March 31, 2013
Hey Everyone –
I received an email about this, and wanted to pass along the news to you as well.
On April 16, 2013, at 9 am, Prevent Child Abuse America will be making a dramatic visual statement in New York City. In their words, they are turning the “Big Apple” into the “Big Pinwheel” by displaying around 5000 pinwheels in Times Square.
The pinwheel is the new national symbol for child abuse prevention. They have chosen the pinwheel as a way of saying all children deserve a bright future.
I certainly agree that all children should have a safe, happy, and bright future. Child abuse creates so much long-term damage, so much unnecessary pain, so many horrors that last and last and last…. It really irritates me that there are adults in the world who feel “entitled” to abuse children. It’s such a nasty horrific crime to beat and abuse and terrify little children. How dare they be so cruel. I completely despise perpetrators who believe this to be an acceptable way of life.
And yes, far too much child abuse happens in the world, so I applaud those who are working hard to take a stand against it.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be in NYC on April 16, but I can imagine that it will be absolutely beautiful in Times Square. If someone gets to be there, please be sure to take pictures! It will be very sparkly, very twinkly, very colorful, I’m sure.
Please remember — the spinning and reflective flashing of the lights and colors from the pinwheels may be a little triggering for some of you with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD), so if you go, please be sure that you are safe enough to handle that much visual intensity all at once. Work with your system ahead of time so they can know what you will be seeing and why you are looking at it. Fast moving lights and colors are commonly used in various mind control abuse techniques, so if you are sensitive to these types of triggers, please be careful.
You can learn more about this national event at Pinwheels for Prevention at http://www.pinwheelsforprevention.org .
(Photo courtesy of Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia.)
* What are your thoughts about this particular event?
* What does a pinwheel mean to you?
* Do you like the choice of a pinwheel being used as the national symbol for child abuse prevention?
* Would you like to be there, if you could?
* What are your thoughts about child abuse prevention?
Your thoughts and comments are appreciated, as always.
Copyright (C) 2008 – 2013 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
December 8, 2012
Many times I get asked what abuse is.
I understand this question, and the need for that question because many of the dissociative survivors who I speak with grew up in such chronically abusive homes that abuse was normal. Normal is just normal to them. What I would define as abuse was their norm, their everyday, their usual, their expected. And once abuse is “just how it is”, it becomes tricky and confusing to learn where actual abuse – physical, sexual, emotional abuse – starts and stops.
It gets even more confusing when the person that is being abused has a genuine relationship with the abusive person. Having genuine care for someone may give the abuser extended grace, or extra permission, or repeated forgiveness for the inappropriate actions they did. What about when the abuser’s behaviors are gentle, or appear as loving, or are done in the guise of helping the other person? Is gentle touch ever considered to be abusive or inappropriate?
It also gets fuzzy when the abusive parent, for example, has medical illnesses, or psychiatric illnesses and severe mental health problems of their own. Even if this person is acting in abusive ways, do they realize they are being abusive? Do they know when they are doing something irrational or violent or neglectful? Should their poor behaviors be categorized as rigorously abusive as the negative behavior from those without mental health troubles? How much abuse or neglect should a child be allowed to tolerate from a sick parent before it is considered too much?
And what about situations where the person is taught to honor their father and mother, and / or to obey their father and mother, because to not do what you are told to do is a sin based on their religious beliefs. When do those parents cross the line from claiming their rightful authority over their child? When does honoring parents actually become a dishonorable request?
Where is that line between appropriate and abuse?
Where does the unacceptable start?
It’s often not clear.
It’s especially confusing to a young child or teenager growing up in a home where these kinds of behaviors are typical.
I’m going to list some examples below, and in this post, I’m not going to give my opinion for what I deem to be abusive versus what isn’t. I would be glad to hear comments from you first. I will have an opinion, of course, but I’ll wait and say mine afterwards.
Are any of the following situations abusive? And if so, how so?
*** Please note – if you are sensitive to triggers and self destructive behavior, please be sure you are in a safe enough space to read further.***
*** Also, if you think I am describing your personal situation, I assure you, I am not. These are examples created for discussion purposes only.***
What do you think about these situations?
