How To Shadow Work: A Guide.

Before I left for work, I received a text from a friend of mine’s ex-girlfriend. I’ve been in not-so-constant contact with her since they broke up. She had added me on to Facebook because I bequeath my friends with free Tarot readings periodically and she kept me around for that purpose. I had never met her and never intended to. So, color me shocked when she started texting me after they broke up. I had already reached out to my friend to talk with him about things because I knew he was having a bad time of things prior to that. (We meet up periodically when I have “the feel” that he needs to talk, which usually means he winds up in my dreams on a nightly basis until I give into the urge to call him.) She reached out to me for a Tarot reading, but also because she knew that we were “birthday buddies.” Since we were born twelve hours, or less, apart, we tend to just kind of “know” things about one another that is absolutely true. Anyway, we talked until I found out she was (A) a Scorpio (and he a Leo!) and (B) she was the crazy girlfriend type.

She sent me a new text this morning about how, after two months of being broken up, she was “so sure” she was “over it.” And that she had dreamed about him the night before and now, was a “pathetic mess.” While I won’t comment on how pathetic she may or may not have been after dreaming about someone she thought she was going to marry, my advice to her was that even though she may consciously believe she had dealt with the issues of the break up, she really hadn’t. And her subconscious mind was going to continue to poke at her at random moments until she did so. I recommended some “basic shadow work” techniques to her: relive the relationship so that you can pinpoint your faults and his, as well as try to relive it as an outsider so that you can look at all events subjectively. And she was like, “I did that, but it still hurts.” I emphatically explained that she had obviously not done that since her brain was still picking at the wound, but she wouldn’t listen to what I had to say. (Ain’t that the way?) I gave up.

This got me mulling in my [few and far between] off moments at work. It came down to the fact that I was the kind of person who “knew the things” and so people would come to me for advice. But, just because I give them the advice that they actually should pay attention to that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually going to listen. It also made me realize that just because I say, “do this,” that doesn’t mean people really understand what in the world I was talking about. I can say a thing and I can say it in another way, but that still doesn’t mean that people who aren’t “woo inclined” will understand how one does this. This led me to think about how, maybe, the bits and pieces that I’ve learned from Dusken aren’t quite enough for the people I know who are not woo-inclined. Point in fact, the person I was speaking with this morning has admitted to excessive amounts of atheism. She’s highly skeptical of readings I do for the dead on her behalf, but fully believes every Tarot reading I’ve ever done. (How’s that for double standard?) Another example is a friend of mine’s daughter who needs to do some deep healing after a severe trauma. I’m almost positive my explanations of what I needed her to do were lost on the sixteen-year-old, who also has a deep skepticism and deep atheism. (Do I collect these people or something?)

How in the world do you get someone who doesn’t understand what you need to do to, well, do it?

I began pondering how else I may explain this to outsiders. It’s one thing when you can speak, pagan to pagan or polytheist to polytheist. There are certain connections that you can formulate with people of like-minded or similar spiritual paths. After using a few key words, the two of you can sit, head to head, and start working out what to do. In same vein, there are other bloggers of polytheistic or pagan persuasions who have blogged about these things before for those particular communities. If you don’t have the time or the energy to discuss it with someone new, then you pop over some links and tell them to “go for it!” However, while everyone knows my religious background isn’t exactly a secret, I’m not comfortable sharing links with people who aren’t of the same religious persuasion as me. The links of shadow work, and how to shadow work, entries tend to belong to bloggers who are, well, rather “woo” in their practice. And there’s nothing wrong with that! I fully endorse having (or not having) woo in your life. But, I’m slightly uncomfortable tossing those types of links to people who are, de facto, atheists.

So where is the middle ground here?

I started perusing through a lot of my related entries on my ex-husband. And minus the items that were woo related, I felt that it was a good jumping off point. But hadn’t I mentioned that to the girl this morning? Hadn’t I explained to her that you had to relive the whole experience? Hadn’t I said that you had to at least try to be as neutral as possible while going through it? Personally, while it takes a lot (especially in a years’ long relationship) out of you to be able to do this, it’s incredibly important to try to be impartial while going through the experiences in question. It’s not just a matter of trying to pinpoint where the other person screwed the pooch, but also where you screwed up, as well. And as far as we are concerned about ourselves, we are perfect and can do no wrong. This isn’t the case at all because, well, we’re human. So, it doesn’t matter what we say or do, but in some form or another, we may have caused some serious stress in our partner’s life, which later manifested as the endings of all endings.

