Setting and Reinforcing Personal Boundaries
Setting and Reinforcing Personal Boundaries
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This transcript is from a presentation by Katherine Sullivan at The Third Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, August 4 – 6, 2000 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Windsor Locks, CT. Some of the topics discussed may be triggering. The conference is educational and not intended as therapy or treatment. All accusations are alleged. Our providing the information below does not necessarily constitute our endorsement of it.
Hi. My name is Katherine Sullivan. Some of you know me by another name, but this is the one I use when I present information about ritual abuse and mind control. I also use this name so that what I say or write won’t be tracked back to my family to embarrass them. I am angry about what they did to me, but I still respect their right to privacy from public invasion.
I am president of PARC-VRAMC, and we have a table of literature outside if you want to look at it later. This particular presentation will be about setting and reinforcing personal boundaries. To keep it from being too triggering, I’ll be using a lot of my own experiences as examples. If I say something that bothers you to where you need to leave the room for a while, please do what is best for you. I have done my best to tone down this presentation, but some of it will probably still stir stuff up for you. If that happens you may want to note both what I said and your internal reaction, to discuss with your therapist or support system later on.
What I’m going to share is not as a representative of PARC, but as an individual survivor in recovery. You won’t agree with me on everything, and you have the right to disagree. I’m going to try to keep my opinions out of what I share as much as possible, but anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows that I tend to have some pretty strong opinions on certain subjects. So like they say, take what you need and don’t worry about the rest.
In the next workshop we will be talking about boundaries in a discussion format, so you may want to take notes to use for that. I also want to mention that we have provided a lot of handouts for you to take home. Some of them may not fit where you are in your recovery right now, but may be a help later on. And again, if there’s any handout that doesn’t fit for you, you’re welcome to give them to someone else or give back to us. Some of these handouts are challenging in that they help us to see ways we can change more for the better, if and when we choose to.
If anyone listening to this tape or reading the transcript wants a set of the handouts, send $5 to PARC and we’ll get it to you. The address is PMB 129, 5251 Hwy. 153, Hixson TN 37343.
Some of what I’ll share today came from Tom Whitehead’s article, Boundaries and Psychotherapy: Boundary Distortion and its Consequences. It’s on the Internet at http://www.goodandwell.com/survivor/bound1.html
Having said all this, let’s look at boundaries.
Although some of our boundaries are physical, such as a need for distance or closeness or touch or sex or no sex or whatever, most of our boundaries are mental and emotional. All of our boundaries are set up inside, either in us as a whole, or in parts, to help us meet our basic human needs. In the mental health community, a list of basic human needs is often used. It was developed by a man named Abraham Maslow. He listed the needs in the following order, starting with what we must have to survive:
Physical needs – food, water, sleep and sex.
Next comes our Need for safety – includes security, protection, not being in pain, and
not being hurt
Then there’s social belonging and love – connecting with other people emotionally and
socially, experiencing affection, feeling loved
Esteem – self-respect and respect from others
Finally, Self-actualization – which is, after having found a way to have the previous
needs met, the person goes further by reaching her or his fullest human potential, by
tapping into and utilizing natural capabilities and talents. I also believe this is
where a survivor really starts to become a thriver.
To recap: Physical needs, then safety, then social belonging and love, then esteem, then finally, self-actualization.
Unfortunately, what most people find, and what I’ve personally experienced, is that most boundaries can’t be controlled consciously. We tend to react to situations based on how our boundaries were subconsciously set up in childhood — good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.
Example: I once had a long-term problem with men coming up behind me in grocery checkout lines and rubbing their appendages against my butt. What did I do? Did I stomp their feet hard and scream? Did I move to another line? No, unfortunately I froze inside and couldn’t move or talk. And then they were able to do it as much as they wanted, until it was my turn to move forward and pay for my groceries. As much as I wanted to move away or yell or hurt the man to protect myself, I instead responded according to my childhood conditioning. And then each time, after it was over, I blamed myself for his doing it to me. I believed, as I did in childhood, that I must be filthy for him to want to do such a filthy thing to me.
Now as I think about it, I wonder. Did I send out a signal to these men? Maybe a little bit, by not noticing and getting upset and moving away when they first moved too close to me. Probably I was dissociating at the time, looking at the candy or magazines. When I didn’t respond by moving away, they may have sensed I was a good target for their perversions.
