Monday, October 15, 2018

Humanistic Mediation: A Transformative Journey of Peacemaking

Quick paper I just wrote. Not my best writing by far, but a fabulous subject. If you haven't heard of Restorative Justice (Humanistic Mediation), give it a Google.

Susan Fullmer
DISP 495:
15 October 2018
Humanistic Mediation:  A Transformative Journey of Peacemaking
By Mark S. Umbreit, Ph.D.
Humanistic Mediation is an unique style of mediation that includes spirituality, compassionate strength and a focus on our basic human needs and connection.  Not only is it an effective model of conflict resolution, it can bring a greater sense of community and social harmony.
In all of the conflict resolution techniques that I have studied for my degree in Multidisciplinary Studies and a certificate in dispute resolution, I feel this style most fits my own.  It’s underlying values reflects many of my own beliefs such as connectedness of all things and our common humanity, belief in the desire of most people to live peacefully, and belief in the desire of most people to grow through life experiences.  I feel this format would not only help in a mediation setting, but it could also be applied to most life situations.
For over three decades I have had extensive experience as a healer:  Energy healer, shaman, massage therapist, and nurse. I have a deep feeling from these experiences that we as humans have an innate wisdom to know how to heal ourselves.  Many of us in our culture have not been exposed to this idea, nor the healing techniques that could be helpful in this process. I feel that Victim-Offender Mediation is one bridge that can span the gap between wanting to heal and knowing how to get there.  A good healer/humanistic mediator can set the stage of support and safety that is imperative for healing.
I also feel that some of the conflict resolution techniques I have learned in school can get in the way of healing, and are not my style of doing things.  For example, as the humanistic mediation article by Dr. Umbreit points out, reflective listening skills can be helpful, but they can also hinder genuine dialogue.  I think when we want to help the healing process, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way. Genuine dialogue and silence as appropriate can do just that.  
Many of these practices are not found in Western thinking.  As Dr. Umbreit said, “Genuine dialogue in which people feel safe enough to speak and listen in a non defensive manner requires skills and a life perspective that many non-Western indigenous cultures are far more comfortable with than we in the West are.”

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Healer or Prostitute?

I am in Applied Ethics 430 this semester. We just read a letter Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote when he was a prisoner in the Birmingham Jail. He was arrested for purposely breaking what he felt to be an unethical law, very interesting if you haven't had a chance to read it.

Here is my first assignment: Suggest a current law you believe is unethical. Would you be willing to violate that law openly and willingly accept the punishment as Dr. King did, in order to change the law?

Rather than speaking of a current law, I am going to relate a story that happened to me in 1995.  I was a brand new graduate of the Utah College of Massage Therapy. As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I leased an office on Main Street in Provo Utah, printed business cards, and decorated my office.  It was a dream come true to own my own business. As a nurse and massage therapist I was set to work under doctor’s orders as I specialized in injury recovery from motor vehicle accidents and worker’s comp.  Just when I was about to open my doors for business, I found out a horrible realization. Provo had a law that stated you could not have a massage business in the downtown area. Needless to say, this was a throw back from an era when the medical benefits of massage was not widely understood.  Frankly, the law was to prevent prostitution. I was devastated. I couldn't relocate without breaking my lease, tossing my newly printed business cards, and saying good buy to an office I loved. What to do? What were the chances of me getting caught? And if I was caught what would happen? Would I have an arrest record?  Would I have to do jail time? Would they even care? Mind you, this was Utah in the 1990s. When I talked about being a massage therapist, most people did think I was a prostitute. So, maybe I would do jail time. Instead of it scaring me off, it made me mad. I thought the law was unjust and misinformed. I had no idea what kind of battle I would be up against, but I decided to get the law changed if I could.  Long story short, that’s what I did. Had I not been able to do that, would I have been willing to do what Martin Luther King did? Maybe not then, but I sure would now. If I feel justified, I will stand up for what I believe and fight for it.

The problem as I see it, is what is just and what is unjust?  I like the examples Dr. King gave in his speech. He pointed out that the Boston Tea Party was a massive act of civil disobedience, yet we see it today as a brave act that helped win our freedom.  Likewise, he reminds us that much of what Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and sanctioned by many. I’m sure the fine folks of Provo would have been aghast if they knew I wanted to change a law that could promote prostitution in their city.  So, who is correct? And how do we decide which is which?