The real question here isn’t a matter of whether or not you are capable of doing this, but whether or not you have the gumption to look yourself in the face and admit all your fuck-ups.

There are a lot of people who simply cannot admit that they were complicit in the downfall of a relationship. I know that, for the longest time, I couldn’t see myself as anything more than someone who had been wronged. As the years past, I began to harbor the belief that I was a victim. As evidenced by some outsiders’ comments regarding, a lot of it was victimization (at least towards the end of our relationship). But, I can look back and say, “I screwed up really bad here, here, and here,” and also tell you what I learned from having fucked that shit up. That is absolutely something that’s really damn important. But, as I said, I didn’t first start off that way. As I said, I started off seeing only the fact that I was wronged all across the board. So, how do you get to the point where you can start working on this shit and not have it eat you up inside? I don’t always think waiting around years to start the process (as I did) is a good idea, especially if you need to do the healing now (as in the case of my friend’s daughter).

While discussing this, with myself, I thought about the suggestions I had offered to my friend’s daughter. I was throwing out random suggestions on how best “to heal” and how best to start her round of shadow work. She has a lot more open doors to practice this stuff with. And I think a lot of the ideas I threw out there are pretty damn sound.

1. Write Really Bad Poetry

I thought back over the years, as a teenager, when I would always carry a notebook around with me so that I could write down whatever overly emotive poetry came to mind. Years later, I still have every single one of those notebooks and I can tell you that, while they kind of have a beat or something to them, they are pretty bad. I’m not just talking in that, “Gah, I can’t believe I wrote that,” kind of way, either. They are also bad because they discuss every messed up and screwed up thought that popped into my head at some point or another. There are poems about (TW) suicide, eating disorders, rape, and everything in between. (/TW) The items you choose to write about aren’t just to convey to people without saying, “I suffer from these things,” but it’s also a way to get the pain from those items out and into the open. Even though you may be the only person who actually reads the items and maybe you are the only person who gives a fig, but that notebook/blog/tablet app may just be the quintessential shadow work you need to get to the next step(s). I think that the reason I was able to deal with high school and all the crazy shit that went down for me back then was because of the ability to write those types of poems. Another reason, I think, why it helped so much was because it didn’t matter if I kept the prose or if I followed iambic pentameter (or whatever the fuck it was). It was just a bunch of words strung together in vaguely poetic fashion. In same vein, take that and use it to your advantage. And who cares what the fuck it sounds like so long as it makes you feel better?

2. Write Short Stories

I wrote a lot of novella length items regarding my ex-husband because I finally had the gumption to write the shadow work entries related. I also had a lot of time on my hands to write other types of short stories. While the shorts, themselves, didn’t necessarily mirror the relationship exactly, it focused on key points in the relationship that I had always wanted to make changes to. So, with the red pen of an editor, I went back through my life and red-penned the fuck out of things I had always wanted to change. There is a certain amount of power in being able to change items you want to change. And it doesn’t even have to be characters based on real people, either. If you do the fanfiction thing, then write your life experiences into a fanfic starring your favorite actor, anime character, etc. It’s not as though you need to do a monkeys writing Shakespeare thing here. You are taking an aspect of your life that has hurt you beyond repair and fixing it, just a smidge, at a time. Grammar, spelling, punctuation: nothing matters beyond what you think needs to matter because this isn’t about what others think (if you letter others read it) but about what makes you feel better.

