Healing a Family Fractured by Harm
This is a transcript from Joanne’s presentation at The Tenth Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, August, 2007.
Healing a Family Fractured by Harm
Joanne is a survivor of RA, family and government mind control and medical experimentation She has been working on recovery for 14 years and has been instrumental in helping her three dissociative children heal. She leads a life as an active professional in her chosen field in her community. Her topic is: “Healing a Family Fractured by Harm.”
Please use caution while reading to this presentation. It may be very heavy for survivors. All accusations are alleged. The conference is educational and not intended as therapy or treatment.
My name is Joanne.
I am here to tell you about how my family fractured and came together again. We started off as a large extended family with many relatives on both my husband”s side and my side. As memories came, both mine and my children”s, we broke contact with my parents, then as things progressed, with my sister, my brother and all of the aunts uncles and cousins. As memories continued to come for my children and my husband, we fractured again; breaking off from his family and all of his relatives. We fractured yet again as my husband and I broke apart.
Our children, moving into their adult years, expressed their pain, confusion and anger by fracturing our family even further, breaking even more as they attempted to find their personal ways to safety and health.
We became a pile of loose shards, lying in the dirt, our sharp edges unintentionally cutting anyone who would venture close enough to attempt a relationship. Eventually, through much trial and error, relationships reformed. We learned whom to trust, how to trust. We learned how to be together and, for the most part, how not to wound each other. And we learned how to accept the occasional accidental wounding of each other and move on from there.
At times when writing this speech, I felt a sham. New relationship difficulties surfaced; or rather, old ones resurfaced. The hard work is not over. But it does not last as long, we are much more adept at handling the difficulties., and do know that underneath all the pain, we value each others.
My family shrank to include myself and each one of the three children I bore alive. It has started expanding again and now includes partners for two of my children. In March this year we had our first annual family reunion. We have strong relationships with each other. We value each other. We will go to great lengths to help each other. We have walked through the fire, separated, and rejoined.
Somehow these three children have managed to become relatively healthy, emotionally; intermittently far happier adults than I would ever have predicted. They all have college degrees. The two older ones are out of college long enough to have become respected professionals in their career choices.
My youngest one is doing an excellent job of starting his career, taking care of his life needs, working incredibly hard in therapy. My children accomplished all of this in spite of dealing with the difficulties of dissociative identity disorder for most of us; in spite of having experienced a multitude of different kinds of familial abuse, ritual abuse, medical experimentation and mind control.
I wish I could give you a definitive manual and say, “”Here! This is what you need to do. Follow these steps and your children will be happy healthy adults free to follow their own choices, and you will also have strong relationships.”” I can”t do that. Every family, every person, every experience is different. But I can share with you a bit of our progression through these mazes and what things we eventually found helpful.
Other than the fact we were an eccentric family, I did not know there were any problems. I was paranoid about my children”s safety; I would not willingly leave them with anybody as a babysitter except my parents and my husband’s parents. I eagerly looked forward to those times when we visited family so that I could have some time to myself, or my husband and I could be alone while the relatives cared for the children.
My children were very bright. They were overachievers, in the areas of academics, arts and sports. They were well-behaved, polite and respectful. They were a teacher”s dream students. Parent teacher conferences were a complete joy, as the teachers could not say enough good things about our children.
Years later, after our first session of family therapy, we walked out into the street, shell shocked, and ran into two of my children”s high school teachers. “”We were just talking about you!”” they exclaimed. “”Your children are so wonderful; such high achievers but also so very nice, we want to know what your secrets are. How you raised your children to be like that. We want to do exactly what you did.””
Let me introduce us to you:
My background started with abuse of many different kinds which continued through my growing years, through college, through the meeting of my husband and after, until I dissolved our family unit.
In my birth family, I was considered the dangerous one. I was the one who did not who did not like what was happening, the one who wanted the truth known at all costs, the one who would break seemingly unbreakable trance states to suddenly be in present day reality and tell the truth to other people about what was happening.
