Getting the Apology You Need
Hi I'm Elise Lennon Co host with Gwyneth of the podcast. Today's guest is eve. Ensler Eve is the fifth guests in our special series called women on top which is all made possible by our friends at Banana Republic. The most interesting businesses are born out of curiosity. This is the space the Gwyneth was in when she started goop. It's also the space from which Banana Republic was founded back in nineteen seventy eight by to California creatives with adventurous spirits Laos ball we partnered with team banana republic to celebrate curiosity by talking with women who are redefining. What it means to be powerful and brave and we're very excited to be back for a second series. I hope you love listening to these conversations as much as I love having them and I know you'll be deeply inspired by these women so please keep listening and keep shopping with our friends at Banana. Republic to see our favorites from their spring collection had two banana republic dot com slash goop. Don't hold anything too tightly. Just wish for want it. Let it come from the intention of real truth for you and then let it go. The Mayo soul is like it's unbound. It's limitless but we will use words to limit ourselves when people stop believing that. Somebody's got your back or Superman's coming. We turn to ourselves and that's where you become. Empowered courageous participation attracts positive things. I'm GONNA paltrow this. Is the group. Podcast bringing together thought leaders culture changes creatives founders and CEOS scientists doctors healers and seekers here to start conversations because simply asking questions and listening has the power to change the way we see the world. Today is no exception a letter least fill you in on her extraordinary guest all right over to a lease eve. Ensler is playwright. Performer dominance and activists. You might recognize her from her play the vagina monologues. She's also the author of the apology. Which is a letter. He wrote to herself from the perspective of her late abusive father. The book is both heartbreaking and beautiful and I admire eve so much for writing it today. Shares the deep changes writing. This book has had on her life. We'll talk about the power of the apology. Eve challenges us to think about what radical change could come from abusers and perpetrators owning and apologizing for the pain they have caused eve commands the power of women standing up for themselves and owning their truth. Which is something that can never be taken away and explains how everyone has some sort of wound and although we're taught to avoid them we must develop the willingness to go through the pain of these wounds to experience true freedom and forgiveness on the other side all of us to have developed the capacity and willingness to go through our wounds so we aren't a slave to them so we aren't controlled by them so we are wounding and wounding more people as a result of our lack of investigation into those. I'll let you take it from here. Thank you for being here and thank you for your beautiful book which was so hard to read deeply semantic experience for me and I'm sure for most people and I'm so sorry that that you had to write it for thank you but it was a profound and transformative experience so no worries. I guess that was one of my questions is in the process of writing something like that was it. Did you feel healed before? And I'm sure you're still not healed. But did you feel that this book was the thing or did you have to get yourself to a point to be able to even endeavour it? Well I think anyone who's been sexually abused or physically abused or violently abused knows that it takes many many years to cover and full yourself out of it and transform and then there's all the residue and all the things that have been left behind that you have to begin to work in your system so it takes you know. I think it took me many years but mainly because there wasn't a lot of guidance there weren't a lot of people who had done it before. Do you know what I mean. And I think that doesn't have to be the case anymore because people are finding ways through and we are talking about issues now and there are therapists and there are methods and there are processes which people can recover and not take as long as it took me. I will say that writing this book. Which is a letter that I wrote to myself from my father. The apology letter. I always wanted from his sexual and physical abuse of me that the writing of this was one of the most profound things I've ever done. And from the you know when the book ended and my father actually says to me or old man be gone. My father's gone he really hasn't been back and my life is deeply deeply changed. I mean I I it's it's it's really kind of astounding so I will say that this exercise or X. Or size of a book that had a profound impact on me and I would say to women who've been abused that if if you can't get an apology from your perpetrator that this exercise is really really. It's deeply transformative. I wouldn't do it alone. I would do it with the therapist or counselor or clergy or friend. Who could go through the process with you okay? So let's start here is this. Was this this sort of thing that throughout your life I mean. I know that it's the center of so much of your work. But did it take a certain? Was it hard to get close to it like? Did it take you this much time to be able to actually do this? It did because I think for for for the beginning years. You're just unconscious and in denial and you're not even dealing with what's happened to has happened to you because it's too painful and you've got to really develop enough of an ego and itself to begin to tolerate it and then when you start to deal with it then your student rage for a period of years right now. Mary. You're just you're you can't believe someone's done this to you and I don't think I had the bandwidth or I don't think I had the compassion or the willingness to think for example about what my father had been through as a child which was a core of what made him become the kind of perpetrator he became. I didn't think I I don't think I had interest in it. I didn't