April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
Mel xxx

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged?

I remember learning from a young age that judgement is a bad thing. That if we call out faults in another person or situation, it's because our own faults are showing themselves through the mirror of that event. More to the point, if I am sitting in judgement, then how can I really have a clear conscience, let alone call myself a caring, empathic person?

Still I can vividly recall the hot flush of guilt any time I'd feel something to be wrong. Because it meant I was judging - and that's not right. Right? 

I remember many evenings my guardian coming home from work. Often we would have had something to laugh about, and would be smiling comfortably together. I'd hear the front door slam, wait for the rattle of keys as he hung up his jacket, and then feel my tummy churning as he slid in to the kitchen - dreading the all too familiar tightened smile and cocky bounce. Because that meant one of us would be in the line of fire - at best humiliated, at worst sent to bed crying. I realise now that I lived with an overwhelming duty to protect, and I'd trained myself to be on guard for the unexpected. I felt it my obligation to rescue the situation, with humour, deflection or what I call 'dancing to please'...

It seemed I was the only one who could actually see what he was doing - how he deliberately deflated our fun and put us down, whether with looks, words or actions. Diminishing others was one of his favourites - particularly close relatives. He'd encourage his young children to practice short impressions of them, deliberately designed to embarrass and belittle. I'd see the whole game playing out - us trying be part of the 'fun' while his eyes flashed with enjoyment as his targets squirmed (and still laughed along) as they were ridiculed. 

I felt so bad. So often. Bad because I could see the bad stuff happening. Therefore, surely that must mean I'm bad because I'm seeing my own reflection? Or is it as my guardian said I'm 'uptight' and can't take a joke. Perhaps I should lighten-up. Perhaps I should just join in the sarcasm and barbed humour. But I couldn't. Why? Because I knew. And yet at the same time I was riddled with doubt. 

People regularly told me how lucky I was to have been given such a lovely home after mum died. "Such lovely people, such a lovely family! You really are very lucky Melanie, it could have been so much worse!" They'd come to the house, and smile and chat with my guardian. They seemed blind to the pain that both my sister and I were suffering. They were equally blind to the lies and covert bullying I saw happening in plain sight! Why couldn't they see it happening too? 

So I began to believe that I must be the one with the problem. That my churning tummy and feelings of discomfort were all because there was something wrong with me. So I pushed down my feelings, ignored the churning, and instead focused more and more on trying to fit in, to please, and to be accepted.

I followed this path for an entire lifetime. I bought in to society's broadcasts that say put the other person first. I swallowed the fairytale that if I love someone enough, they will heal. I happily put my faith in the forward-focus of goals and planning... and bit by bit, day by day, I numbed my true-self in to a comatose existence. 

Pleasing others, accepting who they are, flexing my behaviours to suit, and pouring more care and attention in to every situation, I was slowly killing myself in the process. And the crazy thing is? I didn't even realise it was happening...

Today of course I real-eyes that there was nothing wrong with me - there never was. What I witnessed was the truth. And when I stood up to protect, to fight for what was right, I was the one that was made the black-sheep. It's only in recent times that I understand why. I've finally 'got' the bigger picture. It's all finally clicked in to place.... Let me explain...

I was talking with a beautiful lady just this week about this subject of judgement. She, like me, had bought in to the idea that if we notice 'bad' in a situation, it's a reflection of the 'badness' that's in us - which is actually as nonsensical as the whole original sin idea that's pushed at us through many channels. Like many of us before, she'd been accused of being too needy when she'd asked for validation that what she was doing was right. This wasn't in a relationship. This was in the workplace. 

My experiences with sociopaths - personal and through the many targets I've worked with since the publication of my book, have opened my eyes to the fact that this is a perfect cover that allows manipulators to destroy people in front of others, because they just can't see it happening. Speak up they say. Own your feelings. Get real about what's going on for you! Yet if I dare to question something because it's somehow not quite right, or I'm just not getting the answers I'm looking for - then of course I can be pilloried as the one who is at fault. I'm over emotional, and clearly I have more work to do on myself in order to heal these feelings of inadequacy. You know that judgement is such a nasty trait.... so yes, there you go Mel, you've noticed what it is you need to heal! Well done. Now off you go and work harder on yourself, you've a long way to go.

Leaving the people around marvelling at the wisdom, while the manipulator rubs his or her hands, and keeps strengthening their skills of hiding in plain sight. The target, of course, is left bewildered and believing once again that they are wrong. Clever eh? Yes. And it's going on every day and in every walk of life. 

This is how it's happening my friends. This is how so many of us, striving to be good people (because that's what we are) end up being whittled away to nothing - while the other good people around us are oblivious, because while they continue buying in to these rules, they're also being numbed down as well.

Judgement is absolutely a right thing! It's our inner guidance, our sat nav, our instinct, our core, our soul... it's nudging us to say that something's not right, or could be improved. If we ignore, dim down or lose our sense of judgement, then how on earth are we ever going to know what's right or wrong for us - as individuals, teams, businesses and nations? And, for those of us who know what it's like to be sucked dry by a sociopath, without our judgement in tact, surely we're leaving ourselves open to be duped again?

