What 2017 has taught me.

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I feel like a victim again.   I was doing pretty well emotionally until this year.  Since I left my ex in 2014 and started blogging, slowly I began to feel freer and lighter emotionally.   I felt like I was finally rid of most of my C-PTSD/BPD symptoms and the emotional work I was doing both in and out of therapy was reaping benefits.    I came to realize that I had been repeatedly victimized by others for most of my life because I acted like a victim and kept telling  myself I was one.  I became my own abuser.   Although I will never blame myself for what happened to me or the psychological problems I developed because of it (which in their own warped and unhealthy way protected me),  I realized, like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz, when Glinda The Good Witch told her she always had the power to go home but just didn’t realize it, that I always had the power to be a non-victim, to not live in mortal fear of everyone, but didn’t realize it because the abuse I endured had made me blind to the fact I was as worthy and powerful as anyone else and deserved to be treated well by others.  I was finally seeing what was possible for me without all that paralyzing fear, shame and self-hatred dragging me down.

But the political abuses of our monstrously narcissistic and sociopathic president and his equally malicious administration has retriggered a lot of the Bad Old Me, the scared-of-everything-and-everyone me.     I won’t go into the specifics of what those abuses are since this is not intended to be a political post and I know I’m not alone in feeling so terrified and depressed at the same time.   All of us, especially those of us who survived narcissistic abuse, and especially if it was sustained over a long period of time, all know why he triggers us.

2017 has been a horror show for me.    I feel like an unwilling participant in the Trump Reality Show, all the while knowing I’m on the losing team.    This doesn’t just mean obsessing over the latest upsetting news story and worrying about the effect its outcome might ultimately have on my freedom, financial status, health, and general well-being.     I’ve also been doubting myself again.  My feelings are hurt more easily, I ruminate and obsess for weeks over insults and rejections, even by people I don’t know well.   Often I feel like I can’t function at all.   I’ve returned to feeling like a victim, and even while I know that such a self-defeating, negative attitude tends to draw in even more negativity,  I can’t help it.   Almost a year after Trump’s inauguration,  I’m generally in one of three moods: fearful, depressed, and angry — sometimes all three at the same time.  Sometimes I feel dissociated, like nothing is real anymore.   Sometimes I slide into a kind of numbness where cynicism and fatalism take over.   I think about death a lot.

But something odd has happened too.  In the midst of the darkness, my faith in God has intensified.   I know he has a plan for me, which involves illuminating the truth and serving as a voice for the vulnerable.   Even while my emotional life is presently in turmoil, I feel like God is very near and no matter what happens, I should not be afraid or give into despair or hopelessness.   Even if I become one of the casualties of this president’s policies,  and even if I have to die,  it will have meant something and I would have fulfilled His purpose for me.

As my faith has grown, my heart has changed.   I used to consider myself self-centered and unconcerned about others, even to the point of not being able to feel much empathy to others.   But that was because I felt like I constantly had to protect myself from being hurt.   It’s strange to me that even though a lot of those old “poor me” emotions have come back, this newfound concern about the world at large has not faltered and always exceeds my concern for myself.  That is definitely something new.

I realized about two years ago that the narcissistic abuse I had to endure as a child wasn’t just some random thing that happened.    It was ultimately a teacher that gave me a doctoral level course in how narcissists operate.   It was schooling to prepare me for what we are facing now on the national level.  After my rage at my abusers (and people with NPD in general) burnt itself out, I began to wonder if I was a narcissist myself, or even had NPD.    I looked at those traits I possessed that resulted from not having been validated as a functioning, worthy human being by my parents — my self centeredness, my envy of others, my tendency in the past to not take responsibility and project fault onto others, my rage, my frozen empathy, my tendency to hate (or fall in love with)  people easily — and concluded that I was myself a narcissist.   I made it my mission to rid myself of my narcissism, but at the same time (or actually, slightly prior to it), I entered an odd phase where I began to sympathize with narcissists and sought to understand them rather than keep bashing them.   I wrote posts criticizing what I felt, at the time, was an unjust demonization of people with NPD by the narcissistic abuse community.    I even started a blog documenting my self-healing journey and later, my therapy.   (That blog has been inactive since April and I have no interest in ever posting in it again).

As it turned out, that weird phase was short lived.  I had insisted that my therapist give me an NPD diagnosis, since I was so certain I had it and couldn’t work on myself properly if I didn’t have the actual label.  My therapist didn’t think I even qualified for the BPD diagnosis I had been given in the ’90s.   Instead, when I kept pushing for a diagnosis, he said he thought I had PTSD (more accurately, C-PTSD), maybe with a few narcissistic traits (“fleas” in narc-abuse parlance), but certainly not fullblown NPD.     Gradually I stopped sympathizing with narcissists too, and developed indifference toward them.   The whole topic of narcissism, in fact, had begun to bore me.   Today I could care less about narcissists, although I don’t actively feel hatred toward them.   I just feel — nothing toward them.

I’ve been puzzling over why I developed that weird empathy toward narcissists (and my conviction that I was one), because I’m feeling none of that now, with this malignant narcissist president, or toward narcissists in general.  Yesterday I finally realized why that happened.   The darkness and evil we are facing is so dangerous and so powerful, that for me to have remained in a state of hatred (which is normal for people who have recently left narcissistic relationships) would have kept me from being able to reach out and give hope to others.  Hatred, no matter if it’s born of righteous anger, is just another form of darkness, and blocks any light from getting through.  Not only would it have hindered me from doing the work that God planned for me, it would have eventually destroyed me.  Hatred eats you alive and exacerbates any narcissistic traits one has.   In order for me to let go of my hatred I had to look inward at my own narcissism and rid myself of it.  I would not have been able to see what I was doing to myself with such clarity had I remained stuck in hatred.

