, and four years later the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days from December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred, festive season. This last point is perhaps the hardest to impress upon the modern reader, who is lucky to get a single day off work. Christmas, in the Middle Ages, was not a single day, but rather a period of twelve days, from December 25 to January 6. The Twelve Days of Christmas, in fact. It is certainly lamentable that the modern world has abandoned this approach, along with the popular Twelfth Night celebrations.

Of course, the Christian version of the holiday spread to many countries no faster than Christianity itself, which means that ‘Christmas’ wasn’t celebrated in Ireland until the late fifth century; in England, Switzerland, and Austria until the seventh; in Germany until the eighth; and in the Slavic lands until the ninth and tenth. Not that these countries lacked their own mid-winter celebrations of Yuletide. Long before the world had heard of Jesus, Pagans had been observing the season by bringing in the Yule log, wishing on it, and lighting it from the remains of last year’s log. Riddles were posed and answered, magic and rituals were practiced, wild boars were sacrificed and consumed along with large quantities of liquor, corn dollies were carried from house to house while carolling, fertility rites were practiced (girls standing under a sprig of mistletoe were subject to a bit more than a kiss), and divinations were cast for the coming Spring. Many of these Pagan customs, in an appropriately watered-down form, have entered the mainstream of Christian celebration, though most celebrants do not realize (or do not mention it, if they do) their origins.

For modern Pagan Witches, Yule (from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Yula’, meaning ‘wheel’ of the year) is usually celebrated on the actual Winter Solstice, which may vary by a few days, though it usually occurs on or around December 21st. It is a Lesser Sabbat or Lower Holiday in the modern Pagan calendar, one of the four quarter-days of the year, but a very important one. Pagan customs are still enthusiastically followed. Once, the Yule log had been the center of the celebration. It was lighted on the eve of the solstice (it should light on the first try) and must be kept burning for twelve hours, for good luck. It should be made of ash. Later, the Yule log was replaced by the Yule tree but, instead of burning it, burning candles were placed on it. In Christianity, Protestants might claim that Martin Luther invented the custom, and Catholics might grant St. Boniface the honor, but the custom can demonstrably be traced back through the Roman Saturnalia all the way to ancient Egypt. Needless to say, such a tree would be cut down rather than purchased, and would be disposed of by burning, the proper way to dispatch any sacred object. Of course now, many own a “fake” tree, not wanting to kill a tree and knowing that it is after all a symbol fake or real. The eco debate on fake or real trees is one for another day.

Along with the evergreen, the holly and the ivy and the mistletoe were important plants of the season, all symbolizing fertility and everlasting life. Mistletoe was especially venerated by the Celtic Druids, who cut it with a golden sickle on the sixth night of the moon, and believed it to be an aphrodisiac. (Magically — not medicinally! It’s highly toxic!) But aphrodisiacs must have been the smallest part of the Yuletide menu in ancient times, as contemporary reports indicate that the tables fairly creaked under the strain of every type of good food. And drink! The most popular of which was the ‘wassail cup’ deriving its name from the Anglo-Saxon term ‘waes hael’ (be whole or hale).

Remembering that most Christmas customs are ultimately based upon older Pagan customs, it only remains for modern Pagans to reclaim their lost traditions. In doing so, they can share many common customs with Christian friends, albeit with a slightly different interpretation. The real message is however, that this time of year belongs to everyone. No matter where traditions came from we can all feel it’s importance in our blood. Atheists, Pagans, Christians and anyone else … we all share in the beauty of this most magical of seasons.  The moment hope is born. Happy Yuletide to all!

 

4 Comments

Filed under Mind, Soul

Bouillabaise

yumminthetumTHE DISH  know as bouillabaisse was created by Marseille fishermen. Rather than using the more expensive fish that would bring in a larger profit, they cooked any fish and shellfish that they pulled up with their catch that were too bony to serve in restaurants, cooking them in a cauldron of sea water on a wood fire and seasoning them with garlic and fennel. Tomatoes were added to the recipe in the 17th century, after their introduction from the America.

In the 19th century, as Marseille became more prosperous, restaurants and hotels began to serve bouillabaisse to upper-class patrons. The recipe of bouillabaisse became more refined, with the substitution of fish stock and the addition of saffron. Bouillabaisse spread from Marseille to Paris, and then gradually around the world, adapted to local ingredients and tastes.

Three of the best-known restaurants in Marseille for traditional bouillabaisse are Le Miramar, on the Vieux Port; Chez Fonfon, at 140, Vallon des Auffes, and the Grand Bar des Goudes, Rue Desire-Péléprat.

The name bouillabaisse comes from the method of the preparation – the ingredients are not added all at once. The broth is first boiled (bouillir) then the different kinds of fish are added one by one, and each time the broth comes to a boil, the heat is lowered (abaisser).