3. Scream A Lot to Loud Music.

The reason I’m saying “to loud music” is because maybe you don’t have the ability to just scream your head off. It’s possible that you don’t have a car to run to and start screaming to. It’s also possible that you may still live with your parents and they might be very concerned over finding their child screaming for apparently no reason (especially if you haven’t told them what your trauma is). Or, maybe you just don’t feel comfortable screaming for no reason whatsoever. Whatever the reason, I recommend doing this to really loud, bass-infested music. And in so doing, you may not realize how much it makes you feel better, but it does. One of the problems, I think, that causes the traumas to fester is an inability to let out all of the pent-up emotions. Writing, to me, helps in that regard. But sometimes, those things aren’t the be-all, end-all for the needs of the trauma. So, as a teenager, I would put on some Tool (favorite band) and I would scream until I was hoarse or I would scream the lyrics. I highly recommend if that if you do decide to scream to music, you choose something that is appropriate for the mood that you are needing to create. Screaming is great on its own, but if you’re going to listen to music while doing so, then something that epitomizes either the trauma that’s caused the harm or your emotions concerning it are an excellent addition.

4. Cry A Lot [to Loud Music].

The music part on this one is pretty fucking optional. If you want to be depressed as all get out, then sure, cry to some Celine Dion over a break up (or whatever). But, really, the crying part is probably the most important aspect to this. A lot of people (like me) do this really unhealthy thing where you bottle up your emotions. It’s really not recommended by anybody and as someone who has done this for long enough, I can attest that it causes more problems in the long run. What I can say is that crying is something that we need to do. I’m not really sure on the science of it all, but we have the ability to make tears for a reason. And we have those tears during high emotional moments for a reason. So, by not letting those high emotional moments cause an ending-in-gagging crying jag, then you’re doing yourself a severe disservice. So, seriously, I think it’s something you really need to do when it comes to working on shadow work.

5. Therapy.

I’m not a fan of therapists. I’ve had quite a few in my life and I have found one that I actually trusted enough to tell everything to. I had one that told me that I feel too much – exactly what you should say to an emotional twelve-year-old – and another who made me feel like my date rape was my fault – and she was a rape counselor! So, I’m not overly thrilled with the whole idea behind going to see someone you pay to listen to you for an hour a week or however many times you actually go. However, I also know that it has helped me to have impromptu therapy sessions. I’m not just talking about the person you pay, but since you pay them and they have to listen to you, it’s kind of a bonus, but I’m also talking about the ones you have with your friends. Or, if you don’t feel like you can mention your real emotions to your friends, then that means therapy in any and all means that you think will pay off. If that means eating an entire gallon of ice cream, then you do it. If that means taking a lot hot baths, then do so. If that means losing yourself, almost literally, in a book or twelve, then do so. If that means talking to your pets, then do so. If that means talking to strangers on the Internet, then do so. If that means talking to trees, the ocean, a river, a bird, your car, to yourself, then do so. Whatever the word “therapy” means to you, then follow through with it. Just talk. Just blather. Just go on and on and on to yourself or whatever or whomever and don’t stop for anything. Let every little thing come pouring out in a complete rush and don’t stop until you’ve shot out every aspect of the pain imaginable.

While these items aren’t the entire list of things I did as a teenager to get through some pretty hellacious times in my life, they are the items that I think are the best and fastest recommendations. While not all of these items will prepare the person for the next step of reliving the past, it will definitely help in getting the pain out of you. It will also help to get the whole thing moving. By allowing the pain of the trauma to stagnate, you’re pretty much condemning yourself to that much more work for that much longer. By being able to at least partially address the trauma in minor ways, you’re preparing yourself for the next steps.

Related Posts

The Shadow Work Series by Duskenpath

But I Want To Go, Too!

I’m taking a break from Tumblr for reasons, but so much of my pagan/polytheist community is over there with me that I hear all the stuff going on anyway.  Apparently, there’s a sudden flourish of interest in traveling to the astral realms. I will admit that I saw some of this shit before I flipped my shit and deleted my Tumblr app from my tablet. A sudden profusion of queries regarding what it’s like, how to get there, etc. In the time I’ve been away (barely 24 hours as I write this), there are some people getting angry/upset/bitchy with the people who do go over there for not “sharing the secrets to get to the astral.”

You know what I have to say?

Are you fucking insane?

