Sanctuary for the Abused
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
NEVER ASSUME YOU KNOW SOMEONE
by Natalie Lue
Over the past few days, a variety of things have had one particular word on my lips – assumptions. I’ve written before about the danger of holding assumptions that don’t have a basis especially when they haven’t actually got anything to do with the actual person, which you then in turn continue to base your perceptions and actions on, even when there is evidence that doesn’t support your assumptions.
The key times when I see assumptions creating issues is when:
We love and trust blindly based on assumptions which don’t hold true but we continue to ignore anyway as we prefer the illusion of the assumption.
We assume that someone who we feel attracted to possesses the values, qualities, and characteristics that some ‘we’ want to love should possess. We think ‘Wow I love that we can climb mountains, play football, and listen to John Mayer together’ and assume that makes you life partners even though it turns out, you don’t have shared values.
We look at people or a situation and make assumptions about it, not stopping to sanity check our perception.
A particular example of this is being with a guy and assuming that he’s a pillar of the community, liked by everyone and it’s just you that he’s a jackass with. But I’ve found on a number of occasions that much like how we apply a rosy glow and put people on pedestals, we apply it about their social standing too, possibly because we believe them to possess qualities or attributes that we think make likeable and popular people. What we may not realise is that sometimes these people are tolerated or maybe even liked, but not to the extent that we believe.
We make assumptions about how we think, feel, and act and assume that our partners think, feel, and act in the same way.
For example, people often say to me that they know that they wouldn’t do something so they assumed that their partners wouldn’t and even when they discovered that they did do what they thought they wouldn’t, refused to accept it. Instead, they became boggled by it or even denying it.
We assume that when we communicate something that the meaning is loud and clear and that everything we intended comes through.
In your mind, it makes sense and you hear you loud and clear. However, often, it can be that you’re speaking Chinese, they’re speaking French but you both don’t realise it and continue to assume that the other party is understanding you and become frustrated when they don’t. You’re assuming your communication style is understood or that it is even shared.
We assume that our partners understand why we are p*ssed off or hurt because we assume that people who love us and who want to make us happy know when we’re not happy, why, and how to fix it.
When they ‘fail’ to understand, we assume that it must mean that they don’t love us as much or that the relationship is doomed because they don’t instinctively know what your needs are…even if you don’t either.
We assume that what we are prepared to give in a relationship is what the other person needs because it’s what we are capable (or what we think we are) of giving.
Many of us give based on what we can give and assume our contribution is right or valuable even if it’s not what the other party needs. We can get very annoyed when our efforts are not appreciated even if it’s not what they wanted.
We assume scenarios or things that our partners would do in a hypothetical situation and get surprised when it turns out that actually, they wouldn’t.
We say stuff like ‘Oh well I know he wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t had A happen to him’ and then feel blindsided when he says that he actually, he would’ve done.
It’s important not to base too much of your life on assumptions to ensure that you’re not just going through the motions of life reacting.
I also spoke with a couple who had a misunderstanding and while trying to explain their misunderstanding to me, assumption after assumption kept coming up and each and every one of them was misplaced – remember that you are individuals and that if you put aside the assumption making for a bit, you stand to really learn about each other and appreciate each other’s perspectives.
In life, we do have to make a reasonable level of assumptions. In dating and relationships for instance, you ideally need to go in with a reasonable level of trust and assume that it is well placed based on whatever initial perceptions you have.
Your interactions serve as a series of checks and balances – you’re either going to increase your trust because not only are they meeting or exceeding your assumptions, but they are giving you more reasons to feel trusting.
Or…you start out with a reasonable level of trust and your initial perceptions and you discover that the trust or perceptions are misplaced.
When we don’t go through life adjusting our assumptions and perceptions and applying our checks and balances, we end up loving and trusting blindly, and operating off an illusionary point.
It’s like operating your life in a fog where you’re really having relationships with your assumptions and reflections of how you’d like it to be or how you think it is, but not how it actually is.
And this is a good time to remind those of you who are partial to letting your imaginations run riot – The danger of being someone who gets caught up in illusions is that you’re not making assumptions based on perceptions of the person – you’re making assumptions based on the reflection of your imagination. Really, they could be anyone or you could replace them with a cardboard figure – you’re not seeing them, you’re seeing your illusions which makes it an assumptive illusionary relationship.
Part of what created my huge epiphany and changed my life forever, was realising that not only had I dated yet another emotionally unavailable guy in a barely there relationship for five months, but I had assumed that if he had pursued me off the back of him ending a very long term relationship, then he must want to be in a relationship.
In fact, it was not the first time I had assumed that if I was pursued or whispered sweet nothings (nothing being the operative word) to, that it must mean that they want me and are serious, when in actual fact, they wanted me but were not serious or were serious about being Mr Unavailables and assclowns. It took me five months to let go of my assumption but my assumption had actually been challenged and shattered about two weeks after we got together and he started blowing hot and cold and easing his way out of whatever we had started.
If I had not only registered my discomfort but acknowledged it, I would have realised that I was wasting my own time in my own little assuming illusionary bubble.
I still have to make assumptions and so do you because you know what? – We haven’t got all the time in the world to be questioning and second-guessing every move.
We need to invest ourselves in relationships where there are shared core primary values and mutual love, care, trust, and respect and there are two parties living congruent with their values and being authentic. At least then when you make assumptions, they’ll be honest ones grounded in reality and when things shift or you have an error in judgement, you’ll be quick to acknowledge and adjust your perception.
While sometimes letting go misplaced of assumptions (and illusions) signals bad news because it turns out that the reality isn’t good for us, the flipside is that letting go of misplaced assumptions frees you up to enjoy reality.