After several years of marriage, when I began to realize something was wrong with my life, I entered therapy. When it became clear my husband had also suffered childhood damage, he also chose to pursue therapy. He came home from a session one day and said to me, “”I don”t know if I can continue with therapy. If what I was looking at today was true, I”m a terrible evil person.”” I told him we all went through that in therapy; I would help him and support him, we could get through this. There was no way out but through.
I was wrong. There was another way out. My husband quit therapy and denied his memories.
I became aware that I was multiple; that I had a background of which I had no knowledge. I did not know that people could experience more than one thought, more than one emotion, simultaneously. I did not know what mixed motives were. I learned to distrust myself. If I did something nurturing for one of the children, it would be pointed out to me that I actually had an ulterior motive; one of self interest.
I would search my soul, and way down deep I might find some lesser motives as part of the mix. They were not the reasons I decided to act as I did, but because of the mere fact of their existence, I would be told THAT was why I really chose my actions. Not out of the goodness of my heart, not out of love for others, but because of base motive of which I had not been aware.
I had no defense against this mind manipulation. I became less and less able to stay conscious around my family. I found myself sleeping more and more. Soon I was seen as ”the sick one”.
My youngest child had been a happy merry child, always smiling, full of curiosity, entranced by his environment and very loving. He gradually changed into someone fearful and deeply, deeply angry.
When my position in the family was deteriorating drastically, he was finishing his junior year in high school. I looked at the personality he was displaying to the world: bitter, angry, cynical, manipulative. I remembered his core: an exceedingly sweet, kind, generous person. I wanted him to have a choice; to see there are other ways to live.
With the help of a friend, I finally gathered up the courage and strength to move out. My youngest son refused to talk to me. He treated me with extreme contempt. After some months, he did come to visit me in my apartment.
I told him I would like to buy him a bed for his own. One he could use while at my place, but one for him to keep if he chose. Up until now, the only beds he had had, were either my mother’s bed as a child, or the lovely set of bunk beds my father made for myself and my sister when we were children. Numerous instances of molestation had been perpetrated on both of these. My son greeted my offer with extreme cynicism and distrust. He was sure I was trying to manipulate him in some way He finally consented. After a few months, he started trusting me more and moved in with me.
Since then, his path to healing has been up and down, with many rough patches. Sometimes he expressed extreme anger with me, and he has stayed out of contact for months at a time. About 15 months ago he decided to actively pursue healing in therapy and has made astounding progress. At present, given time, we are able to work through whatever comes up in the way of our relationship.
My middle child has also been very deeply angry for a number of years, but it manifested differently in her. She became highly competitive, the best at anything and everything she tried, but has remained unable to see her own brilliance.
When she came home for the summer after her freshman year of college, she told me she could barely stand to be in the same house with me, that she had regained memories involving me. She would not tell me why she could not bear to be around me until I also had the memory, then she planned to insist we go to therapy together and work on it.
Internally, I worked hard. I could find nothing inside myself to match what she was talking about.
She went through tremendous changes herself. She thought I was invested in whom she had been and seemed to be surprised that I cared more for her happiness than having her play a specific role in life, or follow a certain career path.
I learned to back off in my relationship with her. She wanted none of my thoughts, my ideas, my feelings, my personality. For some years in our relationship, I shut up and only listened to her. I offered no suggestions unless she specifically asked for them. I would reflect back to her what she had said to me; ask her if I had heard her accurately. Once we were both hearing the same thing, the conversation was usually over. If I offered more, she became exceedingly angry.
A few years later she cut contact with me for several months. This was the only way she had found to separate herself from me. She fully supported me leaving my husband and waited until I had moved out to take this action.
Some time after this she got more memories. She called me and said she was wrong about the memory about me she had had as a freshman in college.
When she asked me to help her buy a car, I knew our relationship was finally truly healing. I was terrified; I knew nothing about buying cars; I had never bought one myself. My ex-husband would always tell me he had figured out what kind of car I wanted and found the perfect one.
