After surviving her childhood in a radioactively toxic nuclear family, Val Ball embarked upon a quest to create healthy relationships for herself and others. Contact Val Ball for your Complimentary Discovery Session by calling 828.808.5127 or email at Val@ShadowPlayCoaching.com
This is Her Story
After surviving her childhood in a radioactively toxic nuclear family, Val Ball embarked upon a quest to create healthy relationships for herself and others.
“A therapist friend of mine once described me as a ‘Spelunker of the Underworld’. As Superhero identities go, I like this one a lot! In many mythologies, a character has to enter some shadow realm like a cave, or underground, and encounter various trials and tribulations in order to complete their soul’s journey.”
One of the things that enabled Val to emerge from the caves of the underworld was the strong support she had created for herself. In her early twenties, Val chose to join an intentional community (i.e., “commune”). Living closely with 100 people for 17 years, she had the opportunity to explore all kinds of relationships with all kinds of people.
“It was a sort of petri dish for relationships. Everyone there had something in common – namely an interest in creating a different way of living together – but that didn’t mean we always got along. I had some of the most wonderful and challenging relationships of my life there.”
Community living exposed Val to friendships that started innocuously but later revealed themselves to be quite toxic. Additionally, she had the opportunity to start to unravel the layers of her own toxic childhood, and begin to heal from trauma.
“Living in an environment that was so safe, where your basic survival needs were met, allowed myself and others to ‘let go’ and address our unresolved issues. This wasn’t always pretty, and I’m eternally grateful for the support I received from community members and outside practitioners.”
It was in response to the mental health needs of other members that Val became one of the founding members of the community’s “Mental Health Team”, a position she held for 7 years. In addition to working at the community, Val worked weekends at a battered women’s shelter for 7 years.
“After a while, just living and working in community wasn’t enough; I felt I was just gazing at my navel and not contributing to the world. I needed to feel like I was being more useful, so I started working at the shelter.”
She continued to work with people in challenging circumstances when she left community and got a job at a homeless shelter.
“I worked for 10 years at a homeless shelter in Boulder, Colorado, providing guidance for staff and mentorship for individuals transitioning into housing. These experiences taught me the value of being direct while also being kind, and how to work with a myriad of different personalities and abilities. Having spent so much time with people on the “shadow side” of society developed my compassion, empathy, and, as survival skills in these fields, irreverence and sense of humor!”
It has always been important to me to “give back” to my community, and to be of service.
I’ve been particularly drawn to work with some of the most disenfranchised people in our society.
Age of 19
I volunteered at my first homeless shelter in Washington, D.C. at the tender age of 19 (and boy was that ever a learning experience!). In D.C. I was part of a community that not only ran a huge shelter, but did activism on behalf of the homeless. After leaving that community, I continued to volunteer at shelters for homeless women. I brought my infant daughter with me, and she took her first steps with one of the residents! It was a mutually beneficial relationship for all; I got out of the house and got to be around people with my wee one, and the women at the shelter got to hold and nurture her.
I moved with my daughter to an intentional community in Virginia when she was two years old. I immersed myself in community life, but ultimately needed more meaning, so I started volunteering, then got hired part-time, at a battered women’s shelter in a nearby town. The first time I answered the hotline in the middle of the night for a woman who was in the throes of domestic violence I was awake for hours worrying about her safety and wellbeing. I figured out fast that I would have to find a way to be OK even if I never knew the results of a particular woman’s situation. It’s this ability to stay open-hearted while being somewhat detached from the results that has enabled me to continue to serve people in desperate situations.
When I left Virginia in 2004, I got a job working at a homeless shelter in Boulder, CO. It was an incredible experience; they took the job of treating people with dignity very seriously. This extended to the staff as well; every staff member had paid supervision time, and we were trained to look after the well-being of staff as well as residents. Without this kind of support I probably wouldn’t have lasted 10 months, much less 10 years!
Asheville, North Carolina
Fast forward to life in Asheville, NC. Never have I lived in a place that put so much emphasis and value on charitable giving and doing good works. Every other event is a fund-raiser for some worthy cause. It’s really touching and inspiring. Occasionally I fall prey to some internal guilt because I haven’t yet plugged into an organization that I feel called to assist. But getting trained as a Life Coach, and immersing myself in starting a business have required a lot of mental and emotional energy. I have no doubt that the right “cause” is out there, and that I will indeed get involved; I can’t seem to help myself! I feel proud to live in a town that values lending a helping hand to those who need it, and look forward to playing my part in the near future.