1. A divorced, single mother with low income and high anxiety obsessively restricts the amount of food that her children are allowed to eat. She does this by hiding the food, and especially hiding any cookies or chocolates from the children. She frequently locks the children out of the house (ie: after school) to keep them from sneaking extra snacks until she gets home from work. She will not allow the kids to keep any snacks in their bedrooms. The children are fed something most days, but there is very little food in the house. Sometimes the fridge is barren and empty. The children feel hungry most of the time and they start stealing food from local stores because they are hungry. The mother is too proud to get help from her wealthy family members or from charities. She wants to “do it on her own”, and would rather go hungry than ask for help.
2. A father, who says he is happily married to the mother, makes flirty comments to his puberty-aged daughter. He doesn’t touch the girl, but his comments and his gazes are sexualized. He says he is only complimenting his daughter for looking cute and attractive. The father’s buddies whistle and make many of the same kinds of comments in front of him while staring at his daughter. These comments make the father beam with pride. The mother hears some of these comments but acts as if she didn’t hear anything at all.
3. A mother is very angry at her children and decides to discipline them. She doesn’t hit them, but she speaks openly about fantasizing slapping their faces. She also removes various items from the children. For example, all toilet paper is hidden, all towels are removed, the use of the shower is taken away, all silverware is removed from view, lamps are removed from the bedrooms, hangers are removed from the closets, all food is removed from the children, the blankets and pillows are removed from the bed. The children are told to stay in their rooms for 24 hours and if they leave their room, they will be locked out of the house. The children don’t know whether they are allowed to go to the bathroom or not. From time to time, the mother gets inches from the faces of the children and loudly lectures them for 15 – 30 minutes at a time. She is seething with fury and anger during this entire episode, making hideously ugly faces at the children, and laughing at their discomfort. The mother has not touched the children, and believes her methods of discipline to be appropriate.
I could give more examples for your consideration, but for this particular post, I think I will stop there and check in with you readers at this point.
- How are you feeling after reading these scenarios?
- Do you feel comfortable reading them?
- Were these situations upsetting to you in any way?
- What are your thoughts about these three different situations?
- Are any of them abusive or excessive?
- Are any of the parents in these scenarios acting inappropriately? If so, how so?
- What do you relate to in these examples?
- If you view any of these things abusive now, would you have viewed them as abusive when you were a child?
Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated.
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
January 29, 2012
*** This is a difficult post and it is meant for your older parts. Please note — it could be triggering to many within your system. Please check this article with your internal leaders before letting your littles or sensitive ones read any further. Thanks, Kathy. ***
Recently, I witnessed a fight between some wild animals that was particularly upsetting to see. There is no need to go into great detail about the actual situation. I can speak about it in sweeping statements and you will get more than enough picture of the situation from there.
The long and the short of it was that a rather large group of critters (yes, they were birds) were picking on one particular bird to the point that it appeared that it could be a fatal situation for the one very unfortunate bird. Talk about outnumbered! It was just really really not ok to hear or see. It was particularly disturbing and very upsetting.
At first I wondered about what to do – somewhat fearing for my own safety if I got involved – but I really was not comfortable not interrupting the attack in some way, somehow. I hesitated for a brief while, knowing that Mother Nature and wild animals do what they do and wondering if maybe I should just respect that. But I could hear it and I could see it, and I just couldn’t not do anything. It was just too upsetting to not act somehow.
So I darted across the street, running in the direction of the mob of birds. I didn’t know what I would do when I got there, I just knew I had to do something.
Lucky for me, my running at them was more than enough to disturb the birds and interrupt their horrible attack. All the birds, including the one being picked on, flew away and left the area in a big hurry.
I mean really, thank goodness.
I was so relieved that the ordeal was at least over for that moment. I knew the group of birds could attack the injured bird again, another time, and in another place, but I was so very thankful that it had at least been stopped at that time. I could at least hope that I had stopped it completely.
There was no way of me knowing how injured the victim bird was since he flew off and away when everyone else did. I can only hope that I interfered quickly enough that he didn’t get very badly hurt.
I’ve been watching for an injured bird, but I haven’t seen one. I don’t know if that is good news or not. And I don’t know what injured birds do when they are hurt, so I don’t know if I would see one or not. I don’t know whether to be relieved, or whether to worry more. I just don’t have the answers to this situation.
But boy, oh boy, was this an emotional situation for me. I found the whole experience to be incredibly upsetting. I was tearful. I was afraid. I was worried. I was brave. I had all kinds of emotions going on throughout the whole day.
And again, the parallels of this situation to the lives of dissociative trauma survivors are many and layered.
