Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Held the Key to My Freedom...


This healing journey is truly a journey; there is no "event" where we can stand at the threshold of our new life and say "I have arrived". It is a process, step by step, moment by moment of developing the conscious awareness and insight that sets us free and creates the change that changes our lives....

There came a day when I realized I was reacting to my life as if I was still the helpless child at the mercy of those who tormented me. It was in this day I realized I held the power to take my life back from my abusers by refusing to let what they did keep me prisoner in my mind any longer. 

It was in realizing that today's distress was caused by the meaning and story I told myself in my mind and that I held the key to open the door to freedom that had always been there...and only I could unlock. 

In the beginning, I'd have to unlock that door many times as it would slowly close again when I wasn't looking. But in time, I came to realize that when my today life was not working it typically was because I had let yesterdays life overtake me again. 

Bit by bit, one step at a time, day by day and with practice, I've learned to recognize when that door is slowly creaking shut on me again. The "tell" is often a sense of doom, depression or dissociation that overtakes me - or a feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness as I become frozen and incapable of moving forward...

Sometimes the "tell" is that my physical life has gradually gotten out of control again, I feel overwhelmed with the simplest of life tasks. Or I become needy and am seeking comfort or to be taken care of by others as though I was still that child in need of a safe place...

In these times I've learned to acknowledge my fears and phantoms, feel and express the anger....

I hate you because __________________.

And shed the tears, feel and honor the justified anger at being violated and embrace the sadness and grief at the loss of the life I never had and will never know...

It is in recognizing that I am no longer a victim and I am much more than a survivor where I begin to see myself as an adult full of hope and knowing that I hold the power to create this change that changes my life...

time and time again


 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth


Friday, December 24, 2010

My Wish for You and Yours....

Wishing you and yours 
a holiday weekend that brings light 
to your life and peace to your heart!

In gratitude and appreciation of your presence in my journey!


 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fighting Forgiveness

Carrying the burden of a debt owed us


It was brought to my attention that not everyone was able to access this on Facebook for some reason so I decided to re-publish it here on A Journey today. 

Originally published on Facebook here on June 21 2010. 

Fighting "Forgiveness"

by Susan Kingsley-Smith on Monday, June 21, 2010 at 11:20am

I had no clue what it meant to "forgive".

I'd been told to "get over it", "move on", "let it go"....

In other words, forgive those who had hurt me, been responsible in some way for my trauma experiences and most likely would never make their own "amends" with me. And justice would most likely never be served...for either those who have died or still live.

So - this became a part of my journey. To learn to understand how to live in that "peace that passed all understanding", to live in that "serenity" that I'd never experienced following a lifetime of abuse and multiple trauma experiences.

And it came down to a few things.

One - was feeling instead of stuffing the anger at those things that had been done to me when I was powerless to protect myself as a child, as an adult in adult relationships or circumstances that were beyond my control

As an adult I realized I could learn how to access and express my anger and rage in ways that would empower my journey to healing rather than hinder it by consequences for "acting out" against others, or "acting in" against myself.

Two - was recognizing I was no longer powerless; that I am now an adult, no longer dependent on another for my survival and if I am angry at the way someone treats me, I can move on. I no longer am a victim.

If there are circumstances beyond my control - I can identify what I can do to influence change, using my anger and hurt to fuel my purpose, focussing on solutions instead of ruminating as though I am still a powerless child.

And if there truly is nothing I can do to affect change...I can choose to live in acceptance of what is the lesson learned in the "Serenity Prayer" and move on to the next step...

Three - was grieving the losses connected to that experience. And that was that childhood or healthy adult relationship that I deserved for no other reason than I existed - or the losses connected to being in a circumstance that took something from me as in an accident...or a war. This is that process I wrote of in my note Onions Make Me Cry.

And four - I learned what "forgiveness" is - and is not. I began to look at "forgiveness" in contexts other than personal relationships.

In my past, I was a Mortgage Broker/Banker. I dealt in finance, credit reports and so on. Part of my job was to assist folks to understand how their payment history of the past affected their ability to purchase their "dream home" of today especially when they had gotten to that place of "foreclosure".

