Carmen Holiday’s conference transcript from the 2015 Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference

Please use caution while reading this presentation.  It may be triggering. All accusations are alleged. The conference and this transcript are educational and not intended as therapy or treatment.

The Long Voyage Out: The Epic Challenge of Recovery from Organized Abuse.
The essential challenge of healing is to facilitate the natural drive to get back into native equilibrium – to find the banished orphans of extreme experience and bring them back home to conscious awareness. And the good news is, you don’t have to do it alone.

Carmen Holiday is a survivor of human trafficking, ritual abuse-torture and trauma-based mind control. She has been an advocate for other survivors since 2001, developing and facilitating trauma recovery workshops and presenting as a survivor of RA-MC for several organizations.

(Please note: This article is strictly the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the SMART newsletter or the webmaster.)


The Epic Challenge of Recovery from Organized Abuse

 Hi, welcome everybody. I’m really happy to be back, and honored to be in such magnificent company! First, a big heart-felt thanks to the folks who sponsored this talk for their very generous contributions, I’m so grateful. I also want to thank Neil for putting this together year after year. It’s one of the rare opportunities survivors have to come together and build community, and for our voices to be heard. Please continue to support this conference in any way you can.

So I’m going to talk about an article I wrote called The Long Voyage Out – about what I’ve learned about navigating the aftermath of extreme psychological trauma, in my case, child trafficking and ritual abuse/mind control, or RA-MC. Last year survivor Ani Rose put together an anthology called We Have Come Far, a collection of healing stories and strategies written by and for survivors. My hope is that this book will be the first of many more to come, because I think it’s important that survivors who’ve been on the recovery track for a while share their wisdom and help light the way for those who are where we were years ago, who might feel lost and isolated.The Long Voyage Out is my attempt to help map a course through the post-trauma jungle.

No one should have to navigate this mess believing they’re alone.

So, after surviving what we’ve endured, you’d think the rest of our lives would just be about be about celebration, that we should be able to bask in happiness and sunshine for the rest of our days. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it usually works.That level of trauma changes us, because we have to adapt pretty strenuously to survive it. And those radical adjustments turn out to be counterproductive, even debilitating, once we’re out of the jungle, so we’re left with the tough job of having to try to unadapt. In my article I compare this challenge to a returning combat vet having to unlearn war in suburbia. For many of us, this isn’t even a metaphor.

So one of the ways we typically adapt to abuse is to shut ourselves off from the threat of other humans, to put up barriers. But for RA-MC survivors, this mechanism is compounded because lots of broken people did lots of rude things to us to try to make sure we’d never remember or begin to heal back to whole again. We were programmed and conditioned to feel isolated.

Abusers of all stripes know intuitively that isolating their victims is key to maintaining control, but in terms of RA/MC, isolating subjects emotionally is absolutely crucial. Breaking down the bonds between people is a key tool for programmers – using attachments as leverage to break people and manipulate them is, tragically, a universal theme in the underworld, especially the mother/child bond.

We can feel isolated for other reasons, too. Our extreme experiences and terrible insights into the darkest deeds of humanity tacitly separate us in important ways from our loved ones and community. Once we’ve begun to wake up and remember, our frame of reference shifts away from consensus reality, and therefore from those around us.

So we’re no strangers to isolation, but isolation isn’t our friend, as it were. It can feel safe, or just normal, but it’s toxic, and antithetical to recovery.

The practice of putting prisoners in solitary confinement in this country has prompted studies of the effects isolation has on inmates, and the upshot is that it’s been categorized as torture. Dr. Craig Haney, Psychology Professor at UC Santa Cruz, has spent the past 30 years inspecting numerous solitary confinement units across the US. He reports that confinement can cause extreme paranoia, severe cognition dysfunction, panic attacks and hallucinations, and can lead to self-mutilation. Haney writes:

“You find that prisoners begin to develop identity disorders when they’ve spent long periods of time without social interaction or touch … So much of who we are depends on our contact with other people, the social context in which we function, and when you remove people from that context, they begin to lose their very sense of self.”

We’re pack animals. We can’t heal in isolation.

So physical isolation is bad news. Internal isolation is no picnic either. Mind control perpetrators also compartmentalize us internally, the ultimate violation, separating us even from parts of ourselves, and our own personal histories.

So let’s talk about the phenomenon of dissociation.