If you’re making assumptions about your partner, not based on who they are or your experience but on other partners, or other experiences, and your beliefs, you’re missing out on the opportunity to get to know them as they are, and at least make your assumptions on them. Don’t limit yourself to a life based on assumptions that you don’t challenge, especially if they’re negative beliefs you’re holding on to and validating through a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, don’t limit yourself or you will end up in limited relationships with limited people having limited experiences based on…you guessed it…assumptions.
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Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sex Addicts & Religion
The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
by Doug Boudinot
A sexually addicted friend of mine recently told me that his church is the last place he would ever seek help for his addiction. His comment left me wondering why he feels unsafe in his own church? Knowing addicts and addictions as I do, the obvious answer was that he is not in a small group where trust exists between members. Perhaps he is also a cautious man who has trouble trusting anyone. Or possibly he is so certain that he will be rejected he keeps his addiction to himself no matter where he goes.
My friend may or may not have trouble opening up to others, but a deeper problem remains: there is a deep-rooted belief among many who struggle with sexual sins that they must leave their burdens at home on Sunday morning. A question I repeatedly deal with is whether the church is a safe place where even sex addicts can find the love, grace, and healing of Jesus Christ or whether there are some sinners—sex addicts among them—who, after repentance and confession to Christ, still have no safe place in God’s church.
I often consider whether the old adage is true, that Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded. But perhaps your church is not one of those “dog pound” types of environments. Maybe the problem lies not with what you do to your wounded but what you do not do for them. In some cases, apathy or “lukewarmness” may actually be worse than coldness.1
Allow me to make a bold but accurate statement: Sexual addiction is one of the Christian church’s greatest challenges. Sexuality resides at the heart of our humanity, and if that is broken, chances are the rest of us—including our spirits—will be too. Since all cultural indicators tell us that this problem will only get worse, each of us is faced with a dilemma. Will we become part of the problem or part of the solution?
Sadly, we often choose the easier way out and close our hearts to the addicted of our society. Whether it’s out of fear, lack of knowledge or reluctance to follow Jesus’ example, Christians in churches across America are making sex addicts the lepers of our day.
Scripture is clear, we have all sinned and the wages of this sin is death. Addicts know about death. In fact, death is one concept they understand very well—too well. Sexual sin has probably brought about the death of their marriage, their job, financial security, their hope, peace, and sense of self-worth. Rooted deeply in most addicts’ belief systems is the feeling that no matter how successful they may be on the outside, they are really worthless inside. Christian sex addicts are lonely, isolated, and fearful individuals loaded with shame. Adding to these already depressed persons, the trauma of sin breaks our relationship with God. Since only the cross of Christ can bridge this gap—and many addicts are fearful of or distrust the church—their spiritual death seems very near.
Whether it’s out of fear, lack of knowledge or reluctance to follow Jesus’ example, Christians in churches across America are making sex addicts the lepers of our day.
Healing for a sex addict follows the same path used by every sinner. They must find a place to begin telling and living the truth with others in a place where they experience safety and acceptance—something addicts have never known. Addiction recovery programs have a saying, “Truth your way out!” But it all starts with safety. Without safety there is no trust; without trust there is no truth; and without truth there is no hope for grace.
Without grace and compassion there is no comfort2; without comfort in the midst of trouble, there are no sanctuaries established for others to find safety3; without safety there is no movement away from trusting in ourselves toward trusting others4; without trust, there is no walking along the path of truth5; and without truth there is no hope for deliverance and restoration. Simply put, where there is no restorative, liberating power from “deadly perils,”6 there is no healing.
But we know this already, right? It’s what brings us back to church each week. Is there another place in the world more suited than the local Christian church to find the safety so desperately required for healing? Where else can anyone—you, me, the addicted—find true grace alongside accountability, love coupled with firmness, and safe people to tell the truth about who we are?
Correctly answering the question of who we are is the first step to making your church a safe place for addicts and every other kind of sinner. That starts with recognizing that God considers all of us His sheep—lost and stinky creatures that constantly depend on His rescuing hand.
Throughout the Scriptures, one of God’s primary actions is that of rescuing His people, and He doesn’t restrict it to a select few. All of us are in need and God—the Great Rescuer—is always there. In the Psalms, the word ‘rescue’ appears countless times as David, a prime example of an addicted man, is constantly in need of immediate rescue because of his sin. David certainly qualified as a sheep, but did God give up on him? Quite the contrary. He was a warrior and king who “served the purpose of God for his own generation”7 despite his many flaws.
Healing can only come through admitting our faults to God and to His people in community and through praying for one another.
Think also about the people who encountered Christ during His ministry on Earth. Jesus met a woman at the well and in turn she found a safe person to whom she could tell the truth. Similarly, the woman caught in adultery found safety and grace in Jesus as he rescued her from both physical and spiritual death.
As Christ’s disciples are we to do any less? Will we accept the challenge to provide safety for the broken and addicted of our society? James 5:16 reminds believers to “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.”
Healing can only come through admitting our faults to God and to His people in community and through praying for one another. What a radical concept! A Biblical concept! We are called to be Christ’s Body on Earth, a fellowship of safe people who can admit faults to one another and experience forgiveness and healing. We do this because the church is supposed to be where God’s grace is in place. That’s why we sing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” We sing for the “wretches,” the broken and addicted of our day, you and me!
If you are still struggling with this concept, consider that the parable of the Prodigal Son applies to us not only in that we play the part of the son returning to our Heavenly Father, but that we are also called to play the part of the father through our churches to welcome back other lost sons and daughters.
Is your church a safe place to trust your true self, to pray for one another and in turn find the healing God wants to pour into your life? More importantly, are you a safe person for others, even for sex addicts? If not, consider what you are missing. God wraps His loving arms around his lost sheep, enveloping them in grace. He also challenges us to do the same, no matter how ‘stinky’ that next sheep may be!
Hat Tip to Emotional Abuse & Faith
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Spousal Abuse in Religious Families
Some myths and realities
(while this is written from a Jewish perspective, it applies to all faiths & religious families. Abuse is still abuse.)
