Seen and NOT Heard
As children, there are many things in life that we have no control over. These things are within the power of others, to help or harm us.
“Children should be seen but not heard.” This saying has been around for a very long time.
“In the original form of this proverb, it was specifically young women who were expected to keep quiet. This opinion is recorded in the 15th-century collections of homilies written by an Augustinian clergyman called John Mirk in Mirk's Festial, circa 1450:
“Hyt ys old Englysch sawe (saying or proverb): A mayde schuld
be seen, but not herd. (a maid should be seen and not heard).
Taken from: www.phrases.org.uk on 14/November 2017.
A couple more sayings…
Thackeray in Roundabout Papers (1860-63) still has: "Little boys should not loll on chairs...Little girls should be seen and not heard."
“In silence I must take my seat,...
I must not speak a useless word,
For children must be seen, not heard.“~B.W. Bellamy, Open Sesame, vol. 1, p. 167. (1915). Quoted as Table Rules for Little Folks.
In my generation 50’s-60’s, we were told, “not to speak unless spoken to,” “Go outside and play while the adults talk.” “Don’t be a tittle-tattle” etc.
We had no voice, as children.
As we move on into our teenage years, we have been conditioned, not to tell. Indeed, this gave power to those in our world. Even if we did try to tell when things went wrong, or someone was hurting us, we were dismissed, especially if the offender was known to our parents or those in authority over us.
A friend of mine told me her story and how she resolved it herself when others didn’t hear her cry for help. I print this with her permission…
“I was 15-16 years old, a member of a band, chorus, and other school activities. This required after-school pickups to get home, as there was no transportation system in a rural area. My sister and my neighbours helped me out greatly.
However, at one point, my sister's husband picked me up a few times and although he never touched me, he exposed his private parts in the car. I tried not to notice and prayed that nothing bad would happen. The first and second time, I just pretended not to notice; however, on the third time, I jumped out of the car when we arrived home and I was very upset. I was afraid something bad would happen if I didn’t say something. I told my mother first and she dismissed it. I told her again whilst my sister was present. They dismissed it as impossible. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to go to my school activities but I felt afraid. I was so upset that the same woman (my Mother,) who called me her "golden child,” or “miss goody two shoes,” would be dismissed so easily. I asked some other people I knew to take me to the different practices so that I never needed to depend on my sister and her husband again.
It tainted our familial relationships for many years. My biggest disappointment is with my mother, who saw how afraid I was, heard my fears and chose not to listen. She never took the time to investigate the truth.”
Child Sexual Abuse changes family life, it’s inconvenient and it challenges relationships that many of us fear losing should we be put in a position where we are forced to confront a person about a child’s fears; or indeed, revelations about another person’s behaviour toward our child. After a confrontation, we are put in an unpleasant situation where we have to deal with denial, lies, deceptions and finding the truth. There are so many losses and broken trust and maybe court cases. It’s by far, easier to not listen than to walk through the battleground of getting to the truth and then the years of restoration for a child.
Then, of course, there are people in organisations that have the power to not allow the truth to be heard.
This is my story when I was at the Good Shepherd Convent. There were terrible things going on, I was afraid and I sent a letter to my Social Worker. There was a months delay after I wrote it because I believe, the nuns held onto it. I waited for help; it never came. What I got instead, was a dismissive letter back from the Social Worker; consequently, it never got resolved, I was never heard, even though I tried to tell…
“I was wondering if you could come and see me as it is important. At the moment I am feeling a bit upset about everything and I want to talk it over with you that is if you have the time to come and see me. I can’t really say what I have to tell you in a letter so please come and see me.”
“I am sorry that there has been a delay in replying to your letter but it took a long time to reach me through some oversight.”
Sometimes, it is not safe to tell while we are children, and many times we don’t know whom to tell when we grow up. However, it’s okay to tell your story now; in fact, it’s vital to your healing to tell your story. It’s in telling our story to someone that truly hears us, we are validated and our worth is restored… and the healing begins.
It’s safe, and private, to get in touch with a survivor group, where others are walking the healing journey; or likewise, talk to a professional to help unravel your story.
You fall in love with a pair of “to die for” shoes and the only pair they don’t have left are your size. However, you JUST manage to squeeze into them, so you buy them, believing they will eventually stretch and fit.
Saturday night comes; you and your ‘besties’ are heading to a nightclub and you are feeling fabulous in your new shoes; that is until you start to feel a twinge. Very soon, the twinge turns to swelling; and indeed, pain follows.
Within a very short time, all you can think about is getting those “to die for” shoes off. You sit out the dancing and sneak off your shoes and decline any offers to go elsewhere because your feet are “killing you.” All you want to do is find your way home quickly to relieve the swelling and pain, swearing, “never again.”
