How Speaking In Catastrophic Language Harms Our Mental Health

 “Today was the worst day EVER!”

Was it really? The absolute worst day you’ve ever experienced in your whole entire life? No day has ever been worse than this one?

“I have the WORST headache!”

The worst? So bad it’s not preventing you from staring at your glaring phone screen and lamenting about it online instead of treating your headache and resting your eyes?

“Life is NEVER going to get better!”

Never ever? For the rest of your life you have seen all of your future days ahead and have resolved to yourself that life will never improve?

“I just CAN’T take another day!”

But you’re here the next day, still saying you won’t be able to take the next day either… or the next… or the next. So really, you actually can take another day.

“My life is OVER!”

Is it? Over? You’re dying because your mate left you or you lost that job or you’re having a high anxiety or pain day? That’s it? Life just ends? You see no possible solution available? Not even the ones being offered to you that you’re finding reasons not to try?

This may not be a popular post. I might piss some folks off. That’s okay.  I get to speak on this subject. Why? I have been on this journey. I’m talking to you from experience. I’m speaking from days, weeks, months and years of crawling through the muck of my catastrophic victimhood into some harsh realizations that changed my life for the better.

Catastrophizing our language is extremely damaging to our mental health. The above statements were often heard leaving my lips as I was writing “Cult Child“. The process was brutal. There were times I really believed I might die from grief.

Yet, here I am. I didn’t die. How might I have made my healing process slightly softer had I known what I am about to share with you?

In order to understand the biology of how our language affects our lives, we should take a brief look at the scientific connection between linguists and neuroscience.

Antonio Benítez-Burraco Ph.D. states:

“This effect of framing or filtering is the main effect we can expect—regarding language—from perception and thought. Languages do not limit our ability to perceive the world or to think about the world, but they focus our perception, attention, and thought on specific aspects of the world. In summary, language functions as a filter of perception, memory, and attention. Whenever we construct or interpret a linguistic statement, we need to focus on specific aspects of the situation that the statement describes. Interestingly, some brain imaging facilities are now allowing us to examine these effects from a neurobiological perspective. For example, in one study, authors prove that language affects the categorical perception of color—and that this effect is stronger in the right visual field than in the left visual field. Discrimination of colors encoded by different words also provokes stronger and faster responses in the left hemisphere language regions than discrimination of colors encoded by the same word. The authors conclude that the left posterior temporoparietal language region may serve as a top-down control source that modulates the activation of the visual cortex.

This is a nice example of current biolinguistics research (in a broader sense) helping to achieve a better and more balanced understanding of classic questions in linguistics—like the relationship between language and thought.”

Are you thinking, “What the hell did I just read?” Alright, let me break it down simply. When you read your favorite author, as they describe a room in detail, can you see that room in your head? If you nodded yes, they have done their job.

They’ve used language to create an image in your mind.

We see this in our mental activity when we create scenarios which have not happened yet, for instance. Have you ever thought of the worst that could happen in a situation, finding yourself falling down a visual rabbit hole where you actually see it happening in your mind? You’ve just created your own visuals with your thoughts. That thumping heart you feel? You’ve just manipulated your own emotional state as you created that mental visual.

We can take this a step further by looking at great speakers and story tellers. They use their skill of language to create a picture in your mind.

Here, David JP Phillips rolls out an excellent TEDx talk in which he explains how media is used to manipulate your emotions to the point you will spend your money excessively or search endlessly for a love which has been unrealistically described to you.

All of the above are examples of how language influences your thoughts, your own words, your behavior, your buying and voting patterns and the simple ways in which you think and see situations and the community around you. More importantly, it influences how you view yourself.

This brings me back to being inside of our own minds, our thoughts and being aware of how we speak in general. Speaking negatively to a child or AROUND a child blocks them from building healthy self-esteem.

Someone I know had a decent childhood. They had everything they wanted. They weren’t abused or neglected. However, the one thing they did deal with was a mother who consistently spoke bad about herself. Because of this, my associate developed body dysphoria, something they fight every day, a lowered self image simply from being exposed to someone else’s lowered self image.

Alternatively, speaking positive to or around a child helps them develop a good sense of self. So then, imagine what you could do for yourself, if you focused in on changing your language.

I used to joke about myself when I was very overweight. I would hurry up and call myself fat, because that’s what I assumed everyone was thinking anyway. Then, I’d feel horrible and eat to soothe myself. When I changed my lifestyle and took pride in being healthy, I stopped speaking so poorly of myself. I have occasional moments I fight self-deprecating thoughts. The difference is that now, I catch myself. “No. Stop that. You are who you are.”

As children, many of us were left ignored and un-cared for as we suffered with pain in silence. This left an imprint on us, an illusion that we needed to inflate the seriousness of our struggles out of fear of being unnoticed.