Myth: Every marriage has a few fights now and then. Crying "abuse" is just a way to get attention.
Reality: Abuse is not the same as normal arguments. Abuse is an ongoing pattern of power and control that progressively limits the thoughts, words and actions of the victim, out of fear of the abuser.
Abuse is like addiction: it never gets better by itself and it requires in-depth work by the abuser to change his/her way of relating to others. When there is abuse in a marriage, couples counseling cannot help until there is first a change in the abuser and he or she stops the abuse for good.
Myth: If the abused person would just change or try harder, the abuse would stop.
"It takes two to tango."
Reality: Although normal marriage is a two-way street, in this case experience shows that "trying harder" will escalate the abuse. Abuse is the responsibility of the abuser. No matter how annoying or difficult one's spouse, friends or children are, that is never an excuse to abuse and hurt them.
Myth: Women abuse their husbands just as much as the opposite.
Reality: About 5% of the time the man is the primary victim of spouse abuse (and is usually less likely than a woman to tell anyone). Generally, when there is abuse, it is the wife who is abused by her husband.
Wife abuse is one of the main reasons for women to be seen in hospital emergency rooms. When women hit or scratch, it is often in self-defense.
Myth: If the abuse isn't physical, it isn't really so serious.
Reality: We know that words can wound more deeply than blows. Ona'as devarim [pain caused by words alone] is a serious prohibition in the Torah.
Emotional abuse kills the spirit. Furthermore, physical abuse is always accompanied, and often preceded, by emotional abuse. At the extreme, emotional abuse can cause physical illness, loss of the will to live or death by suicide.
Myth: Abusers are generally unpleasant or angry people. I could certainly tell if someone were an abuser.
Reality: Abusers are not monsters: they are often some of the most charming and helpful people around. Abuse is about control, not anger; the same person who claims his wife made him hit her because she "pushed his buttons" wouldn't dream of acting that way to a boss, a policeman or a rabbi he respected, no matter how angry he was.
Myth: If the abuse is kept quiet, it won't affect the children.
Reality: Children always know when something is wrong. Spouse abuse has demonstrable physical, neurological, emotional and social effects on children of all ages, including infants. Over 50% of the time, when a spouse is being abused, the children are also direct victims of child abuse. About 2/3 of children who witness spouse abuse end up in abusive marriages when they grow up.
Myth: If a spouse is abused, she or he has no choice but to get a divorce.
Reality: While divorce is one halachic option, there are many reasons a person might choose to stay in an abusive marriage. Some of these are: hope that things will get better; financial worries; concerns for children; family and community pressure; fear that one will not be believed; lack of confidence in oneself.
Often the abuser has threatened to hurt himself and/or others if the spouse leaves. The way a victim chooses to deal with abuse is up to that person.
Myth: If the abuser promises to do teshuvah, we should let bygones be bygones.
Reality: Teshuvah [repentance] is a long, in-depth process that requires that the abuser take complete responsibility for his or her actions.
It certainly involves much more than a mere intention or statement that the abuser won't do this again.
Teshuvah is possible, but the process of healing cannot generally be done without the help of a competent and informed rabbi and a psychologist who truly understands the dynamics of abuse.
This is an area that involves many halachic questions; it is essential that this process not be attempted on one's own.
Myth: What goes on in other people's families is private. Why should I deal with this problem?
Reality: Abuse in our community will begin to disappear when we no longer allow it. This means acknowledging the problem openly, giving concrete and emotional support to the victims, offering help to abusers if they want it and urging them to get help.
Abuse is not a private issue. It affects future generations by passing on the message that abuse is normal in marriage, and it sometimes alienates victims and their children from Judaism when they see that what the Torah says about family life can be violated with no apparent outcry from the community.
Abuse in our families is a Chillul Hashem. It is up to us, as a community, to stop it.
"Myths and Realities" provided by NISHMA Hotline of Ezras Bayis, a project of the Orthodox Counseling Program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles.
Friday, January 19, 2018
Abuser Tactics with Children
Tactics During the Relationship
Battering/abusing her in front of the children
Threatening to hurt or kill her in front of the children
Telling the children that the victim is to blame for the violence/abuse
Justifying the violence/abuse to the children
Telling the children that the victim is a bad parent
Using other relatives to speak badly about the victim to the children
Yelling at the victim when the children "misbehave"
Getting the children to take the batterer’s side
Telling them that the victim is crazy, stupid, and incompetent
Abusing or killing the family pets
Using children as confidants (see: covert incest)
Threatening to commit suicide
Withholding money for children’s needs
Physically abusing the children
Threatening to take children if she leaves
Driving recklessly with the children and/or the victim in the car
Abusing drugs/ alcohol in front of the children
Watching pornography in front of the children
Coming home intoxicated
Tactics After Separation
Asking children what she is doing
Asking who she is seeing
Blaming her for the separation
Blaming the victim for the relationship ending
Telling the children that they cannot be a family because of the victim
Talking about what she did "wrong"
Calling constantly to talk to the children
Showing up unexpectedly to see the children
Criticizing her new partner
Assaulting her new partner
Forcing the children to interact with his new partner, without the mother's knowledge or consent
Withholding child support/ monies for living expenses
Blaming her that HE is not paying child support
Showering children with gifts during visitation
Undermining her rules for the children
Picking up the children at school without telling her
Keeping them longer than agreed on
Abducting the children
Threatening to take custody away from the victim if she does not reconcile with the abuser
Blaming her for their health/ emotional problems
Telling them she is an alcoholic, addict, or mentally ill
Making frequent court dates to change the parenting plan
Saying she didn’t want them
Physically abusing them and telling them not to tell their mother
Abusing his new partner in front of them
Changing visitation plans suddenly and/ or frequently
(feel free to print this out and show it to your lawyer and family)
Thursday, January 18, 2018
How to Help Those Abused by a Narcissist
Those abused by narcissists usually need two kinds of help: expert help and comfort/validation.
