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!

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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.)

Suppressing One Emotion Suppresses All

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

* Additional information on Yule/Winter Solstice is available at:
https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/

~~~~~

We survivors of ritual abuse have every reason to be afraid of a lot of things, because a lot of things were used to abuse us. A lot of situations, too. Just about everything they could think of was used in a perverted way. So of course we are afraid!

But if you live your adult life being afraid, you cannot do much of anything because you are paralyzed with fear. You might be afraid of eating, or showering, or even getting out of bed each day. Let alone going grocery shopping, or having friends, or having a job, or raising kids, or …just about everything.

So the sensible thing to do is to suppress the fear and to pretend you aren’t afraid. Stiff upper lip, head high, looking as confident as everybody else. And feeling confident! “I’m not afraid – of course I can do it. Easy peasey.” Perhaps it’s not so hard to suppress fear; perhaps you have practiced it since you were a child and it’s now second nature. Perhaps all the terrified parts are hiding way down inside you, alone and voiceless as always.

Yes, you get through life looking like you are doing well. But you feel numb, sort of robotic. And why is this?

Because if you are good at one way of handling your emotions, the mind applies that technique to all emotions. You aren’t afraid, you aren’t anxious, but you are also not happy or playful or joyful. Life feels flat, dull, empty.

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I follow a life coach, Katherine North, who shares her organizational techniques and gives tips for overcoming adversities, large and small alike. By nature, she is pretty scattered, so she has test-driven these techniques. In sharing, she is vulnerable and real. And she writes like a bandit – her words are bursting with life.

I would like to share excerpts of her weekly letter to her followers because she wrote about losing and regaining the capacity to experience joy.

If you want to sign up for Katherine’s newsletter or read a few of her blog posts, go to https://www.declaredominion.com/

~~~~~

I said to my husband Nick, “Babe. I feel like there’s a twinkle light in my heart that isn’t turned on.”

He laughed at me for about ten minutes, and when he recovered, he asked me why.

I didn’t have a good answer. We were doing all the holiday things; the tree was up; the presents purchased; stockings hung. But something in me wasn’t feeling the same glowy cozy feelings I usually feel this time of year.

And I wanted to feel them! Oh, I wanted them BAD.

So I rustled around inside myself for a while, looking for the answer. It was a lot like rustling around a big handbag belonging to a mom with many children: I pulled out some hopes and fears, some diapers and candy canes, the odd sock and a squished granola bar. And as I pulled out all these pieces of my heart and examined them, I realized something.

In order for me to feel the fuzzy cozy glowy feelings I want, first I have to feel utter heartbreak.

Well that was not good news. Not good news at all.

No, I don’t want heartbreak, I want candlelight and mistletoe and solstice rituals and lighting the Hanukkah candles!

But in order to have those things, first I was going to have to let my heart crack.

You see, I could feel that I had installed a little plastic membrane around my heart to hold it together.

This is a necessary move sometimes, because the world is so hard and terrible that in order to walk around and feed our kids and remember to put pants on, we have to instruct our heart that it simply cannot break – not just this second, not for at least ten minutes. But I had put on that protective membrane for an hour… and then forgotten to take it off.

And so there was a barrier between me and my feelings.

That brittle membrane that made me feel like I could keep my shit together was also keeping out the joy.

There was the joy, right there, twinkling all around my little grinchy heart, but it couldn’t trickle all the way down into the insides.

Sigh.

Reader, I did what I had to do.

I watched” Little Women” is what I did. The Susan Sarandon one, with my oldest daughter, and we both cried so hard we shook the couch.

And don’t you know, all those tears melted away that hard membrane?

. . . . Go ahead. Let the world break your heart. Let the flames of fury roar out your ears. Those intense feelings don’t make you weak, they make you awake. Let yourself cry, let yourself rage, go ahead and feel the suffering, but let it move through you and come out of you as some sort of helpful action.

The things I can do are small. But the doing of them heals me.

We can take food to our local food bank, give money to organizations that effectively do the work in the world we wish we could do ourselves, or invite over a lonely neighbor. We can buy gifts and books from truth-telling artists and support other makers. We can call our elected officials. We can tell our truth and listen to others’ truths.

Small actions, yes. Ridiculously small. But a million small actions add up.

So add yours to those millions.

Don’t be afraid to let your heart go ahead and break. Your heartbreak will show you where your energy wants to flow. It’s showing you the places where you can be useful, where your heart can meet up with the world’s need.

Remember that small is powerful. Remember that one person can make a huge difference, at least to one other person. Remember that together our small actions make us a mighty force to be reckoned with.

My little twinkle light is back on, dearheart. It might be tiny, and so might yours, but when we add all ours together, they shine like motherfuckers.

~~~~~

After thirty years, I can slip into work mode and get things done, whether it is dishes or doctor’s appointments, or writing a blog post. But when somebody tells me their story, tears still fill my eyes. It is this deep sadness at the senseless cruelty of ritual abuse that keeps me listening and writing and gives meaning to my life. And, as Katherine said, the tears release the ability to be melted by the beauty of the first ray of sunshine each day. the small kindnesses of strangers, the soft fur of my cat. Hundreds of others things, too.

It is a circle: sorrow releases gratitude for the goodness that exists next to the evil, and the gratitude and joy soothe the sadness.

~~~~~

Upcoming Holidays

December
12/15, 12/22 remaining 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 will be visible in Saudi Arabia, southern India, Sri Lanka, parts of Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of the Philippines.
12/31 New Year’s Eve
January
1/1 New Year’s Day
1/7 St Winebald’s Day
1/10 Full moon
1/10-11 Penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase, visible in 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-january-10
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
1/20 St. Agnes’ Eve
February
2/2 Candlemas/Imbolc/Satanic Revels
2/8 Full moon
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/25 Shrove Tuesday/ Mardi Gras
2/25 Walpurgis Day
2/26 Ash Wednesday

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
12/22 – 12/30 Chanukah
1/12 N Birth of both Rosenburg and Goering, Nazi leaders in WW2
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
2/10 Tu Bishvat/Tu B’Shevat (celebration of spring)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes)