All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means (including electronic, photocopying, mechanical, manual or otherwise) without the prior express & written consent of the owner of the copyright of this book.
©2019 Valerie Lynn Stephens
What is Complex PTSD or C-PTSD? Complex PTSD, first recognized as a condition in its own right by Judith Hermann in her book “Trauma & Recovery” (1992), is a psycho-spiritual injury caused by interpersonal exploitations and prolonged situations of abuse and oppression from which there is no perceived escape. Complex Trauma survivors suffer from many symptoms, all of which can profoundly and adversely effect/affect them on a physiological and psychological/emotional/spiritual level. Below is a short list of symptoms I, as a survivor myself, have compiled.
HOW C-PTSD ADVERSELY EFFECTS/AFFECTS US:
*Difficulty sustaining long-term relationships with others for fear of re-experiencing core, original traumas and being 'pushed over the edge'
*Difficulty sustaining vocational stability due to a keen discernment of toxic workplace cultures which mimic our former traumatizing, oppressive family environments and a refusal to participate in them anymore
*Difficulty sustaining a sense of existential fulfillment due to the aforementioned vocational obstacles
*Difficulty trusting the flow of our happiness, inward peace, self-assurance and contentedness for fear of being interfered with, triggered or thrown off balance by others much like our original oppressors and abusers systematically subjected us to
*Difficulty sustaining a positive, stable and accurate self-image
*A lingering and ominous sense of existential and cognitive dissonance and restlessness even in the face of attained security, healing and contentment
*A sense of social isolation, alienation, ostracism and persecution, with intermittent 'ideas of reference'
*A deep shame and embarrassment in the face of dissociative 'blackouts' and public 'outbursts' in social settings with others who either intentionally or unintentionally trigger us
*Autoimmune conditions and other physiological and neurological issues related to enduring high levels of stress chemicals for prolonged periods
*Traumatic Brain Injury
*A sense of psycho-spiritual dissonance and doom due to having endured the scapegoating projections of our original abuser(s)
*And many more...
IS COMPLEX PTSD A MENTAL ILLNESS?
There has been much heated debate about the assertion that Complex PTSD is NOT a mental illness but a psychological 'injury'. The reasons for distinguishing between the terminology is not to derogate or to make comparisons about who is 'ill' and who is 'healthy', but to unburden survivors of the internalized shame which their original abusers inflicted upon them by the abuse of psychiatric terminology and diagnostics to scapegoat and dominate them. Basically, what it comes down to is: The abusive, exploitative, sociopathic individuals who injured us in the first place are the ones who must be identified as 'mentally and morally ill' if deep recovery is ever to be breached for survivors. After all, most of our Complex Trauma is a direct result of being coerced and systematically 'programmed' and gaslighted into an interpersonal dynamic which merely sought to 'scapegoat' us into being the 'identified patient' and the one with the 'problems'. In truth, it was our abusers who suffered such disorders of personality and character. Of course, this is not meant to discount the fact that many sufferers of C-PTSD and PTSD have not been diagnosed with 'comorbid' conditions. However, many professionals and laymen alike have often remarked that if the DSM were refined, many conditions currently being treated as discrete disorders would, in fact, be best served and acknowledged as direct and indirect symptoms of deeper interpersonal trauma. Nevertheless, the importance of, as Shahida Arabi puts it, engaging in 'reverse discourse' with our 'programmers' and abusers, remains an intractable aspect of full and deep recovery for all survivors. We have earned the right (in fact always possessed the right) to be assessed fairly and pro-socially, in ways that are not merely more demeaning and derogatory, and in ways 6 that do not, at the expense of our well-being, merely reinforce old ‘roles’ and cognitive patterns which predatory and character-disturbed individuals would benefit in keeping us in. There is a moral imperative for each individual to be granted full reign over that of their own self-actualization. There is also a moral imperative for each one to “carry their own load” (and not just physically, but psychologically). We all must do our own ‘Soul Work’, as it has been called, in order to not only stop the cycle of injury which humankind seems to relish and choose indifference towards inflicting upon one another, but to support a healthier, more robust Society for all individual persons to be able to contribute each their own brand of genius and skills to. As within, so without. Healing the Self, is a potential salve for the whole World.
IS IT 'WRONG' TO 'DIAGNOSE' THOSE WHO HAVE HARMED ME?
Proverbs 15:14 14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly. Psalm 51:6 Surely you desire integrity in the inner self, and you teach me wisdom deep within. First and foremost, it is essential to make the distinction between someone with a mental health condition, commonly referred to as a 'mental illness', brought about through no fault of the individual, due to a post-traumatic and reasonable response to enduring evil and prolonged injustice in the world, and an individual with a pattern of psychopathological, exploitative, and abusive, harmful behaviour towards others. I have witnessed and experienced myself, many online commentators who be-cry, in the face of diagnosing certain clearly (and covertly) character-disturbed individuals as ‘Personality-Disordered’ “Stop demonizing people!” But the thing is...it’s not about demonizing people. It’s about ASSESSING what is TRULY THERE so that survivors of these people and those who may be victimized in the future by these people can both achieve clarity and healing, and in the latter case, arm themselves with knowledge in order to prevent themselves from being unduly burdened and victimized by said individuals. Character-disturbed people are also mistakenly thought to be characterized as having no awareness of what they are doing and how harmful it is, as well as having 'no conscience'. They indeed DO have a conscience just like our Father God gifts everyone with, but it's just that they choose evil over good in more cases than not. Or, as M. Scott Peck so aptly described it in his work “People of the Lie”: “Evil people resist awareness of their own condition.” Furthermore, it is the healthiest members of society who would never unjustly ‘demonize’ another human being, because we know first hand what it feels like, as we are usually the ones being regularly ‘demonized’ by the unhealthiest, most psychopathological individuals in society. But, of course, this merely brings me to my next point: It always raises a red flag for me immediately when an individual rails against a truth being exposed and revealed. Now, there may indeed be many reasons for why this person is railing against it or trying to suppress it, but in ALL CASES it is not the responsibility of the original poster of truthful content to take the suppressor’s feelings and/or opinions into account no matter what their intention may be. The Scripture in fact says that we are to JUDGE RIGHTLY (John 7:24) and expose the deeds of evil (Ephesians 5:11) and hold one another accountable (James 5:16). In fact, it is EVERYONE’S MORAL IMPERATIVE to continue on an earnest search for Truth, both outward and inward and to share this knowledge and wisdom with others to encourage, edify and enlighten. The sad fact is, that a lot of people in the Christian community seem to think that they can behave in harmful ways towards others and still claim to be spiritually mature. However, the truth is, that we cannot neglect our intellectual, social and emotional growth at the cost of our spiritual growth. They are interdependent and irreducibly complex. Or, as a Rabbi once noted: “A man cannot be both devout and ignorant.” It is imperative that we continue to grow and learn if we are to be able to interact with ourselves and others in ways that are prosocial 9 and healthy and helpful. I am always skeptical when I hear things which support the view that people can remain underdeveloped intellectually and emotionally but still be “a good person.” Yes. Perhaps to a certain point. But without the mental and emotional toughness and maturity which real trials bring in this life, that individual is going to flounder and digress. We are reminded in the Scripture to “be like adults” in our thinking (1 Corinthians 14:20). Furthermore, Proverbs 18:15 says: “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”
AM I AN INFERIOR PERSON BECAUSE I SOCIALIZE DIFFERENTLY?