If my lumbago is having a flare up, I don’t head to social media to lament about it. In fact, I put social media away, purposely keeping my mind in a very clean state. I go into self-care mode. I rest. I do what needs to be done to soothe the flare up. I don’t allow phone calls. I don’t allow stress. I listen to my body’s needs.

If I am in an off emotional mood, maybe having a day where I feel like I may be easily irritated, for instance, I bring my self-awareness higher. I don’t want to lash out or project those emotions toward anyone else or any slight situation. I try and avoid spaces where controversy might trigger me. Occasionally, I fall prey. I have an alpha tone to begin with. Imagine when I’m irritated. I do what’s right for myself. I sit with the emotions and process them.

What if you chose to look beyond the pain? What would your language look like?

If my hips are aching, I thank my legs for still working. I stretch slowly. I say to myself, “Alright, it’s one of those days.” If my heart is sad, I find gratitude in the fact I get to choose self-soothing. I have the freedom to write it out in my private journal.

I could have died as a tortured child. I survived. I triumphed. I fought my way through the rubble of Sam Fife’s sick, sadistic cult. I refuse to fall prey to their misery. So what worked for me? How did I flip my catastrophic language into uplifting ways of speaking to others, about others and most importantly, to and about myself?

I first designed my journal “Becoming Gratitude” in a notebook I used for myself. The sole purpose of taking that journey was to re-program all of my senses away from catastrophic and negative thinking. It absolutely worked.  I decided to share this extremely inexpensive, simple, five-week gratitude course with the world because it worked for me. Consistency with the daily five minute task was absolutely the key for my success. Within as short as a week, I was saying to myself, “Okay, this feels good.  I’m onto something here.”

Becoming Gratitude” even worked for one of my most hard-headed and dearest friends! She left a hilarious and super real review about why she did not think it would work for her, which you can read here

You can choose to exercise gratitude in your life in many differing arenas. The key word here is choice. Ending catastrophic thinking and speaking and beginning forward-moving, solutions-based thinking and speaking takes active self awareness and work until it becomes natural. Your change will happen quickly.

You’re going to get addicted to feeling good inside.

Choose your words in a way which creates a positive image in your own mind. As I am constantly working on growth in regard to my mental and physical health, I visualize myself where I want to be, how I will be living, my environment and joy. As I continue to speak good about myself, the better I feel and the better I become.

You deserve your good. Speak kindly to yourself. Speak highly about yourself. Accept your abilities. Accept compliments. Embrace the positive parts of yourself. It’s okay. You can be a Thriver and still speak about the wounds you have endured. Healing doesn’t erase what happened to you. It just makes living a lot easier.

The journey into the realm of thriving really does begin with a first step. Choose Gratitude.

Accountability and the Fear Of Judgment

“When the parent heals, they heal their children’s children.”

The best thing my mother could have done when she was alive was to take accountability for what she took her children into. She never did. She died drowning in the river of denial. Why is this the best thing she could have done? Because it would have healed her. It would have healed my children, because it would have helped me heal long before I actually did.

What’s so hard about owning our own shit? Why do we so adamantly avoid it? What is this fear of accountability and judgment? I would come to realize, that understanding my mother’s refusal to own her behaviors would take me facing and looking at my own. Ouch. That stung to even write out. It’s true, though, and I’m going to tell you why.

“Don’t judge me.”

I know people who preface a story with this phrase. I used to sometimes do the same.

“Ok. I’m gonna tell you what happened but FIRST you gotta promise not to judge me.”

Judgement walks around leaving wafts of fear in its wake. Some of us fear judgment because we care what others think of us and derive our self-worth from the opinion of others. Some of us use religions as a basis to judge other people. Whatever the platform it’s performed from, there is one element that is constant across the board. No one wants to be in the front row when Judgment is on stage.

This has been one of the difficult parts of my healing journey; learning to stand without judgment and see a person exactly where THEY stand and not finding fault in them just so I could feel better about who I perceive myself to be. I’ve had to find my own well of confidence which was already bubbling inside of me. I just had not tapped into my own rich oil. In avoiding accountability and judgment, I was ignoring myself.

“I had to linearly eliminate my fear of judgment and stop caring about being judged. This was intensive self-work to take on.”

In this conversation on judgment we can rule out criminals. They break laws and must be judged by those laws. I’m talking about judgment that is often blanketed as “opinion”. That’s really what judgment is. It’s our opinion on someone’s life, their actions, behavior, decisions, choices, orientation, gender, skin color or whatever else we choose to focus in on. The point is, that for those skilled at the art of judgment there will always be something they can find to have an opinion about.

