A Letter to my adoptive mother

Dear Mom,

You called me the other day and left a message that your friend had died. I am not sure what you wanted from me. YOUR friend was NOT my friend. I did not respect him because he did not respect me. In fact Mom, your friend, George Beele was disgusting. He spent an inordinate amount of time consumed by his desire of young women’s breasts and would talk incessantly about the size of the racks that he had seen and was fascinated by men around him who procured women with large tits and small waists. He horded pornography and left it lying around where Reese and I could find it. He tried to watch me shower and dress. Reese and I were subject to his filth at the tender ages of 12 and 10. What he did is called “covert sexual abuse”. He trained Dad to do the same to me.

After spending much time with the Beeles, Dad would make comments about my body and appearance. He would walk in on me while I was dressing and make sure that I would walk in on him when he was completely naked. It got so bad I started having nightmares about it.

I can’t talk to you about these things because your eyes go blank and you change the subject. I never understood what you were doing until I became a psychotherapist and saw it in traumatized clients that I worked with. You dissociate Mom. The context of conversations that we have causes your head to go blank and you lose your train of thought. It is a trauma response.

Dr. Serra was a psychologist who worked with me at Rutgers when I was finishing my Nursing degree. She is convinced that you were a victim of incest. Now, through finally understanding the reaction I see in your expression, I can appreciate that as well.

My question is this Mom, when do I get a chance to be free of this nightmare? You and Dad defined me as defective almost from the beginning: when I didn’t tell time as fast as Reese, when I had trouble with Math and was being beaten up at school. I wasn’t defective Mom, I was adopted. My genes were and are different, and so were my needs. Did you know that there is evidence that our bodies hold familial memories within the DNA itself? Think of it Mom! That means that I couldn’t “just get over” myself. It was hard wired so in judging me defective, you not only erroneously judged me, you also created a lifetime breaking free of that designation.

That perspective enabled you and Dad to do all kinds of unspeakable things to me. Dad could pardon the covert incestuous way that he treated me and you would forever compete with me for Dad’s attention as if I was a sexual rival. What you didn’t understand was that the more that you treated me as something other than your daughter, the more right you gave Dad to engage in covert sexual activities with me, because you intensified the lack of fatherly concern that he had for me. You and Dad were able to bond through my physical and sexual subjugation while faulting me for the confusion and anger that resulted.

 

I don’t know how to go on from here Mom…. how can I continue a relationship with you when you have never been interested in me and who I am? When you have sacrificed me over and over to hold on to the delusional way that you continue to live your life? When your biological daughter, Reese, has chosen to follow in your footsteps and is herself becoming quite mentally ill choosing to avoid the truths of her own existence?

I was the family scapegoat and for that I have to thank you. I was NEVER given the chance to avoid taboo issues but instead was made responsible for others misbehavior and mistreatment of me. I am free of those burdens because I am now able to disentangle myself from the mind fuck that constituted my development. Because I figured it out essentially by myself, I am stronger than most people and am brilliant in my line of work. I now do not have to face the emotional hardships you and Reese choose to endure. I am money poor, but find my life enriched with people who deserve me as much as I deserve them. We live as we choose and have disentangled ourselves from the poisons that “loved ones” have spewed in our direction. I hold far less fear than you do and will never be immobilized by fear again.  As a result of accepting myself,  I am NOW ready to part with ALL the things that do not serve me. Goodbye Mom!

 

 

Phase II: School Bullying… Becoming an Outcast

I don’t mean to be a problem… but it seemed that I was. My existence, begun in such a starkly different way than other kids, in a place where “difference” breeds contempt, and tolerance is given to ONLY those who comply with being a carbon copy of the kid sitting next to them. Where was there a place for me?

