Saturday, April 18, 2009

Not of My Making - a Healing Journey

Guest Post by Author Margaret W. Jones, Ph.D.

In an email Donna asked what inspired me to write about bullying and scapegoating in churches. Without hesitation I thought, that’s easy, desperation. My very survival depended on it. I felt as if my adversaries had a pillow over my mouth and nose and I had to push them off to save my life. Writing Not of My Making was a healing journey in which I not only found my voice but came to love who I was.

My former church mates did everything they could to prevent me from telling my story to others including shunning, expulsion from church and threatening legal action against me.

While they were successful within our church community, they couldn’t prevent me from talking to others outside of church nor keep me from writing a book about it. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects my right to report the facts and express my opinion. I developed a deeper appreciation for freedom of speech and a greater awareness that without the First Amendment those with more power would silence those weaker and more vulnerable themselves.

During the conflicts at the churches to which I belonged, I kept a journal. It was my way of trying to figure out what was happening to me and why. I first considered pulling all that material into a book after I read Catherine Fairbanks’ book, Hiding Behind the Collar. I considered the possibility of getting a book published. Pretty slim, I thought. So I didn’t start it. I couldn’t go through the pain of writing my story if no one was ever going to read it. Then on a Thursday night in August, 2003 I discovered I had no therapy clients scheduled. Absent-mindedly I picked up the catalog of the local adult learning center and discovered they were offering a seminar on publishing taught by Dan Poynter. At the time I didn’t know he was a self-publishing guru but I seized the opportunity and went. I am glad I did. I now knew that the only obstacles to getting my book published were hard work and a little money. I was certain I had what it took to get the job done.

I read Poynter’s book, The Self Publishing Manuel, organized a binder for my manuscript and began writing. It wasn’t easy. When I first started writing my book I would type until flooded with anxiety. I would then spend the rest of the time curled up on my couch in a fetal position. Eventually as I wrote and processed the events leading to my dechurchings the anxiety became less crippling. I could use the entire four hours plus any other free moment to work on my book. Writing Not of My Making was hard but necessary work.

As a psychologist I was trained to write dry, data filled research papers. Writing a memoir was a very different creature. I struggled. It was emotionally draining and the first draft was absolutely horrible. I knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. I searched Amazon and ordered Tristine Rainer’s book, Your Life as Story. That helped some. I attended a writing seminar at a local college and met Hannah R Goodman. I hired her to do a content edit on my book and took another year to rewrite the manuscript. The result was well worth it.

The process of writing, publishing and marketing has helped me clarify issues and develop new skills. It gave me a new career. In addition to being a psychologist I am now an author and publisher. I have come full circle. I am now more of myself than I have ever been.

Not of My Making is available from and


Anonymous said...

I am so glad that you wrote this book, Margaret. I think it will contribute to people having their eyes opened to what is happening in some congregations and, hopefully, will contribute to some of those abuses being stopped.

I know that it was incredibly hard to write...but oh, what healing has happened in your life because of your writing it! said...

Hi! I have not read your book yet but it stumbled upon this blog in my research regarding my own problems. I am a Director of Religious Education in the Catholic Church and have become increasingly aware that bullying, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and spiritual abuse by pastors and other priest are standard operating procedure in my diocese -- despite the fact that such practices are prohibited by the Code of Pastoral Conduct. Their targets are quite predictably lay staff and key volunteers who work hard, care a lot, and achieve good results. Professional lay staff persons avoid talking about this problem because they rightly believe that to do so would be to end their career. The good-old-priest network will reliably put forth a solid wall of black to defend against and to further the abuse of anyone who dares to complain. I am looking for an group devoted to standing up to this abuse. Any ideas?