November 28, 2010
It has been Thanksgiving week here in the USA.
Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful for what we have, for the people in our lives, for the food and shelter that we have, and for the lives we have had. It is meant to be a good holiday, with time to relax, watch the Macy’s Day parade, cheer for our favorite football team, have an incredible meal, go to movies, chatter with close friends and family, enjoy freedom and all the goodness of life.
Thanksgiving is usually a good day.
But the world is a cruel place.
And for many people, there is a lot that has happened that has been anything but good, or pretty, or wonderful.
Too many people are struggling. Depression dominates. Darkness permeates too much.
Too often, the world is a vicious place.
There are sadistic abusers that hurt and devastate children in every country of the world.
There are thousands of destructive diseases, starving children, destroyed families, broken spirits, and wounded souls meandering around in our world. There are far too many wars, polluted lands, toxic waters, drug overdoses, and homeless people.
The world is not a pretty place.
There is ugliness and coldness splattered everywhere.
It is difficult to find a good faithful friend.
It is difficult to find loyal, trustworthy people who won’t betray you or leave you.
It is difficult to find people who care or express compassion or gentleness or have time to listen.
It is difficult to find someone to love that equally and freely loves you back.
All too many people feel alone, heart-broken, saddened, and hurt to the very depths of their core.
Others are embattled in wars against the injustices of the world or trapped in chronic poverty.
Having a life filled with trauma and abuse both destroys and deepens the survivors of violence. Trauma and abuse makes people find ways to cope that are beyond what anyone else can comprehend. But trauma and abuse also leave scars that last for a lifetime.
With all the darkness in the world, what is there to be thankful for?
What is there to appreciate or to enjoy?
Some days it’s just not so easy to find those good things.
Even though it feels like it, everything was not taken from you.
What is it that you hang on to?
Where can you go in your mind that takes you to your very own place of happiness and safety?
Where do you find beauty?
What brings a smile to your face and warms your soul?
What gives you a feeling of peace, and security, and solidity?
When you see an incredible sunset or a fascinating unique cloud formation, what do you think?
When you smell honeysuckle blossoms or newly opened roses, what do you feel?
When a butterfly sits on your finger or when a baby bunny hops in front of you or you hold sleeping baby puppies, what do you feel?
What do you feel when you hear a song that reaches your soul? Do you prefer instrumental music? Or do you prefer to listen to the words of your favorite singer? Do the rhythms of your favorite songs create an aliveness within your spirit that makes you want to dance?
Finding your own sparkle moments will help to remember that life can be good, and that life can be appreciated, and that there are things to be thankful for. Is life perfect? Oh, absolutely not. Certainly not for the people who have been the targets of sadistic abusers and manipulative con artists. Life is far far far from perfect when you’ve been thrown around and beat up in tumultuous storms.
But there are still a few good things out there – those places that hold beauty and joy — that can never be taken away.
Hold on to your inner self – your soul, your spirit. The world can stomp hard on those places, but protect yourself best you can. Others out in the world may not understand why or how you are doing this, but it is up to you to protect yourself from harm in any way that you can until you feel safe enough to not have to. Don’t forget — even in times of tight rigid self-protection, you can find sparkle and joy and warmth – but once you shut others out of your world, it definitely will be up to you to do that for yourself.
Create moments every day that bring that a hint of joy to mind. You don’t’ have to be jumping up and down with joy to feel joy. A little spark of joy is a good start.
Create something – anything. Creating is the opposite of dying so when you create something, you are adding to the value of your life. Creating something new is a way of creating life itself. Write a story, compose a song, choreograph a dance, cook a new dish, draw a picture, paint a painting, make some jewelry, plant a garden, sing a jingle, organize a pile of clutter, sew a shirt, embroider a design, build a bookshelf, make a guitar, clean a mess, re-style your hair, paint your nails, carve a bar of soap, bake some bread, etc.
When you can, adventure out of your protective walls and find something outside of your home that creates a sparkle moment for you. Take an adventure walk around your neighborhood – can you find anything at all that brings a smile to your face? Ever so carefully, gently interact with others out in your neighborhood, local stores or churches. Gradually, by finding places that can give you joy when you are outside of your home, you will remember that the world is not all bad.
