Denial and Ritual Abuse


Spencer has long, soft-as-a-cloud fur. It feels like something I can’t quite remember – not angora, not silk (well, almost), not polyester. Sometimes he lets me brush him and seems to like it, sometimes not. 

When he sheds, his fur gets stuck like Velcro on carpets, sheets, sweaters, underwear, my hair, and just about everywhere. The washing machine chops it up and spreads it out evenly. By now, it is felted balls of fur, not long white or orange hairs. If the surface of the fabric is very smooth, there are a few large clumps that are easy to remove. If it is rough, like wool, most kinds of cotton, and anything containing Spandex, there are hundreds of teeny tiny bits of fur stuck tight as if they were burrs. 

How do I get rid of it?

The Blog Will Have a New Home!

On January 30, I decided to check out SquareSpace. My commitment to exploring alternatives to WordPress is fulfilled! My friend Rishi is busy setting up the blog, and I have promised to stop trying to learn how to edit it and wait for her to finish. With the help of an easy-to-understand tutorial, she will then teach me how to use it. I’m finding it hard to hold back, but we agree that this is a sensible plan. 

I am pretending I am moving in real life. I have found a new apartment and am packing up my possessions. A dear friend is busy preparing the new place – making a list of things that need fixing, cleaning windows and kitchen cabinets, and preparing a list of nearby stores and places to visit. We are both feeling a heady mixture of anxiety and excitement. 

You’ll be the first to know when we choose a moving date.


Recently, I was discussing denial with a group of friends. I know what denial is, yet when I started to speak, I couldn’t find the words. It was annoying at the time and continues to be annoying. I am ruminating about what denial is,\ and why it should strike me mute.

After deciding to write about it, I looked it up in the online Miriam-Webster dictionary. I learned that it is a noun meaning refusal to admit the truth or reality of something.” And that in psychology, it is “a defense mechanism” in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.”

The definitions are interesting. In the first one, “refusal” could refer to something done or said without conscious intent or something done or said on purpose. I’ll expand on this in a moment.

In the second definition, there is no reference to conscious intent. I can’t, however, imagine how denial could be used to avoid facing a personal problem if it were conscious. If the denial is conscious, so is the problem, no?

Talking to my friends, I was groping to explain that I have two forms of denial, one conscious and the other unconscious, and they feel quite different.

The conscious kind goes like this, “Nah, that couldn’t be a memory of something real. What are the odds that, of the millions of people in the world, that happened to me?”

How does this help me avoid the possibility that my childhood included ritual abuse? It doesn’t. It makes me feel better for a moment, and then I feel foolish. But since the thought pops into my head so often, I figure I might as well welcome it and see how I can best handle that knee-jerk reaction to a previous gruesome thought. Here’s how it goes:

“Oh, there is that doubt again. I must need a resting place before venturing into that territory. I’ll remember that ritual abuse is only a hypothesis, and that, when a better hypothesis comes along, I will drop RA and adopt the new one. I’ll keep an open mind. When I feel ready, then I can delve into new memories, if there are any.”

See how I cover all bases without putting myself down? It looks easy, but a lot of experimentation went into getting it right.

There is another kind of conscious denial that has ,and they get caught? And they deny (lie) they did it when confronted? Or the medical use of the word, “Patient denies current domestic violence, childhood trauma, or previous psychiatric treatment.” 

Unconscious denial is far more interesting to me. There is conscious awareness of the symptoms, the red flags that signal that something is seriously wrong. There may even be a vague feeling that there might be something wrong with your early life. But you believe with certainty that your childhood was fine. No abuse, no major losses, no being bullied. It was fine. I was lucky to have had a good childhood. Even if it included ritual abuse, which you have been taught from an early age not to remember and not to talk about. Not to even think about it.

For all RA/MC survivors, denial developed in early childhood. It had to, for us to stay alive. Denial was as necessary as breathing. It was also heavily reinforced by the brutal training not to speak of these things, not even to remember them.

Today, we don’t need to deny so desperately. Although the need is past, we can’t unlearn how to unconsciously deny something. The best we can do is ask ourselves if there is something trying to get to the surface (part of us wants to know) and stirring up obstacles to remembering (part of us is afraid of knowing.)

I have trouble finding words when I think of this kind of denial. The conscious mind seems sharp and clear to me, but the unconscious mind feels foggy. I find myself standing there, waving my hands, looking up at the sky, waiting for words to fall down into my brain. But they are already in my brain. I just have to find them. 

Of course, it is hard to talk about. My unconscious is different from the conscious part of my mind, and I am not very familiar with it. It’s part of “me.” of course. But the part of me talking and writing is different and has never been in the unconscious. “I” am only guessing what it’s like. No wonder it is hard to find words.

When a wave of denial comes surging out from my unconscious. I try to flow with it. I tell myself it is there for a good reason, and probably information is organizing itself in preparation to reveal itself to me. I talk to my denial as if it were an alter and tell it I’m grateful for the moment of calm. And I tell whatever is pushing up towards consciousness that I do want to know, at the right time. Perhaps I need to be a little stronger, more rested, or the plants need watering first. 

Then, all by itself, things resolve. The denial lifts, and I know a little more about myself. This process used to be a huge struggle, filled with big emotions. Now, using the approach of joining with the denial, it is drama-free and anxiety-free. 

I didn’t get these miraculous results right away. I had to think out what I would say to myself ahead of time and then practice, practice, practice. I can’t just flip a switch and make a change in a minute. But it’s worth the time and energy.



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