I found that step one of this learning curve in eliminating the fear of judgment was to look at why I had this fear. It lived in multiple facets of my life. I feared judgment on:

  • My parenting skills or lack thereof
  • My relationship choices
  • My weight and the state of my body
  • The way I spoke, or the words I chose
  • My personal views on life/society
  • My past

Here’s the kicker. I acted like I didn’t care at ALL what anyone thought. In fact I needed to reinforce that illusion by letting others KNOW every now and then that I didn’t care. I imagine many of you are feeling me on this. We are the skilled mask wearers, where on the outside we appear as if we do not give a stone cold shit. Oh, but I did. I cared very much what others thought of me. Words sunk into my skin like arrows. I was affected. I would ruminate on an opinion and even adjust my life out of that fear.

“To understand why I had so much fear of judgment took following the connecting strands into my childhood.”

I was surrounded by judgment as a child. Being a kid in Sam Fife’s “The Move Of God” cult meant walking around with an invisible “judge me!” sign on many of our backs. Day in and day out. Week after week. Year after year, I was subjected to judgment in multiple ways.

The ministers told us that God would be judging us.  That judgment was so deep it could result in an eternity inside a pit of fire. That one messed with my head. Especially after kerosene exploded in my face at 12-years-old, and I learned firsthand exactly what a second degree burn felt like. I shuddered at the thought of my whole body being engulfed in flames. For a whole eternity, 24/7, I would be a ball of burning pain. I did, however, somehow have a smidgen of critical thinking as a child. I would waver between extreme fear of hell and a doubt that anything these people said was true.

I was surrounded by judgmental adults. They judged others together. Then they judged each other behind each other’s backs while claiming to be friends. There was no loyalty or trust existent for me to pattern as a child. Growing up in a cult, I quickly absorbed that no one could be trusted.  I was enmeshed inside endless two-faced, judging eyes.

I watched kids lie on other kids to escape judgment. As a child in the cult, I both lied to escape judgment and was also lied about.  This environment, which included a deep fear of brutal, physical punishment, was a viscous “Avoid Blame” game. We were all constantly side eyeing each other.

This is what prison is like, always watching your back just in case someone comes after you. This is what living in a domestic violence relationship is like, always worrying you’ll say or do the wrong thing and get beat. The consequences of being judged can range from verbal attacks to physical attacks and in some instances and regions of the planet, even death.

“Fearing judgment is a deep clotted vein in our bodies. It is real, and it is dangerous to our wellbeing.”

Cleaning out fear of judgment was part of doing intense inner child work. I looked at every piece of my life, the moments I judged others, and the moments I was crippled by judgment. It was an extensively long list. There were times I felt I deserved judgment, when I made mistakes as an adult. It was easy for me to say that I had the right to judge others because I was tough enough to take it. No. I wasn’t. That was a big, fat lie. Being judged hurt horribly.

Yet, no one would ever judge me more harshly than I would judge myself. I was my own United States of Vennie’s Supreme Court. I’ve come a very long way, and it’s one I actively work on.

“Story-time.”

A few years ago I was visiting a family member. We were watching a movie. Suddenly my family member’s husband muted the television and turned to me.

“I am curious about something. Do you feel successful? I ask this because you don’t own anything. You don’t own a house. You don’t have assets. What have you done with your life?”

I was blindside and stunned. I looked at my family member, whose eyes were big as saucers, equally shocked at what her husband had just said to me. I later realized she might also have been waiting for me to lose my shit on her husband. I didn’t. I didn’t even have a desire to lose it. All of this happened in my head in a matter of seconds. I understood clearly that I was dealing with a truly miserable person who thought it was alright to put me down and verbally abuse me. I could see the thing for what it was, and it had nothing to do with me.

What I said next would reveal to myself one of the biggest steps forward in my growth journey. I smiled and kept my voice steady and low.

“My life is so rich. I have two brilliant sons who are adults making their own way independently in life. I have amazing friends. I am free to travel. I’m not tied to anything. I feel the freest than ever in my life. To be free and happy. That’s what success is to me.” I responded.

His face twisted. It wasn’t the reaction he expected. This time, I didn’t take the bait and go off so he could enjoy watching the show of my negative emotions. I was a bit surprised at myself. He retorted some sideways comment I don’t recall or think I even tried to hear, and then resumed watching television. I realized in that moment that I had conquered a huge auto reactionary habit response which had always flashed when I felt judged. In my head I congratulated myself. Inside my spirit and thinking I didn’t feel affected. I didn’t have the usual body reactions such as warmth spreading over my face or fight/flight heart palpitations as I prepared to release my dragons. None of that happened. There was a calm inside me which felt new and permanent.

I had taken a massive step in eliminating my concern over other people’s words in regard to how my life path had emerged itself or the choices I had made. I realized I could actually own all of my stuff. I didn’t have to wear a mask anymore. This began to burst open in many facets of my life as I took accountability for the places where I actually had failed. I learned that there was a difference between my actual mistakes and all of my self-perceived “failures”.

