is Your Life
woman left a message on our voice mail this month. She said she
was "horrified" by one of the ads in The New Times
and hoped that we "screen" our advertisers so that
they can't take advantage of people, especially women, within
a sexual context.
She didn't leave a phone number so I was not able to call her
and discuss her concerns. Her message gnawed at me, though. It
began to bug me. And I realized she had brought up a much bigger
issue than one ad in one newspaper. She brought up the issue
of personal responsibility.
For many people, this is not an issue because they don't feel
they have any responsibility for their own lives or decisions.
It is easy to find people who feel their parents, employer, government,
or spouse is responsible for their happiness and well-being.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Each person is responsible for his or her own life and decisions.
If we aren't, who is? Each of us is constantly faced with choices
on an hourly basis. Do we do this or that? Do we go here or there?
Do we work at a job we hate or do we assertively position ourselves
to find something more suitable? Which astrologer do we see?
Which psychic? Which bodyworker or counselor?
No one can make any of those decisions for us. No one can tell
us what is best for us. No one can tell us which situations will
hurt us and which will help us.
People in positions such as mine as publisher of a newspaper
can only be responsible for not knowingly publishing any information
which is invalid. When this woman said she hoped we screen advertisers,
I doubt she realized what she was saying. Think about it. How
can any newspaper screen their advertisers effectively? What
criteria would we use?
No one would knowingly publish anything by felons or sexual predators,
thieves or murderers, unless it was a confession, apology, or
information that might help other people avoid the same mistakes.
But how are we to know this about someone without doing a police
background check on the person in question? And what about molesters,
thieves, and murderers who have never been arrested? Are we to
hire private detectives to investigate the background of the
people who place ads with us or write articles?
What criteria would we use for deciding to accept an ad? In this
community we have a diverse lot of folks offering services, some
of them very unusual and not open to being accredited by a school
or governing body of other professionals.
For instance, when a psychic wants to place an ad, how is The
New Times supposed to check the person out? Do we have ten personal
sessions and calculate the accuracy? Where do we cut the person
off? Do we turn down anyone who isn't 85% accurate or do we cut
them off at 90%? What if they look at us "funny" or
we don't like their "energy?" Do we turn them down
Just because someone comes into our office and they feel "sleazy"
or manipulative to us, do we say, "We won't take your ad"?
How do we define sleazy or manipulative? According to whom? Someone
who I think is "sleaze personified" may be someone
else's dreamboat. What sort of arrogance would I have to have
to think it's up to me to look at someone's ad and say, "Oh,
I'll bet this person is going to take advantage of women. I'd
better not take this ad." Unless I've had a verifiable,
detailed complaint about someone, on what grounds do I have the
right to make that decision?
Although The New Times reserves the right to refuse ads at any
time, and has done so and will probably do so again, it is an
action we consider very seriously before taking.
Looking for professional credentials in our community can be
difficult. What kind of professional credentials can a psychic
have? Or an astrologer? A tarot reader or a shaman? Many of the
professionals in our community don't have letters after their
names, and if they did, what would that mean? How many times
have psychiatrists, medical doctors, priests, ministers, teachers,
and politicians abused the trust put in them? Credentials help
sometimes, but can't be the definitive source for making a decision.
Can you imagine a tire store placing an ad with The Seattle Times
and The Times having a policy that they won't take the ad unless
a representative from the newspaper goes to the store and verifies
that, yes, they are selling tires, and, yes, they are of high
quality for the price being offered? Anyone would admit that
Don't you think that it is up to each customer to check out the
store if it interests them? Don't you expect them to go look
at the tires and the prices and make their own decision about
value? If they show up at the store and there are no tires in
sight wouldn't you expect them to leave rather than stand around
and ask, "Why didn't The Seattle Times make sure there were
tires at this store before they took the ad?" Of course,
if the newspaper had complaints about the tire store being disreputable,
one would expect them to refuse future advertising.
So what can a person do to take care of themselves when seeking
goods or services of any kind? Pay attention to your feelings
while talking to the prospective helper. When you respond to
an ad, have a list of questions ready to ask the person. Here
are some ideas:
"What do you do?" (Get as much detail as you can. If
the person is vague or avoids answering this question, it might
be best to move on.) "What kind of training have you had
to do this?" "Who have you studied with?" "How
much experience have you had?" If the answers don't satisfy
you, call someone else. "Can you give me some names of satisfied
clients who can give me a reference about your services?"
(This can be difficult in cases such as therapists who must observe
confidentialty regarding their clients. In that case, ask the
person to give you a reference to another professional who can
vouch for them.)
This is the time to ask about fees. What does the person charge?
If it isn't in your budget, don't go. If you're looking for counseling
or therapy, ask how many sessions it usually requires for resolution.
