Phases of Healing from Ritual Abuse

I’m sorry this is late. WordPress and I are not getting along very well these days.

For ten years, it allowed me to space things the way I wanted. If it didn’t look right, I could switch to html, see what had gone wrong, and fix it. I guess they decided that was too complicated, so they simplified it. I have fewer choices, and I cannot do what I want to do. Technically, I can continue using the old system but it’s hidden deep down among all the things I don’t want to do. Figuring it out drives me bats.

Yesterday and the day before, I gave up after about three hours. I am hoping today is my lucky day. If not, I will waste only more three more hours and try again tomorrow.

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The phases I am about to describe aren’t from the literature; they are from my own experience. The literature generally starts with Phase 1: Stabilization. Well, it’s been thirty years, and I don’t feel reliably stable some days. So I am just going to let you know what I have observed about my own process.

Phase 1 was pre-memory. It lasted way too long for my taste because I was just spinning my wheels. I knew there was something wrong with me, and I knew I wanted to find out what it was and fix it. So I guessed and guessed and guessed as to what that might be. Never even came close! I read every book Freud wrote and then branched out to other psychiatry and psychology books. Nothing resonated. I went into therapy, but my therapists were not “trauma-informed.” Nobody was in those days, so I cannot fault them for not being able to properly diagnose me.

Back then, it was the general consensus that parent-child incest occurred in only one in a million families. In 1955, the year I graduated from high school, the population of America was 171, 685,337. (https://www.populationpyramid.net) That means that people believed that 171 American families were incestuous. (Of course, there would be considerably more if marriages between first or second cousins were counted.) Little wonder that it never crossed my mind. 

Phase 2 was the emergence of memories and frequent, long-lasting flashbacks. This was the hardest time for me because it was all so new and intense. I had no framework for my experiences, and nothing seemed to make sense. I was afraid that I would become psychotic and that my heart would stop from the terror I felt.

Technically, I was psychotic. I thought my cats could read my mind and were in contact with their relatives, who I had been tricked into killing when I was four. I also believed that if my clock radio was quiet, “they” could send thoughts into my mind, so I kept it on all night. However, I knew these things weren’t true. I never took antipsychotic medication and never was hospitalized. Looking back, I interpret these thoughts as memories of the lies they told me. 

When I say that the flashbacks were long-lasting, one body memory lasted for three whole months. It seemed just as intense the whole time. Dealing with all this while working full time was exhausting. Luckily I could sleep at night, and my sleep was relatively undisturbed.

I was also was lucky to have, for the first time, a therapist who knew not only what incest was, but what ritual abuse was. He was smart and loving and had support from a study group of therapists dealing with similar clients. He was a rock for me in those confusing times.

I do not know how I would have fared had I had a therapist who still believed that incest was rare and that ritual abuse did not exist. I think I would have believed them because, after all, they were the authority, and I would have been relieved that nothing like that happened in my family. However, what would I have done with the flashbacks? Perhaps I would have pushed my memories back down into my unconscious, stopping the flashbacks. Or perhaps I would have believed I was truly psychotic, been referred to a psychiatrist who did not believe ritual abuse existed, and been heavily medicated. 

Phase 3 was the consolidation phase. Flashbacks occurred much less often, and I had a chance to catch my breath and focus on learning how to live with my new-discovered past. I read voraciously and spent a great deal of time in the presence of other survivors. It was a true identity crisis, and I looked to the “coming out” process as a guide. I was not the person I had thought I was and I did not know how to behave like the person I now knew I was. 

My past explained so many of my present problems! I suddenly believed in cause and effect, whereas in the past, since I couldn’t see the connection, I had always been confused, at best. It was such a relief to have a reason for my troubles, even though it was a horrible reason. 

And now came the hard job of minimizing the effects of my past on my present life and opening up possibilities that had always been denied to me. I did not have to be a robot, following the teaching and commands of the cult. I could learn to be free, to consider my options, and to make a choice based on my own needs, ethics, and desires, not somebody else’s. This was all foreign territory to me. Luckily, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Understand that my experience didn’t follow these steps exactly. There are days even now when I slip back into Phase 2 or when my denial would take me back into Phase 1 if it could. Unfortunately, even if I convinced myself that I made it all up, I couldn’t forget what I had “made up.” My old identity doesn’t fit anymore.

And each time I open a new area, I start from the very beginning. There was a time when I remembered the ritual abuse but not the mind control or the child pornography. It was not as terrifying as the first time I had flashbacks because I knew what they were and knew how to handle them. I had a road map of the process and faith that I was strong enough to live through whatever was in store for me. I also had support from knowledgeable therapists and other survivors. The confusion and fear were less, and the self-confidence was greater.

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to what I have written. These phases are simple – the before, the beginning, and the middle. I doubt there will be an end, a time when I say, “That’s it. I have done everything and there is no more work to do. Now I will take up guppy breeding.” 