The image that often leaps to mind when I think about the shock of trauma is from croquet – when you put another player’s ball next to your ball, brace yours with your foot and whack it, sending the other ball flying. Equal and opposite reactions, like the shock of trauma can deliver, sending part of you soaring away from the present, conscious moment.

Dr. Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery, writes: “The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness.” Overwhelming psychological trauma causes devastating disconnects.Internally, emotions, sensory impressions and a unified sense of identity can shatter. Externally, intimate and social bonds can disintegrate. So in broad terms, the essential challenge of healing is to facilitate the natural drive to get back into native equilibrium – to find the banished orphans of extreme experience and bring them back home to conscious awareness.

But this process of getting back to some semblance of ground zero from extreme experience can be complex and treacherous. It can be very difficult to access what’s been repressed and compartmentalized and also very difficult to grant it a way out. Once the floodgates have been opened, it can be overwhelmingly challenging to manage the flow, particularly in the early years.

So why bother? Why not just stay in denial?

Well, for starters, it takes lot of energy to keep all that pain compartmentalized. Also, it usually requires unproductive, if not outright destructive behaviors to keep it at bay. “All neurosis is unprocessed grief,” as they say. What’s denied invariably drives our life choices, and usually without our permission or even conscious awareness. It’s really true that until you own your past, it owns you. Staying stuck in denial mode means parts of your humanity and history are essentially on hold. To keep all that pain buried we hold onto toxic beliefs, for example, that it was all our fault– we hold onto the shame and guilt that belongs to the perpetrators.

We’re typically unconsciously driven to act out the lie – that we’re to blame, and fundamentally bad – either by trying to drown it all out with perfection, or engaging in behaviors that prove we’re flawed. This helps protect us from some awful truths: that we were, in fact, powerless and helpless, that our caregivers failed us spectacularly, and that it was pointless, to name a few.

When we’re stuck in oblivion and denial, we unconsciously and compulsively repeat past trauma patterns in search of resolution or closure. We avoid things that remind us of the trauma, restricting and narrowing our life experience. We numb out, we try to cap the feelings with addictions, and on and on. We sacrifice much to keep the past at bay, and on a fundamental level, we’re maintaining our own little solitary confinement quarters. The distance we keep on our suffering is also the distance between you and your loved ones, and between you and the present moment, and of course between you and your own true history.

Repression and denial come at a very high price. Until we find ways to release our pain back into the present moment, we’re still victims, and we’re still trapped.

So, let’s talk about the long voyage out. How do we break out of these post-trauma bonds?I’ll try to outline some strategies that have helped me muddle through thus far. Now, because everybody’s abuse histories and subsequent challenges are different, I realize that what has helped me won’t necessarily resonate with all survivors. So please forgive any glaring blind spots or sloppy generalizations.

An over-arching, basic tenet I try to hold onto when the going gets tough is to try to remember that in a struggle between love, fear and suffering, love will out, if you give it a chance. If you can ground yourself in compassion, acceptance and forgiveness it can bring you back into balance, because love is a profoundly empowering force. Dare to wish the best for others, even the badly broken ones, and dare to love yourself. Because everything flows from that.

Down the street from where I used to live, there was a car parked that I passed every day, with a bumper sticker on it that said, “Cut Self Slack.” I just thought it was so great, but sometimes my reaction when I first noticed it would be– Oh! That’s right! I’ve GOT to start cutting myself more slack! What is wrong with me?!So, you know, it’s a process…

So, in order to break out of the yoke of chronic victimization, it’s essential to remember that charity begins at home. And by that I mean being kind to yourself.Self-abuse is one of the most insidious post-trauma curses. Without some kind of deliberate, conscious intervention, we usually pick up right where our abusers left off. And that serves to help keep a lid on the emotional load of past trauma.

Acting out our violent pasts can take many forms, some more obvious than others.

Physical self-harm, chronic neglect of our own needs, and self-sabotage in our daily lives are common post-extreme-abuse symptoms, as are internal acts of victimization, like harsh self-criticism and condemnation. Working to spot continued abuse when it happens is a huge first step, to see it for what it is.Then you can teach yourself to at least correct for destructive impulses or acts after the fact. You can remind yourself that you deserve better.

It doesn’t cost you anything to cut yourself slack, and words do matter – What you tell yourself about yourself matters. We should be as compassionate with ourselves as we would be with any other person. But old habits die hard. It takes practice and resolve.

Of course, processing the extreme abuse that taught us we were worthless or unlovable in the first placeis the long-game answer. Ultimately, all of our toxic cargo needs to be reckoned with.

