Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Victim Mentality

Matthew 18 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

for Kyle

18 At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them,
And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.
And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me.
But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.

"Recovery from childhood trauma involves owning the experiences we have disowned. It includes owning parts of ourselves that we continue to want to push away. This is a painful process because it means that we will need to embrace painful realities. Everything in us (and often around us) tells us that this is not the right path to take. But it is always truth, no matter how painful, that frees us. Embracing our life experiences and their ongoing impact on us is the path to freedom and wholeness." Juanita Ryan Survivor and Therapist, National Association for Christian Recovery, (

I no longer adopt a victim mentality, I did that when I admitted powerlessness, and was indoctrinated into the 12 step cult religion which I was steered to by ignorant counselors 29 years ago. I have since deprogrammed. I do not have a victim mentality, I am a victim. There is a difference between being a victim and adopting a victim mentality. One involves choice the other does not.

I am not responsible for my circumstances, my abusers are. I was sexually abused by all the adults around me between the ages of 4 and 9. I did not grow up in a family, I escaped from an incest ring. My mother, my father, my maternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather all sexually abused me on a continuous basis. In their world, I was born to satisfy their evil desires and pleasures. Desires and pleasures that I do not understand nor do I feel the need to even investigate.  The reason I was born was because of their evil intentions for me. They got together and had me so that they would have a child to sexually abuse.  This is the reality that must be absorbed for me to heal and become whole. To God I was and am a beautiful child and was born for His love and the purpose He has had for me since the beginning of time.

I am not responsible for my circumstances nor the hideous painful healing work that I must do. Both are 100% the responsibility of my abusers. Any other stance is not healing and a form of victim blaming which is self-blaming and I will not do it:  not for you, not for my perpetrators and not for the world. To accept responsibility for my circumstances, to not admit my victimization nor the fact that being a victim, I lacked choice are steps away from healing that I am sure would please the world, but I'm gonna heal.

There is no need for forgiveness to affect my healing.

Forgiveness is canceling a debt, since my healing is dependent on me paying the bill of my perpetrators’ for them, the debt they incurred but accept no responsibility for, forgiveness is contra indicated for healing.  It's their bill, my perpetrator’s, that I must pay in order to heal. To forgive them would mean for me to stop the healing work before it is complete, mouth the words of forgiveness and cancel their remaining debt, thus leaving me unhealed, fragmented, not whole, susceptible to the symptoms of PTSS. The same symptoms that drove me to seek healing 29 years ago. To forgive this kind of evil to cancel this debt before it is paid, would be to deny the work that God did within me when He created me in His image and to His likeness. To forgive them, my perpetrators to leave part of the debt remaining and cancel it would be to allow evil to win. I will facilitate none of these.  

Quit before the debt is paid? I will pay the debt they incurred in full. But it is not my debt.  I will not forgive them, because having paid their debt for them, there will be nothing to forgive. Better for them a millstone be hanged around their necks and they be cast into the sea. But nor will I hang the millstone and do the casting.  That is not my job, and I will pray to the One who’s job it is to judge to show them His divine mercy.

That is the nature of Childhood Sexual Abuse. The world, society must stop blaming we survivors/victims  by inviting us to take responsibility – what a ludicrous statement when juxtaposed against the above. It reveals a world of ignorance. The world must get behind we survivors and get educated in reality and stop spewing nonsensical platitudes as if they had some value.

original material copyrightfredcelio2014

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Recovery from Childhood Trauma by Juanita Ryan

When it comes to Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA)
Anger directed at the perpetrator is compassion for self.
Forgiveness of the perpetrator is anger toward self.

by Juanita Ryan
I am a survivor of childhood trauma. I am also a therapist who works with men and women who are survivors of childhood trauma of all kinds. So what I will share in this article comes out of my personal recovery journey and is enriched by the stories of others who have allowed me the honor of sharing some part of their journey.
What I will discuss here is one model for understanding the processes involved in recovery of this kind. This particular model focuses on the process of integration. We often think of healing as a journey toward wholeness. Moving toward wholeness involves gathering up all the fragmented pieces of our lives and of ourselves and bringing them back together. Part of what happens in childhood trauma is that we instinctively do whatever we need to do to push away from the pain that is being inflicted on our developing sense of self. If we push away long enough and hard enough, we begin to disown parts of our experience and even parts of ourselves. Disowning our experience and ourselves includes anything from forgetting what happened, to knowing what happened but convincing ourselves that it wasn’t so bad or that it didn’t have any long-term impact.
This model assumes that major unresolved trauma of any kind in childhood leaves us with internal states that are separated from each other and often in conflict with each other. In particular we will look at three internal states or senses of ourselves. These three internal selves include a wounded self, a judgmental self and an observing, compassionate self.
Recovery from childhood trauma involves owning the experiences we have disowned. It includes owning parts of ourselves that we continue to want to push away. This is a painful process because it means that we will need to embrace painful realities. Everything in us (and often around us) tells us that this is not the right path to take. But it is always truth, no matter how painful, that frees us. Embracing our life experiences and their ongoing impact on us is the path to freedom and wholeness.

The Wounded Self
The wounded self is the part of us that carries most of the shame, fear and despair that were generated at the time(s) of the trauma we experienced. Children have a very limited perspective on events in their lives and most often interpret any negative experience as their fault and as evidence that there is something wrong with them.
Because we are talking about trauma that occurred in childhood, we often experience this wounded part of ourselves as a child self. This part of us will usually have the mindset of a child about the age we were when we were traumatized. So this part of us may be three years old or thirteen years old. Or, if we experienced ongoing abuse or trauma, we may experience this part of us as being at different ages and stages of development.
Before we begin our recovery journey, and early on in this journey, this part of ourselves may be in hiding most of the time. Because we have unknowingly pushed away from the pain we once experienced and from its impact on our lives, this part of us has been pushed into hiding. The problem is, of course, that even though this part exists outside our awareness, it has a great deal of power in our lives. In fact, because it exists outside our awareness, it has greater power than it would if we were more aware of its presence.
This is the part of us that is insecure and reactive. This part of us usually believes terrible things like, I am bad, I am ugly, I am stupid, I am worthless, I deserve what I got, no one can possibly love me. Often, no matter how hard we try to earn love and value, this part of us carries a deep intractable fear that we are beyond help or hope and beyond love.
Whatever happens to a child influences the child’s sense of self. If a child loses a parent to mental illness, drugs, divorce or death, the child may feel both responsible for the loss and deserving of abandonment. If a child routinely experiences verbal abuse or physical abuse, the child will feel little sense of value. If something as obscene as sexual abuse happens to a child, that child will feel obscene, or in a child’s language, ugly and dirty.
In addition, children who are traumatized may suffer not only from demeaning, violating words and actions, but also from a lack of nurture, support, love and care. In fact, many kids who are abused or traumatized suffer as much or more from the neglect and the lack of love as from the trauma itself. So this wounded part of us is hurt, frightened, ashamed, wanting to hide and starving for love.