One month ago, I had a major revelation about this. It came after I found and accepted deep emotional pain and grief that went all the way back to early childhood. It was pain over something that had set me up, more than anything else, to be a lifelong sexual target.
What set me up was this: both of my parents had sexually abused me on a regular basis, including at home, from infancy up through my earlier adult years. When mom didn’t do it to me in private, dad did. Sometimes they did it together. This doesn’t include what they did to me in rituals and orgies and porn shoots.
Being a child, I naturally based my sense of self on what my primary caretakers, mom and dad, did to me. This includes how they looked at me, talked to me, physically touched me, and more. Because both parents treated me as a sexual object and looked at me with lust instead of love, and later gave me to others to sexually assault me, I ended up seeing myself as a sexual receptacle for them and anyone else to use whatever way they wanted.
Up until this past spring, when I found my core self, I had been working hard to teach each alter-state what good sex and creepy sex were, the differences in personalities of caring people and scuzzballs, and that every part was worth being treated with respect, no matter what they came out of. Even though I really didn’t believe I deserved respect, my therapist and husband did. I chose to trust what they said until I found the self-esteem inside my own self. All that hard work did pay off, as I was only sexually assaulted once that I know of in the past three years. But I still kept an internal sexual victim self-image.
Two weeks ago, after I realized that it wasn’t my fault that my parents had sexually targeted me, I was standing alone in line in a cafeteria. I slid my tray along a set of rails and waited my turn to order food. A tall, bearded man deliberately moved way too close behind me. Every time I moved my tray away from his, he moved his about 1-2 inches next to mine, the entire way down the line.
When I finally got to the cash register, he was still so close that the cashier asked if we were together. I said “NO” loudly. Then I found a table where families were already seated on all sides of me, so that he couldn’t sit near me. It worked. He probably went on to look for another target.
As I sat at the table, thinking about what had just happened, I flashbacked. I realized that in the past, when male handlers wanted to put me in a trance, all they had to do was get too physically close to me in public. They didn’t have to jingle their keys or do elaborate hand signals … they just plain got too close to me. That’s all it took! Each time, this action quickly put me in a trance state. Once they did that, I was totally vulnerable to go anywhere they instructed me to. This realization shook me up, but then I realized that I had finally broken their spell … all because I found the core of the trauma base that made me a victim in the first place.
So many of us who grew up as victims never learned how to set physical boundaries. I am going to show you one way to start practicing this, starting with a close partner, my husband, then with a friend, then with a stranger.
Demonstration of setting physical boundaries (space between us and others)
Standing very close to my husband, both of us comfortable with the closeness.
Standing not as close to a male friend, both of us comfortable with that distance.
Standing less close to a volunteer from the audience, a stranger to me. Both of us decide we are comfortable with this distance of her choosing.
Then, telling her what I am going to do, I step one step closer, temporarily violating her invisible physical boundary between us. I mention, as I demonstrate to the audience, that there are several immediate things she can do to protect her boundary. She can take one more step away from me, she can turn away from me, and she can walk away from me.
Sometimes I run into someone who is so disrespectful of my physical boundaries, not as a criminal but as a jerk, that if I say no or move away or whatever, that person continues to invade my boundaries. I used to be so afraid of hurting people’s feelings that I couldn’t be mean to these people; I would unfortunately let them do whatever they wanted. One of the important things a therapist taught me is that this type of abuser isn’t capable of feeling hurt by what I say to him or her, so it doesn’t matter how mean I come across.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in my own recovery is that no matter how hard a person works to consciously change his or her unhealthy or distorted boundaries through behavior modification or whatever, until the core issues that created some of these boundaries are dealt with, the boundaries don’t change completely. This is one reason why so many survivors get frustrated and feel helpless and ashamed as they work so hard to change, and yet find themselves bouncing back to their old behaviors.
As a person desires to change and set healthier boundaries, it’s important to seek out healthy, caring, respectful people – in therapy or otherwise – who will example to the survivor what healthy boundaries are, and will give the survivor enough love and acceptance so that the survivor can dare to face the most deeply painful traumas, especially betrayal trauma, that may be the basis for some of the distorted boundaries. I must warn you, however, that when you choose to get close to such people, their caring and respect will bring up pain inside you about the lack of love, caring, and acceptance you needed from your caregivers. The pain can get intense for a while, but it can be gotten through.