I did not want to let my daughter down. I did not tell her how terrified I was. I called friends and asked them what to look for in a car. They consulted their husbands who consulted their co-workers. I was given suggestions as to kinds of cars and what to look for. I did internet research.
When the day came, we found the perfect car for her. She was thrilled with it. She drove it until it was worn out. I had not let her down.
My oldest child, was not a happy person, although he has been highly successful. He was named All American in his chosen sport; he has a master”s degree in his chosen academic field and today is a highly respected professional. But he considers himself not very bright. He believes his achievements are due only to the hard work he does. He maintains ties with both parents and I am not sure what he believes in regards to any of these abuse dynamics I am talking about today. I do not consider his belief necessary to our maintaining a good relationship. I care deeply for him and want the healthiest and best possible life for him, however he achieves it.
Although it has not always been easy, we both have worked hard at maintaining our relationship. At one point, as an adult, I talked to him about how to keep himself safe. I told him to listen to himself inside. If he finds himself feeling a different age, if he finds himself suddenly feeling just different; perhaps having different values or as if some part of himself is missing, then there is a strong possibility that whoever he is with is not a safe person.
I have two interesting photographs of him, taken in the past couple of years. They are both taken in the same place, similar posture on his part. In both, he is in physical contact with the person next to him. In the first one, the person is someone I consider unsafe. My son’s body language is rather stiff and his body is leaning away from this person. In the other picture, an almost identical pose with someone else, my son”s body language is very relaxed and comfortable looking and he is leaning in towards this other person, who is a wonderful safe person. When I saw those two pictures, I realized that whether or not he is conscious of it, on some deep level my son knows who is and who is not safe, and how to protect himself. After seeing that, I could relax some of my hyper vigilance in regards to him.
I do not know if I have molested my children or not. I have regained no memories of that. I do know I was unable to protect my children. One of my children has a memory of my father pointing to me, after he had drugged me and I was nonfunctioning, and telling the child that I could never protect them. My father also told that child that if I ever regained memories it would be more than I can stand and I would go crazy. The child was shown how to put my memories away by pressing in a certain place on the back of my shoulder. When I realized this, for some years I had to be exceedingly careful about hugging the child. The child was not responsible for those actions; my father was.
How did my children get so damaged?
They were accessed without my knowledge.
In addition to damage done at the hands of relatives, at least one of my children was accessed at school, through a small ”gifted and talented” program.
There were several other presumably safe settings that were not.
Taking my cat to the vet one day for routine shots brought back a severe flashback. The vet assured me the shots were necessary for the cat’s continued good health. I believed him. The cat fought ; it took three people to hold the cat down. I was unable to help hold the cat down; internally I was screaming at the top of my voice. I tried to talk to the cat to calm him, and felt like a complete traitor.
Driving home, it felt like a parallel situation from my past, some as-yet-undefined memory, where I was assured – something – was in the best interests of my child. Intellectually I believed what I was being told, but all I could see was the harm and injury being done to my son.
I trusted the people talking to me; they were professionals. How could I argue with them? I was caught in a double bind. I wanted the best for my child; yet I did not want my child hurt. I could not separate out the two; the only answer I could find was to ultimately totally dissociate
Working on health as a family
A few months after I started getting memories and connected up with an excellent therapist, my daughter related a memory to me, a memory of watching one of my sons being molested by my parents, in their basement. I realized it was not just me that had been harmed (duh!) and we started working on health as a family.
I realized that the only models I had for parenting were highly faulty ones. Whenever I had a choice, I began checking with my therapist on how to respond to situations involving the children. It was years before I felt I had internalized things enough that I could begin to trust my own instincts as to what was healthy.
We had a few session of therapy as a family. I am glad we did this, but it was not something we could continue. The issues were amazingly complex. The therapist once commented that although there were 6 people in the room, it felt like the room was crowded with close to a hundred people. And that periodically we would all get up and trade chairs, although our bodies never moved!