Another part of my job was to assist these folks to create a workable plan to dig themselves out of the mess they had made by abusing the trust of their lender.

When I looked at "forgiveness" from this perspective it became much easier to see how I could actually "forgive" those who had abused my trust and dependence on them to care for and protect me as a child or those connected to the trauma experiences of my adult life.

This also helped me to understand that forgiving someone does not mean that I have to "extend them credit" in the form of my trust again.

This can be for however long I decide - just as a bank may say "no" to a new loan for up to the 7-10 years that default stays on my credit report, I can also set some limits to see if over time those in my life have learned to treat me and others as they deserve to be treated or not.

And there are some banks that would give some folks a "second chance" with a loan at very high interest to help them re-establish their credit rating as an opportunity to prove they have learned their lesson...

So I can choose to let someone back into my life or close the door permanently.

But I discovered the choice was mine as to if I let them “borrow” from me again or not.

"Forgiveness does not change the past, it creates hope for the future" ~Unknown

See the related posts Paying Homage to the Past here and Onions Make Me Cry here.

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Onions Make Me Cry


This is a post that I'd done this past June on Facebook Onions Make Me Cry and decided to post it and another post Fighting Forgiveness here on A Journey when it was brought to my attention that not everyone could access them on Facebook.

Onions Make Me Cry

by Susan Kingsley-Smith on Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 8:54am

Healing from the lifelong issues that can come along with surviving childhood abuse or neglect of any kind can be a daunting, overwhelming task that until recent years, even the professionals often don't know how to help us do and today is being approached as "trauma" work or "developmental trauma" issues as in C-PTSD. 

But when I discovered the natural emotional healing process that would enable me to begin to move "through" the pain of the past I discovered that as I peeled back one layer to the next, it would do a couple of things.

First, I found a freedom that I'd never known before. When I began to face the past and learn about the dynamics of power and control in family relationships and the effect of it on the children, I was able to understand that I was not “broken” or “defective”…or “bad” or even “ill”; but injured and I understood that injured can heal.

And second, I discovered that as I peeled back one layer of pain, grieved the past, bit by bit, I was able to let go of that pain that had held me prisoner and begin to integrate that experience, those thoughts, the related emotions…into my today.

This is the freedom of making that mind shift from "avoiding" the pain of the past by using unhelpful and oftentimes harmful coping mechanisms that allowed me to numb my emotions in one way or another.

Peeling back the layers, one by one, I found is much like the peeling of an onion.

The top layer is a bit tough. The outside skin is dry and flaky; it's job is to protect the tender inner layers of the meat of the plant that holds all the spice and flavor of it's being; it’s “heart” where new life sprouts from.

And as I began to peel off the top layer of the dry, flaky skin, I reached that first tough outer skin of the onion. I found that I have to work a little to break through to reach that first layer in order to begin to actually “peel” it.

This I found is similar to when I first began to see that I could break through the resistance that was MY top layer; the dry, flaky “skin” that protected my sensitive and injured inner and childlike self. The skin that I presented to the world.

Slowly and intentionally I allowed the grief process to guide me through the layers. Each level of grief embraced, expressed and experienced would take me to a freedom I'd not known in my lifetime and prepare me for reaching the next layer.

The peeling had begun the process. The tears of the grieving process had washed me free and clean of the pain.

And much like in the beginning of peeling of the onion, as I got past those first protective layers, it became easier to peel down to the next layer. This process of grieving the past became easier as I became familiar with it.

In time, I learned to embrace this process with hope and promise that as I peeled back and looked at each layer I began to trust that I would find the full freedom that would take me to the heart of my soul, where I would find the "me" that had been buried and protected by the tough outer layers and hidden from the world.

The “me” that was the heart and source of the seed where my own new life would sprout from.

Peeling through these layers of grief, from the top crusty flaky layer that encased my protective tough outer skin to the tender and sweet inner heart of my being was much like the peeling of the onion...

That would make me cry as I began to peel back the layers in order to reach my heart. 