The Judgmental Self
The second “self” is a judgmental self. Prior to recovery and early in recovery this part of us is often “in charge” of things internally. And this part of us very much wants to remain in control. Many of us are surprised to discover, as we begin our recovery, how much this part of us has been in charge.
The judgmental self is critical and rejecting of us and of others in many ways. But most especially, the judgmental part of us is rejecting of our wounded self. The judgmental part of us may see the wounded child as too needy, too vulnerable, too much of a burden, too big of a problem, not deserving of our time, an embarrassment, and even a threat. To the judgmental part of us, the wounded child is to blame for the bad things that happened and is therefore a source of terrible shame. The judgmental self within us sees the wounded child as overwhelmed with pain. The wounded child could lose control at any minute and misbehave, and therefore is bad and must be tightly controlled. Because of all this fear and reactivity toward the wounded self, the judgmental part of us wants to silence, control and disown the wounded child.
Judgment always creates separation. And in this case, because the judgment is against ourselves, the judge in us keeps us separated from ourselves. This separation is the opposite of wholeness, the opposite of healing. So when the judgmental part of ourselves is in charge it actively impedes our healing.
The key to understanding this part of ourselves is that this part has been trying desperately to protect us from harm that we secretly fear we deserved. Depending on the nature of the trauma, this attempt to provide protection may have carried a feeling of life-or-death urgency. This could be true if we felt our world coming apart when parents divorced or when a parent died. It could be true if neglect was physical as well as emotional. And it could certainly be true if our lives were directly threatened.
The protective strategies that the judgmental part of us might use can range from being quiet and “good” to being angry and hostile. Whether the strategy of protection is to hide or to attack, the real drive behind it is to control ourselves and others in the hope that we can create some sense of safety.
This part of us has been working hard to make life work. But its attempts inevitably make things worse. We will see that the solution to the difficulties created by the judgmental part of us is not to banish the wounded part of ourselves but to heal the fear and shame from which the judgmental part of us has been trying to protect us.

The Observing, Compassionate Self
The third internal self we will discuss is the observing, compassionate self. This is the kind, wise, loving part of us. The observing role this part of us plays is that of being able to notice and pay attention to what is happening with the wounded child and the judgmental self without adding more judgment or reactivity. The compassionate role this part plays is to respond with the kindness and love that our wounded child and judgmental self need in order to heal.
Early in recovery, this part of us may be anemic or may even seem nonexistent. When we have survived childhood trauma of one kind or another, we are often able to experience and express understanding and compassion toward others. But it is often very difficult for us to feel understanding or compassion toward ourselves. There are several reasons for this lack of compassion toward ourselves. We may live in despair that any compassion is available to us. We may believe we don’t deserve compassion. And we may fear that if we are “soft” on ourselves we will be vulnerable to further trauma.
The reality, however, is that without understanding and compassion we cannot fully heal. A vital part of our recovery is to become capable of taking in grace and compassion from God and from others and to become capable of extending grace and compassion toward ourselves. Because we begin this journey with the observing, compassionate part of us so underdeveloped, we need to begin by taking in love and grace from others. Even this may be difficult. We will probably have to be content with taking in a little bit at a time. But as we continue to be nourished by grace, we will grow this part of us so that our capacity for compassion toward ourselves is strengthened.
Of course, these three internal states do not comprise the entire self. We are certainly more complex than this. But focusing on these three internal states and how they interact and even conflict with each other can give us a way of understanding our need for healing and the internal struggle we experience as we go through the processes of healing from childhood trauma.

Overview of the Healing Processes
According to this model, the processes we go through in recovery from childhood trauma include (1) developing awareness of our internal states, (2) taking ownership of our experiences and of our internal states and (3) integrating our internal states so that we can experience wholeness.
Each of these processes can be extremely challenging and painful. None of this can be done alone. We need support. We need God and a few others to bear this burden with us. We need to experience God’s guidance and comfort as it comes to us directly from God’s loving Spirit and as it comes to us through those God brings into our lives.
Many of us will struggle with trusting God in this way. We may fear that God is like the adults who hurt us, or like the adults who did not protect us. We may fear that God is disappointed with us, has forgotten us, or is disgusted with us. Our deepest healing will be to discover that God is none of these things. God is revealed to us as “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,” who “daily bears our burdens.” God is eager to show us directly and personally how deeply loved and valued we each are. Our part is to risk inviting God to comfort us, to reveal love to us, and to open our minds and hearts to receive all the gifts of grace we need in order to fully heal.
These three processes are not linear. They are not a simple one-two-three-and-you-are-done experience. Instead they are cyclical. We begin by asking for God’s help and the help of others so that we can start to look at what is happening in our minds and hearts and lives. We then continue to ask God’s help to acknowledge and accept what we are becoming aware of. And slowly we seek the courage and strength we need to begin to integrate the reality we are now seeing and accepting. With the continued help of God and others, we become more aware, acknowledge more, and integrate more fully. And then, again, with help, we see more, accept more and embrace more. This cycle continues until we deeply embrace our experience and ourselves and know ourselves embraced.

