A heavy sadness has been growing in my heart for some days now. It arrived when I opened Laura Bates’ Men Who Hate Women and read about the vicious and violent threats she has received from men throughout her career, simply for voicing her opinions.
My heart grew heavier still as I watched Promising Young Woman at the cinema last night.
A book and a film both released in the past 12 months. Both cover the abuse of women. Both shining a blinding spotlight on what women know to be true – we are not safe.
The fact I need to put a trigger warning at the start of this post demonstrates just how unsafe we are – almost every woman I know has experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of man. And when many of us write about women standing up for themselves, we also include the words – if it’s safe for you to do so. We write this because for many women, it’s not safe to speak up.
I had to put Laura’s book down after reading the first 20 pages. I will pick it up again but I need to steel myself to proceed (and I haven’t even got to the really confronting parts yet).
However, I did watch the entirety of Promising Young Woman and I would describe it as brilliantly written, incredibly confronting and disturbingly accurate. It shows what women know to be true and also how men and some women dismiss, cover it up and justify it to themselves.
The film centres on Cassie, a young woman who dropped out of medical school to care for her best friend, Nina. Nina was raped while drunk during college and her rapist got away with it.
Cassie is on a mission to seek retribution.
Promising Young Woman could only have been written and directed by a woman. Its realness is unavoidable. I also feel it should be compulsory viewing for every girl, woman, boy and man over the age of 16.
The frequent refrain of “but I’m a nice guy” provided many teachable moments. Male characters knowingly took advantage of a woman who was drunk yet, when caught out, excused themselves with “but I’m a nice guy” and somehow reasoned away their culpability. Men and women dismissed rape as no big deal with comments about how the victim was drunk and asking for it.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
It reminded me of when I was at my post-formal party. It was the end of high school and my whole year went to a school mates’ property to get drunk and celebrate. I was a fairly naïve 17-year-old but even so, for some reason, I asked a trusted male friend if he would look out for me. I knew he would be sober but I wouldn’t be. Later that night, I remember one of the guys from my year (a seemingly nice guy) with his hands all over my breasts and the rest of my body. If it wasn’t for intervention of my sober male friend, things could have got out of hand very quickly.
Interestingly, back then, it didn’t register as an invasion of my physical space or assault. I don’t think I mentioned it to anyone and I certainly didn’t confront the perpetrator when I was sober at school the next day. Instead, I felt like it was just one of those things that could happen and you lived with it – having a guy put his hands all over you, intimately, when you were drunk was something that could happen and you lived with it. There was also an underlying theme that, somehow, you should feel good if a guy noticed you in that way – like you should be grateful for their attention.
No one had ever talked to me about how vulnerable women can be in those situations, what could happen and what my rights were to protect my own body. Clearly I knew enough to ask a friend to look out of me but that wasn’t from any direct conversation. I guess it was a more innate understanding of what kind of world I lived in as a young woman. It was just what we lived with.
But I’m sick of living with it and I’m tired of hearing people say that a woman asked for trouble because of what she was wearing or because she drank too much. Equally, I know that just because some guy shows you attention doesn’t mean you should be grateful for it. I’m also so sick of perpetrators getting away with their crimes because everyone thinks they are “nice guys” and “women often lie about these things”.
Women don’t often lie about these things. Why would we when, by making a formal police report, we open ourselves up to condemnation for being a slut and somehow asking for it? Or worse, victims are dismissed by police because a perpetrator “comes across as decent guy” when interviewed. Yes, it happens. Still.
There’s no doubt Promising Young Woman rips the scab off and exposes the darkness beneath. It’s a darkness we all know is there. Some of us try to ignore it, some of us feel powerless to stop it, many of us have been victims of it. But. We. All. Know. It. Is. There.
So please, take your brother, husband, boyfriend, father and male friends to see this film. Have the difficult conversations that arise afterwards. And for God’s sakes, all you men out there who sincerely want to help women: start listening to the experiences of the women you are supposed to care about, believe them and step up. Because women are still being raped and assaulted by “nice guys” and we need your help to stop it.
And as for you “nice guy” perpetrators out there. I hope you meet a woman like Cassie very soon.
