Rosemary Nissen-Wade: Aussie poet and teacher of metaphysics – a personal view
My bestie nicknamed me SnakyPoet on her blog, and I liked it. (It began as
'the poet of the serpentine Northern Rivers' and became more and more abbreviated.)

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Every so often I like to share, with his permission, poems by my old friend Thom the World Poet. Here's one that caught my fancy.

Carry them with you at all times!
Fits all shapes and forms!
Able to be accessed faster than email
Deeper than Titanics-sharper than wit
Costing only time,energy,attention
You can make your own or buy them anywhere
You can publish them or buy a book
You can read them/perform them/meditate with them
In fact-there is NO LIMIT!
Personal Original Expressive Media is here
and here to stay.Every word can be played with
Every idea remains.Akashic Records remember what we say
while words on stone,papyrus,paper are stored away

Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Top Values

A very useful exercise I found on the LiveJournal blog of my friend satyapriya, reposted with her own intro, which works for me too:

This is from the work of Dr John DeMartini. Answer the questions as honestly as you can and then collate the answers. The things that come up over and over again are your top values.

I found it revealing.

Good luck.

1. How do you fill your space?
2. How do you spend your time?
3. How do you spend your energy?
4. How do you spend your money?
5. Where are you most disciplined (consistent, where do you honour yourself)?
6. Where are you most organised (where does your life run smoothly)?
7. What do you think about?
8. What do you visualise (dreams for yourself, visions)?
9. What do you talk to yourself about (praise, put downs, coaching, mutterings)?
10. What do you talk to others about?
11. What do you react to (what presses your buttons)?
12. What are your goals?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Self-image

Last night I emailed various healer friends for help. As mentioned in my previous post, I was scared because of extreme pain plus total deafness in my right ear. Andrew rang the local medical centre and found one of the doctors still there after hours, who discovered a middle ear infection. An injection in my rear was required, which acted quickly to alleviate the symptoms.

Home, I emailed my friends to say the panic was over. One of them replied, 'He probably didn't need much excuse to look at your bountiful bottom!'

Isn't that lovely? What a delicious reframing! Doesn't it sound luxurious and beautiful? I am no longer an overweight lady, dears; I am the possessor of a bountiful bottom.


What if you can’t feel?

Reposted from my DragonStar Rose mentoring site on MySpace:

'I'm just numb,' wailed my friend. 'Ten years, and now the relationship's ended! And I can't cry, no matter how hard I try, even though I know there are lots of tears there.' She thought maybe she was subconsciously afraid to let go in case she never stopped!

'Try looking for other things to cry about,' I suggested. 'If there are tears waiting to be shed, it doesn't matter what you attach them to, it only matters that they get released. That way, you can do it bit by bit and you won't get overwhelmed.'

I know that one. I haven't yet shed tears over the recent confirmation that my youngest and I are poles apart and – the way it looks now – may never be able to maintain any kind of relationship. I too am fairly numb, still, on that aspect of recent events, though I am feeling other things. Joyous relief at the fact that I so nearly lost my marriage to Andrew, and didn't. Heightened appreciation of my life and all the good things in it. And quite a deal of anger towards the said youngest, mixed with pity for him (which he would repudiate furiously) because I think he has focused on his mind at the expense of his heart. I do know there is grief there, but, like my friend quoted above, I simply can't find the tears.

Except ... I have been finding in my own life the confirmation of my advice to my friend. Not that I went looking for occasions to weep, but life is life and they do come.

My husband unwittingly joined a gambling site online, thinking it was a straight auction, and was inveigled out of $25 more than he meant to spend, but had so much trouble working the system that he never got to use the bids he had bought anyway. It's OK, I sorted it and we'll get a refund, but I cried and screamed out of all proportion to what had happened. I do have a horror of gambling, due to a brief early marriage to a compulsive gambler, and a long second marriage to a man who gambled in business instead and eventually sent us bankrupt after a number of near-thing dramas. Even so, that was long ago now, I have done a lot of working through it since, and this was a mere $25 which we are going to get back.