The expert help needed varies. Narcissistic abuse and slander inflict psychological injury (not to be confused with mental illness) and therefore the victims often need psychological counseling. Women abused by their husbands or boyfriends often need practical advice and help getting themselves and their children away safely. (A qualified TRAUMA-certified counselor is necessary. Domestic Violence Centers often provide free counseling; and you do not need to be a resident)
Children need help from Social Services. In any case the victim may need legal advice. Especially when the abuse is a bully in the workplace in a private institution (e.g., a parochial school), the victim has usually been lynched and needs pro bono legal aid. Indeed, no lawyer expects to profit battling the interminable stonewalling such a secretive institution throws up to escape accountability. The same goes for narcissistic abuse in the form of pedophilia.
When signing up for any group, I also suggest using a screen name and an email address from a free webmail account like you can get at Yahoo or Gmail. This is just a precaution when interacting on a message board: Remember that you never know who all is out there reading your posts. You don't want any weirdo trying to contact you, so it's best to be anonymous. You do this through a free webmail account under a screen name no one would recognize. You can create one of these webmail addresses just for group memberships. Through it nobody can find out your real name or where you live. Doing this also helps keep your regular email account free of spam.
Comfort anyone can give. The word comfort comes from the Latin word for "to fortify." That's what comfort is. It's the strengthening embrace that supports a person weakened by injury or abuse. It's the strengthening embrace that helps them to their knees and then to their feet. It's not rocket science. All it takes is compassion.
Those abused by a narcissist have had their self-esteem brutally bludgeoned by a bully who jumps up and down on their back to break it and then thump his or her chest.
What they need is someone to be there.
To say that the narcissist's value judgment was wrong.
They need somebody to treat them like a human being.
Somebody to say that they are NOT nothing and that stomping on them is NOT nothing.
Somebody to say and show that it matters.
That's all. Any real human being is qualified to lend this aid. And it's not too much to ask.
All you have to do is listen. Show that you're listening by responding now and then. Say something that amounts to "Boy what she did to you really sucks," showing that it makes you sad or angry or both to hear about it. Then just show that the victim means something to you, that he or she is NOT a hunk of dirt in your eyes. It's not hard. It's easy and natural.
What the victim doesn't need is any more criticism or fixing. They don't need you to tell them how they should feel. They don't need you to act like it didn't happen. They don't need any preaching that they should forgive an unrepentant abuser who fully intends to keep right on abusing them. If you need to do things like that, then you are the one with heavy-duty needs and are in no condition to fulfill anybody else's needs.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Attachment to the Perpetrator
Colin A. Ross, M.D.
Over the last few years I have come to believe that a core problem in the psychotherapy of dissociative identity disorder is the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. This is also true for survivors of severe chronic childhood trauma who do not have D.I.D. The treatment that follows from this new model is different from the treatment of the ‘90s which focused more on memory recovery and abreaction. My sense of things is that the dissociative disorders field as a whole is shifting in this direction, away from “memory work” as such.
Memories are still a major element of therapy, and the trauma of the past is still talked about a lot. It’s a matter of a shift in emphasis rather than a change to a whole new way of providing therapy.
In the old model, which goes back to Pierre Janet in the nineteenth century, the idea was that the blocked memories were driving the symptoms – uncover the memory, process it and the symptoms go away. The key thing was to recover the information about what happened and all the feelings that go along with it. The old model was not wrong, it just wasn’t complete. For one thing, recovery involves learning a lot of new skills, not just abreacting trauma.
In this new model, the core problem is attachment, not dealing with memories and feelings as such. All baby birds and mammals must attach to a caregiver in order to survive. The attachment systems that control the behavior of mother and child (also father and child) are built-in genetically. The baby bird does not decide to chirp for food, and the mother bird does not decide to go out collecting food. All this just happens. The same is true for human children. A baby does not conduct rational adult analysis of human interaction patterns and then decide that crying has positive survival advantage. The baby just cries.
Similarly, the nursing mother who has a letdown reflex when her baby cries does not consciously decide to release more oxytocin from her brain in order to make her milk flow. Her body just does that for her. There are countless attachment behaviors that are built-in biologically. The parents also make conscious decisions about how to take care of the child for which they are responsible as adults. But the little child just attaches naturally in order to survive.
The basic goal is survival. Attachment serves that goal. This is true biologically, emotionally, humanly, spiritually, however one wants to look as it. To thrive and grow the child must attach to its caretakers. Separation and individuation from these caretakers is a task that is down the road developmentally, from the perspective of the newborn baby.
In a reasonable, healthy family this works out reasonably OK. The parents are imperfect and everybody has the usual neurotic conflicts about not having gotten all the love and nurturance that would have been ideal and perfect. We all have ambivalent attachment to our parents to some degree; we all are faced with the task of separation and individuation and none of us are complete successes.
In a family with active physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, however, things are different. The young child in this family – say it is a girl – must attach to her father for her survival. She cannot run away from home, get married, or go away to college because she hasn’t even gone to kindergarten yet. She depends on her parents for food, clothes, a roof, and her basic survival needs. She also needs her parents for her emotional and spiritual development. The problem is that the father she must attach to, in order to survive, is also the perpetrator who is abusing her.
Just as love, approach and attachment to parents are built-in biologically, so is the recall reflex. If you touch a hot stove by mistake, your brain pulls your hand away even before you consciously experience the pain. Your biology does this for you, without any conscious analysis or decision-making. Similarly, your body goes into recoil mode from child abuse automatically. You just automatically withdraw, pull back, and shut down.
