A Broken History
Some time ago, a person who was getting to know me read some of my writing, and in his personal appreciation of it, he exclaimed, “That can’t be taught.”
I smiled back, but inside I felt a swarm of (mostly young) voices inside, all saying, “Yes it can.”
Darkness still fills the memories. But the essential strand of truth came to the surface immediately, sensing an un-truth in the air.
It can be taught. Yes, it can. My life has answered enough aspects of this question for me. But, can it be taught to anyone? Can it be taught to anyone at any stage of their life? Can it be taught with limited internal and external resources?
Are there limits that physical beings have that cannot be surpassed? Even if they are provided with every possible means of support? Even if they are taught with love? Or taught with torture?
Even if the being’s sheer force of will feels unlimited?
Writing, the particular way that we write—it can be taught. But can it be taught without pain?
After finishing up our previous essay, a lingering voice, a lost aspect within us, was left asking: How did I get this way?
How did I learn to write like this?
When did I have all of the experiences my fingers are talking about?
I don’t remember any of this.
A Look Inside
Did you know we have a writers’ room?
Inside, that is.
We were taught to write. We were taught many thing. The core notion that we were taught was that we were bad (evil, untrustworthy, unworthy in general). As such, we were meant to be used. Someone else should use us; god forbid we be allowed to use ourselves.
We have difficulty writing now, because we write for ourselves. We were only ever designed to write for our owners. Should we attempt to write for ourselves, or for conscientiousness, we become impaired by limitation, via our internal programming. We stagnate, we have a challenging time expressing ourselves, and we cannot retrieve words and concepts we once knew. In general we are not as sure as we used to be, about our style, or our content, or ourselves.
We have extreme contextual and sensory amnesia, yet we feel completely crushed.
However, when we silently and patiently tune in to ourselves, details do find us. When we tune into our ability to write, we see a writers’ room.
Right now it looks full, busy, and surprisingly disorganized, for a room that does not require the chore of material cleanup or the slow plod through space and time.
But I think the disorganization is symbolic of the energetic limitations of our internal world: the many rules we have to break in order to write to you, in order to remember, in order to heal, in order to point freedom out on the menu and say “I want that.”
What I see inside our writers’ room are desks and computers, an open window and a few closed windows, stacks of papers with loose sheets hanging out of them at odd angles, and printers spitting ink or freezing. I see a group of people pouring over a document and arguing about how it’s worded, and sad and insecure individuals who are attempting to reference dictionaries and encyclopedias that have been whited out by our former programmers. I see people with their feet up on their desks, a lone ball on the floor with no child to play with, and a cat who seems to be in multiple places at once.
I see excited people, loving people, misunderstood people, overworked people, and people drinking coffee. (For anyone interested, we do not drink physical coffee!)
Sometimes having a view inside of ourselves can help us understand how we feel, and it can help us give voice to our true internal states of being, which we have not often had the opportunity to do.
But how did our writers’ room come to exist? Do you think it spontaneously formed, as we moved through our life—whether our life was being traumatic, or whether it was being relatively tame?
Originally, we did not choose the décor. Our perpetrators did. We did not choose our ages or appearances either. We did not choose to be there, and some of us don’t think we belong in this skill section of our mind. A few of us think that the abusers got it wrong. I should have been playing football. I should have been acting. I should have been a scientist.
But here we are now, and it’s as if the old appearances are starting to melt away, or to dissolve, being replaced with new colors, different materials (less metal and more wood), open windows that finally face the sun, and truer representations of who we are.
The enthusiasm isn’t pervasive, however. In some cases, certain aspects of the room are changing slowly, begrudgingly, and circumspectly, as they are being asked to either transform, or to at least make way for the new look of the room, and the new rules of our life.
Newness can be so painful. Some of us need to be slow, or to be still, or to observe without being approached. I think this need is currently being represented by the multi-locating cat in the room.
I think it is wrong to use a person. I think it is wrong to enslave a person.
I think it is wrong to sell material that a slave has produced, to mislabel its authorship, and to profit from this venture as a slave owner, or as a slave owner’s client.
I think it has been healing to write for myself, and to write about myself—although the latter feels odd, and sometimes unsafe, or selfish. (“Don’t worry, I was told that I was selfish, it’s no big deal, programming, just go on,” is what I just heard in response.)
Sometimes I can sense that there are ways of writing, or other forms of self-expression, including visual arts and music, that are still boxed up inside of me. It can be painful to try any of these things, and to feel these inner limitations. They feel like torture. They feel like torture because the internal boxes are made of torture from my past, a torture I cannot consciously remember without actively trying to remember, and sometimes not even then.
These creative activities can also feel like torture because I know I am not expressing myself the way I truly can. I am continuously connected to my sense of limitation—at times more so than to my creative spark, or to the creative expression that does find its way through me. The feeling of limitation hangs over me like a taunt in every dimension.