First of all, I think that nearly every DID survivor that I have spoken to has told me of horrific situations where they were the one targeted victim being attacked by a group of perpetrators. Even if there was only one main perpetrator, there were other people around, watching and / or supporting the perpetrator and not helping the person being hurt.
This is just soooooo not ok.
It is just so wrong for groups of anyone to gang up against one person, purposefully hurting them, doing terrible things to them.
It can be just as wrong for anyone to witness such crimes and to not step in and help the person(s) being hurt. Granted, this is very much a gray area since there are a number of complicated factors involved when it comes to interrupting and stopping violence. At this point, my comments are directed specifically towards those who really could have the ability to stop or interfere with the abuse, and simply choose not to.
I can’t even come up with enough words to describe how wrong these things are.
I couldn’t tolerate watching a bird being injured. How on earth do perpetrators tolerate watching a person getting hurt, especially a little person?
I just don’t understand that.
Not one tiny bit do I understand that.
*** Please note – in these comments, I am not referring to the situations where someone is forced to perpetrate when they don’t want to. There is a kind of victimization / abuse where dominant perpetrator abusers force others in a less powerful position to do abusive acts to others. I call this situation victimization by perpetration. Most DID survivors have experienced this situation too, and please know, that my comments today are not in reference to those very difficult and equally horrible situations. ***
I am talking about the abuser types that are truly sadistic and hurtful, completely by choice. I’m referring to situations where the perpetrator does not have to hurt anyone, but they simply want to and choose to because they like it and enjoy it.
THAT is what I don’t understand.
What does it take in someone to be truly sadistic? How does this happen? How can those abusive violent people live with themselves? Where is their compassion? Why do they have no compassion or kindness?
I know there are intellectual answers to those questions, but my thoughts are based on more of an emotional and spiritual level.
I just don’t get it.
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
July 10, 2010
*** trigger warning for dissociative trauma survivors ***
The collage and the material discussed in this blog is emotionally intense and could be triggering. Please be sure that you are in a safe place before reading further.
Trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder often have to live a double life. There is the public face, full of pretty smiles and general surface chatter that says “I’m fine”, “I’m doing great!”, “I had a good time”, “Nothing is wrong”, etc.
Recognize any of those kinds of cover-up phrases?
Unfortunately, all too often, looking the other side of these statements proves a very opposite reality. The person is feeling anything but “great”.
Every DID survivor I have ever met has a whole repertoire of phrases and quick answers that indicate they are doing well, that everything is ok, even when they actually are not ok. DID survivors know how to cover and hide their pain. Besides dissociating away the evidence, feelings, and awareness of the abuse from themselves, they have also developed a variety of social skills to cover and hide the depth of their confusion, upset, emotions from others.
On the other side of “I’m fine”, there are very different feelings – depression, fear, anxiety, sadness, overwhelm, emotional pain, grief, shame, anger, just to name a few. Sometimes there are flashbacks, body memories, nightmares, self-injuries, addiction issues, etc. There are often feelings related to self-injury, self-destruction, and self-hatred. Sometimes there are incidents of trauma in the current day, or domestic violence, or sexual assault, or date rape. Life can feel pretty dark.
But still, all too often, the survivor will say, “I’m fine.”
The following collage says it well.
In case they are a little hard to read, the words on the collage are as follows:
This can’t be happening
It’s not real
It’s not real
It’s really happening.
What will I say? What do I say?
I can’t breath I can’t breath
I need air.
Gravel in my hair hurts.
What will I say tomorrow?
What if I get grass stains on my dress?
I can’t breathe.
Please God help me. Please.
Please save me.
Someone help me
There’s no on
And he’s on top
And I can’t breathe
And this is hopeless
And I think
I can’t escape
God please —
I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine
I can never tell anyone about this
What would everyone say? They’ll all be bragging
About what a good time they had tonight
I can’t say
This is the night
God abandoned me
That my soul was killed
That the world left me behind.
I had a great time, thanks. Thanks for asking.
In this collage, notice the initial dissociative statements. “This can’t be real” indicates the need to dissociate and separate from what is happening. Even when the artist recognizes that it is really happening to her, she separates herself with the tiny “to me”.
The middle section describes a sexual assault. Some of the pain and discomfort of the abuse is included – for the most part, the details of the rape are not mentioned. However, the fears and pleas for help are included, showing the desperation felt by the woman being assaulted.