I know I’m not explaining myself very well, but I know I’ve changed, and all these psychological stages I had to go through happened as part of my training.  Knowing that, none of this is easy.  In fact, it’s excruciatingly painful but in an existential, rather than personal, way.   It hurts to know there are so many horrible people in the world who have no conscience, no moral center, no respect for the truth or for justice, and do not care about anyone but themselves.   It hurts to know that greed and narcissism is decimating everything good in the world.   It hurts knowing that we have a bunch of men running the country who have made it clear they want most of us to perish and are actively trying to make that a reality and are gleefully going about their mission to destroy.   It hurts to know that, to them, I’m worthless, a useless parasite who deserves to die.   Their soullessness and cruelty makes me question my own worth and is making me doubt myself again and making me act in the old ways that bring about abuse.   I’m prey and they can smell that.    But this time, it’s not just about me.   It’s about all of us who have been targeted.   The evil we are in the midst of feels eternally powerful, oppressive, almost biblical in its malice, some dark force not of this world.  It’s overwhelming.   It’s overwhelmingly sad.  And scary.  And very, very hard not to give in to hate.

Nevertheless I must soldier on.    I can’t go back.   My past gave me tools to do the work I have been asked to do, whatever that work may be.   No matter what happens, God has my back.   But it’s so hard.

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I’m having doubts about Christianity.

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I feel like my soul is lost in a snowstorm, and it’s because of the political situation.

The religious right is causing good people to leave their churches, or even Christianity altogether.    This is because so many churches, especially evangelical ones, have become little more than bullhorns for right wing propaganda that praise Trump as some sort of biblical hero.

Mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church have kept a healthy distance from politics, and if they lean any way at all, they tend to lean to the left and preach social justice, especially the mainline Protestant denominations.

The Catholic Church is awkwardly placed in all this.  While it’s always emphasized the importance of social justice and helping vulnerable populations, and is headed by a Pope (Francis) who appears to dislike Trump and is decidedly left-wing in his views,  the Catholic Church is still vehemently pro-life and is against artificial contraception (even though most Catholic women of childbearing age use it anyway).   It also considers homosexuality to be a sin and does not ordain female priests.   Many people have left the Catholic Church because they perceive it as being behind the times and out of touch with the needs of women.

Two years ago, I became Catholic, because of all the Christian religions, Catholicism had the most mystery and beauty, and I’ve always loved the liturgy. Although some Protestant churches (Episcopalian and Lutheran) also have a liturgy that’s almost identical to the Catholic one, I wanted the purity of the original one.   I also always liked the doctrine of transubstantiation:  the idea that the Eucharist is a real sacrament and the bread and wine actually turns into the body and blood of Christ, instead of being merely symbolic.

Catholicism is the oldest existing Christian religion, and I was attracted to all its rich and colorful history, both the good and the bad.   I loved the art, especially the serene paintings of Mary and baby Jesus.   I liked the saints.

I also was attracted to Catholicism because it was comforting to me.   Even though my family is not Catholic (my mother was but she left the Church during her teens), I grew up in a heavily Catholic neighborhood in New Jersey, and attended two Catholic schools between 5th and 10th grade.    Every Friday we attended mass in school, and I was so envious of the girls who got to take Communion, while I had to remain sitting in my chair.    I also was envious of all the cool stuff they got:  the lacy white Confirmation dresses, the Confirmation names (I finally got mine: it’s Catherine), the rosary beads.    I was given a set of blue plastic rosary beads one day at school (maybe they forgot I wasn’t Catholic?), even though I had no idea how to use them.  They were among my favorite possessions and I liked to finger them like worry beads.

During those years I attended Catholic school, it was like my home away from home.   I loved the nuns, who were always so serene and kind to me.    Things were very bad at home during those years, with both my parents drinking and fighting, and I felt unloved at home.   At school, that wasn’t the case.  A couple of the nuns treated me like loving parents, and I also had friends at school. Their families welcomed me as if I was one of them.   One girl, Lynn, came from a loud, big, boisterous Italian Catholic family.  Her grandmother, who spoke Italian, used to tell stories from the Old Country and they actually had a wine-making press in their basement where once a year they’d have a grape crushing party that all the neighbors were invited to.   Her grandmother used to cook a big Italian meal every Sunday after church.  What a contrast to my own home, where meals were a silent, stressful affair where my mother constantly criticized me if I wanted seconds and hounded me about my weight, even as a child.    When our dinners weren’t silent, they were interrupted by drunken arguments or either my mother or me in tears.

I’ve always been a spiritual seeker.     I dabbled in a number of different religions during my adult life, both Christian and not.    Still, I always found myself drawn to the Catholic church, and while I never seriously considered becoming one, on occasion I  would attend Mass and take Communion whenever I went.

I finally made the decision to become Catholic in 2014, and for a year attended RCIA classes at my local church.    At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2015, I was confirmed Catholic (my Methodist baptism, to my surprise, was accepted as valid).    I received my confirmation name of Catherine, and my  sponsor gave me a set of rose-scented rosary beads.  My father was perfectly fine with my Catholic conversion and sent me a crucifix.   It was one of the last gifts I would receive from him before he died in June 2016.

Overall, I like Catholic doctrine.  I like the idea of Mary and the saints, who are not actually worshipped the way Jesus is, but merely venerated and seen as intercessors (you ask them to pray for you, not pray to them directly).    I love the Sacraments, even Confession (penance), which to me seems like a way to unload.  It’s therapeutic rather than punishing or guilt-inducing.  At the same time, it keeps my conscience clear.   I always feel cleansed and relieved when I leave Confession (which is done in a small room facing the priest, rather than in a dark confession box).     The “penance” is usually nothing more than saying a couple of Hail Marys or Our Fathers. I always wonder why so many people are so turned off by this sacrament.  To me, it’s like an exercise for the soul.   More than anything, I love Communion.   After I eat my wafer, I really do feel different, as if Jesus is in me.   Maybe it’s a placebo effect of some kind, but I choose to believe it really is Christ’s physical presence, and that makes all the difference.

