MOVING FORWARD PAGE 1 HELP FOR WITNESSES HANDLING ISSUES OF ABUSE AND VICTIMIZATION IN THEIR LIVES Moving Forward
The breakdown of family life in the time of the end has ta ken a terrible toll on this generation. More and more of our brothers and sisters are facing the fact that their mental and emotional damage from growing up with family dysfunction and child abuse is deeper and deeper and longer lasting than ever imagined . As they realize that their childhood experiences may not only have influenced but dictated the pattern of their adult lives, they begin to come to terms with issues of trust and intimacy that effect all thei r r elationships. The following information is presented to help their friends and spiritual shepherds understand the spiritual and moral consequences they endure. It is hoped that this will enable them to express their love for the victims in the most helpful way, and specific suggestions are included as to how this can be done . The author is a Christian sister whose self-observations provide insight into the thinking of someone facing these issues in her own life. the author would like to stress that, though this is a personal account, the thoughts and feelings expressed herein are common to victims of abuse. It is offered with love and the expectation that the empathy of our friends and Jehovah's spirit will accompany us into recovery. I grew up in south Florida where long days at the beach are a ta ken -for- granted part of summer. Walking under the palms in the grassy area near the beach is safe for bare feet. But, the sun heats the open s andy beach itself above a temperature tolerable to the touch. One day I forgot and ran toward the water, heedless of my unprotected soles. When I realized I was being burned , I stopped, hopping on alternate feet to look back and decide whether I would endure less pain dashing back to the grass o r r acing ahead to the ocean . I was equal distance from both, and since the reason I had come to the beach was to get in the water, I rushed on and in moments immersed my burned feet in the soothing sea water. The problem with life is always the same. To go ahead is painful, to go back is painful and to stand still is intolerable. We have to remember that we came to the beach to get in the water, we came to life to live it, in order to plunge on ahead. Who are the people for whom life is so painful that a real danger exists they may decide not to live it ? I don't know them all, but I know some of them . And I am qualified to write about them because I am one of them. We are adults who were hurt as children and are still hurting. I am writing this to help you, our friends and spiritual shepherds, recognize some of the patterns of behavior and personality that identify us and provide some insight into the moral and spiritual problems we face. This may help you feel more confident in dealing with us. One elder, himself a victim of sexual abuse, commented that "Satan was the first child molester." Satan picked the youngest and most vulnerable of Jehovah's children to seduce. The resulting corruption of live's character, including the guilt reaction, set the pattern for all future child abusers/ molesters . Moving Forward Page 3 Sexual abuse of children, by no means new, is surely the crime of the time of the end. Through this activity, Satan accomplishes several goals. Sexual abuse may implant within the victim a tendency toward immorality much more compelling than what which follows naturally inherited sin. Our abuse as child- ren has damaged our self-identity and self-esteem . We feel like we have no control over our lives. We do, in reality, engage in out of control behaviors ( compulsions ) and out of control thinking (obsessions). Our lack of self- control is closely related to a feeling of not knowing who we are. Though we do not know ourselves, we hate and loathe ourselves. Our out of control think- ing and behavior produces guilt, and the guilt reinforces our negative self- image and out of control feelings. This negative downward spiral may send us into a moral and spiritual tailspin, from which recovery is difficult and pain- ful . Our lack of self-esteem makes it difficult to follow the command "love your neighbor as yourself." How attractive to me are people who operate from a cen - ter of health and self-assurance. I wonder what it would be like to love my neighbor as I loved myself? What it would be like to look out on the world from an inne r r oom of peace and confidence? Sometimes I'm almost there. Oh God! How I want to be like that! If we hate and despise ourselves, how can we ever love our neighbor? Bless- edly , we have an inspired definition of love, not as a feeling , but rather, action . By training in the application of Bible principles, even those of us who are badly damaged by the abuse can learn to show love to others. This engenders in others a loving response which, over time, can begin to build our self-esteem and heal us. Our interpersonal relationships are affected by our unclear self-identity and low self-esteem, and ou r r elationship with Jehovah is also affected. Until recently , I held the delusion that I could hide part of myself from Jehovah. I was sure that, if I revealed myself completely, Jehovah would hate me as much as I hated myself, condemn me as I condemn myself. What