I have been friends with Dusken and L for nearly a year. In that time, I have watched them get beaten the fuck up by all the shit they do and see on the astral. I have heard stories of some really awesome moments either together or singularly, but these have all been tempered by all of the fucked up shit, which I won’t mention specifically as it is not my place to do so, that these two have gone through. When my friend, Devo began entering the astral, I started reading her experiences there. And again, some awesome stuff has gone on amid some serious fuckery. Again, I won’t be specific because it’s not my place, but suffice it to say that dead children are the icing on the fuckery cake.

Who the fuck wants dead children as icing on the astral cake? No one. However, shit like that is rife over there. As all three have been saying for months now, the astral gives no fucks. And it doesn’t. There are no fucking rules, which is why you can be wherever the fuck you want and everything looks however the fuck it wants. That, also, means that if it feels like fucking your day up, then it will fuck your day up. And it really doesn’t matter how you feel about the astral fucking up your day. You’ll have to swallow that pain and keep motherfucking going because, excuse me while I repeat myself again, it gives no fucks.

Nope. Not a one.

Nope. Not a one.

I go to the astral, nearly every night. I’ll tell you something. I really don’t want to be there. The place scares me out of my fucking gourd. But, dutifully, I put on my coat, my gloves, and my hiking boots. I strap on a knife and make sure my Protective Ride is ready to go. I hold Hekate’s hand and we get going so that the past life thing can hurry up and get finished. I do not cross the street without holding her hand and looking both ways. I do not take sweets from strangers nor do I talk to strangers. I do not look left nor right as we go wherever we are going; I look straight ahead and keep careful pace with Hekate. I am there for a very specific purpose and I am intent on that very specific purpose. We go, we see, we come back. End of story.

And I can tell you this: once this whole past life shenans are over, I do not plan on going back. I do not want to find a guide. I do not want to have to use my Protective Ride anymore (except as a sentry for wherever I am in the physical plane). I do not want to go soul journeying. I do not want to pick flowers and see unicorns or dragons. I do not want to do a damn thing over there besides get my working finished and move the fuck on with my life. Why? ‘Cause I know the reality, folks. It’s all fun and games until someone rapes you; it’s all fun and games until someone tries to kill you; it’s all fun and games until a god won’t take no for an answer; it’s all fun and games until you’re stuck in the middle of a war you have no idea about; it’s all fun and games until you meet up with someone who bound your soul to them, without your permission, and they want you back.

Does all that sound exciting to you? If it does, then I have to say, you really need to have your head examined.

It isn’t a sense of wanting to be part of the Special Snowflake Club that stops these people from giving you specific instructions on how to get there. It isn’t that simple, anyway. There are any number of a hundred thousand different ways to get to the astral, for one thing. And on the other, people like the Khal, Dusken, and Devo, are trying to protect you from your own stupidity. And going to the astral is opening up a whole can of stupid worms. Lots and lots and lots of stupid motherfucking worms and you guys just need to stop thinking, “Oh, well I want to go too because it’s so shiny and everyone who goes is part of a club and I want to be in the Cool Kids Club.” Nope. No. Sorry, motherfuckers; it doesn’t work that way.

Everyone I know, on a personal level, who has been to the astral has gone over there kicking and screaming after it fucking said, “Yo, sup, bitches? It’s time to fuck up your day.”

And fuckery was had by all.

Relevant Entries

  1. Prepping For the Astral by The Rose Bell.
  2. Why Spirit-Walking Is Inherently Dangerous by Duskenpath.
  3. Astral Don’t Care by Devo.
  4. A Is For Astral by Goat-Willow.

That Scar? Oh, Let’s Talk About It A Little.

Note: A slight trigger warning since, while I do not discuss the actuality of the event, I do mention a sexual situation.

On Saturday, I had a bit of a moment. I went out all on my own with the intention of enjoying myself. I don’t get a lot of private time, being a mom of an active four-year-old and with TH being gone all week. So, I took time for myself with the intention of just going out and being. While waltzing through the mall, I realized that I don’t know how to do that much anymore, but that’s not what this is about.

You see, as I was leaving, I called TH to tell him about someone I had seen in passing that we both used to know. And as I was cavalierly regaling him with the gossipy details, none other but the man who molested me when I was eighteen years old and he was twenty stepped into my field of vision. I didn’t miss a step. I didn’t stop. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t say a word, but as I continued toward my car, I made sure to peer around me. Could he be following me? Was he following me? Would he try to come after me and finish all of that?

