We have been having a revelation as of late, a seeming push from deep within our system to seek more than what is currently out there. We feel that maybe, all of the therapy we have had, albeit lifesaving and helpful, is only the beginning to a recovery that is more evolution than repair. We believe that our “gift”, as it were, as horrible as it can be, is merely an evolution into the human existence. We feel as if we have experienced more, and thus having evolved to be able to process so much more, we have a very unique perspective.
Our lives, over the last four years are a stark contrast to the previous forty the body endured. We are more organized and can communicate with the system much better. The system is learning to have respect for the other parts, very key in our journey. We have been learning that the outside validation, we so often sought, is neither required or even desired. The fears that have plagued us in the past, still present; but slowly becoming under control, and less frightening. We are learning to think differently. To try and explain, let us just say the: Where the rest of the world sees and thinks in three dimensions, we believe that we can think in many more. We can see things from many perspectives, simultaneously. This broader perspective is the driving force into now what we perceive is the future of treatment for trauma. The most important kind, the treatment we process on our own as survivors.
As we delve further into the abyss, of what is seemingly untapped reaches of our previously fractured and unconnected mind, we find many uncertainties. First and format that almost always has haunted us, is the question of, ” Was it really that bad for us?” If you are a survivor, You know this question. You have struggled with it, trying to justify the actions of those who changed your life forever, in an instant. For once you walk that path, whether pushed or not, there is no turning back. You cannot un-ring the bell as it were. Your perceptions were changed forever. The truth is, we became exactly as they desired us to be. For many the road ends in suicide, whether physical or emotional, we choose to exit the world in which we live. We become whomever, or whatever we need to survive. This is the real beginning of our personal trauma. The moment when you realize that your life is much different than you would like to believe, or need.
The journey we would like to explore with you today, is not one of experience of past personal traumas. These will be touched upon, and in some case, explored in depth. We want to make this distinction now; as we feel that dwelling on the trauma, and more expressly, how terrifying the trauma is to us, is like playing the video of a terrified woman for a serial killer. We refuse to give anymore power to our abusers, they did not make us strong, they did not celebrate our triumphs over their evil. They are not the reason for our successes. We want to focus on the positives that have come from being a trauma SURVIVOR, the personal empowerment we have found, and that has been required to start to overcome the emotional, and physical hurdles that have always seemed to appear.
We find it difficult at times, surviving. The culmination of the activities, thoughts, and decisions that most people take for granted every day. Everything from the time we awaken, to the time when we struggle to sleep, comes with it a multitude of actions and choices, all designed for us to reach yet another day. These things that most never ponder, we ponder every day. Shelter, food, and well being. For us these things are not always as they appear, as neither are we.
The most difficult thing for us, honestly, everything; That is no riddle, we are scared to make any kind of move, or should I say in this instance, “I” am. As the host of this body, you would think I would be in a position of authority an strength. The truth, I have been a willing passenger, on an airplane full of fragmented friends. I, have unknowingly, yet willingly, allowed the fears of all things, to drive me from hosting our system, as I should. The actions we took in any cases contradicting our own, personal, belief system. Our own code of conduct as it were, stomped into the mud, by our own system. My fragmented friends in the airplane making most of our moves for us. I have simply been too scared, to action things on my own, and happy to just survive the moment. Survival always seems to be the driving force, Shelter, Food, and a little Well Being. As long as we had these things, we could tolerate an avalanche of pain and suffering. As things would appear to us, the worst act could happen was nothing short of what we had already endured; What we came to know as the “Normal”, was the worst thing.
Having a system to rely on is, and can be, an excellent tool for not only survival, but success. This however requires a great deal to accomplish the two things required:
- System Communication
- The ability to communicate between members of a hidden, internal body system, meant to stay hidden.
- System Organization
- The ability to have someone inside the system, to pilot the plane, and insure the safety of the system.
The two concepts may sound completely foreign to you. If they do, then you are most likely not plural. For us, where we were first given the diagnosis, even though we did not believe, it just felt right. We found that we feared belief of our diagnosis, just like we feared absolutely everything in our lives. There were times we felt fearless and brave, capable of many great things, and we never knew how. Just because your body has done things, you can never assume your current consciousness, aligns. This, like many things in the world of plurality, is a unique experience for every alter, system, and even loved ones fo the system. However, the journey taken becomes all too familiar, and recognizable.
System Communication, i snot as easy as calming your mind, and eating for the little voices in your head to turn on. What a cool experience that would be for most systems out there. The ability to communicate with alters becomes a challenge, when most of them do not realize they are alters! You have to first make them secure, by validating them. Just as the host needs validation, or none for that matter, alters must not feel as of they are being made insignificant. You as a host need to referee the committee meeting of a lifetime. You need to assertively validate, and lead the others, to do the same for all system members. If this sounds crazy, welcome to our world. Learning to listen to the alters, and allowing them to fulfill many of their own needs, allows growth and development.