This leads me back to the quote at the top of this post. Healing my fear of judgment released the ability for accountability. This helped me become a better mother. I could look at my children and accept the times I made choices which negatively affected them. I could say this to them without feeling like a horrible failure of a mother. I could hold accountability without excuse.

“I didn’t make the right choice, and for that, I am sorry.”

Holy shit! Do you know the power of healing these words hold? Oh, my friends, let me tell you.

“Story time”

A few years ago I was in a very stressful situation. I had a dear friend who was also going through stress. In the process of that friendship, I projected my stress out into a conversation my friend and I had. I literally screamed into a voice note that my friend was “dead to me”.

If you just said, “What the hell??” you’re a better person than I was being at the time. Exactly! Who says that to their friend? Someone who needs to grow. That’s who. I could have said, “Hey, I can’t deal with this right now because I’m overloaded.” Right? No. I was reactive, and I projected my personal stress into someone who didn’t deserve it. Bad behavior!

I justified the way I acted for a long time, until I had personal growth, and it began to bother me how I had spoken to them. I really loved this person and had promised never to betray them. Yet, I had horribly emotionally betrayed them. When we realize we have wronged someone it does not end there. This is where I have a perspective on the forgiveness concept.

“Forgiveness involves two steps. The first one is the most crucial and must happen if forgiveness is to be the end result.”

  1. I had to contact the person I had been cruel to and apologize. I had to detail my behavior, so they understood I recognized it. I had to say, “I’m sorry.” without expectations.
  2. They got to make the choice on how to receive my apology or if they even wished to accept it.

Accountability should not have expectations. I didn’t apologize with an expectation of acceptance. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Our accountability cannot be self-serving. It must stand with truth and the purpose of making a wrong behavior right again.

There is an inner freedom which comes with accountability. That does not mean we get to keep acting badly just because we own it. No. Accountability comes with change of our behavioral patterns. It means we look at ourselves and, through that examination, we create elimination of the rotten parts of our behavior and thought processes.

I found that as I worked on my self-accountability and my own fear of judgment something else happened. I judged others less. I didn’t have to work very hard at that. It came automatically. When we can connect how bad it feels to BE stabbed with the fact that’s exactly how it feels for someone else when we stab them, it helps us put the knife down.

Accountability is part of processing for me. It’s not just about actions either. I am accountable for how I speak to myself; how I self-care and how I conduct my life in as such as it relates to ensure that I am maintaining personal health; physically, mentally and emotionally.

While I no longer fear the judgment of others and don’t feel an urge to have opinions on other people’s lives, per-say, I am still working on self-judgment. I work on my body image. I work on how I speak to myself and about myself. Sometimes the people who appear the most confident can have some of the most self-destructive inner conversations.

Self-accountability takes a lot of work. One thing I want to leave you with is remembering this. We do not have full control over how others choose to see us. We have 100% control over how we view ourselves and others. We have 100% control over how we behave and process our own emotions.  When I began to actively practice this self-control, many triggers naturally fell away.

When you have moments of self-judgment, apologize to yourself. Be accountable to your own being. You will immediately heal the wound you just created in yourself.  Our relationship with our own mind and body is completely within our own choices.  Forgive yourself for the past if you self-harmed with bad behavior, food, drugs, alcohol or whatever it may be.  Tomorrow is a new day, and you get to choose. That is a freedom no one can ever take from us.

“Fear of accountability and fear of judgment often hold hands. What I can promise you from experience is that self-accountability will help heal your fear of judgment.”

Love yourself. You deserve it.

4 Ways to Stop Fearing Other People’s Judgment

Victim To Survivor To Thriver: You Will Do It!

As I have lived my own survivorship and spent the last few years deeply connecting with trauma survivors, I see three distinct phases of the journey.

Victim

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Survivor

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Thriver (and for some, Advocacy/Warriorship)

I think one of the most difficult breaks in the healing process is moving from the victim to survivor state. The victim state of mind sees the downfall with everything in life. Solutions aren’t on their minds, they can only see everything bad in their world. Any solution offered, the victim stage will say they’ve already tried it or give a reason why it won’t work.

When I was in the victim stage, I recall having a fear that if I healed, I would have nothing to spawn my creativity. I was so incredibly wrong. As I have healed I have created so much more and so many amazing things. The fear was a farce.

The Survivor stage includes a mindset of knowing we have survived and believing we can still survive. Survivor stage is a small exhale and sometimes the longest stage as we are learning strengthening and practicing wellness and self love. In the survivor stage we face our anger, fear, hurt and deep pains. This stage is a boundary setting stage and a period of strengthening our minds. In the survivor stage we are starting to see the world around us as a place of possibility. We are embracing our ability to heal and determined to do so.