I especially like Dr. King’s example of healing the boil.  As a healer I have long used this example for emotional healing, it must be exposed despite its ugliness in order for it to be cleaned and exposed to the light of day - a tried and true method of any king of healing.  Martin Luther King states that like the boil, “Injustice must be exposed to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion”. I believe these conversations combined with critical thinking can lead us to know what is truly just.

And here is my response to someone else's post (Part of the assignment is that we keep the conversation going)

I appreciate what you said Courtney.  And I agree, Dr. King had a lot of important things to say about the poor that we so often miss.  It is such a shame that he died early. What more could he have accomplished had he been able to live?  Yet, thinking about Dr. King also brings up a consideration in my mind. Is the ethics of the messenger important or should we just focus on the message?  I do not consider Dr. King to be an ethical man. He states that a just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. And he says that an unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.  He goes on to say that any law that uplifts human personality is just and any law that degrades human personality is unjust. Again and again he refers to his Christian beliefs and the law of God. And yet he goes against his own beliefs in having extramarital affairs.  Personally, I don’t care if he is faithful to his wife or not, it’s none of my business. Unless of course, he is asking me to believe his words and talks about laws of God. I can’t help but feel that his wife and lovers did not feel particularly uplifted by some of his actions and words.  So, do I skip the ethics of the messenger and go straight to the message? What messenger is perfect, and what will I miss if I get mired down with imperfections? Yet, I find the words tainted. I am at a loss.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The crook of his elbow

The crook of his elbow

For some reason, I woke to this memory.

I’m snuggled in bed, wound in a comfortable knott with my lover.  As I open my eyes my face is inches away from the inside crook of his elbow.  I tip my head forward so my nose gently presses against the barely creased skin and inhale deeply.  What is it about the scent of a man to which I am attracted? His pheromones are like a dose of an illicit drug that floods my body and makes me feel blissfully unfocused from head to toe.  I take another hit.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Asshole Island

Asshole Island

In my world vision we send all the assholes to Asshole Island.  I’m talking about the people who can’t or won’t treat others with respect while we attempt to do our human dance here on this planet.  They all must go, no questions asked. Then, they will have to deal exclusively with assholes. Will they end up killing each other off?  Most likely, but we won’t hear about it because it’s no longer our drama and we don’t care.

Will those of us who are left behind live a conflict-free life?  Of course not. But we will manage our conflict with clear, consistent, truthful communication, and critical thinking skills.  We will rejoice in diversity and embrace helpful change. Treating each other with love and human decency will be so second nature that we will forget that there was ever a world when these things did not exist.

This is the vision that I hold for my world.  

Friday, August 17, 2018

A is for Amyotrophic

A is for Amyotrophic

Acronyms are tough for us dyslexic types.  Particularly the ones that leave a bad taste in my mouth; and especially the ones I want to shy away from and never learn.  My mom was just diagnosed with ALS last month. I have jumped in and lent my nursing skills, and my case management skills, and my teaching skills.  Grieving skills, I have none. Not healthy ones at least. So, I chug along and do the doing. And about those emotions? I’ve erupted in tears in the shower a few times, but that’s about as far as I have gotten.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Former Wife's Story

This is something I wrote in 1995.  I will remind you that it was a time before such things as Ellen and The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.  It was a time before internet for the masses.  No body was talking about this, unless you count the sensational talk shows.  And by the way, because I was considered a subject expert at the time, I was a guest on Opera, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Geraldo talk shows in the early 90s.  At the time I founded and facilitated local and national support groups for straight spouses and partners of homosexuals.

After watching Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons on the Daily Show, I have been thinking about this issue that used to saturate my life, my every moment.  I found this article that I wrote over 20 years ago.  It pains me that we are still stuck in this.  We are still losing our loved ones to depression and suicide for a situation that we create.  Enough!  I resubmit my words to the world.  Let this end now.

And I won't leave you hanging.  If you want good and supportive information, contact this wonderful organization.  You are not alone.