Let me just be clear here - I'm not saying that everyone who talks about judgement as a bad thing is a sociopath. Neither am I saying that the intention behind what they are saying and the advice they are giving is anything other than honest and caring. No. That's not it at all.

What I AM saying, is that there are numerous 'rules' we buy in to and happily engage in with innocence... and it's these rules that provide shelter and nourishment to manipulators. 

They're subtle. They're clever. So understated that the vast majority of people don't notice what's happening. But I do. I always have done. And many others do as well.

My work now is about honouring intuition, recognising feelings, and increasing our own power to detect the truth and make judgements based on that truth. Without fear of guilt, shame or "not being good enough". That's the way we'll all see the manipulation for what it is, without having to go through the years of pain so many of us have suffered - and the minute we see what's happening, it loses power. That's the way we can live in openness, authenticity and love.

It's about learning first to trust in ourselves, and then in others - because then we'll know for sure the difference between truth and lies. I grew up in a world that taught me to do it the wrong way around... I'm here to set the rules straight. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Daring to Look Under the Carpet - Reclaiming my Birth Name

What springs to mind when you imagine looking under the carpet?  I’m not talking about a rug, or a mat, or a runner – I’m talking about a fully fitted carpet that’s been in place for many years. It’s laid silently under foot, furniture and food for all manner of family gatherings – parties, playtimes and celebrations. It’s held babies as they dribble through from crawling to walking. It’s soothed pets rolling, sleeping and scratching. It’s witnessed breakups and makeups and all manner of other life time shakeups. And still it stays.
So now, can you get a better idea about the dirt, grime and unidentifiable ‘stuff’ that might fester there underneath the carpet pile? Yep, I scrunched my nose up as well – and yet that is where I have metaphorically visited this weekend. I finally found the route to venture under the rich and colourful carpet of my life to find out what was lurking underneath.
To my surprise I discovered treasure; a truth that had eluded me and had been buried there. It’s a beautiful, big, sparkling bundle of treasure that shines bright with its own powerful and loving energy. And that hoard of huge riches had been swept away and hidden under the carpet. No wonder I’d been tripping over so often!
In recent months, I’ve been experiencing resistance and struggle on various levels – from IT equipment suddenly not working to my car blowing up on the way back from dropping a friend at the airport. From ‘in the bag’ work contracts dissolving at the last moment, to uncharacteristic behaviour from people I believed I knew well. Illnesses, missed appointments, losing things… you name it. It’s been getting ridiculous! And it’s not just me – it seems to be happening with other people who are on this journey with me. To the point where there’s no other helpful response than to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
While I’ve been perfectly able to continue surfing the waves (this is all comparatively small stuff when I remind myself of the other challenges I’ve overcome) none the less it’s been frustrating, and has started to become exhausting. I’ve known that the answer to all of this lies within me – yet for some reason it didn’t matter where I looked, how far I went in, what additional tools I called on to find ‘whatever it was’ nothing seemed to change.
Until it suddenly hit me. I was in my kitchen on Sunday evening, making a batch of fig and ginger chutney that I’d promised myself I’d do after two years. All of this had been niggling at me, and perhaps it was the action of stirring the saucepan, or perhaps just because I was doing something I’d been looking forward to – I don’t know – either way, it just suddenly hit me that I was being inauthentic. Yes, I had not been being true to myself – and in that moment everything fell in to place!
My work, my life – my mission if you like – is all about authenticity, cutting through the crap and speaking out for what is right. And here I was, steadily creating a whole life and is-ness around that, when I suddenly realised what had been holding me back. Of course it was me. And when it hit me, it was all so blindingly obvious, as I find these things usually are – it’s never rocket science!
whats wrong with just being you
It was all in my name. I was not using my true name. Something that (ironically) started when I wrote my warts-and-all autobiography in 2012. I had never ventured into the publishing world before, so when I was signed by a well-known publishing house, I was over the moon and happy to learn how it all worked. That was when I came up against the fear-run libel laws that had my lovely publisher nervous from the start. Because none of the characters I had written about have been convicted, and also because they’re alive (apparently it’s not possible to libel the dead) it meant that names, places and relationships had to be changed – despite the fact that I had black and white evidence to support all areas of my story.
So although I voiced strong concerns about bowing to laws that seem more interested in corporate arse covering in case the people with no conscience decide to sue, and that do very little to support the voices of the innocent,  I went along with it, believing I had no other choice. And I was happy with my decision, because the most important thing for me was to get my story out there – to finally validate what had happened to me, and to reach out to others who might be experiencing the same difficulties. I’m glad I did, because I have been contacted by countless people who have suffered the same – including people who know the characters in my book. My story has helped others, for which I’m deeply honoured. And it’s also brought some wonderful people in to my life, for which I’m deeply grateful.
As well as changing characters names, it was decided that if I change my name as well it would help with the ‘final top and tailing’ with the libel lawyer (that proved to be a whole other experience that deserves to be told as a stand alone story!) So I chose to shorten my first name and adopt my paternal grandmother’s surname Carnegie. I had always loved Granny very much, and was also proud of the ancestral links to Andrew Carnegie. So it sat well with me. And other characters in the book went along with it as well, giving me pseudonyms they would be happy for me to use in place of their real names.
Incidentally, the only person who refused change his, was my beautiful son. “My name is Dylan” he explained, sitting on the sofa together one evening. “I know our story and I’m proud of who we are and what we’ve done. I’m not changing my name for anyone.” How I love my authentic brave son, continues to teach me every day.
So that was how my name changed. That was how I started using the name professionally in order to avoid confusion. And after a while I changed my name on personal online forums too, because people were searching for me as a result of the book. And I remained acutely aware of the publishers’ fears – so it seemed simpler to give people an avenue to find me, and also to honour the libel laws I had been told about.
The way I see it now though, is that by using a name that in effect was chosen in order to protect the very people who had treated me so badly, meant I had actually become part of the very problem I’m so passionate about changing.  Aaaaaarrrrggghhh!!! Now THAT real-eyes-ation hit me like a steam train. It meant that I was not being truly authentic. That even though the magical work of Light-Up has woken me and countless others up to real life, the very fact I’ve been working under an adapted name means I’m once again denying my true self. DOH!
The ridiculousness of the whole situation coupled with an instant feeling of freedom, brought me a sigh of relief and some giggles too. Why?
Because for so many years both my sister and I were quite literally brushed under the carpet.
Filed away in the ‘too difficult’ pile and forgotten about.
Isn’t it ironic that I had been doing exactly the same thing to myself, and even more ironic that it happened when I’d finally found my voice to speak out the truth?
So Sunday night’s super moon saw me reclaiming who I am, by reclaiming my full birth name of Melanie Pledger. For this is who I am, and this is the person who has survived and thrived, and who is now on a mission to share her work so that others can claim their true power as well. No more playing small, and no more being anything other than my true authentic warts-and-all beautiful self.
As with most profound realisations, it’s a massive shift for me that has in such a weird way changed everything and nothing. I know it’s significant, because just yesterday as it was all settling, I suddenly shared with Yasmin, my right hand lady at work and oracle in life, that I now know what it feels like to be normal, a feeling that had evaded me since I was very small. It means I’ve finally come home – to where and who I have been all along…
I do make myself laugh you know – us humans, we’re such funny and adorable creatures when we dare to look under the carpet…

Monday, 4 April 2016

Three Years Later... Look Who's Back

When writing the previous post, I said to myself that it would be the last one for this page. I'd said it before, this time though I affirmed that it was the moment to finally move on from the blog. I decided it was time to get cracking with the job in hand - because by then, my life's work had already begun taking shape. Already the life-changing magic that is today known as DeNA Light-Up was moving through me. I haven't written much about how it was born - my book only goes up to a certain time in my life, and I stopped writing the blog as it was coming in to form. So it's odd actually putting this stuff down in black and white. Why? Because this work was not something I asked for - nor was it something I consciously designed. And yet it came with a force so strong that, try as I might, I could not turn away. Believe you me, I certainly did try to run from it! 

Right from the early days, I realised the power of the work that was taking form. From deep within me, I knew the magnitude, and I recognised the enormity of the work that was to be done as a result. Light-Up, as I now fully understand and accept, is something much bigger than me. Although I rarely use the word, I believe that it is my destiny. It's my reason. And it finally makes perfect sense of all the struggles my life has offered me.

Over the past three years (and more) I've worked with countless people who have suffered at the hands of a sociopath/psychopath/narcissist/bully - I don't care about the label any more. It makes no difference what we call them - it's recognising their actions, acknowledging the damage they do, and offering support to people who have been targeted that's of importance to me. Because this is a key area where my experiences and this work helps.

I've witnessed manipulators in all shapes, sizes and environments. The sly ones, the overt ones. Ones who parade a killer smile to match their drop-dead style, and others who spit their venom under the cloak of some imaginary disorder - garnering pity from caring people who feel sorry for their hardships. Yes, I'm getting to know these types, and recognise them quickly. And the amusing thing is, I've discovered that in most cases they know that I know... and they avoid me.

And still I'm learning, while also fine-tuning the power of the work I'm sharing with others. In a nutshell, my work now is light over dark. It's love over fear. It's connection over self-sacrifice. The work is gathering force. And the manipulators can feel it. They don't like it. I don't care. 

I wrote a while ago, during what now seems like a previous lifetime, about calling fellow survivors together. I'd once again been struck by just how many beautiful, compassionate, intelligent, bright souls are lured in to a living hell - and once again felt the stirrings that those of us who've been through it, can in some way light the way for others to follow. 

"I believe that we are the ones who can band together and make a real difference. From where I am standing, it is our painful experiences that make us authentic, giving us the hard-earned power to understand and empathise at the deepest level. We’ve been there, seen it and got the T-shirt, and perhaps have more reason than others to make sure that we find a way to stop these people continuing to hurt us and others"

Since then, I now have a proven experiential journey, DeNA Light-Up, that allows people to reclaim their dignity, their sanity and their self-worth after losing themselves to such people. Light-Up is for everyone. Not just for people who've been snared by a psychopath. Yet here are where the roots lie. Because here, through my own experiences, was where this life-changing magic was first born.

