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no I'm still here

You know it's bad when you cannot write. Or that is, I know it is bad when I cannot write.

To be precise, I've been feeling like shit that has been sitting in the gutter for a week and is pretty much a gobby mess of stink and not much else. Barely a coherent mass but what is there is not anything you'd want to, like, touch.

I think I probably posted something about this a long time ago but that was when I was still only about half online that is some vital part of me was out wandering around someplace that was very very very very far away from here and now.

I'm less absent these days or that is I guess those dissociated and exiled parts of me are back for the most part which is good in that one feels more alive when more of one is present to be living but on the other hand whatever anesthetic effect my flight had is gone now so, well.

But so the story is this: in fourth grade I found that Jack Chick tract called "The Beast." It was on the floor or windowsill or someplace equally random in my classroom and I being the obsessive reader I have always been, picked it up and brought it home.

I've mentioned this recently, I think too, but I found the thing confusing and frightening so I showed it to my mom and she said we could go through it together so I sat next to her in the big rocking chair and we went through it page by page and she basically said maybe the details weren't exactly as they were going to be but that, yeah, the tract was telling the truth and that as long as I was not saved I was bound to be left behind after the rapture.

You don't really want to see it--trust me--but if you feel brave, take a look. In fourth grade I would have been 8 and then 9. I don't recall what the time of year was when I found this thing.

I was a literal-minded kid. The mobile guillotines I thought were probably depictions of the form of my eventual salvation--only if one is martyred for not wearing the mark of the beast can one be saved after the rapture. That part might not be clear from what is written in this particular tract.

In Trauma and Recovery, Dr. Judith Herman writes that children normally internalize a figure that is benevolent, loving, and comforting, and that as adults we normally are able to soothe ourselves through the agency invested in this figure.

Survivors of long-term abuse do not have this internal figure. I had no idea that anyone else had such a figure until I read the sentence in which she describes it. What I have instead is a constant dialog between what could be my ego, when it has the energy to make a stand on its own, and a voice of condemnation and loathing. When I find myself in a situation where I need comfort, there is no one home inside of me and so I find myself alone in a way that, I gather, adults who were not abused as children don't experience?

I don't know, actually. I cannot imagine what it is like actually to have a friendly 'other' in one's internal dialog. Mine is either hostile or absent. Feeling good is, to me, an experience of reprieve from the internal bombardment of abuse, and is always time-limited. I mean, I could look at it the other way, but I feel like I spend more time with the hostile figure than I do alone.

One reason I seek out solitude so avidly is that it seems the safest way to be. When I am left alone I can experience a kind of peace, at least. My internal experience is that it is better to be alone than with my usual interlocutor. And talking to others--as in other people, the breathing ones living outside of my head--is always a risk and in some ways the better I know someone the riskier it is. I cannot always bear that amount of uncertainty. My room has been my refuge for most of my life.

So I've been in my room.

This entry was composed @Dreamwidth.
Feel free to comment either here or there.

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 8th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
Ah, we could be twins.
I'm glad you're reading her book, her writings had a profound impact on my own healing (still in process) and her insights reverberate pretty strongly.

You have friends here though -- any number of us also reaching out from our own rooms.
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I like this book; because it comes from more of an academic angle than a lot of self-help books, it gives me a more sophisticated and complex theoretical basis from which to make sense of myself--not that that is necessarily superior to other communication styles, but it is one I prefer because my situation is complex and I think about it in complex ways. So the book resonates better for me than some others have.
Sep. 8th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
Same here -- I really need the depth involved in this particular topic especially.
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)

I remember they did a study to try to figure out why some children fared better than others after abuse and/or neglect. They found that one big difference was whether or not an adult outside of the abusive system took a genuine interest in the child's well being and was available to model a different way of being that didn't involve abuse. Perhaps this is why--with a different model to internalize, those children had a chance to create their own internal ally.

(In that vein, I think it's not an accident that I gravitated to Kuan Yin, Mother of Mercy, known to dispense comfort and healing in Her compassionate service to others.)

Once upon a time I envisioned making (if I were handy like that) a Huggable Goddess figure, life size, that one could curl up with and cry if needed.

The tract? It serves to demonstrate that the author and his ilk are more fearful than you were as a boy. Everything about it betrays their fear of modern society, freedoms, choices, and how Christianity lost its stranglehold on this society. They are clinging to the idea that the end times are almost here to "save" them from it all and give them that triumphant "I told you so" moment when the Rapture comes. They border on suicidal themselves, so it's no surprise that their suicidal fantasies of the End Times would frighten you as a small child. I am deeply sorry you had a parent who didn't dismiss it as the ravings of frightened, angry people and let you know you needn't worry about it.

That kind voice can be, with time and work, created. We start by telling ourselves the things we tell friends in our situation: you are worthy, you are needed, you are valued, you are loved.

Post it on the mirror if you have to.

We are here when you need to interrupt that negative voice. I am mostly home-bound these days myself so this is my way of connecting also.

Sep. 8th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons I am so sad to lose my Grandma Elsie is that she was the only familial figure who, for me, symbolized a possibility of thought that was different from my parents' way of thinking. Unfortunately, I did not get to see her very often--I probably saw her no more than ten or twelves times growing up, after we moved from Seattle to GA when I was two; we could not afford to fly back very often but she and my grandfather did drive down a couple of times to be with us.

I didn't get to see more of her until I moved back to the NW at 25. By then it was too late to internalize her in that sort of way. But I do think that holding onto her memory and her unabashed enthusiasm for everything I ever did could be very helpful for me. I'll have to think of ways to keep her memory alive.