“Why do you feel that is happening?” I ask my client.
“I think it’s because…” Her voice trails off as I watch her mind pick up then discard possible answers. I ask her to pause, redirect her to what she “feels” and the answer comes clearly and promptly.
It’s another reminder of how connecting to the feeling of something will always get you to someone’s truth far more quickly than any reasoning activity.
Our minds are powerful tools that can construct a hundred well-reasoned arguments, positions, interpretations and case scenarios about any event – this is why psychology and psychiatry flourish as necessary professions. But, relying on the mind and reason alone is doing the human race at best a disservice and at worst, for our young people in particular, making people feel more disconnected than ever before.
Those who know me well will say I loathe the word “mindfulness” because for me it misses the point. I am far more interested in helping people connect to their truth than reason their way through a mind-constructed quagmire. Focusing solely on the mind, watching the mind, being mindful is quite frankly a waste of time if what you really want is to connect to the truth of who you are and what is right for you.
I feel the same sense of irritation when I hear people say they need to control themselves better when it comes to their emotions. Let’s be clear, control is a construct that isn’t serving you because you’re not a machine with an on/off switch. You are a human being and if, like me and my clients, you are a sensitive person, trying to ‘control yourself’ in a way that suits others will put you on a winning streak to nowhere.
On the other hand, learning how to manage how you feel, how you connect with others and how you connect to yourself will benefit you far more than any solely mindful or control constructed approach.
I sometimes strike resistance when I suggest to parents that we should teach children to check in with themselves about what feels right when it comes to decision-making. Some feel very uncomfortable and respond with comments like, “But they’re not mature enough to make their own decisions. I need to help them with that because I am their parent and that’s my job.”
To a point, they are right. However, they are also not right. If we show young people how to connect into what is right for them from an early age and to trust that instinctive knowledge we all hold inside us, they are likely to make better decisions when the parent is not around later for guidance.
The ability to connect to your truth can also help young people hugely when it comes to managing anxiety.
For example, choosing subjects for school or deciding on a university degree is a big anxiety-inducing activity for a lot of young people. Their minds over-think with questions like, “Will I get a job out of this? What do my parents think I should do? Will I know anyone else in the course? Will I be any good at it? Will I get in?”
The pressure of their choices feels overwhelming and can result in incredible amounts of stress, anxiety, tears, anger, frustration, despair and other roller-coaster emotions.
What if it didn’t have to be that way?
Would this help young people to avoid scenarios where they say, after the fact, “I knew I shouldn’t go with them or do that thing but…”?
If they had trusted that “knowing”, even if on the surface everyone else said a situation was perfectly fine, would they achieve a different outcome?
I believe they would.
Many sensitive young people struggle with decision-making, anxiety and over-thinking because they have never been shown how to connect to themselves. Instead they are told to reason things through, do a pros and cons list, ask for advice and so on. There are numerous examples of how this approach is not working well for sensitive young people.
Our reasoning mind does not have all the answers. It never did.
Lucretia helps people to understand, manage and channel their sensitivity as a super power in their lives. She has a particular interest in helping young people and women to trust themselves and live their purpose on the planet. Please get in touch if you would like to chat about Lucretia’s services by emailing email@example.com
I can remember playing charades at school camp in Year 8 and one boy got up and pretended to cry – the room instantly guessed he was imitating me. I was 12 years old.
I would continue to cry throughout high school. My friends and teachers knew all about my crying. I was a highly-emotional, perfectionist who tried very hard to do the right thing. Surprisingly though, I wasn’t a social misfit. I had friends from diverse groups across the student body, I did relatively well with my grades (except maths which was always my torment) and by my senior year, I was Secretary of the Student Council and lead in the school musical (fortunately the role involved more acting than singing that year).
I was also bullied quite badly in year 8 and over the following years, I indulged in procrastination and self-sabotage leading to even more stress with my schoolwork, and despite appearances, I had low self-esteem and was highly anxious. Trying something new, like learning the clarinet (which I wanted to do), led to such heightened anxiety that I cried repeatedly and had to give up the lessons.