In later years, one of my children related to me how confusing it was to go to family therapy and hear the therapist say that the abuse is over. They are safe now. And look over at my husband sitting there, knowing what he was going to do sometime in the next few days.
One child took up karate for self protection. Another child let the bedroom get messier and messier so that it was impossible to walk into the room without stepping on things (thus making noises) and, also impossible to discern what was a mound of dirty clothes and what was a sleeping child.
I found out years later, this child frequently slept on the floor under the bed to stay safe. Lights were left on and the radio was left playing so that anybody standing outside the door would not know if the child was awake. Unfortunately none of that was enough protection
We had some family meeting sessions at home to attempt to deal with issues. This was ultimately not successful. The children hated and dreaded these meetings. Issues did not really get resolved. There was far too much going on of which I had no knowledge. We were at cross purposes with these meetings.
Eventually I started using the rules of fair fighting in my interactions, particularly with my spouse. I did not know what healthy interactions were like. Several versions of these rules are easily available on the internet. They work! And they were things I definitely needed to learn.
One of my children has asked that I put a word of caution in here; these only work if both people are sincerely interested in changing. Nevertheless, I am glad I worked with these. I knew I had given our relationship every possible change to succeed.
How to work on healthy relationships in general
These are the things I found most useful:
1. Set a time and place for a discussion. Choose a time that works for both of you. Choose a neutral setting that is agreeable to both of you. I frequently used a public place because temper control is much more active in a public setting. If either of the people involved is dissociative, choose a time that both people can be as core present as possible.
2. Be respectful at all times. Don”t hit below the belt. We all know the areas in which others are particularly vulnerable. Resolve that no matter what, you will not use these areas to attack.
3. Work for a win/win situation When I first heard this concept, it was foreign to me. I thought there always had to be a winner and a loser. I found this an amazing revelation.
4. State the problem clearly. Stick to the facts.
5.Use “”I”” messages to describe feelings A statement such as “”You make me feel thus and so”” is actually not true. Nobody can make you feel any certain way. Rephrase it as “”I feel (hurt, angry, sad, whatever) when you do such and such.
6. Work on only one problem at a time. If your family is at all like mine, there will be a multitude of problems that need dealing with. Know which problem you are going to address at this particular time, and stay with it! If other things come up, write them down, but do not let yourself be sidetracked. Set a future time to deal with those.
7. Don”t generalize The words “”always”” and “”never”” are words that are almost guaranteed to make the other person angry, upset or defensive. Stick to present day issues, rather than raking in a multitude of things from the past.
8, Don”t minimize. Sometimes the issues can seem laughingly trivial. They are not; not if the other person needs to bring them up. Deal with it respectfully. Sometimes something that seems like a small issue is actually hiding a huge issue behind it. Respectful treatment will help make it safe for the large issue to be discussed.
9. Realize that if one of you has a problem, both of you do. Out of respect for your partner, you cannot just walk away and leave them with a problem. If there are no fingers pointing blame, you can work together on why one of these two people is experiencing a negative emotion and what the two of you can do to change that.
10. Take turns talking; do not interrupt. Wait until the other person is done talking. This can be exceedingly difficult. I would always have pencil and paper in front of me, and if necessary I would jot down he things to which I needed to respond, as the other person talked. Just the fact that I did not interrupt allowed a tremendous easing of hostile feelings. The other person always knew they could talk as long as they needed/wanted. And I always knew that when I finally had a chance to respond, I also could talk as long as I needed.
If this is difficult for either of you to learn, it may be helpful to have something tangible, a physical object, that you pass back and forth. Whoever is currently holding it gets to continue talking until they pass it to the other person.
11. Time outs when needed. If tempers start to flare, agree to call a time out. Do not allow yourself to say hurtful things. Don”t carry hurt feelings if someone needs a time out; decide how long the time out will be. If a long time is needed, choose another time to resume the discussion.