A Former Wife’s Story
By Susan Fullmer
Originally published in 1995

My name is Susan Fullmer and I was married to a gay man. When my husband told me he was gay, I was overwhelmed.  It was a situation beyond comprehension, and yet I was living it.  Have you ever had the experience of swimming down into deep water and becoming disoriented?  I knew I was drowning, but I couldn’t figure out which way was up. In the aftermath of disclosure one thing was clear, we could not tell anyone what was going on in our marriage.  The possibility of being ostracized or worse hung over our heads constantly. At this time I became aware of gay bashing. I was horrified to hear news stories of men who were attacked simply because they were gay.  I became acquainted with a few men who had been harassed or beaten. One man nearly died when he was stabbed in the back by a homophobic assailant. I lived in constant fear that my husband would suffer the same.

Then there was the threat of death from within the walls of our own home.  My husband was suicidal. What I didn’t understand then, was that as our marriage progressed he realized that his decision to marry me was a mistake.  He thought marriage would ease his pain of being gay, but instead he found that his pain was magnified. Not only did he feel worse about his own situation, but he then found that he had created a tragedy for those he loved.  I hated to leave the house because when I came home I never knew if I would find him as a warm body or a cold one. He had detailed plans for his suicide and in our garage he kept the paraphenalia to carry out his plan. I wanted to throw it away, but I knew he would just buy more.  And he would have been very angry with me, adding to the already tense situation we constantly lived in. He refused help and forbade me to seek it. I was confused and scared. I didn’t have the clarity or the strength to do what needed to be done. Somehow, in my naivete, I thought we could figure it out together.  

I spent sleepless nights worrying about the fate of my infant son.  What kind of life would he have? What would people think of him? And more importantly, what would he think of himself?  Should we keep this a secret from him or would he be happier in the long run if he knew? Could we fit a skeleton of this size in our closet, and if so, what price would be paid?  Should I stay in the marriage? What would be best for my family? What would be best for me? The questions were never-ending. The answers seldom came.

One of the most frustrating things to deal with is the lack of support and understanding surrounding this topic.  It’s not discussed because, frankly, most people don’t even consider the possibility of it happening. Those who do experience it, don’t talk about it for obvious reasons.  This makes it very difficult for those seeking accurate information. The solitude can be unbearable. The only person I had to talk to was the source of my pain, my gay husband.  And then we usually ended up talking about him and his problems. I used to think I was the only woman in the world who had ever been married to a homosexual. That existence was a lonely and frightening place.  Many women who find themselves married to a gay man have similar feelings. Who can they talk to? How can they know they are not alone? Through my work facilitating local and national support groups for straight spouses of gays and lesbians, I have since talked to hundreds of people in situations like mine throughout the United States and beyond.  No, I am not alone.

Being married to a gay man marred me in many ways.  I find it astounding that the number of years it has taken me to heal has far exceeded the number of years I was actually married.  And in many ways, I am still healing. The straight spouse of a homosexual can experience many of the same issues when going through a divorce/separation as does the heterosexual couple such as anger, trust, abuse of all kinds, single parenting, finances, etc.  These things alone are overwhelming, but then there are also the issues that are uniquely found in gay/straight marriages, such as the issue of femaleness. In three short years of marriage, my sense of my own femaleness took a terrible blow. (I speak to my gender’s experience, but I know that my male counterpart can have similar experiences.)  These were my sexually formative years. My beliefs about myself and my subsequent relationships with men were molded by a person who was repulsed by women’s bodies. This goes far beyond sex. The devaluation of a person due to their gender is devastatingly damaging. The words I often hear women in this situation use to describe themselves are, “non-person”, “asexual”, and “invisible”.  Often these women reject femininity in their dress and manner. There is a feeling that one must hide what isn’t wanted to make the marriage work. And yet my husband reprimanded me for not dressing nicer. It was a confusing time to say the least. The acceptable parameters a gay man can set for his wife are very narrow. She must deny a large part of herself to fit within them. I cannot overstate what being intimate with a gay man does to the mind and soul of a woman.  Especially when she does not know he is gay and she is living in a life where the rules have been secretly changed.

Almost all women, to some degree, blame themselves for their husbands being gay.  Sometimes even the husband or others will tell her it’s her fault. I well remember people telling me that if I had just given him want he wanted in bed, this wouldn’t have become a problem.   I spent countless hours in desperation trying to figure out what I did wrong or what I didn’t do right. I now realize that this makes no sense. For example, if you are a straight man, what would it take for a woman to turn you gay?  It’s absurd, yet I rarely meet a straight spouse who hasn’t struggled with these thoughts.