despair lay behind these thoughts! So, I maintained my delusion in spite of the clear, intellectual knowledge that Jehovah knew everything about me, better than I knew myself. One thing we are good at is mental gymnastics. We are good at thinking one thing while feeling another, perceiving one thing while believing another. Of all the precious benefits being in therapy and recovery have brought me so far, the breaking down of barriers to freeness of speech in prayer is the one I treasure the most. Sexual abuse produces in the victim a profound sense of shame. This is com- pounded by the fact that, on a physical level, some forms of abuse are pleasur - able to the victim. Youngsters who have a healthy childhood naturally exper - ience a coming alive of sexual feeling in adolescence, but for some of us those sensations were overwhelmingly the major feelings of our childhood. Even with mature , loving parental guidance, young men and women find their awa ken ing to sexuality confusing and hard to handle. Yet they have had thirteen or fourteen or so years to develop coping mechanisms such as self-control, communication skills , delayed gratification etc. What skills does an infant or young child possess to cope with the intensity sexual feelings? Little or none. At the same time , the abuse itself retards the development of other emotions and qualities of character and personality. Moving Forward Page 4 Since the abuser is usually close to the victim - many of our abusers were family members - serious issues of trust are brought into play. Parents repre - sent all good to the child. They provide food, love and security. They are all powerful , all knowing, and all right. Our very survival depended on believing in our parents. When our parents were abusive, we did not attribute bad to them , we attributed bad to ourselves. Once we had done that, we expected to be hurt ; we believed we deserved whatever pain came our way. And, if pain didn't come to us, we would go out and get it. Particularly in the case of girls abused by their fathers, a pattern of victimization is set up. Until released through therapy, some of them will, time and again, choose relationships with abusive men. We believe in our core that we deserve the abuse. In fact, the abuse feels like love. We may appear foolishly gullible, but in reality, we are armor plated. We trust no one. We are not attracted to "nice men." We go for the ones who are addicted, abusive or violent, and ou r r adar is so sensitive that we have little trouble finding men like this within the Christian congregation. A relationship with a man like that lets us relive, and thereby "fix" ou r r elationship with our fa - thers . We desire someone who is unresponsive to our needs, someone with whom true intimacy is impossible because we do not trust enough to be vulnerable. We are angry. Some of us repress our anger and turn it inward. It may be virulent enough to destroy our immune system and kill us by disease. We deny our anger because to feel our anger is dangerous. In order to feel our anger, we have to believe that we are deserving of better treatment. If we come to believe that the woman we are now deserves better , then we must believe that the child we were also deserved better. This logically leads to the conclusion that "Daddy" was the one who was wrong or bad . It may be less painful to continue to be abused by our husbands or boy- friends than to face up to who or what "Daddy" was. This serves Satan's plan well because it inhibits our development of a re- lationship with Jehovah our heavenly father. I neve r r elated to Jehovah as a father . As God, Lord, Sovereign Creator, yes, but as a father no! I did not trust Jehovah. I'm still working on this. This is not the same as faith. I have strong faith. The problem lies in trusting Jehovah with my feelings. So the end result of abuse is adults who function in many ways like child- ren . We are unable to be known either to ourselves or to others. We cannot freely approach the throne of undeserved kindness, we have strong tendencies to engage in destructive behaviors. We are trained to be victims, perfect targets for Satan. Moving Forward Page 5 What is abuse ? Abuse takes many forms. All parents mistreat their children sometimes ; that comes with imperfection. What damages a child is a pattern of family life where the child's need for unconditional love is generally un met. This can occur without overt physical or sexual abuse in a dysfunctional fam - ily . Anyone who grew up in a family with an addicted parent grew up in a dys - functional family. But sexual abuse is such an overpowering violation of self- hood that just one incident may have tragic consequences. Rather than over- dramatizing , many victims minimize the incident(s), and many who were abused do not recognize that what happened was abusive, even when they fully recollect it . People who suffer from shame, low self-esteem, lack of self-identity and compulsive/obsessive behavior were victims of abuse, whether they recall it or not . How do we manage to function at all? How do we , with our damaged spirit- uality and emotions, carry on for years as participating members of the cong- regation of God's people? To answer that, it would be helpful to have a working definition of what constitutes mental/emotional health. The following explanation (provided by a brother who is a mental health professional) is elegantly simple, immediately applicable and totally in harmony with the bible. When someone is mentally/emotionally healthy, the person they are on the outside , which they present to others, their personality (including their prac - tices ) is a reflection of what they are on the inside. What a person is on the inside is what the bible calls "the secret person of the heart." When someone is mentally/emotionally sick, the person they are on the outside, which they present to others, their personality (including their practices) hides or con- ceals what they are on the inside. There can be two reasons why someone would hide who they really are. They may be evil and be putting on a false front like Satan does when he "transforms himself into an angel of light." Or the person may have been so badly hurt when young that they have built up layers of defenses to keep the secret person of the heart from being wounded anymore. If these layers of defenses are strong enough and complex enough, they may try to form an alternate personality that is very different from what the person truly is inside. What is it like for someone to be locked away inside the defensive barr - iers ? I always felt disconnected and unreal, as though I did not exist in the " real world" with everyone else. The barrier was almost palpable, like a cur- tain or wall. I envisioned myself tearing it apart or knocking it down and stepping through to the other side. Sometimes I even reached my hands out to do so, but there was nothing there that I could grab hold of or beat down. Now, after some therapy, I feel like I am at last, finally here. But who is the "I" that is really here ? I don't know who I am. I have no clear edges. My bound- aries are fuzzy. I can't tell exactly where I leave off and someone else be- gins . This makes it hard for me to set limits on my own behavior and picture. As my layers of defenses come down, I feel fragile. Sometimes I'm so thin I might break apart, or so insubstantial I'm afraid I'll disappear back inside. But I like being here. So I fight to get myself in focus, to feel my edges, to feel solid and whole. Moving Forward page 6 The defenses we built up in childhood were appropriate survival measures, given the circumstances of life we were enduring. When we persist in these be- haviors and thought patterns as adults, we are behaving inappropriately. the same defenses we built up to keep out pain now keep us away from what we need. The negative messages we received as children, that we are stupid, a fail - ure , unwanted, bad, unlovable and worthless, were not simply stated to us. They were transmitted with the volume all the way up, often accompanied by a hail of blows . They were loud, consistent and compelling. We erected strong defenses against these messages, but it was no good. They still got through. We believed them . Later, when people gave us positive messages about ourselves, our work or anything , the positive messages could not get through those defenses. We never believed any good thing that was said to us about ourselves. Because of the defenses we built, the outer person may have personality traits or engage in practices that war out of harmony with the desires of the secret person of the heart. We are all familiar with the teenage boy who hides his insecurity behind a facade of macho bravado. An abuse victim's entire per- sonality may be a "snow job." We hide our lack of control by exercising extra- ordinary control over every aspect of our lives. We may appear very controlled and organized to cover up our internal chaos. We walk on the edge all the time. We are desperate. We cover up our low self-esteem with many genuine (though of- ten frantic) accomplishments, none of which nourish our inner self. We may seem arrogant or egotistical, while inside we feeling inadequate or worthless. The elder previously mentioned said he can spot the victims who are always smiling and pretending to be fine, because they have a "haunted look in their eyes." When you are dealing with victims of abuse, try to remember that many un- pleasant personality traits we exhibit do not reflect the person we are inside. Even wrong practices may be part of our defense mechanism. This is because we behave compulsively. We do not make choices; we do not know ourselves enough to ask , "What do I want?" We are controlled, not in control. Compulsive behaviors include refraining from or overindulging in the following: FOOD: Food may be equal to nurturing. This is a favorite compulsion for vic - tims of abuse. In some cases, the nature of sexual abuse may develop a desire to control what is put in the mouth. Because ethyl alcohol is similar chemi - cally to sugar, children of alcoholic parents may be biologically predisposed to addiction to sugar as well as alcohol. Symptoms of malnutrition in a sister who has a family origin history of alcoholism may indicate a binge-purge ( bulimia ) or anorexia eating disorder. Sex: Compulsive sexual misconduct ranges from masturbation to promiscuity. Many female victims end up as prostitutes. Women whose personal boundaries are unclear are vulnerable to sexual advances that healthier women would reject automatically . They may literally not know how to say "no." For sisters who