This is a story of two little birds, both cockatiels.
It’s about a kind of love that is destructive. It’s about when love hurts.
It’s also about healing, growing, and changing.
Once there were two cockatiels who came to a rescue from a hoarding situation. One was named Mama Bird, and one was named Pretty Boy. They were mother and son.
Pretty Boy was quite pretty. He was gorgeous gray, full feathered, and looked like a healthy cockatiel should.
Mama Bird was not pretty. She looked like a turkey vulture with a pink, bald head and long bald neck. She had one lone feather sticking out of her head and a bulging eye. The feathers on her face were plucked out, so her ear holes lay open and exposed.
Mama Bird was plucked bare, and it was Pretty Boy who had harmed her.
On occasion, birds that are in stressful situations will pluck themselves or their cage mates. Although Mama Bird was strongly attached to Pretty Boy, the relationship caused permanent damage.
I was looking for a companion bird for my cockatiel, Sunshine. And so I was introduced to Mama Bird and Pretty Boy.
Although Mama was not pretty, when I held her and touched her bare wrinkly head, her eyes closed and she immediately calmed down.
When I said that she was sweet and ugly, my eight-year-old daughter chastised me. “She’s beautiful, mommy,” she lectured. “I love her.”
Mama Bird has now been renamed Stormy, which fits her looks and her history, but not her personality. She is gentle and sweet.
Sometimes love hurts. Sometimes love is damaging and obsessive and destructive.
Sometimes, those we love and are loved by wound us.
When I work with clients who are in abusive or destructive relationships, they will often tell me how their spouse or partner, parent or sibling, was a good person, that they didn’t mean to cause the harm they did.
I believe them.
You can be a good parent and inadvertently hurt your child. You can be a caring spouse but say things that are damaging.
It is okay to distance yourself from someone who is …
“Jessica” (pseudonym) was 18 years old when she enlisted in the Army. She was trained as a mechanic, and enjoyed what she did.
The Army provided her the family she didn’t have at home and a sense of belonging and stability. At the time, the United States was not engaged in a war. A year later, this would change.
Jessica was sent to Afghanistan. While there, she was injured when the truck she was driving hit an IED. After her body healed, and she continued in her unit. Like all service people who serve in a war, Jessica saw and experienced many horrific things.
After her time in Afghanistan ended and she was back in the US, Jessica’s body wasn’t the same. She had an undiagnosed TBI (traumatic brain injury) from the IED. She had intense mood swings. She couldn’t concentrate. She had nightmares nearly every night.
These were all problems that Jessica felt like she could talk about with other veterans, friends and family. Things like TBI and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) have become well known and understood.
What Jessica didn’t feel like she could talk about was the rape by her commanding officer, the very person in the chain of command she was expected to report sexual assault to, and who she looked up to like a father.
There is a lot of relationship advice out there; friends, family, and coworkers are willing and eager to share their thoughts.
Over the years, I’ve heard and read some awful pieces of advice.
Here are the worst of them.
10. If you love her enough, you can get her to change.
9. No one will ever love you as much as he does.
Often we think that big problems come from big incidents: your spouse divorces you and you become depressed, your house burns down and you have nightmares for weeks, you fight in a war and have PTSD.
But trauma doesn’t fit so neatly into a box.
Some people experience severe trauma with very few lasting side-effects; others go through what many would consider a minor trauma and it has a significant, life-changing impact. So what’s going on?
Have you ever wondered what group therapy is all about? Portrayals of fictional group therapy are all over; on TV, in the movies and in literature. But what is real group therapy like? And why would anyone want to open up their soul to other people who are not friends or family?
Everyone has been in a group of some sort. Most of people have been in many. In elementary school students are grouped together by skill level for reading or math. In high school they’re put into groups for projects. Adults are in work groups, church groups, AA, or groups of friends.
All these groups have distinct purposes: to educate, to construct, to build, to learn, to support, or to socialize. In a similar manner, group therapy has a purpose. This is different depending on what type of group therapy you’re in.
No one imagines that their sweet fuzzy-haired infant will morph into a toddler who bites and terrorizes other children, or who refuses to eat anything other than chicken nuggets for days at a time.
Parents often imagine that if they just do everything right and provide the best toys and intellectual stimulation for their children, their kids will meet all of their developmental milestones and behave in socially appropriate ways. If only this were true.
And while most parents expect to deal with tantrums and coloring on the walls, there are some things that people tend not to talk about when parenting young children.
You may want to rescue the person you love. You may be furious at them for staying in an abusive relationship and not listening to you. You may feel frustrated. You may be confused and hurt.
It’s hard to understand the power that an abuser has, and the strong forces that compel victims to remain in harmful situations.
All of the things you’re feeling are normal. And difficult as it may be to live in the day to day uncertainty that your life entails right now, there are some things that you can do to help the person you love remain strong, and hopefully find the power to get away from the abuse.