You can read the related posts Fighting ForgivenessPaying Homage to the Past here and Learning to Live Beyond "It" here.

Tears Wash the Soul Free

Connect with me on twitter here and on Facebook here.

Thank you for being a part of my journey today:)

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Anger Opened the Door to Joy - My Guest Post at Emerging From Broken


This past week over at Emerging From Broken my friend and fellow Blogger Darlene Ouimet has been hosting a series of guest posts on the subject of anger as a part of this healing journey.

Here is an excerpt from my post that Darlene so graciously invited me to share on the subject of anger...and how I learned to use it to fuel my own healing journey....

But it was when I finally began to put the pieces together and break through the lies that the abuse was my fault, that I deserved every bad thing that had happened to me, when I started realizing that my thoughts, my feelings, my choices, opinions, my dreams and desires DID matter that I began to see something happening in myself. I began to feel something besides an intense self-hatred. I began to feel anger.

And while it took some time to learn how to let the lid off the kettle bit by bit what I discovered is that by allowing myself to feel my anger I found the door to grief and the tears that would set me free from the anger and at the same time open the door to joy.
Please join me at Emerging From Broken where you can read the rest of this post and join the conversation!

Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Learning to Live Beyond "It"


By learning to make peace with the past vs wishing I could change the past I found I could accept it as the past and learn to live beyond it. 

Paying Homage to the Past

Making Peace with the Past

I Will Never "Get Over It"

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Happy". It's not just for Fairy Tales:)

"Looking up"
September 2, 2010

Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be. ~Kahill Gibran

It is keeping our eyes on the prize, on what we want rather than what we don't want more of, where we will begin to find victory. Focusing on what I hated about myself and my life never got me anywhere and it seemed as though I would never find the peace and happiness that I was searching for. I believed I was destined to only surviving, coping, managing, getting by - but never truly "living"; that "happily ever after" really only happened in fairy tales. 

It was when I began catching those negative ruminations - those thoughts that would torment me day and night - and by choosing to no longer "go there" where I found that peace from the pain of the past was very often...

just a thought away.

I discovered that when the past came knocking, when my fear of "what if's" and "how will I", when my mind would not "turn off"...that I could learn how to and practice not going "there" and that I could shift my focus from "there"...

to somewhere I wanted to be.

By learning to focus on what I wanted, instead of what I hated, resented or feared, I began to find my way from


to here

where I could begin to see what had been there

all along.


You may enjoy: Word of the Day: Progress!

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Carla Realized her normal was not so normal

Not everyone can tell they've been abused - most abuse isn't even physical. So for someone who comes from a background that did not include physical violations of some sort they may not recognize that the source of their mental health issues could actually be some of the more subtle and unseen forms of abuse that often lead to unseen injuries....

This week at my friend Darlene Ouimets blog Emerging From Broken Carla Dippel shares her journey through depression and the realization that her "normal" upbringing wasn't so normal.

An excerpt from Carla's post...

"My childhood would have looked absolutely normal to most people. I was never beaten, deprived of physical needs, verbally or sexually abused. But at age 16 I knew for the first time that I suffered from depression. It wasn’t the kind of depression that took me through huge highs and lows. It was just this ever-present, cloudy feeling. I operated my life in a constant state of anxiety. I strived to conform to what I thought was the “ideal” or “perfect” way all the time. I had a chronically low self esteem. I see now that the nature of my depression was exactly the same as the nature of my abuse."

Click here to read the rest of this post.


Abuse Disguised

I Didn't Know that I Didn't Know I Was Abused

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Photo Credit

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This month on Empowering Solutions! Iraq war Vet Amber Stone


This month we’ll be talking with Iraq war Veteran Amber Stone and some of the things that she has done to overcome the residual effects of war. Amber will share how PTSD changed her life and how she found some empowering solutions to take her life back!

Click here to go directly to the show page at Blog Talk Radio to listen live at 8pm EST/7pm CST/5pm Pacific time

Don't worry...if you can't listen live you can access the recorded show later at the same link!

Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"story"...or "Story"?


Everyone has a story. 