The story of my adoption failed to yield comfort so my adoptive parents invested in a book, “The Chosen Baby”. The idea that I was “selected” placed a significant burden on me that I was much too young to appreciate. I had to be perfect…. That was how people became “chosen”. It was a tall order whose very words created expectations in my new family as well as it did with me. I was genetically different. My needs would be different. My adoptive family EXPECTED me to fit in as if the adoption never happened. That was a set up. One that neither my adoptive family nor I could foresee.  Differences between me and the biological daughter they birthed a year and a half after my adoption just accentuated my difference.

 

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ACT I:

It was 3rd grade when my secret got out.  The anxiety that had been created in me about my adoption spilled over and I looked for solace in ANYONE who would feign understanding. 

“Your mother never wanted you,” a blond haired classmate of mine screamed at me from across the lunchroom table, “she threw you out with the trash.”

I held back the tears.

ACT II:

“Time to line up” our teacher yelled at my classmates.

“Ewww,” several of them shouted, pushing each other away from the place behind me, “she has cooties!”

I stood silently, numbed by the insult.

ACT III:

As I approached the school grounds, a male classmate of mine walked up to me…  “We don’t want anyone like you in our school,” he told me sternly as he punched me in the stomach.

I slumped over, the breath leaving me, with tears streaming down my face.

ACT IV:

A neighbor watched as the antics took place on the playground (and did nothing to stop it). She went to my adoptive parents and let them know of the amount of bullying I was enduring…  I was sent to a psychiatrist.

“What would you do, “ I asked him as I sipped the tea he brought me, nibbled on the crackers and  commenced to draw on the blackboard in front of me, “if a little girl walked from door to door…” I drew a door and linked it with a chalk path, to another and another. “And she came to your door and asked you to take care of her because no one wanted her, would you?”

Unlock Your own Healing Journey: Understand the lessons from your PAST

Reflections give us pause, reminding us where we have been and the lessons that have learned along the journey. They are as important to our health as the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the conditioning our bodies are in.

All of us have experienced traumatic events in our lives and we do not have to be diagnosable for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder to be severely affected by it. Over time we develop radar to detect specific cues that are tied to the traumas that we have endured.  When those cues are experienced, we can react. Reactions are autonomic emotional responses to triggers that are tied to past learning. They develop to keep us safe. For example: let’s say a little boy grows up with an abusive father. He has learned that his father is most abusive after he drinks, trigger #1. His father stays out late at night when he drinks, trigger #2. He comes home reeking of alcohol, trigger #3. He comes in the back door and it always slams, trigger #4. He always yells for someone to get him food, trigger #5. His tone is angry and impatient, trigger #6. When no one responds fast enough, he lunges at the first person that he sees, with his fist balled up and his arm raised, triggers #7, 8 and 9. The boy knows he is in trouble and runs to his bedroom to hide under the bed. Over time not all the cues have to occur to insight the same reaction. A neurobiological response has been created.

Now, each one of these cues become triggering enough on their own to create a reaction and emotional response because of their ties to this particular event in the past. The problem is that a lack of awareness of our own links between REACTIONS and past events makes it inevitable that we are judged by people around us who have no understanding and often no interest in WHY we emotionally trigger. They tell us the nature of our behaviors, and the reasons why we act the way we do. They can find diagnoses to pin on our behaviors and the more they assert our pathologies sitting behind their desks underneath the professional designations that give them the right to take away our connection to the truth of our experience, the more disempowered and submissive we become to their version of our truth.

So the little boy grows up and one night he is feeling antsy. His fiancé is late coming home. He finds himself pacing back and forth, the knot growing inside his gut. His cellphone rings and he picks it up to hear music and voices in the background…

“Babe, are you there,” he hears his fiancé practically scream in the phone, “we had a really good quarter so Doug decided to take us out for a drink to celebrate”.

The now grown man finds himself beginning to shake uncontrollably. “Why didn’t you call earlier” he says trying not to sound frantic.

“I got tied up finishing some last minute details on one of my files. I will be home shortly”, his fiancé said almost absent mindedly.

He could feel bile come up his throat, but before he could say anything, the cell phone cut out.