Finally, at least for a short while, the abuse has stopped.
It appears, that after the assault happens, this survivor is expected to make a social appearance at a party or a dance. The social event is supposed to be great fun, but how can a social event be fun right after having experienced a sexual trauma?
But still, the survivor says she’s fine.
- What keeps her from talking about what she just experienced?
- Do you understand why she covers and hides the abuse instead of telling others about it?
- Does this survivor remember that she was just assaulted?
- Did she build an amnesiac wall around the abuse?
- Did one insider deal with the trauma, and another insider go to the party?
- Is this survivor denying the abuse?
Part of the healing process is connecting the reality of the situation with the truth of emotion. Chances are, this survivor does not actually feel fine at all.
What could she do now?
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
July 4, 2010
For us here in the US, it’s the July 4th holiday weekend. Barbecues, picnics, swimming parties, and fireworks are happening all over the country. Red, white, and blue stars and stripes are visible in every direction. It’s a fun holiday – most people are in festive moods.
The point of the Independence Day holiday is to celebrate freedom. It’s about being free, living in a land that is free, feeling free and all kinds of good stuff like that. Freedoms do exist in all kinds of ways – there’s no doubt about that. Life can be good. Most of us here in America have the freedom to live our lives in ways that we choose for ourselves.
But is everyone free?
People get trapped and stuck in a variety of ways. When this happens, their life feels anything but free. Sometimes the traps are made by the people themselves. Sometimes traps are made by societal views, racial hatred, poverty, language barriers, etc. Sometimes the traps are made by mental illness. Sometimes traps are set by other people, especially in situations involving chronic trauma and abuse. Sometimes traps are made with mind control.
This weekend, while I am enjoying the chance to make decisions for myself, I am thinking about people who are not feeling as free as I am.
1. Trapped within their Compulsive Hoarding
Have you seen any of the recent flurry of television shows about compulsive hoarding? Titles such as “Hoarding: Buried Alive” (shown on the TLC channel) describe exactly how trapped people become when they suffer from compulsive hoarding. Their own home becomes their jail, and far too many compulsive hoarders are stuck in their lifestyle, with no clue how to free themselves from such heaviness.
Hoarders do not feel free. They do not have a sense of freedom in their own homes. They are often laden down with many extreme obsessions, compulsions, anxieties that may not even be rational, but still claim total ownership to their mind and lives.
The more someone hoards, the less space they have to move. Eventually, even the freedom to walk around their own home becomes nonexistent. They become complete prisoners to the items they are hoarding.
2. Trapped with Fears and Phobias
Fears and phobias can imprison a person in a very extreme way. Fears of talking to people, fears of leaving the house, fears of trying new foods, fears of eating in public, fears of riding in cars, fears of the unknown, etc. can all keep a person stuck into a very limited life-space. When people are too frightened to venture out of their status quo, they are stuck and trapped in whatever place they are in. The more fears they have, the more traps they live in. Their living space can get smaller, and smaller, and smaller.
3. Trapped by Obesity and Eating Disorders
People that are obese are trapped within their own bodies. The lack of freedom to move, or walk, or bend, or stretch can feel very entrapping. Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulemia, can also create a prison with the body. When the body becomes the prison, every minute of the day feels trapped. There is no freedom since the prison goes everywhere.
4. Trapped with Ongoing Abuse and Trauma
Unfortunately, there are far too many survivors of trauma and abuse that are still current victims of trauma and abuse. This includes anything from child abuse,
domestic violence, incest, and date rape, to human trafficking, prostitution, sex slavery, cult groups, etc. When people are controlled by other people through violence and pain, they are often too beaten down to see a way out. They are not allowed to see or believe that they can escape from their abuse, and they are typically not given or allowed the resources to leave. Any efforts to leave require an incredible depth of personal strength since the external controls and risks of violence are excessive.
5. Trapped with Mind Control
Mind control is the invisible jail. Dissociative survivors of chronic, severe abuse have elements of mind control that effect every essence of their lives. Survivors of organized or ritual abuse will absolutely have parts within their internal dissociative systems that were purposefully made and created in order to contain elements of mind control and programming. DID survivors with mind control issues will have parts in their systems that have been expertly trained to do tasks that are opposite from what the host personality / day parts are willing to do. Amnesia and dissociative walls (blocking off the sharing of information) can mean that a dissociative survivor can have missing time and minimal (if any) awareness that certain events happened. DID survivors may have no awareness of what is going on in their own lives.