Thing is that there was a moment there when I wanted to get off the phone with TH – who I didn’t bother mentioning this to until later – and go back inside. I wanted to make a scene. I wanted to start a riot. It wasn’t anger that was pushing me, but it was the need to say my piece. We all have moments like that where we have to say the things that are inscribed upon our hearts, the parts and pieces that may help us retrieve the soul pieces that others have taken from us. My molester took a large part of my soul for a lot of reasons and when I start down that shadow work, I’ll tell you about it. The thing is that I just wanted to tell him that he ruined me in ways that I cannot fathom. Well. He had a part of my ruination, at least, and I’ve never been able to bounce back from that. I ignore it. I pretend it didn’t happen. I go about my day, but there is a time and a place where I want to say, “You did this to me and this is what it did to me after. Then, you compounded the situation later and here is what it did to me further.”

I felt fear. I will admit that. I felt real and true, primal fear in that moment of seeing him again.

And then, I analyzed him. I saw what he presented to the world – a nothing, a nobody, a ho-hum dog that has been kicked just enough times to where it’s up in the air if the dog in question is feral or not. The one thing that I noticed was that he was smaller, leaner. In a sick and twisted way, I kind of hope that smaller physique has more to do with the horrors he caused me and compounded later were eating him away from the very center of his heart. But, I doubt this. He had a hard life before I knew him and it didn’t get any easier later, or so I’ve heard. So, I doubt that the thinness and gauntness had much to do with me. The other thing is that while I didn’t see his eyes because I didn’t have to. But those eyes were always a little crazy, a little insane. And as I knew he watched me surreptitiously as I walked right on by, I felt that insanity watching me leave.

Then, I analyzed myself a little bit.

I felt fear, but I did not panic.

I felt worry, but I did not cry.

I felt pain, but I did not have an attack of nerves.


As I got off the phone with TH, I drove blindly. I wanted to talk to the Sister, but she didn’t pick up, so I ended up just randomly driving. I thought about calling someone to just say, “Hey, I saw this person who ripped a part of my soul out of my body and never gave it back. So, how are you?” I thought about it but decided that there was no point in doing this. I didn’t feel like I needed to have a panic attack. I had the shakes. I had the start of a headache. I had the wild, crazy stomach flip-flops that can happen when situations like this come up. But, I didn’t feel the gut-wrenching need to leave or run or hide or cry or any of that.


I’m rapidly beginning to assess this moment in my life as a stepping stone or a turning point. I’m not sure which – the path ahead is still in darkness. But, whatever it is that this moment was… it’s important. And as a sort of recompense or maybe a just because, I’ve been dreaming about that part of my life again. All of this with my molester relates to other aspects of my life that I have to work through. I keep dreaming about that boy, the one who was my everything and I was his nothing, because of all of this. They’re related, you see. And I know I’m being cryptic, but right now, I don’t have the stomach to go through it all. It doesn’t matter for what I’m writing right this second, either. What does matter is that in analyzing myself and that moment, I’ve come to realize that in just doing a little bit with my ex-husband, I’m able to hold my head up high, even when I just want to hiss and bitch and snarl.

Either I’m growing up, or things are just getting easier.

The Lessons I’ve Learned (TW).

So, I had started writing this post, in my head, yesterday. I wanted to get out my thoughts on heka and the resulting backlash from having used a word that was, to others, out of context. I’ll be honest, here. The entry in question would have been very meek and very mild. It would have probably been the only time anyone could clearly say that I was doing the “bad dog” thing: tail between my legs, head down with occasional glances up, shoulders hunched up. You know, pretty much the things that I’m not. However, yesterday, I ended up working on the entry where, in effect, my gods said “fuck you” when I asked for a break from of all of this. After the fact, and some thought and being unable to sleep while I wrote and re-wrote this entry in my head last night, I realized that the OTHERS™ had wanted me to work on that other entry first. Maybe they sensed that everything wasn’t over and done with. Maybe they didn’t like where I was heading with the lessons I had learned (and I’ve learned them). I’m not sure, but they bid me to wait and put it off. So, I did. And the lesson I had thought that I learned, that meek and mild lesson, exploded when I saw quite a few choice words that were inappropriate in regards to the overall situation.