We live in a society that all too often does not respect and honour those with differing social methods and approaches, especially as it relates to forced group activities and standing up in front of larger crowds to ‘introduce ourselves’, etc. First off, many of us merely have a personality that is more reserved with those that we do not know, not to mention, a personality and character which values deeper, more meaningful interactions with others, and who believes in the wisdom of slowly getting to know people over a more naturalistic period of time. On top of that, I personally am a survivor of systematic emotional abuse as a child and teen who needs to assess a situation and people before I feel ready to engage with it and with them. I have a condition called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which adds to my need for approaching social interaction in my own way. Too often, others add to my social trauma by treating me as an inferior whenever I freeze up and/or leave a room in the midst of a C-PTSD flashback episode when I am called out to stand up in front of everyone and speak. They assume that I am ‘timid’, ‘shy’, or socially inadequate. I can tell by the smug looks and condescending smirks on some people’s faces that they are failing to understand the depth and complexity of the condition that I am actually grappling with. It is not merely your usual fear of public speaking or social anxiety, it runs much deeper than that and it stems from being systematically and severely psychologically and emotionally abused from a young age. Furthermore, there have been a few occasions where I did not experience the flight response in a situation where I had to speak in front of a group of people. It depends on the size of the gathering, the atmosphere, whether or not the room in which it is being held is associated with a prior abuse and/or trauma, and whether or not there are other people present who have inflicted abuse/trauma upon me in the past are present at the social gathering. If they are, I will not feel psychologically and emotionally safe to engage with people unless it is on a one-on-one basis, such as at our own table. This is a feature of my condition which causes me so much shame and feelings of inferiority. Yet it is due not to how I feel about myself, but rather how others have reacted to me which has affected my self-image. I am at peace with myself and know who I am. But I am also human and have an intrinsic need to feel a sense of belonging, trust and genuine respect from others as well. I have had to accept the fact that I will probably always have that reaction at larger social gatherings where I do not feel 100 percent comfortable and/or safe. And that does not mean that I am inferior or incompetent but merely that I am a survivor of horrors that most people have never had to go through. In finale, trauma changes us, whether we like it or not. Trauma changes us, whether other people understand it or not. But I refuse to stop treating myself with the compassion and kindness which I am too often denied by the current social milieu in which I must reside. My suggestion to those facilitating larger and even smaller social gatherings where the individuals do not know one another (and even where they do) is to respect everyone’s preference to either stand up in front of everyone and speak about themselves impromptu, or to do it more naturalistically later on. In other words, give people the option and do not shame them into doing something in a way they do not feel comfortable with. Because the truth of the matter is, that people only truly get to know one another over a longer period of discrete and more substantive interactions anyway. I think that some people just realize this more and wish to reserve our energies for building more authentic connections with those people who cross our paths. I also think that some of us also possess a keener knowledge and awareness of ourselves and a stronger sense of personal dignity due to all that we have worked so hard to overcome and refuse to judge ourselves by the shallow assumptions and standards which certain other people may hold of us and expect us to adhere to. I am myself and will not feel anything but proud of all that I have overcome in life, even when I fail myself by not being able to conform to Western society’s way of doing things. Every human being has a right to feel safe and respected and appreciated on both a collective and an individualistic basis. And if I sense that others do not respect me as an individual, I will find it very difficult, without feeling like I am betraying my own sense of personal dignity and self-respect, to conform to whatever it is they are asking of me. Reciprocity for me, is a non-negotiable. I am also a highly independent personality and will resent it if I feel that someone else is attempting to interfere with my personal autonomy. Also, I will become very exhausted and disheartened when I feel that I am being expected to conform to values which I do not hold or agree with. This will also make me feel that I am not being respected as an individual and therefore my trust in that person will be damaged. INTJ personalities are often treated as outsiders due to our non-compromising personal integrity. It’s not so much that I am ‘trying’ to be different or that I am just a rebelling non-conformist, I am just an unusually individuated person mainly due to the ostracism all throughout my life I have had to face. That’s just Newtonian metaphysics: an equal and opposite reaction of extreme autonomy and individuation in the face of the oppression and programming which I suffered at the hands of my abusive family system. I had no choice but to become exceptionally self-directed and developed in order to both survive this system as well as have the impetus to thrive and self-actualize after I had long escaped it. My only expectation of others, really, is that they try to get to know me on a deeper level. I am an open book. I have nothing to hide and am not ashamed of who I am and where I come from. Just give me the benefit of the doubt and treat me with the dignity and respect that I treat you with. It’s quite simple, really. Yet I also am tough-minded enough to realize that it’s not that simple for everyone. Therefore, I have taught myself to let go of those who are not capable of this, and only let in those who are. I can still function within a community and be relatively free to actualize myself despite some of the lesser personalities that I will have to encounter. And this lesson, makes all that have suffered at the hands of these types of people worth it. As long as we are growing and learning, we have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
AM I A SELFISH, WICKED PERSON FOR ATTEMPTING SUICIDE?
From my own personal experience, most people who take their own lives are not acting merely out of some pitiable feeling of hopelessness and victimhood. And neither are they acting out of malevolent and/or cowardly self-centeredness. On the contrary, the motivation behind why people attempt and/or succeed at suicide is highly moralistic and altruistic. We are either responding to an act and/or acts that we have committed in the past and/or that we fear we are on the verge of committing in the present. In a word, some people are driven by a very acute sense of moralism and concern for their fellow man, because they sense an impending evil about to consume them and manifest in their behaviour. In a sense, we truly believe in those dark nights of the soul, that we are a danger to others and ourselves, and that the best course of action to take is suicide. The last suicide attempt that I made, I was motivated mainly by the acute awareness and hypervigilance, born out of being a survivor of systematic childhood emotional abuse and the C-PTSD that I was as of then undiagnosed with, of my own vulnerability to the evil in the world in the state that I was in. In my mind, I had vowed to never allow others with ill-intent to have that much control over me again. I saw no choice but to take my own life by my own hand, rather than allow society to slowly and systematically murder me in a more existential and psycho-spiritual sense day by day. Now I recognize, having been properly self-diagnosed, that this was a feature of my C-PTSD and the deprogramming, reprogramming and healing process that I was going through. Yet a lot of people fail to dig deep enough inside of their own private pain and darkness to be able to understand the true motivation behind why anyone would take their own life. The bottom line is, it's nobody else's business but God's. Only He truly knows what we struggle with. I do believe that we will face a loss of reward should we ever take our own life, but for those who are truly reborn again and remained firm until the end (even though they created their own 'end'), they will not be condemned. Although society today in comparison to erstwhile attitudes, does seem to be a little more enlightened concerning mental health issues and issues concerning the general philosophical and theological 'problem of human evil', we still have a long way to go. One concern in particular that I will be addressing in this article, is on feelings of suicidality and their concomitant expression to others, and how others often re-traumatise us even more so with their reactions. About a year ago, I was attending a church in my area, and had the misfortune of being covertly abused, and then 'triggered', which eventually led to an emotional reaction on my part to this abuse that was occurring, whereby I (mistakenly) revealed to the people present in this group setting, that I had been feeling suicidal due to some stressors in my life that I was facing at that time. And although my reaction was mainly due to the C-PTSD that I grapple with due to having survived systematic child and teenage-hood emotional abuse, which often brings us right back to where we have felt before, and I probably would not have acted upon it as I was now much further along in my recovery process, I also expressed these inner thoughts and feelings to them mainly to drive across the point to my abusers just how much their behaviour towards me was affecting me and the egregiousness and seriousness of their mistreatment of others truly is. To make a long story short, the police ended up being contacted, and my abusers merely re-traumatised me all over again. I do not think they realise just how deeply they disturbed and distressed me by their actions. For about the next two weeks, I was again cast back into a C-PTSD hell that only those who have been real with themselves about the evil that they see and have experienced themselves in this world will be able to admit to. But sadly and disturbingly, there are many people who, as M. Scott Peck brilliantly summed it up in his book, “The People of the Lie”, “resist awareness of their own condition.” Self-reflection and honesty are definite virtues of a seemingly lost era, where the measure of a man was found not in his 'net worth' or in his 'public persona' but in his actual moral integrity and inward character. Furthermore, this way that certain types of people choose to respond to those who express any kind of humanity or honesty or vulnerability still to this day borders on 'civil' savagery. And, to add insult to injury, these people who did this to me at this church, then had the audacity to get me to agree with them that what they had done was 'understandable' considering what I had shared with them. But I think they were merely resentful of me for having stood up to them and called out their abuse for what it was. Nevertheless, I humoured them and went along with it just to safely extricate myself from the situation. After all, they had already demonstrated that they could not be trusted, and were, in fact, malfeasant and morally bereft individuals devoid of any authentic spiritual or emotional maturity. In truth, when people call the police on individuals who are sharing their feelings of despair and hopelessness, this is an act of abuse, and an act of criminalising sufferers and their feelings. This is NOT the proper or even honest, healthy or effective way to handle these situations! Yet the sad fact is, that evil people do exist. Wicked people who refuse to own their own humanity and self-same feelings, instead 'scapegoating' those individuals who have both the courage and the love and respect for themselves and others to be honest and authentic, do exist. And those who refuse to continue the cycle of abuse and psychological violence towards ourselves and our fellow human beings will run into them quite often along our journey. Yet I have taught myself to see these kinds of people as a contrasting example of who I do NOT want to become as a person, and who I have chosen to allow the Lord to mold me into both despite and BECAUSE of the hell that I have known and the evil and darkness that I have witnessed and experienced. So, without them to provide this counterbalance, I may not be the person that I am today, and I thank God for creating a world with both good, God-fearing and loving people in it, as well as a world with depraved, malignantly narcissistic and character-disordered people in it. Without the bad, we could not appreciate the good. And without a descension or two to Hades, I would have never learned to reach for Heaven. And without being forced to look the devil and his horrors straight in the face, I would have never found my place in the arms of my Heavenly Father. Without taking that inward sojourn into my own truth, I never would have found the profound resiliency, peace, joy and abiding fulfillment that I have in serving the Lord and in serving others. And, on top of that, I never would have found my true identity, a child of God, and would have allowed my abusers to triumph-and worse yet, evil to triumph by becoming yet another 'flying monkey' for its circus of human trickery, torment and malice. And those who re-scourge our wounds may think they have won the battle, but they haven't won the war-not with this seasoned Veteran of the Lord's Army. For the sword of Truth and the breastplate of righteousness are more finely honed and staunch than any of the devil's weaponry.
DOES REMAINING TRUE TO MY INDIVIDUALITY MAKE ME A 'WORLDLY' CHRISTIAN?
Psalm 51:6 Surely you desire integrity in the inner self, and you teach me wisdom deep within. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. I find it absurd how many self-professed ‘Christians’ demonize those individuals who take full accountability for their own individuation instead of merely ‘fitting in’. It’s rooted in a false doctrine that to be ‘obedient’ is to be totally devoid of any individual characteristics or discernment! This view is, in fact, NOT supported ANYWHERE in the Holy Word. I like how David Schrock put it when he said: “The body of Christ calls for individuality, not individualism.” We are called by our Father Creator to develop each our own unique personalities and gifts so that we can put them into proper service in His Kingdom. If you don’t develop self-knowledge, you will not know how to grow and learn as a disciple, but will instead be tossed about by the waves and will remain double-minded and digressive. Furthermore, speaking of 'blind conformity', I am addressing the kind of blind obedience which certain people might use as justification for malfeasant and/or socially harmful actions and/or inactions. The positive and pro-social kind of conformity is, of course, a necessary societal construct in maintaining moral order, etc. Thus, while conformity certainly has its virtues and I am not disputing that, there are many ways that it can also be harmful and unhealthy when it is the kind of conformity adopted blindly. Each individual person has a moral imperative to develop each their own talents and interests in order to better serve the collective. Individuality must be honoured to a certain degree so that this synthesis and symbiosis between the individual and the collective can thrive best. Now, I am not speaking of the generic kind of 'individuality' spouted by popular culture. This kind of individuation is shallow and facile. In a word, we are all inherently 'different', so any kind of forced or overweening cultivation in most cases is false. The kind of differentiation of which I speak is that spoken of by Abraham Maslow and Carl Jung in particular. Maslow, who was a North American born psychologist active mainly during the early part of the 20th century, developed the theory of a 'hierarchy of needs', which explored the necessity of what he coined 'self-actualization' for each human individual to achieve maximum health and happiness. Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss born psychiatrist who is considered the 'father of modern psychoanalysis.' Jung also recognized, as an ontological necessity, what he termed 'individuation', to be a part of any human being's mental and what he called 'psycho-spiritual' health. In this brief article I will be outlining what I consider to be the benefits of self-actualization and individuation, as well as briefly touching upon the more deleterious or harmful effects of a neglect of one's own uniqueness. Primarily, the first benefit is pretty basic and speaks for itself. When an individual works to develop their own identity and skills even at the expense of becoming 'cast out' by the social majority, society as a whole is much better off for that individual's efforts at sharing those abilities and talents within it. Furthermore, when we 'take up our own cross' of individuation, we are generally much happier, healthier and productive and pro-social beings. The cultivation of each our own happiness and contentment and success in life is not an ANTI-social act, but rather a decidedly PRO-social one! And it is not 'selfish' in the way that most people classify it. There are two kinds of 'self-centeredness'. One is narcissistic and pathological and the other is empathic and healthy. As the adage goes, “One cannot serve from an empty vessel.” And to that I would add, “One cannot serve from a shattered vessel.” Thus, we can see how we are actually called by our Father God and Creator to develop our gifts and unique interests and talents to better serve Him and our fellow human beings. In essence, when we 'love' and respect ourselves enough to embrace our own development, we are also in turn, heeding God's very command to love and serve others as we love ourselves, and to love and dedicate our lives to honoring God with our devotion, time and gifts. The world is so much better off and much more interesting and challenging with us in it! And by 'us' I refer to the most authentic version of ourselves. And although this journey can be frightening and arduous more often than not, at least we have paved the way for the next brave soul who follows in our footsteps on their own path to self-actualization. Furthermore, let's explore the 'dark underbelly of the beast' known as blind conformity. During many dark periods of human history, many individuals, full of malice and motivated by all sorts of reprobate and evil ideologies, have caused unimaginable suffering to the human race, all rationalized and indeed, even championed under the guise of nationalistic, religious or otherwise general communal 'solidarity'. And as Oscar Wilde once observed “Patriotism is a virtue of the vicious.” Although I personally think the word “nationalism” to be more apt, nevertheless, what he was getting at was, that the 'majority rule' does not preclude a system of moralistic checks and balances which needs to be operant in order to ensure less abuses of power. In fact, many would surmise that, the more people who seem to be blindly and vigorously jumping on the bandwagon about something, the less likely what they are supporting is morally sound. Thus, bringing me to my main point concerning blind conformity as an inadequate and sinful substitute for individuation. The main ways that blind conformity contributes to more evil rather than good in society is that it interferes with the mental, emotional, spiritual, social and vocational health of each person who adheres to it. Societal evils such as physical, sexual and mental/emotional abuse, especially of children become prevalent. Many do not see the connection between this, but I guarantee you, there absolutely is. One's own personal accountability for one's own life trajectory are essential to each our own ability to proceed in a positive and pro-social manner towards psycho-spiritual growth and functionality. I like how David Schrock put it when he said: “The body of Christ calls for individuality, not individualism.” In finale, many character disturbances and disorders are both directly and indirectly the result of neglect of one's own spiritual, moral and general existential responsibilities to the individual and the collective. Moreover, a daily application and practice of self-reflection and examination are moralistically imperative towards the proper development of our innermost being and character. In essence, we must first 'Know thyself,' if we are to be able to contribute in any healthy and robust way to society. Cultivating self-awareness is also elemental to our ability to develop empathy towards others as well. On the whole, all human beings, despite our inherent uniqueness, share a common enough psychological makeup to be able to understand one another. And all that is required for the most part to understand another, is to reflect honestly upon ourselves, as we are fundamentally and philosophically similar. Thus, we can see how the striving for self-actualization and individuation enables us to be the best that we can be both for ourselves and for others. For every person who chooses the long, hard and often lonesome road of inner truth, that many more choose the wide and smooth road of blind conformity, and the world does suffer for it. We are all so valuable to our Father God that He calls each and every one of us to develop each our own talents, skills and personalities not only for others' benefit, but also because He wants us to be happy and fulfilled. And the only way towards an authentic sense of deep and abiding peace and joy is by compromising the illusory pleasures and glittering generalities of 'fitting in' at any cost. Because in the end, 'fitting in' with ourselves is what we all desire deep down. Each individual is a part of an irreducibly complex matrix of give and take. What I have to offer others and the world at large may not seem to always carry that much weight considering the vastness of our universe and the ever-increasing human populace, but I can at least take assurance in the fact that what I contribute is helping someone out there. The mysterious and wondrous workings of metaphysical mechanics are a quality over quantity equation anyhow. 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV) 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
WHAT IS TRUE INSANITY?
