Monday, October 3, 2016

Tolson 4 TEARS* on Domestic Violence, Invisible Forms

Not all forms of domestic violence are life-threatening, but domestic abuse can escalate until someone gets hurt.

If a friend says of a mutual friend, “Her husband is abusing her!” do you think of an abused woman with black eyes? Probably, yet domestic abuse may be invisible.

The following is paraphrased from a narrative in my memoir Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

I was twenty-two years old. A friend, Sally, and I were in the kitchen my small apartment. Sally, a seamstress, was pinning the waist of my skirt for alterations. Due to stress, I'd lost a lot of weight in a short period of time. Since we'd known each other for about nine months, we were chatting comfortably as she tucked and gathered the fabric to fit my 5'4" 104 pound frame. 

My husband of a year burst into the apartment. He surveyed the situation, and, as if I were not in the room, he barked, “She wouldn’t need her clothes mended if she wasn’t such a scrawny broad! She’s a piece of work, isn’t she?”

Sally had not witnessed his verbal tirades before. I was afraid that he would sabotage our friendship.

He mumbled something about “worthless women” and slammed the door on his way out.

I wondered what I had done wrong.

Sally spoke softly, “Does he typically speak to you so mean?”

Sally seemed to be a sincere friend, so I confided in her. “Sally, it’s all right, he talks like that all the time.”

“It’s not all right. He’s abusing you.”

“Sally, no way! He never beat me or broke a bone. He never pushed me down the stairs.”

“Lynn, I've noticed. The way he treats you is awful. Does he hurt you in other ways?”

He’d grab my arm and twist both his hands around it, until I bruised. He’d say, “If you weren’t such a skinny runt, you wouldn’t bruise so easy.” He smacked me and claim it “was just a love tap.” He frequently hurt me with punches, pinches, and slaps, but it was rationalized or justified.

I divorced him a year later with Sally’s help, the guidance of a therapist, and an attorney.

But the wounds of emotional abuse take a long time to heal.

When we put a true story in front of the facts, the experiences of a victim become real.

What is domestic violence?

State laws vary in defining domestic violence but common elements include:

A pattern of abusive behavior when one person uses inappropriate power and control over an intimate partner. (click here for more information)

What is emotional abuse?

The emotional abuse pertains to what he said, and how it made me feel.

  • He made me feel bad just for being a woman.
  • He made me feel humiliated by putting me down.

Almost all abusers who are physically violent use emotional abuse.

You never know who amongst us is enduring emotional abuse. Help someone who tells you that she or someone she knows is being abused by her partner. Sally saved me.

Prepared by Lynn C. Tolson, @lynntolson author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story 

*Project4TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Tolson 4 TEARS* on "How Are You Feeling?"

In therapy, clients talk about their feelings. Therapists ask, "How are you feeling today?" 

Conversations with my therapist(s) frequently sounded like this:

“Lynn, what are you feeling?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must be feeling something.”

“No, nothing.”

“Please, tell me what it feels like.”

“I don’t know.”

I shrugged my shoulders, which was not an acceptable answer to the question of “how are you feeling?” from my therapist. How should I know? I had no clue, no compass, and no map to lead me through the hot and sweaty tropical jungle of twisted emotional thorny vines that lay strangled with family secrets and lies.

My step-father had taught me to deny my feelings at seven years old. He said, “Whenever someone asks you how you are doing, you say, ‘Fine, thank you,’ no matter what.” He added, “Speak only when you are spoken to.” He raised me under his curse of “children should be seen and not heard.” These powerful authoritarian childrearing dictates led to the cold, calculating climate of control that froze all feelings into a block of ice that could only be released when talk-therapy chipped at the surface decades later.

What I felt was numb, which is a suppression of real feelings. Talking about my experiences and emotions in therapy years later did not feel good. If/when I felt, I felt crappy. Even in the company of a therapist I sensed I was safe with, one whom I trusted and developed rapport with, I dared not enter the realm of emotion. I was afraid to unlock my heart and uncover emotions. If I felt a bona fide feeling, I would surely go insane.