And now I have a solution that can help so many more people heal so much more quickly than the time I took to recover myself. Which is why it's important to me that this very special group of people is up to speed with what we're doing.

So now I feel once again compelled to write here. To fill in some of the gaps, and also to document the progress as this new chapter develops. I don't know how often it will be - I'll write when I'm stirred.

In the meantime - thank you for reading. It's good to be back in the saddle again ;-) 

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Sanctuary - How it all Happened

Since I've now announced The Sanctuary and have already had people to visit, I decided it's time to explain how it all came about and the magical weaving of 'co-incidences' that brought it in to being. I suppose there are  two key elements in this story - my own personal journey, and the history that is held in the fabric of the house. Both of which have their parts to play in the dance that gave birth to this space where people can come to heal from whatever challenges they've had to face. To find a profound connection with themselves and with the world.

So let's start with the house. I found it during an internet search in 2003. It was below budget, didn't look particularly attractive, and I really wasn't very keen on viewing it - I even twice changed the appointment with the estate agent before finally agreeing to make it the final rendez-vous on the last viewing day in France. It was marketed as "a pretty collection of Charentais farm buildings, house in habitable condition" but in the photographs the 100-plus year old house just looked sad and old. But the whole place reached out to me the moment I walked through the gates. It was Saturday 15th February 2003, and I remember the exact moment (later that same afternoon) when I shook hands with the estate agent - the deal was done.

For me, this was a time of new beginnings. It was intended as the start of a second chance for my marriage, and a more wholesome upbringing for my 7-year old son. The full story, of course, is laid out in my book and in the pages on this blog - so I won't repeat the details again here.

Little did I know at the time that the house held its own history of difficulty and sadness. I wonder whether that had something to do with my sense that the place was quite literally smiling and welcoming me as I entered? Perhaps I represented as much of a new start to the house as it did to me?

It turned out it had been empty for nearly a year. Prior to that it had been inhabited by a man named Philipe, an abuser of drugs and alcohol who terrorised the village with his wild antics and his penchant for breaking in and stealing from his neighbours. Prior to him, it was owned by an elderly couple who had great plans for renovating the house to provide a home for their family - in particular their beloved grandson Renaud, who spent much of his time living with them as his parents were separated. The wife, Marie-Noel, belonged to a well-respected family who in previous years had owned most of the surrounding farms and buildings. She was a popular and much loved member of the community. Her husband, Roland, had enjoyed a successful career in Paris where he had met and married his wife many years before. They had moved back to the village together when he retired, and were clearly doing a great job modernising the house.

French inheritance law dictates that property must go directly to your children - no choice, no option. It's the law. Roland and Marie-Noel had one son, a man they didn't trust and who had been in and out of trouble with the law for most of his adult life. He had a son, Renaud, and the elderly couple were determined that when they died the house should go directly to their grandson - bypassing their son. They had spent months if not years arguing their case with top lawyers. It was tough, but eventually they were successful and were allowed to specify that their grandson become the sole beneficiary on their death. My neighbours here knew this couple very well, and talk fondly about the shared joy and relief when they finally received confirmation that they'd won the case. The trauma and battle had taken their toll, and the entire village was behind them, supporting them through the ups and downs and spurring them on when times got tough. It should have been a happy ending. Yet it became what my neighbours refer to as a soul-destroying Greek tragedy.

For just a few short months later, while the grandparents were driving 9-year old Renaud home to his mother, they were involved in a horrific car accident and all three of them (together with their pet dog) died at the scene. The house went to their son, Philipe.

By the time I saw the house it had laid empty since Philipe had finally been marched out of the village by the Mayor and other residents. I remember feeling the imbalance in the house, although of course I had no understanding of its history at the time. It had a kitchen that had clearly been fitted relatively recently - and with great attention to detail. The upstairs spaces had carefully been marked out to create a bathroom and another bedroom. It should have felt full of hope... and yet there was a darkness about the place. There were burn marks in the linoleum flooring, dirty marks all over the walls and doors, empty boxes strewn around and a general sense of unease. Yet the house called out to me - and I knew it was to be my home.

It was the first place I've ever had the opportunity to renovate, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning basic building skills and planning a home almost from a blank canvass. It was wonderful to watch the house come back to life - as I was also coming back to life myself, and my son was thriving in a new country and culture. Over time I learned that the place rests on a healing ley line. I also learned that the simple 12th century church at the top of the village is known locally as The Jewel of The Charente, and that the region is steeped in Knights Templar history.  I learned that the area is on the famous Camino de Santiago (The Way of James) that leads thousands of pilgrims across Europe to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried.  I also learned that the village is home to a powerful healing spring, where people would go when their children were sick, taking an item of their beloved child's clothing and praying for their health. The more I learned the more I fell in love with the house, the village, the people and our new life there. I happily invested all of myself in to making it a beautiful family home where we could be happy for the rest of our lives.