One way to cope with the abuse would be to go catatonic. This would be developmental suicide. Except possibly in rare cases (which therapists never see in their offices) the body will not allow permanent catatonia – the attachment systems must be kept up and running for the organism to survive whether it is a child, a kitten, a bird, or a rabbit. There must be an override of the withdrawal reflex.
How can this be accomplished? By dissociation. The fundamental driver of the dissociation, in this way of looking at things, is the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. In order to survive, the child must attach to the person who is hurting her. There is no escape and no other option. In order to maintain the attachment systems up and running, they cannot be contaminated by the traumatic information coming in through the sense; that reality must be dissociated.
What difference does this model make in therapy? First, the focus of therapy is not on the content of the memories – the target is the ambivalent attachment. This ambivalent attachment is visible in current relationships and in the structure of the internal world.
This is true whether the diagnosis is DID, PTSD, DDNOS or borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality is an inevitable consequence of the problem of attachment to the perpetrator and is a biologically normal human response to severe chronic childhood trauma.
A focus on the problem of attachment to the perpetrator sidesteps most of the controversy about false memories since the content of the memories is not the main concern. If the memories are accurate, they explain how the problem of attachment to the perpetrator arose; if they are inaccurate, they symbolize that problem. Either way, the ambivalent attachment is the focus, not the content of the memories.
In the new model, there is much, much less abreaction in therapy, if any. By this I mean, the kind of full-tilt abreaction where the person is back in the past, reliving the trauma as if it is happening all over again. Within the new model, abreaction is unnecessary and retraumatizing. What does occur is what I call intense recollection. The description of the trauma is still intense, vivid, and difficult, but it is grounded. Even in relatively pure cognitive therapy, as I do it, there is lots of intense feeling.
The first goal of therapy is to hold both sides of the ambivalent attachment in consciousness at the same time – to feel both the love and the hate. The love is always there, somewhere. I believe it is biologically impossible to extinguish your love for your parents, no matter how abusive they were.
Therapists can make a mistake by identifying with and supporting one side of the ambivalent attachment only. A not uncommon error is to validate and identify with only the anger, and push the love, attachment and approach underground. A pseudo-resolution of ambivalent attachment can occur when there is an artificial complete separation from the parents – this can be just a cover for unresolved ambivalence.
This error by therapists is a fertile ground for false memories.
In some situations, the parents are in fact so manipulative and abusive in the present day that complete separation is the only healthy option. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am thinking of people whose parents are semi-OK in the present and who are missing out on a limited positive relationship in the present because they have shut down the positive side of their attachment.
Once both sides of the ambivalent attachment are held in conscious awareness at the same time, and processed a bit, the next step is grief work. One must mourn the loss of the parent one never had. The task is to dissolve the unrealistically all-good or all-bad parent, deal with the actual disappointment and loss, and complete the task of separation and individuation. This is a job we are all working on. Those who were not severely physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as children have a much easier time because they did not have to dissociate in an extreme way to survive extreme conditions.
One reason I like this model is because it makes the extreme nature of the trauma clear, but emphasizes the fact that the core of therapy is a common human problem.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
January is Stalking Awareness Month
Being the target of a stalker can be a dangerous and scary experience. But there are ways to deal with this crime that can make you safe and help you feel empowered.
In a stalking situation, the stalker gets his kicks out of invading your privacy or causing you fear. While stalkers can certainly be dangerous, violence is not necessarily their top priority. If it was, they wouldn't spend time stalking - they would just attack. The problem is that there is no way to tell ahead of time what the stalker's plans are, and if the stalker himself assures you that he means no harm, you should certainly not believe him.
Some forms of stalking involve constant calls and visits. We work with some women who say "Well, he asked me out about twenty times, so I finally said yes because I felt sorry for him." Providing encouragement of any kind to the stalker is a mistake.
In this example, the woman has in effect told the stalker that he will get one date with her for every twenty times he askes her. This also shows the stalker that getting her to feel sorry for him is an effective strategy.
In the dynamics of stalking, the equation is simple. There is one stalker, and one victim. The stalker gets his jollies by causing fear - whether by following her, calling her repeatedly, using foul language, invading her privacy, etc. The male stalker and female victim will also fall into the standard pattern of predator and victim, with both of them assuming the predator is stronger. As a result, the act of causing fear is the payoff for the stalker, giving him a sexual rush, making him feel powerful and omnipotent.
To effectively deal with a stalker, you need to change this equation. Here are some suggestions, based on my knowledge of the laws in Minnesota. The laws in your state may be different. Check them!
How to Stop Stalkers
Start telling others about the stalker. Even if you have responded to him positively in the past, don't let that stop you from taking action now. Tell people what is going on. If you did go out with him, it was a mistake, but you can fix that. Everyone is allowed to make mistakes. Learn from it and move on.
Keep a Diary
Record every incident, no matter how trivial. Stalkers use the triviality of their actions as a defense: "What, I'm not allowed on a public street?'. You need to establish a pattern of behavior. Record dates, times, places, witnesses, phone numbers, addresses, everything you can think of. If this problem has been ongoing, record previous events to the best of your ability. Record every incident as it happens. Call the police every time you are contacted. They may say they can't send a police car or an officer for an obscene phone call. If that happens, say 'Yes, I know; I just need you to make an official note of this incident so I can prove a pattern of behavior.' And follow up - but keep your own notes!
Get More People Involved
Contact your local women's center and tell them you're being stalked. Bring in your record of the incidents. Advocates who work at women's centers have experience with stalkers, and may even know the person who is bothering you. They also know the police, the sheriff, and the county prosecutors. They will have resources, contact, and advice that will help immensely. They will know the laws in your state, county, and city. Once you involve professionals in this problem, the situation changes from you against the stalker to the system against the stalker. My information is based on what I know about the laws in Minnesota. Please contact a shelter or crisis center in your town for the best help and information.
