My Brain is Wired to Forget

Everybody has ways of defending themselves against thoughts or feelings that are just too hard to face. Know anybody who says, “Oh, it’s nothing,” when it really is a pretty big deal – like an abcessed tooth, for example? Or “I don’t really feel sad,” when a pet dies? That’s minimizing, a defense that allows you to feel calm instead of flooded by strong feelings.

It’s normal to have defenses. And it is also normal for a person to have one or two ways of defending themselves that they use a lot more than others. Favorite defenses, defenses to turn to automatically every time the going gets tough.

The more a defense is used, the more it becomes “wired” in the brain, and this happens pretty early in childhood. In other words, the kid’s brain thinks, “Well, it worked last time, let’s try it this time.” If it works often enough, it gets used over and over. If it doesn’t work, it loses its appeal and doesn’t get chosen very often.

My go-to defense is forgetting. I was carefully and systematically taught to forget what happened in cult settings. I was taught not to speak to outsiders about anything that happened because it was none of their business. I was threatened with harm to myself, my pets, or my brother if I remembered and told somebody and I was also hypnotized to forget. Anybody ever heard the phrase “Remember to forget and forget to remember?”

I learned very well how to forget. To the best of my knowledge I told nobody until my early fifties – and when I say nobody, that includes myself. I was totally amnesic for what happened back then.

Besides serving the cult well, my skill at forgetting protected me most of the time against constant terror, fear, and guilt. I couldn’t have strong feelings about what I didn’t know. Instead, those feelings were dampened and displaced onto other things. But forgetting spread out over innocuous things, too. I no longer forgot “that:” I forgot everything.

Of course, everybody forgets to some extent. Things they stop using, like algebra, fade out and make room for more useful things, like how to use email. But I experience that in spades. In school, after I took the final exam, the course material rapidly faded until in a few months it was as if I had never taken the course.

I lived in a house for twenty-five years starting in my late twenties. Now I am driving myself nuts trying to remember details. Where did I store the towels? The dog food? Who did we give the purple couch to? What did we sit on before we got the purple couch, and what happened to that first couch or those first chairs, if there was no couch?

I knew a man who could remember lots of facts, including a huge number of nice meals he ate. I imagine that his mind was filled with sensory details that wove a rich tapestry. And the pleasure he got recalling them! His life must have seemed much fuller than mine, even though I had more varied experiences than he did, to put it mildly. Knowing that this is possible for some people makes me sad because, when I look back, I remember so little that my life seems really empty.

I had hopes that dealing with the abusive events that taught me not to remember would free me up to remember more every-day things, but the results were temporary, for the most part. I’ve come to an acceptance that things may get a little better, but I can’t expect anything spectacular.

As I explained in a previous post, I went a little crazy fearing I had incipient dementia from memory loss. Now I have started to be able to separate my base-line memory problems from new developments. It’s reassuring to find out that not much is new. Still, I wish I were more like that lucky man. <sigh>

 

Upcoming Holidays

March 
3/30 Good Friday/Death of Jesus Christ
3/31 Full Moon (Blue Moon: second full moon of the month)
April
4/1 Easter Sunday
4/1 April Fool’s Day
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/29 Full Moon
4/16 – 4/23 Grand Climax/Da Meur/ (Preparation for sacrifice in some Satanic sects)
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve
May
  
5/1 Beltane/May Day/ Labour Day in Europe
5/13 Mothers’ Day
5/28 Memorial Day
5/29 Full moon

Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
4/20 Hitler’s birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday, 4/20, and Easter of the current year. His alternate birthday is 4/1 this year.)
4/30 Anniversary of Hitler’s death
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons.)

