Personal Growth and Transformation



"When the bottom falls out of your reality, you then pay attention to yourself, your fears, dreams and needs in a very different manner. You have nothing to lose in letting the smoke screens in your life fall away. As you can learn to look at your life honestly, without excuses and self-imposed, preconceived conditions, you will find the levels of fear and anxiousness diminish. The willingness to re-evaluate the current ‘you" and the possibilities for a new "you" is what turns limitation into opportunity and destructive, old patterning into viable, healthy new paths of growth."

Meredith Lady Young
Language of the Soul: Applying Universal Principles for Self-Empowerment


How does one heal and grow from an unthinkable traumatic experience? It helps each of us when others open their hearts and tell their stories. In this issue and several following, personal stories illustrate how we can move beyond staying a victim and how to use painful events to grow spiritually. Know that the events that wounded us, whether or not they are as severe as those in these stories, can deepen our relationship with our Self and be used for the upliftment of our consciousness. To raise our consciousness out of the consensus reality of victim/victimizer consciousness, takes tremendous courage and vigilance.

Allow these courageous people to impact you and show you the way out of trauma. Their sharing is very personal and each of them hopes to show you that no matter how challenging a life situation, there are ways to grow and heal from the experience.

Some of the best teachers and healers are the wounded healers who have healed themselves. In the following months you will read others. If you are drawn to write your story, send it to me. If you missed previous stories you can read them now:

Story number 1, Overcoming Sexual Assault

Story number 2, Moving Beyond Childhood Abuse

Story number 3, In Memory of Betty Sitzer

Story number 4, A Turning–Point in My Journey from Being Born with Spastic Cerebral Palsy
to Leading a Productive and Fulfilling Adult Life

Story number 5, Letting Go: My Life After My Teenage Son’s Suicide

Story number 6, Moving Beyond Blaming Myself for My Son's Mental Illness

Story number 7, The Silence Is NOT Golden: An Exercise In Dysfunction


Discarding Toxic Tapes from Childhood

By Barbara Neff

The Broken China Cup

Divorce pulled my saucer from beneath.
Abandonment nicked my rim.
Violence snapped my handle
Like a twig in hurricane wind.

Betrayal stained my finish.
Fear cracked my base.
Death and sad upheaval
Left marks across my face.

Indifference marred my value.
Shame scratched my design.
My shattered china cup childhood,
Glue so hard to find.

Adhesive my lifelong quest;
I align my pieces well.
Expert china cup repair woman-
Trained eyes can’t often tell.


You wouldn't call my poem a happy one. I wasn't happy when I wrote it earlier this year. I was on the low side of the ride. I am fortunate my roller coaster moves along quickly, which prevents stalls. Peaks and valleys are part of most days.

I haven't sought professional diagnosis of my condition. Perhaps mild manic-depression would come close. I don't think hearing those words, however, from one qualified to offer assessment would change anything. In fact, I don't seek an end to the roller coaster I have come to know as my life. I've learned to hang on and ride the ride.

As my poem reflects, the first years were rocky, though I did not recognize them as such due to limited childhood frames of reference. My life was just that. I didn't recognize the dysfunction of my first family or wounds and sadness until nearing my third decade. Before that, I flew auto-pilot fashion. Tapes on loops inside my head told me men were not to be trusted, a good woman is a doormat, happiness is elusive, self loathing is natural, neediness is normal and love hurts. Most of all, the tapes said, love and pain are tandem emotions.

Near the age of thirty I began to assess. Why was I going from unhealthy relationship to unhealthy relationship on a fairly predictable three to four year cycle? Could it be I was seeking men I could eventually blame for breaking my heart? I began to recognize striking similarities between each of the men in my failed relationships and the man who shattered my mother and my own childhood. I recognized my own reactions to men as reflections of my mother's. I consider myself fortunate to have had these realizations before marriage to or children with the substitute fathers in and out of my adult life.

I committed to a year of psychotherapy around the age of thirty. I felt driven to thoroughly inspect and understand stuff within. Clearly, cycles needed to be broken. I never denied the traumas of my childhood, including my father's abrupt departure at age five, my mother's descent into chronic and often violent depression, my having been sexually victimized by a relative, my mother's terminal illness and death when I was eleven and my subsequent life under the tyranny of a mean spirited step mother. But, I had failed to recognize my soul-level damage.

Through honest assessment and a lot of hard self work, I was able to discard most of the toxic tapes from my childhood. I had to dig. I still do. I had to sometimes use an emotional sledgehammer to rid myself of old messages. I still do. Self work led me to one pure truth; a truth of which I remind myself often; a truth that changed my life once I grasped it and embraced it. The truth that changed my life is this: Love is not supposed to hurt.

