Yesterday, I gave a small ten minute talk about taking ownership of your body and mind/rights after abuse and/or rape, and it was followed by a discussion. I felt honoured to be able to talk and to meet such intellectual and compassionate people who gently asked questions, and discussed important and sensitive issues with such care and clear passion.
But giving the talk really got me thinking. I have explored in my blog posts, many times, how I feel removed from my body and how I often completely hate my body. I explained in the talk yesterday that I am not fully recovered and not yet at a point of feeling in ownership of my body. In honesty, I don’t know if I ever will. This is why:
- It’s hard not to shake off the feeling that my body betrayed me, many times, sometimes dangerously, other times just going against how I felt. I did explain to someone about attachment hormones. Objectively I can understand this mechanism, and have indeed felt the blasted hormonal rush even in situations where I’m emotionally absolutely terrified. This was particularly the case with my ex-partner. I believe because she had already manipulated my feelings, it was easier for her to trick my body into behaving in a manner of attraction, even if I was screaming in pain and crying with fear. And if the bonding hormones release because someone’s sexually abusing you, then – at least in my experience – you’re faced with this mad dilemma: do you continue emotionally fighting against the hormones, and therefore have to simultaneously deal with the bonding hormones being brutally violated through abuse, at the same time as the hormones being released….or, do you allow yourself to just go numb, let the hormones do their hormone thing, and hope to catch yourself later? I have tried both. Neither have a pretty result, but objectively I know that neither is this my fault – my body was tricked to go against what my mind believed. Whether I fought my body or not, the end result was the same: my body and bonding hormones had all been manipulated. This to me sometimes made – and to some extent still does make – facing the fact my ex-partner was abusing me, incredibly difficult. The hormones inevitably left some part of me feeling deeply attached to the person, but my fear left me feeling obviously scared stiff. The mix up of this caused a fallout in my head, and the only way I could deal with it was by concluding: you do like her, you’re just scared because you’re stupid and pathetic. This had been said to me, by her, and the way my body responded and the damage of the bonding hormones having attached but also been manipulated, only amplified her cruel words. In conclusion: if someone is abusing you and manipulating your body and bonding hormones, whilst feeding you poisonous words, its them that is the betrayer…not you, or your body. Nonetheless I can say this objectively, but have far greater difficulty accepting this for myself on an emotional level. I still feel my body betrayed me and spurred them on. I have great difficulty trusting my body as a result.
- My body was an object to many people in my life. An object for their pleasure/financial gain/sick kick/power surge/to hurt someone else with etc etc etc. It’s hard therefore for me to feel connected with my body, not least because I dissociated away from it so many million times. It can be difficult for me to see my body as anything other than an object, with no needs and not deserving of care and attention. In more extreme moments, it can be hard for me to comprehend the idea that if I can feel pain, it’s because my body is damaged and needs me to do something. Literally the cognitive process of realising that pain means I’m hurting can be blocked, if I’m feeling so absolutely like my body is just an object. One step worse than this: I feel that the pain is my body hurting me, not the damage to my body from someone else hurting me. Nonetheless, in the talk yesterday I talked about how to combat this. I explained how the subtle difference in language can be a powerful tool in re-connecting yourself with your body. If I have been objectified, then that is someone else making me an object…perceiving me to be an object. That does not necessarily make me an object, just because they see me that way… just as someone mistaking me in the street for someone else does not actually make me that ‘someone else’ – it makes their perception of me mistaken/incorrect. So if a rapist or abuser or even general normal member of society perceives any part of me to be an object or tool, then that does not indefinitely make me an object or a tool. Life simply isn’t so black and white. Just because someone perceives me as all bad does not make me all bad, and equally I am not all good either. Nobody is all black or all white. Just because someone sees my body as a tool for their own pleasure, does not make me a tool for their own pleasure. Therefore…I am only an object if I believe myself to be one. I don’t want to share the same mindset as people who can only see a human as a tool or object. So they can perceive me as they like, and I will do my best to see me differently. But again, it isn’t all black and white, and so sometimes I lean more towards feeling how they feel, and other times I lean more towards feeling like my body is sacred and a miracle.
I also talked a bit about how society in general can remove us from feeling in direct ownership of our bodies. As I ranted about in a previous blog post; magazines, the media, etc….they all assume they can speak for us, tell us what our bodies should be like, tell us what is attractive, and also remind us how we’ll never really get there. My answer to this is: they don’t know what you look like – how on earth can they speak for you?
So that was all about the body. As you can see – it’s not a black or white thought process. I don’t feel in ownership of my body but equally I can understand how to feel more in control of my body. I don’t agree with what people did to my body, but equally can feel betrayed by it, but can also understand why this betrayal was not actually of my body, but of abusers. There’s a lot of greyzone to consider here…
And today I’ve been thinking…what about the mind? How do you keep ownership of your mind, and of your internal self?
Well…what determines your internal self, for a start?
Your core values….and do you know what? It isn’t just abusers who will try and shake you away from your core values, at all. The robbery of a person’s body by another person is more often seen as criminal than the robbery of a person’s mind. If someone rapes you then they’re a criminal. If someone verbally assaults someone then they’re seen as being a ‘bit mean.’ Perhaps it’s because you cannot see at what point a person has stolen another’s mind. The thief may not be aware, and the victim even less aware. All they know is….they feel confused, lost, unsure who to believe, aware of some conflicted feelings but not entirely sure how to pull the strands apart, because where on earth did it all become spaghetti head in the first place? I would also like to point out here that I’m not suggesting entirely that the robbery of someone’s mind and core values should be criminal. That would be, quite frankly, ridiculous. Because whereas you can generally assume a rapist was aware of what he/she was doing (but even then, consider whether they were coerced themselves or what their life story was – I’m not at all excusing a rapists behaviour, but I equally refuse to put anyone in an entirely black box), you can’t always assume that a person mouthing off is actually aware that they are stabbing a person’s mind.
