Abuse Recovery: Anger at the Bystanders

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2017 by jcwill5

The abused person rightfully blames their perpetrators for abusing them.

They have every right to be angry at the abuse and their abuser, yet will have a long road to not let that justified anger consume them or turn them into abusers.

For if life was one dimensional, or if everything was that simple, or if there weren’t other people in the mix, their job would be hard enough.

But there almost always are other people in the mix.

What About the Bystanders?

There were other people around.

There were people who ought to have known but somehow didn’t connect the dots.

Or they turned a blind eye and chose to not see what they saw.

Or they heard the report and then discounted or dismissed it.

Or they were in positions of protection and trust, and somehow failed in their duty towards the vulnerable and the young.

Questions like, “How could you have not known?”

“Why didn’t you immediately believe me?”

“Why didn’t you do something right away to stop it?”

“How could you have put me in that same position knowing what you know!”

And these bystanders almost always have no good reasons, no justification.

Outside Their Experience

Sometimes bystanders are truly blind.

What was actually going on was so outside of their life experience, so beyond what they thought they knew about the abuser at work or in the family or in social situations.

They therefore interpreted all the signs as “something else” and didn’t connect the dots or take appropriate action in time.

This kind of being deceived by appearances happens to just about all of us.

Sooner or later, this kind of ignorant bystander’s eyes are eventually opened.

They’re chagrined they’ve been so badly deceived and that a child or elderly relative or friend or co-worker was abused on their watch.

They are full of grief and remorse and are kicking themselves after the revelation hits.

But that is little comfort to the victim.

And the victim is still going to have to process their anger and feelings of betrayal towards their utterly fooled parent, co-worker, etc.

The world is full of blind, innocent, inexperienced people who truly had no idea how evil works and are fooled by appareances.

People just like us victims.

We will have to do a lot of grief work and anger work to finally accept the fact they honestly couldn’t see what they had no idea they were seeing.

And we will have to forgive our selves that we didn’t see it coming, either.

Too Much to Lose

But sometimes bystanders are willfully blind.

They, too, are under the thumb of the abuser and feel too frightened over losing their marriage, their job, or their security to do anything to stop ongoing abuse.

In short, their problem isn’t innocence and naivety, but cowardice and naked self-interest.

To save their own skin, or their marriage, or their own job, etc. they turn a blind eye and pretend to not see.

This category of people is far harder to address for the victim.

These bystanders knew, but, for whatever reasons, chose to do nothing about it.

And that’s particularly enraging for the victim when this kind of wimpy aiding and abetting of abuse comes to light.

“You could have stopped it, but didn’t lift a finger!” is harder to understand than “How could have not known–are you blind?!”

Again, the world is full of self-preserving, selfish people who will sacrifice just about anyone and anything to save their own skin.

Like us, they selfishly did what they thought they had to do to survive.

We will also have to do a lot of grief work and anger work to come to terms with the truth that most people are scared, spineless, and self-centered.

And we as victims are often made co-participants in our abuse, particularly in sexual abuse because it involves us and our abuser.

We will have to forgive ourselves for doing what we had to do to survive and finally escape the horrific experience.

Programmed to Repeat

Yet sometimes bystanders are abused people who are programmed to perpetrate a system of abuse that continuously puts others in danger.

This is seen in incestuous families where a grown-up victim leaves her kids alone with “uncle billy” or “step-granddad” or “older brother” the same way she was left alone with him.

Or in incestuous organizations where one extended family or a closed-knit insiders group has dominance and no accountability.

Being told repeatedly by the perpetrator is was all her fault, and being disbelieved or shamed when she does report the problem, the grown up victim grows up thinking all other kids are good kids who won’t be abused and that she was the bad girl who deserved to be abused.

So she puts her own “good kids” in the same situation and believes it won’t happen to them.

But of course it does and the multi-generational cycle of abuse continues.

For such children, their own mother’s unconscionable part in reenacting the evil drama is particularly hard to accept.

“Of all people!  You knew!  And you still put me in harm’s way!!!!”