have this problem, a commitment to uphold Jehovah's sovereignty by following His moral standards is their only protection. Precocious( early) sexual behavior in children or compulsive(repeated or multiple partners) misconduct in teen- agers should be considered a red flag that may warn of a dysfunctional family with possible sexual abuse. Work: Many companies depend on a core of workaholics as the engine of their success . Healthy people find job satisfaction ; a workaholic never does. This problem may be mis diagnosed as materialism. Even the most sublime work avail- able to humans today - kingdom evangelism - can be engaged in compulsively. Moving Forward Page 7 Money: Money is representative. It's value is not inherent but attributed. This means we can hang all kinds of psychic baggage on money. Someone who is behaving compulsively with money may spend(shop) or may hoard. Severe and re- curring disagreements about money between married people may represent power struggles and/or sexual problems. Substance Abuse : Alcohol and drugs are a major compulsion problem. This problem can't exist in a family without causing the family system to become dysfunctional . As with sexual misconduct, substance abuse by a young witness should be a red flag. Rage : The rage-a- holic gets high from the adrenaline surge of anger. There is a build-up period, then release, then recovery. After that, the cycle re- peats . Children of rage-a- holics suffer effects similar to children of alcohol- ics . Their environment makes no sense. Gambling : Compulsive gambling involving wrongdoing wagering or betting is not difficult to identify, but gambling may also include : consistent tardiness to work, speeding and reckless driving, stealing(shoplifting)and other criminal acts , mishandling of checking accounts, unsafe sex, careless use of birth con- trol , courting danger in sports, and disregard for safety procedures in handl - ing tools and equipment. Co- dependency : This is an addictive relationship. The most succinct def- inition I have ever heard is "Co-Dependency is being dependent on someone being dependent on you ." It's called co-dependency because the person with the addiction links up with someone who has another addictive disorder. Or, two co-dependents get together. This is often called love. These are the major areas where compulsion shows up. Even the most innoc - uous activities can be engaged in compulsively. We may be compulsive about or- ganization of personal belongings, personal hygiene, house cleaning, exercise, appearance , T.V. watching, hand washing or protecting our children. When a compulsive behavior involves indulgence, it becomes an addictive disorder . This is true whether or not actual physical addiction occurs. For this reason, all of the different compulsions(work, food, sex, etc.) are re- ferred to by mental health professionals as the drug of choice. Interestingly, the most effective treatment for all of these addictive disorders is the same. It is a program of spiritual recovery. Here is an important clue for someone questioning his own degree of control : IF YOU ARE TRYING TO CONTROL SOMETHING, THAT THING IS CONTROLLING YOU. Being in the truth mitigates the effects of the mental illness by providing the strongest motivations to avoid bad conduct. But there will be unavoidable breakdowns in this protection in someone who is sick enough. It is possible to live subject to compulsions and obsessions and not be seriously violating Jehovah's law. Still, this behavior keeps us from taking responsibility for our own life. For many years, I engaged in all kinds of compulsive behavior while appearing sane, by constantly switching from one drug of choice to another. Whenever a certain activity got out of hand or I thought I might get caught or go crazy, I switched to a different compulsion. I often had a number going at once . This is a tortured way to live. Obsession is to thinking what compulsion is to behavior. Obsession may accompany compulsion. A compulsive eater may be obsessed with thoughts of food. Moving Forward page 8 Abusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors allow us who have no clear self- identity and who are out of contact with our feelings and desires to pretend to have a real life. We cling to our obsessions and compulsions because they let us fake living and we are afraid that without them, we will cease to exist. I pass a traffic accident. A woman sits behind the wheel of her crumpled car , her face covered with blood. I am jealous of her physical pain, and I am jealous of her chaos that has come into her life, temporarily relieving her of her day to day responsibilities. People are rushing to her, their hands reach- ing out to her, making contact in the compassionate recognition of her obvious need . And I am jealous of that, too. I am as hurt and traumatized as she is, but because my injuries are not visible, I am often without caring contact. I know that my envy of her is a sign of how sick I am. A school bus stops ahead of me to unload a group of high schoolers . One girl who gets off doesn't get in step with the others who are filing around the front of the bus expectantly. Moments later, a tall young man bounds off the bus and kisses her. I watch them as they chat. He reaches his hand out in what appears to be the start of a