The step from survivor to Thriver is a smaller one. When we reach the state of thriving we have come into a place where we have embraced that our past is actually the past and we don’t have to live there now. In the Thriver stage we don’t see obstacles, but instead, opportunity. As Thrivers we take our horrible situations and tend to barrel through them because we realize that all things do pass. We tend to write out and create through our moments of pain instead of projecting them on others or drowning in them. We have no issues enacting our boundaries and don’t care who gets mad about it, as we understand our right to put ourselves first.

In Thriver stage we are empowered to know that healing doesn’t mean we don’t still have impairments from our abuse, but that we can absolutely get through it. We don’t have to stay in it. As Thrivers we embrace that our thoughts will set a course for our days and we learn that positive perspectives and energy will change and often make rectifying problems much easier when our thoughts are rooted in solutions, acceptance and great possibilities. We accept moments and people as they are. We aren’t as easily offended. We learn to be and let be. We fight for things that matter and let inconsequential situations fall by the wayside.

For those in differing stages of healing, please know that it can take years to get through these processes. Please be patient with yourself. When you take the step out of victimhood into survivorship, congratulate yourself!! That is a MASSIVE step!

I used the processes that I introduced in my interactive journal “Becoming Gratitude”, to move from feeling like a victim, to feeling the success of changing my world view and the perspective of my own existence and surroundings. It absolutely re-wired my brain for the better, in just a short five minutes a day.

You can check out the journal here:

https://amzn.to/2qhKfXu

Another amazing book that, if the writing processes in it are followed, will help a survivor really begin to embrace their emotion freedom is “PTSD: Time To Heal.” When I found this book I was ecstatic. It confirmed to me that all the handwriting processes I had done were absolutely on point. Handwriting our pain is not only crucial, but the absolute best process to follow, as the brain must slow down to process through our pen. This book gets into the physiology of why handwriting trauma is a crucial part of the healing journey. You do NOT have to be a prolific writer or speller to do this work. You just have to actually DO the tasks!

You can check out this book here:

https://amzn.to/2RbVvkK

Processing trauma isn’t easy. Neither is holding it inside. To be afraid of healing is akin to willingly drowning. Two major components exist in the survivor stage.

1. Being willing to do the work, WANTING to do it and reveling in moving towards being a Thriver.

2. Accepting and creating solutions and boundaries.

I believe every victim can become a Thriver. It is simply a matter of choosing to do the work that brings us there. I was sick of being in pain all of the time and tired of only seeing the negatives in my life. I grasped onto gratitude like a lifeline, and it absolutely changed my world view in just a few short weeks.

I hope you will give yourself the gift of healing. You deserve it. You CAN do the work, and you will be so much stronger for your fight and your life! Being a Thriver has empowered me in so many ways. I believe in you.

Your Networking and Your Intent Hold Hands. Here’s Why.

It has been five years since I published my first book, a collection of poetry entitled “Dusted Shelves”. I went into the studio with a great local producer in Seattle, WA, Lance Randall, and recorded Dusted Shelves Poetry C.D., complete with scoring and sound affects. The same year, 2013, I published an interactive journal, “Becoming Gratitude”, designed to reconnect ourselves with mindful awareness of our life. I published these two books while I was writing “Cult Child“, which I published in 2015.

 

When I reminisce on my writing processes recounting my childhood trauma through the pages of “Cult Child“, I realize I was writing it all inside of a very deep emotional triad that my brain was using to keep me balanced.

Dusted Shelves” was spilling my emotions through organization of poetry written when I was in trauma. “Becoming Gratitude” was helping me every day, stay focused on a positive mindset while I was writing out childhood trauma.

The ability the brain has to work in sync with itself is amazing to me.

Marketing has been a challenge. It has been a process of trial and error, testing and most of all, learning where I will make connections which contribute to my greater good as a person. Having been online from its conception in the early 2000’s, I have, in the past couple of years, felt myself begin to spin with the arrival of fast moving applications like Instagram. Twitter’s fast rise and the plethora of apps being thrown at me to market my writing likewise can overwhelm me. Things seemed to be speeding up faster then I really even felt an inner desire to keep up with.

I set out to understand where I was connecting to my readers. Who could understand me and emotionally feel my writing?

Since my memoir is based out of growing up in a cult, I first gravitated toward the cult advocacy society, where survivors of cults and other mind control groups, tended to congregate. Outside of a few connections who have turned out to be gems, I  learned over time this was not where I was finding the scope of authentic connections I longed for. I walked away from my time in that community learning that the content of my book does not dictate its audience or who will connect with it.

In my explorations, I chose to do a short podcast series entitled Survivor Voices Show. I interviewed strong voices like popular author and marketing expert, Rachel Thompson, owner of Bad Redhead Media and founder of Monday Blogs on Twitter. M Dolon Hickmon, author of bestseller, 13:24: A Story Of Faith and Obsession, Liz Ianelli, artist Survivor993, Cathy O’Brien, best-selling author of Access Denied: For Reasons Of National Security and PTSD: Time To Heal, and my fellow cult survivor, Glori L. Stiner, founder of Move Forward, a cause dedicated to exposing the abuses we children endured growing in Sam Fife’s Move of God cult. I wanted to cover as many mind control and generational abuse based stories as I could. I am pleased with series and am considering doing another one.