Work with Advocates
Work closely with the advocates from the women's crisis center. Follow her advice. If my advice differs from hers, do what she says. She knows more about the specific laws in your state than I do. Feel free to ask questions and tell her everything that is going on. The advocate's job is to empower you, to work with you, to make you stronger and more confident about every aspect of your life.
Call Non-Emergency Numbers
Call your local police non-emergency number. If you're in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Ask to speak to the Officer in Charge. you will be connected with a relatively high ranking police officer. Explain that you are being stalked, and ask for advice. The officer will make a record of the phone call and tell you what to do.
File a Restraining Order
If the stalker is a stranger, you can file a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO), which is used when you don't have a significant or legal relationship with the other person. Make sure that your advocate help syou fill out the forms, using your documented patterns of incidents. A judge will look over your application, see how many times you have been bothered, and will grant or not grant your HRO request. When it has been granted, every incident is stalking is considered a violation of the order and is a crime.
Facts about HROs
Make sure your advocate tells you what an HRO can and cannot do. Statistically, when an HRO is served, that can be the most dangerous time for you. Work with your advocate to make sure you stay safe. Evaluate the level of danger and make a safety plan accordingly.
Many times, an HRO will cause a power shift in the relationship, and the stalker will leave you alone. It's not fun for him anymore because you are no longer a safe and easy target.
Remember that a restraining order will not stop a stalker who doesn't care about it. The advantage to an HRO is that it will mobilize law enforcement to be on your side. The police must pay attention and respond to any violation of the order.
Penalties for violating an HRO will vary, depending on your state or country. Repeated violations may result in harsher penalties. Remember, the more violations he has on his record, the better your case.
The HRO is between your stalker and the judge. If the stalker violates the HRO, he is violating the judge's order, not yours. The only way the order can be modified is if you go to court to change it.
The HRO is against your stalker, not against you. Sometimes the stalker will threaten, "I'll show up where you are, then I'll report YOU for violating the HRO!". Sorry, no, the HRO is one way only. It's impossible for you to violate the HRO. Sometimes a judge will order mutual HROs, against both parties, but this is rare. Incidentally, if the stalker makes a threat like that, he has already violated the HRO. Report it.
No witnesses? His word against yours? After the HRO is granted, that doesn't matter. The police have to believe you.
Continue to report every single incident, no matter how small. If you don't report every incident, he may begin pushing the boundaries, seeing how far you will let him go before he gets into trouble. Develop a hair-trigger response and report the slightest violation.
Be With Other People
Stay with others as much as you possible can. If an incident occurs, you will have plenty of witnesses. Statistically, you are much safer in a group anyway.
Don't Show Fear
Refusing to show fear may be one of your best weapons. The stalker enjoys provoking fear. Talk to your advocate about your specific case to see if this would be a good approach to take.
Follow these steps and you can stop stalkers. If we all work together we can make the world a safer place.
(while this article was written in the male, stalkers can also be female)
CLICK HERE FOR 'ONE OUT OF EVERY 100 AMERICANS IS BEING STALKED'
Monday, January 15, 2018
People of the Lie
A great read. You'll be amazed at how evil manifests itself and stunned at the same time."
Sunday, January 14, 2018
You Are NOT To Blame...
You are not to blame for being abused
You are not the cause of another's abusive behavior
You do not like it or want it
You are an important human being
You are a worthwhile person
You deserve to be treated with respect
You do have power over your own life
You can use your power to take good care of yourself
You can decide for yourself what is best for you
You can make changes in your life if you want to
You are not alone
You can ask others for help
You can ask to be believed
You can ask others for understanding
You deserve to make your own life safe and happy.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
What is Betrayal Trauma Theory?
The phrase "betrayal trauma" can be used to refer to a kind of trauma (independent of the reaction to the trauma). E.g. This definition is on the web: "Most mental health professionals have expanded the definition of trauma to include betrayal trauma.
Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions we depend on for survival or those we trust violate us in some way. An example of betrayal trauma is childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse." LINK
The phrase "Betrayal Trauma theory" is generally used to refer to the prediction/theory about the cause of unawareness and amnesia as in: "Betrayal Trauma Theory: A theory that predicts that the degree to which a negative event represents a betrayal by a trusted needed other will influence the way in which that events is processed and remembered."
History of Terminology
Jennifer Freyd introduced the terms "betrayal trauma" and "betrayal trauma theory" in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute:
Freyd, J.J. Memory repression, dissociative states, and other cognitive control processes involved in adult sequelae of childhood trauma. Invited paper given at the Second Annual Conference on A Psychodynamics - Cognitive Science Interface, Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, University of California, San Francisco, August 21-22, 1991.
From that talk:
"I propose that the core issue is betrayal -- a betrayal of trust that produces conflict between external reality and a necessary system of social dependence. Of course, a particular event may be simultaneously a betrayal trauma and life threatening. Rape is such an event. Perhaps most childhood traumas are such events."
Betrayal trauma theory was introduced: "The psychic pain involved in detecting betrayal, as in detecting a cheater, is an evolved, adaptive, motivator for changing social alliances. In general it is not to our survival or reproductive advantage to go back for further interaction to those who have betrayed us.
However, if the person who has betrayed us is someone we need to continue interacting with despite the betrayal, then it is not to our advantage to respond to the betrayal in the normal way. Instead we essentially need to ignore the betrayal....
If the betrayed person is a child and the betrayer is a parent, it is especially essential the child does not stop behaving in such a way that will inspire attachment. For the child to withdraw from a caregiver he is dependent on would further threaten his life, both physically and mentally. Thus the trauma of child abuse by the very nature of it requires that information about the abuse be blocked from mental mechanisms that control attachment and attachment behavior. One does not need to posit any particular avoidance of psychic pain per se here -- instead what is of functional significance is the control of social behavior. "
These ideas were further developed in talks presented in the early 1990s and then in an article published in 1994. A more definitive statement was presented in Freyd's 1996 book. [See refs at end of this web page.]
Betrayal Trauma Theory and Research
Betrayal trauma theory posits that there is a social utility in remaining unaware of abuse when the perpetrator is a caregiver (Freyd, 1994, 1996). The theory draws on studies of social contracts (e.g., Cosmides, 1989) to explain why and how humans are excellent at detecting betrayals; however, Freyd argues that under some circumstances detecting betrayals may be counter-productive to survival. Specifically, in cases where a victim is dependent on a caregiver, survival may require that she/he remain unaware of the betrayal. In the case of childhood sexual abuse, a child who is aware that her/his parent is being abusive may withdraw from the relationship (e.g., emotionally or in terms of proximity). For a child who depends on a caregiver for basic survival, withdrawing may actually be at odds with ultimate survival goals, particularly when the caregiver responds to withdrawal by further reducing caregiving or increasing violence. In such cases, the child's survival would be better ensured by being blind to the betrayal and isolating the knowledge of the event, thus remaining engaged with the caregiver.
The traditional assumption in trauma research has been that fear is at the core of responses to trauma. Freyd (2001) notes that traumatic events differ orthogonally in degree of fear and betrayal, depending on the context and characteristics of the event. (see Figure 1). Research suggests that the distinction between fear and betrayal may be important to posttraumatic outcomes. For example, DePrince (2001) found that self-reported betrayal predicted PTSD and dissociative symptoms above and beyond self-reported fear in a community sample of individuals who reported a history of childhood sexual abuse.
Research on Betrayal, Dissociation, and Cognitive Mechanisms
Betrayal trauma theory predicts that dissociating information from awareness is mediated by the threat that the information poses to the individual's system of attachment (Freyd, 1994, 1996). Consistent with this, Chu and Dill (1990) reported that childhood abuse by family members (both physical and sexual) was significantly related to increased DES scores in psychiatric inpatients, and abuse by nonfamily members was not. Similarly, Plattner et al (2003) report that they found significant correlations between symptoms of pathological dissociation and intrafamilial (but not extrafamilial) trauma in a sample of delinquent juveniles. DePrince (2005) found that the presence of betrayal trauma before the age of 18 was associated with pathological dissociation and with revictimization after age 18. She also found that individuals who report being revictimized in young adulthood following an interpersonal assault in childhood perform worse on reasoning problems that involve interpersonal relationships and safety information compared to individuals who have not been revictimized.
Basic cognitive processes involved in attention and memory most likely play an important role in dissociating explicit awareness of betrayal traumas. Across several studies, we have found empirical support for the relationship between dissociation and knowledge isolation in laboratory tasks. Using the classic Stroop task, Freyd and colleagues (Freyd, Martorello, Alvarado, Hayes, & Christman, 1998) found that participants who scored high on the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) showed greater Stroop interference than individuals with low DES scores, suggesting that they had more difficulty with the selective attention task than low dissociators. The results from Freyd et al. (1998) suggested a basic relationship between selective attention and dissociative tendencies. In a follow-up study, we tested high and low DES groups using a Stroop paradigm with both selective and divided attention conditions; participants saw stimuli that included color terms (e.g., "red" in red ink), baseline strings of x's, neutral words, and trauma-related words such as "incest" and "rape." A significant DES by attention task interaction revealed that high DES participants' reaction time was worse (slower) in the selective attention task than the divided attention task when compared to low dissociators' performance (replication and extension of Freyd et al., 1998). A significant interaction of dissociation by word category revealed that high DES participants recalled more neutral and fewer trauma-related words than did low DES participants. Consistent with betrayal trauma theory, the free recall finding supported the argument that dissociation may help to keep threatening information from awareness.
In two follow-up studies using a directed forgetting paradigm (a laboratory task in which participants are presented with items and told after each item or a list of items whether to remember or forget the material), we found that high DES participants recalled fewer charged and more neutral words than did low DES participants for items they were instructed to remember when divided attention was required (item method: DePrince & Freyd, 2001, list method: DePrince & Freyd, 2004). The high dissociators report significantly more trauma history (Freyd & DePrince, 2001) and significantly more betrayal trauma (DePrince & Freyd, 2004). Similar findings have been found with children using pictures instead of words as stimuli. Children who had trauma histories and who were highly dissociative recognized fewer charged pictures relative to non-traumatized children under divided attention conditions; no group differences were found under selective attention conditions (Becker-Blease, Freyd, & Pears, 2004).
Research on Betrayal, Forgetting, and Recovered Memories
Betrayal trauma theory predicts that unawareness and forgetting of abuse will be higher when the relationship between perpetrator and victim involves closeness, trust, and/or caregiving. It is in these cases that the potential for a conflict between need to stay in the relationship and awareness of betrayal is greatest, and thus where we should see the greatest amount of forgetting or memory impairment. Freyd (1996) reported finding from re-analyses of a number of relevant data sets that incestuous abuse was more likely to be forgotten than non-incestuous abuse. These data sets included the prospective sample assessed by Williams (1994, 1995), and retrospective samples assessed by Cameron (1993) and Feldman-Summers and Pope (1994). Using new data collected from a sample of undergraduate students, Freyd, DePrince and Zurbriggen (2001) found that physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver was related to higher levels of self-reported memory impairment for the events compared to non-caregiver abuse. Research by Schultz, Passmore, and Yoder (2003) and a doctoral dissertation by Stoler (2001) has revealed similar results. For instance the abstract to Schultz et al (2003) indicate: "Participants reporting memory disturbances also reported significantly higher numbers of perpetrators, chemical abuse in their families, and closer relationships with the perpetrator(s) than participants reporting no memory disturbances." Sheiman (1999) reported that, in a sample of 174 students, those participants who reported memory loss for child sexual abuse were more likely to experience abuse by people who were well-known to them, compared to those who did not have memory loss. Similarly Stoler (2001) notes in her dissertation abstract: "Quantitative comparisons revealed that women with delayed memories were younger at the time of their abuse and more closely related to their abusers." Interestingly, Edwards et al (2001) reported that general autobiographical memory loss measured in a large epidemiologic study was strongly associated with a history of childhood abuse, and that one of the specific factors associated with this increased memory loss was sexual abuse by a relative.