Mind control can dictate what dissociative survivors say, where they go, who they talk with, who they interact with, what they do, what they tolerate, what they feel, what they think, etc. Having internal system parts that are controlled by mind control means that there are certain elements of the life (and certain times of the day or night) that your life is being completely controlled and manipulated by someone else. Other parts of your system will take over the body and they do exactly what they have been told to do by the abusers who are using the mind control tactics. This can be very scary, and the people whose lives are “taken over” by mind control certainly do not feel free.
Creating Freedom within Your Own Life
When you are trapped by any of the above-mentioned areas of life, it will take a lot of hard work to get out of those traps. It is possible. Yes, in every single situation mentioned above it is absolutely possible for the enslaved people to get out of all the traps. But freedom for any of these people does not come easy. It takes a lot of consistent work, typically for years of time.
Do you want real freedom in your life?
Do you want the ability to walk, move, think, decide, and believe for yourself?
Do you want the freedom to be your real, authentic self and have a life completely under your own control?
Freedom is to be your true self is an absolutely wonderful thing.
And yes, that’s an option for you too.
Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
You might have to fight for it, but yes, absolutely, you can have freedom too.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 10, 2010
Lots of trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder are just starting their healing process. Other dissociative survivors are not new to their healing process, but they might realize that they haven’t yet covered all the basics.
DID therapy can feel huge, daunting, difficult, and overwhelming. There is so much to do and so many areas of work. For a broader overview of the many areas of DID healing, please refer to the article, “50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder”.
For individuals building the foundation for their work with your dissociative system, here are some of the first things to do.
DID 101 involves:
1. Get to know your system. Build the courage to find and meet your insiders. Remember, they were formed and created to help you – even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are (or can be) on the same team. Who are your inside parts? What jobs do they have? What kinds of things are they able to do? It’s really ok for you to build positive relationships and actual friendships with your insiders. If this feels scary for you, explore those feelings. What makes it hard for you to get to know your insiders? What fears or resentments do you have? Understanding your resistance to these ideas is important.
2. Become more comfortable with your diagnosis. If you don’t understand what dissociative identity disorder (DID /MPD) is, be sure to speak more with your therapist or psychiatrist about what it means to be dissociative. There are lots of books, websites, blogs, articles, conferences, etc that can help to educate you about the basics about DID. Understanding DID will help take out some of the mystery and confusion for you.
3. Build a support system and capable treatment team. It is very helpful if you can surround yourself with a few other people that understand trauma dynamics, preferably at least one or two other people, besides your therapist and doctor that understand that you are working on healing from trauma. These support people don’t have to be experts in DID – if they are just willing to spend some time with you when you need a safe distraction from your healing work, that will be helpful. Please don’t lean on lay-support people for the heavy issues. Leave the complicated treatment issues for your therapist to work with – your support friends are not therapists, so be very careful about not pushing them too far or demanding too much of them.
4. Once you have recognized at least one or two other parts, work on building communication with these parts. Internal communication is one of the very most important factors in DID therapy, and the sooner you can interact cooperatively with your other parts, the better your healing progress will happen. Approximately twenty of the articles in the Discussing Dissociation blog reference tips for building internal communication. This link groups these articles together. Learning how to talk to your other parts is the most important factor in your healing.
5. Connecting with your internal landscape. What can you see inside? Can you see the other insiders? Do you have an internal safe place? Internal visualization work is an important skill as it builds a way to connect with your insiders. Even if you can’t see the others inside, there will likely be someone else who can. Maybe ask if that insider will draw a map of your system for you? The sooner you can see inside, the better. And of course, if you see insiders that are not in positive, healthy, clean living conditions, you and other helpers in your system will need to do something to help them.
6. Working on limiting or preventing self-destructive impulses and self-injurious behaviors. Learning how to address self-harm urges is particularly important for your stabilization and progression in therapy. You have already been hurt enough – adding more hurt may feel like it helps you to cope in the short-term, but using behaviors such as cutting or burning is not any more helpful than using a shot of whiskey or a hit of cocaine. Explore better ways to cope with your intense feelings, develop more grounding skills, build positive containment strategies, and methods to reconnect with the here-and-now. A grouping of articles about preventing self-injury can be found here.
