Finding Safety in These Chaotic Times

* You can find more information on the following holidays at:
Lammas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween {personal) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/ (background) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/
Candlemas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: personal. (for background, see Spring Equinox) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/
Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/
Fathers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/ritual-abuse-and-fathers-day/
Summer Solstice (corrected text) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/

 ~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote about safety back in 2015. The focus was on protecting yourself from attacks by the cult. Here are the entries:

Safety on the Inside: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/safety-on-the-inside/
This entry also talks about creating inner safety. If the Abuse is Ongoing: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/if-the-abuse-is-ongoing/
Safety Issues: Email: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/safety-issues-email/
Safety Issues: Cars: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/safety-issues-cars/
Safety Issues: Documentation: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/safety-issues-documentation/
Personal Safety – Your Home: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/personal-safety-your-home/

Not much of what I wrote five years ago is outdated, except that the Minnesota Police Department’s site isn’t nearly as useful. The information I offered in 2015 is still valid, but the coronavirus has changed our circumstances a lot. We can’t count on keeping our jobs, staying healthy, having decent medical insurance if we do get sick, or seeing our friends again any time soon. The outside world looks pretty shaky and unpredictable.

We can’t count on finding safety outside ourselves, not that we ever really could. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot thee days, and I feel that safety is created inside me. I look at the situation, assess it as best I can, and plot my course. Safety comes from trusting my own judgment. The “me” that is me is solid, smart, loyal, moral, kind. In a word, trustworthy.

 Basically, I think that all steps toward safety begin on the inside, no matter what the outside conditions. I come back to the time when I started to try and leave the cult and my family because I had few skills at that age, and I had not tested myself. I did not know whether I would crumble or forge ahead despite setbacks.

I had to be able to conceptualize safety and to imagine that some people lead a life where they are not hurt by others, either physically or emotionally. Then I had to make the jump to… “I deserve to live that way. I want to live that way. It may be possible for me to get to live that way.”

This presumes that I had some way of learning about the world outside of my family and abusers. If you have never heard of France, you cannot imagine learning to speak French or visiting France. It isn’t even a word in your vocabulary.

I did know people who treated me well. They snuck in under my abusers’ radar and gave me a glimpse of other possibilities. I had a nanny until I was four who I loved dearly. She was kind and did not change into an evil person. A couple of teachers at school liked me. When I learned to read, I was fascinated by other people’s lives, real or made-up. I remember many long hours daydreaming that, like Mogli, I was raised by a wolf pack. Unlike Mogli, I did not return to my own kind. 

The seed of safety and freedom had been planted, and nobody could take it away from me. I knew what I wanted; the only question was, can I get it? And how?

It’s tempting to believe that all the barriers to getting what you want are external. I couldn’t wait to be twenty-one when I would be legally free of my parents and could do what I wanted. I thought my ideal life would start when I stopped interacting with them. Looking back, being unrealistic about how easy it would be to lead a new, independent life was a huge gift. It gave me hope, and the hope kept me alive.

Back then, I didn’t know was that getting away is a process, not an event. There was no one moment when I was free. I tried to get out but was pulled back by threats, guilt-trips, or post-hypnotic suggestions. (I like to call programming post-hypnotic suggestion – it sounds much less formidable.) I did not know when I was finally free, any more than I knew that the last time I tried to stop smoking was truly the last, that it wasn’t going to be another failed attempt. 

In healthy families, parents prepare their children to live independently. They teach them how to do laundry, how to manage finances, how to make friends. They let them practice leaving home in age-appropriate ways. First, it is a play date, then a sleepover. If children can leave, knowing they will come back to safe, loving parents, they naturally pick up life skills. But I had no safety to return to, and my parents had little interest in teaching me how to get along without them. Why would they want to relinquish control over their children, when their whole lives were centered around power and control?

So when I did make the break, I had lots and lots of stuff to learn. I entered college not knowing how to do laundry, and my cooking consisted of Jello and instant coffee. I had not been allowed to work and, without my own money, I could not buy my own clothes. I was an awkward, badly dressed outsider with zero social skills. I did not get my first job until I was twenty.