Can a person whose body has been scarred by injury or illness be productive and happy? Of course. Can a person with a mended soul thrive? Absolutely, with genuine desire and tenacity.

Now in my fifties, I commit to lifelong exploration. I deeply admire my own ability, even as a small child, to glue the pieces in place and carry on. Though I have made many mistakes, I am grateful for a willingness to assess honestly, accept responsibility rather than blame, and learn. I am thankful for my God-given ability to learn.

A well repaired china cup is still a china cup.


Bio for Barbara Neff

I was born in Memphis, TN, in 1954 to a mother raised in rural Mississippi and a father raised in the farmlands of Tennessee. Both were born during the Great Depression.

My father abandoned my mother, brother and me when I was very young, four or five, to live with and eventually marry a woman who, along with her husband and two young children, had been a family "friend".  My mother promptly sank into a dark place emotionally, a place from which she never emerged.

As an adult I began to understand the root of my mother's rage and depression after my father's departure. Her family secrets included, I learned through her surviving sisters, a sexually abusive father and a cold, detached mother. Chances are she was a needy, insecure woman.  She was certainly the cold, detached, physically abusive mother perhaps her own mother had been.

I cannot say I have forgiven my mother. Though my role as mother taught me rage is one of the surprise emotions in parenting, love, admiration and respect for my children cause me to understand less how a mother could act upon feelings of rage against one's children as my mother did. Least forgivable is my mother's willingness to leave me in the care of a known child predator, her own father. Part of me believes she served me up to him on a silver platter.

My childhood from age eleven on, after the death of my mother from Hodgkin's Disease, was spent in Arkansas under the tyranny of a step mother who sorely wished the two children from her husband's first marriage, the marriage she helped destroy, were not part of the equation. Though never physically abusive, my step mother was a screamer, an insulter, a woman frustrated with her own inadequacies and deeply threatened by her husband's fickle ways. Her husband, my father, continued to be throughout his life the man she must have known she was getting when she participated in the disruption of his marriage to my mother.

Not surprisingly, I grew into a sad, needy young woman. I am exceedingly fortunate in many ways. I happen to have a gift of intellect. I figured out how to please people at an early age. I found gratification in relationships with responsible adults outside our home; adults who approved of me and praised me for good grades, academic achievements, social achievements and even beauty. I am thankful for an aunt, the mother of my high school boyfriend, three female teachers and the mothers of some of my close girlfriends for filling up a young girl, me, with things motherly and good. How I knew to tap into what those great women had to offer I will never know. If I were a religious person I'd say God placed them in my path. I am eternally grateful.

I obtained a college degree, thanks in large part to the guidance of some of the above referenced teachers, and no thanks to my insecurities and lack of self discipline. I graduated in spite of dabbling with drugs, gravitating toward aimless athletes and sorority sisters, and making all round stupid choices during my college years.

I continued to flounder for a couple of years after college. In retrospect, I can identify several things that fell into place at around age 23 and 24 that helped me get a better grasp on life and a better understanding of how I could live it wisely and well. First, I entered into a relationship with a man who was educated and successful. Though he was unfaithful and assured me from the onset there'd be no marriage or children, I hung in there several years and savored his life and what it had to offer me. I began to connect with people who were educated, confident and successful. I learned to emulate them. Second, I landed a job with an airline that took me out of Arkansas, away from people, away from pain, away from the culture of a family unhealthy. Armed with an air of confidence and a broader world vision, I made a break and never looked back.

I have had a wealth of good adult life experiences. I have had fantastic work opportunities, maintained friendships with people who are genuine and filled with love, established my own nuclear family complete with two incredible sons and a husband of almost two decades, partaken of the smorgasbord that is life. As I often say jokingly, "The world owes me nothing."

I have also had the opportunity to know young women, some in very bad situations, who feel helpless, powerless, doomed to lives over which they feel they have no control. Here is what I say. Though not an easy thing to believe with your heart, we each have the power to stop being a leaf blown willy-nilly by the winds of life. No matter how sad the early years, no matter how one might have been demeaned as a child, each of us has the power to make a good and satisfying life for ourselves. It is not always easy. Original family dynamics we experienced as children are sometimes terribly hard to cast out. But, discarding can be accomplished. The first step is to surround yourself with people who are caring and responsible. Generally speaking, most people wish to help others in this world. Let people help. Gravitate toward the older, the wiser, the successful, the well adjusted. Practice behaving as you see them behave. Practice an attitude, a world view as they demonstrate until it becomes your own. Talk to yourself about rejecting all that has caused pain and embracing what you know you deserve, especially if in a position of influence over children.  Be your own best observer and your own life coach.

Though the seeking of revenge is not a healthy endeavor, I cannot help loving the old saying, "The best revenge is living well."  Live well in the game of life and you win.





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