care but I must say having now been in the movement to end violence against women and all women girls for the last twenty five years working day in and day out and then seeing this recent interruption of two with all these different men being called out it. It really hit me recently. That all this time that. I've been doing this work. I've never heard a man make a public apology for sexual or physical abuse. Maybe in all the years of Patriarchy I've never heard so it really hit me that somewhere in this non apology it's one of the columns that's holding Patriarchy and what we need to do is help men and encourage men to begin to go through a kind of apology that kind of outlined in the book. Yeah no it's so true. I mean on my drive over here. I was listening to MPR. And I was listening to commentary on the Harvey Weinstein Case. And they were saying that he was falling asleep during the testimony. And it's I know he's just one example but no and and we can look at. How many men I mean. Bill Cosby just said a month ago or a few weeks ago. He's coming up for parole and you'll see no remorse from me. I mean we can look through so many of the perpetrators who have been who have been called out. Who where there's evidence and there's there's just the non apology look at our look at the Predator and Chief. Who HAS LIED TO US? Has undermined is who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors turning everything on. Its head and doing opposite. World not only not apologizing but gas lighting the people who are trying to bring some justice about right and that's a tactic of got. The tactic of Patriarch Tactic of predators. Always reverse it and make yourself the victims right. Yeah what my father did to me. It hurts me so much more than it hurts you to beat. You look what you've done to me that I could become a person who would do this to you right. And and part of what our work has to be is how do we? How do we first of all know what gas lighting and take ourselves? Seriously no our own truth and stand in our truth which is what so many women have so valiantly been doing in the last few years is just really standing up and this is my truth and you can't take that away from me but the second thing is men have to start become willing to go through a process to understand first of all what trees their own families in the culture allowed them encourage them and and created. Then be the kind of men who were capable of sexual harassment or rape or sexual abuse or beating their wives or girlfriends or or lovers and then the second part is like what have you actually done a detailed accounting of that. They really have to look piece by piece and take responsibility and then the third piece is really what has what is the impact of this on the people lying part. How did it harm them? The short term. What did it do to their feelings about themselves? Their feelings about their body their abilities if intimate their ability to enjoy sex their ability to focus and concentrate their ability to remember. I mean what what were the consequences of my action actually sit with the sufferings caused and then the fourth thing of course is to take responsibility and to make amends and then began to start to do. This process will begin to change so radically. Yeah and I think that the inventory that you use in terms of your FA- how how trans-generational this can be an idea too of like if you can you know. What do they say like if you heal? One generation or one wounded goes seven generations up and back but like the wounding that we carry and then continue to perpetrate on each other. It has to start to be undone right absolutely. Yeah I think one of the things I've learned from this book and it kind of the opposite of in a way what we're told in this country you know everybody's told in this country to avoid pain right to stay away from pain deny paying but here's the truth. Every single one of us has some sort of wound. Everybody according to this planet has a wound and most of us are taught never to go near it. Cover it up you know. Put brushfire for broad brush over it. You know what I need. Courageous deny it. The two of the matter is I had to go through the wound. In order to write this book I had to go through and it was very very very painful. For a short period of time but on the other side of that wound there was freedom and it taught me that all of us need to have and develop the capacity and willingness to go through our wounds. So we aren't a slave to them so we aren't controlled by them so we are wounding and wounding more people as a result of our lack of investigation into those and also re victimizing ourselves through the rage or three the fact that when putting ourselves in situations where people are constantly won't right and for so many women as you mentioned You know I don't know the rates which women who've been sexually assaulted but I assume it's close to one hundred percent like some some sexual trauma that deny you know the the ongoing taking pleasure away from women which can you know. Stay with people until they die. And that's such a massive crime to not feel pleasure in your body or to feel like which is one of the main reasons we're here like come on. We're not here to be unhappy. We're not here to be miserable. Not here to be scared. We're not going to be twelfth. We enjoy each other love each other and that pleasure. For God's sakes you know and and the fact that that's rob from so many women right an early for so many women. It's just a huge crime. Yeah no I could not agree more so when you and you talked about sort of the exorcist of your father old man be gone and then feeling like the haunting He was I guess the specter of him had been eliminated from your life as you have a different relationship with him or do you feel like you have just moved on in a hole and sound way. I feel like that story is over. Do you know I think so. Much of my life was within his paradigm his story which is me proving to him that I wasn't a failure or stupid or a liar or a bad person or every victory or success. I had it was like see. So they're they're you know what I mean. But everything was we action to