If the Abuse is Ongoing

There is a blog entry on Labor Day at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/labor-day/

I haven’t ever blogged about this, at least that I can remember. The closest I have come is writing about how to handle harassing phone calls, which, after all, are cues to show up for more abuse.

I wonder why. I think it is because it breaks my heart that some of us think we have escaped, but haven’t. When a friend has unexplained bruises or little burns in strange places, I get really upset. Or when they start remembering recent abuse, perhaps after a long stretch of safety.

I’d like to believe that each and every one of us has broken with our perpetrators, worked through all the cues and programming, and disarmed all the triggers once and for all. That would mean we never could be hurt in this way again, we never could be abducted and reprogrammed. Unfortunately, this is only a lovely daydream.

If you think about studies on domestic violence, you will recall that the abused person often returns to the abuser, perhaps because they are too afraid not to, perhaps because they hope against hope that this time it will be different. The abuser may turn regretful and apologetic and things may be better for a short period of time. But the abuse inevitably returns, and often is more violent. The sweet talk is the carrot, the stick is the threat of dire consequences for disobedience. It’s the same with cults. Empty promises of power and status, more abuse.

There is another dynamic going on with cults. The parts who have been tortured into staying with the perpetrators are young and easily bullied. They also long for connection at any cost, believing that being hurt is the only way to stay attached to somebody, believing that is all they are good for. It is really hard to convince them that they deserve better and that they can live in freedom and safety. Unless they are 1000% convinced, that little kernel of doubt can be used as the entry point for bringing them back to be used and abused as before. (It’s these young parts who believe they must  report to their abusers and tell where they are, whether they moved, what they say in therapy or to their friends.)

Another problem is the existence, in some people, of more than one group or layer of alters. They may be identical to the presenting group, created as a back-up, or they may be organized in a very different manner. The presenting group usually is unaware of the other group(s). And so it is possible, even if all the parts in the presenting group have worked through all their programming and triggers, for there to be other parts who are still susceptible. Extremely discouraging!

Sometimes moving ends the abuse and harassment, sometimes it doesn’t. Many cults network with cults in other locations. In this way, if they want to harass a survivor, they don’t have to pick up and go to the place the person has moved to. They can call and ask for a favor or pay for the local cult to do the harassing. As long as there are active reporting alters, safety is an illusion.

On the other hand, they might leave the survivor alone for a period of time, counting on being able to call them back when they are needed. That period can be positively used to work with the reporting alters and to dismantle call-back triggers.

Please don’t take what I have written to mean that the situation is hopeless. It isn’t. Leaving a cult is very difficult, but it has been done by thousands and thousands of people, and you can do it, too. You have to be brave and face what is preventing you from escaping and you have to figure out what to do about it. And you have to remember that life outside the cult is infinitely better than what you have known. The world is wider than what you were taught, and it contains things you have never experienced,or only experienced for a short while. Things like love, compassion, respect for yourself and others, freedom from terror, beauty, – you an add your own dreams to this list.

Giving you a place to start this leg of the journey, here are two excellent articles on endritualabuse.org.

“Seeing and Breaking the Chains: Steps for Recognizing On-Going Abuse and How to Break FREE” by Arauna Morgan at http://endritualabuse.org/healing/breaking-the-chains/

“Ritual Abuse and Torture-based Mind Control: Reducing and Preventing Re-contact with Abusers” by Ellen Lacter http://endritualabuse.org/healing/ritual-abuse-and-torture-based-mind-control-reducing-and-preventing-re-contact-with-abusers/

Go for it!

Call-Backs

I used to think that call-backs were some mysterious, irresistible phenomena that I would never be able to understand. Something totally out of ordinary experience, something I had never experienced and was totally unprepared to deal with when I finally would experience it. It frightened me no end.

Looking way back to before I understood I had a cult background, I realized that the conscious experience of a call-back, for me, was simply a strong desire to return home, to establish a closer relationship to my family. (Unconsciously, of course, there were all sorts of intertwined meanings and messages, such as threats of what would happen if I didn’t obey.) It was pretty illogical, because I didn’t like my family very much and I knew I did far better when I didn’t have contact with them, even phone contact.

Some times I resisted the urge, sometimes I didn’t. I resisted more often when my life was full and I had lots of other commitments. Practically speaking, other commitments were a good excuse. But having a full, rich life also meant that I had many other ties that were, in their totality, stronger than the tie to my parents. That makes total sense to me.

Two of the most reliable call-back times were Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nothing odd about that. In a Norman Rockwell world, everybody went back home then and three or four generations sat around the table in harmony and feasted on turkey, or ham, or roast beef, and all the fixings. I felt different from other people because I chose to spend these holidays with my new family, forming new traditions. Those traditions did not include criticizing people’s table manners or grammar and putting people down until adults and children alike were reduced to tears. And they did not include anything far darker.