There are many misguided and, indeed, harmful ideas floating around out there about the subject of 'sanity' vs. 'insanity'. The first and most commonly shared 'folie a deux or trois...etc.' (and this is a true form of 'insanity'-I'll expound later), is that any sign of creativity is a sign of emotional/mental instability and indeed, even turpitude. I personally have always found this to be an ironic notion, considering the fact that, artistic expression in and of itself, is a direct (and indirect) sublimative outlet for staving off that very thing! Namely, I was always a highly creative and intellectually inclined person mainly due to the fact that I was trying to preserve my so-called 'sanity' in the very face of evils in this world which truly deserve such a assignation! Another thing I noticed is how certain behaviours, and personality and/or character traits or qualities which society glorifies and accepts in children, become pathologised and demonised in adults. For example, let's say there is a child carrying on an animated conversation with another person and/or persons whom we might not be able to 'see', but that the child interacts with as if they are 'there' in both an emotional sense and a physical sense. Then, we say, “Oh, how nice. They have an imaginary friend.” And that's that. It is accepted as 'normal' and even a kind of 'milestone' of childhood and we move on and let them be. However, imagine that this person in the above scenario is an adult person, carrying on an animated conversation with someone that they may 'sense' but that we cannot. Then too often that person is either assumed to be crazy, dangerous or 'retarded' or 'challenged' in some way or all of the above and in most cases, is treated in such a derogatory, demoralizing, condescending and hurtful manner. Yet most people who commit acts of violence, be they physical, sexual or of the more insidious, covert and psychological/emotional variation, fail to properly engage in more constructive and/or creative outlets for their inner tensions and anxieties and choose to instead use others as 'identified patients' and 'scapegoats' for their own projected evils. After all, how many artists and intellectuals can truly be said to be 'crazy', when these are, in most cases, some of the most conscientious and tough-minded individuals we will ever meet-not to mention the most interesting, genuine and empathic. Moreover, there is another misconception concerning 'sanity' vs. 'insanity', and who's who and what's what. In law they use a term called the 'insanity defense' in some criminal cases to determine whether or not an individual can be legally held accountable for their own actions. Then, there is something termed, 'moral insanity', which although not a purely legalistic term and definition, is rather, a philosophical one. In fact, the denotative definition of moral insanity allows for certain sinister character qualities to be present in an individual without the accompanying intellectual impairments, as is assumed in the 'insanity defense.' The earliest usage of this term, 'moral insanity' was in a treatise written by James Cowles Prichard in 1835. Furthermore, the Mc'Naghten Rules of 1842 established the distinction between 'legal insanity' and 'moral insanity', whereby the former required a manifestation of some sort of delusions or affective and/or reasoning impairments. In my view, the only true form of 'insanity' is moral insanity, or as we theologians and laymen alike refer to as the 'original sin human nature.' Personally, although this form of character disorder and deviation may not meet 'legalistic' definitions of true 'insanity', the deleterious effects inflicted upon its victims is quite 'maddening'. So, without dispensing of the term moral 'insanity' let's just assume this form of 'madness' to be, albeit in a league of its own, nevertheless a mark of a very disordered, disturbed and diseased mind indeed. Moreover, these individuals whom we would deem today as suffering from 'personality' and character 'disorders', are very much accountable for the untold and long-lasting damage that their abuses and exploitations cause to their 'victims/survivors.' However the 'insanity' inherently assumed in my designation of 'true' insanity refers mainly to the gross distortions of moral truth and order which this kind of human evil contributes to and even, champions. Judeo-Christian Scripture refers to this as “the lawlessness of sin.”(1 John 3:4: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”) And although these individuals cannot rightfully claim the 'insanity defense', the confusion, chaos and senselessness which they contribute to in the world is plain for all to see. Yes, ladies and gents, oftentimes the ones running the 'asylum', are the true lunatics and sociopaths. Now that's truly insane. But in the end, the 'scapegoats' are the ones who are set free. And that’s justice wrought by the Most High Author of peace and not discord, and perfect order and not chaos. For true ‘sanity’ is determined not only by the soundness of one’s mind, but by the deepest motives of one’s heart.
IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME OR WITH THE SOCIETY IN WHICH I BECAME INJURED?
It's too bad our society has trouble seeing that people with DID C-PTSD, etc. are beautiful and perfect just the way they are, coping/survival mechanisms and all! In truth, DID and dissociation in C-PTSD, etc. are what help us to hold onto and preserve the BEST parts of ourselves! Their never was anything 'wrong' with us. Yes, some of the other symptoms of our conditions have negative effects/affects, but we are still made the way that we were made because of and despite our hardships and struggles. In truth, most of what society demonises and pathologises is not necessary to 'change'. If it isn't hurting anyone and in fact, is enabling an individual to be a kinder, gentler, more well-balanced person, then it's none of anybody's business what that person's 'labels' happen to be or how they cope with internal and external pressures and anxieties. In our culture & society, many times people and things get demonized and pathologized that, in fact, should be credited for the pathologies which they actually prevented from developing in an individual had they not employed such psychological defense mechanisms. To clarify, I myself, am a survivor of sexual abuse as well as systematic childhood emotional abuse. When I was younger, being the designated 'black sheep/scapegoat/'identified patient' of my dysfunctional and abusive family system, I was 'diagnosed' with many psychiatric conditions. I have pretty much been 'labeled' with everything in the DSM. However, looking back, and after having healed a bit from the wounds such labeling inflicted upon me, I realize fully now that what they needed to keep at arm's length (so as not to identify) by pathologizing and/or demonizing, were actually what not only saved my physical life but my emotional, mental and spiritual one as well. Had I not been 'schizoidal' in the ways that I was, had I not been bi-polar in the ways that I was, had I not been 'paranoid' and depressed and socially withdrawn in the ways that I often was, I would not have survived as intact as I did. Period. In fact, what gets labeled as a 'Disorder' is actually a psycho-spiritual symptom of an intense internal conflict that we are experiencing as we are attempting to establish a moral 'order' from without ourselves and 'without' in our interactions with others. We have made some strides in our society concerning the enlightenment about such issues, but there is one constant that will always push against this: the tendency of some types of people to resist self-awareness out of fear. It took me many years and much inner soul work on myself before I finally realized, without just internalizing it, that whenever others treated me in a patronizing, dismissive or otherwise condescending manner regarding my healthy and well-developed sense of self-awareness and my honesty in sharing my story, it is only due to their fear of tapping into their own trauma and their own inner, private Hades. Oftentimes, we will hear people say things mindlessly like: “Oh, but they probably just don't understand. You have to forgive them for that.” Yet I think that they very much do understand, and that is why they are behaving in the way that they are. The truth is, every human individual suffers from some 'trauma' of some variation. And the truth is also, that all human persons are fundamentally, and in a philosophical sense, similar enough to warrant treating one another with dignity and respect. I may not be able to completely empathize with what someone else has gone through, but I can, when examining my own life experiences, garner enough empathy to be careful not to dismiss or further wound the person revealing their vulnerability to me. We must be part of the solution, as individuals, by taking responsibility for that of our own healing process, so that we 'stop the cycle' of wounding and at least, in our own small but significant way, lift one another up instead of tearing one another down. May we therefore let our words heal and not wound, may we therefore let our own wounds give us the strength and compassion to fight our own demons, so that we can be fully ready and available to help others do the same. When it all comes down to it, we cannot judge people by the defense mechanisms which they employ in order to prevent themselves from falling into greater evil. Rather, we should evaluate one another only upon how we treat other human beings despite that of our own sufferings and afflictions. After all, even our Lord Jesus Christ said, “It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him.” (Matthew 15:11)