But as you know, much like the old couple who had lived there before me, it actually turned out that I was living my own Greek tragedy, because I had no idea that the 'soul mate' I was living with was in fact a sociopath.

It was there in that house, in what was then our home office that I discovered the truth on the fateful evening of Wednesday April 22nd 2009. It was there in that house, sitting at the table outside the kitchen the next morning that I had to tell my thirteen-year old son what had happened, and hold him as his heart broke in two. It was there, at the end of the garden, where he and I then threw bottle after bottle of my husband's aftershave against the old stone wall, swearing and shouting as each one smashed in to smithereens - the perfume doing it's best to salve the pain and fury of our anguished cries.

That house became the container for my grief and confusion as I tried to make sense of what had happened - and did everything within my power to hold things together for my son as well as myself. That house provided safety and security while all around me fell apart. That house allowed me to splinter in to tiny pieces, and to slowly put myself together again. It held me - without judgement or criticism - and became my silent loving partner as I slowly waded through the endless mire of legal, financial and emotional battles. And when it seemed I would lose the house in the divorce war, I fought tooth and nail to make sure it stayed with me - so it could continue to provide a safe haven for me and my son.

Ultimately, both Dylan and I came through the battle stronger, wiser, brighter and more at peace than ever before. My own journey of awakening has resulted in the birth of a coaching and development approach that has the power to heal and change lives.

So that house and I, we've been through a lot together. And I truly believe that together we have cleared and healed each other. Now we are both shining, bright and happy. Now we are free from struggles and radiating light and joy.

A few months ago - after a number of co-incidental conversations, meetings and situations, I decided to open my home as The Sanctuary. There are a couple of barns on the property that would be ideal for conversion, creating bedrooms and workshop space to house guests. I figured the plan would take months if not years to come to fruition. But it seems it's something that's beyond my control - because it's moving fast, and people are already turning up for help and healing. It spurred me on to understand that I don't have to wait for the barns to be developed. I already have the capacity to run one-to-one retreats here using my son's room. And so a few weeks ago, through another set of coincidences, I found myself welcoming my first residential guest for a two-day intensive programme. It was an extraordinarily powerful experience, and I know it's the start of something huge.

In addition to the residential opportunities, I am also able to offer shorter sessions here as well. A couple of months ago I had the honour of working with a wonderful lady called Pauline. It was another 'meant to be' kind of meeting that is surely down to serendipity. We ended up completing a two-hour session here together - for me it was one of the most powerful sessions I'd experienced, and I was keen to find out how life was treating her afterwards. So I was absolutely overjoyed to receive an email from her that included these words:
I have never felt so genuinely happy, happy with myself and so happy with life I love it. I could never thank you enough Mel, you and the Sanctuary are two forces that when together whoosh... and the magic begins. You gave me a life I never dared dream could exist:-)
To say I'm overjoyed is an understatement! And Pauline's happiness resulted in me subsequently working with her husband, with equally positive results.

Next year I plan to start work on the other buildings - with the support of more like-minded and capable people who just seem to be turning up out of the blue. For the moment, space dictates that I can only offer this as a retreat for one person or a couple at a time. Because of that it means prices will be relatively high and likely appeal mainly to clients in the corporate arena. Ultimately though, that is not my only market - far from it. Ultimately I would like to set up a foundation. A charity. So that I can pass on everything that I've learned to people with less spending power who can really benefit - I'm talking about people who've been through similar experiences to my own. I'm also talking about dis-advantaged groups, as well as working with groups of children and their teachers. This, as many know, has been my dream for a long time.

Because I know deep in my soul that, when I was a child myself, if I had understood even some of the things I now know, my life would have been very different indeed. Our children are our future - I dream of a future where there is no need for remedial or coaching work. Where it is 'common place' for people to be filled with natural self-esteem and confidence that is our birthright... being taught as children how to lock in to their own power and how to keep shining, no matter what happens. This is work that I know will take far more than my lifetime to complete - but it doesn't mean I can't crack on with it now, so that others can continue long after I'm gone.

I am determined to play my part here. And my home, The Sanctuary, is just the start of it. Bring it on. I'm ready - and on the case :-)
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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Of Darkness and Light - and Ultimately of Love

A powerful light shining in the dark.
I think I should warn you right at the outset that this one is likely to be a little controversial - at least in some places. Some of the things I'm going to say might feel uncomfortable, even jolt a little, but please stay with it to the end... then decide what you think. It's about my current take on the 'dark-souls' - those we experience as the sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths, bullies, or any other name we might give to disordered personalities who create chaos, confusion and pain in the lives of other people.

As you know from my story, I was married to such an individual - a man I had truly believed was my soulmate. Since discovering the shocking truth four years ago, I've spent my time healing, reclaiming my life and sharing what I've learned with others in the hope they can benefit from my experiences.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've been experiencing a series of profoundly personal 'ah-ha' moments over the past few weeks and months. It feels as though I'm on a path that's rapidly gathering speed. Demanding my attention and acceptance - and inviting me to surrender more and more to what really is. This might sound a bit airy fairy, so I'm going to do my best to explain as clearly as I can - because the realisation that's just dawned on me has brought the deepest sense of relief and peace I've ever experienced.