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UPCOMING HOLIDAYS

March
 3/21 Spring Equinox
 3/24 Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan
 3/28 Full Moon
 3/28 Palm Sunday

April
4/1 April Fool’s Day
4/1 Maundy Thursday (commemoration of the Last Supper)
4/2 Good Friday
4/3 Holy Saturday
4/4 Easter Sunday
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/26 Grand Climax/De Meur
4/26 Full Moon
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve

May
5/1 Beltane
5/9 Mothers’ Day
5/12 (?) Armed Forces Day
5/23 Pentecost
5/26 Total Lunar Eclipse
5/26 Full Moon
5/31 Memorial Day

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
3/28 – 4/4  Passover/Pesach (Deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt)
4/4 Hitler’s alternate birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday, 4/20, and Easter of the current year. This year Easter falls on 4/4.)
4/8 Yom HaShoah  (Holocaust Remembrance Day)
4/15 Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day)
4/20 Hitler’s birthday
4/15 Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day)
5/8 V-E Day (Victory in Europe, WW2)
5/17 Shavuot (Festival of Harvest, Festival of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)

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

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/
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/

 

Self-Indulgence?

I’ve been so conscientious about posting on this blog – three posts a month, rain or shine, whether I wanted to or not. I only missed a couple, and, in my mind, I made up for that by posting extra animal videos.

But now I just don’t want to write anything and I have decided I won’t. I have also decided that skipping one – or maybe (gasp!) even two posts – doesn’t make me irresponsible or uncaring or an over-all bad person. It just means I want a break and there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with a few chocolates, while I am at it.

I hope you all stay safe over Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day. I will be back definitely in early January, perhaps a few days earlier.

I wish myself a meditative and nourishing break, and I wish that 2020 is happier and less stressful for all of us than all the years that have preceded it.

Memories: True or False?

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

* Additional information on the following holidays is available at:
 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/


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Memory is often thought of in black or white terms. “Is it accurate, or did I imagine it?” “Yes, it’s true – no, it’s false.” But the real truth of a memory is, “it depends.”

Let’s look at some of the things that affect the accuracy of a memory – everybody’s memories.

Most important is your perception of an event. If you are a little kid and see a person in a gorilla suit, you might think it is a real gorilla. You will then remember seeing a real live gorilla. Not in the zoo, but out on the street or running around a football field at half-time.

So is this memory true or false? Both! You don’t remember what you actually saw, you remember what you thought you saw.

When I was four, they took me to see Bambi, and I was devastated when the forest started burning. A few months later, in a vulnerable state, having been separated from my beloved caretaker, my dog, and most of my toys, I was taken on a sleeper train to my grandfather’s summer home. (I have ritual abuse memories from that summer.) On the way home, on the same train, I stared out the window, watching as dusk turned to night.

I never forgot the train racing through burning woods and my fear that the flames would engulf the train and I would die, as the forest animals had died, in the fire. If this had actually happened, it would have been talked about and become part of the family history. Later, I could have researched it in newspaper archives. But it wasn’t a real fire I remembered. It was an imagined fire that blended the scene from Bambi, scraps of things I had heard of forest fires, my intense fear and rage, and a sense of imminent death.

Was this memory true or false? Both! It was not a memory of an actual event, but it was was a true memory, accurate in every detail, of what I saw in my mind’s eye as I was carried towards an unknown fate.

Another time I believed that a memory was a fantasy and it turned out to be of a real event. I was sitting in my high chair, and my mother was sitting in a chair a few feet away. I was playing with the most beautiful thing – a paper circle with pins with colored glass heads stuck all around the edge of the ring. This couldn’t be true, because I doubted I could remember that far back, and because nobody would be dumb enough to give a baby fifty sewing pins to play with. Years later, when I mentioned this to my mother, she said it was indeed true, and that she was sitting right there watching me so I couldn’t get hurt.

Sometimes memories change a little each time we think about them. They evolve over time, like a good story. This kind of drift is normal. Sometimes they get fuzzier, especially if we don’t think about them very often. Our minds aren’t like cameras, recording every detail for posterity.

Now let’s look at some of the effects that extreme abuse, like ritual abuse, has on memory.

Most important is that trauma memories get stored differently in the brain from ordinary memories. Different parts of the memory get stored in different places. Sometimes it is the beginning, middle, and end of the event that are separated from each other. Sometimes it is sight, sound, emotion, etc. that get separated. Each time the brain encounters trauma, it reacts the same way, until it becomes the brain’s default setting. If the splitting is extreme, alters are formed, and different parts of the memories are stored by different alters.

Many survivors’ memories are of what they believed at the time, rather than what actually happened. Children are easily tricked; they are naive and do not have the experience to tell lies from truth. Children desperately want to believe that adults know more than children do and that adults tell the truth. And their abusers are masters of deception who carefully plan how to trick children into believing what they want them to.

Finally, it is because the trauma they suffered is horrendous. If your whole body is wracked by pain, if you have been given hallucinogens, if you are terrified that you are about to be killed, there is very little brain-power left over to figure out whether something is real or not. Especially if you are only three years old.

When memories first surface, they can be very confusing. It takes time to figure out what they are all about. It takes courage to hold on to the belief that you would not be seeing these images if nothing terrible had happened. It takes time and patience to learn to be aware that you are in the present, not back then when all those crazy things were happening. When you have one foot solidly in the present and the other in the past, then you can look at your memory with adult eyes and figure out if you were tricked as a child, and if so, how.

Slowly, things start to make sense. You gradually start to believe you are not crazy. You start to believe in yourself, in your own judgment, your own intuition. This is called healing!

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Upcoming Holidays

September
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
9/29 – 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)