 

 

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Scapegoating

Upcoming Holidays
May

5/10 S Full Moon
5/14 S Mothers’ Day
June
6/9 S Full Moon
  ce
6/18 S Fathers’ Day  ce
6/20 S Summer Solstice
6/23 S Midsummer’s Eve
6/23 S St John’s Eve
July
7/4 Fourth of July/US Independence Day
7/8 Full Moon
  ce
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
August
8/1 S N Lamas/Lughnasadh
8/7 S Full Moon
8/7 S Partial lunar eclipse: visible in most of Europe, most of Asia, Australia, Africa, and eastern South America.
8/21 S Total solar eclipse: totality visible in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; partially visible in other parts of the United States, Canada, Central America, northern South America, western Europe, and western Africa.
Important dates in Nazi groups
6/6 N D-Day: invasion of France in WW2
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

 

The concept of scapegoating comes from Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament. It contains priestly writing explaining God’s instructions about how to live with purity and holiness.

On the Day of Atonement, part of the ceremony consisted of making offerings for the sins of the people. A steer and two goats were brought into the Tabernacle. Aaron, Moses brother and a priest, sacrificed the steer was as offering as an atonement for his family’s on Yom Kippur. One goat was sacrificed as an offering for the people’s sins. The other was the scapegoat, who carried all the sins of all of the people and took them away into the desert, leaving the people holy.

“Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. Leviticus 16:21 Lev 16:21
“The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Leviticus 16:22

Today, scapegoat has come to mean a person or group who is blamed for the problems or transgressions of others. “If we could just get rid of them, all would be fine in our society.” Often this leads to severe violence, up to genocide.

This process takes place within families, too. One child becomes the problem child. If the child’s problems were solved, the family would be fine. But the child does not change, and the family does not change, either. The child is pushed to edge of the family, sent to live with relatives or abused, and, in adulthood,perhaps disinherited.  Even if the child moves far away or dies, the family still has problems. And so another scapegoat is chosen.

Sometimes the child chosen to be the scapegoat is vulnerable or weak in some way. They may need more attention, more medical care, more resources than other family members. Although that child does create stress, it is not the cause of all the families’ problems. Parents may hate their jobs (or each other), the adults may have poor communication skills, the family may have to contend with poverty or discrimination. Fixing or getting rid of the kid doesn’t solve everything.

More often though, the scapegoat is the healthiest member of the family. It’s the kid who sees too much, understands too much, says too much. That’s a huge threat in cult families, where secrecy is of the utmost importance.

It’s also a threat in less pathological families. It’s hard to pretend that there is no problem if your fourth grade child has to refuse all play dates because of baby sitting the younger kids. Or when your kid blurts out, “Daddy drank a whole bottle of vodka last night.”

Rather than confronting and doing something about the problem that the kid has put their finger on, the parents try and shut the kid up. And they try and hide behind, “That was just a dream, dear.” “We don’t talk about such things outside the family.” “Stop exaggerating.” “Oh, she has a vivid imagination.”

I was the scapegoat in my family. Part of the reason was that I was the oldest – I got there first. But the main reason was that I was resistant to their demands and I wanted independence. I was thirsty for life outside the family and managed to get out as much as I could, as soon as I could. I wanted to meet as many people as possible and, even worse, I wanted to emulate them.

To this day I remember my father saying, “It is very good that you learn how other people live and what they believe, so that you can see for yourself that we are right.” Oh, really?

And oh, the trouble I gave them. First it was that I was slow to read, then I read too much. I had no friends, then I had friends my parents disapproved of. Not only did I sing off- key, I deliberately taught my brother to sing off-key, too. I didn’t do what I was told, and when I did, I managed to mess it up. I was stubborn and rude and stupid. And very, very selfish! They didn’t catch on, but I was also quite good at being manipulative and getting what I wanted by disguising what I did.

It was a huge relief for them, I am sure, when I finally did get away, thanks to marrying somebody they didn’t approve of. My brother was obviously the next in line, but he was too compliant. So my poor mother inherited the job. Eventually, when the cult disbanded from old age and lack of interest, the need for a scapegoat waned. Or if they found another, I wasn’t around to see who it was .