have. Everything was within his within his narrative. And he's in our lives over it's over. I'm in my narrative now and it's very different and feels like I'm just beginning to get you know I've got sea legs. I'm just beginning to find my way with it. You know so interesting. This is such a beautiful passage to write. I refuse to know or see you and this in some ways was the most destructive and punishing deprivation. Isn't that all any of US crave really to be known to be given shape informed by being recognized and cherished for? How else can we trust that we are even here? And perhaps this is why I became so extreme because I was invisible to myself because I had raised and needed to find ways to experience my existence and feel my impact on others so beautiful and horror. Yeah I mean. The book is stunning but I thought that was so resonant on so many levels because it's true that's all it's all we all we just WanNa be seen and it is how we define ourselves and I don't know whether that's that's the beauty of being human and in relationship or it's upon us to define ourselves I just don't know I mean thinking about your your father's childhood in the absence of healthy definition or help from a parent I guess this is where monsters emerge. Yes and I think I think one of the things that was so telling a of of really kind of excavating. My father story granted. It was imaginative but I think the imagination is sometimes more accurate than anything. I think one of the things that really really really got to me was realizing how adored my father was right. And and how? How ADORATION ISN'T LOVE? Adoration is rejection of someone's idealized. Image of you are perfect for affected image of you that you have to live up to and if you fail to live up to that then you're basically outcast and dismissed right so my father was never loved for who he was. He was never even seen He. His mother and his father had an idea of him that he you know he was adored and he was going to be that and so when whenever it wasn't matching who he was with this idea. My father was incredibly heartbroken. Incredibly frustrated incredibly. You know if you if you were experienced. Tenderness or wonder or doubt or cry or vulnerability that wasn't allowed within that idealized adoration right and I think this happens to a lot of boys and so what do they do with their heart. What do they do with their peers? What do they do with their feelings? They shut them down and they push them down and they they push them down and they pushed them down and eventually in in the certainly was in the case of my father they erupt and often they erupt with perversion. Violence distortion aggression sexual abuse. Because those feelings haven't been allowed into the world they become perverted and and and and and mutilated and now they're gonNA havoc on others and so it really taught me like how critical is how we bring up our boys that we have to allow them to be humans allow to be tender and allow them to cry and allow them to feel wonder and curiosity and and magic feel magic in this world. You know yeah no absolutely in the process of writing the book. I know you said imagination. But it's it read to me like it was channeled. Lick it read. Did you like do you feel like you? How did it work well I? I'm really appreciative of you. Using that word because it felt channel to me too. I really feel as if one side decided to do this. My my father kind of came and he was here even though he's dead and I don't. I can't explain to you what the dynamics were. But he was in me on me around me. Roomy for like solid four months. I just kind of lived in my office for four months and and I would. I wouldn't even leave. I would sleep in my office. It was like he was here and sometimes he'd wake me up at four o'clock in the morning and go right. Go to your desk going to tell you the story like it was like that story about the bird like he woke me up at four o'clock in the morning. It's like I want to tell you the story and and who knows what is what who knows you know I. I learned so much about our relationship with the dead riding spoke that we really are in relationship because the dads are all around us and often they really do need us to be in dialogue so they can understand things and work out things and they can get three and I honestly feel at the end of this book. My father was in a very very bad place when this book began where he's been for thirty one years he's been spinning in limbo in in really terrible. I don't think he's there anymore. I use in a much better place now and maybe my fantasy but it also feels very guilty. We'll get back to ensler and just a second. You've probably heard me mentioned that. Curiosity is my favorite state of being. I try to carry that attitude with me every day. And it's certainly easier to do with at a place like goop. The places such a premium value on being curious and feeling empowered to explore. And ask questions. Banana Republic is another company that values curiosity their founding story starts with a California couple who were looking for an adventure. Fun Fact Banana Republic began as Safari inspired clothing company and today the inspiration for their clothing is designed for life in motion or as they put it living a life of possibilities with no boundaries. This can be seen banana. Republics latest spring collection a modern versatile take on work where to see our favorites from the collection had two banana republic dot com slash goop. 