I like the fact that Catholicism is science friendly.  Many of the greatest scientists and academics in history were Catholic clergy.  I was surprised when I found out during the RCIA classes that in spite of the Catholic doctrine of original sin,  evolution is accepted (albeit God-inspired, which I’ve always believed anyway).   Most of the books of the Old Testament,  including the Adam and Eve story, are regarded as allegorical rather than literal (as they are in mainline Protestantism).   I’m not sure how that squares with the concept of original sin, but so be it.

There are still some doctrinal points I have issues with, and becoming Catholic hasn’t changed my feelings.    One is the literal bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven.  Also the idea that Mary was a virgin and remained so after Christ was born.  Since Mary was also human and not divine, I don’t believe she was conceived without original sin.

I also still consider myself pro-choice, although with limitations.   Actually, I’m sort of on the fence about abortion.   I certainly don’t think it should be used as a form of birth control, or that abortion is okay just because a pregnancy is inconvenient, but I also think there are times it’s the only viable option, especially in cases of rape or incest, if the fetus has a fatal condition and will die anyway, or if the mother’s life is at stake.   The Catholic position is no abortion for any reason, ever.     I can accept this though, because the Catholic Church is pro-life across the board: they are also anti-war, anti-death penalty, and have a long tradition of helping the poor.   There is consistency there and so, to me, their position is not hypocritical.

I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with birth control.  As for homosexuality, well, I have always had gay friends and my son is gay, so I just can’t condemn it.  Some of my favorite people ever are gay.     I also disagree with the Catholic position about women in the clergy, although this may change in time (my priest doesn’t really know why women are barred from the clergy and said there’s no Biblical basis for this other than tradition).

In spite of my issues with some Catholic doctrine, I never once regretted my choice, and until about two months ago, I attended Mass regularly.   But lately, I’m having problems with my faith.   Not Catholicism in particular, but with Christianity in general.    And it’s because of the religious right and the Trump administration.   My church has never taken a position either for or against Donald Trump, and in fact politics is rarely if ever talked about during the homily (sermon in the Protestant faith).   We are merely asked to pray for our leaders.

It disturbs me that so many Catholics (not necessarily in my church but in general) are Trump supporters.   The Trump administration also includes Catholics and I have a problem with that too.     Never before have I judged people based on what their politics are or which politician they support, but that changed this year.    Because of the politicization of Christianity and its growing association with the far right, Christianity in general has been giving me a bad taste in my mouth, and unfortunately that includes my own faith.

I still consider myself a believer in Jesus Christ and I still pray a lot (mostly for a strengthening of faith these days), but mention the word “Christian” to me and I recoil.   I am aware there are Christian leftists and a growing movement toward the social gospel, and that’s attractive to me — but the Christian right eclipses that.    I consider myself a “red letter Christian,” which means I focus on the words of Jesus himself that appear in the gospels.  Unfortunately, those lessons of love, charity, and tolerance are minimized or even ignored by the Christian right.   In this country, the religious right is a lot more powerful and a lot louder than the Christian left, and it’s turning many good people off to Christianity.   It seems that these days, the loudest and most powerful voices of Christianity belong to horrible people devoid of empathy or any true sense of morality or grace toward others.

So I find myself being turned off by the whole idea of Christianity, even though I know real Christianity isn’t like that at all.  I pray about it all the time, but the doubts still remain.  One result of this cognitive dissonance is that I haven’t been to church in almost two months.    I’m going to have to call my priest and set up a time to talk to him about these issues, but it’s hard to motivate myself.  I feel like a hypocrite attending church or taking communion again until this is resolved.   It’s actually occurred to me this is exactly the way Satan would get people to leave the Christian faith.  He would hijack the churches and fill them with heartless and judgmental authoritarians and narcissists.  He would corrupt faith by making it political.  He would use religion as a weapon of hatred intended to divide and create a culture of fear,  which is the opposite of what Jesus intended.    Good people who otherwise might embrace Jesus would reject Christianity altogether.

Maybe this is just a “dark night of the soul” — a spiritual crisis in which I’ll emerge with my faith stronger than ever, or maybe I really am “losing my religion.”   I just don’t know anymore.   I’ll keep praying, though.

The ultimate dissociative experience.

Death is an uncomfortable subject for most of us, but at some point, we are all going to have to come to terms with it. Here’s a post I wrote a while back describing what that process is like for me.

Lucky Otters Haven

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Death isn’t something I like to think about, much less write about.  In fact, it’s my biggest fear (outside of the death of one of my children).  Oh, I know all the pat arguments and rationalizations that it’s not so bad–death is a part of life, death is nothing to be afraid of, if you’re a good Christian you will go to Heaven and there will be no fear, nothing at all will happen so there will be no fear, even the idea that death is beautiful.

I woke this morning, as I often do, thinking about how much I fear my own death.  I think this is a little obsessive-compulsiveness on my part, and probably something I should talk about more in therapy.   The mental health field has a name for the irrational or excessive fear of death: thanatophobia.    So far I’ve only talked to God…

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What if the far-right God is the true God?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of God lately.  The insidious rise of Christian fascism in this country is forcing me to do so.

The radical religious right’s beliefs about God — punishing, angry, and intolerant — are incomprehensible and repugnant to me.   The prospect of the Old Testament Law-based Christian theocracy this radical group of zealots are attempting to impose here in America fills me with terror, righteous anger, and makes me literally sick to my stomach.

No matter how hard I try to understand these far right religious leaders, their dominionist views, and their need for total control over every aspect of our lives (this is the same group that talks about “small government”), I just can’t.   I don’t get it at all.   They might as well be aliens from another planet.