Amelia Earhart once said, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”I know that sometimes the past wells up on its own, uninvited, but other times you have to take a fearless leap back into the gaping void behind you. It’s all hard. But try to remember that you don’t have to it alone. It’s a lot easier to face dragons with someone by your side.

I think the most important healing factor is building trust with someone, anyone. But finding a safe person or people to talk to can be a big challenge, especially in the early days. The Dutch have a proverb: “Trust arrives on foot but leaves on horseback.” Well, for us trust left on a rocket ship.

So connecting and sharing, believing in people again is no mean feat.Many survivors turn to professional healers for help, as I did. I have mixed feelings about psychotherapy as traditionally taught and practiced, but probably the most serious reservation I have isn’t over theory or practice, but safety issues. Criminal networks that exploit dissociated slaves use insider “therapists” as a way to track and manipulate victims, as Wendy Hoffman points out in her extraordinary and courageous book The Enslaved Queen.

I’ve had personal experience with this, and know of other survivors who have also, it’s not an uncommon hazard. So it pays to vet any potential healer in your life very carefully. I would advise asking fellow survivors for referrals and really doing your homework.

Having said that, I think an informed, trustworthy therapist is a godsend. Therapists often face the same dangers and stigmatization and as their clients – they’re ostracized from other professionals and organizations, and some therapists who treat survivors do it under threat of death, so we have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to true allies in the field.

For many survivors, a major impediment to therapy is the expense, and also the fact that therapists equipped to treat victims of deliberate dissociation and organized crime are still pretty thin on the ground. The paucity of programs available to teach up-and-coming healers about trauma and dissociation is appalling.

With or without professional therapy, I want to emphasize the importance of friends and allies in general. The antidote to terror is warmth and compassion, and this is available in the world. I’ve mentioned turning to fellow survivors, but there are lots of people in the world with their humanity fully intact, who can hear you and help you.

Anyone who can listen compassionately, and who can honor your integrity and courage can profoundly facilitate healing. It’s well worth the struggle to find this for yourself.

The corollary to that is learning to risk listening to other survivors when you’re ready. Listening closely and empathically can be an incredibly healing experience. It can be enlightening, validating and inspiring, and can help pull you both back into the flow of humanity and remind you both that you’re truly not alone. It’s a life-affirming, rich, win-win.

So much about healing from trauma seems to be about trying to find ways to get it all back out of your system. The good news is that what was traumatically separated will tend to naturally synthesize again, given the right circumstances. In a safe and stable environment, those amnesiac barriers want to come down. The tricky part is to give them permission, to get out of your own way.

One thing you can try is to do nothing. It’s a whole lot harder than it sounds. As Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron teaches, you can “sit with it.” The basic idea is to try to let go of your resistance to pent-up memories and feelings, and experience them out of your system – to let them wash through you unimpeded. It might seem like a simple thing, but think of the great lengths people go to to avoid just such a situation. For years, if not lifetimes.

So sometimes memory access is the problem at hand – you might feel tranced out, or stuck, or you might feel haunted by something that you can’t identify. When that’s the case, you can try focusing on whatever clue you have to work with, however minimal.

Sometimes all you’ve got to work with is a fragment of a scene, or an image, and sometimes it’s just a mood or feeling that seems detached from your current situation. Try to give it time and space to express itself.

Sometimes you don’t even have that much going on. In that case you can start by focusing on something as indirect as an ongoing aversion or obsession, or a troubling dream, or something you created in the past that seems to be emotionally loaded for you. You can start with whatever clue you have, and invite it back out into the world. Even if what you’re specifically trying to resolve eludes you forever, dedicating some time and attention to your inner life sends a powerful message in and of itself. It’s likely breaking a pattern of perpetual distraction and denial, and self-neglect.

When you know at least some of your story, of course telling it (and telling it, and telling it), is hugely healing. Every time you tell it you’re desensitizing yourself to its triggers, and letting more of the pain thaw out of your system. Creatively expressing your memories and feelings out of their hiding places can also be a really effective way to compost trauma. Metaphor, the language our unconscious mind seems to speak so uncannily, is a great way to bypass our censors. I like to write, so I rely heavily on that outlet. But you can creatively access and express memories in an infinite number of ways: through painting, music, drama, dance, anything.