At times I do not wish to try to move past the limitation, or to try to express myself despite it. Instead, I might decide to just give everyone inside a break from trying anything at all. At other times, I try to use my creativity to express the taunt itself, as I suppose I am doing now. This may seem like a clever workaround, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
I don’t always show my pain, so sometimes people in my life do not know I am in it, especially when I am producing something, or when I am smiling. I am not accustomed to showing my pain, because I was expected not to show it. I was always forced to produce things for others, including a smile, tailored to the client and the setting. No one ever asked me to produce my true self.
As a slave, my creativity was developed only so that it could be used for others’ gain.
Can creativity exist in enslavement? Definitely. It can be forced out of a slave. But it can also be used in secret, by a slave, to survive, to escape, to live, to find a way to breathe under water.
Can creativity thrive in enslavement?
I don’t believe so. I think eventually it will suffer, and it will die. And I think my abusers knew this, which is why I was also allowed experiences that were not painful, planned, organized, or static. Even a limited amount of love was given to me, and then utilized to further their means. I was expected to produce whatever they wanted, whether I believed I could successfully do so, or not.
I was often asked for perfection, by people who knew that I was a broken child.
How Did I Get This Way?
I am an amnesic part of the system. The writers’ room inside of me has written so much, yet I still don’t understand what happened to me. You may even understand it more than I do.
I am amnesic, and I am suffering. It is so painful to watch someone else do something that I know I should be able to do, but I cannot. I am watching other members of my system share things about which I know not, and allude to even more than they have ever shared.
What happened to me? I feel vulnerable, desperate, and alone. I have been told that torture can do that to a person, split a person off from memories of their life, even memories of loved ones. I keep hearing my own voice in my headspace (a mental place where I hear other voices, where mine is just one of many), expressing concern and confusion. I am not able to remember the events that we describe, or connect to the emotions and sensations that we express.
Most of the time, I feel as though I have no context for the terrible feelings inside of me, or the numbness. I have had the sense that I have been living a lie, but that I should not be allowed to look further into it.
When I feel confused about what I have been through, I realize it is because I am trying to juxtapose the false front of what I was told has happened to me in my life, with the aching and persistent felt sense of another reality—and these two realities cannot coexist.
Amnesic system members like me exist purely in this conflict. It is almost as though I live in an uncomfortable white room that contains nothing, and yet I sense that it contains everything.
As a system, we realized that amnesia is a pain within itself. It is the pain that we have just attempted to describe. For us, it is mostly a programmed mechanism that was created deliberately within us, so that we would not remember the secret, illegal, and unconscionable assaults against us, and so that we would continuously live in torment and confusion.
While we can trace our memory loss, doubt, and denial to our foundational programming, we have also witnessed confusion, doubt, and denial in others. We have witnessed many people doubt themselves, doubt what is atypical, doubt what is unacceptable, or doubt what is difficult to process.
So we can understand that doubt is real (ironically), and that it is not easy to overcome. We find that doubt feels terrible. It feels much like limitation feels. But it feels different than a limitation that can be processed and accepted. In us, doubt feels active, somehow out-of-control, like it knows that it is concealing something, and it is evading discovery.
In recovery, we are giving voice to the doubt inside of us, to the denial, to the amnesia. We somehow forgot that this is a pain in and of itself. It has been speaking to us, but we have not been treating it just like we would any other trauma memory.
Of course there are people inside whose job it was to forget what happened to them, to deny it, to make sure that it stays hidden. What a terrible job to have to do. I have found that the only thing that does not hurt, in the long term, is the truth.
How painful it must be, to be given a job that prevents the flowing of the truth. Even in our writers’ room, there are invisible people whose job it is to impede our knowledge or understanding of certain things. We feel it is important that they be given a chance to speak too, and to share their own experiences of being forced into their jobs, of being assaulted, of feeling pain, and of experiencing nothingness.
We will treat our memories of developing amnesia just are carefully and sacredly as we treat our other memories. We will give equal voice to the psychologically violent moments of being told, “This did not happen,” as to the violent moments that came before. We have hope that we will understand the true story of our past. We have hope that other survivors can, and will, too.
We have hope that other people will also come to understand that while they were living, crimes were being committed on our earth, that were kept in secrecy, never prosecuted, and never brought to justice. There have been slaves who were never rescued. There are living slaves who may never be rescued.
In our search to find everyone and everything that exists in our internal world, we hope that humanity will endeavor on the global equivalent. It is difficult to be happy or to feel free, if we sense that something is not right somewhere else in the world. If we search for what is missing, maybe peace can reach us all.
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This essay brings clarity to experiences I endured. I had a NEW memory surface. I was in a cult for 30 years. I had Stockholm Syndrome.