7. Live in a safe place both inside and out. If you live in a violent environment, address this issue as quickly as you are able. If you are continuing to be abused or sexually assaulted in any way, your dissociative walls will stay strong, and your system will have greater trouble trusting you and your treatment team. Of course, when anyone is fearful of abusive repercussions, it is much harder to disclose the real issues. Dangerous environments can include everything from domestic violence, abusive parents, organized perpetrators, to internal system perpetrators and angry introjects. Building more and more current-day safety is vitally important for your overall healing process. If you aren’t safe, make this a priority in your therapy process. Building an internal safe place is also critically important. However, please remember that in order to build an internal safe place, you have to have a genuine belief that safety can happen, at least part of the time. Making an internal safe place for your insiders is much more difficult when you are still concerned about external safety.
8. Start building options for positive self-comfort, self-soothing activities. The therapy process can be so very painful and emotionally difficult. Having a variety of options to do that are comfortable, safe, gentle, soothing, and stabilizing is important. What can you do when you want to have a break from the hard work of therapy? What can you do when you need some quiet space to think – or to not think? When you are hurting, what can you do that will help you to feel better? Soothing your pain in ways that help your healing (vs. using self-destructive options) is an important skill to develop.
9. Create healthy options for expression of feeling and emotion – use art, music, journaling, collage, blogging, forum posting, sculpting, painting, poetry, play therapy, sand tray therapy, scrapbooking, etc. DID therapy involves processing a lot of flashbacks, violent images, intense feelings, overwhelming thoughts, body memories, body pain, etc. Building a repertoire of artistic avenues to describe your feelings and experiences will be very helpful. You might not always have words that you can use so it is important to find non-verbal ways to safely express what you feel.
10. Create your own personal space. In this space, let it be ok for your insiders to come out, to be themselves, to be out in the body, and to exist. Out in the world, and when you are around other people, most of your daily life will be about keeping your insiders tucked in and acting socially inappropriate. But somewhere in your private time, your insiders will need time to surface, to know that it is ok for them to come out. Having the freedom to switch without reprimand is important as each of your insiders will need to do some personalized healing work of their own.
Not 11. Please note: I am specifically not including memory work or skills to do memory work in my top then list of DID 101 skills. The reason for this is that if you are just beginning DID therapy, it can be very destabilizing to focus on heavy-duty memory work. Yes, of course, doing trauma work is an important part of your overall healing process, but in the beginning of this journey, you need to build these basic skills before you begin to put a lot of energy into memory work. It is much safer and more stabilizing to have these foundational therapy skills in place before focusing on the trauma content of DID therapy.
DID therapy is intense, long-term, exhausting, and difficult. But your healing is worth it. As you truly address the painful conflicts, unmet needs, and internal confusion caused by your years of trauma, abuse, and neglect, you will feel better within your own self.
I wish you the very best in your healing journey –
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 19, 2010
What an interesting phrase.
Externalizing responsibility is when someone fails to accept responsibility for the messes they make or for the problems they cause. It is also failing to accept responsibility for the situations they find themselves in.
Internalizing responsibility is personally taking on the responsibility for what happens (in the past, present, or future). It is accepting the responsibility for personal welfare or for consequences of actions instead of dumping the blame on others.
Do you externalize responsibility?
Do you internalize responsibility?
For dissociative trauma survivors, the issue of when to accept responsibility versus when to deflect responsibility is a very complicated topic.
Most DID survivors have had years of experience internalizing responsibility for the actions of their perpetrators, family members, abusers, etc. Abusive offenders are some of the world’s best at externalizing blame onto someone else, and most trauma survivors internalize that blame, guilt, shame within themselves. Purposeful and direct blaming of the victim, especially child victims, typically ends up with the victim feeling responsible for the abuse.
Having this convoluted, complicated history of who is or isn’t responsible makes “accepting responsibility” a very difficult topic for trauma survivors.
Survivors spend years of time blaming themselves for the abuse (internalizing responsibility). Survivors typically end up feeling like they were bad, or they did something to cause it, or it was because they were too pretty, or too available, or too easy, etc. Survivors were usually told by their abusers that they deserved the abuse, or they liked the abuse, or they wanted the abuse, or some variation of the sort.
Perpetrators know that if they verbally blame the victim, that victim will be more likely to internalize the responsibility for what happened. Perpetrators typically do not accept responsibility for their actions. The more the perpetrators push blame and responsibility onto the victim, the more the victim will internalize that responsibility and blame.