A few weeks ago I came in contact with a man who caused my world to skip a beat. I met him purely by chance (if there is such a thing) on a country lane and the connection was electric - so strong in fact, that as I walked away from the first 'hello' I burst in to tears and felt as though I'd literally walked through a vortex. My dear friend Anna was with me, and can testify to the impact just a couple of minutes in this man's company had on me. I wasn't sure what it was. It wasn't sexual, it wasn't what might even be called attraction. Nope, it felt different and somehow stronger... and I was fascinated. I said to Anna at the time "this is important and life-changing for some reason" and now I know that to be the truth.

He (let's call him John) it appeared, felt exactly the same... which was no surprise since the impact of our first meeting was so strong. He quickly arranged to meet up - it was inevitable. Within a few short hours in his company I recognised exactly what I was dealing with - yet I was neither afraid nor concerned. Simply fascinated. Because here in front of me, in my home, stood another one of those empty dark souls. Only this one was much stronger, much more skilled and much more confident than the ones I've met before. He knew what he was, and he also knew his strength.

I watched him using all his powers to charm and manipulate me and at the same time openly revealing himself to me with every single thing he was doing and saying. It appears we share very similar interests and a fascination with the world of personal coaching and healing, or so he said. He's personally spent time studying with one of the great authors I admire. He's visited places that I'd love to see - and he "loves helping people, that's his greatest passion". Of course it is! Oh, let's not also forget that his "skills are superior" to mine. His "experiences are greater", and the myriad of things he has to teach me are things I "couldn't possibly begin to comprehend at this stage of development"... his liquid caramel voice delivering each put down with a well practised soothing smile.

The mirroring, the word-salad, the diminishing, the shifting stories, the self-importance... all the signs I've learned to spot were all there, and many more. Well disguised and artfully delivered, but there none the less. He also openly gave many insights in to his interest in the dark arts, and even referred to himself as a serpent - testing me maybe? Jibing? Trying to frighten? Showing me he knows I see him? I don't know - and it doesn't matter. Because try as he might he just couldn't get me. In fact the more he tried, the more at ease and peaceful I became. And this, my dear friends... this has ultimately given me a massive oomph of clarity and freedom that I'd like to share with you right here and now.

I've written here before about some of my ideas about light and the darkness - I'd like to make the point crystal clear now in the best way I can. I believe in the existence of dark souls - because I've come across them more than once. I also believe that darkness itself has no power. No energy. No life. It merely exists in the absence of light. It is light that has power, that holds all the power in fact. A tremendous power that dissolves any darkness.

Imagine this if you will. A huge cave, thousands of metres wide, deep and tall. A place that's dark - pitch-black. Then imagine someone lighting a match.... In that mass of blackness, the light can be seen. It has life. It makes a difference. Now on the other hand, imagine a relatively small container (cardboard box? Empty jar?) filled with light - sunshine perhaps, or artificial brightness. It doesn't really matter. Now imagine a huge great mass of darkness entering in to the container (I know, I did say imagine!) - what would happen to it? Would it damp down or drown out the light? Would it smother the brightness? Would it even be noticed...? No. Because it can't survive in the light.

And that's my point. The dark cannot survive in light. And yet even the smallest pinprick of light can be seen in an endless ocean of darkness.

And this got me thinking. Because over recent years, as you know, I've been consciously living on what could be called instinct. I've allowed myself and my decisions to be guided by something deep within myself - a great and beautiful light that has become the basis of DeNA, and as a result my life has changed beyond recognition.

For a moment I questioned why this man had been brought to me, why I had felt that massive jolt and been moved to tears when I met him.  Going back to that first encounter with John, I remembered how strongly I felt that our meeting was of huge importance - I just didn't know the details. So - if my ever-strengthening instinct is there to guide me, what on earth was it doing pushing me towards such a dark and empty person? Where is the good in that...?

I reminded myself of when I met the man I had called my soulmate all those years previously - and I remembered how strong the connection felt then. There have been times since discovering the truth about him when I've credited the connection to his power to mirror others. Put it down to his skills in attracting his target. Now, though, I had to accept the dawning truth... that is, that my instincts were and always have been right. They were never wrong. They never took me deliberately to be hurt - quite the opposite in fact. (I did warn you that this was going to be controversial!)

I now fully and utterly believe that I met with the empty souls in order to gain faith and trust in my own light within. That I was even guided there in order to shine brighter. Hasn't it been the case that since the truth emerged about my ex, I have become brighter, stronger and more confident than ever before? Isn't it true that through all the hardships and challenges I've learned to love and trust myself more than I could ever have dreamed possible before? Isn't it also true that I've woken up to so much beauty in the world that I didn't know even existed...?