Their message and plan for America (and yes, eventually the world) doesn’t contain a shred of love, compassion, forgiveness, or mercy.   They show nothing but contempt for just the kind of people — the vulnerable and weak — that Jesus loved and instructed us to care for.   They only care about power and money.  They will cheat, lie, exploit, destroy, kill, and even commit treason in order to get more of what they crave.    They have hijacked the Republican party by appealing to religious conservatives and their churches, and now those churches have become as corrupt and self-serving as they are.  It’s no wonder so many good people are leaving the churches.   They have managed to Christianize greed and hatred.  They believe oppressing or punishing everyone who is different from them is their holy duty to bring about their longed for Christian America.  They are no different from the Taliban or ISIS.

But there’s an enormous disconnect, because their real god is “the market” — which they consider infallible and think will solve all the world’s problems.   This is idolatry.   Trickle down economics has never worked and never will work.  Singing the praises of an unregulated free market that will always self-correct if left alone is just an easy way for them to rationalize trashing and poisoning our small planet, not having to pay their fair share, or contribute to the common good. Make no mistake — their plan for America, if it succeeds, will cause widespread, massive suffering, misery, sickness, poverty, injustice, and death — all things associated with evil and utterly alien to any civilized society.

I don’t know if I believe in end times or not, but 2 Timothy 3 is telling about the nature of the people who have claimed all the power:  

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Sound familiar?

The supporters of their fascist movement and its chosen leader are almost as bad, selling their souls at hate-filled Trump rallies held so he can puff himself up with narcissistic fuel, where they are encouraged to rough up and act out in violence against people their Dear Leader deems unfit to be treated as human beings.

A few days ago,  Dear Leader told assembled police it was okay to hit suspects’ heads on car doors as they are roughly pushed inside.  “Don’t be too nice,” he instructed them while laughing, then he turned around and spread his arms out wide as if he was expecting applause.   And of course, he got it.   Have those police sold their souls too? People seem to be selling their souls everywhere these days.

America is meaner and colder than it ever was.   Virtues of empathy, forgiveness, charity, and mercy are today seen as weaknesses or even sins — you’re called a snowflake, or a Marxist, or a bleeding-heart liberal.  If you try to remind these Bible-thumping legalists that these are the ways in which Jesus expected his followers to behave, they scoff and pull out their King James bibles and point to some passage in the Old Testament, while self-righteously telling you your God is false and “unbiblical.”  They tell you that good works don’t matter, and only faith does.

It may be true we are saved by grace alone, but if so, I believe your heart will change and you will begin to do good works and to care about others, especially the most vulnerable.  For the fake Christians in power, saying good works are meaningless simply gives them carte blanche to say they are Christian, but still go ahead and keep hurting and exploiting people.    “By their fruit you shall know them,” said Jesus, and that’s what I go by.   Are they bearing good fruit or not?

As Jack Johnson sang, Where did the good people go?  Do good people even exist anymore?   America just seems to get so much meaner and colder every day.

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But the truth is that good people are still here.  We are expressing our alarm, anger, and terror on blogs, in Facebook groups, in forums, on the streets, and in the comments sections of increasingly disturbing news stories as the country marches toward Christian Fascism.    We are crying out as our hearts break, hoping and praying someone will listen and care.   We are scared and yes, grieving that the country we love seems to have been lost.   If we are Christian, our hearts are hurting over what has been done to Jesus and his message of love, compassion, and forgiveness.    The gentle people are being persecuted and vilified just because they care — or because they need care themselves.

The silencing and oppression of the gentle people is due to differences in personality, I think.  It’s a war of values:  gentleness vs. aggressiveness, humility vs. pride, empathy vs. callousness, civility vs. rudeness, altruism vs. selfishness, egalitarianism vs. authoritarianism, critical thinking vs. ignorance, acceptance vs. exclusion, forgiveness vs. vindictiveness, integrity vs. lock-step obedience.

By their nature, gentle people have difficulty rising to the top of society.    Most get nowhere near it, because they lack the aggression and willingness to step on top of and exploit others to get there.  But the falsely macho, arrogant, conscienceless and predatory get there because because they are wired to do so.   The gentle and meek have little power because they do not go around seeking it aggressively or destroying whatever’s in their way to get it.   If they are Christians, they share their faith quietly and sincerely without requiring huge donations, huge audiences, or political power.

Like all scapegoats, the gentle people are blamed for their failure or inability to take power, or become wealthy.  If they suffer, they are callously told they brought those sufferings on themselves and got what they deserved.

The gaslighting and projection keeps getting worse.   We are told our beliefs are wrong and demonic. We are told that if we were real Christians, we should accept that Trump’s America is also God’s America and Trump was anointed by God to usher in Christ’s Kingdom.   We are told we are evil liberal obstructionists (even though it’s the president and his billionaire sycophants and donors who are the real obstructionists) and that we are cherry-picking the “nice” parts of the Bible that we like.

You begin to feel like you’re going insane.   If you were a member of a narcissistic family or were close to a narcissist in your life,  you know how crazy-making the mind games and manipulations and gaslighting can be.   You begin to doubt yourself and your own beliefs.  You start to question reality itself, because after all, everyone around you is telling you you’re crazy, or stupid, or deluded, or hysterical, or overreacting, or too sensitive.

That’s what’s happening on a much larger scale in America today.   The accusations from far-right Trump-supporting zealots (I’m not talking about garden variety conservatives here) sometimes make me wonder if my beliefs really are wrong.  What if the far-right preachers and pundits and politicians are right after all?   What if God really is a big bad bully in the sky who hates gays and Muslims and nonbelievers, and wants the rich and powerful to keep getting richer and more powerful because they are his golden children who are predestined to inherit heaven and earth? Never mind the fact that the Bible itself says the meek shall inherit the earth — you question and wonder anyway.   What if my God is the false one?

And then I start to think:   if they really are right, and their God is really the way they insist he is, would I want anything to do with him?   Would I want to live in a society ruled by their God?  Would I want to spend eternity in a heaven filled with those who worship a God who could be that cruel and heartless — a heaven where everyone looks the same and thinks and worships exactly the same way?  Would I want to live in a heaven where there are no liberals, no gays, no thinkers, no dreamers, no gentle souls, and where people don’t care about each other?  A heaven where the likes of Betsy DeVos, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell rub elbows and congratulate themselves over their moral superiority and how much power they held while on earth?