Then, I got mad.

And I realized that it didn’t matter what I may have chosen to say in my original posting of this. It didn’t matter how meek or mild or how abjectly I apologized. The genie was floating around, out of its home and unlikely to go back in. I had learned that things are not as I had once thought, but I also began to see and learn that people like me are a minority, and vilified by the very people who should hold our hands and understand us the best: fellow rape survivors.

I was told that I have only made excuses for my behavior, which is amazing. I spent an entire day crying hysterically or self-flagellating myself for the incident in question. (If you don’t believe me, I have two witnesses I could produce in a court of Internet-based law who would swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them.) I think the only “excuse” I came up with was something about having an offensive mouth/fingers. And it wasn’t really an “excuse” but the truth. Both seemed to be very offensive. I read an entry by someone I thought was my friend, talking about how I must think I’m a “cool” rape survivor because I can make jokes about it. (Actually, I can’t. I can’t abide rape jokes or jokes about what happened to me.) I must be a “cool” rape survivor because I can use the word in its original definition (original as in, prior to today’s apparent definition that all other definitions no longer exist – side note here: how weird would it be to say that a mechanic was going to violate me when I bring my car in? I was just thinking about that and it didn’t make sense) and not be bothered by it.

I don’t think I’m a “cool” rape survivor because I can say things without being affected negatively by it. I think I’m healing because of that. But, you know, I guess healing and cool are synonymous now. It’s weird how words change suddenly and no one bothers to tell me these things. (I didn’t get the memo! Can someone please re-send?)

But, I’ll tell you something. From all of this, I’ve learned a few lessons. I think I’ve reached about five at this point. There may be more in the offing, but in the mean time. I’m going to list those five that I’ve learned. I’m going to tell you what I fucking learned. And some of it, you may clap and say, “Right on.” And others, because I am a “bad rape survivor” you might not like so much. If that’s the case, you have my complete consent to unfriend, unfollow, remove me in any way you see fit. Our view of events will never be the same because this is the path that I walk and you cannot see what I do.

The Lesson of Speech
I learned that my words are more important than I had ever realized before. I learned that there are just some words that people cannot abide. I’m thinking here of that childhood rhyme that I was taught. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. I’ve talked about this before. This rhyme is an intrinsic untruth. We are taught these words as children to hold back the tears and anger and pain that others may cause by calling us names, but the rhyme holds true to other words, as well. A word cannot break your bone so in that, the rhyme is true. However, when it comes to words, they can cut you to the bone more surely than a knife. They can get to the heart of the matter and make you suck in a breath, faster than any stick. And as I said in an earlier post, some time back, while bones might heal, the pain of words may not ever reach that point.

I had never had my eyes opened to this prior to now. (After nearly thirty years of living this comes on me now? Really?) I know that seems hard to believe, but it’s true. Any lessons that may have been taught to me prior to this were swallowed up and spat out, whole. I was more interested in being miserable and making others feel that way as well. It wasn’t that entirely, but I can say that any lessons I may have learned about hurting others with words thoughtfully or thoughtlessly chosen has never happened prior to this moment. This means that I am probably woefully inadequate to teach anybody anything or that I am woefully inadequate as a human being. But, the lesson was bound to happen sooner or later and I’m glad it finally did.

Am I sorry I hurt someone by using a word that they felt was out of context? Yes. Am I hurt that other women have stepped forward and said that it triggered them as well? Absolutely. My intention was never to hurt anybody with anything I said. I used a word that I felt appropriate at the time to describe what may or may not have happened if and when I bring my car to a mechanic. To have the backlash that this has is… eye-opening. Gut-wrenching. Horrifying in the amount of people who have suffered this way.

In all honesty, I had never thought about how certain words would negatively or positively affect other people. Sure, I know the power of inflection. I know the power of how to say something without really saying it. I know all of these things, but in all gods’ honest truth, I had never once considered how my words would change someone else’s perceptions or how they might hurt someone just by their honesty and truth. And that’s the lesson. My speech is as powerful as any sword that might be used in a war, but nothing really made me understand or realize that until this moment.