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If you love a piece enough to keep it you get up to fifty percent off the retail price. Check it out visit Tote DOT COM right now. La- tote is offering forty percent off your first two months just use code goop to get your discount today. That's L. E. T. O. T. dot com and use code dupe. Back to my chat with Eve ensler. It reads as very real. I mean that was my sense of it was not that it was a projection from you. It felt like a channel taxed. We really did. It was so so powerful. I mean the story of the bird. The story of BACKHAND THE CAT. I mean even those like injections of like psalm moment of shared humanity. And the way that you your goodness are the way his the way that he perceived you as a baby the way that you. Your goodness triggered his perversion. I mean so in terms of the what you done to heal over the years and then this this final beautiful work like what. How did you start to get close to it? I'm imagine I know you numbed with alcohol and drugs for period of your life etcetera. What have been the most helpful mechanisms for you? Well right I mean I think writing has saved my life. Just trying to figure out a way to turn the poison into some kind of medicine those or some kind of something right activism Reaching out and and trying to help out our serve really or be there for women who are going through a really rough. Things has helped me. 'cause it's made me feel useful. And somehow usefulness gives you meaning and and and being able to other people makes you feel useful. I think you know over these twenty five years. I've had the honor and a privilege to sit with women. In eighty countries you know from Bosnia to Afghanistan to Congo to Kosovo to India to all over this planet. Women have shared their deepest most powerful intimate stories of rape of burnings of of of brutality. With me across the world and I think somehow being able to be in that dialogue with women can be trusted as a holder of those stories and to be on a journey with women across the world that I've been on for the last twenty five years in this movement to have sisters that long in this movement who I trust and who. I'm still rising with you. Know THIS YEAR. We're just ask you know. We're in one billion rising and Bidet season now and there's thousands of risings all over the world one hundred eighty countries. There's five hundred productions of you know vagina. Monologues and other plays are movements fast. And there's something about being embraced by a movement and held by other women who are going through it and to be in the deepest sisterhood and Friendship with women that you really can't be okay. You really can't be okay because there's nothing stronger than the power of sisterhood. How in terms of the context? I'm really curious about your family. And the people who were there to witness and specifically your mom like do. Is there another book of apology coming from her? No because I feel like in my last book in the body of the world which is really about what I went through when I had stage four cancer and as we were building the city of joy in the Congo. I feel like I I really dealt with my mother in that book and I and after I confronted my mother before she died about what my father had done. My mother really went through a deep deep apology process with me. She did and she owned it and chief stood in it and she was she was really there for me and so by the time she left this world. I felt like we had cleaned up. What was between us you know? Did she know or did she a good question? I mean she certainly knew about the abuse you know she was an accomplice but you know how much she knew when when. I said it to her she said. Oh my God. Every sign in the world was there was always taking you to doctors and you had you know nightmares every night and you know. I mean she she was like. Oh my God. It's so clear right. I I don't know how much we know and how much we don't know right. We block out. How much do we like? How much how much does the Senate no right now? Exactly do they know they know everything or they in a twilight state where they're just they just a race their minds or do they know and are they just really really evil. It's really hard to tell right. I'm sure they're all finding ways to numb. Yes right. I don't know I think we all find our ways you know. My mother said when I when I did confront her. She said something very profound to me. She said you know I she days later. She called me and she was crying and she said I realized what I did. You were my sacrifice. I was poor when I grow up. I didn't have any money. Your father was my way out of that. I didn't have a job. I had three kids. I know where to go. I sacrificed you. And it's chilling as I was and believe me that was chilling. I knew it was true right. You know so in a way it freed me because I didn't have to pretend anymore right. Yeah and you know and I think one of the hard things about any relationship with parents as good as healthy as they may be or not is that is those revelations. I don't know when it comes but when you're like Oh my God. My parents are human And Yeah like to be able to go to your mom and understand what she did in self protection or in the perception of self protection and find the grace to understand and forgive. Yeah so when you work with all of these women across the world with trauma how do you is it? So storytelling writing is that in. Do you think that's the best way to get it out of your body like how do how do you see women processing it or you know getting it out? Well you know I think it it. It really depends. I think I've done. I've done things for all I've done is listen. You know and just been there to hold someone's hand and listen and I've done workshops where we've done all kinds of exercises where people have bats and toes and rage and you know what I mean so it really depends on you know. I did a group for years for example at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Writing Group where women wrote about their crimes and wrote about their histories and I after eight years which eventually became a documentary and it was all through writing exercises. You know and it was. It was writing in the past. It was writing about childhood was writing about the crimes you know so I think there's a lot of different ways to get at things you know but I think really what we're lodges. Itself is the body the body and I think until you get it out of your body. You don't change and when I got very sick. Ten years ago when I had staged three slash four uterine cancer. I had to deal with my body. It was like okay. We're we're not now on the level of your DNA yourselves your body. You know what I mean. Yeah and and it was so interesting reading this article. I don't know where it was. He's in the Guardian or the time just somewhere yesterday