Abused and Used to Groom

It takes many years into adulthood and treatment to realize how their mother’s warped view of life and the lies etched through trauma were all programmed by their shared abuser.

It’s the case where a truly evil, despicable individual programs and grooms their victims to serve us still more victims–creating an endless, unchecked supply through shame and secrecy.

And it takes many years into adulthood to realize just how extremely difficult it is to break an entrenched cycle in our own soul, in a marriage, in a multi-generational family, in a closed, tightly controlled organization, etc.

And to work through our anger to extend mercy to the abused person who let us down so utterly when it came to our need for protection.

And to extend mercy to ourselves for failing to protect ourselves, for putting ourselves in a dangerous situation, etc.

Next time I’ll share a little more about my own story of my anger towards bystanders and how I’ve had to work on it over the decades.


Another Kind of Me, Too Problem

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2017 by jcwill5

We victims of sexual abuse live with heightened awareness.

Always Aware

We are hyper-vigilant, and our always aware of our surroundings and what’s happening all around us in ways non-traumatized people aren’t.

Our radar is always on, scanning for potential threats.

We are always reading the unspoken signals that other people give, and can frequently spot an abuser long before he or she is obvious to others.

And we are especially sensitive to anything that feels or looks like the beginnings of an assault or the start of an unwanted advance.

But as a male, my perspective is of course different.

There’s a kind of assault, a sexual assault on my male senses that is both prevalent and acceptable in today’s culture.

It gets no press, no headlines, and no support.

It’s not really on anyone’s radar.

What I Don’t Mean

Before I go into detail, let me preface my issue by reminding everyone what I’m not saying.

I’m not saying females deserve anything less than highest respect and observed boundaries from all men.

I’m not saying it’s the victim’s fault–that it’s what she’s wearing or how she’s acting that made any kind of harassment or assault or rape justifiable.

What I am saying is that some women, often without realizing it, are a source of real pain for me.

The Assault of Female Exhibitionism

What I’m talking about is the issue of female sexual exhibitionism.

Which caters to male voyeurism.

Peep shows and peeping toms.

The purveyors of it are found mostly in media and entertainment, and their revealing images bombard us from every direction.

(Yes, I know a good number of these actresses, entertainers, and artists are pressured to do so by male managers, producers, etc.)

(And, yes, it is a tragedy when a woman, any woman, becomes a co-participant in her own exploitation.)

That being said, purveyors use sexuality and nudity and their female form as a money-making and celebrity-obtaining activity, and their sexual allure as a source of power, manipulation, etc.

Their fans and followers and imitators practice what they practice on a local level in ordinary life, and therefore it’s next to impossible to escape their influence.

But instead of finding it attractive, I find such near-pornographic images and fashion and displaying and sexualized agendas deeply troubling and especially repugnant because of my own issues.

It feels violating somehow.

Just as every women has the right to not be sexually harassed or assaulted, do I as a vulnerable man have that right as well?

(Yes, I’m a genuine man who finds the female body to be lovely, yet a loyal man who ever seeks to reserve all my interest, noticing, and sexuality for one woman in particular.)

The Right to Not Participate or See Things

Part of my recovery at this point is I take no joy in any kind of sexual exploitation done by anyone to anyone.

I don’t want to watch it or be around it.

And I don’t ever want to participate in it at all.

God has heard my cry for protection in my sexually damaged weakness, and has, so far, protected me from pornography and from joining the world of male peeping toms.

And this grace has been given to me not because I’m morally superior, but because I’m especially vulnerable.

So I wish I could say “thank you” to all the gals who’ve unknowingly helped me never go there.

Their restraint and resolve to not join the exhibiting crowd has been a great gift.

They get little affirmation or support, and perhaps a lot of scorn and pressure, as a reward for refusing to go along with displaying or in response to their choice of modesty.

So modest gals, bless you!  Your sacrifices in my case have made my world a lot less wounding.

A World Without Assault

As hard as it is to imagine a world with far less sexual assaults by males against females, it is even harder to imagine a world without the constant assault of female exhibitionism.