But I had that dream, and I kept on learning the things my parents should have taught me years before. It wasn’t smooth sailing, but I learned a lot as I went along and, more important, I never gain up for very long.

I never made a complete break from my parents. We were very distant, which I think suited them as much as it suited me. They did not control me, and I gave them very little thought because I was just too busy with my shiny new life. It took their deaths to make the separation complete.

All those years devoted to creating safety and freedom and – do I dare say it? – happiness have made me trust myself to do it once again. Yes, I feel under house arrest. Yes, it gives me flashbacks at times. Yes, I have cabin fever to the max. And yes, I am scared to go out now. 

But I know, if I can escape a Satanic cult, I can handle this. t I am choosing to stay home and protect myself. I feel in control. I am not in control of the pandemic and the devastation it is causing, and I am not in control of my reactions to the situation, but I am in control of my behavior and my intent. 

And so, cooped up in my apartment, I am safe and free.

 ~~~~~~~~~~

Upcoming Holidays

July
7/4 Independence Day
7/4 Full moon
7/4-5 Penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase, visible in North and South America, and Africa. Most penumbral lunar eclipses cannot easily be distinguished from a usual full moon. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-july-5
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God

August
8/1 Lammas/Lughnasadh
8/3 Full moon
8/15 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8/24 St. Bartholomew’s Day

September
9/1 Full moon
9/5 – 9/7 Feast of the Beast/Marriage of the Beast
9/7 Labor Day (United States)
9/22 Fall Equinox
9/29 Michaelmas/Feast of Archangel Michael and of all Angels

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
7/30 Tisha B’Av (Day of Mourning)
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes.)

Fuzzy Flashbacks Caused by Staying at Home

* SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) offers virtual support groups for all survivors, male survivors, and family and friends of survivors. A listing of all meetings is at: https://www.snapnetwork.org/events

* And SNAP announced that it will be holding a free virtual conference, instead of an in-person event in Denver. The date will be September 25 – 27. Information is in the middle of their home page. https://www.snapnetwork.org/

* You can find more information on the following holidays at:
Summer Solstice (corrected text): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
August Ritual Dates: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween (personal): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/
Halloween (background): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/
Candlemas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: (personal): (for background, see Spring Equinox) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht
Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/

~~~~~

The summer solstice is right around the corner. It comes early this year, on June 19. Because our unconscious expects it to be on the 20th or 21st, it’s going to take everybody by surprise. It might be a good idea to put it in total caps on your calendar for a few days before its arrival. SOLSTICE ON JUNE 19!!!!

~~~~~

I’m getting some good mileage – insights and memories – from a kind of continual soft, fuzzy flashback that stays in the background. It took me three months to figure out what was going on! I’m going to describe my experience in case anybody can relate.

My idea of a flashback is the rapid emergence of some part of a past experience. It’s more a reliving of an event, rather than a remembering. It’s impossible to ignore, demanding my attention. My reaction is usually, “What the fuck is this?”

This kind of flashback lasts anywhere from seconds to months. When I first remembered, they were 24/7. Little by little, flashback-free moments appeared here and there. Now flashbacks are rare, but frequent enough to be a permanent part of my life.

The last entry is worth rereading. It categorizes flashbacks according to the B.A.S.K. model. The letters stand for: B (behavior) – A (affect, emotion) – S (sensory; sight, sound, smell, taste, heat/cold perception, pressure, pain) – K (cognition). The more of these elements are present, the more intense the flashback. Sensory flashbacks are easiest for me to recognize, while the others are often a little tricky.

Something in the present causes the past to re-appear; whatever sets it off is called the trigger. (I hate the word trigger because it “triggers” memories of violence for me. I prefer the word “reminder,” which is neutral.)

Identifying the reminder is useful because when you see that object, or hear that word, or find yourself in that situation, you will be prepared for a flashback. It’s not necessary to know what it was that set things off to work through the flashback, though.

Being confined to my home these days is an ever-present reminder of my childhood. I didn’t know this for many weeks, but I did know I was “off.” Old symptoms were coming back, and my world seemed very small. It finally occurred to me that, as a child, my world was extremely small indeed. First it was confined to two rooms of the apartment and to the park for an hour or two. When we moved, I could enter all the rooms of the apartment, I still went to the park, and then, after a year, there was school. School seemed vast in terms of both space and new experiences. I was overwhelmed and I loved it !

Now this, mind you, was in my every-day life, the only life I was allowed to know. There was another, hidden life, that belonged to the cult. In a sense, it was vaster, because there were always new abuses, always further cruelties. And my emotions were so strong I could hardly bear them. It certainly could not be called boring. I think that the contrast made my day life seem even more restricted, even though I couldn’t remember the cult life.

Today, as in my childhood, I am confined to my apartment and the garden, my tiny version of an urban park. All I see of the outside world are crows on the neighbors’ roofs and people jogging and walking their dogs. I’m forgetting what it is like to go into a grocery store, to window shop, to smell the ocean. I do remember what it feels like to be agoraphobic – terrified of leaving my little bubble of safety and perhaps end up in a cult gathering. In a sick sense, that’s a perk or being quarantined.

And yet the agoraphobia lingers because I’m afraid to go outside even to walk around the block. I’m told it’s safe if I wear a mask and stay away from people, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Most of the time, I believe I am content to stay home, but there is an underlying sense of longing for freedom.

So many others are feeling under house arrest that it seems like a normal reaction to being alone at home. So is it a flashback or not?

I think it’s both. If I look at the situation from one angle, I am having a totally normal reaction to my present-day situation. If I look at it from another angle, I am deep in feelings from when I was four or five or six.  And that is definitely, according to the B.A.S.K. model, a feelings flashback.