Thanks for the reassurance. I know that my mom is also very frightened, but it is somewhat painful to know that I myself represent a number of things that she is frightened of. She doesn't really know the extent to which my worldview matches those she campaigns against in her religious and political life. Either that or she must think I have dropped off the edge of the world in a spiritual sense and into some deep abyss--how she might imagine my life is a bit of a torture to me, so I don't think about it much. I've seen the way 'good christian women' mourn their apostate children and I cannot bear to think that my mom would deliberately choose such a miserable viewpoint.

But maybe she didn't deliberately choose. I don't know, really, to what extent she realizes any conscious choice in what she believes.

Maybe I will print out this photo of my grandma when she was young. How different her life must have been from mine!
Sep. 8th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
You might add the slogan:

What Would Grandma Say?

And practice imagining it.

To cope with being an only child and spending huge amounts of time alone I used my imagination and to this day I have running conversations with imagined versions of characters, real people, etc., so if it were me I'd have a running conversation with Grandma every day.

That might not work for you but perhaps you'll find some method that does. Having a focal point like a picture is of course a great start.
Sep. 8th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
That's perfect: WWGmS? Thanks. I think I will make liberal use of that. I would like to start talking to her, as I never really was able to as much as I would have liked while she was here.

It's worth a try.

She once told off a group gathering signatures on an anti-gay initiative there in WA state. They sure must have been surprised when the little old blind lady refused to sign their petition and scolded them instead. Wish I'd been a little fly in the air for that. :)
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
i've known about this for some time, but your post makes it more understandable to me. i hope you find your way back soon, erik.

my own internal voice is all too often critical and mean, which is odd because i don't recall any kind of abuse per se. there was a mean, harsh streak in my grandmother's family ethos, though, and apparently that was enough to turn my internal dialogue against me all too easily. as usual, i can sort of relate, then, though i understand that my situation is many shades lighter.
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
p.s. i just glanced down through that tract. i can't imagine telling a little kid that it was true.
Sep. 8th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Vicki. I know you've internalized a fairly harsh critic too. Sometimes I think that the "normal" way of raising children in the US was for a long time marginally and mundanely abusive insofar as the shaming messages we received were the same ones our parents received from their parents, and so on back through time. Nobody gave it much thought, because it was just the way things were done.

The tract, though, yeah. I don't quite comprehend how my mom could look at it and blandly acquiesce to it. She sheltered me to the extent that she could, but she really underestimated the emotional effects of, well, just about everything. I don't think she was very available to herself either, and that is why she was an easy mark for fundamentalism.
Sep. 8th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
i don't remember whether we talked about my father-in-law's funeral sermon last spring, but it was a real eye-opener on gerry's family's own peculiar brand of (primitive baptist) fundamentalism. the sermon was horrible, a sing-song thing that i found vaguely scary from the front row. afterward, my s-i-l gently said i had had an earful of what she considers truth. we didn't discuss it, but that kind of preaching isn't good news at all -- if their god elects you, you're saved, but everyone else is lost, even potentially people who've thought they were saved all their lives. that's terrible news. i'm sure glad gerry never bought into that system. brrr.

compared to that, the methodist perfectionism i was scarred by was a picnic in the park. my grandma elsie dropped out of that church in mid-life, which is kind of the way i'm trending too, though episcopal theology is woolly and warmer.

[oops, sometimes in editing, i screw up in weird ways. *g*]

Edited at 2010-09-08 06:35 pm (UTC)
Sep. 8th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, no. You hadn't told me about that service. How awful. That whole worldview is so twisted in on itself that it is amazing that people escape. It's like a black hole of double-binds, circular reasoning, and continual, unrelenting shaming of any deviation from whatever the ideal follower is for any given group.

Sounds like his family has some Calvinistic theology in their tradition. In ours at least there was no doctrine of predestination; if you were saved you were saved, but then you constantly got told how bad a Christian you were unless you were exactly like the pastor's ego ideal--probably a very frightening fundamentalist father figure.

My Grandma Elsie rarely went to church after she and my Grandpa Milo moved out to the coast. She never talked about her beliefs but never tolerated any sign of hatred of others. I think she may have been infinitely curious. I think I might have inherited that. Good thing. :)

Anyway, anyone who has a shaming voice in their head has my empathy. I don't think it is necessarily comparable, how one kid responds to the world while another responds completely differently. There are so many variables at work that I don't think it is easy to measure childhood suffering. Your pain is as painful as mine, I suspect. Not that it's a contest. It isn't. :)
Sep. 8th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
no, it's not a contest. but i never want to give even the appearance of trying to one-up your pain, you know?

yes, hyper-calvinist, and i dislike calvinism root and branch. at least they never made any effort to brain-wash their kids, because their theology held that IF god wanted you, THEN you would be called in adulthood (and presumably couldn't say no). they were good people, and my s-i-l still is, but yeeeesh...
Sep. 8th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
It's possible to be good people and still believe absurd things, unfortunately. I don't like Calvinism either, especially the way in which it has influenced economic and social policy in the US. It seems like a bitter, stingy doctrine. And terribly pessimistic.

You've never given the appearance of trying to one-up my pain. I wouldn't want to do that to you either. I don't think it is a game that anyone can win. My belief in plenitude is catholic in the literal sense: there's not only plenty of beauty to go around, but nobody is short on misery either! :)
Sep. 8th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I too think of feeling good as a reprieve from torment, although I was raised with mild, mundane shame and little to no outright abuse.

Anyway. Somehow you & I never connected much about theory & writing, as I thought we once might, but I am still very very glad about the news of your book, which I plan to buy as soon as I get paid.
Nov. 6th, 2010 11:50 am (UTC)

:) Интересно однако. Thank you!
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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