The reason is this:  sex sells.

So until that day comes, I choose to bounce my eyes away from displaying females, to not visit websites that hit me with these assaults on my eyes and/or not watch videos or programs that feature female exhibitionism.

I choose to not be a peeping tom and choose to not reward exhibiting behavior with attention.

I choose to look at actual women in the eye and to see them as treasured persons.

I choose to treat younger women the way I’d want other men to treat my daughters, women my age the way I’d want other men to treat my wife, and to treat gals older than me the way I’d want other men to treat my mother.

Above all, I choose to rejoice in the wife of my youth and admire her and adore her–to love, honor, cherish, and serve her.

Which is better and, better yet, is actually real.

Letting Go of Our Parents

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2017 by jcwill5

There is a parallel between a parent letting go of their maturing child, and an adult child letting go of their aging parent.

Letting Go of Our Children

In the first case, we are constantly adjusting ourselves to the growing abilities of our child.

Our job is to expect them and allow them to do more and more while we do less and less.

With their every step forward towards adulthood, we parents find ourselves diminishing in importance and becoming less necessary.

It’s tempting to hold onto their prior era, to prematurely freeze things and hold onto the comfortable mode we are in.

It feels good to be important and to be needed.

The Temptation to Hold On

So it’s tempting to hold on and cling tighter than we should and remain in denial and to even fail to let go.

But our child has changed whether we like it or not, and so most of us eventually adjust and catch up to where they are.

Only to find they have grown up even more.

Only to find that we must once more let go a little more.

Only to find we must die to needing to be needed, this needing to be relied upon, this needing to be so important.

It’s why parenting is a long series of painful but unavoidable steps towards letting our children go.

In this culture that celebrates and pretends there is such a thing as eternal youth, having adult children means we parents aren’t young anymore.

They have grown up, and that means we are now going to grow old.

Our New Dependents

With our aging parents, the opposite occurs.

We the adult children have been enjoying our independence from our parents while they take care of themselves.

And they have been enjoying their independence from us as well.

Then aging creeps up on them.

Physically and mentally, they begin to diminish and to become more vulnerable to more things in life.

We adult children have this picture of them as all-capable and of not needing us at all.

Then it begins to slowly dawn on us (and on them) that they need us in ways they didn’t just a short while ago.

The Unwelcome Role Reversal

As they journey through their physical maladies, through their major health crisis, through all the frailties of old age, the unwelcome role-reversal picks up pace.

Both of us now have to let go of our independence from each other.

We begin to go with them to their doctors appointments, to check more on their welfare, to safeguard them from telephone scammers and solicitation letters, to be more aware of signs of mental decline and to notice what everyday things they can’t do anymore.

So we help them.

And they really don’t want to be helped.

But they’ll keep needing us as adult children to help them more and more.

Until they day arrives when they are as dependent upon us as adult children as we were upon them as small children.

The temptation on both sides is to pretend it isn’t happening and to resist/avoid the inevitable.

The Final Letting Go

Sooner or later, this letting go will involve varies kinds of death.

The death of their independence through physical immobility or being bed-ridden.

The death of their ability to manage their own living space or their finances or their medical needs.

The death of their mind through Alzheimer’s or some other senility.

The death of their body through the final illness that eventually takes them from us.

Neither they, nor we, have any choice.

Both of us will face a series of increasing losses in more and more areas until the ultimate loss happens.

The Doctor’s Implied Message

I spent a week with my almost 87 year-old mother and took her to her doctor for a routine check up.

It surprised me when the doctor made an excuse to have me step outside of the exam room with him.

He mentioned that their plan is to do nothing heroic for my mom if she develops any new medical condition.

I think the phrase, “letting nature take its course”, was used.

Over the next few days, I found myself with a low-grade spiritual fever.

Like something subterranean was at work in my soul–and it wasn’t something happy or positive.

The full import of what the doctor was trying to tell me finally emerged into my conscious mind.

Whether I like it or not, I am going to lose my second parent in the foreseeable future.

A Matter of the Heart

I already know that fact intellectually and have been consciously preparing myself.

