All These Names are Within You

by Ben Ross

Names for the Unnamed

There’s a pressure not to name it abuse

or to claim the vulnerability and sensitivity of the heart
reflective, wind-responsive as a river

or to see the full ecosystem of a child’s inner life
more vast and intricate than a coral reef.

How it’s all still here
in the body
years or decades later
in the closing off from closeness
or fear of having a voice
or belief in being inherently flawed
as if eyes can’t be allowed to see
or be seen.

There’s a pressure to scapegoat the heart

to go along with someone
who didn’t know their true names
who said the feelings were to blame
rather than the abuse

which was given no name.

Or schools who treat kids as labels
distorting understanding of feelings and behaviors
as if they were evidence
of some inherent flaw.

To name it would be to stop keeping it in
to stop keeping it hidden
to stop keeping it together
to stop surviving
to cease to belong.

In order to keep it all in:

feelings from generations of loss
generations of unnamed shame
the handing down of unconscious spirals of survival
and beautiful dreams
and talents
and values
and family traditions
and abuse.

Holding in the pressure.

Holding it in the tightness of the chest
the mettle of the gut
in the strangled word
the loss of truth
the pressure not to name.

Because to name would be one step closer to feeling
and to the end of scapegoating
the sensitive heart.

And to see and to feel
(which is seeing with the heart)
our daily violence –

economic devastation, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, anti-semitism, islamophobia, psychiatric labels and medications used to numb or attack feelings, brain, heart and connection

abusive policing, mass incarceration, war, the destruction of species and habitats, the poisoning of air and earth and water, the effects of these poisons on childrens’ health

the abandonment of elders, ableism, the stigmatization of people with invisible disabilities, coercive schooling, abusive and manipulative economic structures in workplaces

childhood physical, verbal, and sexual abuse

and the last word in invalidation –
crazy.

So that we will tolerate all of it

the pressure is there

claiming and gripping bodies
as if air itself could be obliterated
with enough force and terror

as if the name itself would have
no chance of being spoken.

As if “boys will be boys” includes the experience of one boy abusing another
by suffocating him.

As if whipping someone with a belt
and threatening to whip him
when he doesn’t eat dinner
is a form of discipline
and not abuse.

As if exploding into rage and hitting a child
is something that doesn’t need to be talked about
or something that could ever be the child’s fault
instead of abuse.

As if telling a child that they wouldn’t be attacked
if they didn’t have feelings about it
could be a reasonable or compassionate thing

for one human being to say to another.

Although they didn’t realize because it had no name

because they didn’t know their own true names

because they were abused

because sometimes it’s hard to hear

from a distance that isn’t seen.

As if the daily bullying of a child
inside his home
on the basis of expressing a thought
or having a feeling
or looking vulnerable
or getting attention
was something that would toughen him up

because bullying was actually “growing up”
because children don’t really have feelings
because the sensitivity of the heart doesn’t really exist
because all of it is “crazy”

instead of actually being abusive.

As if it’s okay to continue insisting that someone you love is “crazy”

when they mention that they have an illness
that isn’t obviously affecting their appearance

as if appearance could actually be everything

because feelings and symptoms don’t always have a shape
and abuse doesn’t always have a name.

Names for the Nameless

While the body speaks its name as a cry
and breath moving being, bellowed by life
muscles shaking in oceanic openness

tenderness of feeling or seeing or hearing or touching or smelling or tasting
anything at all

this ocean always speaking

in the sign language of deep current arms
and hands of sensation-waves

that life wants you back

with belonging as open as
sensitivity’s colors
availability of eyes and heart’s contact

that it wants to take everyone you love back

to edges of ocean and sky
trembling-tremendous in the presence

of this vast witness

all together

remembering the other you, and everyone who doesn’t remember
whose true names seem to have been obscured
and are seen as they are now, already freed

in the body:

Voice (Protective, Assertive, Authentic, Honest, Boundary-making, Naming and Reclaiming Names)

Care, Kindness, Connection, Beauty, Belonging, Sensitivity, Feeling

Joy, Solidarity, Openness, Spaciousness, Energy, Life, Beingness, Presence, Movement, Play, Peace, Tears, Breath, Light

Branches Swaying in the Breeze

Clouds, Sound, Color, Shape, Texture, Touch, The Body, Curiosity, Understanding, Holdingness, Healing

Heartbeat

Wholeness, Tenderness, Sweetness, Acceptance, Mercy, Gentleness, Relaxation, Rest, Ease

Compassion
Compassion
Compassion
Compassion

Compassion

 

Ben Ross is a person who lives in Western Massachusetts, where he practices getting out of his own way so he can clearly hear people as the love they already are, share with them in the deep goodness of life in all its vulnerability and struggle, and be as outrageously sensitive and creative as life wants him to be. He graduated from Naropa University with a Master of Arts in Contemplative Psychotherapy and works as a therapist in community mental health.

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3 thoughts on “All These Names are Within You

  1. Caitlin says:

    Say it, Ben. Cry it, shout it, scream it until someone everyone HEARS THIS TRUTH.
    WE ARE ONE AND WE ALL FEEL
    WHEN ONE HURTS, WE ALL HURT
    CHILDREN ARE THE MOST SENSITIVE AND THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE NOT TO HURT
    EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS ABUSE
    EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS ABUSE
    EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS ABUSE
    IT MAY BE INVISIBLE BUT IT IS HORRIBLY HORRIBLY DAMAGING TO ALL,
    AND IT IS CONNECTED TO ABUSE OF NATURE
    PLANET
    ADULTS
    WAR
    ENVIRONMENT

    BECAUSE

    WITHOUT ABILITY TO FEEL OUR OWN PAIN

    HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY FEEL THE PAIN WE INFLICT ON OTHERS?????

    NO MORE SILENCE

    NO MORE SILENCE
    NO MORE SILENCE

    SILENCE ABOUT EMOTIONAL ABUSE IS ANOTHER LAYER OF ABUSE

    Hatred, anger, grief, all piled up inside of us for generations piled up on top of each other because it hurt so bad we could not say it, could not name it, but now we can name it and shout it and feel it and it hurts so bad, it just hurts so bad

    The subtlety makes me want to vomit instead of stuff my face with comfort food. “Here, eat this and you’ll feel better” and get fatter and fatter and fatter, or you won’t be able to digest at all and will waste away longing to be truly nourished or both of the above. It all just hurts and it all is so very confusing and jumbled in on top of everything else like a huge pile of dirty laundry and every garment STINKS even tho some are ‘pretty’ and some are ‘good’ those ones are the covers and the confusion that is no one’s fault because it is about survival and the result if lifetimes of subtle abuse of mothers and children and fathers and brothers and sisters and it hurts so bad and it is so very fucked up, so very very fucked up.

  2. Ben says:

    Thank you so much for your deep, hearfelt, and fiercely compassionate truth Caitlin! It means more to me than I know how to put into words. Thank you for reading and speaking out and being you with your full voice and heart and being!!!

    Ben

  3. I agree Chris. I use to have the same problem of dcdneiig who was my friend and who was not. I also had trouble when I was single because every time I told the guy about my mental illness, he ran away from me and all the men thought of was whether or not I could have children as if that was the most important thing in a relationship. Some did not want to date me because they were afraid of what their parents would say. It was not until I joined NAMI, that my life began to change. I started dating people who had a mental illness because I knew they could understand what I was going through. Finally, I met a man that has a mental illness and eventually started to date him and got married. He is compassionate, sincere, and understands me when I am going through my ups and downs. I do the same thing to him. Therefore, we balance each other out.

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