Remembering the Breakout Recovery journey

This was a letter I wrote for a recent Breakout Recovery reunion at Hope Mission:

Memory is an interesting thing – it twists and turns, layering itself over time with new understandings of the past, sometimes even attaching events with each other that perhaps weren’t really attached.  So it is with this disclaimer that I write about my memory of the time that the Breakout Recovery Program began.

I came to Hope Mission in 2005 as Human Resources Manager and Teambuilder.  My background was in counselling- specifically Narrative Therapy.  Everything that I worked on came through this lens – clients were the experts on their own lives and their stories always needed to be heard over and over in order to catch the new memories and unique outcomes (or sparkling moments).

I observed the 3 month treatment program from afar.  The current staff had their own ways and reasons for doing as they were doing.  I was okay with that. Then the manager of the Herb Jamieson Center, went to a conference, returning with excitement for the new things he had seen.  And I knew that we would be moving things in a new direction that would fit with my own understandings of healing, brain theory and change.

Along the way, I had the privilege and challenge of working to transition staff and differing personalities to facilitating a one year, live-in treatment program.  It had many bumps and the team experienced many moments of grieving the losses while trying to grab on to the new ideas.  Through it, I watched not only many successes from the clients but also growth for each of the team members, including myself.

One of the most ‘growing’ experiences for me was to lead, while mentoring staff, group therapy sessions.  The men in this group were able to be amazingly vulnerable in sharing their journeys of pain and struggle.  As I listened I was overwhelmed and sad, wanting to take each person and re-form their memories.  Yet as I continued to ‘sit with’ the group, I watched a beautiful and amazing strength and resilience come out of each participant.  These stories began to co-mingle together forming a bond of solidarity and strength that only community can bring.  Today, I stand back and watch these men do amazing things as they care for those who are in similar situations to what they had been in.  I learned about pain, I learned about healing, I learned about addiction and motivation, I learned about friendship.

For me, community is the key to healing.  If anything is remembered through the years about the Breakout Recovery Program, I hope that is this: Take time to listen to each other; listen deeper than assumptions; listen with curiosity and see what rises out of the ashes of our brokenness and pain.

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THE SPECK AND THE BEAM THROUGH THE LENS OF THE ENNEAGRAM

I now see the deeper meaning of “look at the beam in your own eye before you try to pick the speck out of another’s eye”.    This is a large part of the teaching of the Enneagram.

I used to struggle with being introspective.  I didn’t drink, smoke, sleep around, swear, play cards… some of the things that were frowned upon in the religion that I grew up in.  So when it was time to ‘examine yourself’ so that you could be clean before God before taking communion, I was often at a loss of what to ‘confess’.

I happen to be one of the personalities that struggles with having an emotional language.  I am a go-getter, doing lots, accomplishing more, never sitting still.  Sitting around explaining my feelings is the last thing you would normally find me doing.  Half the time I don’t even know what I’m feeling, I just ‘get on’ with life.

So needing to look at the beam in my own eye didn’t make sense because I knew that I didn’t have one!  Instead I spent my time ‘fixing’ other people.  I’m sure I did harm more than I care to know about.

The Enneagram is one of those tools that give you a jump start on introspection.  Once I determined the personality that I was then I had suggestions of some of the things I needed to look at in my own life – like excessive living (work and volunteering), avoiding pain by ignoring certain relationships and conversations rather than dealing with them in a healthy manner, and thinking that I held answers for others.

Now I don’t need to ‘fix’ others in order to find fulfillment. Yet every day I sit with staff and sometimes clients.  I listen to their stories, letting them be ‘the expert’ (Narrative Therapy), reflecting back to them so they can find their own path – these are the ways I find fulfillment.   It also opens up my vision to see my beam.

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Learning the Enneagram

Even though I’m a Seven personality (adventurous, entrepreneur, etc) I hadn’t had experience flying out of the country on my own and I found myself to be quite nervous.  Being raised on a farm, my brain templates did not contain much regarding large bustling cities and lots of people.  Yet I was determined to learn the Enneagram.

So with this determination pushing me forward, I left the comfort of my home, family and friends for a week of intensive training in Denver.