Even when it feels like you have lost everything and everyone, you can find something to be thankful for if you stay alive in your spirit and soul. Many trauma survivors feel that their soul has died or taken from them, but I am willing to bet that it has not. It might be well hidden and covered up, but it is there. You may very well need to nurture it back to life, but you can do that with the things that create those sparkle moments.
Make it a goal to find something to be grateful for everyday.
Find the beauty out there in your world. Search for things you can appreciate.
Depression and darkness do not have to dominate anymore.
Your ability to feel thankful and to have gratitude will help to change your life back towards the positive, one sparkle moment at a time.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
October 31, 2010
It’s Halloween weekend again.
This year, I’ve been reminded of the dichotomy our society lives in during times such as Halloween.
There are the many people of the world who are enjoying the weekend. They are having some version of fun, gathering candies, creating pumpkin-flavored foods, and dressing up in costumes as innocent as pretty Little Bo Peep with some Sheep walking along beside her. For many of us here in Dallas, Texas, Halloween weekend this year has been about watching the Texas Rangers Baseball team finally playing a good game in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. Last night the Rangers won, and there were many joyous celebrations all over the state of Texas. For all of these people, Halloween weekend has been wonderful. It’s been a good time and no one and nothing was hurt (except the pride of the San Francisco Giants!)
But for dissociative trauma survivors with a ritual abuse background, this weekend – and the majority of this month of October – has been anything but fun. It is a time of darkness. It is a time where they were physically and emotionally forced into darkness, forced into worlds of violence, forced into worlds so hidden and evil that the happy candied people clapping and cheering in the baseball stadiums don’t even know the tiniest bit about it.
Ritual abuse and the horrors of ritual abuse have stayed secret from the surface layers of society for a few reasons – none the least being the idea that ritual abuse is so extremely sadistic that it is impossible for most people to fathom or acknowledge its existence. For those not raised in the worlds of hidden ritual abuse, it seems too incredulous to tolerate or believe. It’s too mind-blowing to think that such intense evil, violence, gore, and pain could exist in the real world. It’s even more impossible for them to believe that these horrors could be purposefully devastating the lives of our local children. Understanding that these atrocities can still be happening in the current-day lives of adult dissociative survivors is barely even recognized by trauma specialists in the mental health profession.
Besides, there are powerful dark organizations, most typically connected with the money-making sex slavery industries that help to provide massive cover-up’s for socially-complicated dicey issues such as ritual abuse. The phrase “money is the root of all evil” comes to mind as so much of the extreme abuse of trauma survivors is rooted in groupings of greedy soul-less sociopathic perpetrators making wads of dirty money while completely ignoring or insanely enjoying the suffering they are inflicting on survivors.
Trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) can experience a lifetime of pain and mental torment from the ordeals they suffered through on Halloween. They re-live these horrors year after year after year in their flashbacks, body memories, and internal worlds. They feel the tortures. They hear the screams. They are paralyzed in their terror. Healing feels next to impossible because the pain runs too deep.
How are trauma survivors supposed to come to terms with the fact that someone they loved and cherished (usually a parent) did the ultimate betrayal by subjecting them to the horrors of sadistic ritualized abuse?
How are trauma survivors supposed to overcome the fact they were forced to learn to hate with such intensity that they turn completely cold and dark from the inside out?
How are trauma survivors supposed to overcome their reality that they were forced to hurt others, even those they loved, and to relish the moment as if it was joyous and full of ecstasy?
How does anyone overcome these experiences and not let them ruin or tarnish or their lives forever?
Is it impossible to unthaw the effects of such hatred?
Is it impossible to heal from such deep soul-wrenching wounds?
It feels that way.
Many, many, many, many days, it feels too impossible to heal. Ask any trauma survivor that. I bet they will tell you, without a doubt, that they have wondered if it was ever possible for them to overcome the depths of pain and agony and torment that they experienced in their lives.
But it is possible.
It is possible because there is such thing as NOT being hated. There are such things as compassion, understanding, gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, and yes, even the ultimate word – genuine love. (I do not mean the creepy distortion of love – I’m referring to the actual genuine, true, God-filled love.)
Because as much as the hatred of violence and abuse of sadistic predators exist, the kindness and gentleness of true compassion and understanding exists as well.
And genuine kindness can trump violence.
After you’ve experienced true hatred, experiencing true kindness is a completely heart-reaching, life-changing, awe-inspiring experience.
Yes, when someone survived a lifetime full of hatred, it takes a LOT of kindness to overcome all that hatred. Occasional kindness helps, but for genuine healing, it takes experiencing a lot of kindness. Unfortunately, for many trauma survivors, the world just has not been that kind.
But don’t give up — there are kind people out here. They may be obliviously cheering in a baseball stadium at the moment, but they are out here, and they exist, and they can show you gentleness, acceptance, warmth, and love.
Years of hate can melt away with a listening ear, with cups of tea, with a soft smile, with a tender relationship, with a quiet conversation, with a safe hug. When someone feels genuinely cared for – even for moments of time – those moments can crack through the cold darkness created by hate and violence. They can allow other moments of warmth and sunshine to take hold, and the healing process can continue, one moment building upon other moments.
It’s not quick. And it’s not easy. The turning-over is gradual, slow, arduous, and painful. But it can happen.
Kindness can trump violence.
My wish is that one day, all trauma survivors could find themselves having moments of pure joy and light-hearted fun, clapping happily in innocent places like baseball stadiums, even if the date is Halloween.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW 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
June 20, 2010
This weekend is often a difficult weekend for trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder. First, there is Father’s Day (for those of us living in the USA), and secondly, it’s the Summer Solstice. Anytime the difficult days get stacked on top of each other, it’s going to make for a complicated time.
On days when the issues seem to surface in layers, what do you do to cope?
(**This blog article is about difficult topics so it could be triggering – please pace yourself carefully and keep yourself safe.)
Father’s Day has many of the same emotional complications as was written about on Mother’s Day. The days proceeding are often full of painful memories, heartbreaking loss, fear, conflict, and upset. The vast majority of DID survivors have had abusive fathers, so the idea of celebrating fathers typically stirs up great turmoil.
The first day of summer, like all season changes, has relevance to those who have experienced difference forms of Ritual Abuse (RA). Many of the dark church organizations celebrate the seasonal changes and these so-called “celebrations” are full of trauma, abuse, gross activities, icky messes, scary events, etc. Survivors of these ordeals are often flooded with flashbacks, emotional distress and internal conflict during the times of season changes.
When you put the two of these highly emotional events together, dissociative survivors experience a lot of overwhelm. Some of the difficulties can include PTSD symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, depersonalization, body memories, difficulties sleeping, irritability, feeling distant from others, etc.) and anxiety symptoms (panic attacks, excessive fears, heightened startle reflex, nausea, trembling, heart palpitations, headaches, obsessions, chest pain, etc), self-destructive thoughts, self-injury behaviors, suicidal ideation (pervasive thoughts about wanting to die), depression, tearfulness, or detached numbing. It’s probably been a miserable weekend for a lot of DID survivors.
Fathers that participate in dark church rituals are often not the kind of fathers that you find written about in Hallmark Cards. These are the kinds of fathers that prefer abusive activities, or that like sadistic pain, or have freaky and perverse sexual interests. They are difficult men who have caused a lot of hurt and pain for a lot of people, especially for their children.
And yet, even so, there are nearly always those parts within the DID system that feel loyalty and a deep bonding with the father figure. These parts are typically parts that have adopted some level of acceptance of the traumatic activities, and have long ago learned to tolerate the abuse or to even define it as anything but abuse.
DID survivors often manage abuse by their fathers by creating a father introject within the internal dissociative system. Father introjects are internal system parts that remember the father so well that they look-feel-sound-act-appear to the others inside as the same as the actual father. An internal introject may do the same kinds of abusive behaviors to the other parts of the system, recreating the same abusive patterns and feelings that the external father did. Since the internal world is so real to DID survivors, it can feel like the father is still there, still controlling things, still making all the decisions, still threatening harm, still causing harm.