My answer is always, no, I do not.   To me, such a heaven would be hell.   And if there is a hell (I have doubts that hell really exists, but that’s a topic for another post), I think I might rather spend eternity there, with all the gentle and thinking and oppressed people.  I’d rather spend eternity burning in solidarity with Muslim mothers and their children, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, rainbow-clad gays, open-minded liberals, feminists, artists, dreamers, curious thinkers, intellectuals, tree huggers, social misfits, truth-tellers, and civil rights activists.  I’d rather spend eternity suffering with all the people the religious right’s legalistic and narcissistic God does not favor:  the weak and the oppressed and the persecuted and the brokenhearted.

They have created a God in their own image — a God who is as sociopathic, rage-filled, greedy for power, and narcissistic as they are, and I refuse to worship such a God.

And then I look around me at the natural world.   I gaze at the sunset over the mountains, I listen to the night-birds and the crickets and the trees singing in the wind.  I feel the warm summer rain on my face, look up at the night sky and marvel at the vastness of the universe and all its billions of stars and galaxies.    I listen to the rhythm of the ocean and feel humbled and grateful to be standing next to it.   I watch the intricate, delicate rosebuds on the bush outside my window burst into full flower.   I listen to my cat purr and feel his warmth on my chest as I fall asleep.

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And I realize:   no God as evil and cruel as theirs could possibly have created such a world.  No, the world is not perfect, far from it.  But it’s still beautiful, and evil cannot create beauty or goodness.  There’s no way a sociopathic tyrant of a God could have made something so beautiful and magnificent.   The bad things in the world exist because of us, not because of God.

They will keep attempting to silence us, to make us think we are the crazy ones, the evil ones, the ones spreading (or listening to) fake news, the ones who are destined to spend eternity in a lake of fire.  They will try to convince us that we are the cause of the world’s problems, while they remain blameless and favored by the Almighty.      They will try to wear us down and exhaust us, because that’s how narcissists and sociopaths operate.  A sociopathic society brings out the worst in everyone, so we will be tempted to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, or become filled with despair, apathy, cynicism, or hatred.   We have to stay mindful and not succumb to feelings of powerlessness and fear, because that’s what they want from us.   Remember that they feed off our pain because it makes them more powerful.

We must not listen to them.  We must listen to our own truth and our own hearts.  We will be required to go against our non-aggressive, possibly introverted, sensitive, and artistic natures and speak up loudly against those who wish us harm  — in righteous anger if necessary — but we cannot lose control or act out in violence and hatred.  If we are Christians, we need to pray for our enemies, no matter how outraged we may feel.   We are fighting a spiritual war, a war against truth and goodness, and if we don’t fight for ourselves, we must fight for the survival of those we love and those who have no voice.    If we allow them to beat us down and exhaust us into submission (which they are already trying to do), then they win, and all hope will be lost.

The following verse gives me courage when I start to feel hopeless and despairing and exhausted from fighting against this scourge, and I hope it helps you too, even if you’re a non-Christian.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Matthew 11:29

 

 

God among us.

pay-it-forward-2014-random-act-of-kindness

God is everywhere, but sometimes it seems like he’s nowhere in the universe when we’re depressed or in emotional or physical pain.

You don’t have to go to church or read the Bible to find God.    God doesn’t live on a lofty cloud always passing harsh judgment on us underlings far below on this little planet.    He isn’t a being we can only know after we die, or only in religious settings.  He can’t always be found in that hellfire and brimstone preacher in the megachurch on the outskirts of town, and He certainly isn’t present in those television evangelists who prey on the poor and gullible by insisting you make a large donation to their organization in exchange for salvation.

In 1977, there was a little movie called “Oh, God” starring John Denver as an assistant grocery store manager, who was searching for meaning in his life.  God (played by George Burns) appeared to Denver as a kindly but slightly eccentric little old man who was one of his customers.   At first, Denver was unbelieving, but over time it became clear this old guy was the real deal, and his life began to change.

Twenty years later, there was a popular song by a singer-songwriter named Joan Osborne called “One of Us.”  The lyrics speculated about the nature of God, and whether He (or she) would appear as “one of us” —

If God had a name, what would it be?
And would you call it to His face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

And yeah, yeah God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home?

If God had a face, what would it look like?
And would you want to see?
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets?

And yeah, yeah God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home?

He’s trying to make His way home
Back up to Heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in Rome

And yeah, yeah God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home?

Just trying to make His way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to Heaven all alone
Just trying to make His way home
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in Rome

Joan Osborne – What If God Was One Of Us Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The song in its time was somewhat controversial, because it had the temerity to suggest that God might be just a little too much like us — eg, too human (and therefore, not perfect).

While I don’t believe God would take up permanent residence in a human body, as He does in Osborne’s random stranger on a bus or as Burns’ unremarkable old man buying groceries,  I do believe God (or Jesus, if you are Christian) can use each and any of us as a vessel (for a short time) to touch the lives of others, and sometimes even change them.    We are all made in God’s image, and sometimes, when we least expect it, after feeling disconnected and ready to give up on spiritual life, God is suddenly right there, speaking to us, encouraging us,  or offering comfort — through another human being, often a total stranger.  That other person doesn’t even have to be Christian or believe in God, because I know from my own experience that sometimes God can even use a nonbeliever as a vessel to spread his love and care.