I spoke with author Matt Pappas, popular podcaster, sexual abuse survivor and owner of Beyond Your Past. I learned something extraordinary from everyone I talked with. We all had differing experiences when we broke down how our abuses were enacted. We all were even on differing paths in our healing journey. Yet still we all dealt with similar bi-products of the abuse we endured. We experienced Dissociation Disorders, cPTSD, Anxiety, Personality Disorders and a very long list of every day impairments left behind by our abusers. Amazingly, so many of us are thriving and supporting each other as we all are healing.

These experiences taught me that beyond the fences of my journey in this life is something important; that I am surrounded by those who are traveling the same road as me for one reason; because the destination leads to Healing. In the interim of all that I do, this matters to me more than anything.

People who have suffered childhood poly-abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) have the most in common with veterans of war. Yet, the difference is, children shouldn’t have to go to war.

There is no one arena or mold where I fit. I greatly respect and relate to those who have seen the horrors of war and the horrors which can be wrought on a child. I have read many a marketing post about finding my “target audience.” Yet, as I share my journey, what I have found to be an absolute for me is when I stayed rooted in an intent of connecting with survivors, instead of hunting down an audience, I felt the best. It changed my direction. I realized I could funnel small amounts of marketing funds into boosting posts while using my personal energy to really foster positive connections with other survivors from all walks of life.

I believe that as I gear up to release Rise of Sila next year I won’t change much about these connections. My peers will continue to understand me, as they have had the same struggles of abuse even in their teenage years. My story is still the voice of many a survivor, and it is for them, and my own mental health, that I finish this duo-logy.

I usually hunker down between the months of November – February. They are the months of holidays and taxes. I avoid social networking and pound out work. Leading back to the original topic of whether you are running in the right circles for your work, I leave you with this consideration.

Remember you are not just your content, you are also your intent.

Is your content fueled with the intent to connect with those who will understand what you are sharing? Are you rooted in the originality of who you are? Is this shining through your work and connections? If you are struggling to understand who you are, remember that we evolve, and part of who we are is constantly figuring out who we are! When you come into an acceptance of your now, I promise you’ll find your people.

Meanwhile, pound the pages, the canvas, the pavement, whatever you do to purge, create and express. This is the root of your creative intent.

50 Years of NOT Ending Religious Human Trafficking

In August of this year, there will be an Alaska seminar to help educate law enforcement and local government, along with state citizens,  about Sam Fife’s Move of God cult, still very strong and yearly using state funds and subsidies for their own profit while religiously trafficking humans through free labor and mind control.  This cult is not just doing this in Alaska, but also in Georgia and other locations in the United States as well as other countries.  Because of this seminar, I decided to join a group filled with residents of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The subjects of cults arose when one of the group members recently posted this:

OKAY I have a question… every year around the same time I always end up having these kids come to my place of work. They claim they are fundraising for mission trips through their church. They try to sell ornaments or this year they were selling cheap cheesy holographic posters for $20…Yesterday, a boy came in and I gave him $5 hoping he would leave. He then continued to walk around asking [people] for money. WHO are these kids and WHAT church is this?? I really do think this is just a scam and I’m genuinely concerned about these kids who walk around town for money. Is this a cult? Are these kids kidnapped and being forced to ask for money. I am genuinely wondering if anyone has any information on this as it reoccurs every year and it is dangerous for kids to wander around Fairbanks asking for money.”

Someone in the group decided to investigate and was able to find out the following:

They are Moonies. Yes. They are still around. One was scamming at the Post Office last year and I went in and told the clerk there was a Moonie soliciting in the Post Office and he didn’t even know what a Moonie was.”

Out of everything I read in this particular group thread something stood out to me the most.

He didn’t even know what a Moonie was.”

In case you don’t know what a Moonie is, here is their Official Website.

As an activist who is very focused on doing work regarding the specific cult which abused me; a cult which is still in full operation; Sam Fife’s Move of God, I cannot understand why there are no activists interested in the grave problem facing these religiously trafficked children. So many questions swirl in my head when I think of all these kids.

Where are the ex-Unification Church/Moonies who are focusing in on their own ex-cult, since they would know their system best?

Why do law enforcement, government officials or social services not know about the issue of religious child trafficking? Why aren’t there education seminars for this? What the hell have cult experts been doing for the last 60 years?

I messaged Steve Hassan, an ex-Moonie/Unification Church cult leader and a self-prescribed cult expert. Mr. Hassan has been on national television talking about various cults in the news, mainly Scientology. Mr. Hassan has also dealt with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I was and still am very interested in understanding why an ex-Moonie, who seemingly cares about the cult problem, is not actively involved in focusing on the children of his ex-cult; a cult using child labor trafficking for profit.