HOW CAN I DEVELOP BETTER DISCERNMENT TO KEEP MYSELF SAFE, HEALTHY & ON THE PATH OF HEALING?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.”-Ephesians 6:10-11 Sometimes the Evil One will plant others in our path to afflict us. Yet we also have to be careful that we are not merely taking what this someone else is saying &/or doing the wrong way. Sometimes we invent enemies in our own heads to defeat, mainly because that is what we are used to-fighting & 'surviving' others. I suppose in part, we also do this because it gives us some semblance of familiarity, and hence, control over our lives & those 'dark principalities' which conspire against us at seemingly every impasse-and of course, a sense of control over that of our own mortality-ever immanent. Then again, sometimes we are correct about someone's ill &/or false intentions towards us, & we are merely utilizing our God-given 'interpersonal radar' to protect ourselves. It is hard to tell the difference sometimes. This is, I suppose, for those such as myself, one of the byproducts of C-PTSD, I suppose, of being a survivor of systematic childhood emotional abuse. As someone once remarked: “Between the Past & the Present lies many crossed wires!” Okay, so I just said that. Nevertheless, the 'damage' is often already done, even if we happen to find out that this 'other' person's intentions weren't what we thought they were. And this failing of my own “Interpersonal Broadcasting System”, however much a 'venial' sin it may indeed be, is still a sin, nonetheless. It is a failing of my fellow human beings which brings me much grief & abiding sorrow. Oftentimes, we hurt others the most due to our own self-protective reflexes &, at least what we perceive in the moment of emotional danger, our assumptions of others' intentions behind why they did what they did &/or said what they said. All that we can each do, of our own accord, is to continue making a sincere effort to continue treating our fellow human beings with the dignity & the respect that we, ourselves, would like to be treated with. Although, for the time being, one may have to erect a healthy boundary to another person that we either perceive has wrongfully transgressed us in some way. I am often tempted at the start of new 'relationships' to give a warning: “I am giving you the benefit of the doubt by letting you in. Please do not make a fool of me & make me regret it. And don't mistake my human decency for an invitation to transgress.” Unfortunately it seems, out of about every 300 people that you meet, you are blessed & fortunate to cross the path of even just one person who has no ulterior motives towards you, & who truly understands & is capable of respecting you. But, let it be. Let it be. That, in my book, is more than enough to make it out of this Life with your Soul, unsold. And as always, a cultivation of self-awareness is our most impenetrable shield against those 'dark principalities' which conspire against all servants & children of God out there in the world merely trying to bring some Light & some Truth to this dark world. Although we must take heed, when wielding this 'Shield of Self-Possession', to not leave that 'Shield of Faith', that 'breastplate of righteousness', that 'belt of truth', that helmet of Salvation & that 'Sword of the Spirit' forged alone through the power of the Holy Writ, at home in the closet (Ephesians 6:10-18). Self-reliance is all good, until we come up against our humanity, & the dysfunctionality of our 'crossed wires' & past wounds. Because truth be told, yes, there are some 'deliberately' (even if perhaps unconsciously) treacherous & mean-spirited people out there, but we must remember that they, too, sometimes 40 act out of their own woundedness-not that this is an 'excuse' for their behaviour, but it can enable us to erect healthy boundaries while also treating those who wish us harm with dignity & sensitivity. And by the way, being 'guarded' is not the same as being callous or cold-hearted. As a matter of fact, healthy boundaries against those who mistreat us serve the main function of preventing our own feet from 'slipping into evil'. As the Scripture so sagely reminds us to: “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”(Proverbs 4:23) To that I would add: “Guard your Mind, for it can become the wellspring of Death.” All priceless treasures must be well-guarded, & well-kept. And truly, Scripture also reminds us: “For our struggle is not against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:12-13)
AM I A 'BAD CHRISTIAN' OR PERSON FOR FEELING ANGRY AT THOSE WHO HAVE HARMED ME? SHOULDN'T I JUST 'FORGIVE & FORGET?'
Excusing an offense without holding the offending party accountable is merely enabling them to go on sinning. Repentance is a part of any sound relational equation. After all, James 5:16 tells us that we are to CONFESS and be healed, not DEFLECT and be healed.-V.L.S.
Matthew 5:22 King James Version (KJV) 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother WITHOUT A CAUSE shall be in danger of the judgment...
"If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and IF HE REPENTS, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, "I repent", you shall forgive him" -Luke 17:3-4
First we must realize that forgiveness, by categorical definition, is a two-way street. It makes sense that forgiveness must be sought first, right? Without holding others accountable for the damage and pain they've caused us, we merely enable their harmful behaviours. Even the Judeo-Christian Scriptures remind us that repentance is a part of any sound relational equation. The Scripture says in James 5:16 that we must CONFESS or REPENT to the Lord and to others when appropriated, in order to be healed and to find absolution. It says, in a word, to CONFESS and be healed-not DEFLECT and be healed! You aren't required to 'forgive' anyone in your life who has caused you intentional and prolonged pain and hardship and has no intention of correcting themselves. But you most definitely deserve to be free from them and to move forward, and sometimes reckoning with things as they stand is necessary to do that. Everyone has their own idea of what forgiveness actually requires and should look like, feel like and be like. From my own experience, there is this misconception that our continued healing and spiritual growth are arrested when we do not automatically forgive others their transgressions. If we 'forgive' deep-seated, complex trauma before processing, this is what actually does more damage than choosing to feel our truest, deepest, darkest feelings about the egregious evils we have endured. Furthermore, there is a toxic and quite dangerous rhetoric going around that if someone has erected a healthy boundary to their abusers that this must mean that they are harbouring bitterness and are hindering their own growth. Yet this is, in a lot of cases, a misconception. We are merely leaving the one-sided dialectic which our unrepentant transgressors have left us with and choosing to move on, without giving freely to these individuals something that must be earned. And that, in its own way, is an act of love for both ourself and the other person(s), not only because it leads us away from toxic, self-defeating dynamics, but because it frees the other person(s) to take a good look at themselves if they choose to do so and helps both or all parties involved to grow in a more positive direction. We can all identify with the feeling of indignation that comes along with having been usurped in some way by a fellow human being. And Western society, especially, has a lot to say about how we are supposed to act & feel in these situations. One misconception which we all, I'm sure in some way, been indoctrinated with, is that getting angry at someone else is bad. We shouldn't feel it, & we most certainly are expected to not express it. Yet there are as many variations of this emotion as there are of all of the emotions attendant to the human condition & experience. And one 'shade', if you will, of anger that we have been unfortunately discouraged from owning within ourselves & feeling, is righteous indignation. The Judeo-Christian Scripture, for one, shows precedent for allowing such feelings towards our fellow humankind when evil has been enacted upon us and/or those we love & care about. We have not only a right to set boundaries up to those who have ill-intent towards us, but we must set those boundaries if we are to prevent ourselves from falling into the ways of evil ourselves. One Scripture, in particular that I will use as a referential point in this brief essay is found in Psalm 101. The first verse is taken from Psalm 101:3-4: “I will set before my eyes, no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will nothing to do with evil.” If that doesn't speak for itself, I don't know what does! I often think to myself: “Being a Christian does not mean being an enabler of wickedness, or being a doormat!” It most certainly does not. We are also told by Scripture to “expose the deeds of darkness”. And one very effective way that we can do this is in erecting a foundation of self-respect, so that when we are abused by our fellow humankind, we can stand firm in our disallowance of it. Hating wickedness & injustice is not necessarily equivalent with hating “the perpetrator” him and/or herself. Yet, in all honesty, we must, at least until such time as the danger which they pose has passed, allow for a strong enough dislike or or even contempt of these persons so we can protect ourselves properly from their depraved influences over our spirit & our minds. Furthermore, getting back to Psalm 101, there is precedent found in verses 6-8 as well, for the kind of self-protection of which I speak. The verses read thus: “My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord.” Personally, for me, I am careful to interpret these verses symbolically rather than literally. For example, “my house” could also refer to one's own 'inward dwelling of mind & spirit', as being in need of protection against unsavory, outward influences. Also “the city of the Lord” could also be interpreted as one's innermost being standing firm in righteousness so that the “evildoers” cannot penetrate it. As we can plainly see, our Lord & Saviour most definitely wants us to set up good fences with our fellow humankind, so that we can operate to the fullest efficiency & safety within the bounds of human society at large. And sometimes, this entails the regulation of “the borders”, if you will, so that we ourselves do not fall into the ways of evildoing & wickedness. Yeah, but isn't that “segregation” & being unforgiving, a lot may ask? Yet, there are many instances in Scripture, including those to be found in Psalm 101 which I have included in this brief essay, that not only acknowledge the necessity for this sometimes, but in fact, advise us to practice on a daily basis so that we can keep our discernment between those individuals who are truly “blameless”, & thus possessive of good intent towards us when they “minister to us”, & those who are not. It is thus, a very “Christian” thing to do in taking good care of oneself so that no evil may unduly influence it. It is not about being “hateful”, “stuck-up/elitist”, or “hypocritical”, to not allow ourselves to be abused and/or exploited (whether financially, emotionally, or in some other way) by our fellow human beings. It is about staying on the right path, & making sure that we are empowered from within ourselves to do so by treating ourselves with respect & consideration as regards our own feelings, inward states, & the actualization of our inward talents & skills out in the world. In order to be able to do all of these things, we must nurture ourselves, & protect ourselves from those darker principalities which seek nothing but that of our own enslavement & destruction. Allowing for this kind of kowtowing, does not do anyone any good. Moreover, another issue that I feel needs to be elucidated upon (for my own edification as well), is that of “forgiveness.” Yes, the original “F-Word”. First off, I will start out by saying that this is largely the Lord's purview. Secondly, that such an event “takes two to tango”, so to speak. Let me elaborate. I say that forgiveness is largely in the Lord's purview, as He is the only Being to whom anyone must answer (myself included) in the end. Also, it is through the power & grace of the Holy Spirit that my own merely mortal inclination & spiritual skill-set can rise to such a grande gesture as the offering of Absolution for another's transgressions and/or sins. Quite frankly, in and of myself & my own limited, spiritually-feeble human ability, I am just not qualified for that. It's not about an insolent unwillingness to offer forgiveness to someone actively & sincerely seeking it, on the contrary, I feel humbled by the realization that perhaps they should ask God our Father for forgiveness, as I might fall short on my end and therefore do not wish to cause any more damage than has already been done. I just personally don't feel that it is my place to wield that kind of power over another human being, & in fact, I would probably tell them that they shouldn't be offering me that kind of power over them. Nevertheless, all personal idiosyncrasies aside, let's examine what is required for a successful “atonement” between Violator & Violated. What a lot of people don't realize & automatically judge as “harboring a grudge” or as “being unforgiving” is that: The guilty party must first ask for forgiveness to begin with! And, more specifically, this person must be sensed as being sincere to the potentially forgiving party. Yet, even with that part fulfilled, it ain't over yet. The “offender” must also actively seek to not commit the same violation (physical and/or emotional/psychological) upon the “offended” again. In fact, this is a key element required for the completion of any act of contrition/repentance-namely, that we “go & sin no more.” Why not direct all of the energy used to give a lengthy apology into instead self-reflecting & focusing on not doing the same thing again? I've often thought to myself: “Don't say you're sorry, just don't DO IT AGAIN!” That to me, is a truer & more trustworthy sign of atonement. Even the Scripture bears precedent about this being a two-way street. Scripture even makes an allowance, in the event that our offender is unwilling to make amends with us, to go our separate way & to move on the best that we can. Moreover, Romans reminds us that “all have sinned & fallen short the glory of God.” But this does not preclude each person's right to choose what elements to let in & what elements to keep out of themselves & their homes & their lives. It's not always about “passing judgment on other people”, but is often merely about “securing the perimeters for oneself” so that one properly govern oneself & take accountability for oneself, as we are instructed to do by our Father in Heaven. As G.K. Chesterton once put it: “Good fences make for good neighbours.” And these “fences” exist both from without & from within the minds & hearts of each individual person. In fact, “good”, and conscientious Christians are mindful about not only how they treat others, but of how they allow or don't allow themselves to be treated by others. In a word, if I don't first respect myself, how in the world will I ever be able to teach myself how to respect & to love others? It all starts at home, indeed. Fundamentally, we are all created equal by Our Father in Heaven, and seen as equal in His eyes. “For God does not show favourtism.” Yet we each are also required, as He would not violate the sanctity of our freedom of choice, to willingly submit and to prostrate ourselves before Him, and before those whom we may have wronged when we seek absolution. As some Christians are fond of putting it: “It's about what's in our hearts that the Lord sees & cares about.” We just must be careful not give sway to “popular” opinion regarding our own feelings when we have been transgressed by another and/or others, & allow ourselves to disown those negative emotions or to feel ashamed or unworthy of them. All this does, is give power to the destructive forces that are at play within the transgressor and the situation at large. It is perfectly okay to feel angry, or indignant when you have been unjustly maimed in some way. It, like all things, is about what we do with our feelings & thoughts which determines whether they end up doing harm or good from within ourselves and then, out in the world. But, we have to feel to deal, and we have to deal, in order that we may finally, heal. But yes, it is also okay, should someone who has hurt you come to you, sincerely asking for your forgiveness, to grant it to them under your own conditions. In my eyes, no matter how deeply another's transgression may have wounded me, an act of genuine contrition on their end is worth a whole lot more in the long run. And often the hardest and trickiest part often comes down to forgiving ourselves first, when we have erred or hurt someone else. But, we all must earn that part, just as we also must re-earn another's trust whenever we have trespassed against them. And we also have a right to expect others who have trespassed against us to earn their keep as well. This makes for good human relations, all around. Contrary to popular sentiment, righteous indignation and good boundaries in the face of evil indicate fierce love, for ourselves, and others. If we do not first hold our ‘enemies’ accountable, we quickly lose our sense of justice and morality. Read in tandem with Matthew 5:44-45, the Scriptures which address accountability and rightful rebuke demonstrate this very clearly to those who call themselves Children Of God. (see Matthew 18:15; Matthew 12:36; 1 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Galatians 6:5) If we do not enforce the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves, especially in the face of those whose intent is to act lawlessly and heinously outside the bounds of that commandment, we all become lost and morally impoverished. Many also neglect to take into account, those crimes and sins against others of a more psychological and emotional variance. Human society has always struggled to give validation to those who have been victims of things such as childhood abuse (physical, emotional, mental, sexual, ambient, etc.). This is, in part, due not only to a fear of these things being brought into the light on the part of the survivors, but mainly a fear of exposure on the part of the perpetrators. Yet we are told in Psalm 51:6 that “surely (The Lord) desires truth in the inmost parts.” This is why the Enemy often uses many different tactics to keep people from engaging in that crucial self-reflection which is an absolute cornerstone of psycho-spiritual growth and fruitfulness. this is perhaps the most important boundary that we must commit to erecting and maintaining: The boundary of self-awareness and self-governance. If we never work out who we are and what we will and will not stand for, as the adage goes, we will fall for anything, at least eventually. As within, so without. As I work on developing myself and on edifying myself and on healing myself, this is an act of ultimate moral refinement and true heroism being undertaken. As within, so without. As I learn how to love myself, and how to honour my own sense of right and wrong, I also empower myself to be able to love and ultimately, defend others. Thus, to all who equate righteous indignation and moral integrity with malice and rancour, woe unto he who calls good, evil. Yet blessed indeed is he who, in realizing the error of his thinking and his being and his doing, repents and embraces the Truth, no matter the cost. For now, he is an unshakeable Child of the King, and though he may stumble, shall never face eternal condemnation. Yet even if he chooses the Lies and the Darkness, Heirs of Christ shall continue to demonstrate their fierce love and concern for the wicked, by bringing them to their knees to the foot of the cross, through the diligent application of Truth-telling and Truth-living. Summary: I'll say it again: Erecting a boundary against abuse (overt or covert) is NOT the same thing as 'holding a grudge' against someone. Nevertheless, the Scripture ACTUALLY says, "He who is angry at his brother WITHOUT A CAUSE is in danger of judgment." (Matthew 5:22) Furthermore, the Scripture also says, "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, IF HE REPENTS, forgive him..." (Luke 17:3) We are instructed throughout Scripture to hold one another accountable if we truly care about creating a godly and just society in which everyone can thrive and do His bidding in the world.