He went back to pacing and though he was unaware of his own body moving methodically back and forth from one side of the kitchen to the other, he pulled his cell phone out several times as he felt the anxiety rise in his throat, only to stuff it, like his cell phone, back into his pocket. As his hand slid by his pant leg he realized the dampness of his palm, and his own altered breathing pattern. He came into awareness as if he was drifting back to consciousness after dreaming. He forced himself to take a breath but felt no relief. The anger began to rise and his fists curled into balls, the more anger that he felt, the more strain that was unconsciously forced in the tightening of his hand. He vacillated back and forth; pacing, debating whether to call, shifting in and out of awareness and feeling the rising anger within.

He didn’t know how long it had been but he heard the car door slam and his fiancé’s voice, “Yeah, it was great…”

His fists immediately clenched and he gritted his teeth.

“Thanks so much for the ride. I will talk to you Monday.”

He could smell the booze even before she got to the door and his eyes widened.

She was giddy and called out to him… “Hey hun, I am home.” The door slammed behind her.

Already primed from learning that had taken place long before this night, he snarled and turned around the corner, “Where have you been all this time?”

She was startled by the gruffness of his voice and backed a few steps. “I just called you less than 30 minutes ago,” she said with a matching irritation rising in her voice, “Why do you have so much trouble when I go out?”

He looked at her blankly, the words not registering.

Her tone changed and she contorted her face as she spoke, “Honest to God,” she continued, “You need help… Didn’t you make dinner?”

He said nothing…

“What is wrong with you?” she said, the anger rising in her own voice.

His eyes widened as she spoke, feeling unable to move. Her words cascaded over him but lacked meaning. He was briefly aware of her tone rising and startled as he watched her move towards him and raise her arms.

It all happened in an instant, he took his hand and pushed her hard across the kitchen where she landed on her butt. She looked up, more stunned than hurt as he disappeared around  the corner of the kitchen heading for sanctuary in the bedroom.

Now this scenario is one version of many that plays out in homes across the United States. Because our young man refuses to acknowledge the impact that his past has on his current life situation, he continues to be affected by autonomic responses laid many years before. Because he CANNOT articulate the WHY of his behavioral outburst, it will be judged and his actions pathologized. His actions have meaning but ONLY in the context of his own narrative. If he lacks a connection to his own life story, he is denied the foundational elements for his current behavior. If his fiancé chooses to evaluate HIM negatively from this one incident, he is victimized by her faulty perception, his self-esteem suffering needlessly. If the police are summoned and a court case filed, he now becomes victimized by a community that is more interested in punishing the act than understanding the nature of the behavior’s development.

Within the context of his life experience, his actions towards his fiancé make sense. His behavioral motivation needs to be properly understood so any intervention can be effective. If he consistently faces people who are negative towards him, he will be negative himself. Negativity destroys productivity and reinforces the fear and anger that lie at the base of all negative behavioral outbursts. Healing can ONLY occur with person-centered, positive motivational incentives.

Mental fitness MUST BE a personal journey in recovery. It is as different from one person to the next as the fingerprints and DNA that identify us. Our narrative is our connection to our past and provides the key for unlocking a future of hope. Right now our human service delivery is failing miserably. Now is the time to develop a person centered approach to encouraging appreciation and understanding of each of our storylines, free of bias and judgment. We need to start asking the most humane of all questions… WHY?! When each of us can articulate our life story honestly and forthrightly, without fear and shame, we begin to understand the most important questions needed to improve the social conditions in which we live.

Male Bonding: The Cultural Cultivation of Loneliness

 

This is an overview of the cultural impact on social interaction between men and their families, most specifically highlighting the differences in perspective between the sexes.  Within these words will be reflections of each and every one of us, though the descriptions are not meant to describe the totality of the human experience for any one person. It is a starting point to critically think about the role of culture and society in the perpetuation of social problems that it insists on ameliorating through treatment services by professionals. Any intervention that refuses to understand the foundational elements of these maladies is complicit with the perpetuation of these afflictions through the loss of respect for the human condition!