I decided to message Mr. Hassan to hopefully receive some honest and forthright answers for my questions.

May 24, 2018

Hi Steve,

I am currently writing an article about religious child trafficking. It was inspired by a post in an Alaska group I’m a part of, where someone witnessed dozens of children selling certain items around parking lots and stores. After investigation, it was found out the children were Moonies who were bused all over to different cities in America to make money for the Unification Church.

A common question which was directed at me was why no one was doing any work to help these children.

With you being an ex-Moonie and cult expert, I plan to mention you in the article. So I wanted to pose the questions and give you an opportunity to respond in your own words.

1. Have you done any work with the federal government in regard to religious child trafficking such as what is the practice of the Moonies using child labor?
2. Do you know of anyone who specifically zeroes in on this cult with focused time to fight it?
3. Have you ever testified in a trial against the Moonies for child trafficking?
4. Can you educate the reader on your understanding of why the federal government allows for or doesn’t fight against the religious trafficking of children?
5. In your opinion, what is a plausible solution to begin protecting these children?
Thank you in advance for your time.

I received this response, not from him, but from someone who is an administrator at their Freedom of Mind organization.

Dear Vennie,

Thank you for contacting Freedom of Mind.
How did you hear about us?
Have you read Steven’s book Combating Cult Mind Control, 2016 edition?
Are you a freelance writer? Do you have an agreement with any major news outlets to publish your article?
Have you contacted the National Human Trafficking Hotline?
Please reply when you have a moment.

There I was, staring at a response promoting a book and asking me if I’d contacted the Human Trafficking Hotline.  I was left with an even deeper curiosity of why Mr. Hassan had worked on other aspects of human trafficking, but the issue of the trafficking of the Moonie children was nowhere to be found.

As an author and activist myself, I would have openly shared the work I’m doing in regard to my ex-cult. I would have shared what other survivors are doing. I would have been concerned and thanked the person for bringing it my attention, because why wouldn’t I want to “combat” religious child trafficking still happening in my ex-cult? I’m currently working toward a campaign targeted at changing laws; something that cult experts should have done decades ago.

I explained in my reply that I am an activist, author and blogger; had conference presented before, was familiar with Mr. Hassan’s book and offered my website for further exploration of me on their end.  I then stated:

I’m specifically looking for direct quotes from him, if he’s willing as an ex-Moonie to answer the questions I sent since that is what I am writing the article about, in order to understand what past and current work has been done specifically by ex-members of the group. 

I was met with silence. Not another response or word, and as I began to research the patterning of cult experts, I understood why. Most of the self-identified cult experts are adults who helped start cults.  Some of them have even capitalized on studying what they started or helped start.  Yet, I couldn’t find work any of them had done to change laws which would help to protect the child victims of cults; like ending religious exemptions laws; laws which allow for faith-healing into death, a problem currently being fought in Idaho, helping work on legal bills which would demand stricter child abuse laws or supporting individuals who do actively work to figure out how to change these laws and deal with current religious cults practicing child labor trafficking.

I realized when it came to activism, there really wasn’t any.  There was just academics for other academics, publications not being used to change laws; and even worse, publications passed off as “new”, which were actually filled with recycled information from years past. How disheartening to see such capitalization on the suffering of humans.

In my extensive research, I have not found anyone in the last 50 years, associated with work to investigate extremist cults, or who identifies themselves as cult experts, aside from Jan Heimlich, author of Breaking Their Will, who has zeroed in on the cusp of the problem; religious child trafficking. In my quest to find a group doing active work to change LAWS; to focus in on the criminality of this issue, I have continuously hit dead ends. If anyone has been overlooked, by all means message me. I’d love to connect with you.

Linda Martin of Silent Cries has a poignant quote. “We don’t want your academics. We want action.”

When I first entered the anti-cult society, I had expectations. I expected to find dedicated activists who had been working to change laws that would protect children. I expected to find support. I expected to find people who really cared about finally getting to hear the voices of us cult children. I expected to find people who were truly interested in knowing how some of us went through so much torture to come out strong, out here fighting against the people who hurt us.

I did not find that. I found an inflated, regurgitated, extremely wordy, academic publication library, which seemingly was more geared toward studying and building “models” for their own problems, the ones many of them helped create in their younger days.  Has this been their way of paying penance, to study what they were apart of and/or helped create? They are seemingly clueless in regard to the true depth of what we cult children have experienced, and they’re seemingly only willing to listen for a fee.

I found gossip and manipulative behavior. I found individuals who were grossly damaged and still deeply rooted in their own trauma base, yet passing themselves off as therapists. I quickly learned that a degree in psychology does not a therapist make, and a PhD doesn’t guarantee a person’s ethical system. Anyone can earn a degree. Anyone can learn anything they wish to learn.  However, applying it in a manner which creates growth, healing and radical change is what truly earns my respect.