The upside to all this hard work is that even when you can only tolerate exposure to very small doses of repressed emotion or memory, it still has a therapeutic effect, and can have far-reaching ramifications. A little goes a long way. The more emotion you can jar loose, the more your unconscious tolerance for feeling, in general, expands. And the more you can feel, the more freedom you have to get close to other people, and occupy the present moment as a full participant.

Sometimes access isn’t the problem. The first few years of remembering, a stage sometimes called “flooding” can manifest as a torrent of flashbacks, kind of the “acute onset” of the post-trauma reawakening. When you’re in the throes of cycles of flashbacks, your ordinary world can transform into a memory minefield. And in addition to being ambushed by past horrors, you then have to find ways to come to terms with the often tragic truths they reveal.

In general, there are a few things that seem to be universally helpful in terms of breaking out of the dissociative hold of a flashback or abreaction: tactile stimuli seem to work best – touching something cold, or warm, or prickly, etc. I used to put my hands in cold water. Other things that can help are physical exertion, turning on the TV, taking a shower, eating or drinking something, anything that invites a drastic change in focus.

Whatever you discover works best, I think it’s helpful to make a list of things that have helped. That way you can refer to it when you’re dissociated, if you’re well enough, or you can refer someone else to it, if you need or want someone to help you back into the present moment.You can also make a list of things a support person can say to you that might help, and explain what your comfort parameters are around their participation.

And it might make sense just to ask a support person to ask for permissions, in general, before doing anything when you’re in that state, to protect the fragile boundaries of your younger, more vulnerable self.

You can also internally comfort and reassure your “inner child.” You can tell them that you love them unconditionally, you can remind them, or reassure them that they’ve already survived the trauma,and that they’re safe now – that you’re an adult and can protect them. Even if you are currently in some measure of danger, you can let them know that the danger that’s keeping them locked in their atemporal fear-prison has passed. You can remind them that none of it was their fault; you can express your sadness that they had to go through it, and you can thank them for their courage and strength. And you can ask them how they feel, (invariably a super loaded question) to help process the emotions associated with the trauma, and to help break the spell.

When you don’t want to escape the memory, but instead want to discharge more of the trauma, or get more information about what happened to you, you can ask your younger self questions about what’s going on – who’s there with you, how you got there, how old you are, etc.

After a decade of work in therapy to process the savagery and depravity of my life with, primarily, my stepfather, I thought I had at least a general notion of the range of horror and loss I would have to process in my lifetime. But a few years later I began to realize that I was multiple. After an accident confined me to a couch for months, the separate selves who’d shared my mind and body finally had a chance to catch up with me. And they had quite a lot to say.Gradually a broader and broader picture emerged of decades of being terrorized, trained and exploited. The repressed childhood I’d worked so hard to piece together and come to terms with, it turned out, was only the tip of the tip of the iceberg of what I had somehow survived.

One terrible fact that was revealed through these inner interactions was that I had sometimes had help dissociating. So while many of my “splits” were the result of a natural, protective adaptation to psychologically escape the physically inescapable, the vast majority were induced by artificially manipulating this innate mechanism – deliberate, trauma-based dissociation. My perpetrators all generally used the usual methods: torture (including a lot of electroshock), drugs and post-hypnotic suggestion, to name a few.A lot of the new information that was unearthed through contact with my inner selves took a long time to accept. I think it’s important to be patient with yourself, to give yourself permission to disbelieve or dismiss anything that comes up until you’re ready to process it.

These things take time. Some days it’s all you can do to you curl up into a fetal position and hide from it all, and other days you can pull on your hip boots and jump right in to the new reality. In terms of complete awareness and understanding of any one piece of your history, it might take weeks, or years, or decades, or it might never happen at all. Part of the art of living with this stuff is accepting the fact that you may never get all the answers. Let the jury be out. They might never come back. Life goes on.

So what have I learned about multiplicity? Well, for starters, at least one fundamental healing challenge is essentially no different than healing just one me, it’s just got more exponents – to try to accept, forgive and love who(ever) I am. I try to have respect and compassion for all the parts I become aware of, even though sometimes I have to dig pretty deeply to get there. I’ve had a lot of success sticking close to the bone – that is, relying on my essential humanity to trump even very sophisticated and technical programming.