caress, but suddenly he has made a fist and hit her on the cheek. She moves away from him, falling in line with other students as he pursues her. They are out of my sight for a few seconds, but when they reappear , his arm is around her shoulder and she is leaning against him as they walk . My stomach churns. Her future is my past. In my recognition of her, and in my compassion, I have a sign of my progress toward health. Our obsessions and compulsions represent a lack of self-control. The ultimate loss of control is in death, so obsessions/compulsions are a pathway to death. They are mini-suicides robbing us of control bit by bit, and may lead us to actual suicide. On the other hand, self-control is a fruitage of the spirit of God, who is the source of life. Our lack of self-control/esteem/identity results from our being taught not to trust our own perceptions. Our feelings were denied rather than validated. One siste r r emembers : "When my father finished beating me in one of his rage-a- holic fits, I went crying into my room. My mother followed me in and I turned to her and said, "I hate him !" and she replied,"no , you don't really feel that way." Victims internalize a set of rules : We don't feel what we feel. We don't think what we think. We don't see what we see. We don't hear what we hear. The most important rule is : Don't Talk ! Any cultural, organizational or familial system that prevents any honest expression of feelings, or which encourages people to pretend that things are not as they really are, fosters mental illness within its' members. As young children, we take on the role of protecting and defending our abusers . This is the beginning of Co-dependency. Even with all of these problems, we may function within normal parameters. We get married, raise families, work, carry out congregational responsibili - ties , preach, etc. Many of us have some rough times as teenagers, then settle down in our twenties into an apparently stable life. But, something goes wrong later on. We have some unfinished work to do. Moving Forward page 9 At first, we don't know what's going on. We increase our compulsive behav - ior as our internal controls start to break down. We think : "This can wait un- til after armageddon . I don't have time for this now." Coping mechanisms we used in youth suddenly reappear. Our out of control thoughts and behaviors cause guilt and shame. We feel like we are falling apart . We may believe, or others may tell us we have a spiritual problem that can be solved by more field service, personal study etc., When this doesn't work , we may start to think that our faith has failed us or that we have failed our faith. Some of us have flashbacks of childhood experiences. This is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. We try to put the lid back on. Some of have litanies , a phrase to repeat until we get back on top. I sat for hours saying to myself : "Don't think, don't think, don't think over and over. If we cannot squelch the memories, we may begin to, or go back to, using drugs or alcohol to drown them out or numb the pain. A real spiritual problem can develop if sub- stance abuse goes on unchecked. We get depressed and thoughts of suicide begin to seduce us. We need : 1. Exoneration. 2. Acceptance and Approval. 3. Respect. (1) Exoneration : We need to be freed from guilt and shame. We need to be told that we were victims, that what happened to us was not our fault, that we were not to blame. We may need to hear this message over and over. Remember, it has to get through the defenses to the secret person of the heart. We don't just feel guilty because of the abuse, we feel guilty because of the ways we coped with it; we are ashamed of our compulsive behaviors. We need to be told that whatever we did to survive was o.k. We had a right to survive Recovery cannot occur unless survival comes first. Guilt and shame are not synonymous. Guilt is healthy, shame is not. The internal messages are different. The message of guilt is : "I have done some- thing bad." The message of shame is : "I am bad." Guilt motivates us, shame debilitates us. Shame has to do with self-worth and may have no connection with conduct . We did not go through the normal stages of emotional development. Some of us were trained in immorality from infancy. We feel shame because of the bi- zarre , intrusive, confusing, furtive or frightening nature of our first sexual experiences . Some of us have discovered perverted desires in ourselves and we are ashamed of these. We are responsible for our behaviors. Most of us have triumphed over Satan's programming of us. All of us can. (2) Acceptance and Approval : If you stand for a moment in the shoes of a victim of sexual abuse and feel the depth and intensity of our self-loathing, you would be shocked and sha ken . One addictive disorders counselor said : "If we did to others what we did to ourselves, we would be sued, imprisoned and scorned by society." We have figured out ways to pay for our "crimes" that truly constitute cruel and unusual punishment. But we are experts at enlisting others to punish us too. We especially enjoy the services of authority figures in this, and elders fall into that category. Moving Forward page 10 Once we recognize ourselves as victims, we have ta ken the first step toward recovery . Now we need to