The QUESTION for this Month of December is:
I am so glad I found this site, Dr. Rhonda. I am a little frustrated. I love a woman, I’ll call her Stella, with what she calls a “trauma” background. She is an incest survivor and it happened from ages 5 to 10. She said she became very introverted and, even though she is beautiful, she says she hasn’t had many relationships before me. We are in our mid 30s. She is moody and sometimes hard to understand, and sex is infrequent. But then on most days, she has a great sense of humor, she is easy to talk to and wonderful, and we have a lot of fun together. I am sure she cares about me, but I want more intimacy. She is smart, educated, and supportive and I love her. Help me, please. Joe
Thanks, Joe, for your heartfelt question. I am so proud of you for having the sophistication to recognize that the woman you love is a high quality human being dealing with a life altering experience.
Joe, I want you to understand that “Stella” experienced something that has colored her worldview and her life’s choices. All of us want to believe in the what social psychologists call a “just world.” Yet, having something like that happen at such a young and formative time in one’s developmental process, make the world appear dangerous and foreboding. It can undermine one’s confidence, as well as one’s trust in oneself, let alone others. Then, otherwise ordinary social interactions can seem to require an expense of too much energy—causing one to begin isolating socially. Some of this is not even consciously understood by the sexual abuse survivor, causing her to question herself: “What’s wrong with me?” “Why do I feel this way?” “Why can’t I be like my peers?” “Why can’t I enjoy myself?”
You don’t give me much information about her, but I feel pretty sure that she has had to mourn the loss of her childhood and adolescence because, early on, she may have felt she had to close down to protect herself. You indicate that she is lovely, but inexperienced. That is typical of a woman who closed down, and, looking back, she probably recognizes all the childhood and adolescent social milestones she missed, or couldn’t be “present” for, and that is a source of pain that many may not understand.
Did she go to prom? Did she go to homecoming dances? Was she able to take advantage of high school extracurricular activities? Did she date and have “fun” in college and in her twenties? If the answer to all or most of those questions is no, then that is a lot to deal with for she does not have the advantage of having worked certain things out during adolescence and young adulthood. Therefore, intimate interpersonal interactions may still be difficult for her.
You say she is moody. Be adept at giving her space during these moments or days. Chances are she just needs space, compassion, and support. Be patient during those times and simply be there if she wants to talk. Sometimes, she may just want you to be present… and silent, doing your thing as you commune with her. You don’t have to feel like you must provide her with “answers” to things with which she is grappling. Just listening, perhaps, with a well-thought out comment here and there, will be very helpful and therapeutic. Many times trauma survivors just want to be heard, because the people closest to them often can’t cope with the revelations about the premature sexualizing of their loved one.
As for intimacy, I once read where someone broke “intimacy” down to “in to me I see.” So, sometimes when she is aware that she is with someone who is looking into her, this may make her very uncomfortable, as many sexual trauma survivors have spent a lot of time trying to be invisible. Just understand that and be consistent with your displays of affection so that she can perceive, unequivocally, that your feelings are real. Then making love may feel safer and become more enjoyable for her. Just be careful to perceive and heed her signals and clues.
Stella sounds like a wonderful woman who is still healing. She may be a trip, but I suspect that’s a part of what attracts you to her. She is a woman of tremendous worth, one that you value. Although she may be kind of mysterious, you can probably unlock some of those mysteries by just being consistent, attentive, and perceptive to her needs. You sound like a great guy to have even posed this question. I wish you and Stella all the best!
"My kids are not performing well in school. My sons are now in the 3rd and 4th grades. I've noticed that after the excitement of the first two or three weeks, it's always all downhill for both of them. I can't get them to show more interest. What can I do? Help!" Peggy
Wow, Peggy! What a great question, and I am so glad you asked it. You are so right to want to get ahead of this disinterest you have detected in your sons.
As an educator and psychologist, people always ask me some verision of "How can I get my children to pay greater attention in school?" The truth is that things have changed a LOT since we were in school. Children today are exposed to so much stimuli outside of the classroon (e.g. social media, computer games and 24 hour television with a trillion stations), so it may seem really, really difficult to get their attention. On top of all of that, the schools that many of our children attend are just, dare I say it, not up to par. The sad part is that we have a social contract that is supposed to insure that all of our kids get a good education in public schools, but that social contract has been broken.