Here are some examples from my own life of times I knew God was there, using another person to communicate with me or perform those “random acts of kindness” that seem so rare in today’s complex world:

  • When I was buying groceries a few days before Christmas a few years ago and my debit card was run through and showed I had insufficient funds, a man behind me suddenly handed the cashier the $40 I was short of.
  • A customer of mine who recently bought me four new tires because he didn’t want me driving on the old ones (the man happens to be an atheist)
  • Every time my therapist  is able to feel my feelings with me and due to that high empathy (which is a gift bestowed on him by God, even though he is a non-Christian), know exactly what I need from him emotionally.
  • A hug from a random little girl of about 4 who told me, “don’t be sad.”   I wasn’t crying, but was going through a dark time in my life and was being abused at home.  Somehow she knew how much I needed that hug.
  • A man with Down Syndrome standing in line at the store who was pointing to things, smiling and laughing at everything he saw.   His eyes sparkled and he just seemed so excited to be alive.  People around him were laughing too, but not at him.  They laughed with him, because he was so happy and made everyone just feel so good (as an aside, it’s interesting how often God appears through people standing on line at the store).
  • Random thoughtful gifts or kind words from my children when I didn’t expect it and other people I never expected a gift or a kind word from.
  • A woman I met online and wrote about last November who offered to pay for me to attend a 4 day seminar addressing trauma from a spiritual/Christian perspective, after I told her I didn’t have the funds and couldn’t go.
  • Another woman I met online and became friends with, who sent two thoughtful gifts to me exactly when I needed them, without my asking.

littlegirlwithflowers

There are so many other examples, but these are the first ones I thought of.

Think about the times that God has reached you through another person — who either gave unselfishly of themselves, or just made you feel comforted or happy during a dark time or when you least expected it.    Make a list of those times and refer to it when you feel like God has forgotten about you.

Think about how you can touch the lives of others.  Ask God to show you how He can work through you to help others in need.

Thanks to Neurofeedback, I’m not just getting older, I’m getting happier and healthier!

This is just begging to be reblogged. I’m so happy for your progress, Lynda Lee!

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A Blog About Living With Complex PTSD

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The lyrics to an old Beatles song have been dancing around in my head lately:
– – –
When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
– – –

Sixty-four! That sounds OLD, doesn’t it? Especially for someone whose generational mantra was “Never trust anyone over thirty”!

Like everyone else on this planet, I started out as a very young person. I was little, and I could not wait to be big. The years passed slowly by, and I slowly grew, and then YAY!! I was all grown up, a bona fide adult. I had finally ARRIVED!!

But the years did not stop going by. Indeed, they started…

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Better than a Klonopin.

klonopin VS.  communion_wafer

It’s the 4th week of Advent, the preliminary weeks leading to Christmas that are recognized by the Catholic Church (and also, I believe, all liturgical or “high churches” like the Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Orthodox churches).   In the Catholic faith, Advent extends beyond Christmas itself, to the Epiphany (Little Christmas), which is celebrated on January 7th.

I have missed the previous two Sundays, and felt like sleeping in today, too, but made myself go, because I always get so much out of the Mass, especially the Eucharist, which the Mass leads up to.   Sometimes laziness wins though, and I always regret it later.  I wasn’t going to let that happen again today!

As a pretty liberal Christian (even for a Catholic), I don’t think non-church attendance is necessarily a sin.  I don’t think church attendance is necessary for salvation; only having faith is. Many people are able to live a Christ-like life and stay close to God and retain their faith in spite of not belonging to any church.  They are self-disciplined: they pray every day, read their Bible, read devotions, and ask God for forgiveness when necessary.   I’m not one of them.  I need to have a church to go to, otherwise I get lazy and “forget” to stay close to God.  I start slipping back into the “world” with all its shallowness and banality and fail to act the way Jesus did.   I slip back into sinful and toxic thinking and start nursing doubt.

So today I went to Mass, and as always happens, I left feeling uplifted and peaceful in my heart.   The Eucharist (communion) is powerful medicine for me.    I admit I have doubts about some of the Catholic doctrine, and issues with some of its rules.   However, my church seems to emphasize God’s love over the hell-fire and brimstone scare tactics used by so many other churches to get their adherents to comply, including some of the more conservative Catholic churches.   My church isn’t constantly preaching about abortion, homosexuality, or sin.    Every homily (analogous to the sermon for Protestants) is preceded by readings from the Bible, and the homily itself based on Biblical verses about God’s love and how much Jesus loved us, so much that he died for ALL people (not just a selected few, as Calvinists believe) so  all of us can achieve salvation.

The highlight of the Mass is the Eucharist, which is really a re-enactment of the Last Supper.   I do believe, as a Catholic, that the host (communion wafer) and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ once it’s ingested.   I believe this because of what it does to me inside.  Once I ingest, I always feel a warm liquid feeling of peace and loving feelings in my heart, and this overcomes any worries or negative feelings I may be experiencing.   That tiny sip of wine certainly isn’t enough to alter my mind, so I know it’s much more than a physical effect; it’s a spiritual one.  It’s the Holy Spirit inside me working on my heart and soul.    During the Eucharist, and for a few minutes following it, the choir sings softly about opening your heart to the Lord and his Divine Love.   I spend the next few minutes kneeling, thanking Jesus for this gift of Himself, and praying for it to do good things within my soul.  It always does.

I also notice that during the week, I feel more loving toward humanity, get less irritated and worry less, and good things seem to happen.  I also seem to have a clearer direction of where I’m going spiritually.

The feeling I get from partaking in communion  isn’t unlike taking a Klonopin!   But it’s so much longer lasting and I feel like it actually changes and opens my heart, which a Klonopin (which only reduces anxiety) can never do.

Who am I…where am I going?

keats

This afternoon I laid down and meditated for awhile on God’s purpose for my life, and where he is leading me.

God has a purpose for everyone.  We’re at our happiest when we submit to his will and not to our own.   I’ve learned this truth the hard way, after many years of insisting on having my own way and always failing miserably, or finding out that what I thought I wanted  wasn’t what I wanted at all.

I’m still not living the life I want to live, because I’m still grappling with the bad choices I made (and the bad choices that were made for me).  I also never took risks before.  I lived inside my comfort zone, which wasn’t very comfortable, but it was all I knew.