learn who we are, we need to define ourselves. Your acceptance and approval affirms what is good is us. It takes many positive messages to counteract the negative ones we have stored in our heads. We are almost psychic when it comes to reading other people's feelings. We have been tuning into others and blocking out our own feelings all our lives. This starts with having to read what kind of mood our parents were in so we would know how safe we were from minute to minute. This ability may make us seem overly sensitive. We can't help it. With our ill-defined boundaries, a flicker of irritation across someone's face may assault us like a blow. ( if you are trying to help a victim and you cannot truly accept and approve of them forget it. You are not not the man for the job.) As I start recovery, I find I am hungry to hear good things about myself. Some elders seem afraid to offer praise to me. Others are warmly supportive. From them up building and encouraging words just flow. When I get better, stronger, I will be able to say good things about my- self . I will gradually replace the negatives tapes in my head with positive ones . I will apply myself consciously and systematically to the task. I have already begun, but in the meantime, the acceptance and approval of others is important to my recovery. It is where I am right now, and I accept that I am where I am. If you are trying to help a victim, do not hold back your affirmations of their personal worth. Do not be afraid that your praise will make us "puffed- up ." Remember how low our self-esteem is. Accepting me means accepting my feelings. Denial of the validity of feelings is a form of emotional abuse. Never tell someone "you shouldn't feel that way," A feeling is a fact. I feel the way I feel. It's easy to accept positive feelings ,but negative emotions may push the wrong buttons in you. Keep it in perspective, remembering who is sick and who is well . Don't take things personally. Many of us have repressed anger. It may leak out and hurt those around us, even those who are trying to help us. We need to TALK ABOUT OUR FEELINGS. Victims who deny they are angry may be more for you to deal with than those who are feeling and expressing anger. But, the latter are further along in recovery. We are emotionally retarded and confused. We may come across as rude, selfish, arrogant, demanding, cold or indifferent. Don't be fooled; we are terrified. Female victims are usually co-dependent, fearful and angry with men, yet craving their acceptance and approval. We may need to be encouraged to do a reality check. Question whether we are responding to a here and now situation, o r r e-enacting something from the past. It may even help to say " I am not the man who hurt you, I am not going to hurt you. Male victims are just as fearful as female victims, but they tend to be as afraid of their own potential to hurt others as they are afraid of others. One Christian brother went into severe isolation and depression when his first child was born because of his fear that he would, like so many male victims, become an abuser. Men who are adult children of alcoholics( ACOA'S) may have intense needs to control and dominate others. This is a reaction to the unpre - dictable conditions of their early life. They may be more difficult to reach than female victims because of reluctance to express emotions, fear of appear- Moving Forward page 11 ing weak, etc. As with female victims, the key is getting them to share their feelings and standing by with acceptance and approval. (3) Respect : Moving into recovery is hard work. It is clearly the hardest thing I have ever done and I have done a lot of hard things. But it is not vis - ible work, and I don't get paid for it. Sometimes I'm so occupied with this work that I am unable to carry out the other tasks of my life. So, when I am doing the least work on the outside, I may be doing the most productive work on the inside. That goes along great until I begin to worry that I am probably getting a reputation as self-indulgent, or as a malingerer. I don't expect everyone to understand this illness, but I do want those who are closest to me to respect the hard work I am doing. Still, whether they do or not, I will respect it. I will give this work the time and energy it re- quires , and I will seek out those who respect me and are understanding and supportive . When you work with victims of child abuse, it may help you to be aware that the mental health profession calls us survivors. Like those who have walked, dignity and humanity intact, out of a concentration camp, we deserve you r r es - pect . RECOVERY Have confidence in the body-mind tendency to heal. In medicine, this is called homeostasis. Even in our imperfect condition, this powerful tendency exists and functions well in most people. Recovery takes place in stages. It's a two-step forward, one-step back process. There may be a number of healing crisis ', these should be viewed positively. Always express confidence in the friend's tendency toward health. Remember that people live up or down to the expectations of those around them. I am fascinated by the progress of recovery. It is amazing to observe it in myself . I cannot force this along. I am cooperating with a natural process. Overcoming obsessions and compulsions takes place in a pattern. First, I