And in many ways this can be true.
It can be difficult to separate who the external father is from the internal father introject. They can very much feel like mirror-images of each other, shadow replicas, and the child parts of the system will not be able to tell the difference between them.
But father introjects are NOT the actual father, no matter how much they may claim to be so. Father introjects actually belong to you. They split from you, they came from your mind, and they originated with you. They are actually part of you, and not part of the father. They may have been taught by the father, but they are actually yours.
However, they will be powerful parts of the internal system though so their power and influence is not to be ignored or minimized. It is more important to work with these parts, and reconnect their loyalty to the survivor person instead of to the father figure. This is an absolutely crucial part of the DID therapy process, and if you haven’t yet gained a safe working relationship with your father introject, you will need to do so.
Father Transference Issues
In the therapy process, male therapists will have many of the same kinds of transference issues regarding father issuesj as female therapists have with mother issues. In fact, it is often difficult for some female dissociative survivors to work with male therapists because of the kinds of trauma, abuse, and controls associated with their father. Male therapists often have to address transference issues of being seen as the abuser, controlling male, dominant owner, sexual pervert, etc. So many trauma survivors have issues with men — and even more have issues with their fathers — that it makes being a male therapist for female trauma survivors particularly difficult.
Other female trauma survivors are so used to be led by men or connected to men, especially their father, that they feel more at ease with men and less comfortable with “neglectful, abandoning mothers”. (Female therapists tend to get more of the abandonment transference issues, while male therapists tend to get more of the abuser-male dominance transference issues.) The relationship between survivors and their parents will very often dictate which gender of therapist is a better fit for them.
Typical Father Issues
Father issues are not easy to work through. They often take years of time to sort out, and they are very painful. Many survivors truly feel bonded to their fathers, even if some of their relationship involved sexual activities. Sometimes feeling sexually connected to the father felt better than being emotionally abandoned by the mother. When this is the case, there are numerous emotional complications to process during your healing.
Do you understand the role your father has played in your life?
Do you experience system switching, feelings of fear, or flashbacks when you are in the same room with your father?
What would your father do if you said no to him?
What would your father do if you chose a lifestyle very different from the one he chose for his life?
Are you allowed to live separately from him? Have you been allowed to move away from his neighborhood?
How much control or influence does your father have over you life in the current day?
Are you safe when you are in the same room as your father?
Does your father still abuse you or any of your younger parts? Does he still exert a level of sexual dominance over anyone in your system?
Would you be betraying your father if you refused to let him touch you in sexual ways?
If your father is an abuser, you can get distance and separation from him.
You don’t have to stay bonded to abusers.
You don’t have to stay connected to violent relationships.
You don’t have to be abused to be accepted.
You do not have to be sexual to be accepted.
All men are not abusers.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
December 12, 2009
Do you know people that truly want to hurt you?
Do you know people that are willing to hurt you on purpose?
Do you know people that would hurt you over and over, again and again?
Did this happen to you when you were a child?
Is this experience still happening for you as an adult?
What a scary concept.
What a horrifying way to grow up.
It’s one thing to know that you have been hurt by mean people.
It’s a completely different thing to know that there are people that want to hurt you on purpose. And that they’ll do it – and that they have done it. And that they’ll do it again and again and again. As many times as they can, whenever they can.
That’s a completely different concept than to say, “I got hurt once.”
For something to be a “one of” experience, it can be terrible, but it’s a one-of. It doesn’t have to happen again. It happened. It’s over. That’s it.
But to know that there are vicious, sadistic people in the world who want to hurt you, and to know that these people are so incredibly cruel that they want to hurt you many times… and they will hurt you every chance they have…
THAT is a completely different situation.
There is no safety in that situation. There is no reason to believe it won’t happen again. There is not end in sight, and there is no place to rest. You can’t let your guard down. You can’t relax. You can’t stop preparing for the next time. You can’t get away from it.
There is danger, insatiable danger. Life becomes equal with danger.