System Organization, is achieved, and for us, is fluid depending on perceived environmental changes. The system has agreed upon the strengths and weaknesses of the members, alters in this case, and assigned functions. This is done as a collective. Only the system can truly understand their perceptions and true needs. Most trauma survivors will NEVER communicate their true needs to anyone outside the system. There is almost always a nurturer in the system to try and fulfill this need. There are very structured roles for most and fluid roles for others. The system, when communicating well, can out achieve and out function almost any singlet. We combine our consciousness to become more evolved. We become a collective singularity, a hive mind.
When we combine the ability to communicate in real time, and with some understanding of roles and functions, we become something more. We believe that the terrifying events, the fears we carried like an old suitcase, have fundamentally changed how our brains process sensory perception and emotions. In effect, trauma survivors are not broken beyond repair, we are a product of evolution. This is the path, the journey we want to undertake with you, the reader, the willing participant. We want to share with you the power that you already possess! We want to demonstrate how everyone cannot only achieve more through self, but how to lay down guilt, shame, and fear. These are the common ingredients of a traumatic existence. Most people today carry their own fair shares of all of these things, and more, in our society today. This path has shown us, we have nothing to fear, we are not to blame, and we have nothing to be ashamed of.
We were only a small child at the time, our bodies age a mere four. Our life, living in the mountain in Rural West Virginia, was something that even today, we only have snapshots of time. Our memory is like that, the unthought-known, We live our life in horror movie clips. Our father had been home that day, Gene was a large man; Standing over six foot, and built like a linebacker. Sandy, our mother, was a mere four foot eleven inches tall. The contrast was harsh.
We were told to clean our room, and the bathroom up before dinner. Our room was that of a four year old, and the bathroom had just ad the tile ripped out and was all over the floor. The child was, as many times, simply overwhelmed, at the task set before him. We remember wanting so badly to be able to do these things, maybe he would be happy with u s and love us. Maybe we could get through the night without anymore punishment.
Needless to say, we did not accomplish these tasks, and we had to accept the consequences, as frightening as this was to always be. Dad had a way of insuring his lessons were engraved in memory. His favorite motto, ” Fear is the Best Motivator”
The verbal onslaught begins, screaming in a rage at the top of his lungs, berating this small child, till he soils himself, and then screams some more for that. We get marched outside to the barn, where our pony, Princess, lives. Dad throws us down, with his foot on our neck, and makes us watch as he shoots our pony. This was of course, because we were too lazy and stupid to listen. How we lied to him when we agreed to carry out his orders, and failed. As we watched the pony wither and fall, blood and tissue all over the ground, he lifted his foot and command “Clean Up your fucking mess! Your next if this shit isn’t done before I go to work in the morning!” Yes, we were taught fear at an early age. Fear you see, would be our controlling factor through existence.
The ability to control through fear, is a false concept. Fear is designed to control the body. This is the reason so many resort to fear for absolute control; religion, governments, gangs, and even just every day bullies; is the fact is fear brings about an immediate behavior change. Fear can, and in most cases will allow a person to control another, even if the outcome is adverse for both parties in the long run. Fear requires the least amount of effort to propagate, and allows for the dispersion of the instigators own emotional baggage, validating not only their behavior, but their own existence. The need to control, the need to feel s if they have some control in a life where there they have surrendered all of their freedom to others.
The limbic system ,exists in the human brain to insure one thing is assured in our lifetime, the preservation of said life, at whatever the cost. When fear s introduced, the fight, flight or freeze responses are taken away from the conscious mind, and processed much faster, through the limbic system. When the mind senses danger, the body does many things, all at once. Releases Cortisol, adrenaline, and begins to re-route vital systems to insure survival. The conscious mind has no control over these actions, we are helpless to overcome the emotional waves that correspond with the triggering of the “Oh Shit Button”, that has been activated. Much like a computer, the more you program something to survive in this type of environment, or, press the button, the more they system learn story live in that state of being. Hence in lies the inherent fear responses many trauma survivors learn to live every day. Living in a constant state of fear, or as we like to say, Hyper-vigilance.
Guilt, the universal language of so many in power. Governments use guilt to control their masses. Religions use guilt to manipulate their followers, and abusers use the same tactics to groom and control their victims. What most people will almost always overlook, and even argue, is that everyone int he aforementioned groups of people, are also victims. Simply because an entity, such as a society, has deemed certain types of guilt to be “healthy”, does not equivocate to “good”. When those who dispense guilt for control, they will never see themselves as the abuser, as this goes against the beliefs instilled in them. They choose, not to see their actions as an abuse of power, but righteous actions in many cases garnering notability.