recognize the behavior. Now if I engage in self-recrimination over it, immers - ing myself in shame, I get no where in changing the behavior. Instead, I find it helps me play to a more detached role, like an observer. I accept that I own that behavior and that I am choosing to engage in it. I try to notice if any- thing triggers it, if there are practical changes I need to make in my life. I make everything as easy for myself as possible. Then I forgive myself and tell myself that when I am ready, I will change this behavior. Amazingly, it seems to disappear without effort. I find this incredible. I didn't know I was so co- operative . I always thought I had to beat myself up to accomplish anything. Children are victims, adults are volunteers. Many of us set up a life situ- ation that replays childhood conflicts. Some of us realize first that we are being abused as adults and that leads us to explore victimization in our lives and finally get back and dig up childhood experiences. Others of us start out dealing with the childhood stuff, and then come to see the pattern of abuse is continuing . If we are living with an addict, we are co-dependent. Healthy people will not put up with what we tolerate. We will endure anything. I always thought, "If I could stand it, it must be o.k. It never occurred to me that life was to be lived, not just survived. Co-dependency is the normal response of someone Moving Forward page 12 who lives for an extended time in an abnormal situation. Everyone engages some- times in co-dependent behavior. But for some of us, co-dependency is an illness that has ta ken on a life of its' own. It is a progressive, fatal condition. Recovery is ongoing, it is between sickness and health, it is between the pro- cess of the illness and the process of recovery. What if you recognize a victim before the victim recognized himself or her- self ? It is very difficult to help a victim who is in denial. I read plenty of articles , including the ones in the Watchtower and Awake! about mental illness, child abuse, battered wives, etc. But, while I was in denial, I never believed any of this stuff applied to me. You will have to wait for the person to get ready to go through the process. Ultimately, our lives become manageable. You can put yourself on standby, let them know :"if you ever want to talk about this , I am willing to listen." Be prepared; once the damn breaks and the friend starts to talk, they may not be able to stop until it is all out. Provide appro - priate avenues for them to express themselves and listen, listen, listen, accept , accept, accept. (Of course, if the person is engaging in immorality, child abuse, spousal abuse, drun ken ness, drug abuse, or criminal activities, the disciplinary function of the congregation provides intervention as well as lev - erage to encourage treatment.) For the victim who is ready but is having trouble remembering, some things that can help are : conversations with siblings, looking at old photographs, visiting childhood sites, listening to o r r eading other's experiences. Reading this paper may help someone recognize their underlying problem. Writing as the- rapy is highly recommended. One therapist said that writing communicates what is learned by one part of us to another part of us. I found that writing put my intelligence and creativity in charge of me towards health. How do you know whether or not professional help is required ? You don't. But the victim probably will. We can tell in which direction we are headed. Since issues of domination, control, or free will may be involved, we should be encouraged to make our own decisions, and, as much as possible, direct our own recovery. This applies to people whose illness is the result of childhood abuse, but whose brain functions are otherwise normal. Professional evaluation should be sought for those who are severely depressed, suicidal, or whose coping abili - ties have bro ken down, so that medical treatment can be used where it would be helpful . One sister, for example, is being treated for a problem with brain chemistry , manic depression, and is also having talking therapy to deal with childhood issues. Just as people can have more than one physical illness or in- jury at a time, they can have more than one mental illness at a time. Thousands of people are moving into recovery by reading, writing, talking and listening, without individual therapy by a professional. Many others use a therapist to orient them to the task and then get on with it with the help of a support group. A support network is also very important. Some witnesses are get- ting this within their own congregation, while others are finding it elsewhere. Some of you elders may hesitate to get involved with people going through some of those things. You may not have a choice. Some of you are married to vic - tims . Some of you feel unqualified and afraid. You can overcome that by educa - tion . Your best source of information will probably be the friend you are try- ing to help. We are often very clued in to what we need and if you listen, we will tell you. Moving Forward page 13 I have been helped toward recovery by an elder, by the staff of the mental health unit of a hospital, and by a twelve-step group. But there is something I got from one of my Christian overseers that I could not