The Lesson of Heka
I had always assumed that it was a Foot-in-Mouth Disease that I suffered and this is what I thought heka‘s place in my life was: it was to stop me from this idiocy. And during the day when I was crying hysterically, I had two or three people tell me that it didn’t matter how I said things or what I said. People would be offended by the words or not. It didn’t matter if I side-stepped or if I prettied them up or if I covered them in a black sheet to hide them from the world. No matter how honest I was or how back-tracking I was or how much I bent over backwards, my words would still give offense. And what I was practicing wasn’t heka, per se, but a sick and twisted form of censorship. I was trying to please everyone and obviously, I failed at that. The lesson therein was that I was doing it wrong or that I wasn’t applying it properly.

Veggiewolf said something in my post about this that really resonated with me. She said, “Words have power that is both intrinsic and extrinsic. The extrinsic power comes from communication of said words, through writing or speaking. As we communicate (heka, with “he” being the sound of an exhale) we breathe life into our words and so shape their power. Since we know that such power exists, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that we strive to communicate effectively… with the understanding that sometimes we get it wrong.” The reason this resonated with me, at first, was that she was acknowledging that it’s possible to get things wrong. Then, I read and re-read this statement over and over to myself. And I realized that the whole thing about heka… I had it wrong.

As I said, I always thought it was about shutting the fuck up about things I had no business saying, keeping certain choice bits of speech to myself, and-or respecting others’ viewpoints on others. This may be part of it, but it’s not it really. The whole point is knowing and acknowledging the power of what we say, both the power that we give it but also the power that society may give as well. Prior to this, I had no idea that society had thrown out the other definitions associated with the word “rape.” (Seriously. Honestly. I just thought it was a word like foot or television, but apparently, it’s not.) The word has taken on its own monstrous meaning, beyond even the dictionary definitions that accompany it. It has been vilified and hated, it has been feared and worried. This word has become a monster in its own right, on par with the very act of sexual assault itself. I was unaware, but I’m aware now.

I’m also more aware of just how much power I’m willing to give what I say (in future) as well as what others may give to it, as well. Again, anyone can become offended at something we say and that is their prerogative, but it is our jobs to know the power that certain words may have and use them accordingly.

The Lesson of Conformity
What pissed me off was when a woman who is older than myself pretty much chalked me up to not being a sexual assault victim because I could use the word(s) associated with what happened to me in other definitions. I learned that there seems to be a stigma attached to the social cues that each rape victimsurvivor follows. I always thought that I was part of the norm. I thought that because I could say what happened to me out loud and via the Internet that I was the same as everyone else. I’ve lurked at rape survivor forums for a while and I remember the Twitter hashtag about surviving rape. I remember seeing all of those people able to openly acknowledge what happened to them and so, therefore, I thought that I was part of the standard.

I wasn’t, apparently.

I didn’t know that rape survivors all have the same triggers, I thought they each had different triggers. Honestly, I always thought that the trigger in question is deeply linked to what happened to them and not the word that described what happened to them. As I said in my DON’T PANIC post, the triggers for me had always been the very names of the men who had hurt me. (Aside from the ex-husband, he has no triggers because he is less than me. And he will never have that power over me again. But that’s a story for a different time.) I’ll tell you some of my other triggers in regards to them, which are all tied into the people who hurt me and not the act that hurt me. A blue Toyota pick up truck. Hunting knives. (My molester threatened to kill me if I told people what happened after my ex-boyfriend and his best friend backed his story over mine.) Social awkwardness. The name “Tim.” The name “Stephen.” Black men with a certain look/feel to them. (My rapist was a black boy.) Football Letterman jackets. The word “cream.” (There was never any physical evidence of his rape because he pulled out because he didn’t want to “cream” in me.) These are my triggers and I mistakenly assumed that others had deeply personal and painful triggers.

Not a single word.