Some researchers have presumably failed to find a statistically significant relationship between betrayal trauma and memory impairment. It is hard to know how many times a possible relationship was examined and yet not found at the statistically significant level because of the bias to publish only significant results. When a relationship is not found, the question then is whether it does not exist or simply cannot be detected due to measurement or power limitations. For instance, Goodman et al (2003) reported that that "relationship betrayal" was not a statistically significant predictor for forgetting in their unusual sample of adults who had been involved in child abuse prosecution cases during childhood. It is not clear whether the relationship truly does not exist in this sample (which is possible given how unusual a sample it is) or whether there was simply insufficient statistical power to detect the relationship (see commentaries by Freyd, 2003 and Zurbriggen & Becker-Blease, 2003). Future research will be needed to clarify these issues. At this point we know that betrayal effects on memorability of abuse have been found in at least seven data sets (see paragraph above).
Research on Betrayal, Distress, and Health
In the section above research relating betrayal to forgetting was reviewed. What about the relationship between betrayal and distress? DePrince (2001) discovered that trauma survivors reporting traumatic events high in betrayal were particularly distressed. Freyd, Klest, & Allard (in press) found that a history of betrayal trauma was strongly associated with physical and mental health symptoms in a sample of ill individuals. Goldsmith, DePrince, & Freyd (2004) reported similar results in a sample of college students.
Atlas and Ingram (1998) "Investigated the association of histories of physical and sexual abuse with symptoms of posttraumatic stress. 34 hospitalized adolescents (aged 14-17.10 yrs) with histories of abuse were given the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children. Sexual distress was associated with histories of abuse by familymembers as compared to nonabuse or abuse by other, while posttraumatic stress was not." Turell and Armsworth (2003) compared sexual abuse survivors who self-mutilate from those who do not. They report that self-mutilators were more likely to have been abused in their family of origin.
In addition, as mentioned above, Chu and Dill (1990) reported that childhood abuse by family members (both physical and sexual) was significantly related to increased DES scores in psychiatric inpatients, and abuse by nonfamily members was not. Plattner et al (2003) report that they found significant correlations between symptoms of pathological dissociation and intrafamilial (but not extrafamilial) trauma in a sample of delinquent juveniles.
In contrast to these other findings, Lucenko, Gold, & Cott (2000) report: "subjects whose perpetrators were not caretakers experienced higher levels of posttraumatic symptomatology (PTS) in adulthood than those abused by caretakers." Future research is necessary to determine why this one study resulted in such a different pattern than the others reviewed in this section.
Implications of the Research
Taken together, these investigations support the underlying betrayal trauma model. Specifically, betrayal appears to be related to avoidance and dissociative responses that help the individual to keep threatening information from awareness under conditions where the individual's survival depends upon the perpetrator. Furthermore betrayal trauma appears to be associated with numerous other physical and mental health symptoms.
Is it necessary for the victim to be conscious of the betrayal in order to call it "betrayal trauma"?
The short answer is "no." The following text is from DePrince and Freyd (2002a), page 74-75:
"The role of betrayal in betrayal trauma theory was initially considered an implicit but central aspect of some situations. If a child is being mistreated by a caregiver he or she is dependent upon, this is by definition betrayal, whether the child recognizes the betrayal explicitly or not. Indeed, the memory impairment and gaps in awareness that betrayal trauma theory predicted were assumed to serve in part to ward off conscious awareness of mistreatment in order to promote the dependent child's survival goals......While conscious appraisals of betrayal may be inhibited at the time of trauma and for as long as
the trauma victim is dependent upon the perpetrator, eventually the trauma survivor may become conscious of strong feelings of betrayal."
An important issue for future research is investigating the role the emotional perception of betrayal has in distress and recovery.
Is gender a factor?
It appears that men experience more non-betrayal traumas than do women, while women experience more betrayal traumas than do men. These effects may be substantial (Goldberg & Freyd, 2004) and of significant impact on the lives of men and women (DePrince & Freyd, 2002b). To the extent that betrayal traumas are potent for some sorts of psychological impact and non-betrayals potent for other impacts (e.g. Freyd, 1999), these gender difference would imply some very non-subtle socialization factors operating as a function of gender.
What is betrayal blindness?
Betrayal blindness is the unawareness, not-knowing, and forgetting exhibited by people towards betrayal (Freyd, 1996, 1999). This blindness may extend to betrayals that are not traditionally considered "traumas," such as adultery, inequities in the workplace and society, etc. Both victims, perpetrators, and witnesses may display betrayal blindness in order to preserve relationships, institutions, and social systems upon which they depend. (Also, see Helen Garrod's discussion of "Political Betrayal Trauma" and Eileen Zurbriggen's essay on Betrayal Trauma in the 2004 Election.)
Are demands for silence a factor in not-knowing about betrayal?
In addition to implicit motivations for not-knowing that the betrayed person may have in order to maintain a relationship, the victim may have other reasons for not-knowing and silence. At least one such reason is demands for silence from the perpetrator and others (family, society). Demands for silence (see Veldhuis & Freyd, 1999 cited at What is DARVO?) may lead to a complete failure to even discuss an experience. Experiences that have never been shared with anyone else may a different internal structure than shared experiences (see What is Shareability?).
There are also very useful resources and links provided at the sites of Stop It Now, the Sidran Institute and The Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.
(see the original article by clicking on the title above for the references.)