Another boundary I still occasionally struggle with is to trust my own judgment, instead of going by what I’m told by friends. In the last ten years of recovery, I was pushed by many abuse survivors and by some therapists to focus entirely on feeling and expressing anger towards my father for the many horrible things he had done to me. Any time I tried to tell them about the love I’d felt for him, I was made to feel as if that emotion was unacceptable. I had almost no support at all in grieving the father I’d lost. So what did I do? I buried my love. I shut it way down inside and developed a façade to try to please my friends and therapists, by talking only in a negative way about my father.
When I did this, I lost touch with the reality that I was born with the human gift of being able to love an abusive caregiver. I respect the rights of others to feel hatred towards my dad, but I have the equal right to be respected for the love I still feel for him. I knew him in a way they never did. He was my father; he raised me. He was the caregiver (maybe this word doesn’t quite fit) I bonded with most. I naturally loved him and have needed to grieve losing him. My friends and therapists did not have the right to shame me into dissociating from that honest love.
All of this took place in a climate of survivor rage where love for abusers was considered politically incorrect and even sick. Sure, there were times I needed to express a lot of anger towards him over what he did to me and other children. I broke at least three plastic bats by slamming them on sofa cushions until my hands were covered with blisters. I graduated to a large punching bag that my husband installed in our garage. I visualized my father’s face and other body parts on it. I screamed and yelled and hit and kicked until I was exhausted. And then I did it again, and again, until I didn’t need to do it anymore.
But the bottom emotion, the bottom line of what I felt towards my dad was still love. So one of the new emotional boundaries I decided to create is that I will not allow anyone to pressure me into denying or minimizing my true feelings. Every time I try to please others instead of being myself, I develop a false presenting self and I become increasingly dissociated. I’m at the place in my recovery where I would rather be politically incorrect and stay true to myself.
Tom Whitehead wrote, “Healthy boundaries lead us to treat our loved ones well, yet stand firm against attempted abuse or exploitation. Ultimately, they give us a firm sense of who we are, and who we are not.” To know who I really am is something I have yearned for so strongly inside, ever since I started recovery. I developed so many alter-states and personality fragments from infancy on that I quit counting after I hit about a thousand. I felt hopeless and believed there was no way I could ever integrate.
But I was wrong. Looking back, I now realize that whereas most singletons have one main external boundary defining who they are, most of my boundaries were internal, unfortunately separating my parts from each other, and leaving the presenting alter-states with little to no self-protective external boundaries. This exposed the presenting parts to any external persons desiring to hurt them.
I also realized that the number of alter-states and fragments wasn’t really that important. No matter if a survivor has 3 or 10,000 parts, they all came from one same-sized original whole personality. And whatever gifts we used to survive by splitting and developing amnesia and protecting our sanity, we can also use to heal and bond ourselves back together.
Part of my making a “me” boundary before my integration began was to acknowledge that even though I didn’t feel like it, most outside people saw me as one whole person. By accepting what they saw, I was able to visualize a boundary or line around my whole group of alter-states. I didn’t feel it, but I started to realize that if I really wanted to do more than survive — if I wanted people to stop hurting me and taking advantage of me — I would be safer presenting myself as one person and then working towards integration.
I need to emphasize here that I understand that some survivors who have MPD or DID diagnoses do not want to integrate. I respect their choices, and I am only sharing what has worked for me.
One of the hard realities I had to face was that I secretly was doing something in my head that sounds practical to some multiples, but really isn’t. I saw myself as hundreds of people, thinking that this made me bigger or “more” than a single abuser. This was distorted thinking. It sounded good on the inside, but what the other person saw was a victim who kept dissociating and trancing out. While I thought having a bunch of parts was protection, in reality, dissociating so much between so many parts put me at much greater risk of being taken advantage of and being hurt. This is the final reason why I decided I would integrate.
I started my process of integration by working on building co-consciousness between parts. Until the original me was discovered this past April, no part was strong enough to function for any length of time on the outside, while also taking on all the traumatic memories being relived and relayed between parts on the inside. There was constant switching around as different older parts took on as much of the presenting role as they could until they were exhausted. Then they let another adult or teenage part take over, then the next, then the next. They worked hard at not showing differences between themselves to the outside world as they took turns, presenting oneness as much as humanly possible. Any noticeable changes were reserved for time at home and in the therapist’s office.