I sat in front of a frantic man who was devastated by the demise of the only loving relationship that he had ever known. The grief came out in spasms of frantic and breathless verbal exclamations, disjointed and rambling… “How could she leave me? I gave her everything she ever wanted. I would do anything for her…” He looked at me imploringly as if I could impart some wisdom to release him from his pain.

“I remember a time,” I began, “when I was told that men have it far worse than women do. I doubted it at the time as a woman who has experienced the many horrors that can only be endured at the hands of men…. Despite that fact, I don’t feel that way anymore”.

He looked at me puzzled.

“From the time that boys are just babies, they have their emotional and physical pains belittled. Boys are breast fed less, they cuddle less, and have their own expression of real emotions trivialized and shamed. They are encouraged to perform in order to get the most rudimentary of acknowledgments from mothers and fathers alike. They rightly develop aggressive tendencies as the outlet for the overwhelming grief and disconnect that they have, not only with their own experience, but also with the gentle and giving nature of humanity. Eventually they can experience a complete disconnect with all that is emotional. That disconnect keeps them safe and allows them to maintain their culturally acceptable gender role as a male.  As a result, men are robbed of the language of emotionality because they are not allowed to practice it. They do not develop the skills to ask for what they need because they often are not aware that they are in need”.

He nodded his head in silent agreement.

I appreciated the gesture, but knew that the work that needed to be done was far more than he was interested in doing at that point. He was articulating a desire for the only connection with a fulfilling emotional life he had ever experienced, which he believed wholeheartedly existed only in his wife. I had seen it before.

“When many men fall in love” I continued, “they offer their heart for the first time. Women, many times with their own issues, become aware of the vulnerability in their men. While they say that they want softer and gentler men, they also fall into roles that reject the emerging emotional nature of men. Men can end up feeling isolated and powerless without the appropriate skills needed to navigate what is often perceived as a betrayal”.

His mouth gaped open and he nodded his head absent mindedly.

What he wasn’t ready to hear was my understanding of men’s responsibility in the erosion of their fragile relationships… Men overwhelmed with emotions, are vulnerable to their women and some may come to resent what they see as a power that women have over them. Their anger may surface and they may become controlling to lessen their feelings of vulnerability. These relationships can become volatile.

“For some men”, I continued, “the role of provider becomes the way that they prove their commitment and love for the women in their lives. While women appreciate a man who is willing to financially support them, they may at some point come to evaluate partner’s performance negatively. Men can try to “perform” better while bestowing their partners with more material gifts to compensate for their inability to emotionally connect, but that can fall short as well”.

Other revelations that had come to me as a result of my work as a psychotherapist; the fact that I had raised 2 boys, had 4 brothers, and suffered victimization at the hands of angry men, would remain unspoken. He was focused on performing to get his woman back, something disconnected from the way he was really feeling about himself, her, and the potential nature of his own future. The answers to everything he ever needed and wanted lay within him, a person that he was so disconnected with that he was effectively being denied effective intervention of any kind.

I knew in my own mind that the nature of heterosexual relationships was much more complicated. But I have come to understand that western men are more invested in outcome and therefore lack the commitment to the process needed to get there. Mitigating factors always complicate relationships and they would have to be considered honestly… which would mean that this man would have to be able to share intimate details of his relationship. Feeling like a failure could make that difficult. As a female psychotherapist, he could feel the need to “perform” and change details so not to disappoint me. Every detail could be explained and blame absolved, but only if I got the chance.