WILL COMPLEX TRAUMA EVER BE FULLY VALIDATED BY THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY?
While there may be individuals who work within the mental health field who would agree with the soundness of the verity that complex interpersonal trauma injury sustained as children and adults needs much more inclusion in the diagnoses of individuals seeking treatment in the mental health field, the fact is, that there are too many larger forces at play which keep the system where it is and what it is. I, like so many others, have learned this the hard way. In attempting to point out how things like emotional abuse and abuses as a child and an adult can be invalidated as direct causes of complex trauma, many working within the mental health field do not want to acknowledge this. Furthermore, the issue gets muddied by focusing too much upon purely physiological factors, intentionally in some cases. Being treated with dignity and respect in the mental health field can be tricky due to this. I think this is mainly because many people don't want to face it, or deal with these dark realities present in themselves and in others. Yet I think it is safe to say that most of the emotional duress which human beings undergo which then may lead to mental health 'diagnoses' is a direct and indirect cause of interpersonal trauma and abuses. But the truth is, there are a lot of people who are still 'hoodwinked' by the system. I was partly hoodwinked for a time myself. If we fail to dig deep and treat the WHOLE person then people will not be helped. People need genuine and active compassion and understanding, not more labelling, mismanaging, invalidation and judgment. Moreover, the absence of an awareness of having deeper trauma does not mean that one does not have it. If every human being on the face of the planet dug really deep, they'd find it. Some people are just not as self-aware. To be human is, by essence, to have been traumatized or adversely effected/affected by at least something. Furthermore, it doesn't matter how seemingly 'small' or prolonged trauma is, it is all profoundly impacting upon us. And in response to those who make the fallacious and Cartesian claim that we must focus upon the neuro-chemical imbalances present in trauma survivors at the expense of the deeper issues underlying the etiology of such neuro-chemical imbalances, the two are not mutually exclusive, and it is harmful to treat them as such. And this is what we mean by treating the WHOLE PERSON. Therapy, medication if necessary and helpful and also trauma processing of our own volition. Things like Depression, Anxiety, etc. do not arise out of a vacuum, and the chemical imbalances, and other health issues that they cause are directly related to psychological and emotional duress of some variation or another. While it is true that not all 'hardships' cause major mental health issues in and of themselves, the nature of emotional and psychological trauma is usually cumulative, not just incidental, and this supports what we are coming to understand and what we know about the interconnectivity and 'web' like functionality of neuro-anatomical structuring. Furthermore, it's a gross misconception that trauma can only be caused in the minds of children and not adults. I personally find the whole Western approach to medicine a bit reductionistic, and ultimately have seen the harm that it does to the human soul. And an individual being treated for depression is also an individual being treated (hopefully) for some kind of underlying issue. The two are usually not mutually exclusive entities. Yet here ladies and gents is where we enter into the realm of Physiology vs. Metaphysiology. That epic dialectic between the Exoteric and the Esoteric. I personally believe that human beings are far too complex to be reduced to merely physiological epiphenomena. This is the problem with using only the Western model of medical science. Too Cartesian for my own personal knowledge and experience base. It is so important that the medical community not dismiss some of what's regarded as the 'soft' sciences as completely complementary to so-called 'hard' science. Realms such as Philosophy, Psychology, Theology, Sociology, etc. are equally necessary to study for healthy and optimal development and treatment of the human person. In finale, as with all tools, it's about the intentions of those wielding them which determines it's helpfulness or harmfulness. There are good people working in the mental health system as well as not so good folks. It is what it is, but we can all make the best of it. And we must take the reigns on our own health, well-being and growth. But those helping us along the way also need to make sure they are operating within the bounds of that as well. It's a collaborative effort. And from my own experience, some practitioners misuse their knowledge with the intention of exploiting vulnerable people who merely end up being retraumatised. That's what I was referring to about wielding it properly. An individual's 'existentialia' as Martin Heidegger called it, is very, very pertinent information regarding not only understanding of the presented condition but also treatment. Overall I think that the DSM would benefit from having the etiology of all psychiatric conditions listed, especially as it relates to trauma. After all, why should more credibility be given for, say a strictly 'physical' designation/condition than a 'mental' one regarding its origins/causes. Also, we now know that the holistic model is being proven more and more comprehensive and accurate as far as diagnosis, prognosis, etc. are concerned. Mind and body are most definitely symbiotically ensconced. Hopefully, as our knowledge and understanding expands, we will begin to grant more robust medical credibility to trauma-related conditions which cannot be strictly classified as having a 'physiological' and/or 'neurophysiological' etiology. This approach, while perhaps not intended by everyone who uses it, is very invalidating and dismissive, thus re-injurious to survivors of horrific childhood and adulthood trauma and abuse, whose diagnosed conditions are a direct consequence of their interpersonal traumas. The biochemical model for psychiatry is also understood by most medical professionals and laymen alike, as being postulate. In a word, the 'hard' sciences approach for psychological diagnostics and treatment arose out of humankind's attempt to explain and then treat what is more philosophically understood as 'the human condition' as it struggles to survive the horrors of evil on this earth. I suppose this more rigorous, honest and inclusive approach depends upon whether or not an individual acknowledges the verity of phenomena which lie beyond the borders of hard 'Science' and whether or not that individual is viewing ultimate reality with eyes wide open or eyes wide shut. If it be the latter, they become merely yet another part of the problem rather than the solution. And these issues of course, beg a whole other discussion. P.S. John Mudrow wrote an interesting and quite compelling book which explores this subject entitled: “How To Become A Schizophrenic: The Case Against Biological Psychiatry”.
WILL THERE EVER BE A 'CURE' FOR C-PTSD OR SHOULD I JUST ACCEPT THAT I'M 'DAMAGED-FOR-LIFE'?
I often feel disconnected from my feelings & my experiences. Being a deeply creative & intelligence person, I am grieved by this, & unsettled by this. Yet I also know where it comes from, and it comes from a good place-a self-preservatory place. Sometimes we must suppress a present response to a disturbing event that happens to us in order to staunch the potential floods of other traumatic past memories from engulfing us, & perhaps leading to no good. This is true especially for survivors of systematic childhood abuse who become afflicted with C-PTSD in our adulthood. (And indeed, even as adults we are “victimized” by others in this way, too). And the quality of our lives is profoundly effected by this condition. Incidentally, this is the main reason why emotional abuse is such an egregious sin to inflict upon another, as the effects are life-lastingly insidious & pernicious. In a word, almost every thing that we deign to do must always be regarded as a potential minefield-type (or perhaps MIND-field) situation. Now, mind you, as long as we remain merely “vigilant” rather than paralytically “hyper-vigilant”, we can procure for ourselves some relative measures of peace & fulfillment. Nevertheless, getting back to the subject of emotional constriction & suppression: Whenever we experience a present violation of our person, (& this includes all beings designated as “homo sapiens” & not just those with “C-PTSD” diagnoses) whether that trauma be a physical and/or emotional one, we fear opening up to the full experience of this because we all too keenly recall the dark paths which these same emotions & memories led us onto in our past (even only in a “mindscape” sense). The mind is an amazing & complex organ, but it is also a tricky & potentially dangerous one. In fact, I believe C-PTSD to be a general symptom of the human condition, in many ways. We humans are very vulnerable & complicated creatures. I believe that everyone suffers from C-PTSD in relation to something, in varying degrees of intensity. This life can be brutal & godless at times. So can our fellow man. So can we ourselves, no matter how much we may attempt to “purify-by-rationalization”, our own sins against others-even if they were in “self-defense”. For the most part, I tend to agree with Jean Paul Sartre's assertion that “Hell is others.” Yet, I also concede that others can also help us to experience more “heavenly” things as well at times. Hence, the never-ending dilemma: Should I open myself or not to the full range of my human experience & condition? But the thing is, as author & speaker Brene Brown once keenly observed: We can't be selective about which part of our mind we open & which part stays closed without risking either vulnerability & trauma, or, on the other side of things, anhedonia, & a total inability to feel anything worth feeling. I learned this early on. Relative happiness & its pursuit must come to terms with this verity or risk never fulfilling itself. Then again, quite honestly, some of us have just come to terms with another verity: That of our own nature. I personally have had to accept the fact that I will always be damaged in certain ways, & hence, unable to completely immerse myself into the fullness of what we refer to as a “normal life.” My own mental stability depends upon an acceptance of this. We are what we are. No amount of “self-help” projects or even inward immersion into our own psyche in order to come to know & heal ourselves can get at all of the wounds which we carry deep inside of ourselves. Some things, we must accept, are broken, & cannot be fixed-they can only be worked around to the best of our ability. We cannot undo the damage that was done to us beyond a certain point. But, don't get me wrong, my intention is not fatalism, but realism. What I am saying is that we are who we are for better & for worse, & that we can only try to make the best out of what we have been left with. Because I have witnessed some dark things come out of my wounds, & some miraculous & astoundingly redemptive & beautiful things come out of them. But, it is true that we are what we are, as the saying goes, in relation to the individual past histories which we carry inside of our psyches. Once I was watching a film, and one of the main characters, who was a survivor of abuse said: “I will never be normal because of what they did to me.” I totally connected with that line of dialogue. I feel this every day at least once when I am faced with yet another way in which my condition limits me from being a fully functional human being. Yet for me, as long as I consistently strive to own my own darkness & “brokenness” without inflicting it upon others, I can have peace with myself. So, we all have to find a point of compromise with ourselves, 'cause we can't 'be' it all. And at least now, I have at least come far along enough in my own journey of healing that I no longer internalize others' sins & transgressions like my abusers had “programmed” me to do when I was young. Now I know from deep within my whole being, that I did not deserve their mistreatment, or the damage which they left me with that I, in no way, brought upon my own self. But I believe that we all have a story of survival & trauma to tell, including our abusers, past or present. Yet we all must make the choice as to whether we allow our own private pain & darkness to turn us into a victim, & another transgressor, or into a survivor & another purveyor of the Truth & the Light. It is always totally up to us. Yet unfortunately, our society & culture have a long way to go as far as recognizing psychological acts of violence towards other human beings as equally egregious, & as equally in need of validation on the part of the afflicted. It's funny how whenever you mention “C-PTSD”, most people automatically associate it with military servicemen & women, & the effects of combat in political “physical” wars. And no doubt, this form of it is just as valid, & just as afflictive. Yet survivors of more emotional or psychological kinds of trauma aren't really immediately given clout, when by all rights they absolutely should be. I myself have experienced the way in which some people can view you with either incredulity and/or suspicion when you share with them that you have “C-PTSD”. I understand the aversion, however, to such things, as many people are just afraid to explore their own minds, & perhaps similar experiences with trauma that is emotionally & psychologically based. But I also find this to be a poor excuse for the disparagement of my (or any other person's) human condition & experience merely because they are too afraid to connect with that of their own. Moreover, I think this explains a lot of ills in human society, actually. Individuals who, instead of choosing self-awareness & integration, choose self-deception & depravity. M. Scott Peck's book “The People of the Lie” was indispensable to me on my own journey & I still refer to it from time to time as a guide in how to identify those persons who choose projection of their own shadow onto others instead of accountability & proper governance for & of themselves. But it's not just about identification, but the validation as well, that I had every right to protect myself from my abusers, as they, very clearly were in the wrong. In my own family system, I never had anyone to stand up for me in relation to what was true & right. I played the “role” of the “identified patient”, & in some more emotional way, the “scapegoat”. If I attempted to assert myself they would quickly put me back into my “place” by either “gaslighting” me or inventing some reason why I “deserved” their mistreatment. Another way they tried to manipulate me back into my “roles” was by taking a personality trait of mine or a character trait & attempting to make me feel ashamed of it, or like I was inferior or inadequate in some way. Yes, I believe that one would fall under the category of “gaslighting”. In finale, as they used to say back in the heyday of the 1970's & 80's self-help boom: “You can either choose to continue the cycle or to end the cycle”. The legacies which our family system's have left us with may be totally unfair & unjust, but we must make the choice for the latter & not the former if we are to end this cycle of psychological violence so rampant in Western culture & society. Not that I believe that the problem can be “solved”, but I do believe that it can be “improved upon” to a certain degree, person by person. We are all held accountable for our choices, eventually. And we should deem it in no way acceptable to inflict any kind of intentional distress upon our fellow human beings. Mind you, I stressed the word “intentional.” If we would all utilize our emotional trauma in the name of preventing ourselves from becoming just like our abusers, instead of looking for an easy way out of facing ourselves, what a slightly, but nevertheless, safer society we would all dwell in. As many wise thinkers have noted: What we do to another, we, in turn, do to ourselves, as we were all essentially created with the same psychology, at least in a general “humanistic” sense. Also, I would add to that, what we do to ourselves, ends up also affecting others, for better &/or for worse. We must take this life seriously, & how we engage in it, because in the end, that's all we're left with besides our scars. 'Cause there is no such thing as “Fate”, only Choice & Consequence. And C-PTSD!!! (But at least some things are consistent-ha ha.) Thus in finale, I wouldn't necessarily say that Complex Trauma is "curable", but it is "treatable." As long as there are psychopathic, character-disordered individuals out there, and as long as human beings continue to grapple with the forces of sin & evil, we will continue to be re-triggered and to experience suffering. But we can learn how to manage our symptoms better so that they are not as debilitating. In a word, we will never be "vaccinated" completely from the human condition, but we can become more and more resilient after each new 'infection'.
-Valerie Lynn Stephens
Comments are closed for this blog post