In the case of organically developed splits getting triggered, you can help deliver them out of their terror or isolation by comforting and reassuring them, as I mentioned earlier in regards to communicating with your younger self. You can help to free them from the web of lies their perpetrators imprisoned them with by explaining how they were manipulated and tricked into compliance, or even into identifying with them. You can grant them (emphatic) permissions to help override conditioned helplessness: assure them that they have the right to make their own choices, to feel, to speak their truths, to be heard, seen, welcomed and honored. Try to be a generous, patient and present listener. Try to be as honest, open-minded and non-judgmental as possible.

If you’re having trouble accessing a particular part, you can try thinking about what they like, if you know, what makes them comfortable, etc., and create a tableau for them. Set out whatever they like to eat or drink, favorite blankets or toys, if they’re very young, anything that might appeal. You can also just fake it: start talking as if they’re listening. Even if you’re not able to roust them in a way you can discern, it can’t do any harm, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

With older splits, you can sometimes negotiate. For example, you can ask one split to go find another one you want to “talk” to, you can ask one split to help persuade a perp-identified split that they’ve been deceived, and to point out the error of their ways. You can help yourselves integrate by being a benevolent facilitator and fostering cooperation and compassion.

So, all this welcoming and listening and empathizing is relatively easy with some splits, but with solidly perp-identified splits it can feel really pointless and futile. And in the realm of deliberately created splits, it can especially seem like a complete and utter waste of time. Many of us have, among our ranks, splits who were intensely weaponized, and some who have been trained or programmed to sabotage us, or even end us.

Remember that most of these parts were ruthlessly exploited, and that none of them chose that life for themselves. However robotic they may seem, they’re still human, and they’re still part of your team. So dare to re-educate and rehabilitate the splits who were programmed to victimize. They don’t necessarily understand that they have choices now, that they’re free to feel, or that they can be forgiven or loved. Give them hope. Love tenaciously. Try to be as understanding and merciful toward them as you possibly can.

I haven’t always had so much faith in this approach, but I’ve experienced some surprising, even inadvertent conversions. Even if it feels like you’re battling software, hardware, or some other intractable form of programming, give it your best shot. Your humanity was there first. You have the home-field advantage.

I want to say a few things about how our healing objectives get framed for us through language. It’s common to hear or read about integration as something final and definitive, meaning all your “parts,” or alters have been assimilated back into your native, core personality. I have some reservations about this as an ultimate, absolute objective. I think it’s important to try to dissolve as many amnesiac barriers as you can, and to welcome back as much of the crew as possible. But I think getting a lot of it back, for many of us, is a more realistic goal. To shoot for one-hundred-percent integration might be tantamount to setting yourself up for protracted disappointment, or feeling like you’ve failed.

I have similar problems with other prescriptive absolutes we sometimes have to contend with. When I was new to therapy and dragon-chasing, I was resolutely and optimistically aiming for “closure” and “resolution” on all fronts. But, as the years and battles wore on, it became more and more obvious that for me, these were patently unrealistic goals. In terms of victims of a limited number of traumatic psychological assaults, maybe those terms makes sense.But we’re typically dealing with the trauma load of hundreds and hundreds of rapes, countless torture sessions, and multiple murders (if not out-and-out massacres), including losing loved ones. Expecting or attempting to get some kind of definitive closure and resolution on all of that in one lifetime is probably unrealistic, to put it mildly, and likely to you a disservice.

I’ve learned, by degrees, as I’ve gotten older, to try to cherish any and every little psychological victory for the miracle it is. Every excruciating memory that gets processed, or mystery solved, every small shift out of a toxic pattern is a rich blessing.

Has anyone, anywhere, ever been perfectly healed? Why not celebrate all progress? In my mind, good enough is, well, good enough. Learning to accept realistic limitations is an integral part of healing. Including the very odious process of learning to live with a thousand intractable injustices.

One aspect of the healing process that doesn’t get much play, conventionally, is intellectual insight. More specifically, working to gain a clearer and broader understanding of the personal, social and political context of your abuse. Knowledge truly is power. Personal research is important. Going through old records, letters, photos, etc. can help you get your full story back, and can also lead to validating information. Public research can be equally validating and immensely empowering.

You can put names to faces and faces to names. You can research relevant places, politics, history and current events. The more broadly and richly you understand all of that, the better you’ll understand where you stand right now.

So it really helps to ground you in the present moment, and it helps you predict and imagine your future, which is especially important in terms of assessing risk. Objective context can help dissipate the terror of your atemporal parts who are still enslaved by their fears, and can also give you reality-tested ideas about how dangerous your perps currently might or might not be. And it can help inform splits who are completely unaware of risks – the whole gamut. So I strongly advocate painting the broadest possible canvas for yourself.