And it was when I learned how to tell the difference between "story" (little s) and "Story" (big S) that I began to understand the power of 


"story" I came to view from a writers perspective as "backstory".

"story" lays the groundwork, tells who the players are, give atmosphere and lays a foundation for the ending, like in a novel.

Its the framework for a creative ending.

But - if the entire novel is written only about the "backstory" that lays the framework the last chapter never gets written.

We are stuck in WRITERS HELL....

That file on our hard drive that is never quite finished

and causing us all kinds of irritation

or distress.

It is when we move from laying the groundwork, setting the stage and telling the backstory to telling about the emotion, the experiences and the drama behind our feelings about the 'story", like when we

 step to the edge of the mountain,

that we begin to see how the story might evolve and in time come to a conclusion worthy of a pulitzer...

so to speak:)

Throughout my journey, when I was stuck on "story" that focussed on what others had done or things that had happened TO me - I was stuck in anger, resentment, hatred and rumination...

not resolution.

I was stuck in the pain of the past. 

In time, I learned to recognize this was where I was at by who and what my focus was on. 

If the focus of my story was on the things that had happened; the people, the places, the things going on that I'd had no choice in - well, those were things that I could not change. 

(God, grant me serenity....)

These were those things I was truly powerless over - people and past circumstances.

That was backstory; the details, the players...the who, what, when and where of my bigger "Story" and the framework for the final chapter. 

It was in shifting my Story to be about me, my anger at being violated, my power and my choice taken from me, to feel both the anger and the grief, to tell why this was important to me that I was able to move myself into, through and out of the healing process and

give meaning to the backstory by telling MY story.

Getting entangled in "story" made it impossible to tell my "Story" and write that new ending where I am

no longer 

a victim

and much more

than a survivor

where I am

creating and living my best life

each day....

in spite of the past I'd had.

See the post: It is Unwritten....(today is where your book begins:))

 Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How do I? I will. ~Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse~

I. Can. Do. This.
Photo Credit              

Some days this journey is difficult.


Sometimes it just plain sucks. 

In honor of those all who are on on this journey and as a contribution to the Blog Carnival against Child abuse...

This is a re-post from December 2009 but it seemed appropriate for today as a reminder that the road to freedom from the past is full of potholes and yet there is hope...

How do I?...I will.

how do I do this
how do I see
that I am not limited
in what I can be?

how do I go forward
leave the past behind
how do I get there
what will I find?

somehow I have to
reach for that ring
Some way I'll get there
I'll be free and I'll sing

standing at the top of that mountain
ready to reach for the stars
no longer fearful
no longer scared
I know that I will go far

this day I will get there
you know that I will
no longer a victim
I stand free and will
let go of the memories
grieve the past
no longer helpless
I am free at last

Originally published December 2, 2009

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cultivating the Power Within

The Power of Light
October 29 2010

In my last post The Power Within  I introduced the idea that it was by understanding that I held the key to my freedom from the past within myself that I found my way to the light. 

So in today's post I wanted to take a brief look at part of the "how" behind cultivating that power that each of us holds within ourselves if we can only learn how to tap into it....

One of the first things we can do to learn to cultivate intrinsic change on purpose is to choose to live in conscious awareness of our thoughts, without judgement, simply noticing the thoughts that pass through our mind.

Upon noticing a thought we can check our physical being; where do I "feel" this thought in my body? Is my throat tight, my stomach full of butterflies? Is my back tense, my brow furrowed or do I feel electrified and alert?

Do I feel fear? Sadness? Joy? Excitement? Anger? What is my initial impulse? Do I suddenly want to dance and shout or do I feel the urge to run, or fight or the need to sob and cry? 

I can use this insight to create a sense of self awareness, connecting the outcome of my actions to the initial thoughts that are fueling my emotional responses that - in the past had someone asked me "why" I'd done or said something I might have replied with "I don't know". 

Instead I can learn to cultivate the power within myself to create the change that will change my life by cultivating that practice of self awareness. 