How very different it feels when the perpetrators are insatiable. How very exhausting it feels when you know that you might have gotten through it today, but they’ll do it again tomorrow, or the next day, or the next.
Repeated, ongoing, incessant danger, trauma, abuse, and neglect changes a person.
It changes their view of the world.
It changes their view of themselves.
When your reality is knowing that abuse will be there, that the abusers are not going away, that the abuse will continue, that the abuse will always continue – that abused person has to learn a new way of survival.
In order to get away from the abuse for awhile – which of course, is important, because if you can’t mentally or emotionally escape the presence of the abuse or its effects, it would be far too much – many survivors create other selves.
If you can’t separate the abuse from you, separate yourself from the abuse.
Create a self that knows nothing of the abuse. Create a self that doesn’t worry or stress that the abuse will be around the next turn, or that it will happen again later tonight. Create a self that can enjoy the now, the day, the work, the school, etc. Create a self that can think about academic things, logical things, creative things, fun things, everyday normal things. Create a self that can enjoy petting a cat or enjoy sipping a cup of tea or reading a book or dancing to the radio.
In the situations of chronic, unending abuse scenarios, a survivor with the ability to dissociate and to split into other personalities is tapping into an absolutely incredible psychological defense. It makes a place to go in your head and in your life-experience where you can feel safe. It makes a place where you can be far from danger. It makes a place where you can get through the day without having to worry about being hurt five minutes from now.
I understand that creating this kind of separation from and denial of the abuse can, in the long run, become a troublesome issue when it becomes time to recognize the abuse in order to stop the abuse. But that point belongs in a different article.
At this point, I am just appreciating the value of being able to separate yourself from ongoing, repeated, unstoppable abuse (and the constant knowing of that abuse, and the constant fear of more abuse) by creating a place in your head that allows the abuse to be stopped.
This has been important. It has saved your sanity in many ways.
Living in constant fear, in constant worry, in constant dread, in constant hypervigilence of more pain and more abuse results in adding more and more problems to already existing problems. The body doesn’t do well under this kind of stress – medical illness increase, stomach issues increase, headaches increase, etc. When the body feels like it is constantly fighting for survival, it responds by secreting chemicals and hormones that it wouldn’t normally do if it felt safe. A body in constant fear is different from a body that feels safe.
Emotionally, the person who feels constant danger is going to have more depression, more anxiety, more self-injury, more extreme fear, more panic attacks, more mental health issues, etc.
Waiting in between blows has it own cost.
It doesn’t feel safe in these in between times. It feels on edge. It’s waiting. It’s wondering. It’s knowing it will happen again. It’s a long ways from feeling safe.
Having people in your life who want to and will hurt you over and over and over has affected you in more ways than you might realize.
It emphasizes, to me, the importance of learning what safety is, and what safety feels like.
It emphasizes how important it is to find someone in your life who doesn’t hurt you over and over.
It emphasizes how important it is to keep safe people safe – including both children and adults.
It emphasizes how important it is to not let anyone or anything interrupt your need to have someone genuinely be safe with you.
It also shows me how hard it is for DID survivors to believe that safety exists in the first place.
For Trauma Therapists:
As therapists, if we do nothing else, we need to provide a sense of safety for our clients.
We need to prove to our dissociative trauma clients that each time they show up in our presence, they will be safe.
We need to provide a consistent place of safety to counterbalance a life full of constant danger.
We need to be understanding, compassionate, patient, and gentle with their fears.
Sure, there is a place to confront and challenge, but do this in an atmosphere of safety. Make sure your clients know they will not be hurt, even if they are being confronted.
And if you meet a traumatized client who was able to feel safe with another therapist or another person, do NOT ruin or delete the sense of safety the survivor built with that other person. It is amazingly important that any sense of safety was built in the first place. That was not built easily, so respect the effort that went into that relationship. Don’t ever take that away from them.
Dissociative trauma survivors have not felt enough safety in their lives.
To destroy or damage or delete any sense of their safety causes them harm.
Build more safety for your clients – don’t take away what they had.
Safety is precious. The more, the better.
Kathy Broady LCSW