Develop Awareness
We begin the first healing process by getting the support we need to look inside. This help might come from a therapist or a support group. It might come as well from a few other people who love us and listen to us and pray for us. But the basic truth is that we need the help of at least one other person to even begin this journey.
When we embark on this healing journey, we often have little awareness of what is happening internally. We may be aware that we are anxious or depressed. We may be aware that we are exhausted from trying so hard to make life work. We may be aware that we feel lonely even when we are with others because we are perpetually detached and numb. But we are often unaware of the degree of fear and shame and resentment we carry, or of the internal trap in which we are caught.
Most of us embark on this journey because whatever strategies we have been using to protect ourselves from further pain have been causing their own pain and have left us in a state of crisis. This crisis may be anything from disabling anxiety, to severe depression, to the dissolution of a close relationship, to the growing insanity of codependency or addiction. Whatever the crisis is, it is always an opportunity to begin this healing work.
Awareness of the judgmental self. Perhaps the most common starting point for developing awareness is to begin to look at and listen to our judgmental self. Because this part of us is in charge, and because our wounded child is in hiding and our compassionate self may seem nonexistent, we usually begin by speaking from this place of judgment.
The harshness we turn on ourselves comes out of a terrified drive to keep things under control internally. One of the most painful realities of whatever trauma we sustained was that we had little or no control over the events taking place. But because we were perceiving with the mind of a child, we believed we should have and could have been in control. As a result, we believe that we failed in some fundamental way, that we are responsible for what others were doing and that we therefore need to be to be tightly controlled or punished.
Sometimes these childhood fears were reinforced by the adults in our lives who may have told us that whatever was happening was our fault and that we deserved punishment. Often the judgmental part of us takes whatever shaming words we heard about ourselves as children and uses those very same words in endless attempts to control ourselves and others.
These are fears that we continue to live with as adults, often unknowingly. They are fears that have come to feel like truth to us. They feel so true that we have come to believe that all others will see us and judge us in this same way. We even have come to fear that God joins us in this judgment.
Although these fears and judgments against ourselves keep us in a great deal of distress, we will not find it easy to give them up. In fact, for a long time in our recovery journey the possibility of giving up self-judgment and condemnation may feel wrong and even terrifying.
Awareness of the wounded self. Awareness of the wounded part of ourselves will not come as easily as awareness of our judgmental self. Because this part of us is filled with shame and fear, and because it despairs of ever being truly loved, it has gone into hiding. This does not mean that it has no influence on our thoughts, feelings or behaviors. It has a great deal of influence.
When people are traumatized as children they may either push the memory of the trauma out of conscious thought, or they may minimize the impact of the events they survived. In fact, the reality that they survived the traumatic events is often used as the basis for dismissing the fear, shame and anger they still carry. “It wasn’t so bad, I got through it okay, other people have gone through worse and are fine.”
The dismissing of the trauma or its impact is another way of describing how we push away the wounded part of ourselves. Anything less than this defensiveness leaves us feeling vulnerable and exposed. Thus, to invite the wounded part of us out of hiding is to invite vulnerability, exposure and pain. An impossible task. Except for one thing. This part of us is starving for love. So, often, to our surprise, in the context of being loved and valued in therapy or in a support group or friendship, this part of us makes herself or himself known. The first “appearances” will be brief and will be met with attacks from the judgmental self. But if love and valuing are constant, this part of us will slowly come out of hiding so that we can hear and see the reality of the woundedness we carry.
Awareness of the observing, compassionate self. Finally, we need to develop an awareness of our observing, compassionate self. The problem is, of course, that early in recovery we may not have much of an observing, compassionate self at all. And we may not be aware of how weak this part of us is.
The observing part of us may be underdeveloped because we have spent a lifetime avoiding, denying and minimizing any painful truths about ourselves. We may have developed permanent defenses against really knowing ourselves. These defenses could include any of a number of dynamics, from being emotionally and spiritually numb, to striving to prove how good or capable we are, to working to control everything around us, to losing ourselves in addictions. In a sense, these defenses are driven by our disowned wounded self, and are held in place by the judgmental self who is desperate to maintain distance from the pain we carry.
How do we develop awareness? How do we develop a deeper, growing awareness of our wounded self, our judgmental self and our compassionate self? It seems there are two primary things that we need in order to do this. We need to seek the loving help of God and of at least one other person. And we need to begin to pay attention in new ways.
One activity I found helpful was to intentionally set aside some time on a regular basis to prayerfully listen to what was going on inside me. I would often begin by inviting God’s loving Spirit to provide the guidance, courage, humility and grace I needed. And I would invite God to simply show me whatever I needed to see. Then I would wait quietly. After a few minutes of quiet, I would journal whatever came to me in this time of quiet, whether it was a painful memory or a sense of God’s presence or complete silence. I would also try to stay alert to whatever else might come to me throughout the day. I would journal about whatever I sensed I was being shown, even when it was painful to do so.
It can also be helpful to regularly give voice to our judgmental self, our wounded self and our compassionate self. We can do this by quietly observing, and writing down, what we sense is going on with each of these parts of us. The value of such an exercise is that we begin to clarify internal dynamics and develop a greater sense of choice about what goes on inside. When we give voice to the judgmental self, we begin to hear how harsh we can be with ourselves and others, and where this harshness can lead us. When we give voice to our wounded self, we begin to finally allow this part of ourselves, which has had very little voice, to speak so that this part of us begins to be heard and seen in new ways. And as we give voice to the compassionate part of ourselves, we begin to strengthen a part of ourselves that has been virtually nonexistent.
As we develop a growing awareness of each of these internal states, we do well to develop a growing awareness also of the dynamics between these three parts of ourselves. We might ask ourselves from time to time some of the following questions.
What happens when the judge is in charge? What happens to our wounded self? What happens to our compassionate self? And what happens to our behaviors and choices–how we treat ourselves and how we treat others–when the judge is in charge?
What happens when the wounded self is in charge? What happens to the judging part of ourselves or to the compassionate part of ourselves? What happens to our behavior and our choices?
What happens when the observing, compassionate self is in charge? What happens when our wounded self feels heard and loved by this part of ourselves? What happens when the judge is also heard and loved by this part of ourselves? What happens to our internal world? What happens to our external world of behaviors and interactions with others?