12. Be Active Listeners. Take notes as needed. I found it helpful to have my first response be something like, “”What I heard you say was thus and so. Is that accurate?”” and then discuss back and forth until we both agreed on what was being stated. The difference between what is actually said, and what is heard can be amazing, particularly with people who are dissociative. If your partner does not reflect back what he/she heard, actively ask the person what they heard you say.
13. No mind reading. This was a particularly important point for us. We all had introjects of each other: little images of each other that we carried around in our minds. We always knew what the other person was thinking/feeling. And frequently we were wrong! It was common in our family for someone to do a long monologue that would at some point contain the words, “”I know what you are going to say or do. I know what you are thinking about this”” and then to prove the other person”s supposed thoughts wrong..
With these introjects, the messages we all heard other people say, in our head, were so very strong that we reacted completely as if the other person had actually said or done those things. We could not separate out what happened in reality and what happened just in our heads. This took years to work on.
If you are already dissociative, this can be lethal leading you to doubt yourself and reality.
As my marriage disintegrated (or perhaps I should say, as I became aware of what my marital relationship actually was), I knew that things were not good, but I was determined not to move out until I could separate out what was reality out there, and what was just inside my head. Every morning as I walked, I worked on this. I would listen to what the husband inside my head would say, then examine the reality and see if he had ever actually said or done these things. Eventually I was able to separate out the two, then discard the husband inside my head.
Helping Your Children Heal
Until I started doing research for this presentation, I had no idea of how children are affected just by having parents who have experienced extreme trauma, even if the children suffer no trauma themselves. I was quite startled and pleased to find out that there are a number of studies done on children in this situation, including some on the children of Holocaust survivors, others on the children of vets who suffer from PTSD.
The inescapable conclusion is that if you have had severe trauma yourself, your child is already starting out life with difficulties, even if you have been the best possible parent . If your child ends up needing therapy, it is important to include in the child”s history that you yourself are a trauma survivor.
At the best, dissociative parents may be emotionally unavailable to their children, may neglect them, and may be unable to model responsible adult behavior. Often in such families, young children become “parentified,” taking on the nurturing parental role, caring for younger children and for the disabled parent, as well.
I used to love to garden. I have had to give that up. I found that I would plant the garden one day, go out what seemed a couple of days later to tend them and find them choked with weeds. I look at my berry bushes loaded with luscious blackberries; go out the next day to harvest them, and they are now all dried up.
The plants did not sit there waiting until I was again conscious of them; they continued to grow and mature while my mind was caught in another place and time.
It is highly likely the same thing happened with my child raising.
Another thing to be aware of is the problem of self soothing. This is a skill that dissociative parents do not have themselves. They have not learned how to work with strong emotions and are unable to teach the child. For many dissociatives, myself included, thre is actually fear of fear itself, that has to be conquered before working with the original event that caused the fear.
When my daughter was young she became very frustrated trying to learn something new. Rather than help her calm herself, I told her to go into the next room and not come out until she changed. She was very obedient. When she came out, she was someone completely different. There was not even a hint of the temper tantrum she had been throwing. At the time, I felt great pride in her self control.
Some early considerations
Children learn their parent”s alters and may learn how to call these forth. They may find their parent can be a wonderful playmate for them; they may find that in certain moods their parent may be very permissive. There may be an inconsistency of values, disciplines, and memory of daily routines.
It is helpful for the child to be educated about what is happening in the parent. Sidran Press has a free download of a book for young children, with a simple non-threatening explanation of MPD
Depending on how complex your family situation is, family therapy may be helpful for the children. Sometimes children have been given too much information, sometimes too little. It is important for children to learn that dissociative behavior is a symptom of illness, not something to be imitated or manipulated.
Roles in a dissociative family get easily confused. Family therapy MAY help establish better boundaries. The child should be encouraged to focus on their own emotions and needs rather than those of the parent.
Another aspect to consider is secondary traumatic stress disorder. As the child lives with a parent who may be self destructive or experiencing flashbacks, the child experiences their own trauma.