The journey began in Nanaimo, BC where I had booked a time to sit with a nun to learn more about the Enneagram.  While we were talking I was amazed at how caring and thoughtful she was.  I felt special – like I was the only one in her world and that somehow I very much mattered to her.   At the end of our session she happened to mention that if I wanted to learn more that I could go to the States where she had taken her training and become a trainer.  I let the information slide off of me as I had no intention of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Back in seminary I was faced with a decision about my next electives.  I looked at what was available and gagged (okay, that’s extreme language but I had to let my tendency to excessive language show for a minute!).   Every time I thought about the Enneagram, I wanted to study it more.

For one whole week a group of seven of us ate, talked, and slept the Enneagram.  We spent 10 hours a day together.  In the midst of the intensive training we had to decipher personality within songs, artists, movies and quotes along with doing various assignments every night after we got back to our hotel.  We were never allowed a minute to not find a way to incorporate the Enneagram into our conversations.

At the end of the week, I never wanted to talk about the Enneagram again.  But then I realized that it had subtly invaded my life and was informing me even though I was unaware of it.  The teachers had accomplished their goal.

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The Dangerous Side of Forgiveness

Just recently I read a quote on a friend’s facebook that indicated how important it is to one’s health to forgive.  Although I agree that forgiveness is about healing for the one doing the forgiving, I also believe that there needs to be a strong caveat.

Over the years that I’ve spent studying, working through my own pain and loss, and that of many clients that I’ve counseled with, I’ve come to recognize the dangerous side of the message we send about forgiveness.  It often insinuates that we hand out forgiveness as if it is an easily given gift.  And that we somehow ‘owe’ it to others or ourselves right now.

This has also led to people believing that they can demand it of the one they have hurt.  A quick “I’m sorry” and everything should be better.  No listening to how we’ve caused the other pain but rather the attitude that we should quickly move on and forget all about the offense.

In the Christian story it is often compared to how Christ forgives us when we don’t deserve it so therefore we need to give out this readily given forgiveness.   This interpretation of the gospel instructive has also led to abusers being sympathized with when the abused does not so easily forgive them.  The one abused is then ‘punished’ even more by the community around them by the pressure they get put on them to forgive now.

Forgiveness is a journey not a point in time. I like the example of wanting to get from one side of the lake to the other.  You can’t just will yourself there.  Instead you need to get in your sailboat and as the wind blows, you navigate the journey until you eventually reach the other side.  Forgiveness is like that – we need to make the decision to ‘get in the boat’, but then there is still a journey ahead of us.  And depending on circumstances (the wind) it may take a less than straight path.

When we take the extreme example of abuse then we can look at the process a bit more clearly. Abuse goes deeply into our souls, psyches and physical body (even if it is not physical abuse it still buries deeply in our body).  It creates losses; loss of what we had expected of the other, loss of feeling safe, loss of feeling loved, respected and cared for (if this was someone close to us).

With any loss there is the grieving process.  This means shock, anger, depression and eventually acceptance.  And as we know, this process is not linear but circles around within the first three for whatever time it takes to resolve the emotional pain.  Too often though, our culture, upbringing or community we connect to, gives us the message to jump from the initial shock to acceptance.  Anger is not acceptable and we are often ashamed or afraid to be around depression.  So we desire others (and ourselves) to quickly ‘move on’.

There is a cost to moving on without allowing appropriate anger its cleansing power and sadness its place of insight – ill health either physically or emotionally and sometimes both.  The science of epigenetics teaches us how that happens in the physical body.  Psychology has proven the reality of the emotional cost through the teaching of how triggers are buried within us only to erupt at inappropriate people and inappropriate times.  For those who need a Biblical reference then do your research into the original meanings in the Greek for the word forgiveness.  There were at least two different words that were interpreted forgive – one has the understanding of process associated with it and the other has more of the understanding of a point in time.  Also, don’t forget the imperative to ‘be angry and sin not’ and the cry of the dying Christ “why….?”, both parts of the grieving process.

I have found that there is often a fear that one may never be able to forgive.   My encouragement is that that should not be our focus.  If we make a choice to find healing for our own souls/beings, then the process naturally happens as it needs to.  We can never hand out forgiveness by a sheer force of will.  But instead, as I have found personally and others have affirmed, if you do your personal work, then one day you wake up and somehow forgiveness is possible.

The last thought about forgiveness – forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.  I can forgive someone but it may not be safe for me to be around them in a close way.  They can be respected people that many others can be around but they just may not be safe for us.  That is okay.  With deep hurts, reconciliation – a return to the original depth of relationship – is probably rare. That is the reality of being human.

