I've had to confront evil again. In my every day life, I see it all the time. 60% of my clients have been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by the adults, mostly their parents, who were in charge of them. As a consultant I hear therapists' most horrific cases. I read the newspapers.This political election is particularly ugly and full of disingenuous lies and distortions. African paramilitary continue to rape, murder, and hack off limbs. The wikileaks site has sent out another torrent of how people in power misused it to torture and murder. Members of our local Stryker Brigade are on trial for having tortured, then murdered Afghanis, for fun. And greed continues overpower humanity everywhere we look.
But it gets worse. I attended two conferences in three weeks, EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) in Minneapolis and International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) in Atlanta. The ISSTD conference is smaller and often more scholarly than EMDRIA, 400 people, many of them researchers. Most of the EMDRIA presentations were upbeat: How to use EMDR to cure schizophrenia, depression (mine), shame, dissociation, etc. At ISSTD, some of the research-based presentations were about dysfunction with no talk of cure. Dr. Martin Teicher presented research on how different kinds of child abuse affect brain structures and which developmental windows impact brain structures and function the most. He didn't discuss neuroplasticity and how we fix these things. Then Ellen Lacter presented "Torture-Based Mind Control: Psychological Mechanisms of Installation and Continued Control" with Alison Miller and Ada Sachs throwing in their awareness of torture in ritual abuse. The single most distressing thought that stuck with me is that the worse the torture, the more the victim becomes attached to the perpetrator.
M. Scott Peck defines "evil" as something possible only when one human doesn't see another human as a human being. I'd like to add that for evil to occur, one human has to have power over another and see that other as an object, a means to an end. Evil isn't a new idea for me. My step-father, Peter, was a survivor of the German Holocaust. I was beat up by neighbor kids for being Jewish. I work with the effects of abuse every day. And I spent 20 years clearing the trauma and dissociation of one ritual abuse client. But learning about the number of organized groups that are "breaking people", intentionally causing dissociation through torture, set me back and left the conference stunned and hunkered down.
How did I get through it this week?
- I reminded myself to feel it. When I connected inside, I felt my fear, grief, and anger about what we humans are capable of doing to each other. Focusing on the affect, and allowing it to move through.
- I moved my body, feeling the aliveness in it as I walked.
- I noticed the beauty in fall leaves and incoming clouds.
- I connected with other people: my sweet husband, my mom, my friends.
- I went to my consult group and spoke about my distress.
- I joined the ISSTD Special Interest Group that deals with Ritual Abuse and Mind Control.
- I reminded myself of the good works in the world.
- I gave money to some politicians I see as helpful and good.
- I'm going to the local Rally for Sanity (based on John Stewart's DC rally), with the sign "Therapists for Sanity". (Irony is very helpful to me.)
- I played sad music and inspirational music. Aaron Neville was helpful. So was "One Love, One Heart: Let's get together and feel all right."
- And I reminded myself of my limitations. I can help a limited number of clients, write books slowly, and consult to a limited number of people. I can't stop the abuses of the world. I can continue to respond to them.
It's worked well. I've been back for 6 days and I'm breathing fully, feeling more hope than despair, and about to have a book party for the my newest trauma book: Trauma Treatment Handbook, my contribution to healing trauma and making people whole.