Take Ownership
The next process of this healing journey is about taking ownership of each of these parts of ourselves. Taking ownership moves us beyond awareness to a growing acknowledgment that the wounded child self, the harsh and controlling judgmental self, and the observing, compassionate self are truly parts of our psyche. The goal of taking ownership is to allow God’s Spirit to transform us. The compassionate part of us gains strength, the wounded part of us gains freedom, and the judgmental part of us begins to release control. All of this leads to less internal division and moves us toward integration, or wholeness.
Taking ownership of our wounded self. Taking ownership of our wounded self brings to the surface the pain that this part of us carries. We find ourselves feeling ashamed, afraid, angry and reactive. As we say, “This is me” about our wounded self, we face our deepest pain without the protection of our defenses. This can feel impossible. It can feel like it will kill us. We have pushed this part of ourselves away and said “This is not me,” because of the depth of the pain that this part carries. But in doing so we have abandoned ourselves.
As we invite this wounded part of ourselves to come out of hiding, and as we engage the observing, compassionate part of ourselves to listen to our wounded child, the judgmental part of us is likely to move into action–shaming and attacking both the wounded self and the compassionate self. This internal conflict might continue for some time, but it is necessary for lasting transformation to take place. It will clearly take a great deal of courage, humility and support to begin to say, “This is me” about this part of ourselves. Two things can help us stay with this often painful and tumultuous process: remembering that this internal battle is part of the healing process, and recognizing that true healing requires strengthening the compassionate self and making lots of room for the wounded self.
Taking ownership of our compassionate self. The act of taking ownership of our compassionate self is the act of intentionally stepping into this part of ourselves. It is comparable to taking ownership of various underworked muscle groups by going to the gym and lifting weights. We start by doing just a few repetitions with five-pound weights and slowly build up to more repetitions and heavier weights. In much the same way, we actively choose to extend grace and compassion toward ourselves, a little at a time until this ability becomes stronger in us.
This is not as easy as it might sound. We will often find ourselves under attack from our judgmental self who is quick to tell us that being compassionate with ourselves is weak and selfish. The reality is that receiving grace from God and others and actively extending grace toward ourselves is an act of humility. It is an acknowledgment of our need and of our deep longing for love. It moves us away from the defenses and pretense we have been hiding behind and allows our heart’s deepest desires to come out into the open. We need grace and compassion and help. We long for love.
Stepping into our compassionate self draws the wounded child part of us out of hiding, because this wounded child is starving for love. But this wounded child is also in a great deal of despair about love. This part of us feels unlovable. So the grace and compassion that are being offered by God, by others or by our compassionate self may feel like a trick or an impossibility. The wounded child feels frightened, ashamed and exposed and wants to go back into hiding. This is part of the battle we are up against as we continue to take ownership of our compassionate self. For some time the compassion stirs up difficult reactions inside. But ultimately it is compassion that allows us to fully heal.
As we own our compassionate self this part of us can bring the light of Christ’s love and presence to our wounded self and to our judgmental self, inviting God to heal the wounded child from its burden of shame and despair and to free the judgmental self from its burden of fear and resentment.
Taking ownership of our judgmental self. Taking ownership of our judgmental self may begin with a growing awareness of how much we believe we need this part of ourselves–how much we fear we may lose control without it and how much we believe we deserve harsh treatment. The accusations that we hurl against ourselves have come to feel like truth. So the thought of giving them up or even modifying them feels like we are being asked to lie. We may have been telling ourselves in one form or another that we are unlovable and without value. And now God and others and even our compassionate self are telling us that this is not true. No matter what happened and no matter what we have done, we are loved and valued.
Taking ownership of our judgmental self means bringing this part of ourselves into the light of God’s love and allowing God to change us. This part of us both resists this and desires this. So conflict ensues.
It can be helpful in the midst of this conflict to realize that our judgments against ourselves are not honest or humble, but are rather a form of pride. They are designed to protect us from further harm, by rejecting our need for love. But of course they create ongoing harm for us and for those in our lives. We may believe that our self-judgments hurt only us, but the truth is that these judgments directly impact our relationships. One of the many advantages of taking full ownership of this part of us is that it deters us from continuing to project our self-judgments onto others. We often unknowingly assume that others are judging us in the ways that we are judging ourselves, and then we react to them for judging us. We won’t recognize, until we own this part of ourselves, that we are doing this to ourselves. As we stop judging ourselves, other people’s judgments of us–real or perceived–begin to lose their power. Another advantage to others when we begin to own our judgmental self is that as this part of us is changed by God’s love, we are far less likely to judge not only ourselves, but others. To the extent that we judge ourselves, we also judge others. And to the extent that we receive and extend grace toward ourselves, we are able to extend grace toward others.
Extending grace toward ourselves does not mean that we minimize our responsibility for the ways in which we hurt others. Paradoxically, it is as we take in grace and let go of self-judgment and condemnation that we are finally able to see the truth about our impact on others. In our unhealed state we often assume global “blame” for everything, which in effect blinds us to the places where we are truly hurtful. This global blame keeps us self-focused and reactive and thus unavailable to see our faults and to make amends to those we harm.
As we say, “This is me” about our judgmental self, we can begin to ask God to show us the specifics of who and how and when we hurt others, so that with God’s help we can make amends and begin to change. And we can ask God to release us from guilt that is not guilt at all but anxiety about wanting to control others or to meet their sometimes impossible expectations of us.
As we say about our judgmental self, “This is me,” we move out of our defensive pride into a place of humility. Our hearts that have been closed to our longing for love begin to open up to love from God and love from others. The transformation that takes place in the judgmental part of us is the transformation that comes as we let go of control. As we let go and let God, God’s love enters our hearts and minds and this part of us begins to learn the amazing freedom of walking humbly with God. As a result, we begin to experience the freedom of not having to be in charge, but instead, of seeking God’s guidance and loving will for our lives.
How do we take ownership? How do we go about this difficult process of owning these parts of ourselves? How do we come to a place where we can fully acknowledge, “This is me” about our compassionate self, our judgmental self and our wounded self?
I think the place to start is by letting our compassionate self take the lead. Even though this part of us may not be very strong yet, we can regularly ask God to fill us with grace and to help us step into our observing, compassionate self. For me, the outward action of lighting a candle, followed by some time in quiet prayer and meditation, has been helpful. The simple act of lighting a candle does several things at once. First, it is an action I intentionally make from the compassionate part of myself. This part of me lights a candle as an act of prayer and blessing for the wounded part of me and the judgmental part of me. As I light the candle I simply say, “The light of Christ.” In doing this, I acknowledge my need for Christ’s healing presence and invite God’s Spirit to do what I cannot do. I then sit quietly (and without demand or expectation) with my wounded self and my judgmental self, aware of the light of Christ with me.
When I lead workshops on this subject, I light a candle for the participants and simply state, “The light of Christ.” I point out that the light of the candle, like the light of Christ, is gentle and generous. I then invite participants to bring their compassionate self, their judgmental self and their wounded self, one at at time, into this gentle light. I then invite them, as they are able, to be aware of what it might be like to say, “This is me” about each of these parts of themselves. I remind them not to force anything, but simply to observe what happens and offer themselves to God’s loving care.