So back to this latest encounter then. It's been a short swift powerful one - and was in many ways stronger in impact and personal growth than either the long journey with my ex, or the painful experiences with my guardian, whilst at the same time being very different from anything I've known before. The darkness and the threat was there just the same - perhaps even more powerful. But I recognised it very quickly, and knew the 'games' this individual was playing. Have you ever seen those cartoons or old comedy shows where one person is trying to punch another person, who simply keeps the adversary back by placing a hand on his head, keeping him at arms length from his body while he punches and flails at the air? That's what it felt like with John. And as his psychological punches kept coming, I kept feeling stronger, lighter and brighter. More peaceful and safe at his every attempt, knowing his antics couldn't touch me.

I've come out of this particular encounter neither damaged nor bruised - in any way whatsoever. Instead I've come out knowing without question that the light and love that exists within me (within all of us) is more powerful than any darkness. I now know I'm completely safe. I know I'm love. I know I'm light.

Many times I've said that I'm grateful to my ex because of the person I've become as a result of being with him - but I've never said thank you to his face because I've had no contact since I discovered the truth. With John I realised I had the opportunity to take things that one step further. So I thanked him. Warmly and with love. I thanked him for teaching me a valuable lesson that's now going to enhance my life further. For a second he was the jolted one. He seemed confused and asked me what he'd done. I responded in the best way I knew how...

"I truly believe that at some level you know how you've helped me. I see you. You see me. The lessons are done, and I wish you peace. Thank you and good bye"

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

All Of Who I Am

It's been another of those 'ah-ha' kind of weeks in so many ways, which is why I'm once again putting
pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard to be precise, but hey, you know what I mean!) It kicked off last Monday, with a meeting which for so many reasons was just a 'meant to be' connection. A couple of days earlier, neither Penny Ferguson nor I had ever even heard of each other. It all started the Thursday before as she finished one of her typically inspirational talks to a gathering of high-level business people - my friend Gillian happened to be one of those people in the audience.

The way Penny tells it, this very glamorous lady (Gillian) came rushing up to her after she finished the talk saying "You simply have to meet Mel Carnegie, you've got so much in common!" and asked for her contact details. The first I heard of it was when I received Gillian's introduction email on Friday, titled in capital letters "YOU TWO HAVE GOT TO MEET!" I trust her advice implicitly, so I immediately emailed Penny - and she came straight back to me. Within just a couple of messages I felt as though I knew this lady, and we arranged to meet on the Monday morning.

It was like re-connecting with an old friend or family member - and as we chatted away like old friends both of us were stunned and delighted by the number of similarities in our experiences. Time vanished so quickly, we decided to meet the next day - Penny very kindly invited me to visit her and stay overnight at her home. We chatted, we shared, we marvelled, we walked... and we felt grateful for whatever this re-connection means for both of us. Neither of us know exactly how things are going to pan out - we just both know it's for good, and brings opportunities for a bundle of exciting and ground-breaking stuff.

I am delighted - and once again shown that this is indeed a kind and loving life, and that when things are meant to be... well, they're just meant to be! The rest of my trip this time has also been throwing up some interesting and wonderful coincidences and 'moments' for me. In particular, one pretty big eye-opener.

Because the thing is, beyond all shadow of a doubt I am finally learning that I am a healer - a term that for me, applies to both sides of the same coin. On the one hand I am a healer because I am healing myself. I seem to be on a consistent journey of self-discovery and acceptance these days, and I am becoming more and more used to feeling my soul expanding. Sometimes it's slow and gentle... stretching and yawning, blinking in the light; and other times it's a whooshing, bursting, vibrating and fizzling 'oomph' of an explosion that I hardly know how to cope!

On the other side of the coin, it seems I am also becoming some kind of channel for other people - and this is a whole new sort of an acceptance for me. I've known for a long time that I'm a coach, and over recent months I've happily become an "Activator" as the DeNA Revolution is claiming its identity and breathing life in to our methodology of 'lighting people up'. To be told however, out loud, and on three separate occasions over this particular visit to the UK that I am a healer has come as a bit of a shock. Along with the surprise and the accompanying squirm of embarrassment and vulnerability, at the same time these statements from others have brought a sense of warmth and safety - like a warm furry blanket wrapping itself around my nakedness.

There is clarity in what I'm being told. I suppose it all makes sense. I'm guessing that's why there have been so many life-shattering experiences in my life - so that I can deepen my soul-connection and also empathise with others. Now, I feel, it's my time to continue re-connecting with all of who I am - so that I can become even stronger and more stable, and better-equipped to follow the path I've found myself travelling.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been visiting old places that were part of my past - my old school, places I used to live, where I worked, where I fell in love, where I cried, where I danced... it felt like I was gathering up and connecting with a kaleidoscope of emotions, each time feeling more whole and at peace as I breathed in the memory and let my body welcome the feeling in to who I am today. I hadn't intentionally gone out to do this... I just followed an inkling to go out walking, then followed my heart along what turned out to be a series of smiling safaris.

Of course, I'm going to continue working in the corporate arena as well as with individuals and groups. And I'm wondering how people will respond if I use the word 'healing' in a business setting? Well, I guess I'll find out... and I'll let you know. Because I sure as heck ain't going to be keeping quiet, backing down or wearing any kind of mask just in order to be accepted. I did that for far too many years - and it made it very difficult for me to accept myself. Neither does it mean I'll be immediately shouting out "get your healing here!" in the boardroom, as that could equally become counter-productive.