Whenever I think of secondary PTSD, I think of my oldest child, who stayed home sick one day from high school. He was sitting at the kitchen table calmly eating. I was focused on the past, not the present. I had a set of china dishes I had been given that had a strawberry design on them. These dishes were highly triggering for me, causing instant dissociation and feelings of extreme anger and helplessness.
I deliberately took a dish out of the cupboard and dropped it on the floor, shattering it into several pieces. My son jumped a mile. I had given no indication of what I was going to do, I had done it all in extreme silence with no visible emotion. I can only imagine how this would feel to a child, to experience this sudden jarring intrusion into what appeared to be a normal morning.
I don”t know how many other intrusions like this my children may have experienced, but I doubt this was an isolated example. It WAS the last one of that nature, though. I shocked myself when I realized what I had done to my son.
For years, I did not believe I was really multiple. I did not act out; I had no blocks of missed time in my daily life. I was positive I had a continuous stream of consciousness. Well, maybe I was missing a year or so of my life. Well, maybe I was missing my childhood years; maybe all of them. Maybe I was missing my college years; maybe I was missing my early married years; and my children”s childhood. BUT I KNEW I HAD A CONTINOUS STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
Then, in an innocent conversation with one of my children, I found out by pure chance that my mind had the ability to confabulate without my knowledge. We had been discussing the previous evening, and I mentioned that I had been working all evening. My son denied it. I gave him the names of all the students I had worked with that evening, what things we had worked on, what they had said. He continued to deny that I had worked at all. I finally checked a calendar and was dismayed to find that indeed all of my students had canceled that evening. I do not know what actually took place that evening. My mind had developed the ability to make up an innocent, likely scenario that had all the earmarks of reality as far as I could tell. When I fully grasped that, I knew there was no way I had of knowing what my children”s actual reality had been.
If you are a dissociative parent, there is every probability your child will have difficulties.
I have heard parents say, “”My father molested me. I experienced ritual abuse at his hands. But I know he never hurt my children. They were never alone with him. Well, yes, we would visit my parents and stay overnight.”” I wonder if the parent that said those words ever slept? If she ever allowed her child to go out of the room she was in, even to the bathroom, for a few minutes? Did she really believe this statement of hers?
Many people who have DID have originally been given a different diagnosis. Some people go through several different diagnoses until the nature of their problems is realized
If there is any possibility at all your child could have been exposed to the same source that your traumas came from, I strongly urge you to consider the possibility that your child also might be multiple.
To my mind, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, has a parent that is a duck, has spent time in the same environment that made it”s parent a duck, why, let”s consider first the strong possibility that it is indeed a duck!
The experience of dissociation is different for each person.
One of my children was diagnosed as possibly schizophrenic. Years later when I talked to this child, I found out that the child could see alters outside of himself. I cannot do that. For me they are all inside my head. My child could see them sitting around a table outside him and could converse with them.
One of my children heard furniture talking. I assumed the furniture was actually alters. I was assured that it was not. When the furniture talked, it was something entirely different.
I began to get concerned until I learned that one common abuse trick was to hide loudspeakers in furniture and convince children that the couch (or whatever) was actually talking to them.
Helping your children:
When I started getting memories, I had two children in high school, and one who was in late elementary school. I was open with my children from the beginning. I did not go into details; they did not need that.
But when I started getting memories, my behavior, functioning and skills would change drastically at times. Sometimes I would have a pronounced stutter. One day I got stuck in baby talk and could not talk differently. I frequently forgot my phone number, address and the date. I sometimes could not drive. Sometimes I could not follow directions for cooking. I am a professional musician; that is how I make my living. At one point I lost the ability to read music.
My children needed some kind of explanation. I told them I was getting memories from some bad things that had happened to me in the past.
As memories continued to come, I realized I did not know what my children”s personal history might contain.
These are the things I found most helpful:
1. Give your children permission to remember. This is The first thing I would strongly, strongly suggest doing. If you do not have a continuous steam of consciousness, if you have holes in your past history, you DO NOT KNOW what they may or may not have experienced, or what YOU may or may not have done.