Or so I thought.

But deep down, buried in secret, my heart has been quietly protesting and holding on.

Like the parent that wants to keep a child in dependency because of the pain of losing them to adulthood, I, too, was holding on emotionally.

I really don’t want to lose her….ever.

But I’m going to lose her…eventually and probably in the next few years.

So I took this sorrow to the Lord and was able to say the following:

“OK, Lord.  My heart is finally ready to let my mom go.   If You take her, I’m at peace with that now.”

It was almost as if my spiritual fever broke and serenity once more took over.

Which brings me back to letting go.

Which brings me back to the odd parallel between us letting go of our adult children, and us letting go of our parents’ independence and then their physical presence on earth.

It’s been harder than I imagined.

But I’m getting there.

The “Me, Too” Messages Within Us

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2017 by jcwill5

We’ve come a long way together on this “Me, Too” journey discussion.

Thanks for sticking with me!

These are supremely difficult and disturbing matters to consider.

You’ve hung in there–bless you!

I wanted to end this little series with a deeper discussion of inner voices and unspoken feelings that come from our sin monster, our wounded pride.

So let’s talk about the messages inside of us–the messages we tell ourselves, the false pictures we carry, and the impossible promises we make out of sheer pain.

It will be hard to progress in our post-abuse, “me, too” journey if such messages are not faced and then faced down.

False Conclusions

When we are sexually traumatized, grieved, and wounded in our soul of souls, it’s extremely easy to rake ourselves over the coals.

We deprive ourselves of all mercy, compassion, and help.

In the Supreme Court of our heart we condemn ourselves to silent suffering and/or harshly accuse ourselves:

How could I have been so naive?!

How could I have not seen this coming?!

Why didn’t I do say this or do that?!

If only I had done this or that, I could have avoided it!

The problem is me.

I am to blame.

Which, of course, is exactly what abusers and rapists would have us believe.

They would heartily agree with us since it absolves them of all responsibility and all consequences.

But taking on the shame, the blame, and the punishment is neither necessary nor right.

Breaking the Lie

The truth is perpetrators of sexual evil never hesitate to use the innocence and inexperience of their victims against them.

They are on the hunt for those who haven’t yet learned to look around with suspicion and hyper-vigilance.

They turn something truly good into a means of exploitation and perpetration.

They find someone pure and untainted for the purpose of transferring their own putrid shame onto them.

They seek someone without power for the purpose of transferring their own inferiority and powerlessness onto them.

They get high off of making someone low, rob their victims of dignity to compensate for their own shamefulness, and exercise dominance to cover up and compensate for their own worthlessness.

And when we finally see the game for what it is, we can emotionally transfer what belongs to them back to them and stop carrying their sewer water.

Owning the Truth

With this core lie exposed and withered of power, we can begin to gently, repeatedly, and increasingly embrace the truth:

All the shame of sexual assault is theirs, not ours.

Our innocence was and is a lovely thing to be embraced, not a fault to be rejected.

Our appearance and our body is not a curse to be denied, but a good gift to be celebrated.

We are a human being made in God’s image, not an object for another’s sexual sport or a toy for their sexual games.

Their lust and their perversion is disgusting and is to blame, not us.

Their conduct is entirely theirs and there is no excuse, or justification, or defense for it.

Which turns the tables and brings the light of truth onto our situation.

And it also helps us move into the light, and empowers us for the long journey towards unbending our character, our emotions, our thinking, our relationships from the gaping trauma of sexual abuse.

Breaking Inner Vows

Survival and self-protection are understandable needs when we are sexually traumatized.

So we make impossible promises to ourselves that require unlimited control over everything and everyone.

I will never let it happen to me again!

I will be big and powerful and never weak!

Nobody, not even God, will ever put me in that position again!

I will never lose control again to anything or anyone!

I will never be vulnerable again!

These self-promises and inner vows are cries of deepest pain.

No traumatized person, and especially no sexually traumatized person, wants to ever risk a repeat.