Nope, so far as I understand at the moment, I am finding my own balance... and I know I'm always guided (hmmm... sometimes pushed prodded and darn-well kicked actually!) so I'm certain all will continue to unfold in the way it's meant to. For now? I'm learning to accept, stay curious, and continue following my instincts.

So watch this space... I'll let you know how things develop... :-)

Monday, 23 September 2013

Carry On As Normal

I've just had one of those whooshing light-bulb sort of moments... one of those "doh!" ones
(accompanied by the slap on the forehead) and I felt compelled to write it out. Exactly as my dear friend Anna advised me to do when I started this blog and was doing my best to come to terms with the craziness of my life. This time though I'm not writing about craziness - nope, this time I'm writing about normality which, for me as I've just realised, feels like a different kind of crazy! I'll explain...

Life has continued to be on the 'up and out' as the magic continues to happen and things continue to blossom and grow - often in ways I could never possibly have imagined just a short time ago. Because not so long ago things were completely different.... and this is where this latest epiphany has happened. Not so long ago I was fighting for my very survival - for me and also for my son. Further back in time I also found myself fighting - for me and for my sister. And right back in the early days I was fighting just to keep myself from tumbling in to an abyss of grief. For more than four decades I've been in fight mode, ready to respond, ready to take control, ready for anything. It's true, each battle has been different - but the war's always been the same. To survive and to keep my family safe, no matter what life throws my way.

So is it really any wonder then, that now - today, right here, right now - when it's finally dawned on me that there are no more battles to fight (as has been the case for a while now) it's come as a bit of a "woooooooaaaaah!" kind of a feeling? Because all of a sudden other stuff is falling in to place... nope... crashing and tumbling in actual fact!

I was chatting with my sister yesterday - she in her house in London, me at home in France - and it turns out both she and I were feeling a little bit flat and low. For the life of us, neither one of us could really provide any good reason! I am loving the work I am doing - I am fulfilled in so many ways and on so many different levels, and loving how it continues to grow in more ways than I'd dreamed of; Dylan has just started his second year at university - after the most joyful, magical and fun-filled weekend of celebrations for his 18th birthday; I live in a beautiful home that I love, and am surrounded by friends who enrich my life with colour, energy, vibrancy.... and so much more. My sister, Abby, had  a similar story to tell, yet the truth was there - that feeling of flatness and emptiness.

As we talked, we pondered the idea that since we weren't allowed to show emotion or be real as we were growing up, perhaps it makes it harder to for us to accept and enjoy the good stuff now? Perhaps for fear that it will be taken away....? I know for certain that's been a personal challenge for me - and one that I've enjoyed 'working on' as I learned to accept kindness and help, and a whole heap of other good things. Now the good stuff continues to shift up a gear or two, so I guess that kinda makes sense...

I carried on pondering long after we finished the conversation, which had finished on the conclusion that everyone has ups and downs, it's just part of life! As is now my way, rather than working it out, I allowed myself to 'work it in'... and it hit me this afternoon as I was mowing the lawn. Here it is...

If (as is indeed the case) I've been so used to slaying dragons all of my life - fight or flight mode permanently at the ready and poised for action - well then I guess that would have kinda given me a reason to stay alert. It would have kept me on the edge most of the time. It would have become, as I now recognise, a feeling of safety - better the devil you know and all that jazz - because it was something I knew and was used to. It doesn't mean it was a good feeling or way of life, but it was familiar to me. More than familiar. It was part of me.

So... over recent times (accelerated beyond measure since the publication of my book) well, the battles are over. The fighting has finished and the war has been won. I know, because I feel it in my soul, that the bad-stuff has finally been vanquished. I am free. I am safe. I have been for a good while now... so what was that feeling of emptiness all about then? That's something I'm not used to...!

Bhoff... there it was. The emptiness is there because fight or flight mode is no longer there - simple as that. Because as you know, I've finally accepted the good. The peace. The security... of just being me. It's been this way for a while, and I guess it probably took a while to finally believe it to be true - on every level. And now that's happened... well... there's space. And quiet. And yep, what could easily have been described as 'emptiness'.

This is all part of a new adventure. This is all part of learning to live a normal life.... hmmm.... normal? Well, probably not (thank you Edward Monkton) - then again, who is?

So now I know what it is, there's room for me to fill this space with even more good things. More love. More joy. More expression.... More life.

I'm ready - in a gentle, quietly spoken, understated sort of a way.... NOT!

Oh cummon, I've only just come alive over recent years - surely you didn't expect me to quieten down now did you?

Nope - now's the time to live life out loud and fill my life with bucket-loads of fun and adventure. This time it's without the need for my fighting equipment. All the old skills will always be with me of course - it's just that now I'm using what I've learned to bring more love and acceptance in to the world. Fighting is exhausting. Let's make love the normality now eh?

Bring it on :-)