Fight, Flee, Freeze… and Tenderness

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

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/
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, Beltane

Well, tonight is Walpurgisnacht, or as we called it, May Eve. For us (my cult folk), holidays always started at midnight and, while we were waiting around with nothing to do, we often celebrated the eve of the holiday, starting whenever we felt like it. Some eves, like Christmas Eve, had prescribed rituals. They were more formal but not necessarily more brutal.

I’m anticipating having minimum reactions to these days and the coming weekend, partly because that’s how I have reacted to cult holidays for a good year now, partly because the depression numbs things out, even flashbacks. A good use for a depression! Fancy that.

~~~~~~~~

I remember, years ago, coming across a book about how people react to life-threatening emergencies. It focused on car crashes, but everything obviously applied to trauma, to child abuse. I learned a lot about fight, flight, and freeze and the physiological manifestations of each state. It also talked about how animals deal with the aftermath of each reaction. Fascinating!

Darn! I wish I could remember the name of the author.

Anyway, last week, a friend of mine who is a life coach wrote an article about these reactions to serious danger. Her style is very different from mine, much more exuberant. (There’s nothing wrong with my style, it’s just different.) Although I have written about this before, I thought I would share some of what she wrote.

I had to edit it down to only a third of her piece because of Internet technicalities. Lots of the good stuff got left out, but you can still get a sense of what she was saying.

If you want to read the whole thing – and I recommend you do so because there is much more, and it is both useful and hilarious – go to https://www.declaredominion.com/2019/02/01/this-will-help-with-adulting/. It’s one of Katherine North’s weekly letters to anybody who is interested. All you have to do is sign up!

~~~~~~

This Will Help with Adulting

When it feels like life is pummeling us, whether it’s body blows or just a dozen tiny paper cuts, most of us have a very natural human response.

We fight, we flee, or we freeze.

This isn’t always a bad thing.

In a bona fide emergency, your healthy “fight” response kicks in. This is what adrenaline is MADE for– so that you can move fast, you can mobilize, you can set up emergency hospital tents and run from tigers.

Adrenaline is wonderfully helpful in those situations. However, it’s designed to be the exception, not the rule.

Unfortunately, most people right now are on a steady drip of adrenaline.

When you’re living that way, it feels sort of like an ongoing low-level panic attack. It goes like “oh god, what about the – and I almost forgot that we have to – and shit what we will do if -” and so our brain revs and revs, sending little hits of panicky energy into our system but without any accompanying action to make things happen. It’s hard on our bodies to rev like this, and it’s hard on our spirits, too.

Another way some of us react to stress is to just freeze up. While this might be an adaptive response to a poisonous snake slithering through the grass, for most of us it’s LESS than helpful. Sometimes we can end up in a state of perpetual paralysis, where we’re so afraid of doing the WRONG thing that we do….well not much at all, really.

Sometimes we try to protect ourselves from the scariness of adult life not by fighting or freezing, but by attempting to flee. Usually, flight becomes a form of mental escape– scrolling numbly through social media or zoning out to a TV show whose characters you don’t give a fig about.

So whatever is going on, please do NOT do that thing where you’re feeling rolling, wild, nauseating waves of anxiety or paralysis or fear– and also yelling at yourself the whole time.

“Stop it, make a decision, do something, stop being such a wimp, lots of people have it worse than you do….” THAT. Don’t do that.

Because here’s the thing. You would never speak to somebody else like that when they are trapped in a wave of everything-is-too-muchness. I know you wouldn’t.

But you do it to yourself. We all do it because we’re trying to hold ourselves together, with brittleness and a positive attitude GODDAMIT.

Most of us worry that we’ll just end up huddled on the floor in a pool of snot and wailing.

So in this strange way, the mean things you say inside your head to yourself are a misguided-but-sweet attempt to take care of you.

You know what does work?

Tenderness.

It helps more than anything to try speaking to yourself the way you’d speak to a small scared child, because there’s almost certainly one living somewhere inside you.

“Oh sweetheart. This is so much, right now. You’re so scared, huh? It’s ok, kiddo, I’m here. I’ve got you. You’re all right, come let me hold you. You’re safe, little love.”

Tenderness just collapses the brittle revving cycle of adrenaline. It melts the fear. It dissolves the paralysis.

I do not know why this is.

Isn’t life an odd mystery?

~~~~~~~~

Upcoming Holidays

April
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve
May
5/1 Beltane
5/7 Full moon
5/10 Mothers’ Day
5/12 Armed Forces Day
5/25 Memorial Day
5/31 Pentacost
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

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
5/8 V-E Day (Victory in Europe, WW2)
6/6 D-Day: invasion of France in WW2
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes.)

More on Asking for Help

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

* Additional information on the following holidays is available at:
Halloween: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/ 
Halloween: (personal): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2018/10/20/halloween-2018/


~~~~~

I’ve been brooding about the issue of asking for help since I wrote the last post, so I decided to continue writing about my feelings about help in general.

