Yesterday, I posted a review for "Love and the Mystery of Betrayal" by Sandra Lee Dennis. As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author, which I wanted to share. Hope you enjoy!
MTG: What prompted you to feel this book needed to be written?
Sandra: After being abandoned by my long-time partner a few weeks before a big wedding we had planned, I was shocked by the amount of pain and distress I was going through and was desperate to understand what was happening to me.
More than ten years ago, after revising my dissertation for publication, I swore I would never again undertake the extraordinary demands of writing another book. Despite my intentions, this time I seemed to have little say in the matter.
MTG: How much of a role did the writing of this book play in your recovery process?
Sandra: It has been an integral part of healing the trauma and coming to terms with the deception and huge changes in my life as a result of the abandonment. Telling the trauma story is a classic way of reducing the charge of the shock. Any creative process, whether it is writing, or dancing or painting or cooking engages the core self and helps bring you back to life.
MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?
Sandra: I have a lovely space in my home in Sonoma County that looks out on three massive, old oak trees and patches of sky in my little back yard. I live in the center of a small town, and sometimes I go out front with my laptop and sit in my garden to write, taking in the roses and the people passing by going to the post office or the bagel shop on the corner.
MTG: What was your writing process for “Love and the Mystery of Betrayal”?
Sandra: I never set out to write this book, but felt compelled to write, and finally to translate that writing with the hope of helping others find their way. As if I had no choice, the “finger of God” pointed me to my desk, and said, “Write!” It was a kind of automatic writing initially. I have gone through many revisions since then to make it more intelligible to others. But, without those hours of flow and surprise at what was pouring onto the page, I could never have kept at it and finished the book. Once I got going I felt how much I wanted and needed to share what I had learned, to reach out to others who might be as confused as I was about what happened to them.
MTG: What books are you reading now?
- "Merton's Palace of Nowhere" by James Finley
- "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel Van der Kolk
- "Jung and the Alchemical Imagination" by Jeffrey Raff.
MTG: What, if any, aspects of the book were you tempted to leave out (particularly painful/embarrassing)?
Sandra: I share an incident where I threw eggs at the parked car of the man who left me that is pretty embarrassing. But I kept it in so others would not feel so alone in their rage, although I recommend against following my example.
MTG: Was there anything you wanted to include in the book that didn’t make the final edit
Sandra: Yes, a lot. At one point the book was 550 pages long, now it is around 285. I cut both analysis and narrative, but mostly what I would call dark, possibly retraumatizing, material. I had one section on the "three poisons" of Buddhism, for instance, that was about 40 pages long in which I detailed various difficult emotions and how to work through them. I also had a long chapter on Narcissism/ Men Who Abuse that in the end I cut out.
MTG: Are you familiar with “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown? She is a shame researcher and I noticed you discuss the role of shame and embarrassment in the recovery process as well.
Sandra: I have, of course, seen her wildly popular TED talk, and I do have this book. I have skimmed through, but not sat down to read. A couple things she says apply to my writing this book and sharing my story. She encourages everyone to share the things the things in their story they would rather hide. She says, "Vulnerability is not about winning, it's not about losing — it's about having the courage to show up and be seen...." I go into the somatic/emotional experience of shame in some detail because coming from a mindfulness tradition, I believe a lot of the shame we carry is preverbal and needs to be approached through working with the body. Brown also says about vulnerability, "It's about willingness to say, 'Look, I don't have all the answers.'" which is pretty much my conclusion again and again throughout the book.
MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?
Sandra: Right now I am involved in getting the word about “L&MB” out to the people it can most help. Also, after a big creative project like this, there is a sense that this is it; there is no more. But I must admit I noticed a little seed germinating about the next ‘installment’. L&MB focuses very much on the trauma, the dark night time and the shadow work that goes with it. While I spent more than four years in that space, in the past year, have been moving out of it, turning into more spaciousness and “light.” Sometimes this turn has a quite miraculous quality that calls to be shared.
I write from an inner prompting. I have learned to listen to my guidance in an entirely new way through this ordeal, so that I live more than ever from day to day, never knowing quite what will be coming next.
More about the Author:
SANDRA LEE DENNIS, PhD. obtained her M.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan and her doctorate in Integral Studies (Psychology and Religion) from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She is an author, teacher and explorer of the interplay of depth psychology and spiritual experience. Sandra was a teacher in the Gurdjieff tradition for many years, a long-time student of Diamond Heart work, and an Ananda yoga instructor. She has been on the faculty at Portland State University, the University of Hawaii, CIIS, and the Jung Institute of San Francisco. The most compelling credential that informs her work, however, is her dedication to and passion for inner life. She spends her time writing, reading, gardening and luxuriating in the beauty of the Bay Area.
Visit Sandra’s website at: www.sandraleedennis.com
Thanks again to Sage's Blog Tours for making this possible and to Sandra for answering my questions!