What’s sad is that in spite of all my resistance and rebellion, I did internalize a lot, or maybe all, of what they accused me of. It makes sense. Little kids take all adults very seriously and soak up their every word. By the time I had enough experience to question their views, my unconscious was full of poison. I built a new view of the world, a new view of myself, and the beginnings of a new life. But what was in my unconscious was in total conflict with my felt beliefs. It was very, very confusing for the longest time.

Do You Consult the Ritual Calendar?

Up-Coming Holidays
5/1  Beltane/May Day/ Labour Day in Europe  
7/4  Fourth of July/US Independence Day
7/8  Full Moon
 
87/14  Bastille Day?
 
7/24  Pioneer Day (Mormon)? 

7/25  St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God 
8/1 S N Lammas/Lughnasadh
8/7 S Full Moon
8/7 S Partial lunar eclipse: visible in most of Europe, most of Asia, Australia, Africa, and eastern South America.
8/21 S New Moon
8/21 S Total solar eclipse: totality visible in parts of the United States; partially visible in the United States, Canada, Central America, northern South America, western Europe, and western Africa.
Important dates in Nazi groups
4/30  Anniversary of Hitler’s death
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

 

For everybody who is having a horrible time, please remember that Beltane will be over very soon. Pain always feels eternal, but it is not. You will live through it, not in it.

 

For the first five or ten years after I realized I had been raised in a Satanic cult, it seemed like I was surrounded by ritual abuse survivors. There were Twelve-Step meetings, conferences, mailing parties, poetry readings, all sorts of things. Now, of course, much less is going on and when I am with other survivors, it is mostly on the Internet.

More than once we discussed whether we read the ritual calendar or not. The calendar was designed for those that did read it: there was no question of not compiling and publishing it. In those days the calendar consisted of the eight pagan sabbaths, Christian dates, Jewish dates, dates from antiquity, and astrological events. Now I have confined it to pagan, Christian, Nazi and astrological events. The others dates are listed separately after the main calendar for clarity.

Some people were afraid that if they looked at the calendar they would react to everything on it and be totally overwhelmed with anxiety. That was one reason I listed some dates separately. (The other was that the more entries on the calendar, the more mistakes I made. One year I had a month with three full moons!)

Some were afraid that if they knew that a certain day was a ritual holiday, they would react to it even if their group didn’t celebrate it. These people also avoided reading books about ritual abuse and were reluctant to hear of other survivors’ experiences. They were afraid information would be contagious and contaminate the memory of their experiences.

Others used the calendar to find out if a particularly difficult day had been a ritual holiday. If yes, bingo! if no, then they had to figure out another explanation. They didn’t worry about contagion because they were checking the calendar after the fact.

Then there were people who looked at the calendar  so that they could prepare for hard days. They trusted their instincts and weren’t concerned about contagion. If their mind offered feelings of fear and pain and guilt, then they know from their strong reaction that they had been abused on that day. They had a chance to prepare themselves, to brace themselves for flashbacks.  If they could, they stayed home and provided comfort food, their journal, crayons, a warm blanket, favorite teas. It was still hard, but these soothing objects were a reminder that it was not happening now and that they had gotten through the day many times and would be able do it one again.

There is no right or wrong way to use the calendar. Choose what feels right to you at the time. You can always change your mind. The calendar is just a tool you can use whenever you think it might be helpful.

By the way, I fall into the last category. I check it every month so that I can take extra good care of myself on horrible days.

But I have a problem using this wonderful tool. Even if I check it, I keep forgetting there is a holiday coming up! Right now I am aware that Beltane is just around the corner. But if I turn my attention to something else, it slips right out of my awareness.

Oh well, it’s not the only elusive thing in my life. I have learned to put it on my to-do list, which I check several times a day.

 

I have a favor to ask. I have a lot of trouble updating the calendar  every year and I hate to make mistakes. I also have done it for over fifteen years and am sort of tired of it.

Would anybody like to uptake it for 2018? I would tell you how to do it and I would proof read it for you. If this is too much, would anybody like to proof read it? Or several people? If you can only compile or proof part of it, that would still be a great help to me.