~~~~~

Upcoming Holidays

June
6/19 Summer solstice
6/21 Fathers’ Day
6/21 Annular solar eclipse. Visible from parts of Africa (including the Central African Republic, Congo, and Ethiopia), south of Pakistan, northern India, and China. A partial eclipse is visible in south/east Europe, much of Asia, the north of Australia, and much of Africa, Pacific, Indian Ocean. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-june-21
6/23 Midsummer’s Eve
6/24 St. John’s Day
July
7/4 Independence Day
7/4 Full moon
7/4-5 Penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase, visible in North and South America, and Africa. Most penumbral lunar eclipses cannot easily be distinguished from a usual full moon. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-july-5
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
August
8/1 Lammas/Lughnasadh
8/3 Full moon
8/15 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8/24 St. Bartholomew’s Day

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
7/30 Tisha B’Av (Day of Mourning)
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes.)

Flashbacks in the Time of Coronavirus

* You can find more information on the following holidays at:

Summer Solstice (corrected text): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
August Ritual Dates: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween (personal): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/
Halloween (background): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/
Candlemas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: (personal): (for background, see Spring Equinox) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht
Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/

* So nice to be able to think about something other than myself!

~~~~~

I was talking to a friend the other day and said that I see flashbacks as layered, one on top of another. The simile I used was that of nested Russian dolls. Each doll is larger than the previous one because it has to contain all the smaller dolls.

So it is with my flashbacks. When I was three, they did something awful to me. When I was four, they did something similar, and I had a flashback to what they had done the year before. Therefore, I had to deal with the terror of both the present and the past at the same time.

When a similar thing was done to me once again, my experience included the emotions from the two previous events as well as from whatever was going on in the present.

The layering of flashbacks explains why holidays are so very intense. Similar things were done on the same day year after year after year. It also explains why spring seems like a series of unhappy days, and no one day stands out as unbearable. Easter wanders around, and the flashbacks are spread out, not concentrated on one particular date.

With holidays, it’s easy to figure out what I am flashing back to. But with this virus, it takes work to make sense of my feelings. The things that are happening to me are not sharp or painful, and they do not seem to have Satanic (or pornographic) connotations. They are diffuse – they develop over time.

Take cabin fever, for example. The first couple of days I didn’t experience any cabin fever at all. Then one day, there was a twinge of resentment when I wanted to go out and didn’t. Now I have been pent up for so long (85 days) that I have regressed to being agoraphobic.

So let’s say staying at home all the time is the biggest Russian doll? What is inside her?

1. Helplessness
2. Fear of dying a horrible death
3. Not believing this is happening
4. No physical contact with other people
5. Not being able to choose the food I want
6. Fear I will forget how to breathe

The first three items are very general. The present-day emotion could be stirring up emotions from any number of different cult events. From just about all of them, as a matter of fact! The best I can do is say to myself, “Yes, I used to feel this way a lot as a kid. But this is very different. No adult is hurting me – it’s precautions that I am taking to stay safe from a virus. It’s not the same at all.” That is good enough, for sure.