So when you are tempted or challenged to ‘forgive and forget’ may I encourage you to ‘grieve and heal’.

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Idealism and being real with my kids

I have ideas, I’m an idealist, I want things for my kids.

When our children reached grade 7 they received a document regarding rights and responsibilities of a teenager.  This was given to them in a formal ceremony with some of our friends.  I can’t find the copy of it right now but I know it is filed in 3 of the boxes that three of our children have kept in our storage.

A few of the rights that I remember included being able to set their own bed time, having the right to challenge us as parents if they needed to and having the right to not be embarrassed by their parents in front of their friends.   The responsibilities that coincided with these rights included getting up on time for school, being willing to have a dialogue if challenging us as parents, and not embarrassing their parents in front of their parents’ friends.

It worked.  I never had to deal with children not up on time for school – they learned to self-adjust so that they wouldn’t lose the privilege of setting their own bedtime.  I don’t remember being embarrassed by them in front of my friends and they have challenged us over the years while being willing to have a two-way conversation.

My idealism has been challenged over the years because of this agreement with our kids.  I have found that understanding their personalities has helped me in this process.  I am able to be aware of my tendency to see my way as ‘right’ and their way as being suspect.  The difficulty in understanding another person is often due to not being able to put ourselves in their shoes.  With the Enneagram, I have a tool that helps me do this better than I had in the past.

When one of our sons was a teenager, he called me into the dining room because he “needed to talk to me”.  I felt like I was being called into the principal’s office!  I took a deep breath and remembered the agreement we had made with him…and I listened.  I didn’t need to change his thinking, defend myself or get angry for his insolence.  Instead I tried to understand what he might be feeling as a Five, as a teenager and as a unique individual.  I don’t remember the issue but I do remember being thankful for the opportunity to have a deeper conversation with him.  I realize how easily I could have shut him down.

The pattern we developed that day continues to inform our relationship.  I am grateful.

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Learning about the Five personality

In connection to the last post:  One of the characters in my book Ja-mya and the Journey is a Five (the need to know).  Pick up a copy and see if you can identify which character it is!  Email me at www.debeberg@live.ca (feel free to ask for an autographed copy)

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Learning differences and the Five personality

It was 1992 and my son was 7 years old.  He was struggling in school with his studies.  Every day was a challenge as he cried about having to go to school.  His best friend, who lived beside us, would turn against him when they were in the classroom together.  My heart broke as I watched him being picked on, something I had watched happen to my brother from elementary to the day he graduated.  I couldn’t watch it again.

Then ‘they’ broke the news to me that our son would never learn properly.  They wanted to do tests, labeling, etc.  We had been through this before with our second oldest son.  I wasn’t ready to watch this frustrating process happen again.

My son had a wonderful grade 3 teacher who saw something important.  She came to me and said, “I have 30 students, at least 5 who struggle with learning and over 5 whose parents are convinced they are high academic so I have extra pressure to spend time with them.  Your son is exceptionally polite and quiet and I think he’s getting lost in the crowd.  Why don’t you take him home to teach him?  I’ll supply the work and you can bring him to join his classmates for gym and art.”

He went from a C to an A in one month.

For someone who wouldn’t ever be able to learn properly I think he did okay, actually more than okay. At the age of 18 he finished his college work as the youngest to do so in his field of work.   At 22 he became a manager in a large national company.   Today his skills are highly sought after.

What would have happened if I let him believe the labels, the taunting and the put downs?  I really don’t want to know.

When he was about 15 he came to me and asked me if he was normal.  When I described the Five personality to him he was relieved.  “So there are more people like me?” he asked.  When I assured him that there were, he breathed a sigh of relief – he was normal.

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Inscape

Welcome to Inscape.

Everyone’s life is a story.

Every story has drama and daily routine.

Every drama and daily routine needs an audience.

Every story has opportunity for growth and learning when something “new” is added in.

Inscape Life Coaching was formed out of recognizing that for some people there was a lack of healthy ‘audience’ members (community) for their story to be heard in and formed from.    Inscape Life Coaching offers both the opportunity for stories to be listened to, with an ear for hearing the exceptions to the problems, as well as the opportunity to have something new added in through the training of the Enneagram and the story of Ja-mya and the Journey. 

 

 

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