But these sworn vows to ourselves, strangely, keep us imprisoned in a tightly controlled, joyless, defensive way of life.

They also, sadly, shut out love for love involves entrusting ourselves into the care of another, requires an open heart, and involves the incredible vulnerability of intimacy.

The Crazy Double-Bind

We are left in a double-bind–condemned to breaking our vows if we risk love again, or condemned to a closed, unloved, shut-off life if we keep our vows.

And this double bind drives us nuts and is another source of torment in our already tormented lives.

Which is why such impossible though understandable self-vows need to be surrendered, too.

The truth is life handed us something far bigger than we are.

A hurt we cannot manage.

A burden we cannot bear.

A trauma we cannot resolve.

A wound we cannot heal.

A stain we cannot remove.

But thankfully we don’t have to!

A New Picture of Love Reigning

I need someone in my life who is as far above the trauma as it is above me.

Someone who can manage the unmanagable things, who can bear the impossible burdens, who can resolve the irresolvable traumas, who can heal the wounds that defy all healing, and who cleanses the most deeply stained.

I need someone who embraced the ugly, who chases down those locked away inside themselves, who loves those whom others deem unlovable.

I need a Source of new messages, a Giver of new truths, a Lover whose love defines and uplifts me.

Which is why I keep circling back to Christ and His redemptive, all-merciful, all-compassionate, grace-giving, lavishing love for unworthy, broken people.

In highest mystery, He allowed Himself to be supremely abused for us on the Cross, hung there as ultimate Victim, and bore the abuse of sin and the terror of sin and the horror of sin for us.

Which now means there are two kinds of control:  the dominance and abusive kind of control, and the love-us-to-do-us-good kind of control.

It took me years to recognize the difference, and shun the first in order to bathe myself under the second.

Had He not decisively intervened, I would not have progressed very far or plumbed the depths of my soul with the courage and the light He granted me.

Open to All

Anyone can join me in looking way, way up and away from our miserable, abused, condemning selves towards Him.

It’s an invitation to receive abundant, overflowing, redeeming love at the bottom of our lives.

A choice to be utterly vulnerable but supremely well-treated in that frightening place.

What we don’t need is “abuser in charge” or “me in control”, but God’s love in control of us and whatever threats that are out there.

It’s the sanity of being small and not on the throne of the universe again, removing an impossible weight and an impossible mission from our stressed shoulders.

To go back to the emotional spot we all swore we’d never go, and to park there to tremble and hurt until His love visits us there.

There we are made truly free, are being made free as we keep going there again and again, and will find we are perfectly and fully freed there at the end of our time on earth.

There is a solution!

Mass Shootings and Narcissism

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2017 by jcwill5

Blame is a natural response to grief, especially great grief involving a great loss.

If we could change this one thing about our culture, or pass this one law, or control this one factor, or quarantine this one kind of person, we could prevent the loss from ever happening again.

We could make sense of it, and figure out how to avoid it.

Why Can’t We Stop This?

Blaming protects us from the frightening reality that the world is out of our control.

It helps us cope with the horror of chaos and inexplicable evils.

By directing our anger at this blamable person or thing, we protect ourselves.

I was going to write another blog about sexual abuse when Devin Patrick Kelly opened fire yesterday upon a small Texas congregation and killed half the church.

Barely a month after the Las Vegas shooting, we Americans again find ourselves in shock and anger and asking, “How could this happen…again!?”

Some immediately call for gun control, and made sneering remarks about Texas and those who love guns, etc.

It’s the guns and gun culture that makes this happen.

Others rise to their defense, and attack the gun control advocates for exploiting the tragedy and engaging in cheap shots for political gain.

It’s the person and their ideology or mental state that makes this happen.

The Deeper Problem

What if it was neither, and both?

And what if the principal cause, the precipitating factor, was something more and beyond what any laws can protect us from or beyond what any guns can protect us from?

What is it about this current American culture, this present society, that seems to be producing more than its share of violent narcissists who snap and commit mass murder?

People who think everything and everyone is an extension of their grandiose self.