Last week, I did a few things that were outside my comfort zone.    I took a week off of work for something I really wanted and needed to do, in spite of not having any vacation time or money to pay for it.   I asked for financial help online and got it.   I submitted myself to an emotional and spiritual process that was painful for me at least once.  I spend almost a week sharing a room with someone who I would normally regard as much too “good” for me and avoid that person out of envy or feelings of not being able to measure up (those are just the “tapes” that were installed in my mind by my judgmental, snobbish, “keeping up with the Joneses” narc parents).  But as it turned out, once we got to know each other, I realized this woman wasn’t judging me on those terms and even seemed to genuinely like me, which I was sure she would not.  So I could let down that particular guard.    In fact, under normal circumstances, I would have felt inferior or “less than” everyone else on this retreat too.  And yet I did not.   Other than a little social discomfort and shyness at first, assuming I’d be negatively judged, soon I felt welcomed.

You can tell you’re not living as God meant for you to live if you’re unhappy with what you’re doing or your circumstances.    I’m still not fulfilled or happy, but I’m getting closer, and God is showing me the way.   He was always there though, always trying to show me something better, but I wasn’t ready.    That wasn’t my fault; it just was.  Now it’s changing.

The first step of this journey was that I had to leave my abuser(s).   As long as I remained, I would stay stuck, and worse than that, eventually die both emotionally and spiritually.  Possibly physically too.

But even after freeing myself, I still wasn’t able to start looking inside myself and realize that I not only needed God but also needed to submit my will to his, until after I was able to forgive my abusers.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning the awful things they did to us, nor does it mean apologizing or submitting to them.   Not even one little bit!   They were wrong in what they did, horribly wrong…but that shouldn’t become a life sentence for us.  We need to move on with ourselves in order to find peace and happiness.   But moving on isn’t possible until we can forgive the people who tried to trip us up at every turn.   It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary.

I reached a point where I was tired of hating them.   The hatred had served its purpose–I got away!  What now?  All that hatred was just turning me bitter and angry, and making me feel helpless and living in fear that abuse would just keep happening again…and again….and again.

Forgiving them wasn’t for their benefit; it was for mine!   After letting go of my hatred and rage, I was finally able to look inside myself and see what I could do differently to avoid being a victim again in the future.   In doing so, I found that I had quite a few unpleasant, even narcissistic, traits of my own.    Not that I’d ever asked for the abuse, or been horrible enough to deserve it, no way!  It just meant I’d probably picked up quite a few negative traits and defense mechanisms from my abusers, in order to survive.

I no longer needed those traits now that I was free.   In fact, I had no choice but to send them packing if I wanted to move forward.

Letting that anger go and forgiving the people who abused me made me able to look at their brokenness.  By seeing them as victims too (albeit victims so broken they had lost any ability to have insight into themselves or be able to change on their own), that gave them a whole lot less power over me.   If I had never been able to forgive them, I would never have been able to let go of feeling like a powerless victim instead of a survivor with the hope of an actual future.

That doesn’t mean the victimization wasn’t real.   It was.  But at some point you will want to say, “I overcame this!  I’m a survivor!”   A victim is someone who is still in danger, who is unable to get past that danger.

God doesn’t let bad things happen to us (such as having narcissistic parents) to “teach us things” or because he wants us to suffer.  The bad things that happen to us are never his will for us.  He allows them to happen because he has given us all free will.

However, what God can do is take those bad things and turn them into something beautiful and good, IF we keep our hearts and minds open to what his true purpose for us is. God  can use these things as tools that bring us closer to him and at the same time bring us closer to fulfilling what his purpose for our lives is (and that purpose always coincides with what will make us the happiest too). We should never fight his plan for us, but we can ask for guidance.

God can and will find the beauty in our brokenness.

While I was lying on my back meditating, I kept my mind and heart open, just listening.    Since returning from my retreat last week, I feel like my heart is much more open to God and his plans for my life and however he wants to use me.

I asked him to show me a picture of who I could have been if I hadn’t been so broken…and who I still can be when I’m less broken.

At first nothing came to me, but after awhile I realized my mind kept circling back to 3 words:

Words

Truth

Beauty.

 

God wasn’t showing me a picture of the Me he intended for me to be; he was showing me through the modality I understand and resonate with best: words.

Words are the tools God gave me to write about what happened to me.  Words made it possible for me to start this blog and share my story.

Words are the tool by which I’ll fulfill my destiny.

My destiny is to disseminate beauty and truth.

I was the truth teller in my family.

I can’t stand fakeness, phoniness, insincerity.   I’m allergic to those things.  (Not that I’ve always been honest myself or have never told a lie–that would be far from the truth!).

I’ve always sought the truth — whether through a hunger for knowledge, reading science or psychology articles and books, spirituality, religion, nature, art, music, or literature — all right-brained things by which the truth can be discovered.

Truth, as John Keats famously stated, is beauty.

And beauty is truth.

My purpose in this life–God’s purpose for me–is to disseminate truth and beauty, which are the same.

Through truth and beauty may come healing.   Healing for me, and healing for others.

No one who makes an effort to listen to their heart cannot be healed, because it’s through our heart that God speaks to us and can rewire our broken connections.

 

Checking in.

The place where I am staying for the HeartSync training seminar (The Aqueduct in Chapel Hill, NC) is very beautiful, but I also get a very bad Internet connection so it’s extremely slow and I also can’t get the pictures I took to load.   The property is in a heavily wooded area.  As soon as I am able (probably when I get home on Friday) I’ll share the photos as everything I have learned–and it’s a lot.   More than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams.

I have a LOT to say about this week and what we are doing, and the unbelievable things that are happening to me, and that I have witnessed happen to others.   I understand a lot more now about why I became the way I am and what happened to me and why.   This experience is probably the most intense emotional and spiritual adventure of my life, and it was sorely needed.  It’s miraculous the way all the many obstacles were moved aside so I could have this opportunity (my being able to attend didn’t seem possible a few weeks ago), because this is where God wants me right now, and he can move mountains if need be.