The next day, you hobble to the Mall hoping to get your money back, exchange the shoes, or alternatively, search for another comfortable pair of shoes that fit and meet your needs.
Prolonged and repeated trauma during childhood can leave a person without a true sense of being ‘comfortable in your own skin;’ and indeed, limits their ability to work in many work environments, or to form healthy relationships with others, especially those who are in a position of trust.
When the shoe doesn’t quite fit
A child surviving in an abuse environment is constantly on the lookout for signs, signals and changes in the “trusted” person’s moods or attitudes; likewise, for changes in the environment, because a child’s survival is dependant on their intuitive awareness to these changes, even though they have no understanding of what it means on an intellectual level. Therefore, they don’t have a sense of fitting into their environment and thriving like other children, because they are in a constant state of hypervigilance (anxiously keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties). They learn how to read and listen to the unspoken language i.e. body language, tone, eye contact and gut feelings. So they learn not to trust, especially when prolonged and repeated traumas are present. This leaves a child in a constant state of anxiety and weakens their ability to embrace life, as it presents itself.
Notwithstanding, this environment has the potential to leave a child with an ongoing condition called, C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). A long-term condition brought on by repeated childhood trauma, causing many problems with memory identity, emotional control and inability to form deep, healthy relationship with others.
C-PTSD leaves a person with a sense of not quite fitting into a work, social or relationship environment. No matter how educated, skilled, talented, trained and together a survivor is, there is a sense of not quite fitting into a ‘normal’ environment. There is a constant anxious battle on the inside to feel “normal” (whatever that means), to say and do the right thing; and indeed, to fit.
It's difficult for a person with C-PTSD to fit comfortably into a group setting, family, work, and church or community group. It may appear a perfect fit in the beginning; and indeed, it may work for a little while but then the twinge begins, along with the swelling, and finally the pain. Consequently, the urgency of wanting to escape home and find the comfort of the ‘shoes that fit.’
An adult suffering with C-PTSD, surrendering to an environment where they don’t quite fit is as painful as an ill-fitting shoe because it becomes unbearable, painful and unsafe.
There’s a reason for this; in fact, just like the ill-fitting shoe, it’s not noticeable to others around them. For instance, a sufferer of C-PTSD has an awareness of the things going on around them; they see and feel deeply the injustices, hidden conflicts and agendas, the lies, deceit and the unspoken languages.
- They feel the twinge, they know things are not right and they are alert. (Watching for possible dangers and difficulties).
- The swelling starts, they start to react and self-protect, creating a reaction in others.
- The pain begins, conflicts, confrontations, overreacting.
- The relief comes when the source of the pain is removed. You leave the environment or others exclude you from it. In fact, it’s a relief whichever way the removal is presented because the “possible dangers and difficulties” are removed.
Therefore, the task of a person with C-PTSD is to find the “shoe that fits” comfortably and many times that is finding the environment that works within their safety net, without isolating themselves.
I personally, couldn’t work within an environment with a hierarchy/pecking order (status seen amongst members of a group of people or animals) because of the interpersonal games, cliques, conflicts and hidden agendas, it reminded me too much of being abused by those entrusted with my well-being. My triggers were my hard taskmasters; therefore, I couldn’t work in many work places, even though I had the personality and the skills. Whenever it reached the point of pain, I could walk away.
“When the shoe fits” then wear it.
In conclusion, find the right shoe that fits comfortably and wear it.
You get one life, others may have interfered with it; however, you get to choose the outcome.
Get help to bring ‘triggers’ under control, join a group where others are moving forward with their lives and they include you. If you feel others exclude you and you have exhausted the reasons why then exchange the “ill-fitting” for a “comfortable fit.” There are many healthy, wonderful, inclusive groups in our community that embrace others unconditionally.
Find your passion, (we all have something that ignites us) and run with it, turn it into a business, to create income. I have found the most peace when I worked my own businesses, I created the environment and I got to allow who I needed in my life and who I needed to let go of. Anyone can start a business, and be as creative as you want to be. My only suggestion is that you start small and allow it to fit into your life.
Be in control of the shoes you wear. Life is too short to put up with ill-fitting shoes.
Prison (obvious framework) A building in which people are legally held as a punishment for a crime they committed, or whilst awaiting trial and legal judgment.
“Prison” (obscure framework)
A building/situations where people are illegally held, or exploited because of their vulnerabilities.
- A person captured and kept confined by an enemy or criminal.
- A person who is or feels confined or trapped by a situation.
- Having no freedom to choose alternatives or to avoid something.
This kind of “prison” takes on many shapes and forms and attempting a list would be overwhelming; and indeed, incomplete. Therefore, I’ll be concentrating on “prisons” that are not of our own making. I’ll use three stories to explain how “prisons” can make and shape us, even though our “prisons” come through the hands of others…
- Jealousy, envy and revenge (Joe).
- Through life circumstances (Esther).