There are men who will choose a woman who herself is emotionally disconnected. She will demand more and more in material compensation because she has grown up in a family that refuses to cater to her emotional needs. She will have the best clothes, and the best car but can have material needs that exceed her family or partner’s budget. She will acquire the label of “high maintenance” but there will be little understanding in how that was created. She generally will be the one who knows how to use the feminine whiles to entice the men that are the most able to provide the lavish possessions that she needs to insulate her from her own loneliness and self-loathing. Men crave this woman because it is her type that gets the media attention. She focuses an inordinate amount of time on her appearance, because it is what gets her the attention that she craves and needs to feel worthwhile. She worries about the size of her breasts, her hips, the gray in her hair, and the lines on her face. Her preoccupation with acquiring and maintaining the affections of a man keeps her from ever acting on her innate gifts and talents as they are squandered away on superficial details to make her worthy of the care that she needs to feel emotionally whole and complete.

I have known men who distance themselves from the emotional discord that develops within these many dysfunctional family scenarios. In order to feel more in control of their lives and to find solace, some men may develop strong friendships with other men who struggle with the same feelings towards their own partners. Times spent with these men can be kept superficial, nothing reaching the deep feelings felt with a life partner.  Disagreements mean less, arguments never as deep or threatening. There is a huge difference in being able to walk away without feeling like you have fallen short of someone’s expectations. Men are raised with the belief that it is their performance that ensures them the caring love that they crave so much and receive so little of.  Their women though, have problems with understanding that falling short of performance standards makes men feel emasculated and unworthy of the love that they have learned to perform for; in as much as a woman’s fading beauty and her man’s disapproval of her looks deprive women of the same feeling of worth. Disgruntled camaraderie and the voicing of frustration with other men boosts male alliance but does nothing to support the ongoing relationships that they have with their women as it distances both men and women, instead pitting them against each other in mutual destruction.  Women bitch that they don’t have what they need and men complain of the high maintenance attention that is needed to keep women happy. As a result men may bond fiercely with their daughters out of a desire for the unconditional love never received, creating a further distancing of the women in their lives by promoting and fostering a competition between the women in the house.

Men, in general, do not know how to bond with their boys. Within their boys they see the injured and empty children that they had once been. In rejecting that image, they end up rejecting their boys, thus perpetuating the internalized grief and dissociative emotional status once created within them. The cycle is self-perpetuating.

The answer to empowering men lies in critical observation without pathologizing resulting behaviors and emotional responses. It manifests by absolving people of being failures by providing explanations that validate their life narratives while offering other options to promote effective and fulfilling social interactions.

 

 

Making of a Criminal

A client of mine, Terry, called me to begin counseling services after being charged in New
Orleans La., for: Conspiracy to sell marijuana. A search of his hotel room had revealed nothing significantly out of the ordinary except a food saver machine used to seal plastic baggies, a small bottle with 2 valium, and 3 different identifications. The valium was prescribed, and the sealing machine had been left by an acquaintance whom turned out to be a local habitual offender who implicated Terry in wrongdoing. The state alleges that Terry was using aliases to traffic drugs,the sealing machine was used in the bagging of the merchandise to be sold on the street and the valium was further indication of wrongdoing and involvement with the use and trafficking of substances.

The attorney hired to represent Terry was finding it difficult to find a rational explanation for the accumulation of identifications. He felt that the crux of the case hinged on the ability to  decipher another reason for this behavior, one so often affiliated with criminal activity.

During our initial discussions in early fall Terry expressed a desire to better understand the
events of his life. Early on it became clear that he had conflicting perceptions of himself and of the family he grew up in. From my perspective I felt it was important that he explore his experiences and how they influenced his understanding of the world around him. It was this issue that led him into the legal situation that he now found himself. Methodically my client began to recall the events of his own life and what emerged was his own story, the foundation for the explanation of the accumulation of aliases that his attorney could not find.

Terry grew up in a chaotic environment, the product of an absentee but successful father and a mentally ill and alcoholic mother. The middle of three children, he always spoke in admiration of his father describing in detail his reported brilliance and giftedness. In Terry’s recounting of those times he also paid tribute to his older brother who was often held up as the role model and person within the family to emulate. Despite the fact that his older brother was an overachiever, he also was severely abusive to my client.

In Terry’s own words, based on the recollections of growing up with his brother he shared these events with me:
1) “My older brother by three years was the Golden Boy and chosen one of the family;
always getting straight A’s, elected head of the class, good at sports. He did it all”.