With that admission of feeling in the form of prose, my therapist taught me that putting words to experiences and the emotions they carry can dispel the hold they had on me. She said, “As your fears recede, courage will emerge. Love was locked inside, shielded by fear. When the darkness of fear disappears, the light of love appears. You built walls around yourself to block out bad feelings, so you also blocked out any good that could come your way. You perpetuate pain by locking up feelings.”

My therapist explained that the depression used to cover up emotions can become a permanent part of the personality. She said, “The symptoms of anxiety and depression you experience are not personality flaws but the consequence of childhood wounds. When you excavate and explore emotions, you allow the fear to fade.” Digging deep like this may alleviate the depression, and allow room for expansion of joyful feelings.

I also had to accept that emotions are transitory, universal, and can co-exist. I had to trust that feeling would not drive me crazy. I learned that feeling could lead to positive emotions, especially L-O-V-E. I understood that in my head, but I needed to feel it in my heart.

Transformation from fear to love requires more than rationalization and intellectualization. Healing transpires from fully feeling emotions, and then taking necessary action, like this: determine the cause of an emotion, identify the feeling, and acknowledge its presence. Honor an emotion in the moment; just be with it, and that is more like going sane.

My therapist and I started with where I was at: scared to death of the world at large. There was a pervasive apprehension that cast an ominous shadow on my world. Slowly, we examined the fear to make it manageable. With each exhale of fear, I could inhale the courage to face my fears, feeling compassion for myself and others. As Eleanor Roosevelt says, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. . . You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” That is how we learn how to feel.

Post completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivors Story
*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

On Characteristics of Victims + Offenders in Domestic Abuse via Tolson 4 TEARS*

*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

By looking at this picture, no one would ever know that I was in a marriage fraught with domestic violence  I was so familiar with abusive relationships that I did not know what a healthy relationship was like.

In therapy sessions during my twenties, I learned that "People often seek a life partner who serves to resolve issues of the past.” The implication was that I had done so by marrying a man who preyed on my vulnerabilities, repeating what I had experienced as a child via my father, my stepfather, and my older brother. I responded to my therapist's comment by saying that I was not looking for a mate who abused me! My therapist said, “No, not consciously. We sometimes operate on an unconscious level, which may lead to repetition of unhealthy patterns." She encouraged me to become more aware of patterns that pertained to my husband and family.

Lynn C. Tolson
It’s not unusual to do things as we saw them done. When we examine our motives, we make better choices. This illustrates why it is important to understand the dynamics of dysfunction: "If I know why I did what I did, I might do it better next time.” Realizing the characteristics of victims and offenders helps in determining whether it's an unhealthy relationship. You can't see the physical evidence of me as victim in this picture, but you can sense the traits that led me to perpetuate the roles. 

(victims and offenders may have some and/or not have all of these characteristics)



Socially isolated

Low self esteem

Believes traditional stereotypes

Often compliant with trivial demands

Suffers from guilt, denies terror and anger

Convinced she is responsible for the abuse

Believes all the myths about domestic violence

May have witnessed or experienced abuse as a child

Attempts to manipulate the environment to maintain safety


Emotionally dependent

Abused as children (typically)

Loses temper frequently and early

Displays unusual amount of jealousy

Has weapons & threatens to use them

Contradictory, unpredictable personality

Has limited capacity for delayed gratification

Drinks alcohol excessively (and/or other substance)

Commits acts of violence against people, pets, and objects

compiled by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tolson 4 TEARS* on Children Witnessing Domestic Violence

What is considered violence? What do parents teach their children? John Bradshaw, author of "Homecoming" and "Creating Love " says: "I consider anything that violates a person's sense of self to be violence. Such action may not be directly physical or sexual, although it quite often is. Violence occurs when a more powerful and knowledgeable person destroys the freedom of a less powerful person for whom he or she is significant." Bradshaw also writes that "Anyone who witnesses violence is a victim of violence." Do you think children under 5 are not traumatized by seeing violence? Can a 4 year old girl really erase this scene as if it never happened? Here is an excerpt from "Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story." 