But we have found an amazing way to make this wonderful dish in the slow cooker!

Here are the ingredients (serves 8):

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 carrot, chopped

2 onions, chopped

2 leeks cut small

1 clove of garlic, crushed

3 filets of fish cut in 3 inch pieces (flounder, red mullet, whiting, sole, haddock, perch or whitefish)

2 large tomatoes cut in pieces or 1 cup canned tomatoes

1 bay leaf

2 cups fish stock, clam juice or water

½ cup shrimp, crab or lobster meat cooked or canned

1 small bag of frozen sea food (muscles, squid, octopus …)

1 package frozen mussels in the shell (optional)

Few grains of saffron

Juice of 1 lemon

And MOST important!! 1 cup of dry white wine!

1 tablespoon chopped parsley and/or fennel

Season to taste (salt, pepper and if you wish ½ cup pimientos cut small)

Toss the whole kit and caboodle into the slow cooker (except for the frozen muscles in the shell and parsley/fennel).

Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.  You can eat it as is – but if you want to make it really “authentic” before its done – add the frozen muscles.  The instructions on the bag will let you know how long they need to “open”.  Some are a little pre cooked others not.  Toss into the finished bouillabaisse in the slow cooker; put the lid back on until the shells open.

And Voila! Place in bowls and sprinkle the parsley/fennel on top and serve. 

This is a dish our guests fight over for the last drop.  We make the entire batch and eat it fresh out of the slow cooker for dinner (eating all the muscles in the shell – they don’t keep or store well) and the rest gets put in Tupperware (with screw lids) and frozen.  This is easily warmed up on the stove or microwave and tastes just as good. 

If you love seafood we know you’ll love this!  Enjoy!

7 Comments

Filed under Body, Recipe, Soul

The Art of Stretching!

No that's not us ...THAI MASSAGE is sometimes called the lazy man’s yoga because of the yoga-like poses which the massage therapist quite literally guides your body into. It’s a form of body work based on the principles of yoga and Ayurvedic medicine and is sometimes called Thai yoga massage in the West.

The stretching performed during a Thai yoga session is “dance-like”, yet requires you to expend no energy of your own. You simply lie on the mat while the practitioner gently pulls, folds, and presses your body using his or her own body weight, legs, and arms to enhance the stretch. Because of this close proximity to your massage therapist, you may at first feel a little uncomfortable by the intimacy of it. But you’ll soon find how wonderful it is as you relax into a stretch in a more effective manner.  Since you aren’t engaging your muscles the way you might during yoga all you need to do is close your eyes and breathe.

There should be no pain as the practitioner feels when your body can’t go further. We find it’s almost trance inducing if you have a good practitioner, or as we refer to it a good “dance partner”.

So why bother? What are the benefits? To name a few and starting with the most obvious how about increased range of motion and flexibility? The Chinese often say “To be stiff is to be dead”. Thai massage also reduces stress, pain and swelling. I’m not an expert but I’ve seen it work for a few friends that were chronically suffering from one or all of those. Increased blood and lymphatic circulation are also benefits. All that to say: You’ll feel fantastic.

Thai yoga massage is performed one-on-one and can last anywhere from 60 minutes to two and a half hours. The practitioner will apply acupressure by using their thumb or palm on ten major energy lines (sen lines) on the body, and will then place or position you in a variety of stretches. You’ll end up sitting, on your side, or ass up in the air (ever so elegantly) more than once. You’ll be tempted to hold in your fart – and we promise you’ll likely need to – just let it out or it will ruin the entire experience for you. A little moment of embarrassment is well worth the pay off.

Unlike traditional massage, Thai yoga massage requires you to be fully clothed, wearing loose and comfortable clothing, while lying on a thin mat on the floor. Yoga clothing is ideal.

Now the hard part – Finding a Thai master!

Currently, no formal certification is needed to become a Thai yoga massage therapist, so it is buyer beware.

It’s “new” to the Western hemisphere and not main stream. Only a few schools can be found outside of Thailand where most practitioners of Thai yoga massage still need to go to learn from the masters – some spend years perfecting the craft.

Word of mouth is still the way to go unfortunately, but once you have found one, ask the therapist what sort of training they have had and how long they have been practicing. Ideally, the practitioner should have completed at least an 80-hour program and have 15 to 20 massages under their belt. If you’re into alternative medicine your acupuncturist or naturopath may be able to assist in your search.

This therapeutic method offers the best stretch we have ever experienced. Try it once and you’ll be hooked and that’s a promise. We love it so much we are very seriously tempted to go to Thailand and learn the art of Thai Massage from a master so that we can “dance” together.

12 Comments

Filed under Body, Mind, Soul