Today I’m happy to hand over the reins to Sandra Lee Dennis to answer a question that most authors are asked: Why do you write?
I have written two psychological/ spiritual books now, one published by a traditional publisher and one self-published with a small local press. When I began writing, I did not expect either of these writing projects to turn into books. Rather, in both cases, writing came as an inner imperative, a need to put into words experiences that were bubbling up from my depths.
It was as if someone inside me wanted my attention and was, at first, gently knocking, gradually getting louder and louder, and finally pounding on the door of my awareness to be let out into the world. The result is that I was compelled to sit down and write. This prompting feels like an instinctual force, much like eating or visiting the bathroom when nature calls.
I have been most moved to write in this way when I have been most distressed. The act of translating the disturbance or pain into words is simply something I must do. I almost said writing was a way to heal, but it was more like bringing to birth. There comes such a sense of discomfort and pregnant fullness—as in the ninth month when the growing weight and pressure of the child makes you desperate to deliver! “At term”, you have no choice, you must sit down and birth the images, conversations, feelings, ideas onto the page.
Unfortunately for me, the writing does not flow out in complete organized sentences or paragraphs. The material often comes as a raw and chaotic bundle of phrases or images—little deformed, curious creatures, often with characteristics of beauty and depth (a line here, a paragraph there), but needing a lot of help before they are presentable to anyone else.
I have never considered myself to be a writer, rather I have always had an avid interest in inner realities. I have more been a teacher, a researcher and explorer of the stuff of inner life— a “phenomenologist,” some people would say.
After my first book was published, I swore I would never write another. The process of putting a nonfiction book together that arises from your depths is an arduous labor. But as time went on I had the idea that maybe I “should” write another book. I was in a relatively calm and happy period, and decided I would write about “happiness” since that was what I was experiencing at the time.
I did a lot of reading and research while I was practicing “happiness” each day. In the spirit of The Law of Attraction, I focusing on the positive, visualized love and joy, repeated affirmations, expressed gratitude, almost like a religion. I kept this up for more than three years. I organized myself to write each day, and amassed fifty pages or so, but I just could not get into it.
At the apex of all this happiness, my long-time partner abruptly left me a few weeks before a big wedding we had planned. The shock/trauma took me down into the worst suffering of my life.
The more the pain intensified (and it got worse not better as time went on) I felt compelled to write. Sitting at my desk, the voice of a wise, warrior woman translated the disbelief, outrage, hurt and grief into words and soothed, comforted and guided me. Within a few months I had poured out 200 pages. After some time, it occurred to me that I had a responsibility to share what I had learned with others. But I immediately thought, oh, no, that means another book.
Six revisions and four years later I ended up with “Love and the Mystery of Betrayal”. In the process it ballooned to 600 pages, but I finally winnowed it down to 275. The book went from nearly all dialogue and imaginable journeying to a lot of narrative and analysis. While, the final product looks almost nothing like the original manuscript, I believe I still have captured some of the energy and insight that compelled me to write.
The book sheds light on the terrible results of deception and betrayal: the existential shock and spiritual crisis it sets in motion. The exercise of trying to make this descent into the madness and mystery of a heart and soul broken by abandonment and betrayal accessible to others was a labor of love. I was partly motivated to persevere in the writing because I found so little to validate what I was going through when I most needed it.
As Emily Dickinson said, “If I can save one heart from breaking…If I can ease one life the aching/ or cool one pain… I shall not live in vain.” I wish for this book to find its way into the hands of those who are trying to come to terms with the shocking reality of cruelty and evil in their world. I do not know why I write, but I have learned by writing from my heart that when we brave our way into the muck of utter darkness, we are led, as if by miracle, to discover the pearl of living love.
Love and the Mystery of Betrayal
By Sandra Lee Dennis
Genre: Nonfiction, Psycho/spiritual; relationship
Published by: West County Press
What is it like to recover from betrayal of trust today in a culture that is blind to the trauma and impatient with grief? When her long-time partner suddenly left her shortly before their wedding, the author found nothing had prepared her for the depth and duration of the pain. Despite having lived through her husband’s death years earlier, she was stunned by the intensity of the suffering and could not understand why this shock hit so hard. Her loss of faith in this one person precipitated an existential and spiritual crisis that called her very understanding of human nature into question and she wanted to know why.
As she wrested with what turned out to be a massive trauma, she began to keep careful notes of her inner life–she wanted to capture the paradoxes of love, grief and longing mixed with bewilderment and post-traumatic stress. With bracing frankness and fearlessness, she succeeds. Love and the Mystery of Betrayal seamlessly blends research and reflection, love and heartbreak, rage and transformation, and the personal with the collective. The deep, engaging writing provides the type of solace only a kindred spirit who has been there can. This achingly moving chronicle and meditation on the mysteries of love and betrayal shows how faith and love can triumph even after the most life-shattering revelations and loss.
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