2) “One of my earliest memories is of being in a sandbox that my father made out of an
old truck tire. I was playing with a toad that had gotten in. My brother came and took
the toad then smashed it with a brick”.

3) “My older brother had a bb gun and shot me in the cheek with it. He told me not to
tell my parents and I didn’t. I had the bb in my cheek until I was 15”.

4) “He (the older brother) was given a shot gun at the age of 17. I had a bb gun and we
would go out shooting birds and rabbits. When one wasn’t dead, so as not to waste
a shot, he would kick it to death. One day I shot a bird instead of kicking it. My
brother punished me by placing the shot gun on the side of my head and shooting it
off repeatedly alternating from one ear to the other. It very well may have started my
hearing loss.”

5) “My parents would go on vacation in August. At 15 my brother had gotten his
driver’s license so my parents dropped my sister off at my uncles who had three
daughters around her age and left my brother in charge of me. My brother had been
sneaking into the liquor cabinet for a long time. We were watching TV and he started
pushing me to drink until I started puking. He dragged me into the bathroom to the
toilet and the next thing I knew he was screwing me in the ass. The next day he told
me that any way he had hurt me before would be nothing compared to what he would
do if I told anyone. I didn’t”.

6) “He learned to punch me in the gut and knock the wind out of me and put me in a
headlock until I passed out”.

7) “My father was a popular public speaker and my parents were out at parties and
functions a lot. The sexual abuse would happen when they were gone and my brother
would get into the alcohol”

Terry found himself struggling with understanding his brother’s two sides; the overachieving and perfect brother and the one that he knew most, the one who beat and abused him. Beaten down by the effort it took to live on a day to day basis, he suffered from poor health, learning disabilities and emotional issues. He shared the list of problems with me:

1) “From an early age I had constant bouts with strep throat, and had mononucleosis”.

2) “At thirteen I had a severe kidney infection and was in the hospital for three weeks
hallucinating with a high fever”.

3) “I got painful warts that needed to be irradiated off. Sores developed along my gum
lines. The doctors had no idea what to do with them”.

4) “I had bad feet and had to walk with orthopedic shoes”.

5) “My teeth were a mess and for years I had to wear braces”.

6) “At nine I was fitted with glasses and my eyesight has progressively worsened. Now I
am extremely nearsighted (20/650), with developing cataracts. I have floaters (in my
eyes) and am at risk for detached retina and macular degeneration”.

7) In high school I started developing tinnitus which evolved into my current deafness”.

8) “In school I just couldn’t get it. Things just didn’t make sense to me. Math was
almost impossible”.

9) “I couldn’t tell time until I was fourteen and I was too embarrassed to tell anyone
about it”.

It became clear that his sister was also able to perform well and emulate the kind of persona that his father held in high esteem. His sister was also an over achiever, dutiful, accomplished but manipulative.

His father was not at home. His mother was drunk and mentally ill. His brother was aggressive and abusive. His sister was manipulative and mean. Terry was in need of someone to help him understand the conflicting messages he was receiving by the people around him. In his own words he felt hopeless. He felt exposed with no “place to hide to be safe”

1) “If I went to my parents (about my brother’s abuse) they would side with him”.

2) “Growing up I never knew what person to expect with my parents, brother and sister;
someone loving and caring, or, a crazy person that made no sense at all and was best
to stay away from”.

3) “I learned that the best way to survive was to be invisible and stay out of sight, never
argue and most importantly, go along to get along”.

It was in this environment that Terry never knew what to expect and was punished for seeking understanding and support. Unable to reconcile the conflicting messages from his family he learned to become “invisible” to find relief from his unsolvable situation. Chronological examples are available from his life story:

1) In high school he joined no clubs, played no sports, and had no close friends.

2) In college (which his father “assisted” him getting into due to his bad grades), Terry
found that a good way to stay invisible was to be where no one knew about your past.
“When I got to college it was like a great weight was lifted off of me. No one
knew who I was”.