Tell the child that you have realized you have severe abuse in your background and this has prevented you from protecting the child as you wish you could have. That you did not always have control over your actions and you do not remember everything that may have occurred.
2. Tell the child they do not need to protect you.
The child may be purposely suppressing memories for fear of hurting you. The child does NOT need to protect you by filtering out memories that may appear to say something negative about you.
It is YOUR job as a parent to handle whatever may come up; it is the CHILD”S job to put themselves first and take care of themselves.
I cannot stress enough how important I find this step.
I have heard parents say “”I could not bear to know I may have harmed my child.”” I can identify readily with that sentiment! But if you analyze that statement, what is actually being said is: “”My self image is more important than my child”s mental/emotional health and well-being.””
In a similar situation, what would you have wanted from your perpetrators? Chances are that you will never get what you want from them, but you CAN model it for your child.
You cannot change what you were given as a child. But there is a curious satisfaction and sense of peace in being able to give to your own children what you wished you had had
3. Accept responsibility. Apologize to your child.
I accepted responsibility. This was excruciatingly painful and felt like I had to continually reopen wounds inside myself. It also felt completely unfair – I was in so much pain from what had been done to me.
And now I had to take on this additional pain! None of this felt like deserved or earned pain. When was anybody ever going to take care of me, treat ME with fairness, kindness, love??
If you feel like this, my advice to you is ”Deal with it.””
A few months ago my son mentioned as an aside, that he has complete trust in me. This is from someone who is very wary, paranoid and cynical. I EARNED that trust through much hard work, pain, soul searching, and honesty.
Once, when I mentioned to my son, that some of the techniques he was using for healing from extreme trauma would not work for me because my background of abuse is different from his, he shocked me into complete silence by replying, “”I know. I feel so very fortunate.””
4. Remember YOU are the parent and the adult.
YOU can go elsewhere to get your specific emotional needs met. Your child cannot go elsewhere for another parent. Do for your child what you wish your parents had done for you.
I found it helpful to ask myself , “”If I had a grandchild, how would I want my own child treating my grandchild in this situation? What kind of mature adult behavior would I expect of my child?”” And then I would model that kind of behavior. Doing it one step removed like this made it easier – I could see it more clearly.
5. Do not expect the child to come to you and say: “I was abused.”
If you have made YOUR abuse the center problem of the family, it is doubtful the child will be able to do this; they will be too busy protecting you.
Put no pressure on the child; Tell the child if they wish to talk things over with a counselor you will make arrangements. The child may or may not get memories; the child may or may not wish to share them with you.
6. Expect Anger
Give them permission to be angry with you if they feel you have not protected them from harm, or if you have actively hurt them. Tell them you have a memory problem and that you are willing to discuss any of this with them, and if necessary, the two of you can get another adult (counselor/therapist) to help you work on this.
It may take a while for the child to fully realize you actually mean it when you give them this permission. They will test you. Once they realize you truly are able to accept responsibility for your actions and truly are willing, expect a lot of anger to be directed your way! Work through it!
If you are dissociative, there will be numerous times you have failed your child. There were many, many times I was white knuckling it, trying to stay conscious, trying not to end up in an insane asylum, trying to not kill myself. Was I a nurturing mother during those times, providing safety for my child? Providing comfort for my child? Providing what they should be able to expect as a birthright?
I seriously doubt it. There were times it all felt so vastly unfair. I was getting memories back, trying to deal with all of this. My birth family, whom I had trusted, had hurt me terribly. And here were my children, angry at me because I could not be there for them.
I remember telling my son endlessly “”I cannot deal with that right now. Please stop asking me.”” He was unable to stop. I would ask him to leave the room. He could not. I would have to leave, myself, rather than risk physically assaulting my child. It IS unfair. It is SERIOUSLY unfair. Deal with it.