No forced coconsciousness ever worked for long, nor forced fusion. One perp psychiatrist tried to convince me that once he got rid of all my “demons”, I should be fully integrated. He sent me home from his hospital unit with a new integrated name, “Grace.” That forced integration lasted several weeks and fell apart when another survivor confronted me about the fake integration.
Only when the original core came out in April of this year did the switching stop. I haven’t needed to do it anymore. As the original core, I seem to be the only part who could bear knowing all that happened in my life. That doesn’t mean I like it, or that I want to remember, but I’m willing to accept what comes. More important, I came out knowing that I was the one who created the other parts, many times during great duress and terror and pain and total exhaustion.
Knowing I am the originator of my alter-states, I therefore have the choice of whether to depend on other parts or not when things get stressful again. I choose not to. I accept their former existence as split off parts of my own personality, along with the temporary interjects I created based on perpetrators’ personalities. I’ve had several stressful times since April, and even though I’ve been tempted to try and split again, that’s as far as it went. I didn’t feel a need to go through with it. I may be to where I will not be able to switch anymore, and I’m willing to accept that, too. I like being me and I don’t want to lose me again.
The line or boundary that was once internal and separated my parts, is now the outer perimeter of who I am, and it’s getting much thicker and firmer.
One of the interpersonal boundary problems I’ve run into is that although sometimes I would freeze when someone was being abusive or getting too close, at other times I would find myself strangely drawn to the person. Sometimes the person was a covert abuser from my past; sometimes he or she just reminded me of an abuser. I was very frustrated by this kind of response inside, and I felt ashamed. I had to remember that being drawn to unhealthy people was a reenactment of past abuse that I hadn’t fully healed from, yet. Tom Whitehead wrote, “Boundary problems [created] by abuse leave victims recycling patterns beyond their conscious intent.”
Over a period of ten years minimum, I had either been referred to, or been recontacted by, at least eight unsafe people who knew me from our mutually covert past. Each of these people attempted to revictimize me. In seven of the eight recontacts, the relationships were resumed, without my even realizing I had known these people before.
In at least three of the recontacts, I felt a strong response that I call “vacuum seal.” In each vacuum seal response, I felt myself losing all practical sense. I instantly emotionally bonded with the person in a way that felt unnatural. The strong feelings and pull towards the other person were totally illogical, and in each of those three situations, the other person encouraged quick bonding. All the work I had done on setting and protecting my boundaries seemed to be of no use at those times, which frightened and left my protector parts feeling totally out of control, which they were.
The first person to recontact me was a female psychiatrist who I’ve since had way too many uncool memories of. The second was a male psychiatrist who did his best to shut down all memories of my covert government activities by instead focusing me on expelling imaginary “demons” from my body. Even after I stopped seeing him in-hospital, he instructed me to send him all my new memories, both typed and on cassette tape. I did that for a year, until I finally got angry and stopped. By the way, his instruction was a clear professional and ethical violation, since he was no longer my psychiatrist. I have since reported him to the proper authorities.
The third recontact was from a man I believe was a documented CIA mind-control psychiatrist, Jolly West. He wrote me a letter loaded with triggers he had previously implanted in my mind. In his letter, he asked me to call him. Immediate outside intervention helped me not to respond.
After another month, a fake deprogrammer contacted me through a friend of a friend. I was so triggered by his first letter that even after people warned me he was dangerous, I totally ignored them and did anything he told me to. Soon, he was visiting me at least once a month, charging me $250 for each visit. We also had many phone sessions in-between the physical ones. I stayed in constant contact with him for 1-1/2 years.
During that time, he systematically lied to me and turned me against everyone in my support system, so that I had only him and his other female victims to depend on for support. After he influenced me to give him all my typed memories and documents, he cut me loose, told me I had fabricated everything, tried to convince my husband I was psychotic, and left me in such despair that I saw no more reason to live. It took all my skills to stay alive. Only after being away from him did I acknowledge having had negative memories of him, even while I was seeing him, from my more distant past.