After struggling for years to maintain the “perfect” family image, the family itself began to break down.

1) His mother’s alcoholism was severe and she refused treatment despite a family
intervention. The family took matters into their own hands by going to court
obtaining an involuntary commitment. “Police came to the house and my father, brother and sister were all very
embarrassed and humiliated. I wasn’t, I was just hurt”.

2) “My sister’s attitude was that my mother was an imposition”.

3) “During those years my brother’s mental illness had been progressing and he became
more anti-social and difficult to get along with”

One part of Terry was relieved to think that at long last the world would see what he had always known; that the perfect family was not. At the same time he felt like a failure for not saving them… similar conflicting feelings that had no resolution. He retreated to his new found haven of invisibility.

1) “After my mother’s failed rehab I could not handle being around her and had very
little contact with my parents and brother and sister”.

2) “At thirty-nine nothing had really changed and I moved out to San Diego, CA. I
didn’t update my family about the move because I wanted less and less to do with
them. When I got to CA it was very much like when I had gotten to college. A weight
was lifted. No one to know that I wasn’t good enough, no pressure, no expectations,
no real friends.

It was there in San Diego that Terry found the power of assuming aliases to hide and find relief.

“At the time San Diego was being overrun with illegal immigrants. On almost any street
corner you could buy a driver’s license for twenty dollars. I got one and it felt good, like
a new set of clothes. I rented a mailbox at Mailboxes Etc and in a couple of weeks was
getting all kinds of junk mail. I would go in and pick up my mail and pass the time of day
with the people who worked there and “knew” me. I was a real person! All of this was
very safe (or at least Terry thought). The best was picking up the mail. That was official.
When I would feel down, it would become a routine for me to go out and get a new
driver’s license. I didn’t have to do anything with it. It just felt good”.

The problem was that he longed to be an accepted part of a family, to “fit in”… even though it ran contrary to the wish to escape.

“One year I went to the New Orleans, La. for Mardi Gras. I was alone, always alone. I
got there and the whole city was ready to party. I was immediately adopted by a group
of people who I met. Pretty soon it turned out I must be a distant cousin. In New Orleans
it’s enough for you to be there and you’re welcomed. It became a refuge for me… a place
where I could go and be a stranger and yet someone’s relative”.

My client could disappear in the New Orleans while at the same time meet people who he
considered family. They were connections made to order and could be experienced with a plane ticket. New Orleans was a place to visit and make peace with himself.

Summarizing the Case:
Growing up Terry could never live up to the family’s expectations of perfection. The conflict
between his treatment by family members and the family ideal of perfection left him confused and afraid. He began to suffer health related conditions. His schooling and his personal relationships suffered. He learned to protect himself by being “invisible”, that is, choosing:1) To distance him from family and friends 2) Keep new relations “at arm’s length”, and finally 3) By assuming new identities to protect himself. My client’s efforts to distance himself from others left him longing for the connection he never had. In New Orleans he found a place where he was accepted as he was. There he sought refuge and peace.

My analysis:
My client has found a way to live within the world that, while unusual, poses no threat. Since early this fall he has been engaged in therapy trying to make sense out of his own life. We continue to work together.

The importance of this case:                                                                                                  As is often the case, the appearance of a behavior does not constitute criminal activity! As in Terry’s case, personal stories hold a wealth of information court and legal representatives do not have the time or perspective to access. Within those stories lie the counterarguments so needed in the development of an effective defense. Litigants need to routinely be able call into question the allegations made of them within courtroom settings. Without the ability to critically consider life events that hold answers to the court’s concerns, client’s lose motivation, can become hostile and oftentimes makes defending them difficult if not downright dangerous. The example here illustrates an important technique when considering assumptions made of litigant behaviors, especially when the court relies on allegations made by repeat offenders or are linked to assumptions without significant evidentiary back-up.

Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey MS, MAC, LMHC