If they want a three-year committment from their clients and
you want a six-month plan, it's not a match.
As you are speaking with the person, pay attention to how you
are feeling? Do you like the person? Does he or she seem to be
paying attention to you and your needs? Are they responding in
a professional manner? Do you feel "funny" or uncomfortable
talking to them? If you don't feel good about the person in your
first contact, it is likely they are not the person for you.
Thank them for their time and try calling someone else.
Once you are actually working with someone, don't assume you
have to go along with whatever they want you to do. You have
the power in the situation, not them. They are working for you.
You are paying them just like your boss pays you. You are the
one who decides if they get fired or not.It is easy with a counselor,
bodyworker, psychic, or shamanic counselor to feel like a small
child. They seem to know so much more than you do. Frequently,
our unresolved childhood issues rise to the surface in the presence
of such people and we can begin to feel powerless.
It is important to remember we aren't children any more and have
an incredible amount of power, such as the power to leave situations
which make us feel vulnerable or at risk. Sometimes it takes
a lot of courage to do it, but we are capable of it.
The following are some behaviors which should cause you to run
for the door, leave, and report the person to the appropriate
authorities. Sexual touching of any kind by a therapist, bodyworker,
psychic, shaman, or doctor is never okay. Once in awhile some
self-proclaimed spiritual teachers and prophets will declare
that you can't become enlightened unless you have sex with them
or allow them to do something sexual to you. This is not true
and if anyone says this to you, get away from them right away.
Some unscrupulous counselors working with sexual healing issues
tell people they must engage in sexual conduct or touching with
the counselor in order to heal. This is a lie. If someone tries
this one with you, get out fast.
Another scam is being told you must give all your money and belongings
to someone or else you can't be part of their group and won't
be "saved," whatever that means. Enlightenment can't
be bought. The only enlightenment you'll get is the realization
that you've been hadwhich might be worth it if you learn
not to do it again. It is good and right to support the groups,
businesses, and individuals who help us and who we believe in.
But giving in this way is not to be confused with signing over
all you have to someone and then wondering what happened when
you discover you're penniless and the recipient of your money
is driving a Jaguar.
Remember that all the people offering goods and services are
still learning themselves. Get rid of the idea that there are
some perfected beings running around out there and that if you
could only find them, some of the perfection will rub off on
you and you'll be okay. An entire book has been written about
the shortcomings of Mother Teresa. If she has areas that still
require improvement, you think other people don't? The best meaning
therapist or bodyworker is going to make mistakes and one of
those mistakes might be with you. Be willing to forgive if this
happens to you. Be aware that is quite different from someone
deliberately taking advantage of you and trying to use you.
It's really up to each person to be aware and willing to take
responsibility for their own health, well-being, and decisions.
Don't expect the government, your parents, spouse, employer,
or publications to do this job for you. All of us can do our
best to be sure we don't knowingly place anyone in danger, but
it is up to you to take care of yourself. Only you know what
is right for you.
Each person has to step forward and be willing to make their
own determination if a certain product or service is right for
them and to take responsibility if they are wrong. If someone
feels slimy to you, don't go to them or leave if you are already
When I was much younger I was very gullible and overly trusting
of people and situations. I used to say that I'd call my autobiography
Gullible's Trabels! I tended to believe what people told me rather
than using my own brain and intuition. I was taken advantage
of, used, and abused in several situations, in some cases by
professional people with lots of degrees after their names. These
people were wrong for what they did. They saw a naive young woman
who was easily led and took advantage of that. I finally woke
up and realized what was happening to me. I stopped it. I took
back my power and my ability to choose and I quit attracting
those types of people into my life. It was an emotionally expensive
series of workshops that I have forgiven myself for having to
go through, but they were also invaluable to me.
If you find that you are being conned by somebody, be grateful
for the realization, take the learning and get out. If you feel
the person is in a position to hurt others and you can report
them to some type of governing body, even if only the Better
Business Bureau, do it. If you met them through The New Times,
call me and tell me what happenedbut be prepared to give
me your name, phone number, and complete details about the incident.
It is not fair to charge someone with misconduct using innuendo
rather than facts, refuse to release your identity, and then
expect me or anyone else to act on the information. It doesn't
work that way.
If you need to confront them and can do so, do it. If you need
to have a mediator present in order to be sure you will be safe
and heard, do it. Do whatever you need to do to learn from the
situation. If you can help others to avoid the same person or
situation, do so. Then move on.
There are a lot of hurtful things and people in this world of
ours alongside many wonderful things and people. Part of growing
up is being able to tell the difference. It's time for people
to begin taking complete responsibility for their choices and
quit expecting other people and organizations to make life artificially
safe for them. Ultimately, you must realize this is your life
and act accordingly.