People who think everyone and everything needs to obey their will, or be punished and attacked for not bowing down to them.

People who must always be big and important and in control, and who lash out in rage at anyone who diminishes them.

People who would rather beat and kill their spouse than lose control of him or her.

People who would rather kill themselves to escape judgment for their heinous acts–the murder-suicide scenario.

People who would rather kill dozens and hundreds of victims to do something “big”, especially in the aftermath of losing their money status (the Las Vegas shooter) or their family status (the Texas shooter).

A Dangerous Subset of a Troubling Group

I’m not talking about the majority, but a small minority who can function, pass background checks, and live isolated and non-remarkable lives while they are plotting and planning their “big thing” that will make them infamous and secure their greatness.

They make up a disproportionate share of wife-batterers and child-abusers.

They often have grandiose online images, and attach themselves to causes and ideologies that gratify their insecure egos and that rectify their total insignificance.

They seldom have any meaningful relationships, or have anyone close enough to them to read the early signs or flag them as a very real threat.

In fact, during my pastoral ministry to turnaround churches, it took me many years to discern the signs of active narcissism in individuals.

It was tough to learn how to effectively safeguard the church from narcissists who would seek to infiltrate it and become all-important inside of it.

So rather than casting blame, I’m raising the very subtle, very difficult issue of mass narcissism in our nation.

A Better Conversation to Have

I’m saying, “If we truly want to attack the problem of mass violence and get to the root of the matter, this would be a better conversation to have!”

What is narcissism?

How can we spot individuals marked by it?

How can we disrupt it before it escalates?

How can we not feed it in families? in schools? in everyday society?

And the hardest part about this conversation is how terribly difficult narcissism is to treat and remedy once it takes root.

It defies easy answers or simple solutions.

A Painful, Uncomfortable Subject

But I honestly think this would be a far more helpful conversation to have, one that narcissistic politicians and narcissistic online political blowhards and trolls would find quite painful and uncomfortable.

Since every baby and toddler starts off life with an “It’s all about me” and “I’m the center of the universe” mentality, part of the conversation might involve how we all parent our children and fail to move them beyond this childish narcissism.

What if helicopter, always-rescuing parenting and abandoning, calloused non-parenting send children to the same place?

Since the entire online world is designed to funnel information to isolated individuals staring at screens from an “above it all” position, we might also need to have an uncomfortable conversation about the role that current technology is playing in promoting, feeding, and deepening mass narcissism.

What if the very nature of the Internet itself, and the grandiosity and self-as-center perspective it subtly promotes, is a chief deepener of narcissism?

It is far easier to pass legislation to take guns away that it is to remove and heal narcissism in a single soul once it is entrenched.

It is far easier to spend billions on mental health programs and to build a network of treatment centers, than it is to reverse course as a culture on this narcissism we feed and fondle as a society.

But at least we’d be having the right conversation if we focused on the latter.

Even Further on the “Me, Too” Journey

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2017 by jcwill5

We live in an abusive-abused world.

All Abused, And All Abuse

All of us endure the slights and petty abuses of other people who are being selfish.

And all of us have been selfish and “used” others as well.

Sometimes we experience moderate level abuses by people who decided it was their prerogative to punish us for hurting them or others they love.

And sometimes we appointed ourselves a judge and an avenger against our own set of wrongdoers, and then inflicted the punishment on them that we felt they deserved.

But sometimes we experience major abuses–emotional, verbal, spiritual, physical, and sexual– at the hands of others.

These are the deepest wounds that mark our lives.

They require special care.

Making Us Worse to Make Us Better

Which brings us around to a mystery:   God often uses current and lesser abuses to mine the depths of our own abuse-marked souls.

But His agenda isn’t to torment us but to free us.

By recreating the same emotional scenario as our trauma but at a lesser level, things come to the surface that have remained hidden and quietly in charge of our emotional life.

It’s where we lose control and our “out of control” emotions arise.

Our castle of pain is guarded by a moat of control.

And when the moat is breached, at least one of four guardians jumps up with swords in their hands and an intensity in their attack.