A friend pointed out that this seems to be a topic that usually is mentioned only in passing; she had never heard of a whole workshop or book about difficulties in asking for help. Instead, it’s, “Oh, by the way, asking for help is hard for some people.”

Strange, because I know an awful lot of people who just suck it up and do without. In the US, at least, it seems to be a matter of pride to be self-sufficient and to never even think about relying on somebody else. We often act insulted if we are offered help, even when it is obvious we could use a hand.

I know the issue is a biggie for me because I don’t usually brood about such things. But it was on my mind so much that I started brooding about why I was brooding about it. Not helpful.

I wondered if the adults in the cult had messed with the word “help” itself and made it mean something else entirely. I remember how they ruined the word “safe” for me. They told me that I was so evil that I would kill all the animals that were being saved for sacrifice and might kill some people, too. So they locked me in a large steel box, which they called a safe, to keep the people and animals safe, and they only let me out when the ritual was over. So “safe” means, deep down, that I am a danger to others, not that I am safe from danger. 

I asked inside and didn’t come up with anything specific. It was simply the number of times I was refused help, given help in a form I objected to, was ignored, or was punished for asking for what I needed or wanted. Wanting help became shameful, and the desire to receive help became something to be carefully hidden.

Pretending that help isn’t necessary, or isn’t welcome, is a reflex by now. Another way of saying that is that denial is my preferred defense against feeling helpless. At least now I know it! Now I can take a moment to reflect – would it be better for me to receive help or do it myself? 

The shame has lessened, thank goodness. So has the fear, to an extent. I have learned that if a doctor tries to shame or bully me into doing something, there is no need to be afraid of changing doctors. I couldn’t change parents as a kid – although I spent a great deal of time daydreaming of living in another family – but I am in control now and have every right to refuse to be treated that way.

There is plenty of stigma attached to being old or being disabled in any way. When I am in a wheelchair at the airport, people talk to the attendant and ignore me. Do they think that just because I cannot walk to the gate, I cannot think or cannot talk? Why not assume I can, and treat me like everybody else in that respect? Stigma has nothing to do with having had a cult background. Everybody who has a disability or is a “senior citizen” is treated with condescension.

Yet I still, deep down, think I am being treated that way because I did something wrong. In the cult, I was told that it was my fault and that I deserved what I got. I was told the same thing at home, too, over and over again. Such words sear the soul.

Today I went to the pool at the Jewish Community Center, where I have a membership. The administration is kind enough to give two free vouchers a month for a cab ride to or from the JCC. I used mine today. Here’s what I thought as I was riding home:

“I don’t deserve these vouchers. There are others who need them more than I do.”

“I must have exaggerated my disability to get them.”

“It’s my fault I qualify for them. It’s my fault that I am disabled.”

I felt sad and agitated. Then I got mad! “It’s not my fault I can’t drive!!! I didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing I could have done to prevent macular degeneration. It’s not my fault at all.” It felt good to get mad – it felt like righteous anger. The emotion blasted through me and left me calm again. I was finally reacting from present-day reality. The feeling-flashback had passed.

Age-related macular degeneration, by the way, is the loss of photosensitive cells in the middle of the macula, which is the part of the eye directly behind the lens. It cannot be reversed, but it can be slowed down by wearing sunglasses and taking special vitamins, which I have been doing faithfully for about ten years. It was this condition that made me stop driving. 

There are two kinds: wet and dry. The dry kind, which I have, progresses slowly. The wet kind, in addition to the loss of photosensitive cells, is characterized by the abnormal growth of blood cells, which can rupture and instantaneously wipe out a large number of cells. Once it is diagnosed, it can be treated by monthly injections right into the eye. About a third of people 85 and older have the dry type, and another eight percent have the wet type. (I’m 82 now.) So, my friends, wear good sunglasses every time you go outdoors, and while you are at it, wear sunscreen and a hat. End of lecture!

Back to asking for help – it would be wonderful if it were possible to spend a month say, working on this issue, and be done with it once and for all. It’s not that way, at least not for me. I know that asking for help will always be difficult and that facet after facet of the problem will present itself for examination. But I also know that I will deal with whatever comes up and that I, and the people around me, will find that living with my limitations will become easier and easier. 

~~~~~

Upcoming Holidays

October
10/13 Full moon
10/13 Backward Halloween
10/14 (?) Columbus Day
10/31 Halloween/start of the Celtic New Year/start of the dark half of the year
November
11/1 All Saints’ Day
11/2 All Souls’ Day
11/11 (?) Veterans’ Day
11/12 Full moon
11/28 US Thanksgiving
December
12/1, 12/8, 12/15, 12/22 Sundays of Advent
12/11 Full moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/26 Annular solar eclipse. Totality visible in Saudi Arabia, southern India, Sri Lanka, parts of Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of the Philippines.
12/31 New Year’s Eve

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
9/29 – 10/1 Rosh Hashanah (New Year, Day of Judgement)
10/8 – 10/9 Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
10/16 Death of Rosenburg
10/13 – 10/20 Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, harvest festival)
10/19 Death of Goering
10/20 Hitler’s actual half-birthday
10/21 Hitler’s alternative half-birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday and half-birthday on 4/20 and 10/20. His alternate birthday is celebrated on Easter of the current year and his alternate half-birthday six months later.)
10/21 – 10/22 Simchat Torah (celebration of the complete annual cycle of reading of the Torah)
11/9 Kristallnacht State-ordered pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria)
12/22 – 12/30 Chanukah
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)

“My Love Is Poison”


* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

* Note: Additional information on the following holidays is available at:
Labor Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/labor-day/
Fall Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/ 
Halloween: (personal): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2018/10/20/halloween-2018/