About a year later, I was contacted by another female survivor he had victimized the same way. She strongly insisted that I contact another man who wrote a book about mind-control. I did, ignoring the fact that this man and the fake deprogrammer had been business partners and had presented at conferences together. The author influenced me to send copies of all my typed journals and documents to him. When we talked on the phone, his voice was oddly familiar, but I was so mesmerised that I ignored the panic inside me. Another vacuum seal relationship began. He started out being gentle and very nice, but soon he was telling me what to do through our exchange of emails and phone calls. Inside, I realized he was trying to control me the same way the fake deprogrammer had. I became angry and refused to talk to him anymore.
Soon after that, another female survivor contacted me through an Internet support group. Quickly, a “vacuum seal” relationship developed between us, even though I consciously knew very little about her – only what she told me. One of the internal red flags I was again aware of, but was helpless to do anything about, was that I could not tell anyone how wrong it felt inside. I couldn’t even talk to my husband about it. The survivor demanded an irrational amount of trust and loyalty from me, and eventually set me up to be hurt.
Only when I struggled unsuccessfully to get away from her control, did I finally admit that I was in trouble. I couldn’t break contact with her. When I admitted it, I was embarrassed to learn that my support people had noticed my weird behavior, but hadn’t known how to help me or to talk to me about it.
I then went through my journals and discovered I’d been having very vivid memories of her being involved in experiments done to me in the more distant past. Only after I told others about these memories, was I finally able to get angry enough to break all contact with her. I grieved and cried a lot over losing my relationship with her, but eventually realized how odd that was, since we never had never really been friends at all.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that although I am a survivor and others are survivors, some of them are abusers whereas I choose not to be. Some abuse survivors have host personalities that are not abusive. Some have host personalities that are. Statistics run about 50/50 with abuse survivors … half become abusers; the other half do not. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that not every abuse survivor is safe to be around, and not every trauma survivor should be believed for everything he or she says.
Some abuse survivors are incredibly manipulative and some are dangerous. Some lie the way they always have all their lives, as a survival mechanism. I feel sorry for them, but now my compassion for them is like it would be towards a rabid dog. This is another boundary I have set for myself. I can care, but I refuse to have any contact with them at all. I used to be stuck in black and white thinking, blindly believing that all survivors must stick together and stand up for each other, regardless of their bizarre or abusive behaviors. Now I am careful to choose who I will support and who I will not. If a survivor is being abusive to me or others, or is conning people, I will not support him or her.
Another change I made was to stop spending all my time on the Internet, corresponding with other trauma survivors. I stayed on the Internet because to be honest, I didn’t know how to interact with people in my neighborhood and I wasn’t willing to try. Tom Whitehead wrote, “Boundaries are learned in the course of growing up – from our caretakers, through trying things out for ourselves, and from social norms.” All my life, I felt totally abnormal and disconnected from regular society. Many times during my recovery, I wished I could just go back to the perps and my family and get it over with. I figured they wouldn’t kill me after all I had told. And frankly, I preferred being with people who didn’t care. I was used to that. I didn’t want to connect with anyone. Why should I, after being an emotional island all my life?
Whitehead wrote about this, too. He calls this a “nourishment barrier.” This is where the survivor refuses to acknowledge a need, and instead goes in the opposite direction, running away from the need.
After I decided to stop spending all my time on my computer at home, I decided to go to college and become a computer programmer. I was still running away from empathy and one-on-one social and emotional contact with people in my community, although I wouldn’t admit it. I decided I would go to work and sit at a desk all day, like I was already doing at home, and hopefully make some good money.
Even though I got straight A’s in all my classes, I felt miserable. I knew I was sabotaging myself. How would I ever know what I was capable of doing in my life, if I didn’t at least attempt it? How could I ever fully heal, if I kept running away from healing and empathy? How could I ever connect with singletons, if I didn’t at least give it a chance?
I didn’t understand how to connect emotionally with others and I didn’t think it was possible. But I decided to try.
I joined the Human Services Specialist Program at my college. This was my first step towards becoming a social worker. It was the best decision I ever made. I realized that after all I’ve been through, and all I’ve learned in recovery, why not put it to good use … and still make some money while I’m at it? Being a social worker is about as opposite from being a computer programmer as a person can get. I chose to go from staying in my head to feeling with my heart.