The last three items bring up instant images from my childhood. My mother used to push me away, not wanting to touch me. When I had trouble eating something (because I was in flashback), I was left sitting at the table alone, staring at the food on my plate. I had been told that I could not leave until I ate it. I either finally managed to choke it down, or it was removed and given to me again at breakfast. The final one reminds me of lying in bed, wide awake, afraid to fall asleep for fear I would “forget” how to breathe. This fear did not occur before I was about eight, so that must have been a period when I was repeatedly being suffocated.

At times it feels like my experience of sheltering-in-place is buoyed by a sea of flashbacks. They come and go, like ripples on the surface of the water. Their number seems infinite, wide and deep as the ocean, and their variety also seems infinite. Just as it is impossible to see one molecule of water, I cannot grasp one flashback, isolate it, and examine it apart from all the others floating through my consciousness. I try, of course, despite the confusion.

In struggling to untangle past from present, it helps me to review the B.A.S.K. model of flashbacks, developed by Bennett Braun over twenty years ago. (Bennett BraunDissociation (1998) Vol.1, No.1, pp.4-23.) It’s just as useful today as it was then. You can read the whole article (and then browse every issue of Dissociation) at https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/handle/1794/1276.

Braun organizes flashbacks into four categories.

B stands for behavior. If you repeat something in the present that you did in the past, that’s a behavior flashback. Therapists often call this “acting out” because you are acting out a scene from the past.

An example might be walking into the kitchen and picking up a knife, not knowing why you are doing this. It’s a repetition of past behavior; during the time you were being abused, you may have picked up a knife and then dissociated. The knowledge of what came afterward is not available to you anymore. Another example is more complex and involves trying to “save” people over and over again because you tried and failed to protect other children in the cult.

A is for affect, the fancy word for emotions. Dissociated emotions can come back and reappear in the present. They are real emotions, and you are really feeling them. They just belong to something that happened in the past. Something in the present that evokes the same emotion has triggered the return of the past, dissociated emotions.

S is sensory. You can have flashbacks of memories recorded by any of your senses. Sight, sound, smell, touch, pressure, hot/cold, pain, and proprioception (the sense of where your body is in space.)

Finally, K stands for knowledge. That’s when you just know something, but don’t know how you know it. I open my mouth, and something comes out. I think, “Now, where did that come from?” I have no idea, but I just know it is true. It’s a little spooky, and it is hard to explain away as belonging to the present.

Even though I read that article twenty-two years ago, I still use the B.A.S.K. model to sort out my thoughts when I am in flashback. I hope it may help you, too.

~~~~~~~~~~

Upcoming Holidays

May
5/31 Pentecost

June
6/5 Full moon
6/5-6 Penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase, visible in Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa. Most penumbral lunar eclipses cannot be easily distinguished from a usual full moon. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-june-5
6/19 Summer solstice
6/21 Fathers’ Day
6/21 Annular solar eclipse. Visible from parts of Africa (including the Central African Republic, Congo, and Ethiopia), south of Pakistan, northern India, and China. Partial eclipse is visible in south/east Europe, much of Asia, the north of Australia, and much of Africa, Pacific, Indian Ocean. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-june-21
6/23 Midsummer’s Eve
6/24 St. John’s Day

July
7/4 Independence Day
7/4 Full moon
7/4-5 Penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase, visible in North and South America, and Africa. Most penumbral lunar eclipses cannot be easily distinguished from a usual full moon. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-july-5
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God

August
8/1 Lammas/Lughnasadh
8/3 Full moon
8/15 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8/24 St. Bartholomew’s Day

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
6/6 D-Day: invasion of France in WW2
7/30 Tisha B’Av (Day of Mourning)
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes.)