- Judgment, gossip and social exclusion (Sam).
Biblical stories that are used as powerful illustrations because they clearly highlight the different forms of “prisons” that others may be inflicted on us, with consequences. However, they went on to become world changers.
He was born into a wealthy family.
Loved by his Mum and Dad.
His brothers (10) hated him.
His brothers were jealous of him.
His brothers plotted to get rid of him.
His brothers tried to kill him.
His brothers sold him into slavery when he was seventeen.
He served as a slave for around thirty years.
Was ‘hit on’ by the wife of a prominent Ruler.
He refused her advances.
She lied (a woman spurned), she told her husband he tried to rape her.
He went to prison for three and a half years.
His heart never got bitter, resentful or revengeful.
End of story: he was given ALL power over Egypt and he saved many lives (including his brothers). (Genesis 37:1-50:26)
Her Dad died before she was born.
Her Mum died in childbirth.
Her Uncle brought her up as his own child.
Grew into a beautiful girl.
King took her into his harem.
The castle was her prison.
Her heart never got bitter, resentful, or revengeful.
End of Story: She became Queen and saved a whole nation. (Book of Esther)
Five men loved, married and left Sam (Samaritan woman). It doesn’t say she was divorced five times; they could have died.
She lived with the sixth man.
She was judged and gossiped about by her village.
The people she did life with excluded her.
Her shame was her “prison.”
She met a Man at the well.
She found love and acceptance.
Lost her shame.
End of story: she helped the very people who created her “prison.” (John 4: 1-42)
In conclusion, even though our “prisons” come through the hands of others, it’s what we do with the hand we have been dealt that changes us. In other words, it can make us bitter or better. It can isolate us, or indeed, it can prepare us and thrust us out into the world to benefit mankind, or likewise, influence those around us. The key is to forgive those hands that created our “prisons” and trust that the wounds will heal, as we learn to use the experiences for our good and well-being. Alternatively, we can spend our lives looking for revenge towards those who had a part in shaping our lives.
The “litmus test” of healing and restoration is when we are able to do good to those that have hurt us.
Famous people, that survived terrible abuse and broke free from their “prison” and became world changers.
Only this week, this judgment was spewed at me.
She said, “How long ago did this happen to you?” (Yes, in THAT tone)
I answered, “When I was 14.”
She responded, “Isn’t it about time you got over it.”
It may have happened to me over fifty years ago, and yet it has influenced my life for over fifty years; however, the memory only came back last year. For me, the last twelve months has been a journey of walking through a dark tunnel, as I remembered a missing two years of my life.
I had buried this phase (early teens) for fifty years, never looking at it again, until recently, whilst I was researching my genealogy. I discovered my Grandmother was put into a workhouse, in Dublin, Ireland, after her father had died, and before she immigrated to New Zealand, as a fifteen-year-old. As I researched the life she may have lived, I felt intense sorrow, more pain than was appropriate for my discoveries.
In my research I stumbled across the movie, “Magdalene Sisters” and I cried, as I realised the horrors my Grandmother may have lived through. That was, until, the girls were being beaten and verbally abused in the office by the head nun. A light went on (trigger), as I realised, that was me; indeed, that was my story. I was transported back, in a moment of time, to the office of Sister Carmel, at the Home of the Good Shepherd, in Waikowhai, Auckland, New Zealand, and that was me being yelled at, berated and beaten.
I have never told anyone what went on in there. Actually, I tried to but we were always monitored, our letters were always censored. I discovered a letter, in my files that I wrote to my Social Worker, on 02/04/1967. She received it on the 05/05/1967, a month after I wrote it. Basically, I said I needed to see her to discuss things I couldn’t write in a letter. Her letter of response expressed how sorry she was that my letter took so long to reach her. Then she dismissed it with, “ I’m sorry to hear you are unhappy and I hope you have resolved your problem now.” Then she wrote, it was difficult for her to come and see me. I never had a voice then, there was no one to tell, there was no one to rescue me.
When I left that hell-hole, where I was forced to do laundry, day in and day out. I never spoke about it again, as I fought to fit back into society; and in fact, worked hard to feel “normal,” whilst burying something abnormal that robbed me of self-worth and value.
My court notes told me that the reason I was in the convent was that I was not under proper parental control. How was that my fault? Why was I punished for something that was out of my control?
I agree that I was rebellious; I did run away from home. I did need intervention but I didn’t need that soul-destroying punishment.
I can write about this now because I have walked through my dark tunnel, I have made it to the other side, and indeed there is freedom, a sense of worth and value at the end of it. I know and accept that this happened to me and I am who I am because of what I have walked through and was able to put all the missing pieces back together.
I have forgiven those I needed to forgive (for my sake), my reactions in life now make sense and I tell my story to help others know that no matter how dark the tunnel, there is ALWAYS a light at the end of it, but it does take courage and commitment to walk through it.
The “trigger” and the memories were too overwhelming for me to deal with last year because I was frustrated knowing that something terrible happened to me and yet I couldn’t remember the details. I needed facts and I needed help. I saw a Clinical Psychologist, to help me make sense of this because I couldn’t piece the memories together. However, when I got all my case notes from the courts and child welfare Department in New Zealand, I was thrown into a very dark place as I was confronted by my life as a young girl. I have walked through it, with the help of others, gained understanding and become strong and healthy as truth was revealed.
A tunnel is built underground and there is “no getting over it;” in fact, there is no digging myself out of it, going around it, surrendering it, burying it, or even pretending it doesn’t exist. The only way to get out of a dark tunnel is to walk through it until you reach the end of it, knowing that no matter how dark, or long it is, that there is a light at the end of it, and then you can put it behind you.
And then, you are “over it!” So what if it took fifty years, it will happen when it is meant to happen.
It's your journey!
Countries have walls and boundaries.
Castles have walls and boundaries.
Farms have fences and boundaries.
Homes may or may not have fences, always boundaries.
Businesses, homes and cars have alarm systems.
Children and the vulnerable depend on other’s walls and boundaries to protect them.
It makes sense that we need to establish our own personal boundaries; indeed, walls if necessary.
It’s normal to have walls/fences and boundaries to protect those things that are of value to you; obviously, barriers are essential to keep out the bad and to protect the good within. Likewise, they are built to protect from potential enemies who seek to harm you. When someone breaks into your home, their intention is obviously never good.
On the one hand, a wall is important for protection (if you are a V.I.P. because you can be a potential target), and is necessary because great wealth leads to vulnerability. On the other hand, a wall is isolating and has the potential to create bigger problems within the walls and ultimately make prisoners of those behind it.
Although it’s true that a boundary is different to a wall, they are both barriers and both require permission for a person to enter. However, within a boundary, there’s more freedom and interaction with others.
Should a boundary be crossed or violated, there is room for negotiations (unlike solid walls). Boundaries don’t necessarily give you privacy, but they do give room for movement, freedom, protection; and indeed, conflict.
For example, I moved into a new home and my boundary was shared with my neighbour. We were in the process of establishing our new gardens when we struck up a neighbourly conversation and she casually told me she was planning to put down pavers to divide our properties, whilst at the same time, giving us both a pathway to the garden hose. She said she already had the pavers and asked me to agree for her to place them between our boundary lines. I agreed.
The next morning, I walked out to collect my mail and noticed the pavers were fully on my side of the boundary line. I felt angry at her taking advantage of the boundary line and waited until I had cooled down before knocking on her door to discuss it. Then the dispute began about the boundary line. Determined to not let this escalate, I contacted the correct authority to confirm the boundary lines, because she was not open to negotiations.
Because the boundary had already been established, she had no choice but to move them. Needless to say, the frozen relationship, although civil, has been challenged and tainted, along with a healthy respect for my boundary lines.
Boundaries and walls are essential for our protection; we have them in place to say to others, “Thus far, and no more.” Without boundaries, anyone has the right to come and go, take what they want and abuse without any accountability.
AND YET, many of us (from abusive childhoods) have never learned to build boundaries around our personal lives to stop others entering and taking what is ours. We have not learned to put proper boundaries in place, to say, “Thus far, and no more.”
We have allowed others to manipulate, control, hurt, abuse, and steal, without any accountability.
Therefore, we need to start building walls and boundaries to protect what is of value to us.
We do that, by:
- Identifying why we need a boundary.
- Who we let in, or keep out. (Keep the bad out and protect the good).
- Why we need to keep certain people outside the boundary.
- Who and why we let others in. Write out a checklist.
- We need to communicate to others where the boundary is.
- Learn that “NO” is a powerful boundary.
- Be strong when resistance to boundaries comes. (They will come).
- Constant maintenance of those boundaries.
- Be open to boundaries that can be negotiated
- Remain solid with the foundations of the boundaries. What you will and will not allow.
Finally, our boundaries tell the world, and those around us, who we are; they give us our identity; therefore, it’s important that the boundaries are clear and enforced and maintained on a regular basis, very much like my neighbour and our boundary lines. Your boundaries will be tested and others will try to stretch them.
The sense of safety, security and self-worth are worth the time to invest in creating clear and solid boundaries.
Begin today by using the most basic, yet powerful tool; the word NO! It says, thus far and no more. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Matthew 5:7
Even God, the Creator of everything, had solid boundaries set in place to keep us safe and have healthy fulfilling lives…
… “For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.” Jer. 5:22
…”He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” Acts 17:26
“Each one should carry his own load. Everyone should carry his or her own responsibilities.” Gal 6:5
BE the King/Queen of your own Castle!