This summer, I did a 200-hour internship in a family violence shelter. I knew it would be an emotional high-risk situation, but I wanted to interact with traumatized children and women. I learned so much there about boundaries. I enjoyed helping to teach the children to respect themselves and others. For some of them, this was new information. I felt my heart opening up. My supervisors encouraged me to give lots of hugs and smiles.
Before, it was unsafe to express love. Either I, or the person I cared about, got hurt. But at the shelter, I was safe and free to give as much love as much as I wanted. This freedom to give led to another new lesson: I must take care of myself first before I give out to others. I’ve heard this admonition a gazillion times, but I totally forgot and became so stressed out from giving out too much, that I became very sick. From this, I learned that the more emotionally intense a job is, even if it’s a lovely kind of intense, the more I need to get away from it and do things that have absolutely nothing to do with it. Fun things. Nice things, just for me.
I’m going to use as much time as I have left to cover several more boundary issues.
I want to emphasize that the first boundary issue I’m going to review is not about spirituality or religion. It’s about a totally human issue. I am going to use my own life again as the example. I will not speak for anyone else, although I will tell you that I have heard from an alarming number of ritual abuse survivors who have gone through similar difficulties during their recoveries. I also need to warn you that if you are a ritual survivor, some of it may be triggering, but I’ve tried to tone it down as much as I can.
Part of being in rituals is that the perpetrators liked to dump all their self-loathing and self-hatred on their child victims. What the adult perps couldn’t stand in their own selves, they would mentally transfer onto the child and then really rub it in. And of course, with children being who they are, they pretty much believe whatever adults say about them.
One of the things my dad did was to create a “demon” alter-state in me. This child part was called “demon” by dad in rituals. As a child, I fully believed him and was convinced I was a demon. This part of me was tortured and went through horrendous things, especially when the word “Jesus” and other religious words were said by the abusers, on purpose, in the rituals.
I was also introduced to a man I believed was Jesus, as well as his twelve “disciples”, all dressed in proper biblical robes and sandals and such. The man they called Jesus and the other men posing as disciples had their way with me sexually. So guess what my reaction was, thirty years later, when church elders and “prayer warriors” put their hands on my head and body, praying in a chanting way, commanding demons to come out in the name of Jesus, claiming his blood while they were at it? What they did was not a good thing.
When they said the words, I hit the floor. Writhing in sheer agony, I relived the original rapes and torture. That got the prayer warriors even more excited, because they figured their prayers were working. Because I kept moving around, some of them thought it meant demons were fighting to not come out. So then they tried to cast them out and break the sexual and ritual bonds louder and louder, again using the name and blood of Jesus. As their voices grew louder, it triggered memories of how my abusers’ voices had gotten louder in the rituals.
What this did to me was harmful. The child alter-state dad called “demon” went way down inside to hide from the scary people. My body quit moving and squirming and bucking. The elders and prayer warriors congratulated themselves for delivering me from demonic spiritual forces. Not one person recognized that I’d done a full abreaction. Noone seemed to understand the agony they had triggered with their words and invasive physical touch and the loudness of their voices. And to top it all off, I was made to feel even more like I was less than them … because after all, I’d had demons and they did not.
I’ve since met with pastors who have chosen to get educated about dissociation and alter-states and what really goes on in rituals, so that they don’t do this kind of damage anymore to their clients. What they have told me, and what I have learned, is this:
If you are going to work with ritual abuse survivors, you must also get educated if you want to be effective. And you must learn to be humble. Trauma survivors do not need to be around ignorant, modern-day pharisees. Survivors in pain need people who will connect with them on an emotional level, get right down in there where they are, and listen. A lot of times, survivors will talk what seems to be gibberish or “satanic”, only because that was they way they were talked to by their controllers and abusers. They don’t know how to communicate and think more logically, yet. But when you get to know them long enough, the gibberish and satanic psych talk stops being important. If you are willing to risk connecting on an empathetic level, you will discover that these survivors are just as human and marvelous as you are.
A boundary issue survivors sometimes have to work on is our abuse of others. Tom Whitehead wrote, “Our boundaries let us know to stop before we harm others.” How many times have I heard an abuse survivor say, “I deserve to be a bitch after all they put me through”?