It’s also extremely important on the societal level that survivors do their homework and share their insights. The more nuanced your understanding of how your story played out in the external world, the more you can contribute to public understanding of what these criminal elements have been up to. And in the grand scheme of things, that increased cultural awareness can be transformational in that it could lead to accountability, and ultimately to the end of the invisible reign of invisible tyrants.

All of this is a lot of work, and I want to talk for a minute, here, about burn-out – the other end of the healing spectrum. This process is usually cyclical, and of course we all need to take big breaks from the work, consciously or unconsciously. But it’s really easy and common to get through a couple of decades of this and just plateau. The fact that your trauma history continues to eat up time and energy, year after year, can get to you, and it’s yet another gross injustice that you’re forced to come me to terms with. It can be tough to accept, and I think learning to accept these realities is a big part of the healing work.

And I just want to remind folks of one of the potential pitfalls of stalling out altogether.

As healed and integrated as you think you may be, I believe there’s always the possibility, however remote, that perp-identified parts could still be accessed, or could still be on a sleeper-timer. And I think most of us can agree that derailing that possibilityis worth any effort on our part to seek them out and bring them into the conscious fold. So in the interest of making sure you can never be commandeered again, I think it’s important to keep doing what you can to bring light and love to all possible dark corners.

There are ways to mitigate the demoralizing effects of burn-out, and I think giving back can be a huge help here. Everything you’ve learned the hard way can be an invaluable gift to people at the other end of the spectrum, and sharing your own insights helps bring it all back into perspective. Contribute to general awareness of what you’ve learned about both victimization and healing, and help heal society.

Another thing that helps with perspective is to remind yourself of what an amazing accomplishment surviving really is, and how very hard you’ve fought for it all. The joy and beauty of this life we’ve salvaged should never be taken for granted. Remember how precious whatever measure of freedom you’ve achieved for yourself really, really is.Be proud of all your hard work.

I was having breakfast with some survivor friends last winter when Jean Riseman shared a Mexican proverb with me that brought me to tears:“When they buried us, they didn’t know we were seeds.” When you think of what our perps had planned for us, it’s just astonishing how far we’ve come. After all we’ve been through, we’re still standing.

So remember… You’re not crazy. What happened to you was overwhelmingly crazy.

Separating your conscious mind from atrocities to avoid utter annihilation was a highly adaptive act. Dr. Judith Herman calls this ability “one of nature’s small mercies.” You, me, and countless others were violently wrested away from so-called “normal” and tossed into a maelstrom of extremes, where we were tortured, made to witness atrocious acts, and even to commit atrocious acts. Not one of us chose this for ourselves. It was not our fault.

Now that we’ve survived, we need to find ways to let go of the arsenal of drastic psychological strategies we were forced to develop to survive those drastic conditions.

Virginia Woolf said “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Dare to give up your island. Learning to let go and risk being adrift is its own, paradoxical reward. There might be some measure of safety in isolation, but the price is unquestionably profound deprivation. There is safety in numbers. We’re pack animals, we need each other. Unadulterated reality is a very heavy load, and, as my grandmother used to say, “Many hands make light work.”

Jump back into the flow of humanity with both feet, knowing that some people are inevitably going to disappoint, or even ultimately prove to be a threat. But that’s surely the messy bargain humanity has always represented, and if you dig deeply you can wish even the most desperately depraved fellow sojourner well, and move on. It’s never too late to be soft and open again. As poet Yehuda Amichai once wrote: “Even a fist was once an open palm.”

Take good care of your selves. Welcome home even your most wayward inner orphan. Honor every part of you, because every part of you suffered and sacrificed much to get you this far. Every part of you deserves amnesty, gratitude, and an opportunity to heal.

So listen to those who were silenced. Protect those who were violated. Nurture those who were neglected. Honor those who were heartlessly dismissed and subjugated. Forgive those who transgressed. And build community for those who were isolated.

You deserve to live your life as a complete participant, truly and freely feeling all of your feelings. Skimming over the top of your days, living by proxy from a safe distance is a tragic waste. Drag your unconscious history back up from the depths and into the sunlight to drag yourself fully back into the present tense. Back into what poet Ellen Bass has deemed “this gorgeous, tender, terrifying life that is ours for just a second or two.” Through courage, compassion and community, healing, even from the unspeakable, is possible.

May you find peace, and may love always, always abide.

– Carmen