I had the most peculiar reaction to my thirty-third birthday. I was desolate, filled with guilt, because Jesus died when he was thirty-three. He had changed the world by that age and I had accomplished absolutely nothing. I was filled with a strong, strange, almost magical restlessness. I didn’t understand or know what to do to resolve these feelings, but as the months passed they faded. I expected other birthdays to be similar, but they weren’t. Only twenty years later did it occur to me that this must have been a call-back age.

The strongest call-back of all was when my father was dying. I flew down every weekend to be with him. His immanent death filled me with dread, as if the whole world would be snuffed out when he drew his last breath. I was a total wreck.

I was in even worse shape after he called me to his bedside and showed me a living will asking that no extraordinary measures to be taken to keep him alive. He said I was the only one he trusted to implement the living will but that he wanted me to know that, if I did follow his wishes, I was legally committing murder. Talk about a double bind! He was giving me the choice of killing him, as he wished, or torturing and disrespecting him in his final days. Luckily he died naturally shortly thereafter. Was this a set-up to take over his leadership position? That would certainly explain my deep sense of impending doom.

These examples are pretty typical of some of the types of call-backs people experience. Holidays, certain ages or dates with numerical significance, family birthdays or deaths. Other more idiosyncratic things may also be triggers for a call-back. One friend of mine found that becoming suicidal was the impetus to return to the cult. The hidden message was, “Since ‘normal’ life holds nothing for you, come back to us.”

Why the necessity for call-backs, anyway? If a person never left the cult, they wouldn’t have to be called back. Perhaps cult parents see the wisdom of allowing adolescents a long leash so they can go sow their wild oats and get it out of their system before returning to the fold. Perhaps it is a function of mobility in modern society. Perhaps there is value in having a network of “sleepers;” inactive members who can be mobilized if needed. And then there is the threat to the cult represented by healing, with the conscious or unconscious choice to repudiate cult values and activities and increased awareness of crime committed.

In talking about call-backs, I’ve simplified things a good deal. I haven’t taken multiplicity into account and examined the different reactions of different alters. Nor have I mentioned losing time, which can complicate things immensely. How do you know you have been subjected to a call-back if you are not co-conscious with the alter who got the message and you don’t even know you have lost time?

I’ve also not discussed accessing suffered by government/military mind control survivors. Here it may be not only a matter of call-backs but also the on-going imparting of assignments and fine-tuning of programming. And, with more complicated programming and layered systems, it is more difficult to identify triggers, defuse the programming that results in compliance, and keep oneself free from being assaulted, drugged, or abducted.

I still believe there is nothing magical about a call-back. I believe it is simply a post-hypnotic suggestion or a command to return at a certain time or to perform a certain action, coupled with forceful threats. Like anybody who has unsuccessfully tried hypnosis to stop smoking or lose weight can tell you, post-hypnotic suggestions don’t have to be followed. And the more we work to keep ourselves safe and protected, the less hold the threats will have on us.

Leaving

I know a family with five kids who all went to college. Each kid crashed during freshman year in one way or another and had to come home to the fold. After a year or so they gathered their strength, entered a different college, and did all right. But none of them could leave home the first time around.

I think it’s like that with leaving a cult. Most of us probably tried to leave many times and could not manage it. Leaving was a process, rather than an event.

The biggest barrier to leaving, of course, was the power our abusers had over us, the threats they made, and the fear they instilled in us. They had a great deal of physical and psychological power and they let us know it at every turn. Some of their victims died trying to escape, others were broken and remained entangled against their will.

But there were barriers inside ourselves, too. At least there were for me.

  • I did not believe I could support myself. My parents had kept me dependent, and by my twenties, I had no experience working – no summer jobs, not even babysitting. I was totally dependent on them.
  • I was shy and had very few social skills. I didn’t even know how to ask for information. Of course I could have asked people how they got their jobs, but it never occurred to me because I had no model of asking for help. I had no idea how to rent a room or ask for references.
  • I didn’t know how to “be” in the non-cult world. I didn’t know the rules, although I did know they were different from the ones I had learned.
  • Then there was trauma bonding. My folks could be nice occasionally, and the combination of negative and positive attachment is very hard to break. In a weird way, I was fond of them, or parts of them, even as I hated them.
  • I find this hard to admit, but in the cult setting, adrenaline made me feel really alive. It can be addictive, like speed or coke. In the non-cult world, without the adrenaline rushes, I felt flat and numb.
  •  This factor is equally hard to talk about, even today. I was pretty good at some of the things they taught me and performing these activities brought me a certain satisfaction. I performed them with ease and grace, and I knew it. It brought me the approval I didn’t get in the outside life.
  • I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I was able to some extent to protect other children (especially my brother) and spare them some of the worst experiences. Leaving them filled me with grief and guilt.

Not everybody has these particular inner barriers to making the break, and many survivors have obstacles that I don’t. But we can relate to each other because we all have all have had some things that held us back from escaping.

Knowing how wimpy I feel, I think it is a miracle that I was able to get out. I think it’s a miracle any of us got out! We need to remember that, and to remember that we were and are extraordinarily strong and ingenious people.

From Survivorship Notes, Vol. 10, No 1/2