I beg pardon … no one has the right to be abusive to other humans. If we do that, we become abusers. I’m not referring to alter-states that were conditioned and tortured and given orders to do something for their controllers. I’m referring to survivors — in part or in whole — who consciously choose to hurt others. It doesn’t have to be physical abuse; it can be mental and emotional. Whatever was done to us by our abusers, we’ve learned from them and may be tempted to do to others. As hard as it is, we must be careful and seek help if necessary, to make sure we don’t do unto others what was done to us. The abuse must stop with us. We can’t change the past and we can’t change our former abusers, but we can change who we are now.
Another issue is how to tell if a person is safe for us. The best way I’ve discovered to determine whether a person in my life is safe or not, especially if I’m living with that person, is to spend at least three or four days away from that person, with no contact between us of any kind. During that time, I journal my dreams and information from within. Being away from the person gives me enough sense of safety that the clues start to come up in my dreams. This is why when I was recontacted by perps, only after I spent time away from each person, was I able to remember having had memories of what they did to me in the more distant past, even while I was in regular contact with them! When with them, I was in too much danger to admit those memories, even to myself.
A mental boundary I’ve practiced for myself, to stay out of psychosis and unreality, is this: when I’m not sure what is real and what is not, I go with what is most logical and practical. I learned this rule from an investigator about five years ago. Going by what is most logical and rational has saved me tremendous grief when I ran into programming about past lives, demons, aliens, and all the rest of the crap that mind-control perpetrators tried to use to trick and confuse and discredit me as a potential witness in court.
Another way I’ve discovered to protect my mind is to learn every way I can to reduce my trancing and dissociation. This is the best way I can protect myself, because hypnosis and trancing are the main way perps reaccess survivors. EEG Biofeedback helped me to cut way down on dissociation, and to take control of when and how much I trance. Another good method was to learn about hypnosis. Carla Emery’s “Encyclopedia of Hypnosis” is the best tool I’ve ever run across. It was very triggering, but for me that was a good thing. She did make some comments about the FMSF that I’m not too happy with, but the rest of her book has been very helpful to me.
A boundary problem I ran into, when trying to separate from and break contact with my former abusers, is that some of my more stubborn and perp-loyal parts would feel an irrational need to contact them anyway. One trick I learned while establishing coconsciousness helped me a lot: when my stubborn parts kept trying to recontact the perps, my host parts — and those close to them — would make a deal with the stubborn parts. If the stubborn parts would be willing not to contact the perps, they would get to do something special, just for them. It didn’t have to be something expensive or elaborate. Even just getting a special flavor of ice cream was enough for some parts. Or going to a toy store and feeling the softest toys with the fingers. After receiving attention and experiencing honest acceptance, these reporting parts usually started cooperating, or at least stopped reporting back, fairly quickly. What I realized over time is that these stubborn parts never really felt love and acceptance before, with the perps. They were so hungry for it that they were willing to risk being hurt, just so they could experience these neat new sensations by becoming coconscious with the host parts, and other parts close to them, that gave acceptance and love.
I talked to a survivor the other day. As a result of our conversation, I need to address a boundary issue that has become a problem in some parts of the survivor community. This problem is a result of black and white, all or nothing mentality. It has to do with religious intolerance and disrespecting the rights of people to choose what to believe. I want to first say that I’ve done exactly what I’m going to bring up. I used to be one of the worst religious controllers I ever met, so please don’t think I’m pointing fingers at anybody about this issue. I’m not. It’s something we must work together on, as a community.
Having said that, here’s the issue: I’ve met a lot of survivors who were so badly abused by people in Christian ministerial positions that the survivors couldn’t bear to go back to Christianity at all. Because that was no longer an emotionally bearable option for them, they’ve gone into other religions, or no religion at all. Some of these survivors have since been treated as if there is something wrong with them, by other survivors who have chosen more mainstream, traditional religions.
I get really angry when survivors treat each other this way. If we have learned anything at all, we surely should know by now that people who force their beliefs on others are abusive. Controllers try to force others what to think and do. People who respect the rights and freedoms of others do not do this.
We must guard ourselves against becoming the next generation of mental and emotional abusers. We must be extremely careful not to think we have the right to shun or judge fellow survivors just because they do not adhere to our chosen religious beliefs. We do not have the right to force our beliefs on them, and we do not have the right to treat them abusively if they choose another spiritual path, or whatever they choose to call it.
If we really want to grow and live in love, we must learn to accept and respect them for who they are, not what they believe. I know several survivors right here in this room who have had to be very quiet about their choice of religion, because they fear being attacked by others in the survivor community. This is wrong, it is abusive, and it must stop.