Their goal is to regain control at all costs and prevent the closely guarded, innermost pain from being seized and brought outside the castle.

Out of Control Emotions

What do we feel when we “lose control” emotionally?

For some it is pure fear.

Losing control means panic, terror, and paralyzing fear fill their hearts and possess their being–so they run away furiously and hide.

For others, it is sheer anger.

Losing control means rage rises up, and strikes out and strikes back until the threat is neutralized but bridges are burned.

For still others, it is straight depression.

Losing control means a descent into profound sadness, a retreat into our own inner darkness and attempts at numbing the sorrow-pain that grips us like iron.

And for yet others, it is naked shame.

Losing control is a cause for blame and self-recrimination that throws dirt on our selves and that condemns without mercy.

Shame can force us into self-exile and banishment from all the pleasures and relationships that bring light and joy.

Or it will lead us to try and be big and powerful in order to counter-abuse whatever person or event that makes us feel bad and stupid.

The Check Engine Light of Our Soul

Each of these control guardians rises up when our normal control perimeter is breached.

Each of them poses as our best friend and protector from chaos.

Each of them is designed to prevent the pain behind them from being evicted from the throne of our souls.

But each of them are tools of our inner monster, wounded pride.

Because if our pain is brought out to God and exposed to the sunshine of His overwhelming love, our monster loses a ton of power and we escape its bondage.

So the key is this:   monitor your emotional reactions, especially when you “lose control”.

Post-abuse reactivity is like the “check engine” light on the dashboard of your soul.  So check the engine!

Identify your most likely reaction, and tells yourself, “It feels like fear (or anger, etc), but what’s really going on is I’m deeply hurting.

A Helpful Prayer

All this insight leads here: I make an open admission and a conscious confession and offer a cry for grace:

“That’s my pain talking, Lord.”

“That’s my pain in charge, Lord.”

“My guarded pain, under the guardianship of my sin nature, has been lord of my life.”

“So I turn emotional ownership of this pain-trauma from my wounded pride to You.”

“Please break the power the pain now has over me!”

“Please displace this pain with Your all-kind, all-merciful, all-healing love!”

You know you’re on the right path when your emotional chains get harder to yank, and all the hot buttons get smaller and harder to push.

You find yourself able to bite your tongue more deftly, and to give it a few days and several drafts before responding (if absolutely necessary).

You react less intensively, less often, and catch yourself earlier and earlier in the reaction, and reset your heart and reengage with a new mindset.

Instead of hiding in fear and depression and shame, you move close to God and other safe people who bring joy.

Instead of lashing out in anger and shame, you instead go up with it and wrestle with God until He wins and you are clean and His judgments are trusted.

The Power and Freedom of Non-Reactivity

The end result is you become a far less attractive target for abusers who control others by provoking reactions.

It’s no fun trying to bother you anymore.

So they lose interest and your life gets less conflicted.

And the other end result is you begin to give off new emotional signals, and find a different, healthier kind of person engages with you.

Growing healthier sets you up for still more spiritual and emotional insights, and also to spiritually and emotionally better relationships.

You choose healthier and holier groups to belong to and stop being drawn into toxic, filthy ones.

Instead of repeating an endless and downward cycle, you start to climb on board an upwards one!

There is a solution!

Further on the “Me, Too” Journey

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2017 by jcwill5

There are two life events that have spurred me forwards on my “Me, Too” journey:   having kids, and suffering further (but different and lessor) abuses.

Today I’d like to focus on the first one.

The Parental Protector Role

Being a parent is an awesome and awful role.

When we have kids, we instantly become the responsible adult providing guidance, protection, and perspective.

The shoe is now on our foot.

And yet we don’t have absolutely control, and our children have minds of their own and make choices of their own.

Which is why someone said, “God gives us kids to grow us up.”

In the end, we are confronted with the reality that they, too, are vulnerable and live in a world where they can be victimized.

Which is why having children and raising children was, for me at least, an invitation into a world of recovery I didn’t know existed but deeply needed.

A particular season stands out.