Here's to living in the light:)

You may also like: Empowering Solutions and Shamash Alidina; cultivating a practice of Mindful Awareness. Click here to listen

Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Power Within


It was when I stopped seeking for my solutions outside of myself that I found the power within myself to create the change that changed my life by owning my own power to overcome the symptoms of distress instead of coping, managing, medicating and in general avoiding it.

I know, I know...what is all this about "The Power Within"? This sounds more like a motivational tag line for an upcoming Tony Robbins seminar than anything useful.

Well, yeah. 

Until I actually discovered that the key to my living beyond the emotional and cognitive distress that haunted me and influenced my life-after-trauma-and-all-bad-things

really did come from within myself

not anyone or anything

not a tip

a trick

or a really great therapist.

But from within myself. 

Don't get me wrong...

Tips, tricks and a good therapy relationship...those external resources we seek out and find are very often helpful in our journey from

there (darkness)


here (living in the light:))

but they are not the solution

the "fix"

or the 


of our healing or our peace. 

The thing is that these external resources were useless to me without this insight and I stayed mired in the bog of 



resentments, panic, anxiety, depression, dissociation, physical illness, pain, distress and in general 

I felt hopeless that anything could be different


helpless that I could change anything about my life.

I felt and believed I was completely powerless.

I had no clue as to why I could not find my way out of that dark place. 

I could see there was a light shining at the end of that dark tunnel.

But I didn't know how to get there.

Until I discovered that I held the power to free myself from the pain of the past by learning to pull my 

thoughts and feelings

out of the past and into today.

This did not happen all at once. 

There were no bells and whistles that went off, no celebration telling me that I'd arrived...

"Yay! You are now done!"

There was no magic wand that anyone could wave over me to say 

"it is done"

in a deep wizardy kind of voice:)


There was me, myself and I

practicing catching the thoughts that said things like

I'm scared

I'm stupid

What the hell...life sucks and then you die 

so why bother?

Give it up

I can't do this any more

and learning to identify those thoughts as coming from the source of the bad things in my life and that I had adopted those thoughts as my truth..

my belief system that my entire being and life was based on.

I had firmly believed that I was worthless and powerless to change my life or choose who I wanted to be each day.

And no amount of "you shouldn't think like that" could change that belief without some effort on my part.

It's very much like reprogramming a computer that was infected by a virus...sometimes the virus can be hidden but when we realize that something is wrong with out output we can follow the symptoms back to the source of the problem to the operating system and clean up the hard drive and we get new output...we get new results when we remove it instead of just masking it, avoiding dealing with it or pretending it never happened. 

And so it is in this journey from


to here

we don't arrive all at once, there is no software program to run, no pill, no therapist that can wipe our hard drive clean for us. They can guide us but when it comes down to it we find our own power to catch the virus

clean and rewrite the hard drive

and we don't do it all at once

but by

putting one foot in front of the other

one day at a time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Making Peace with the Past


I'd spent 17 years in America's mental health system, my history of trauma and abuse neglected and dismissed as unimportant. Yet it was only upon leaving this system that had denied my life experiences as having any impact on my life that I began to find healing and make peace with the past. I began to explore and understand the role of emotions in healing from the pain of the past and all that goes with it in human emotional pain and the physical response to cognitive distress. 

I knew I was making progress in my healing journey as I began to move from wanting and needing the  comfort of another and became able to finally sit with my own pain instead of striving to avoid it. 

Was this an easy thing to do?

Very simply...

Hell no. 

I was taught early on that my thoughts, feelings and choices were wrong and that to have an original thought or feeling of my own, to take any self initiated action would result in somehow being minimized and discredited, abused and left to understand that I was


So no; it was not easy to learn to sit with and face my past and the reality of what was my truth.

It was not easy to realize that no matter how hard I tried I could not create the perfect world today for myself where I was valuable and honored by striving to finally be accepted as good enough or that I had finally done something...anything...right enough.

It was not easy to fully face the reality that there was no 

quick fix

no magic pill 

to take away my pain

but that 

to heal from the loss of all that should have been and
that which will never be
is to embrace that which was
and is.

Today I Cried