***My father opened a kitchen drawer and pulled out a knife. That’s the knife my mother used to cut bones from chicken. He was holding the knife over his head with the sharp blade aimed at my mother. She looked so small compared to his large body, and his rage was larger than life. My father noticed me long enough to stop killing my mother.*** 

Be aware that when you fight in front of your children, you are degrading their sense of self, developing their perspective of an unsafe world, and diminishing their respect for you. It takes decades of affirmations, meditations, medications, and celebrations to dry the tears of children whose parents fought while swearing to one another "one day you'll be the death of me." Whose fault is it when one of the parents commits suicide the night after a fight? Who takes on the responsiblity as surely as if it was a homicide? Children typically take on the blame for what is broken, for what they cannot fix. It takes forever and a day to undo the damage done to a child who witnesses the violence of parents who verbally, physically, mentally, and emotionally abuse each other. Be careful of what you allow children to witness, because all the time in the world does not heal all wounds.

Post completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story
*Tolson 4 TEARS Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tolson 4 TEARS* on Why Write "Beyond the Tears"

*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide

The most frequently asked question of me, as an author, is WHY I wrote Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story. Why write such a personal and revealing story?

First I lived it. Then I was numb to it. Then I suppressed it. Then I remembered it. Then I regurgitated it in counseling. Then I examined and felt it. Then I wrote about it.
We are accustomed to keeping our secrets, hiding our flaws, and stuffing our feelings. After all, what will people think of us? The truth is, it took me twenty years to write my story. When I was in my twenties, my therapist told me I had a story to tell that would help others to find hope. However, it was not until my forties, when another therapist offered the same suggestion, that I took it seriously. I wrote what has become Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story, which chronicles my personal counseling sessions. I was motivated to publish because that the problems I discussed in therapy are universal. My desire to encourage others to seek healing became greater than my need to remain private.
Why I Wrote Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

Why did you decide to write a book? Was it difficult writing about such a personal story?
The book [Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story] began by putting pen to paper in journal writing sessions. Themes emerged regarding the ramifications of sexual abuse, like drug addiction and suicide attempts. Eventually, a story of transformation to wholeness evolved. Journal writing was a cathartic experience. However, writing the book was difficult because I had to find the courage to face my fears: What would others think? What would my family think? But my conviction to tell the truth became greater than the difficulty of writing a personal story. I realized that I was writing about personal yet universal issues. My desire to share a message of healing from trauma became too strong to ignore; the book became my mission despite the difficulty. Sexual assault, addiction, and suicide are unsolved social problems that carry stigmas. The stigmas cast a code of silence that do not solve problems. The result from not speaking about the crime of sexual assault is too often tragic. Thus, there is a need for real stories of recovery. By bringing my dark secrets to light, it is my hope that others who have had similar events will know that they are not alone.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tolson 4 TEARS* on Women's History, the Beatles + Your Vote

I wasn't always eager to vote because I was brought up to believe my opinion did not matter. My stepfather trained me to deny my interests early on by repeating: "Children should be seen and not heard." He disparaged my fondness for reading, art, and the Beatles. When I was 8 years old, Beatlemania swept the country. The girls at school swooned over John, Paul, George, and Ringo. We traded Beatles’ cards the way boys traded baseball cards. I waited with anticipation to see The Fab Four on The Ed Sullivan Show. However, my stepfather forbade me to watch the show. He said,  "The whole world has gone bloody hysterical over a group of mop-haired, no-talent freaks. Those hooligans are out to ruin American youth and embarrass Great Britain. You call that music? I call it crap!" I learned that my voice had no power and my values were insignificant.

When I was 18, I got my voter's registration only so that I had an ID for bars. Why should I vote? What difference would my vote make? Who cares what I think? How can I make a decision without my parents telling me what to think and how to feel (or not feel)? These questions are not unique to me; they are common amongst people who have been abused, devalued, and disregarded.

Fast forward: My therapist told me that my inner messages were stifled by the opinions of others. Through her I learned that my interests and opinions do indeed matter. At least, they matter to me now. And I have a responsibility to acknowledge them and take action.

Go ahead, form an opinion and exercise your rights! You matter! Your opinion is important! Your vote is essential! If you need inspiration to get out there and vote, watch the movie Iron Jawed Angels. The story illustrates all that women pioneers had to go through to ensure that we have the right to make our voices heard!

*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted.
Post completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story