The third process of this cyclical journey is integration. The process of integration involves bringing parts that have been separated together into a whole. Integration happens as our compassionate self embraces our wounded self, as our wounded self takes in love from God, from others and from ourselves, and as our judgmental self releases its defensive pride and its desperate attempts to control and surrenders to God’s loving care.
For a time, the embrace of our wounded self by our compassionate self will open deep caverns of grief in the wounded child. We will again need to see the road sign that reminds us, “This way to freedom.” We weep because we feel the pain we have pushed away for so long. We feel the losses–with all their accompanying anguish, shame, despair and fear–very directly. And we weep because we are able to feel the love we have longed for. We are finally able to release our grief because we are being comforted in God’s loving arms, in the arms of others who love us, and even in our own compassionate arms. This grief comes with a promise of blessing and healing. “Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus said, “for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
As the wounded part of us is held and comforted, the judgmental part of us gives up its vigil. The part of us that has been trying to keep us safe by attempting to control our thoughts, feelings and circumstances can surrender. Surrender by the judgmental part of us is not a giving-up rooted in despair. Nor is it a kind of giving-into the overwhelming feelings of hurt. It is a surrender to love. It is the relief of releasing ourselves to God’s loving will and care for us. We can let go of being in charge. We can let go of relying on ourselves. We can allow God to help us, guide us, provide for us, heal us, love us. As a result, we can rest.
What we are likely to experience as our compassionate self gains strength through the processes of integration is that we are no longer at war with ourselves, but at peace. And we will find that our hearts are no longer so guarded, but are open to receive more and more of the love and grace God continually pours out on us.
How do we integrate? How can we experience this wholeness? How can we experience this in-pouring of God’s healing love and grace?
The answer is that we can repeatedly take God’s love, our love and the love of others to the wounded and judgmental parts of ourselves. There are several ways we can actively engage in this process. I will describe a few that I have found to be helpful.
One thing we can do is to write (or say) prayers for the wounded and judgmental parts of ourselves. A similar activity is to write letters from our compassionate self to our wounded and judgmental selves, allowing these parts of us to write back. Either of these activities offers us ways of opening ourselves up to experience further integration and healing.
Perhaps one of the most powerful actions we can take is to open our hearts and minds to the healing power of Scripture. However, the most familiar ways of approaching Scripture may not be as deeply helpful as we need.
For centuries people have meditated on biblical texts in ways that allow the truth of God’s love and grace to flow into the deepest parts of the heart and mind. There are many ways to approach this kind of meditation. Perhaps the most basic approach is to begin by inviting God to speak to us from a given text. We can then read the text, allowing ourselves to enter it in ways that involve our senses.
For example, we might read a narrative text like the one in Mark 10:13-16, the story of Jesus calling the children to himself. We might begin by inviting God’s Spirit to guide us and then read the text slowly three times–each time putting ourselves in the story as a different character. We might begin by putting ourselves in the story as one of the disciples who tries to keep the children away from Jesus. To do this it is helpful to “see” and “hear” the scene to whatever degree is possible, and to let ourselves experience what the disciples might have experienced. We can then read the text again, but this time put ourselves in the story as one of the children–again allowing ourselves to experience what it might be like for the child part of us to be invited by Jesus to receive his blessing. And then finally, we can read the text a third time and put ourselves in the story as someone who is sitting next to Jesus–welcoming and embracing the children. The goal is not to force anything, but to simply observe what happens. After these readings and meditations we might want to write about our experience and share it with at least one other person. This meditation can be repeated using the same text several times. It can also be repeated using a variety of texts.
The core wound of childhood trauma is a wound to the child’s developing sense of self. As we have seen, the child comes to believe terrible things about himself or herself. Most commonly, traumatized children who are not assisted to heal as children, will carry with them into adulthood beliefs that they are unlovable and without intrinsic value. These beliefs, whether conscious or unconscious, form the basis of the person’s identity. Letting go of these beliefs, therefore, may feel like annihilation. It may feel like letting go of all there is of oneself.
But as we experience the kind of healing love we have been discussing, we begin to experience ourselves in new ways. We begin to experience ourselves as loved and valued.
No matter what has been done to us, those events do not tell us who we are. We can let go of our despair and shame because they do not define us. They are not who we are. Who are we? We are children welcomed by Jesus into his loving arms. In those arms of love we are made whole. The impact of whatever trauma we have suffered is undone. We are healed. We are released. We are free to love and free to be loved.
Juanita Ryan is a therapist in private practice in Brea, California. You can listen to an audio version of this presentation here.

My nightly writing on awareness.

Developing Awareness
One activity I found helpful was to intentionally set aside some time on a regular basis to prayerfully listen to what was going on inside me. I would often begin by inviting God’s loving Spirit to provide the guidance, courage, humility and grace I needed. And I would invite God to simply show me whatever I needed to see. Then I would wait quietly.
After a few minutes of quiet, I would journal whatever came to me in this time of quiet, whether it was a painful memory or a sense of God’s presence or complete silence. I would also try to stay alert to whatever else might come to me throughout the day. I would journal about whatever I sensed I was being shown, even when it was painful to do so. 
Write whatever comes to mind

It can also be helpful to regularly give voice to our judgmental self, our wounded self and our compassionate self. We can do this by quietly observing, and writing down, what we sense is going  on with each of these parts of us. The value of such an exercise is that we begin to clarify internal dynamics and develop a greater sense of choice about what goes on inside. When we give voice to the judgmental self, we begin to hear how harsh we can be with ourselves and others, and where this harshness can lead us. When we give voice to our wounded self, we begin to finally allow this part of ourselves, which has had very little voice, to speak so that this part of us begins to be heard and seen in new ways. And as we give voice to the compassionate part of ourselves, we begin to strengthen a part of ourselves that has been virtually nonexistent. 
What is going on with my judgemental self?
What is going on with my wounded self?
What is going on with my observant-compassionate self?

As we develop a growing awareness of each of these internal states, we do well to develop a growing awareness also of the dynamics between these three parts of ourselves. We might ask ourselves from time to time some of the following questions. 
What happens when the judge is in charge?
What happens to our wounded self?
What happens to our compassionate self?
And what happens to our behaviors and choices–how we treat ourselves and how we treat others–when the judge is in charge? 
What happens when the wounded self is in charge?
What happens to the judging part of ourselves or to the compassionate part of ourselves? What happens to our behavior and our choices? 
What happens when the observing, compassionate self is in charge?
What happens when our wounded self feels heard and loved by this part of ourselves?
What happens when the judge is also heard and loved by this part of ourselves?
What happens to our internal world?
What happens to our external world of behaviors and interactions with others?  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pigeon Toed

For Gemma

Pigeon Toed

A little girl shouts her
Silent screams of agony and terror
The world dashes to treat her symptoms

They suffocate her dreams.

copyright 2014 Fred Celio

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Survive Childhood Sexual Abuse Book Group

Survive Childhood Sexual Abuse Book Group

We will be discussing Judith Herman MD Trauma and Recovery.