where they were talking about. They're now doing all this research with cancer where they're beginning to discover and see when they see the beginning to think that they can identify when the cancer begins to start in your body right like they can actually see little inklings of the molecules and the particles beginning to break down. And I was thinking to myself like I really truly believe that in time using years from now we'll come to see that trauma is equal to cancer. I just think there's so deeply the it's like one word right and I think it it's almost like how do you get down to the cellular level so you can begin to release the trauma the trauma of the trauma tentacles trauma? Dna that is ruling. Your Life Without you even consciously knowing right. That's where we have to go to to really change and that requires concentration work and and you can't skip over no absolutely and awareness because awareness. Yeah I mean and and motivation. You have to want to do that and for me. I I was in so much pain. And so much of my life. Emotional pain that Until the self hatred and stuff Dowden so much. So many tortured feelings that I it motivated me. I didn't want to be in that. You know we'll use you're in a life and death battle and many way. Yeah Yeah what and and in terms of your awareness. Because I would imagine at some point your subconscious. Would you know intervened and blocked off some of those memories like were? You always fully conscious of what had happened to you earn. No no no not at all as a matter of fact like I didn't begin to start having my memories until my thirties late thirties. And I remember being in college to be honest with you. I was drinking with some night and I was drunk and I made a joke and I said Oh. Yeah yeah then my father said to my mother get the kitchen knife and I was laughing. I thought it was funny and my friends. Everyone just stopped the whole just stopped and said what what and I'm telling you until that moment I did not know that was not normal right. How could I know that my frame of reference was like? That's what happened in everyone's family right so that was like a shocking wakeup call. Did you know were you aware of that? What your dad was doing in the process of molesting you did you. Did you make that connection or Dot Com later to all? That came later because so much of like I had so repressed and pushed down but my father had done to me sexually like I knew something weird had gone on because I was always. I had all these years bladder infections and I had nightmares. I was just so screwed up as a child but it took me years to be able to. Do you know what my first memories came back? I my first marriage lit up and I decided to go to Berlin to help chip at the Berlin Wall to help it come down and I went and had one of those baskets and I was chipping away all day at the graffiti and I went to my hotel and that night. I had my first memory amazing. Yeah Yeah I mean I need to think about when you talk about to wounding. I know it's that's that's happened to all of us. Yeah I mean I can only imagine what we've all buried in our bodies and our subconscious and then don't understand why were acting the way that we are. I mean that's been my experience where I've only been able to access memories through like Md Ama psychotherapy session where you're suddenly. You're like Oh my God i. This happened and it's shocking because it then rearticulating are. It's like a straightening of your spine in a way where you're like. Oh my God. Now everything makes sense but somehow you are missing. You know you're like missing the bottom of this show like you don't understand where the story started and so I think I think you're right. I think trauma and the way that it manifests in disease is sort of the tipping point and I think so many of us don't even know it's there and it's hard work but as you say like it has given New Year freedom it has it has and you know it's worth at this work worth it. I WanNa say to people you can get free. You can't have a really good life you can. You can feel pleasure. You can feel happiness. It's possible and and and I think sometimes the second rape or the second abuse we tell women after. They've been abused. They'll never recover from it and it's just not true. We can recover and I and I and I am I. It doesn't take work but we can. Yeah and in terms of getting it out of your body like did you have any somatic experiencing like did you or was it. The act of writing is that was not the explosion or did you so much in my life you know I was always sick up until I had cancer and then I got super thick and basically since then I have been well. It was like the purging. It was the come to Jesus moment it was like wake up you know and I changed my whole life. I've moved to the country. I lived with the trees in the woods. Now I you know everything changed after that but I think I saw monetize a lot and I I will say that one of the things one of the reasons I believe in what I'm doing and rising so much and why we started this dance revolution. Eight years ago is because dancing is the antidote to trauma. It's the antidote to loneliness is the antidote to isolation it's the antidote to feeling of decentralisation of your body it's the antidote to wanted to curl up in a bowl and die it's you know it's so powerful dancing and and I would really say survivors. Dance all the time dance every day. There's as much as you can because it is and it's a way back home. You know your body. I love that. Well thank you so much your book as a gift. Thank you for everything that you've done for women for so many decades. Thank you so much and I can't wait to see what's next. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Eve. Ensler for more on Eve had to eve ensler dot. Or that's E. N. S. L. E. R. And make sure to pick up a copy of her book. The apology available now. That's it for today's episode. If you have a chance please. Rate and review hit subscribe to keep up with new episodes and pass it along to a friend. Thanks again for joining. I hope you'll come back this Thursday for more and in the meantime you can check out. Give Dot com slash the podcast.