Early on in therapy, my therapist played hardball with me. He insisted I tell him whether I had or was currently molesting or abusing my children. I had no memories either way. I could not tell him. He would not accept the word “”try””. He told me upfront that if there was any possibility I was harming my children, he would get them taken out of my home, for their best interests and for my best interests.
I was shocked, I was horrified, I was deeply angry at him. I felt nobody else would be able to protect the children in the way that I could, even though I could not fully define those dangers.
And I was deeply, deeply grateful to my therapist. He made me face up to an unthinkable possibility. Once I faced up to this and the knowledge that I do not have a continuous stream of consciousness, I was able to safeguard them in ways I had not before. I also knew that my therapist was keeping an alert watch over what I said and did, and would be able to make sure I did not harm my children.
7. Don”t demand respect above all else; focus on the CHILD not on yourself.
The child, in their pain and injury, will probably lash out. It is not personal. Think of an accident victim lashing out when you are trying to help them and inadvertently brush up against their injuries. Ignore it; it is unimportant.
Keep your attention focused on the child and what is needed. After the injuries have started to heal, you can start calling attention to the automatic lashing out and ask the child if that is what they truly want to be doing.
8. Know that you and your child have the same goal.
You want your child to be healthy and have a healthy relationship with his parent. Deep down, your child wants the same thing.
I frequently felt like the target when one of my children would express deep anger. I had an unconscious visualization of standing across from this child as poisonous darts were flung into my heart. I learned to visualize myself standing beside the child, as we both together acknowledged the anger and frustration and how unfair it all was.
9. Realize the child may be switching and may not be able to hear you.
Be patient when this happens and be willing to repeat as many times is necessary until the parts hear what they need to hear.
One of my children told me I never apologized for things. I had. Repeatedly. We would have this conversation endlessly, and each time I would apologize again. I finally realized he was switching when I would start to apologize, and that particular part actually never heard the many times I said “”I”m sorry.”” Knowledge of this gave me the patience to sit with him and help him feel safe until eventually he was able to hear those words. It took years.
Sometimes it helps to put things in writing. This can reach parts of your child when spoken words do not. It can also help their parts remember and share information.
10. Be very careful about giving promises.
Somehow, my family had developed a habit of substituting words for action. My children would thank a person immediately if they said they would do something, and then would be let down endlessly because promises would not be carried through. Nobody would say anything about this; that was considered ”rude”.
I made an ironclad rule for myself. I would NEVER promise anything. I would do my best to fulfill the child”s wish. If I was able to carry through, I would then present the child with an accomplished action.
It took a long time. Eventually my children learned to rely completely on what I said. It was wonderful. They trust me.
11. Know there is always a valid reason behind child”s behavior.
Your goal is to figure out what/why, in as calm a manner as possible, and help the child make sense of what is happening. They may be reacting to something in the past of which you have no knowledge.
If undesirable behavior persists, rather than saying “”What part of NO didn”t you understand, ask “”What part of you didn”t understand “”No?””
12. Know your child”s Core and keep it always in the forefront of your mind.
Whether it is visible or not, the Core is always there and is always hearing your words. Always! You may not find this out until many years later.
With one of my children, I am currently meeting parts that were completely hidden and submerged for many years. I had no idea these parts were there. They had absolutely no visibility.
These parts do not realize that and have immense rage that their needs were not met, as I responded to the extremely angry defiant personas that were presented.
13. Acknowledge the other parts.
Keeping the core in mind, do not ignore the part that is out. That part can get blisteringly angry if it feels ignored or slighted.
I found these other parts were generally irrational, and if I tried to respond on a rational level, we would both just get further entangled. If I stepped back and let them express, eventually we both came out ahead.
14. Check your parenting skills
If you were abused yourself, chances are high you do not have good role models for parenting.
A thousand times I would see many different ways to act or react, and valid reasons for all of them, but had no way of knowing which were healthy ones and which were not.
15. Take a long term view. We are building a relationship for the future. Get a solid foundation for the two of you and although it may take years, eventually the children should be able to see the truth about you.
16. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient.