Safety Issues: Email

Here is a page with literally hundreds of articles on safety in all sort of places and situations. Well worth reading!

Email dangers fall into two categories: 1. Messages that try to trick you into clicking something, and 2. Messages that contain programming or threats.

There is a lot of information on the Internet on how to deal with spam that may be dangerous. I’ll try and summarize the main points. But I want stress that this kind of email has nothing to do with whether you are a survivor or not – everybody gets it.

Basically, somebody has gotten your address from somewhere and is sending you messages hoping you will think they are illegitimate. They may want you to read ads or they may want to get into your computer and use it for their own purposes. They might want to copy all the addresses in your email address book and send out spam with your name as the return address. Worse yet, they may put a little program on your computer that records every key stroke. That way they can collect passwords for bank accounts, charge card numbers, etc.

Be very careful before opening an attachment in an email or clicking on a url. If you have a feeling that there is something “off” about a particular message, trust your instincts and be cautious. It is far more important to protect yourself than it is to be polite and answer every e-letter.

Here are some examples of things that made me suspicious.
1. Weird senders: potent
2. Weird titles: things I have zero interest in. Injured — Find– a– personal    injury-attorney — to–get–what is deserved
++ Check Out A Private Yacht Experience ++
3. Nothing except a url to click in the body of the message. This often comes from a person you know because their address has been stolen.

Moral of the story: Don’t click and you will be safe! (And have good anti-virus software.)

The other category, messages that contain programming or threats, can be harder to deal with because there is no one practical rule (like don’t click) that fits all.

The first step is to learn to recognize this type of email. A red flag is a message from a person you have been out of touch with for a long time, especially if it is a family member or somebody you have always felt uncomfortable around.  Another red flag is if you start to feel trancy, dizzy, nauseated, frightened, or just plain uneasy when you start to read it.

This might indicate that the message, whether by accident or on purpose, has touched an issue of yours or triggered a program. In this case, stop reading and either delete the message or save it to analyze later or to show to your therapist. Do something to get back into the present — move around, wash your face, drink something cold — whatever works for you. Promise yourself you will not finish reading it now and you will not act on any suggestions contained in the message or any sudden urges you may have. Ask inside if that is okay with everybody and ask what else they need to feel protected. Later on, you can try and figure out what got triggered and how.

Other times, you may start to get an uncomfortable feeling about a particular person. As in “real life” relationships, it’s wisest to go slow and not reveal a lot about yourself in the beginning. You can always share more later. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I’m not in a place right now for this kind of correspondence” or simply to let the e-relationship fizzle out. It’s also okay to delete emails before reading them.

If an email contains a threat, there are two additional things you can do. You can report it to the police, which may or may not help, depending on the nature of the threat, the department, and the particular officer you report it to. You can also report it to the ISP (Internet Service Provider,) the company that the writer uses to send email. For details on how to do this, contact the Webmaster or Postmaster at that ISP. ISP’s are not happy about people misusing their services and they may close that person’s account. Since they are concerned with their reputations, they are often more responsive than the police.

You could also answer that person once, saying, “Do not write me any more. If you do, I will report you to the police.” If you are trying to collect evidence, put any other emails received in a folder without reading them. Otherwise, delete messages without reading them or block the address (black listing).

The hardest part of dealing with frightening email is refusing to read it. It’s natural to feel that if you knew what you were being threatened with you could better protect yourself. But the game they are playing with you us called bullying, and you will be playing into their hands if you let them know they have gotten to you or you allow them frighten you. It’s far better and more effective to walk away with your head held high.

Gratitude? You Gotta be Kidding!!!!

There is an entry on the fall equinox at

and one on the super moon eclipse at

I belong to an e-mail survivor support group and one of the members started posting one thing a day that she was grateful for. She also said anybody else could do so if they wanted to.

My first reaction was, “Me? She has to be kidding!! What do I have to be grateful for? They tortured me, prostituted me, and sold me for porn films. They ruined my whole life!!!!! I still suffer from what they did to me!!!! And I am supposed to be grateful??? Gimme a break!!!!!”