  • A day and time to be decided  
  • via conference Call
  • At (559) 726-1300
  • CC 805479#
You do not have to be a survivor to join the discussion


Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Days Begin

The following is a quote from Ellen Bass and Laura Davis in "The Courage to Heal," it was posted this morning on the facebook page of Overcoming Child Sexual Abuse. I responded t it with my own experience.

It also contains a commentary on the efficacy of books on healing from non-credentialed partially healed people. These books, as well as, public appearances and statements on CSA by celebrities who are also partially healed, but have "overcome" the difficulties of CSA are often given the weight of healing tecquies and methods, and are thus given more weight than they warrant. They can lead people away from their healing paths and give the impression that either complete healing and wholeness are not possible or that the techniques promoted will bring about healing. A careful reading and understanding of statements by the partially healed can provide insight into why using such writings and statements as sign posts to complete healing is dubious at best. 

“At the most basic level, you may believe that you don’t deserve anything good in your life. Your feelings about yourself may fluctuate wildly. You may feel okay about yourself most of the time, self-critical feelings lying dormant until you have some kind of setback—a loss, a period of change, an argument with someone you love.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis

The above statement is an indication of partial healing. This does not mean that the book from which the statement is taken does not have value. It is a book about partial healing from CSA written by women without credentials who are themselves only partially healed. If partial healing is your goal  if perhaps serenity is your end and not wholeness, then by all means read such books and apply the methods described. 

Please respect my choice, to follow a road less traveled one that is more painful who's goal is not happiness and serenity  for these are not goals at all, but false or fools gold nuggets to be found along the way. My goal is full healing and wholeness. My method is hard deep and painful. As painful as the abuse itself  but it's end is worth the pain, and is more worth while than living the frustration a partially healed life. 

This morning I read the above statement; I could certainly related to it. But I thought it was odd in a book about healing without the comfort of knowing that these emotional residues from the abuse would not eventually dissipate and disappear altogether. For that is what this statement is about sign-posts on the way to wholeness and healing -- the quoted statement is not a legacy. As survivors we are not resigned to a life punctuated by feelings of hopelessness and self criticism. I believe that even Judith Herman MD in "Trauma and Recovery" implies that trauma survivors will always have the potential for negative feelings to be triggered  This is a subject I would like to take up with her more deeply. I do not believe this to be true for survivors. I think that the views expressed in "The Courage to Heal" and in "Trauma and Recovery" are in fact subtle suggestions from those who should know better of inviting the survivor in yet again another of the million ways people tell us to "just get over it." 

If I as a survivor will always be haunted by self-criticism and a feeling of being less than or if I will always be prone to triggering events that may lead to flashbacks and the same self-criticism and feelings of worthlessness  then I am not healed, and I am most likely pursuing healing using a method that is inadequate. Most likely i am using a modality that seeks to remove symptoms or change symptomatic behavior. While there is comfort in such methods and the illusion of progress, I will never be healed, at some point I will reach a state of "serenity" which includes a resignation to the fact that I am somehow damaged by the abuse ireprobly.  I will be forever pursuing methods of not healing but of changing my behavior and eternally in a state know as ' "recovery."  I choose another path. A path that leads to fullness, wholeness and healing as if the abuse never happened.

My thoughts, given the quote, and where I am on my journey today follow.

Funny how they don't allow me to comment on their page any more . There are ways around that. The point this morning though is that this is an older book, which does not mean it does not have value.

Therapeutically though the book leaves much to be desired. I do not know the context of the quotation below, but it is indicative of a partially healed person. For example, I wake up feeling this way each and every morning in the state described in the quote -- feeling frightened, worthless and self-critical, the qualifying event or setback as the authors call it, I guess, is awakening. I wake up in fear, and with a sense of worthlessness and betrayal and shame always the shame. Sometimes these feelings can be accompanied with a sense of not believing the truth. The truth of the incest I endured and survived not being true> I sometimes wake up with a sense of shame associated with portraying my family as child molesters and falsely accusing them. 

When this happens I start bringing myself back to reality and healing with looking at my sign posts. The first sign post I usually start with is the initial scent that started bringing the abuse memories to the level of consciousness, from the subconscious where they were buried for decades, save for a few unassociated constructs.  This was a scent I reexpereinced several years ago, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of familiarity and repugnance.  This was the scent of the laundry room sink where I was suffocated when I was 4 which. I was passing an area that gave off the same scent as this sink, the area was made of that same material, and this scent changed my life, for it was then that I began to remember. This is a sign post to reality.

Then there is an amnesia experience that occurred a few years after I reexperienced the scent that triggered remembering my almost being killed in the sink. The memory of meeting a friend who was important to me was wiped clean in a rush a wave of negative emotion that I could not hold back. It was like trying to hold back a wave. Another sign post an undeniable link to the past. Whenver doubts creep in to support my daily awakening to fear, shame and worthlessness, I simply remember the sign posts. these undeniable links to reality, which cannot and will not be denied.  Referring to these undeniable sign posts brings me back to reality and the fullness of all the rest of the memories and where I am right now in my healing journey. 

On these mornings the things I have just described are part of my therapeutic, before I can move forward with my day. 

Then I deal with the fear that is described above the sense of worthlessness, this is how I awaken every single day.  This is an affect, a result of telling truth and living in reality. The truth is horrific and hideous, thus there was a reason for the amnesia beyond protecting the perpetrators, it was to protect me, from the hideous disgusting truth that I was in the hands of evil people at their mercy and existed only for their use and to protect them at the expense of me. Then there is the still present feeling memories of what they said they would do to me if I talked. Well, I am talking and more than talking I am re-structuring my thinking to absorb the fact that I did not grow up in a family. The idea of growing up in a family is a misperception.  The idea of them being "normal" is false it is an image that the adults wanted projected to the world for their self protection,and I participated in presenting this image to the world of normalcy in order to protect the perpetrators. 

Well I am no longer living in that false reality. I am no longer living that misperception, nor am I participating in it in any way. I did not grow up in a family. I escaped from an incest ring. I was molested by my mother on an ongoing basis individually and in groups between the ages of 4 and 9. I was molested by my father on two occasions, I was molested by my maternal grandmother individually on an ongoing basis between the ages of 4 and 9, at 4 years old she attempted to murder me via  water boarding suffocation, I was molested by my mother's step father my maternal grandfather between the ages of 4 and 9. He sodomized me on multiple occasions. My maternal grandmother’s uncles and male cousins physically abused me at the age of 9 when the abuse to the attention of my pastor, a Catholic priest who put a stop to the abuse. These are the acts that I must face and absorb a little bit more each and everyday as I awaken in the state described by the authors in the above quote. I do this so I can live in reality in the truth, and so someday when I am completely whole again and all of these vents have been absorbed, I will not have to awaken to these fears and sense of utter worthlessness. 

