Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Heroes and Villains

I've been wrestling with a lot lately, and one idea that has been rolling around in my head came from a Facebook post by Ken Howard, a gay psychotherapist based in Los Angeles who conducts his therapy and life coaching practice for gay men. He stated in this particular post that it is seemingly impossible to truly let go of, or cleanse ourselves of the anger we associate with traumatic experiences such as child abuse, domestic abuse and violent crime. We may move beyond it, or we may think we have moved on, but it still lies buried down deep, like a stone at the bottom of a stream, ready to reveal itself again if given the opportunity.

He goes on to say that, in his opinion, the best treatment is not to erase the memory, nor bury it and the associated emotion, but to acknowledge it, process it, and begin to expand the heart and mind to remember more the heroes who stood by you, who stood with you, and who stood up for you when you felt you no longer could. Don't forget the villains, just don't let them control you. We can control our own reaction to the anger and other negative emotions. And the more we remember the villains, the more we relive the pain. And in my opinion, if we can truly forgive the villains, the more we do grow and move on.

To his list, I would also like to add bullying in all its forms: verbal, physical, cyber, emotional, psychological; as well as those negative experiences of a divorce, an unrequited love, and a betrayal from a once-trusted friend. And while these may pale in comparison to the emotional and physical trauma of an abusive situation, they are still painful and in my opinion can also be as debilitating. If we let them.

It seems I have let mine.

I don't let go of hurts easily. Time does indeed heal all wounds, yet I have the memory of a steel trap. I remember many injustices, many hurts. I sometimes think or feel I have let go and moved on, but frequently get surprised by a wellspring of emotion, usually negative and I am always surprised to find it's still there, just deeply buried. It's always easier to blame others- the villains, in this case- than to take control and work on processing the emotion; after all, work is hard. I guess this is all part of human nature.

So, as a step on this new path of positivity, I would like to begin to honor those heroes who have been there for me: the two high school teachers who, in 1976, made an effort to listen to me and support me without judgement when I complained of being harassed and bullied for being perceived as gay before I could accept myself as gay. Thank you for your support.

To the friends who were there with me every step of the way of my eventual coming out, trying to help me understand myself, and not giving a damn who I fell in love or just slept with. Though we are no longer in contact, I thank you for being there.

To my friends who are with me now every step of the way as I am working through the tribulations of my divorce and trying to understand myself now, I thank you for being here.

To my LGBT ancestors, those who came before me and through their lives, struggles, pain, suffering and sacrifice have paved a way for today to be better than yesterday, I honor their history.

To my LGBT contemporaries and descendants, those who continue the struggle of equality for all and to make tomorrow even better than today, I honor your energy, time, and dedication.

To my mom who, in her mother's pain over watching her child suffer, tried to help the best she could without knowing what she could do to help, or even why I was suffering, but was just there for me, I love you.

You all are my heroes.

For Ken's Facebook page, click here.

For Ken Howard's website, click here.


  1. Jeff, Thank you so much for writing this. It's very moving and I'm honored you referenced my article. All my best to you!

    1. Ken, thank you for the time you took to read and comment. I appreciate both. Many of your articles have given me much to think about.

      Thank you!