I went about my daily life, got showered and dressed, fed the cats, and had breakfast, still fuming and grumbling bitterly. After a while the routine calmed me down enough that it occurred to me that I was over-reacting. Back and white thinking it surely was. Although I had plenty to be ungrateful for, I also had plenty to be very grateful for. My kids who turned out great, my kitties, sunlight and fog, occasional beautiful rain, my faithful thirteen-year-old car, enough to eat, a roof over my head, a garden, no dementia. Most important of all, having escaped from the cult. And the wonderful people I have met in the survivors’ community.

The trigger, obviously, was my friend’s post about gratitude. Now what was the event that caused all those strong feelings?

An image of me as a child siting alone at the dining room table with tomato slices in front of her appeared before my eyes. I had protested that I couldn’t eat them and was told that I would sit there until I finished all of them. They really revolted me because, although I wasn’t aware of the connection at the time, they reminded me of blood and flesh. Sometimes I choked the food down;  other times, I couldn’t and it reappeared at breakfast.

Now here is the connection. I was told I was very ungrateful and I should “think of the starving Armenians.” This was during World War II. They used that phrase often to guilt trip me. It just enraged me. I would have happily done something for the Armenians if I could have, but I was helpless. Armenians had nothing to do with being served food I found revolting.

(As an aside, I have always been drawn to Armenians. I have had quite a few Armenian friends. Their churches are gorgeous and so are their Masses. I love Armenian food and cook it pretty well, if I do say so myself.)

Should I be grateful or ungrateful? You can’t equate the two, you can’t weigh and compare them. One case of maltreatment as a child cannot be wiped out by a lovely event in the present, no matter what it is. A loving mother-figure can’t make up for an ineffective or abusive real mother. Each event, each person, is unique and incomparable.

So I have a lot to resent and my job is to accept the evil in my past and live with it in such a way that it does not take over every minute of the day. And I have a lot to cherish and my job is to accept the good and the beautiful and use them to enhance my life, and others’, too.

My friend had the right idea in sharing with us the good and true and real parts of herself and her life.

You’re Over-Reacting!

The dictionary defines “over-react” as “react disproportionately, act irrationally, lose one’s sense of proportion, blow something up out of all proportion, make a mountain out of a molehill.” That sounds like a very childish, immature, inappropriate, and all those other good things, to do. Something that will make others look down on you and shame you.

Ah, but if you dig a bit deeper, it isn’t so terrible.

A psychologist once said to me, “If somebody over-reacts, that means they had to under-react in the past.” Made sense to me.

If at some point, you had to stuff your feelings, they didn’t go away. They sat there waiting for a chance to show themselves. When you were in a similar situation, they saw their chance and came rushing out. Basically, we are talking about an emotional flashback, with the present-day situation being the trigger..

(Here’s a previous entry about different kinds of flashbacks, including emotional ones.)

People tend to blame you if you over-react. “Stop being so dramatic.” “Stop being such a sissy.” “Just suck it up.”They don’t know what to do, and they are annoyed. You don’t often hear “You look so upset. Is something the matter? Is there anything I can do?” They don’t want to know what caused those extra emotions in the first place. Chances are, when you figure it out, you won’t want to know, either. But you are stuck with it, because it has happened and now it is yours to live with.

I have a hard time figuring out if I am over-reacting, under-reacting, or getting it just right. Under-reacting is as much an emotional flashback as is over-reacting. In the past, you weren’t allowed to show your feelings, and so you hid them. Now you can safely show your feelings, but the old training kicks in and you hide them. It’s fear from the past that makes you do this.

When I freak out, I try to stop a moment and consider that I may be feeling two sets of feelings, one from the present and one from the past. It helps me sort my feelings into a past pile and a present pile. Then I can react appropriately. Of course, this is easier said then done.

It was all but impossible until I found a one-size-fits-all response to any situation. “Let me think about that.” That bought me some time. Then I thought of a sensible, level-headed person I knew and said to myself, “What would he or she do under these circumstances?” That gave me a good handle on the present and suggested a course of action. The final thing I had to do was set aside a time to deal with the feelings from the past. The technique doesn’t always work perfectly, but over-all it works pretty well.