My Mum got me what help she could but no one seemed to have the answers.
By the time I reached my early 20s, I was on anti-depressants and it wasn’t until my early 30s that I began to work out what was happening and found non-medical ways to manage my anxiety.
There were a lot of things going on for me as a young person but one significantly influencing factor is starkly clear to me now – I was a highly-sensitive person struggling to thrive because I did not understand my sensitivity, how to manage it or use it to help me in my life.
Instead, my sensitivity was something that left me feeling overwhelmed, ashamed and wondering why I couldn’t get it together like other young people. In many ways, I was my own worst enemy and couldn’t seem to get it right.
When I look back now, I think so much of that confusion and pain was unnecessary. I just needed someone who could help me understand what was going on.
Over the past few years through my mentoring programs, I’ve helped a lot of adults to understand, manage and channel their sensitivity in healthy ways in their lives.
But this year, something has shifted – parents have begun bringing me their young people for guidance. From the ages of 12 and up, boys and girls, are doing sessions with me to understand themselves and their sensitivity more easily.
I never imagined I would work with young people who are often a lot like I was at their age. I also can’t fully describe the joy I feel when I help these young people to understand there is nothing wrong with them.
When I say the words, “Your sensitivity is your super power” young people inevitably look surprised and yes, a bit hopeful, as they lean in and ask, “What do you mean? How?”
With that one statement and the work that follows, they feel empowered and strong not ashamed or weak. To give them that gift of knowledge feels indescribably wonderful to me. And when they move on with the rest of their lives I know they will have a collection of new skills and strategies to help them feel more confident and self-reliant. Most importantly, they will understand their sensitivity is a gift in this world, not a curse.
We need to empower our sensitive young people so they can feel more connected to themselves and others. We need them to understand their sensitivity so they can manage it for themselves in healthy ways. We need sensitive young people to feel understood, heard and seen for the beautiful humans they are.
Above all, we need them to know their sensitivity is their super power; they just need some help to learn how to manage it.
If you would like to learn more about the work I do with sensitive young people, please send me a message on Facebook, Instagram or firstname.lastname@example.org
Image from Jamie, 12 years old, who completed my Power of 3 Program (3 x 1 hour sessions over 3 weeks, plus homework including meditations, journaling practices, and practical strategies to apply at home/at school and in the world generally). Jamie’s words are used with kind permission from him and his mother.
This morning I got a Covid test. I had a sore throat and, although my risk is low (I live in Queensland, Australia), I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.
As I followed the yellow Covid Clinic signs to the intake desk, I thought about how strange our lives have become. A year ago, I was in Italy and the world had never heard of Covid-19. Now it is our constant companion, sidling up next to you wherever you are on the globe, it’s presence always felt on the news, in our homes, in our relationships.
I watched the nurse give an elderly man advice about interstate travel. He is sitting behind a Perspex shield and they both wear masks.
The woman in front of me is in dark blue scrubs, designating her as a healthcare worker. How many times has she been swabbed this year, I wonder. Does the thought of a possible infection disrupt her sleep or has she been able to create psychological distance from it all? I remember talking to friends in the healthcare sector earlier this year. An underlying anxiety and fear was threaded through their practical words. They saw what was possible and were preparing for the worst. So far, we have mostly avoided that outcome here. But other countries haven’t been as lucky.
I follow the healthcare worker’s example and don a mask before speaking to the nurse. He notes my symptoms then directs me around the corner to admin where my personal details are entered into the system. The woman is friendly in a professional, matter-of-fact way and she tells me my mask is upside down. I briefly remove it and notice my lipstick has stained the fabric. Will I leave this place with pink smeared across my face? She advises me to bend the wire more securely across the bridge of my nose.
Doctors and other staff are nearby, looking my way. Are they assessing my likelihood as a vector or admiring my outfit. I suspect it’s the former.
Then I’m in the tent. It’s partitioned with blue surgical curtains and each make-shift room is a couple of metres square. Three walls, one side open. I stand on the spot and wait my turn. I think of friends in countries where these tents are commonplace. From Columbia and the United States (US) to the United Kingdom and Europe, the numbers seem out-of-control. I’m lucky to be here on this island where I was born. But I feel the fear caused by this thing called Covid and I worry for us all. I know in my gut this pandemic is not over, not by a long way. We just need to keep our nerve and keep going, adjusting and hoping for the best.