get from anyone else. I grew up "in the truth," my roots go down deep into Jehovah's organization and I deeply respect His sacred arrangements. When I received exoneration, accept- ance , approval and respect from one of His spirit directed servants, that elder represented Jehovah for me. The positive effect on my spirituality was immedi - ate and dramatic. I was then able to take the security I felt in Jehovah's care for me into the other therapeutic situations. This was something I needed and something I deserved as a faithful Christian. It would be a tragedy to withhold that from one of the friends because you thought a professional was more qual - ified . I have come a long way and I've learned a lot. I've learned that life is for living now, not just for surviving until armageddon . I've learned that the only person I have control over is myself. I've learned that my thoughts and desires are separate from my actions and practices. I have learned that love is not pain, poverty is not good, and anger is not bad. I've learned that I have choices and it's o.k. for me to make a mistake. I am discovering that I have boundaries . I have learned that I don't have to apologize for being here. I've learned that just because someone gives me something does not mean that I have to eat it, use it, or wear it. I've learned that there are enough good things in life for me to have some too, and it's o.k. for me to want them. This sounds good, but really, I am tricking you. I'm intellectualizing. Most of this I've read and heard, and I don't really believe it. But I will. I will keep reading it and listening to it and saying it until I do believe it. Most of this stuff sounds simple and obvious. One of the problems with men- tally ill people is that we don't see the obvious. We've grown up with a bi- zarre set of rules to fit our bizarre circumstances. We have to learn the things normal people take for granted. We have to find out what normal is. We have to find out what our feelings are. I am driving down the road with all my kids and suddenly I have a feeling. At least I think it's a feeling. I'm learning to pay attention to my feelings. So I send all the kids to the back of the van and turn off the radio so I can concentrate on this possible feeling. It takes me a moment to identify what this feeling is. It's shame, I'm ashamed. I try to figure out why ! I think about what was on the radio and what I was talking about with the kids. Then I hit on it. Several blocks before, I caught myself with that feeling. I had made an error in driving that inconvenienced (just inconvenienced) another driver. I thought at the time; "Boy, I'll bet she thinks I'm stupid." Now I am having this terrible feeling. Before therapy, I would have stuffed down inside. I would have emotionally abused myself by saying "I have no reason to feel this way ." So I make a decision to let myself experience this feeling. Great ! Here I am driving down the street with a van full of kids feeling ashamed . Now what do I do ? I decide to see where this feeling will lead if I give it full reign. I find myself thinking : "I shouldn't drive, I'm too stu - pid . I'm so stupid I don't deserve to live." Now I am pretty surprised. I didn't know THAT was still lurking around down inside. I start to argue. I bring my sense of fairness into play. "Well if I don't deserve to live because I made a mistake in driving, what about all the other mistakes everyone else makes all the time ? They don't deserve to live either." Now, certainly, that is fair enough, but I am shocked. Have I really been walking around with this misanthropy ? Hate your neighbor as yourself ? I kick in my sense of humor. Moving Forward page 14 Maybe the next time the kids make a mistake, I'll stand them against the wall and shoot them. The ludicrousness of the whole thing is becoming clear. I de- cided I have had enough of this feeling and that when I turn the corner, I am going to stop feeling this way. I will forgive myself and everyone else, and I do. My head is a minefield and I never know when something is going to blow up. But if I walk and run and stomp and dance around in there long enough, I'll get rid of them. That is why my recovery has to be a major priority in my life. I am not alone on this journey, nor is the path uncharted. Many others have already been here and their s tori es give me hope and show me where I am headed. I've got some tough stuff to do real soon, family of origin work and healing my inner child. I've had glimpses of how excruciating this is going to be. My per- sonality has been shredded, now I have to rebuild it piece by piece. But I have Jehovah, the friends, my support group and my own courage. I'll make it as those who came before me did, and as those who follow me will, too. We can move into positions of power in our lives. We can do amazing things. More impressive than the widow who gave all she had and earned Jesus' praise, some of us have managed to give our children what we never had, self-esteem. What more could anyone give than to give what was never given them ? This is a triumph !! Please listen to us, give us your exoneration, acceptance, approval and respect . Then, as our layers of defenses peel away to reveal who we really are inside , someone precious and lovable, we will come to have your affection as well .