~~~~~

A psychologist, describing one of his clients, once said to me, “He believes his love is poison.” That resonated with me; it described my feelings about myself to a T. I finally had words for what I felt about myself, although I had no explanation of why I should feel that way. I felt that one way or another, I harmed everybody and anything I loved.

That was forty years ago, and my self-perception is just now beginning to change despite my valiantly challenging that negative core belief over and over again. Nobody can tell me that change is always quickly and easily achieved.

It helped a lot when I figured out that I had been born into a cult and that they taught me that I was evil through and through. I was evil when I obeyed their commands, and I was even more evil when I tried to get around them. I believed them at the time, and apparently, I was going to believe them until the end of time.

Five years after I figured why I felt that way, I still, deep down, believed I was rotten to the core. I started, among close survivor friends, to refer to myself as a poisonous toad. I daydreamed of making a sculpture of a toad. It would be fashioned out of fine-mesh fencing and filled with dirt. It would be realistic, toad-like, covered with large warts. The whole thing would be about five feet around and three feet tall, and it would go squat in my garden. Over the years, we would see what filth grew on it.

Inside, in the middle of all the dirt, there would be a tiny baby doll, naked and asleep.

My friends started giving me toads. A green one that sang “Jingle Bells” in a ribbety voice. A small brown wooden one covered with warts and looking very fierce. They didn’t seem the least bit scared of me – not my friends, not the toads.

I finally grew bored of struggling with this warty self-image and turned my attention to the business of every-day life.

And now, about fifteen years later, the issue has resurfaced. Rather than trying to battle my distorted self-image using internal resources, the challenge is coming from the outside in the form of other people’s feedback. That’s called a reality check!

It started with me asking my therapist if she had a constant image of me over the time we had worked together. I wanted to know because I don’t feel like a classic multiple with separate alters, but I also don’t really know who I am. For practical purposes, I operate from what I hope is a constant set of values, but, when I look inside for the “real me,” I find that I believe I am a random set of molecules that other people are hallucinating (interpreting?) as Jean. I know this sounds pretty weird, but it makes sense to me.

My therapist convinced me that she sees me as a kind, intelligent, moral person with a practical streak. I became aware that the feedback I get from friends matches her description of me. We discussed this, and also reviewed things I have done over the years just because they were the right thing to do. There was nothing toadish to be seen.

There were mistakes in judgment, mistakes because of lack of information, mistakes because I was dissociated a lot of the time. If everything had been perfect, I would have concluded that it was a facade designed to cover up something very different. But my intent was steadfast – I never hurt anybody on purpose, and my actions came from a desire to be kind and helpful.

The final piece of confirmation happened when I was cleaning up my office. I came across cards and letters I had saved from clients, fellow survivors, and people I had worked with over the years. The people who wrote those thank you’s had the same image of me as my therapist and current friends. There was a me that had remained constant for decades!

That little baby inside the toad had been protected during the cult years and had grown up to be me. I wasn’t really encased in a vile toad – I was having a memory of the times when I believed the lie they told me. I am not evil, my love is not poison. They tried to make me evil, but they failed big time!

~~~~~

Upcoming Holidays

September
9/2 Labor Day (US)
9/5 – 9/7 Feast of the Beast/Marriage of the Beast
9/13 Full moon
9/13 Friday the 13th
9/23 Fall equinox
October
10/13 Full moon
10/13 Backward Halloween
10/14 (?) Columbus Day
10/31 Halloween/start of Celtic New Year/start of the dark half of the year
November
11/1 All Saints’ Day
11/2 All Souls’ Day
11/11 (?) Veterans’ Day
11/12 Full moon
11/28 US Thanksgiving

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
9/1 Start of WW2
9/29 – 10/1 Rosh Hashanah (New Year, Day of Judgement)
10/8 – 10/9 Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
10/16 Death of Rosenburg
10/13 – 10/20 Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, harvest festival)
10/19 Death of Goering
10/20 Hitler’s actual half-birthday
10/21 Hitler’s alternative half-birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday and half-birthday on 4/20 and 10/20. His alternate birthday is celebrated on Easter of the current year and his alternate half-birthday six months later.)
10/21 – 10/22 Simchat Torah (celebration of the annual complete cycle of reading of the Torah)
11/9 Kristallnacht State-ordered pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)