It’s a lot of hard, hard emotional work.  But the benefits are more than worth it.

I didn’t realize just how much more healing I had to do, and how very broken I still am.  I am still so far away from where I want to be.

But my faith in God has strengthened tenfold if not more.    I felt Jesus’ presence VERY strongly in the training room both today and yesterday.  I became emotionally overwhelmed several times  but I also knew this was a very good thing and I was releasing pain and trauma and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling in me.

I have very powerful “guardians” (psychological “protectors” that keep the functional/conscious part of the mind separate from the emotional/unconscious part.  With abuse and trauma, these guardians become numerous and powerful.)   Guardians aren’t in themselves “bad.”    These guardians are necessary and help us keep good boundaries, and for people who have suffered trauma and abuse, the guardians helped us to survive.  But they can also do their job too well and shut you off from being able to connect with your emotions, with others, or even with God.   They are the ones responsible for setting up protective defense mechanisms, whatever they are.

Today, one of my primary guardians apparently stepped aside long enough to allow me to drop all my normal defenses and release a motherload of trapped pain.  That happened because God can get through to certain guardians.

That experience, which happened this morning, rocked me to my core. It started as a trigger during a process called the Immanuel Approach, in which you are instructed to remember a “five bar moment” when you felt connected to God.    For some reason I misheard the facilitator and believed I heard her tell us to find a moment where we felt connected to God through a connection with another person.  I tried to think of something and just couldn’t.  All I could think of were my connections to God through nature, music, or art.  I didn’t know how to connect with people. Hell, I didn’t even know how to talk to them.   I was already feeling very emotional and triggered, and that started yesterday, but manifested at first as a lot of undifferentiated emotion, not necessarily bad or unpleasant.

But today was different.   My perceived “failure” during the exercise made me feel like I was dying or going crazy.   I realized only later that I wasn’t reacting to this small mishap (or perceived mishap); what happened instead is this “small thing” brought my abandonment trauma out in the open, and I was forced to deal with it.  But I wasn’t really alone.

I felt completely abandoned and lost. I lost any semblance of composure because I realized I’d never really had a spiritual moment or real connection with another person–and therefore I believed I couldn’t do the exercise.   I shot up out of my seat, ran out of the room and started sobbing as soon as I got out the door.  I blindly ran around the back of the building, collapsed on the steps and started sobbing like I haven’t sobbed since I was a child.    All those old feelings of being incompetent and unlovable came flooding back.  Also painful feelings of abandonment, not fitting in, being rejected, always being the odd one out, feeling “different” than others, and also feeling like no one could be trusted.  I felt like a loser and a fuckup.  I was convinced no one really liked me and I didn’t fit in here or anywhere else and never would,  and I should just leave.   I also felt a wave of hateful envy toward the people there who had a stronger “functional” side than I did (more on this later).  And then beat myself up mentally for having such ugly feelings even toward the person who had helped me get here.    What was I doing here, anyway?  I didn’t belong here.  I didn’t belong anywhere.  I never had.

But God wasn’t about to let me just leave–or leave me stranded crying into the void.    I looked up into the trees and demanded to know why he’d bring me to this place only to abandon me and make me feel like an unlovable, incompetent fool.  Was he playing some huge cosmic joke with me as the butt of his joke?   I was angry and felt the void inside me threaten to swallow me whole.    My whole body was shaking with sobs and I was hyperventilating.  I felt so weak I couldn’t even stand.  The sobs just came in uncontrollable waves.  It scared me just how much I was crying.  This wasn’t the soft crying and shedding a few quiet tears I’ve done in therapy or by myself on occasion.  This was deep, raw pain coming from a very hidden place where I have never ventured to go. The abandonment trauma was unleashed and right in my face.

The shaking was an important part of purging trauma.  All higher animals and humans do it. I remembered seeing a Youtube video about the way animals release trauma.      If an animal has been attacked and survives the attack, they will initially freeze, and then as the trauma is released, they will begin to shake and tremble as if convulsing.   I remembered and incident with my cat and a rabbit about a year ago.    My cat had caught a bunny and I managed to get her mouth opened so she dropped the bunny.  Fortunately, the rabbit was unharmed.  I put the cat inside and came back outside to try to make the rabbit run away.  But when I returned, the rabbit appeared to be having convulsions.  I though it had been mortally injured, but then it suddenly stopped and ran off across the yard.   I didn’t realize what had happened until a few months later when I saw the Youtube video explaining this phenomenon.

Finally, I asked the Holy Spirit to come and fill all the holes left in my soul by trauma and abuse.   (It’s not necessary to have a cognitive memory of the original trauma–in fact it may not be possible if the trauma was very early, because before the age of 5 or 6, myelinization in the brain hasn’t been completed yet.  But even though a cognitive memory may not be possible, you can still have an emotional/somatic memory.  More about this later).

And suddenly I “heard” God say (in my heart) that he loved me and had me exactly where I was supposed to be — releasing pain and trauma.   He told me all these things I believed about myself were lies that I’d been programmed to believe by my abusers and traumatic things that happened when I was very young.   It also turned out the facilitator had never even said anything about  having to remember a moment of connecting to another person; I heard the words wrong, so sure that I was required to “connect” with someone in order for this healing process to work.

That’s all I can say right now.   I will write a lot more about this experience and how HeartSync itself works (and the theory behind it) when I get back on Friday.  It will probably be a long post.  I have so much more to say. Although this is in no way “fun,” I have a feeling it’s going to change me in profound ways that I can only imagine right now.

I’ll explain a lot more about how this process works when I return.  Right now, I am drained emotionally and mentally but pleasantly sleepy too.  My Internet connection sucks, so a more detailed article and photos will have to wait.

 

The Inheritance (with message by Graham Cooke)

This video was just sent to me, and I am BLOWN AWAY.

The singer is Jonathan Helser.