What you can do, however, is learn how to ensure the stabbing to your head doesn’t shake away your core values. And if you can do that, maybe the mind thief will wake up…or if they were doing it maliciously, maybe they’ll see they ain’t getting close. And give up. But either way – you won’t lose yourself, or at least if you do…you might stand a greater chance at finding your own breadcrumbs, and gradually becoming yourself once more.
So what do you do if anyone is backing you against a wall, whether physically or emotionally, and trying their damned hardest to make you view something in either an entirely black, or entirely white way? What do you do if someone is therefore trying to make you question your own sense of opinion, your own right to see angles from both sides, and instead pull you and your identity towards a certain group? There are many examples of this in life. Peer groups. Work – promotion battles. Sibling rivalry. Your best mate broke up, but you are friends with his/her ex too. Abusers trying to force you to see something in a certain way, so that you a) don’t question them and b) don’t believe in yourself and c) can’t trust anyone else.
I, as a rule, refuse to generalise. People often say to me that they think it’s a wonder I can stand to be near a man, and indeed live with two. I then point out some of the abusers were women, in fact some of the most poisonous abusers were women…and so, following their logic, should I just ban myself from the entirety of mankind? Don’t get me wrong…I get anxious if I’m around strangers, and will only really be okay with someone laying a hand on my shoulder/hug me/any other physical contact if I know them. Even then, I can be tense, and on bad days I can and do refuse physical attention entirely. Some people expect me to hate all men (and women). This to me is very sad, and a very black and white way of looking at it. Yes men hurt me, and yes women hurt me. But some men have not hurt me, and some women have not hurt me. Some of both genders have shown me the most incredible level of compassion, which has in turn helped to crumble some of the damage caused by other men and women. Therefore how could I hate them all? And equally, how could I not be scared of some? I am neither entirely free from bias nor entirely locked in ‘hate all men’ campaign. I will give people a chance. If they hurt me, then I will try and understand why. I don’t believe people are born bad or evil. I don’t believe anyone is entirely good or entirely bad. Humanity is a spectrum, and it sickens me when people try to think otherwise. It also saddens me, because I know by them trying to fit everyone into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ box, they will simply only make themselves miserable, because it would be a thankless and endless task. How would it work – would one bad act undo a person’s life of goodness? Would one good act excuse a person’s life of cruelty? Would this not then be a paradox? Where could they fit then, as they were neither black or white? Or would literally each act of their behaviour undo what came before, and so it wouldn’t matter if a person had been the most compassionate person…if they annoy you once, then they are absolutely hated? The memory of who they were before, just entirely wiped? Meaningless?
What a sad state to be in. And, I imagine, what a lonely place too.
The media doesn’t help. I’m sick to death of stories where a faceless person is painted as nearly all good or nearly all bad, where celebrities are pulled to pieces because of one sharp comment.
SO after that ridiculously long ramble (I’m very tired), how can you keep hold of your core values even when the world is trying to force you to see only black and white? Well, first, make contact with them. Sometimes if you’ve not had to fight for them to not be robbed from you, you may not even be aware of what they are. Maybe write them out. Or think about what makes you, you. What values are essential to you, what beliefs do you hold that are consistently a part of who you are? Only if you know your core values can you stand a chance of keeping hold of them, in the same way that only if you can understand your body really is your own, can you maybe stop feeling like it’s an object and betrayed you.
Once you feel you understand your core values, maybe you’ll feel more settled in yourself anyway. It’s a very secure feeling, being aware of your unique identity.
If you find yourself in a situation where you can feel those values starting to wobble, or can feel the pressure in your head, or the hurt as your mind is being stabbed… try and understand what it is that’s wobbling the values or leaving them feeling vulnerable to being taken from you. If you’re being made to think in a certain way, or someone is trying to convince you of a certain thing…firstly assess if thats right, and secondly assess whether your core values agree with what they are saying. But most importantly keep hold of the fact that *nothing* is all black or white, and so if anyone is trying to make you feel either all black or all white, then take it all with a pinch of salt, defend your right to remain rational, reasoning and independent, and try and analyse whether the person is deliberately trying to alter your values (and if so, why?) or if they too are simply mistaken, or have lost their own values somehow, and if so….do they need a helping hand to remember who they are?
If the answer is yes, then you owe it both to yourself and to them to remain consistently yourself. To stand by what your core values say, to respect your identity and beliefs, to understand that there are bits of black white and grey in everything. If the person can see you consistently yourself, and not letting your mind being stolen, then who knows…. maybe you’ll act as a mirror, and they’ll fall onto the right path too.
Programming heavily affects me, but really I just need to make contact again with my core values and start thinking ‘if I go to the abusers, because they want me to, am I respecting their values, or my own? Which do I want?’ It’s of course not so simple as to fix in one second. But if you can at least comprehend that thought process, then you’re on the right track.
Nobody has the right to steal your body.
But nobody has the right to steal your mind either.
Own yourself. Don’t let *anyone* try and take you away from who and what you are.