So, take control of your sons' education! You have provided me with an excellent opportunity to reprint portions of one of my favorite writings about educating our children. Some of what appears below has been published in an article I wrote for a newspaper (and I have blogged it). Here are my thoughts:
I am sure that after a long hard day at work, it may seem like a hassle to be as meaningfully involved with your children as you want to be, but please understand that simply being present with your sons is important. On those days when you are tired and find it difficult to be fully engaged with your children, just listen to them while you prepare dinner, do laundry, or accomplish whatever needs your attention. Just having an "audience" is significant to a child because it communicates the fact that his thoughts are important, and it provides him with opportunities to develop his voice and opinions. You'll probably be surprised how inspired you will become with minimal engagement despite your fatigue.
Turn educational topics into a "quest." So you might ask your sons to tell you about Egypt or whatever place they may be studying in social studies/history.
Tell them it is a place you have heard a lot about and always wanted to visit. Then ask them to tell you about it. As they search the internet, comment on their findings. If
they ask you questions that you honestly just don't have an answer for, tell them you all will
"investigate" the question on the weekend and make sure you keep that promise. With help from a librarian who can direct your search, it shouldn't take more than an hour or so to get some material on the topic and go home.
For math and science, if you feel intimidated--like so many people-- by those subjects, talk to your sons' teachers and ask for appropriate resources. There are many resources to help you with what they are studying online and in libraries. Also, use the time with the teacher(s) to establish a good rapport with her/him/them and to let them know that you are a parent who wants her sons to recieve a good education. Let teachers, who are often overworked and under resourced, know that you are an ally and that you want to work with them to insure that your sons do well. Meeting with teachers alerts your sons to the fact that you are serious about their education, that education is important, and that you are willing to go the extra mile. If you are uncomfortable meeting with teachers, get a relative or friend who is not uncomfortable to go with you.
Also, recognize that public libraries are changing. As a way of drawing more people to the libraries, many of them are staging more and more programming. Find out what your local library has to offer and get your kids involved. I am always blown away listening to people at libraries and churches in inner-cities discuss how they offer tutoring and culturally sensitive programs, but they have to "beg" kids to come. One minister at a wonderful church even told me his church provides bus transportation to and from the tutoring they offer and yet there are few takers. Take your children to reading hours and other events. If your library does not offer tutoring after school that your kids can take advantage of, ask why not.*
Lastly, be sure to try to create the kind of "culture" in your home that encourages and appreciates learning. You want to create a culture that encourages them to love learning and to want to be "smart." As I used to tell my college students in psychology, most kids are smart and they display tremendous "intellectual curiosity." We, unwittingly, destroy or dim that curiosity when we yell at children or shoo them away for asking questions because we are tired or want to do something else. Try hard to refrain from those types of behaviors. Always take a minute to respond to your child, even if it is to say, "Son, mom's really busy right now, but that's an awesome question and we can try to figure out the answer a litte later. (Of course, you need to follow through.) The last thing you want your sons to think is that, for you, watching TV or talking on the phone is more important than educational pursuits. Stay present. You can always watch a television program later online!
Best of luck to you and Happy New (School) Year to you and your little scholars!
* I feel compelled to say: Make sure the people you allow into your children's lives are people you can trust. That means it is a good idea to go with them to library and church programs at least the first several times, if not always, to check out the people who will be instructing and interacting with them. Be super careful about who you trust!
The BOOK by
Dr. Rhonda Sherrod:
Surviving, Healing, and Evolving
will arrive SOON!!
Quote of the Week:
December 3, 2017
"There is a notion out there that black people enjoy the Sisyphean struggle against racism. In fact, most of us live for the day when we can struggle against anything else. But having been, by that very racism, pinned into ghettoes, both metaphorical and real, our options for struggle are chosen long before we are born. And so we struggle out of fear for our children. We struggle out of fear for ourselves. We struggle to avoid our feelings, because to actually consider all that was taken, to understand that it was taken systematically, that the taking is essential to American and echoes down through the ages, could make you crazy."
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Quote of the Month -
"...she had nothing to fall back on; not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything. And out of the profound desolation of her reality she may well have invented herself."
Brilliant multiple prize-winning author
"I am a woman -- gorgeously designed, brilliant, charming, mysterious, funny, bewitching, cool, and, most of all, uniquely purposed. I am my own phenomenal being, and I own and govern myself!"
Dr. Rhonda Sherrod
"Dipped in Chocolate, Bronzed in Elegance, Enameled with Grace, Toasted with Beauty.
My Lord, She's a Black Woman."
GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
What makes you happy?
FIND YOUR PURPOSE, SO YOU CAN BE HAPPY!