But typically, survivors are not responsible for being abused. At least, they are not responsible for what the abuser does. The abuser is responsible for what the abuser does.
However, it is very difficult for many trauma survivors to put the blame of their abuse back onto their perpetrator. Trauma survivors will argue with their therapists that their abusive loved ones were not at fault – that they cannot be considered a perpetrator – that they are not to be blamed.
How many of you refuse to believe that your father (or mother) sexually abused you even if other parts in your system have said this clearly?
How many of you refuse to blame your perpetrator, and instead will run in circles protecting your family member from being called a perpetrator?
How many of you will argue that you have no right to be angry with your father – perpetrator? How many of you will define criminal actions as “not a problem” in order to not assign responsibility to your loved one?
Children are not responsible for being abused. Adults are responsible anytime they have abused children. Children will internalize the blame, but they are not responsible for being abused.
What about when the trauma survivor is an adult? What if the adult survivor is being abused as an adult? Who’s responsible then?
Adult trauma survivors do get abused. There are thousands of domestic violence situations where adults are being abused on a regular basis. Rapes and date rape situations can happen to adult trauma survivors. Dissociative survivors can still be involved in the sex slave industry or other ongoing abuses even as an adult. Abuse certainly can happen into adult-hood.
Who is responsible in these situations?
Of course, the abusers are still responsible for their own abusive behavior. (The topic of recognizing who abusers are will be discussed in a different blog article.)
However, these issues are not simple once the victim is an adult who has to be responsible for their own selves and any dependents. If you are an adult trauma survivor caught in abuse, it is not your fault you are being abused, but it is your responsibility to get yourself out and away from this abuse.
These adult survivor victims are responsible to get the help they need to get out of their abusive situations. They do not cause the abuser to abuse, but they are responsible to learn how to protect themselves and to protect any children that may be involved in the situation. It is important to build and utilize enough resources for safety and protection that will make the abuse come to an end as quickly as possible.
Finding the Balance
The difficult part is internalizing the correct portion of the responsibility. Even adult trauma survivors well experienced in therapy will internalize responsibility that genuinely belongs to the abuser. Other adult trauma survivors will stay stuck completely in the victim role, refusing to accept responsibility for getting out of the mess they are in. Sometimes survivors will cause-create-instigate-perpetuate emotional conflicts that are of their own making, and yet, claim to be the victim of their circumstances (more on that topic another time…).
So think about it…
Internalizing responsibility vs. externalizing responsibility.
What really does belong to you?
What really does belong to someone else?
Are you taking on too much?
Are you acting like a victim in situations where you are actually responsible?
Kathy Broady LCSW
October 18, 2009
Tonight at 9 pm CST, I will be presenting on BlogTalkRadio.
You are welcome to listen to the radio show or to participate by calling in. I’ll be glad to hear from you!
For more information, please go to:
Safety First – Recognizing and Leaving Domestic Violence (part 1)
Domestic Violence (DV) is a form of sexual and physical abuse that far too many adult women (or men) experience in their spousal / partner relationship. Many victims of domestic abuse do not even recognize that the level of trauma they are experiencing within their own home is actually considered Domestic Violence. However, like any victim of current-day abuse, it is important for these survivors to find safety.
Kathy Broady LCSW is a trauma therapist from Dallas Texas with 25 yrs experience working with victims of abuse – child abuse survivors, sexual abuse survivors, dissociative trauma survivors, domestic violence survivors, PTSD survivors, etc.
In collaboration with DVMemorial, Kathy will be presenting a series of shows about recognizing domestic violence, leaving abusive relationships, exploring the emotional difficulties that trap survivors in ongoing violence, addressing how dissociation and denial create additional complications, etc.
Tonight’s episode is the first show in the series about Recognizing and Leaving Domestic Violence. Callers will be welcomed to join and encouraged to actively participate in the discussion. Your questions and comments will be addressed in the order received.
For more information about Kathy Broady LCSW, or to contact her for therapeutic assistance, please go to www.AbuseConsultants.com, www.SurvivorForum.com, or http://discussingdissociation.wordpress.com .
If you are unable to listen to the radio show while it it on the air, you will be able to hear it from the DVMemorial Archives.
Domestic Violence is a form of ongoing current-day abuse that happens for far too many dissociative trauma survivors. I am honored to have been asked to speak about this topic.
Kathy Broady LCSW