Reactivity at Home

Our first two children were both female and very, very different from each other.

And I can still remember the time when our 3-year-old firstborn tried to lift her one-year-old sibling out of an outdoor baby swing and ended up dropping her on the concrete porch.

I remember it because I reacted with lightning speed to make sure the baby was OK and to then spank her sister for endangering her.

And then I suddenly stopped, “Whoa!  What am I doing?  Why did I punish her for an honest mistake and badly executed act of love?”

So I did the “Search me, God” prayer and asked Him to expose whatever code my firstborn violated and reveal the unholy energy behind my overreaction.

Reactivity on the Job

At the same time, I was put “in charge” of the children’s ministry area at our church, and found myself in conflicts with people who I felt were putting children at risk with their agendas.

I was a little too vehement and a little too swift to rise up as a “protector” and “advocate”, which was damaging relationships and generating conflicts.

The key is “way out of proportion” and “reactivity” where I spoke and acted instantly without really thinking about it first.

What both incidents revealed was a deep, unspoken mandate.

This uncovered inner vow was to “never let abuse happen to children” and especially “my children”.

It kicked in when an older child hurt a younger, more vulnerable one.

It kicked in when an adult was pursuing a selfish personal agenda at church that was not in the best interests of our children and didn’t really care–devaluing kids.

Mission Impossible

So I stepped back from the final phrase of disciplining my kids–in fact, I very rarely if ever spanked them after that point because I no longer trusted myself to do it rightly or well.

It was part of quarantining the “abused abuser” inside of me so, ironically, my children would be better protected.

And it gave me time and space to take a deeper dive into another layer of buried pain and torment, and face another level of losing control over things I never could control in the first-place:  the absolute safety of children.

God showed me that my reactivity wasn’t about protecting them.

The truth is I protecting my own abused and wounded self from living in a world where such harms and evils could happen to kids.

So I was on a mission to instantly and strongly prevent all real or perceived abuse by the strong against the weak.

Season of Quiet Bleeding

Which is why this impossible, unspoken inner vow, to protect my kids from all threats and to avenge all abuses of kids in my world, had to be renounced, exposed, and gently broken.

More layers of the “pain guardians” (i.e. – the fear, anger, shame, and sadness surrounding my own abuse) needed to be surfaced.

Which meant I needed another dose of God’s infinite love and divine care at this even deeper level.

Which meant I needed to get silent and be still and simply bleed in His presence.

My new mission was to present my wounds to Him in absolute vulnerability, to cry out to experience His “greater than my abuse” compassionate love where I most needed to be loved.

He was making me temporarily worse so He could make me markedly better.

He was putting me into that same emotional situation (the stronger hurting the weaker) so He could escort me into an even greater emotional freedom.

And, by the way, this bad-worse-better pattern is the pattern of healing.

When we know this pattern we won’t panic so much or fight it, but learn to work with it.

Experiencing Grace When Giving Grace

Some time later I was wracked by fears, seized by sheer terror in the middle of the night and crying out to God for His help.

It was then I heard a small voice crying out for “daddy!” on the other side of the house.

Most of the time the kids’ cries in the middle of the night were for mommy.

But this one was unusual:  it was a daddy cry.

Being fully awake from fear already, I trekked back to the source of the cries:   my now three year old youngest daughter.

I found her trembling with fear in her bed and picked her up gently and held her.

And the strength and ability to comfort her was unexpectedly given to me in my own wretched state.

She’d had a terrifying nightmare.

And as I held her and spoke comfort to her until she drifted back to sleep, God held me and spoke comfort to me, too.

In her childlike vulnerability and in my Christ-empowered, compassionate response as her father, I found my own answer and my own release.

Signposts Pointing Ahead

On the “Me, Too” recovery road from sexual abuse and trauma, there are many stages.

We all need a supremely great Father to hold us in our out-of-control places and reassure us and heal us in His love.

And we need Him to do it again and again and again, at deeper and deeper levels, in more and more areas of life.

Next time:  the irony of lesser, recent abuses and how they can actually help us heal even more of our deepest wounds.