At the same time, if another survivor chooses a religion that involves practices and symbols that are triggering for us, we have the right to distance ourselves as much as we need to, to feel safe. I personally prefer to go to the survivor and talk about my discomfort, to keep a distance from developing between us. By doing this, and by being willing to listen in a non-critical way, my heart has opened so much more. I feel honored to know these survivors who dare to nonconform.
A personal boundary problem a lot of abuse survivors have struggled with, is not being able to emotionally let go of their abusers. I’ve learned over the years that the best way to break my fixation on my abusers is to set a self-centered boundary. By looking at and working on my own suppressed emotions and woundedness, I gradually stopped worrying about what my former abusers were eating for breakfast or if they were going to kill me today. In other words, I started to get on with a new life that didn’t include them.
Another practical boundary that I’ve learned to use is two simple words: “thank you.” I didn’t realize the power of these two words until I started saying them any time a person gave me a compliment. The words “thank you” do several nice things. They keep me from being emotionally beholden to the compliment giver. They help me to accept the compliment, which helps to build up my self-esteem. And if the person is an abuser and is using the compliment to start a conversation; I can say those two words and then politely smile, turn around, and walk away.
I thank you for being such a respectful audience.
Literature that Addresses Boundaries and Reinforcement
Bradshaw, John. Bradshaw On The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem.
Health Communications Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Paperback. Helps the reader understand how some parts, alter-states, etc. developed during stressful situations, in the home environment.
Bradshaw, John. Healing the Shame that Binds You. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health
Communications, Inc. Paperback. Explains the difference between real shame, false shame, real guilt, and false guilt. Empowers the reader to not accept shame and guilt that do not belong to him/her.
Breitman, Patti and Connie Hatch. How to Say NO Without Feeling Guilty. New York:
Broadway Books. Hardback.
Engel, Beverly. Loving Him Without Losing You: 7 empowering strategies for better
relationships. John Wiley & Sons. Hardback.
Forward, Susan Ph.D. and Donna Frazier. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in
your Life use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You. Harper Perennial.
Paperback. $13 US, $18.50 Canada.
Forward, Susan Ph.D. and Craig Buck. Obsessive Love: When it hurts too much
to let go. Bantam Books. Paperback. $7.99 US, $10.99 Canada.
Forward, Susan Ph.D. Toxic Parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming
your life. Bantam Books. Paperback. $7.99 US, $10.99 Canada.
Glass, Lillian Ph.D. Toxic People: 10 ways of dealing with people who make your life
miserable. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Paperback. $14.95 US, $21.00 Canada.
Hegstrom, Paul. Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them. Kansas City: Beacon
Hill Press. Paperback. Written mainly for Christians, by those who have “been there done that” on both sides of the physical/emotional/mental battering and control dysfunction. Doesn’t promote traditional religious “must stay with abusive partner no matter what she/he does” view. Uniquely honest material.
Katharine Ann. Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin. Hazelden Publishing,
15251 Pleasant Valley Rd., Center City MN 55012-0176. “A good, simply written book on boundaries for everyone, it includes sexual abuse case examples along with several other issues.”
Mellody, Pia etal. Facing Codependence: What it is, Where it comes from, How it
sabotages our lives. Harper Collins. Paperback.
Mellody, Pia and Andrea Wells Miller. Breaking Free: A Recovery Workbook for
“Facing Codependence”. Paperback. $18 US, $26.50 Canada.
Oksana, Chrystine. Safe Passage to Healing – A Guide for Survivors of Ritual Abuse.
New York: HarperCollins.
PARC-VRAMC. Lessons We Have Learned: Questions and Answers. PARC-VRAMC,
PMB 129, 5251 Hwy 153, Hixson TN 37343. $18 plus S&H. Survivors,
therapists and support persons address common questions and misconceptions
about MPD, DID, mind-control issues, religious concerns, FMSF issues, and
Wallace, Anne Cope. Setting Psychological Boundaries: a handbook for women.
Westport, Connecticut: Bergin & Garvey.
Whitfield, Charles L. M.D. Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting and
Enjoying the Self. Health Communications. Paperback. $11.95.
Please note: PARC-VRAMC does not endorse any of the books or authors. This list is simply for