Then last night I suffered sudden excruciating ear pain and temporary deafness - which at the time I didn't know was temporary - and again cried out of all proportion, even for such pain and fear. (Turned out to be a middle ear infection, and I'm already heaps better after getting treatment.)

I said to Andrew, 'I think my grief about S is leaking through. I haven't been able to express it directly yet.'

It's not that these situations weren't distressing. That's the point, I think. There has to be a genuine cause for tears, so that they will happen – then, if they go on a lot longer and seem even more anguished than the presenting situation warrants, they're probably doing double duty. And a good thing too! We don't want our emotions festering away inside us, where if they stay long enough they can make us physically ill.

Case in point – my middle ear infection is associated with a cold I've been fighting off for a couple of weeks. Metaphysically, a cold can be giving yourself permission to take time out, but I haven't done that for many years as these days I give myself conscious permission. So that leaves the other option – suppressed grief. Well, well, well! (And the right ear? What is it, I wonder, that I am trying not to hear consciously? Could be various things, and I do have ways to find out in the very near future.)

It is the same with anger. If you think you've got some of that festering away and that it'd be better out than in, but you have trouble releasing it, look for other causes of anger. You won't have to look far; there are plenty in the big wide world, if not in your immediate space. The Government is usually doing SOMETHING that annoys you at least some of the time. And we still have wars, poverty, disasters and incompetence on a grand scale. You'll find something!

Sometimes it helps to just start going through the motions of releasing. The release may well build! I am thinking of a time when a long friendship ended nastily. I regarded it as a betrayal of trust and even outright cruelty by the other person. (Still do, actually.) I was also in some shock about that. As soon as I extricated myself from the situation and found some breathing space, I took the advice I dish out to others – I bashed a pillow. This hurts neither oneself nor the other person.

It amazed me what happened. At first it felt a bit contrived, but not for long. The momentum built rapidly. I not only punched the pillow, I ended up kicking it and bashing it repeatedly against the wall. I not only sobbed but snarled and yelled. We're talking absolute, ferocious rage. It went on for ages.

Well – better all THAT out than in! Better than contracting any of the major illnesses in which suppressed rage is a factor.

I still have the same opinions about that person, but have long felt calm indifference to the whole matter.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Ah, I did mean to finish this record of my visit to Texas while it was still only two years ago! Life gallops on apace; see my SnakyPoet blog. But, to resume ...

Back in Austin, after Anne kindly drove me all the way 'home' again to Neil and Dorsey's, I spent most of the afternoon of Saturday April 15th catching Wendy up with the details of Reiki I, hand positions and things like that which are difficult to teach 'in absence'. I had attuned her and Thom 'in absence' while I was still in Australia. Like many people, they were content to have only Reiki I, which gives the ability for basic hands-on treatments. 'Your medicine kit in your hands,' my Reiki Master used to say.

In the late afternoon Wendy left and I began teaching Dorsey Reiki II, the technique for healing in absence. Neil joined us part of the time, as my assistant and also to refresh his own Reiki II skills, as it was a long time ago that he learnt – about the same time I did, from the same teacher!

Then came Sunday, a fun day. Here's my email to Andrew:

'Well, today turned out to be a play day! Patricia Fiske phoned this morning to invite me to brunch. She said there was also a party up at Jacob's Well that she wanted to take me to. Dorsey said it would be good for her to shift the Reiki II lessons to tomorrow, so off we went. Neil came to brunch, and Thom was awaiting us there too, at Maria's Taco Express, a funky joint which the locals love. They also all love Maria, a feisty Argentinian who alas was not there today.

'Thom brought me Texas boots – slightly too large but I wouldn't want them to be much smaller, and I can wear thicker socks with them.

'Patricia is 79, a lady full of laughter. We were sitting under trees. She was wearing a long white summer dress with open neck and low back. A young man from the table behind us said to her, "There's a leaf falling down your dress," and proceeded to reach down the back neckline to retrieve it. She leaned back in her chair and said, in those caressing Southern tones I have mentioned people having, "Darlin', you just reach as far as you like." How I envied her aplomb! Turned out he was a massage therapist, so she and I both got a great free shoulder rub in response to her flirtatiousness.

'She says she thinks elderly women – who are considered past all that – should try to re-educate people. She mentioned a young man friend of hers whom she finds very attractive, who has no such notions about her and wants to talk to her about his girlfriend. "You should have seen what latched on to me after Celebration Circle," I said, describing a gorgeous young man who did exactly that. "Put his arms around me and told me he loved me – but it was my wisdom he wanted." She said that in circumstances like that, she usually says (and you must imagine this very drawled and sexy, with a hint of laughter), "Watch it darlin', I've got a very short fuse." I'm taking lessons!

Jacob's Well is a way out of town, a natural watering hole set in paddocks and a bit of woodland. The property is available for hire, and this weekend it was hired by Body Choir, to celebrate one member's birthday. Patricia is in the choir, though hasn't been often lately because of knee trouble.There must have been about 150 people there. It's a dance group, and they work with Gabrielle Roth's rhythms. They were essentially hippies, though maybe weekend hippies. Patricia explained that some are really well off, others living in trailers – and it just doesn't matter. Many were in the medical professions, others artists of various kinds. They clearly love dancing. And there was lots of music happening spontaneously all over the place – guitars, drums, singing.

'I had a look at the well – deep and beautiful water in rock walls, with a surrounding creek – but didn't do the tricky climb down for a swim. We talked to interesting, welcoming people, drank wine, feasted, and participated in something called Interplay which was improvisation with movement, sounds, words and stories. Great stuff! I entered into it wholeheartedly and had a real ball. Also, I have been wishing to be able to do improv, so here was the Universe granting my request yet again.

'We tore ourselves away after dinner. Most people were camping overnight – and the owner of the property, David Bear, an old friend of Patricia's, would have given us free rooms in his house – but we both have commitments here [Austin] tomorrow. Went back to Patricia's a while and had a wine by the pool with her neighbour Kate and Kate's boyfriend Noel. Kate has made her home, at the back of Patricia's, available to me and another visiting poet, Agnes Meadows [from England]. I have an embarrassmdent of riches in places to stay, and chauffeurs for the Festival. I am staying at Austin Motel for the Festival nights: Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Anne Schneider, my hostess in Kerrville, will get me to some of my gigs; Patricia to others. Then back to Kate's for the few days between Festival and Lamesa.

'I may not have much access to computer/email after I leave here. But I want to go over there, and to find time to give Patricia some solid Reikis.

'Nearly dropping with tiredness.

'Luv & xxx'

Posting this blog now, I am remembering a lovely young woman in the party at Jacob's Well, who presented me with a heart-shaped grey stone as I was leaving, as a souvenir of the area. I still have it among my treasures, and smile at the recollections whenever I see it.

Life in Front of the TV

'... your life in front of the TV ...' sneers A Certain Person, listing it among signs that I am choosing a miserable life for myself.

Well hey, it's not as if we're watching Home and Away or Australian Idol!

My Mother's Day treat to myself was to see the American Ballet's production of Swan Lake. And a treat it was!

Andrew was my equally delighted companion. We sat in comfortable armchairs, sipping coffee, with our feet up on footstools and cushions at our backs. It was on the ABC – no ads interrupting the performance. No other audience, so we could say the odd, 'Wow!' or gasp aloud without worrying about disturbing others. During the intermission we were treated to a brief, intelligent bit of commentary, not intrusive but adding to our interest.

We agreed this production beat all the stage versions we'd ever seen. It was stunningly beautiful in every respect – sets, costuming, and above all the dancing. It was a long time since either of us had seen Swan Lake, so we can't be sure, but I think this production may have had new choreography. Anyway, we were enthralled; we loved every minute.

And you know what – it didn't cost us a thing. (Well, except for whatever little bit of electricity we'd have been using anyway.) We didn't even have to leave the house. No night driving, no queues, no late return home.

I never get over the fact that we are so privileged to live in this era when we can see world class entertainment for free, in the comfort of our own living room. Not only great musicians in all genres, whole shows like Swan Lake and a variety of others, including the best movies and the most spectacular concerts – but also we can get to see wonderful works of graphic art, sit in on interviews with the artists, watch them at work. We can even see footage of performing artists long dead, people from other countries, whom we'd have had no chance of ever seeing live.

I don't know what else A Certain Person thinks we should be doing with our evenings in order to be happy. Maybe we should be out partying? Maybe we should see our movies in the cinema, our live shows live? Maybe we should read, or talk to each other?

In fact we do all those things too, some more than others. Reading is always a huge part of our lives. As for talking, we do that more freely when A Certain Person is not around to listen. Not to mention the amount of time we spend writing, on or offline. But – with winter coming, other calls on the budget, and not being teenagers any more – 'going out', once a big deal, holds less attraction for us now. We'd just as soon be able to finish a wonderful evening of ballet with a cup of cocoa, and get straight into a warm bed!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who is the healer?

'You are arrogant,' said A Certain Person, 'If you mean to say you can channel universal energy to heal people.'

That's a sad misunderstanding of what Reiki and Theta Healing are all about! (I am not trained in Theta Healing, but Andrew has learned it and uses it a lot, with good effect; we both do Reiki.)

One of the first things we learn in Reiki is that we are not the doers; we just act as a pipeline for the energy – hence I was taught to call myself a Reiki channel rather than a Reiki healer. The term Reiki healer is widely used nowadays, perhaps because 'healer' is more readily understood than 'channel', but I think most of us remain very well aware that we are merely instruments.

In Theta Healing, as I understand it, is actually God doing the healing, through the agency of the healer. People using that modality cannot lose sight of this fact, as the method includes prayer.

And do we have to be very special, gifted people to be able to do this? Not at all! Anyone can learn these modalities. Reiki in particular is very easy.

I remember a minister of religion once saying to me, about both healing and psychic readings, 'Some of our people also do laying on of hands and prophesying, but they always give the credit where it belongs.'

Well, guess what, so do we! I don't know a Reiki Master or a professional psychic who isn't perfectly clear where the power comes from. I don't know any who aren't deeply thankful.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Brainwashing in Suburbia

For those who have been reading my April poems with concern, here is the story behind them.

'You're not going to let him come, are you?' asked Andrew.

My youngest (aka The Prodigal Son) wanted to know if he could stay with us on his return to this country after nine years away. (He did get back briefly five years ago, but that time we saw very little of him.) Andrew was hostile and some of my closest women friends wary, because they'd witnessed me shedding many tears on his account over the years. My friend Helen noted that it was like a domestic violence pattern: his loving remorse, my ready forgiveness, the joyful reconciliation, and then he'd bash me up all over again – not physically but verbally and emotionally, by email. We actually got to a point of not communicating at all for a few months – my decision, in an attempt to break the pattern.

The Prodigal himself was wary this time, and respectful, unsure of his welcome. That seemed different. I also thought it was my last opportunity to repair the relationship, because he might never come back to Australia again after this visit. He said he didn't intend to.

'It's only for a couple of weeks,' I said to Andrew, 'and we can always ask him to leave if he becomes obnoxious.' I had no idea just how much trauma the Prodigal would put us through.

Nor did I realise it would turn out to be for much longer than a couple of weeks. He was going to go from us to visit his Uncle Jim, one of those old family friends who has the status of honorary uncle. But that wasn't convenient; Jim had a house full of visiting family already for the Christmas holidays, including grandchildren. The departure kept getting deferred and he ended up staying with us five weeks. He might have stayed longer still, but we had friends from overseas coming in January and needed our guest room. He went to stay with an old pal in another State and we breathed sighs of relief.

By that time, though, my son and I had had a breakthrough. I understood him to be coming from love and wanting me to be happy. We got to that point right at the end of the visit; before that things were often difficult. The Prodigal would stand at the door of my office, refusing to let me work, demanding that I answer his loud, insistent questions. Andrew would get indignant on my behalf and try to intervene, but he's a small man and he's 79; the Prodigal is large and strong and would simply refuse to move. To keep the peace I would say, 'It's OK,' and send Andrew away. The Prodigal was drinking heavily, and sometimes we'd sit up till 4 am while he went over and over all his childhood issues with me, and my many sins and failings as a mother. I asked if we could do it alcohol-free, but he had plausible, rational-sounding arguments against that. He's always very rational on the face of it, and I was never able to find convincing counter-arguments.

When he arrived, he said he had lots of work to do on his laptop. Oh good, we thought, he'll understand perfectly that we are writers and spend a lot of time on our computers; he won't expect to be entertained all the time. It transpired that he did want us – me in particular – to give attention to him at the expense of everything else, whenever he required.

He also took it upon himself to persuade me I'm not a poet and had been living a lie all my life. He would yell it at me: 'You're not a poet!' Well, not more than anyone else, he said, not as something that made me special. And anyway, poetry didn't have to be treated like I did, as a craft to be worked on. Many of his own emails were poems, he said. He was hurt that I hadn't recognised one he'd recently sent me as being a poem. I had another look and saw what he meant. I refrained from telling him it was a pretty bad poem! But then he wrote one as a xmas present for a friend of mine, and that was damn good.

It happened to be a busy and stressful time for Andrew and me, leading up to xmas. And we had been having some problems with each other before that. My son's presence didn't help. We tried to keep our more personal discussions to the privacy of the bedroom. Sometimes we snapped at each other instead of at the Prodigal. He was inconsiderate in various ways, notably by talking loudly on his cell phone to people on the other side of the world at 2 am our time, outdoors for better reception – right outside our bedroom window, and in earshot of the neighbours as well. He did stop after we asked him a few times, though he never really saw the point of not disturbing the neighbours.

On the other hand, he was generous and helpful in many ways: buying us food, fixing practical things around the house, taking over the driving when we went places, giving us sensible advice on practical matters such as budgeting. He could see far more clearly than us how to solve some problems. He thought we were insane for not dealing with stuff in our environment that wasn't working.

He had a point. About some things, we had become either overwhelmed or resigned. We needed waking up. Some of the things he fixed up for us really did make an ongoing difference to our day-to-day lives and we're still grateful. He also set himself to help us improve our ailing marriage, and some of his advice was insightful and good.

Often, though, he was offended because we didn't think to ask for his help, and because we didn’t always know what to ask for that he might be able to help with. Finally he made it clear that I was supposed to know he could help with absolutely everything.

But he didn't always, even so. He would dangle things in front of us like bait, or trot them out as reproaches. 'You've no idea how many things I could have helped you with if only you'd asked!' or, 'If you play your cards right, I'll get you new computers and a new car, even a new house.' No, he didn't really use the phrase, 'If you play your cards right,' nothing quite so blatant, but that was implied in various things he did say. (In truth, he didn't have the money to get us any of those things at this time.)

There were all these 'ifs' we never quite measured up to. In one instance, when he actually refused help he'd previously promised, I got so mad I figured out a way to do it myself. For the first moment or two he was proud of me, but then he went crook at me because I'd just gone ahead and done it without telling him first. I was secretive and deceitful, he said. He believes in full disclosure of everything to everyone!

It was a great relief and astonishment when, after all that, we managed to part lovingly – with, I thought, the problems and misunderstandings finally resolved.

Then came emails informing me he could sense something wrong, something I was hiding from him. Telling him I was fine cut no ice; he KNEW something was up. Well, I said, a friend had been seriously ill, I myself had been a bit off colour for a day or so, the car needed some work … maybe he was picking up one or more of these? He told me I was lying to him.

But then I had the nicest phone call, cheerful and friendly. He was coming up our way again, very briefly, before going back overseas. Could he spend a few more days with us? 'Of course,' I said. After all, we had had our big breakthrough and surely we could sort out any minor things easily once we were face to face. Also he had stopped drinking; his New Year resolution was that 2008 would be a year of non-drinking.

When he arrived the second time, he was upset to find we had not yet put into practice all the good advice he'd given us during his first visit. His disappointment was understandable, but there was no allowance for the other things we were trying to catch up with after a five-week interruption. Andrew lost patience and was sometimes cross and rude to him – under extreme provocation, I might add. The Prodigal was rude and aggressive to him too.

Meanwhile he was still convinced that I was sad. He continued to interrogate me about that, and about my childhood. He said he wanted to hear all my early family stories while he still could. But really he was only interested in what bad stuff I could dredge up. He developed a theory: my father was an arsehole whose love I tried to win by becoming a poet when that wasn't really my thing. Not the way I saw it – but that was of course because I was lying to myself!

Sober, he was in some ways easier to deal with – at first. He wasn't so belligerent, didn't throw things at me, didn't yell quite so much. But this visit, too, dragged on with constantly deferred departure dates. With time he got more and more aggressive. He would stand in doorways, barring me from leaving a room, determined to talk to me as long as he wanted. He would flick water on me, or bash hard on my computer keys, to get me to pay attention to him and nothing else. When I objected, he was quick to point out that none of this actually hurt me. He would restrain my arms, and then when I tried to fend him off would stand still and claim that it was I who was fighting him. Often he would provoke me to rage, so I would indeed be furiously trying to fight him off and break free.

Still I kept thinking that I must be open to what he said. He persuaded me I would be mad not to at least consider it. And in the end I decided just to go along with him until we could get rid of him, so as to keep the peace. I was getting worried about Andrew at that point. He had had a heart attack only a few months previously and was supposed to avoid stress.

My son decided that Andrew was crazy and my enemy, and finally managed to convince me of that too. That sounds incredible, but it was actually a brainwashing. A friend who got a close-up view of what was going on had earlier sent me an article called Brainwashing Techniques (reproduced below) and it was all there. But at that stage I still thought it was meant benevolently. It probably was, at a conscious level.

I must say, by then Andrew was playing right into his hands. He was totally fed up and frustrated, and was desperately trying to protect both me and our relationship. All along, the Prodigal had competed with Andrew for my affections, and in the end Andrew competed right back. The Prodigal started being aggressive to Andrew and Andrew stopped even trying to be polite to him. The Prodigal convinced me Andrew was lying to me when he appeared to be stressed or needy, claiming that when I wasn't around he was perfectly fine. And he observed all the cracks in our relationship and kept asking me leading questions designed to widen them.

I decided to leave Andrew. By then I was persuaded that we had nothing left in common. The Prodigal was delighted, and apologised for not having the resources to move me into a new home immediately. By this time he had been with us another six weeks, it was mid-April, and my Second Stepson (Andrew's youngest) was due to come for a visit. We had announced our separation to the family, but we said to Second Stepson, 'Come anyway; we'd love to see you.' We weren't quarrelling or anything. I still felt affectionate towards Andrew and was concerned about how he would cope with our separation. 'What do you care?' asked the Prodigal. I was troubled by such lack of compassion. The fact was, I did care.

So he went again, still with no immediate plans to leave Australia … and less than 24 hours later I looked around at our warm home and the man sitting beside me, and thought, 'What am I doing? I don't want to leave all this!' Andrew had initially told me I must be free to live my own life, but later he said he didn't want me to go. So he was of course very pleased by my sudden change of mind! We phoned the Second Stepson and told him the glad news straight away, so that he wouldn't be dreading coming to us.

He arrived full of blame for the Prodigal. I think it was only a figure of speech when he said, 'Where is he now? I want to hunt him down and kill him!' He'd concluded that the Prodigal was the cause of our decision to separate; just too coincidental, he thought, that it all happened during his visit. No no, I assured him, the Prodigal was only a catalyst, we'd been having problems already, the Prodigal was trying to help…. Second Stepson simmered down and we had a nice time with him. But now, more and more un-brainwashed, I fear his conclusion was correct, if not his notion of how to act on it.

I emailed the Prodigal and said I had decided not to leave Andrew. He pronounced me a liar and said he now knew for sure I had always been one, even since before he was born. He declared me to be addicted to Andrew and told me I have forgotten what real love is because it has been so long out of my life. Furthermore, he is the only one who knows the truth, the whistle-blower who is not believed. He has seen what a fa├žade Andrew and I put up when other people are around. In fact we're insane. But then he said I am not insane, only a very good liar who even convinces herself.

He spoke of the contrast between the 'happy, alive mother' he left and how I will be in future, looking at my 'sad old self in photographs.' I think the evidence is against him!

'Happy, alive mother' the day he left.

Andrew at the same time.

Both of us about a week later.

(Our friends remark that we are looking better every day.)

He further informed me that he has decided against coming back and taking me away from here by force – for which I am thankful! Not that I'd have gone quietly. One thing that has come out of this is that no-one's going to be telling me what to do any more! I've finally learned to set boundaries. At 68 years of age, it was about time.

Ironically, he's done us good. We are now much happier together, deeply appreciative of each other and what we've got. Even the cats seem happier now!

My relationship with my youngest is over. I am emotionally numb about it so far – only greatly relieved that we never have to go through that again – but my body has been expressing the trauma through various aches and pains and minor ills.

My other sons and their wives are very understanding. Whilst still loving the Prodigal, remembering who he used to be once and having some idea of the pressures which changed him, they also know what he can be like.

'Mum, you're a legend and never doubt it,' said the Firstborn. That did bring me to tears.

Brainwashing Techniques

1. Assault on identity
2. Guilt
3. Self-betrayal
4. Breaking point
5. Leniency
6. Compulsion to confess
7. Channeling of guilt
8. Releasing of guilt
9. Progress and harmony
10. Final confession and rebirth

• Assault on identity: You are not who you think you are.
This is a systematic attack on a target's sense of self (also called his identity or ego) and his core belief system. The agent denies everything that makes the target who he is: "You are not a soldier." "You are not a man." "You are not defending freedom." The target is under constant attack for days, weeks or months, to the point that he becomes exhausted, confused and disoriented. In this state, his beliefs seem less solid.
• Guilt: You are bad.
While the identity crisis is setting in, the agent is simultaneously creating an overwhelming sense of guilt in the target. He repeatedly and mercilessly attacks the subject for any "sin" the target has committed, large or small. He may criticize the target for everything from the "evilness" of his beliefs to the way he eats too slowly. The target begins to feel a general sense of shame, that everything he does is wrong.
• Self-betrayal: Agree with me that you are bad.
Once the subject is disoriented and drowning in guilt, the agent forces him (either with the threat of physical harm or of continuance of the mental attack) to denounce his family, friends and peers who share the same "wrong" belief system that he holds. This betrayal of his own beliefs and of people he feels a sense of loyalty to increases the shame and loss of identity the target is already experiencing.
• Breaking point: Who am I, where am I and what am I supposed to do?
With his identity in crisis, experiencing deep shame and having betrayed what he has always believed in, the target may undergo what in the lay community is referred to as a "nervous breakdown." In psychology, "nervous breakdown" is really just a collection of severe symptoms that can indicate any number of psychological disturbances. It may involve uncontrollable sobbing, deep depression and general disorientation. The target may have lost his grip on reality and have the feeling of being completely lost and alone.

When the target reaches his breaking point, his sense of self is pretty much up for grabs -- he has no clear understanding of who he is or what is happening to him. At this point, the agent sets up the temptation to convert to another belief system that will save the target from his misery.
• Leniency: I can help you.
With the target in a state of crisis, the agent offers some small kindness or reprieve from the abuse. He may offer the target a drink of water, or take a moment to ask the target what he misses about home. In a state of breakdown resulting from an endless psychological attack, the small kindness seems huge, and the target may experience a sense of relief and gratitude completely out of proportion to the offering, as if the agent has saved his life.
• Compulsion to confession: You can help yourself.
For the first time in the brainwashing process, the target is faced with the contrast between the guilt and pain of identity assault and the sudden relief of leniency. The target may feel a desire to reciprocate the kindness offered to him, and at this point, the agent may present the possibility of confession as a means to relieving guilt and pain.
• Channeling of guilt: This is why you're in pain.
After weeks or months of assault, confusion, breakdown and moments of leniency, the target's guilt has lost all meaning -- he's not sure what he has done wrong, he just knows he is wrong. This creates something of a blank slate that lets the agent fill in the blanks: He can attach that guilt, that sense of "wrongness," to whatever he wants. The agent attaches the target's guilt to the belief system the agent is trying to replace. The target comes to believe it is his belief system that is the cause of his shame. The contrast between old and new has been established: The old belief system is associated with psychological (and usually physical) agony; and the new belief system is associated with the possibility of escaping that agony.
• Releasing of guilt: It's not me; it's my beliefs.
The embattled target is relieved to learn there is an external cause of his wrongness, that it is not he himself that is inescapably bad -- this means he can escape his wrongness by escaping the wrong belief system. All he has to do is denounce the people and institutions associated with that belief system, and he won't be in pain anymore. The target has the power to release himself from wrongness by confessing to acts associated with his old belief system.

With his full confessions, the target has completed his psychological rejection of his former identity. It is now up to the agent to offer the target a new one.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


I saw this quoted on someone else's blog and liked it so much I wanted to claim it too:

'I'm reminded of a dear teacher I had in high school who refused to go on to the next poem in our antiquated textbook until we had all agreed on the same interpretive vision of each poem -- her vision.

'Wearily we raised our hands. Yes, yes, that poet was just about to jump off a cliff.

'If we can offer each other a cognizance of mystery through the poems we share, isn't that a greater gift?

'Won't a sense of inevitable mystery underpinning our intricate lives serve us better than the notion that we will each be given a neat set of blanks to fill in -- always?'

– an excerpt from Lights in the Windows by Naomi Shihab Nye


Lately I've spent far too much time with someone who always wanted to analyse and get at The Truth of absolutely everything. The above sentiments are SOOOOOOOOOO welcome!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I fell in love again today ...

That's the second time this week.

The first time happened on MySpace (a great place for falling in love). I encountered a poet called Lowell – also, and primarily, a painter but a wonderful writer too, and brilliant at "taking off" other voices. Well, I'm a sucker for anyone who makes me laugh, and when they're clever and talented too...! I adore irreverence, absurdity, quirkiness; and, as everyone knows, I'm CRAZY about good poetry. So Lowell qualifies on all counts.

As if that wasn't delicious enough, this morning I opened a book I recently borrowed from the library and promptly fell in love with its author. It's bird by bird, by Anne Lamott. The subtitle is,
Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

She's engaging, down-to-earth, writes like a dream, and speaks for me – both as writer and teacher of creative writing. And she's very funny! I break into giggles frequently. This morning, reading her in bed, I kept interrupting my husband's reading to share the best snippets – even though I'd already said to him, 'You've just gotta read this too!' I couldn't help myself. Here's one.

'But you can't
teach writing, people tell me. And I say, "Who the hell are you, God's dean of admissions?" '

Dunno about you, but that just cracked me up. Maybe because I'd like to have had that riposte on my tongue a few times. Instead I tell people, 'You can't teach art but you can teach craft.' True, but not as funny.

And she has wonderful stories about her father, who was also a writer. She herself had a good teacher.

' "Do it every day for a while," my father kept saying. "Do it as you would do scales on the piano. Do it by prearrangement with yourself. Do it as a debt of honor. And make a commitment to finish things." '

When he was dying of a brain tumour,

'My father told me to pay attention and to take notes. "You tell your version," he said, "and I am going to tell mine." '

Ain't that a writer?

And that's only the introduction!

Oh, it's already a treasure! A book to rival my all-time favourite beloved, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones.

The bit I like best is that, when asked why she writes, she says both, 'Because I want to' and 'Because I'm good at it'. I can't think of better reasons!

Later: Oh no, here's an even better bit:

'For me and the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.'

Gotta love this woman.