In many cases, especially in family abuse situations, the abuser places immeasurable responsibility for the family dynamic, on the child. This gain, i proof positive that humans are actively seeking ways to surrender their true, existential freedoms. By delegating he happiness, albeit hyper-unbalanced and tyrannical, is complete absurdity. The child will assume this role and responsibility, in many cases, as they know nothing else. They become notably the focus of all things negative in the family orbit, and accept all associated guilt. They are not merely taken down this dark path through insinuation and gesture. The children are bluntly told, they are guilty for these horrible things in the family existence, is completely theirs too bear; A cross they never earned. The need to place blame and guilt on others is more proof positive that the existential needs of the individual family members are not being met, and thus they choose the only known and familiar path to temporary mental solace. The child, who has the coping skills of a child, becomes overwhelmed and begin to crumble under the load. They fall further in to the role they were born to play. Just as a child, that is created for harvest organs is loved by their family, the abused child is “loved”, only as long as they continue to meet the emotional support needs of their abusers. They must continue to suffer, to allow others to flourish in irony.
Perhaps the most powerful element of the trauma hat trick, is Shame. Fear and guilt are extremely powerful tools in manipulation. However, to completely control a persons soul, to dominate their every thought through time and space, the abusers favorite tool is Shame. Shame, will bring about the other two elements, fear and guilt. Shame can utilized in many ways. The six year old boy in the stay earlier, was scared, then made to feel guilty, as he was told, he killed his pony, and finally after soiling himself was bathers and made to wear his shorts on his head as further punishment. Yes, we as humans are taught to feel same, maybe even before guilt.
“You should be ashamed of your self” Is only the beginning and fairly obvious form of shaming. However the act of shaming is not the root cause. Shame has origins, primarily, in familial and societal teachings. We are taught certain things are worse than bad, they are shameful. Every society, culture and sub-culture, the acceptable normalities in which they all guide themselves are, well, different. Our cultures were for many centuries, were adaptations of our environment, and even perhaps evolution. Quite simply, in a need for pure survival we adapted to our surroundings. Everything from skin color, diet, and theology, evolved as products, of a need to survive. Today, much of this planet has been modernized, and colonized, we have lost sight of this obvious fact, and was to believe we are, more than we are.
Humanity, in a need to define itself, instills a moralistic code, something more than the laws of man. These are the things that we as humans define, that make us, “human”. These morals and values somewhat loosely change as we travel the world. However one thing remains, that to break these moralistic, societal laws is where shame originates. At times, it was shameful to be homosexual, interracial, atheistic, selfish, sexually liberated, and self confident. This list varies and changes not only through time, but vertically as well. Imagine putting shame, the worst of all things, on a young child. How could one child effect the world so negatively, as to deserve the shame that was now being laid upon his shoulders. This is the crushing blow for many trauma survivors, the final straw. When the victim, is made to bear the shame of their family secrets, guilt and fears, the child disappears. Something else comes to rescue the child from this living nightmare; or is it someone?
The adult survivor of this childhood trauma-drama, is usually easy to identify. In fact, there are many diagnosis, that are almost mutually exclusive with other personality and mood disorders. The wake of damage does not stop at mental ailments, but spreads through the essential parts of our physical embodiments as well. Survivors, after having found themselves away from childhood, are left with the scorecard. The years of fear, guilt and shame, have scarred our bodies and our existence forever. The book, The Body Keeps the Score, the author successfully makes this argument. For us, the survivor this was a critical point. We really were abused.
The brain, the existential energy that allows us to define our being, also is programmed for survival. This includes desensitization, of what is instinctively abhorrent behaviors and situations. We learn to accept that our abuse was just that, abuse by others for whom their own existential crisis could not be overcome. The abusers needs for self validation through power, to overcome their own powerlessness feelings, allowed transmission of those inadequacies, into our plane of existence. As children, we had nothing to compare with, other than the deep feeling in our soul, that this was wrong. Our need to survive will almost always try to suppress this instinct, in order to dave the mood, allowing the body to move forward.
Then came the time, when something beyond Sartre, spoke to us. Something greater than the theory, although in fact it was the purest of all existential beliefs, the realization of self choice for more than survival. In other words, making authentic choices, and realizing only the choices that we make, are the things we need to accept responsibility for. The freedom that comes from Authenticity, is an inner freedom that can never be granted or given to you. You can however surrender it, and become enslaved to the system you gave into. This is not the path we have chosen to follow.
Self, individual freedom, authenticity, self centeredness, are all seen to be as sinful, or shameful by most in Western cultures. We are taught to put others ahead of ourselves, pleasure is evil, and true happiness is unattainable. We are made to believe that the quest for any of these things is a guilty offense to humanity. These principals could not be further from the truth. We are in fact, human. We are a species of life, cursed with consciousness and the awareness of our own mortality. To deny ourselves that which brings us authentic joy and peace, causes an inner conflict, a struggle between the needs of self and the controls of an outer system which serves only itself, and not those supporting it.
Part II Coming Soon.
Re-Programming Self Image from; Abused to Survivor, to Self Assured with Authenticity.