I try not to think about those who have died, been diagnosed or in recovery. I remind myself not to think of those who have technically recovered but still experience serious medium and long-term health impacts like chronic respiratory difficulties, organ damage and so on. Why isn’t that reported more? Surely people would realise then that recovery doesn’t necessarily mean you go back to the way you were?
I bring myself back to the present as warm air from my nose leaks out of the mask and clouds my glasses with steam.
The man in the next makeshift cubicle gets his swab done then walks past. The doctor moves away to process the sample and then is standing in front of me. Mask down, he swabs my throat and both nostrils. It felt like he was touching my brain but the discomfort was brief and, let’s face it, far less invasive than the PAP smears women need regularly.
I get a letter explaining I must go home and isolate until I get my results. This could take up to three days. I have plenty of food in the house so I’ll be fine.
I arrive home and later see a frustrated Instagram post from a highly-spiritual and influential man in the US. He’s fed up with the anti-mask rhetoric and the selfish refusal of many of his countrymen and women to restrict their activities to stop the spread and protect others. The denialists make themselves known in the comments and I wonder how so many can deny the reality of 230K+ deaths in their own country. I shake my head and think, people are strange.
I’m not overly worried that my test will come back positive. I mean, it’s possible but the chances I have contracted Covid are low. Still, I’ll be at home until I receive the all-clear.
But, I am worried about the rest of the world and the people in it. I’m worried about the polarising of opinions and the way denialists have convinced themselves they don’t need masks and God or nature will protect them. I know a lot of souls who have passed over this year could convincingly argue against that point of view.
I catch myself thinking it would be easier to convince people they are in danger if the threat was more visible – bombs dropping from the sky like war-time or ugly welts on your body. But this threat isn’t visible until you feel it or it affects someone you love. Then it is too late.
People in our southern state of Victoria will emerge from their lockdown tonight after many months of isolation. They have stalwartly pulled together for the greater good of their community. The outlook for Australia is quite positive. Meanwhile, across Europe, countries are returning to lockdown as numbers rapidly rise. I watch the numbers increase and my heart breaks a little more.
Luck, tenacity and community spirit have helped Australia so far. I hope that continues to be enough. For those of you in other countries, stay strong, keep going and I hope you’ll be on the other side this next lockdown very soon.
I had a shock this morning. A Facebook memory come up from three years ago and it featured a woman I could barely recognise – me. I was in beautiful Assisi and I was slowly and calmly talking to the camera. But I was way too calm and speaking way too slowly. I was in town I loved but almost too exhausted to enjoy it. As I watched the footage, it looked like I was swimming through energetic mud.
Over the preceding months and years, I had worked every minute of the day to make ends meet. At one point, I had five casual, contract and part-time jobs at once. Immediately before the trip, I had also become, once again, romantically entangled with a man who was not worthy of me – he just took what he wanted and I let him. I was making the same decisions on repeat and nothing was changing. I was surviving not living. Even though I had finally returned to Italy (where my Soul longs to be), I was a burnt-out shadow of myself.
I’d love to tell you I came back from that trip and things were different. But they weren’t. I went back to doing all the things I had been doing before – working every hour of the day, doing things I didn’t want to do anymore, holding onto things I needed to let go of, and guess what, that guy broke my heart.
Early last year, I finally cracked and made some radical changes and when I returned to Italy in August 2019, I was a different person. I had connected to a joyfulness and peacefulness within myself that I didn’t know was possible. I didn’t have everything worked out (of course not!) but I was definitely moving in the right direction.
I always had the keys and it was never about anyone else. It was about the choices I was making, the stories I told myself, and the boundaries I didn’t put in place. I had to get real with myself and draw on some major internal courage to make uncomfortable choices.
Covid-19 and all the crazy 2020 happenings remind us we need to be living as much as we can, not just surviving.
Is the person you see in the mirror, photograph or video only surviving? If so, what are you going to do about it?