So, I learned that I am not the norm here. I learned that by being able to say that I was raped with head held high and able to catalog what happened to me, so many years afterward, that I do not conform to the social cues. I also learned that being able to say the word and understand that there are multiple meanings is, also, not the social norm for a rape survivor. And lastly, I learned that I do not nor will not conform to that social conditioning. And I’ll tell you why: I never once conformed to a fucking thing in my life and I’m not about to now. Again yes, I am sorry I hurt others, but I’m not going to stop my forward progress for the social cues and conformity.

The Lesson of Healing
All of this has brought up a lot of shit for me. It’s not just the fact that I am, obviously, losing people who I thought were my friends again. I can’t tell you how hard it was to stand up and say that football player raped me (after I was told what date rape was, anyway, because let’s not forget that I had no idea). I can’t tell you how scared I was that I would lose my friends. And I did lose a lot of people who I had considered my friends. They weren’t, obviously, but it still hurts to think about how many people I was friendly with, accepted, spoke with, and would joke with… who never once believed what I said. The kicker there? Someone else claimed that he raped them after I stepped forward. I didn’t know about that until after the fact but I remember the girl in question and I remember the haunted look in her eyes when I saw her looking at me. I don’t doubt that he did it to her anymore than he did it to me. But that’s not the point in this.

The point in this is that it almost feels like I’m going through high school again, standing up and saying what happened to me, and watching people stare at me as though I had a filthy disease. I remember the fear and the anxiety there. I have it now. But, I’m older and wiser, maybe anyway. I went through it once and I can go through it again. The point here is that I’ve healed enough to not only be okay with losing people I once thought friends, but welcome those who oppose my viewpoint. Again, I will say honestly and truly that I am sorry for hurting others, but I look at myself (deep within) and I see a burning, healing light.

I’m flaming bright here, brighter than ever, and that flame, at its heart, is healing.

To me, part of healing is being able to not quite accept what happened to you, but be willing to share you experiences with others. That does mean that you have to say the word “rape” or “molested.” You might even have to go into more detail than that, as I did when I went to trial. (They made me stand in a mirror for a while and say all body parts, including penis and vagina and breast because I couldn’t just say “rape” when I testified.) Being scared of a word to me is pointless. Being scared of the action that word describes is not. But, the word itself is only as strong as we make it. And I refuse to make it any stronger than it already is. So, yes. I say that I might get “raped” at the mechanic. Or that taxes “raped” me this quarter. I say these things because I know and understand the word is as multifaceted as myself or my OTHERS™. And I refuse to take any steps back in my healing. I’m backwards enough, as it is.

The Lesson of Me
I learned many valuable lessons from this. I learned who my friends are and who my friends aren’t. I learned that I would offend people, no matter what I said or how it was meant in the context provided. I learned that how heka was in my life was not how it was meant to be. I learned that society has made words grow larger and more powerful than they ever should. I have learned that there is a ring within the ring of rape survivors that cannot and will not abide the use of their pain in any other context than in that pain. I learned that I can open my mouth and hurt others without meaning to. I learned that a place I thought was home was not. I learned that TH (though I kind of knew this already) is a great listener and doesn’t mind it if I get snots on his shirt. I learned that the Sister knows and understands where I lie with this and accepts it, agrees. I learned that BFTX, a woman who has been through worse and worse than either the Sister or myself, also understands, accepts, and agrees. So, I learned that we three may be the minority. And I also learned that people I respected can hurt me just as easily as people I don’t.

I chose the name “Satsekhem” because it meant “daughter of power.” In all honestly, I chose it to honor my mother-goddess, Sekhmet. I chose it to link me with her via the Internet and for all to see. But, the truth lesson is that the name was chosen because, whilst her daughter I may be, I hold as much power as she does. And I’m not going to let this break me or eat at me.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. And while this isn’t entirely true, it is today. I’m done being angry and upset or guilty. I am my mother’s daughter, both the one who is my goddess and the one who birthed me. And it will take more than a word, taken out of context, to destroy me.

Relevant Posts

  1. Heka Doesn’t Work Anymore, Apparently…
  2. I Used To Be a “Cool” Rape Victim… by Morag Spinner.
  3. Those Who Know The Letters, See Double. by Arienwen.
  4. Rape Victims Have Social Conventions Too? at Don’t Panic.