And here is another issue we deal with.  I have talked with too many women who discovered their husbands are gay when he was diagnosed as HIV positive.  

Most gay men I have talked to yearned most of their lives to express their true feelings.  But the pressure to be straight from family, religion, and society is excruciating. We as humans have a strong need for love and acceptance, and so gay/straight marriages continue to happen.  I have even heard some gay men refer to wives as their “ticket” to acceptance. And if that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, you may want to ask those same wives, “How does that make you feel?”

I heard a story many years ago that I can’t seem to get out of my head these days.  Once there was a pretty little town in the mountains. The only road leading to the town was a dangerous drive with a particular turn that was difficult to maneuver.  Many a car had missed the turn and plunged over the embankment into the dropoff below. One day the town council held a special meeting to decide what to do about the many accidents at this infamous curve.  Many suggestions were made, but after long debate, everyone agreed on a plan. An ambulance would be parked at the bottom of the hill to immediately assist anyone who might have the misfortune of missing the curve and falling to certain injury or death.  

My message is simple.  We don’t have to stand at the bottom of the hill and watch them fall.  The ambulance is not a bad idea. The injuries of those in gay/straight marriages are severe.  They need and deserve immediate attention. But we need more than that. We need a guardrail placed by those who care.  We need signposts along the way with clear and accurate information. What we need is prevention. I continue to see so much suffering.  I ask myself all the time, “Couldn’t any of this have been prevented?” The answer is yes!

If you are encouraging homosexuals to marry, please reconsider.  Understand clearly the long-term effects of what you are asking them to do.  If you are in a dilemma as to what kind of counsel to give them, ask yourself this, “What advice would I give a gay man who is engaged to marry my own daughter?”  Is the risk minimal enough to experiment with her health and happiness and that of your grandchildren?

If you are a heterosexual who is in love with a homosexual and you feel that you can make it work, insist that your loved one speak honestly with you about their true feelings.  Deal with the facts. Insist on the truth. This is very difficult, but it is much easier to do it now than later. Seek information, and most importantly, talk to someone who has actually married a gay person.

If you are homosexual and are married or are considering marriage to a straight partner, I ask you to take responsibility for your actions.  I empathize with your pain. I understand the unfair pressure that is put on you. I know that those whom you love and trust are assuring you that it is the best thing to do, but they tell you this because they do not understand the nature of this situation.  Ultimately you and you alone are responsible for your decision. Make it a decision you can live with. Make it a decision she can live with. I promise you that a marriage of deceit and lies will only add to your pain in ways that you cannot imagine.

If you are gay and ready to talk to a heterosexual women in your life, do so with love and clarity.  Have support and information ready for her if she wants it. Do not assume that she understands homosexuality.  Unless she has had extensive, conscious education on homosexuality, she will not get it! Do not drop subtle hints that you expect her to understand.  It will take time and patience on your part.

If you are a gay man, be careful how you treat close straight woman friends.  Unless she has a very good understanding of homosexuality and knows you are gay, don’t be overly affectionate and don’t use her as your sole emotional support.  Remember, she is straight and you are a man. It is natural for her to develop strong feelings for you. This kind of support feels good to you, but it is not fair to her.  

The topic of gay/straight marriage is not an easy one to bring into the open.  But I have seen over the years that keeping the secret is far more damaging than the secret itself.  If you want support and information, it is available to you. Many others understand and have gone through what you are going through.  You do not need to do this alone.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Same language, different dance

I love Portland rain.  I’m sitting with tea looking out the window of my friend Shana’s house watching it happen.  I’m visiting Portland Oregon where I lived for 17 years before moving to Boise four years ago. It feels like home in so many ways.  And coupled with re-joining dear friends, it’s a delicious experience.

Marigold tea

Yesterday we went to a tea ceremony with a man named Po.  I’m going to include his website because I want to spread the wealth!  He calls it a tea journey, and so it is. We spent a hour and a half sipping about 5 or 6 teas all with distinct energetic properties from all over the world.  I learned so much, like the tea carries the energy of the land it grows on. We drank teas from sacred places, some that have been undisturbed genetically for thousands of years.  I could feel it. The teas changed our energy and gave us healing in the process. It was so interesting hearing him talk the familiar words of energy healing (the very same ones I use) but applied to tea.  Same language, different dance.

Slowing down and truly being with precious people.


Heavens Tea, School of Sacred Tea Arts