 So, each morning I awaken and feel less than, worthless and ashamed. Then I pray. I absorb the reality. Sometimes I can make a connection with the inner child before he was abused wherein lies the uncorrupted self -- seat of the personality the spirit the me that God created in His image and likeness whole, worthy, and uncorrupted; and  the  EGO, which not a bad thing is also God given, and the seat of my unique qualifications for life, my hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Every morning I awaken with a false sense of self as described above, and I get with God in an intimate way to make connection through the years of  abuse to whom I really am. Then I am ready for the day. This is how I get ready for the day. I make connection with God and His Mother and foster father, and I become whole enough for the day to function at what many people consider to be a high level -- but it is me it is just me being me. It is who. I am not the person I awaken as -- I think I am the person the abusers tried to make me into -- that is not me. 

So, what I have described, this daily process of awakening, is an indication that I am but partially healed. What I do each morning is part of the healing process, I must continue to remember to speak and to write each and every detail ,each last dark crevice must be brought into the light of truth. I must illuminate the darkness with the light of the world until all of it, all ofthe hideous dark unspeakable secrets are broght into His light and absorbed. 

Then I can be the me that He created me to be. This therapeutic? Well I can see no other way to fully absorb and believe and know that it was all their fault. It had nothing to do with me. Profound evil was perpetrated on me by evil people. This evil was and is theirs. It has nothing to do with me whatsoever. It is all the fault of those evil people who had access to me.

 When this process is complete, and it is a process that has a beginning, a middle, and an end (hence the word process), then I will be whole. When I don't just know these things, but when their reality and all the repercussions all the detail every dark crevice has been absorbed to my innermost bones, then I will not  have to consciously remember these things again;  when they have been absorbed fully integrated into me, then I will be healed and whole.

This is a hideous therapeutic that I would wish on no one. It means consciously every day living the abuse. It means writing the details not knowing what new feeling, emotion fear terror will be in those dark places. 

I am beginning the middle of this process and it has already paid dividends of healing. I could not do it without my Catholic faith. others I know do this work without faith, as for me I cannot imagine undertaking this process and continuing it without my Catholic Faith IN Jesus Christ and His mother. I will not settle for partially healed, nor do I settle for books written the partially healed nor do I hang onto public statements by celebrities who are partially healed. I do not find these to be therapeutically helpful, although they are inspiring.

Throughout the day, when self-criticism, shame terror crop up I practice  the same therapeutic. I will continue undeterred until the process is complete. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Cup of Coffee

A Cup of Coffee

When I was 7 years old I was sodomized for at least the second time by my maternal grandfather, actually he was my mother’s step father, but we knew him as grandpa. It did not catch me by surprise this time. At least not like when I was 4. But it again it did because, I was sneaked up on.

I was in bed spending the night at my grandparents. My sister was also there, but she got to sleep on the couch that night.  I think we vied for the couch. That was the safe place, the couch. I was in to sleep in  grandma Honey’s room. She was gone. Grandma Honey was my great grandmother. She was grandma Ruth’s mom. She hadn't passed away yet. There was a time in the year or so prior to her death the next year at 86 that she was visiting other family members spread out throughout the country. So I was able to sleep in her room.

I remember the room and the bed was a queen size. It was larger than a double, and much larger than my bed at home. The spread was a kind of not lacy but linen with the little nubs or thick threads that stuck up from it. These were always associated with grandparents’ stuff their house. 

Their house was different from ours; it was nicer materially, but it was just as dangerous as our own house on Buckingham way. It was cleaner and a bigger bed then I was used to. It was also a cleaner and bigger house than I was used. What a luxury it was or was it. Was it for me. Well going to grandma’s house had the illusion of being different of being better because of these nicer material things and it was quieter more orderly. So, yes it had the illusion of escape, but it was not it was the same old incest house just nicer. It was a nicer lear for evil.

As I write scents and textures are coming up. I liked being tightly tucked in. I think that gave me another illusion of safety.

He came again at night with the Jurgen’s lotion.I can kind of remember the scent of jurgen’s lotio, but not quite. When remembering these incest experiences there is a natural repression that starts when the memories come up. This is somewhat like the reflex reaction that occurs when vomit is coming up from the stomach to the mouth. Somewhere in the throat there is a reflex reaction that occurs to send the vomit back down to the stomach. There is a similar reaction when retrieving amnesiaed memories. Sometimes again like vomit they the memories just sit there in the conscious memory partially associated or connected to constructs but not fully available to the conscious mind, like vomit that stays in the throat or goes up and down the esophagus and never gets expelled. This can go on for years until the memory is fully remembered with all its details. And the memory is spoken verbalized. Speaking and sitting and writing. As with vomiting the natural instinct to expel the contaminant is in competition with the natural instinct to not expel. The idea of having vomit in your mouth is less repulsive than the idea of remembering a molestation event.

 Me, well I was asleep and then awakened, as I lie on my stomach with him on top and in me. I could feel him pressed against me with my pajamas on. They had a raised rough texture as well similar to the spread the bed spread I liked to be tightly tucked because this felt safe, but I was not. In the night the spread, blankets and sheets were pulled down, and I am immediately outside of myself. As I remember the details I am out of body above the experience looking down on it. Simultenously I feel his insertion wet and slick with jurgens lotion. Awakening again to this pain mixed with the tactil pleasure of a 7 year old being violently intruded on in the middle of the night while asleep in  a way that he does not want, and cannot choose.  

I wonder if god gives us this gift of dissociation during these times when the body is objectified. The meanness the cruelly the roughness the sexual violation all the violence and I am above it all looking down, feeling but not feeling, as I remember the feelings tactile and emotional for this is the therapy. Remembering, speaking, and writing, as I clench my fists and jaw and grunt and groan and shorten my breath, and … write. The textures the sense of being exposed. My ‘jama bottoms down. The texture of the bed, the spread I described above and my pajamas. The jergens lotion. Looking down from above as I am exposed and violated. Half asleep half awake. Close to death really. I now remember or my body memories are remembering, as I am molested at 7, when I was molested at 4 and then suffocated. And so when the sensations again come they are different. Tactily not unpleasurable, but equally as confusing as when I was 4 years old. At this age a different kind of shame is added to the mix of emotions, the shame of being somehow responsible for what I am not responsible for. For what is being done to me. The fear, the terror, the confusion and being pinned and then leaving my body immediately. Remember I am asleep and awakened as if dreaming but it is real. He is in me again and I cannot feel it I am looking down with disgust and confusion with my angel with God. We are all three Angel God and me watching the evil being done to me. We are witnesses to the evil. There is an element of sadness here, as God comforts me with the sadness of the whole seen, as the perpetrator attempts to steal my soul, and loses his in the bargain. But it is not me it is my body, objectified. Completely objectified and dissociated for protection from the feelings.

Whether one looks at this from purely the psychological experience or from a Godly perspective, they are the same. God came, my angel came, and I was spared the full force of the experience but now I can handle it, and so I remember and write.

When he was finished he left. I was alone again in the bed terrified, angry, and indignant I now am numb. I am back in my body, no longer simultaneously in it and outside of it, observing the evil and watching a man lose his soul, because of his uncontrollable violence done to me. It’s a very sad scene someone who would think they could hurt me in this way for some sort of pleasure on their part which I do not understand nor care about, and give away there eternity in the process. And so this is the sort of forgiveness I give to my perpetrator. Just a sadness, for in this case forgiveness is not necessary for ny healing in fact it would be a hindrance. There is only this sadness without anger or vengeance but a profound sadness as I watch with God and my angel a profound and eternally sad experience. And yet today I am angry. In the now of now, I am angry, but I reflect on my sadness at the time of the event.

I remember being terrified and anxious as I lay alone in the dark. Staying awake. My body lying to me the onslaught on my senses, experiencing sex and that tactile excitement that is not to be confused with sexual arousal, for my body is not capable of that. My senses were aroused and it seems  as if they betrayed me, but they did not. They reacted to the experience as a 7 year old boy who was experiencing a tactile not unpleasurable response – an overload of tactile stimulation and emotions. It is normal but an onslaught overpowering excitement. That is normal but I was not built to cope with this. The experience kept me awake, after being awakened, not wanting to be awakened.

So I stayed awake as the tactile excitement subsided and the anger set in. Anger at what had been done to me against my will. Just pure raw anger, and the desire to do something about it. The desire to go to the adults charged with my care and tell for them to protect me. To  invoke justice. To set the matter right. To confront him. No I wanted nothing to do with him. To be as far away from him as possible. To be able to speak to someone who understood and who would stand up for me and ho would punish him my perpetrator. This is what I wanted. This is the sense of injustice I sought for decades and I fought what was being done to me. I was becoming something I did not want to become. The tactile excitement was betraying me. I was becoming a sexually experienced child. And then if I did not stand up if I did not get help then it would be I who would be gin defining my worth through these experiences, 

First as worthless and then as worthy as I severed their needs. The tactile stimulation was pleasurable and this was love at 7 years old this kind of tactile stimulation was not the violence  that it was but love, that is what tactile stimulation is an expression of. This is betrayal. This is loss. This I fought.

I wanted the adults t stick up for and protect me.  Fight for me as they were supposed to do.  All the lessons they taught me stay away from stranger, to tell on them. Well stay away from stingers?  Why? They would have been safer than you.

So, I dozed for a minute. Maybe longer.  I awoke, came to whatever. I walked out fully prepared to tell my grandmother again even though she almost killed me when I was 4 and tell her and call emergency. I think I was actually prepared yes that was it call the police, a hospital, someone. I remember now, I was gonna get up early enough get to the phone in that limited amount of time when no one was out of bed but not yet awake, and it was my job to stay up until that moment. So I could get to the phone and the yellow pages with no one in between me and the phone and the yellow pages.. The phone was on the counter next to the dining table. This process of writing is funny as I go through it more details are remembered. I was trying to get to the phone to stay up until it was light but before anyone else was up .It was imperative I get to the phone and the yellow pages.  When I would  have a clear path to the phone with no one in between me, the phone, and the yellow pages . Quietly and quickly get to the yellow pages. That is why I needed the morning light.  I had little time. A block of time. A window of opportunity to do this, to have enough light to get to the yellow pages and the phone, so I could call someone who could help. The police and then a doctor, a hospital, and the fire department and at 7 years old the army maybe. If I could just get to that phone and the yellow pages when there was light but no one else was awake, I could save myself and report this nasty thing that he did to me, that I did not want. I knew I could find someone. I was smart enough I could read I could read the yellow pages. I could find someone I could call. I could be quiet and then, who cares if they woke up, after that because help would be on the way. In bed this was my plan, and it was a good one. It would work, and I would be safe. I could beat them. I could save myself.  I could be safe.

So I relaxed and fell asleep. When I woke I went out of the room to the phone, but my path was not clear. I was greeted with grandma at the table and my sister asking if I wanted some coffee. In her cheery little girl morning voice, “do you want some coffee?” Grandma had never given us coffee. My sister was 6 and I was 7. Coffee?  NO I don’t want coffee went through my mind.  I want you to get out of the way, and I know I can make it to the phone. I know I can look up in the yellow pages. Problem is she will ask me what I am looking up, before I can dial. If I can dial and tell them what happened I will be safe. If she asks me before I tell them on the other end of the phone, I’m dead; I’m caught I will be suffocated again. I can do it. But now this coffee thing. No I don’t want coffee.  I’m on a life or death mission. And as I walk toward them scanning looking for the path to the phone how do I get grandma to go outside so I can make the call?
 I’m half way to the phone walking now I … can do it. I can get there. I can do this. Then half way to the kitchen in that space between the living room and kitchen where they had remodeled, knocked the wall out, it starts, and I stop with my sister’s voice in my ear, do you want some coffee?

Like a wave it starts the amnesia mechanism. I try to hold it back oh no not this. I am forgetting. No not this time I remember. The wave of  images that would later become flashbacks, of feelings fear betrayal, anger, terror, shame. The images of what they will do to me if I tell. The memory, the feelings of being helpless and suffocated when I was 4,  the actual experience of them doing  to me what they said they would do if I talked. All of these all coming up at once, like a wave bigger than my mind. Rolling. I cannot hold them back. I cannot hold back the wave, as it washes over my mind, as it washes the memories of the night before clean.  Quick think of something. Hold it back. Get safe. I clench my fists, and I say I will never be like them. I will never drink coffee. With all my might I hold it back with these two thoughts all that I can hold onto all that I can save from the tidal wave of images and emotions that wipe the one memory I want to hold onto clean.

I do not drink coffee until I am 40 years old and start to remember. Oh how they loved and raved about their coffee. After I had the scent memory, the one that triggered the other memories. After this and I began to write about experiences, only then did I pick up a cup of coffee.