I found an anti-cult society who in essence needed you to vote like them, be like them, believe like them, act like them, do what they say, take counseling from them, read all of their very dry and boring books and stay the little victim cult children we’re supposed to be, because that makes for better earnings and for some, ratings. The more damaged the survivor, the better, it has seemed; that way you’ll keep coming back; keep spending the money; keep the organizations alive and give the experts something to keep themselves relevant.

I say with open criticism that in my experience the current cult experts are the people who helped sensationalize the problem of extremist belief and now want to charge us victims a fee to heal from the aftermath of that same problem.

I found a refusal to truly hear what we cult children have to say, some of it critical of their lack of action over the last 50/60 years. They hold no accountability, but they’ll hold our money at a conference, and they’ll feature presentations at that conference, geared toward cult children in order to reel in these unsuspecting cult children to pay for that conference.

This, as I have experienced, is somewhat of a racket, what I now view as the “cult of the anti-cult world“. Their love bombing tactics are outrageous. Their shunning tactics are even worse, should you dare question or have a critical statement that goes against their self-made, elitist society. The personal behaviors of some of the leaders are appalling. The acceptance of these activities by those who stand by and/or fence sit is complacently just as bad.

I could tell you many disgusting stories of a final anti-cult conference I attended, where donation envelopes were lain out on a table. A symbol of tithing at an anti-cult seminar? Shocking, really. I sat in the bar at the hotel as the adult cult children spilled out of the conference room, talking among themselves, enraged at what they’d seen. I listened to all of their complaints. The emotion seemed to quickly pass for them. Even survivors who swore on that day that they’d never give another dime to this organization, have messaged me asking me if I’m going to this organization’s conference this year. Absolutely no way. I said it then, and I say it now, that I won’t support unethical people or organizations after I have personally witnessed their behavior.

I do look back on any negative experience with a severance of thankfulness, because when I get to see the reality of what something or someone is, I have just been protected in my own way of going forward. I have just been handed a crossroad which is curved in my favor because truth has been revealed.  It’s up to me to take the proper path, even if I take it alone, or with a very small group of others.  Some say there is strength in numbers.  I say there is just strength, and the strongest have resiliency for the long run. I say there is strength in the willingness to stand up against non-action and to reveal truth in a critical way, even if it results in more shunning and more blow back.

I recently heard this from one cult expert:

“Anyone can join a cult. Anyone in a vulnerable position can join.”

In regard to adults, this is somewhat truth.  However, this is an incorrect absolute which rules out children.  Children do not get lured or willingly join cults. They are born into them or like myself, are taken into them at a very young age. Experts are seemingly virtually lost when it comes to deeply understanding the reality of the child cult experiencers. It’s an unfortunate dynamic, since many of us have much to share if only these experts placed their egos aside long enough to listen.  We could tell how we survive each day; what we go through; how we cope; how we’ve integrated ourselves; how we become happy and even more, how so many of us have found healing.

After a local psychologist read Cult Child she shared with me that it was the first of its kind for her, since it is a book written from the first person viewpoint of the child, giving a very poignant view of what it’s like to live in the mind of an abused kid. Stories I wrote of being just nine and brutalized sexually in a potato dugout, then straightening my skirt and lugging the pail of potatoes back to the kitchen to keep working allowed her to know my thoughts during this incident, for instance. Details that are important for people who want to work with children or adult children who have survived abuses in these very specific environments can be found in the understanding of the way we think.

I find that most therapists reading my story are people completely unrelated to cults, yet wanting to learn about us since there are more and more of us children seeking therapy.  My story isn’t only for cult children.  It is helpful for all kids who’ve suffered sexual, physical and mental abuse in differing situations.  To know us, is to really understand how we think as we are being abused.  To understand us is to read our stories.

Even the experts can’t answer pertinent questions as to why there are no legal ramifications against religious human trafficking specifically, steering clear of the subject to focus on non-religious human trafficking.

When therapists are open to listening, that is when learning happens. A therapist who is not learning from their patient, may not be an open-minded therapist.

Children and adults are being religiously trafficked on a daily basis. When a cult expert was contacted, the response to me was an attempted book sale and a referral to a hotline who, after some discussion, knows very little about working with cults specifically, which gave me a new understanding of where more work is needed. So the call was fruitful and opened a doorway for me.

The young girls and boys who walk all day to evangelize in neighborhoods are not paid for their work. The young boys and girls selling wares in parking lots are many, not even old enough to be working.  Where is the fight against this religious trafficking?

I’ll never forget what was once said to me at a cult conference. “We are here as a resource hub, not to rescue children in cults.” In the chambers of the cult child world, we call these people the Talamasca of religions/cults.

After observing the lack of activism and the Hollywood chase by the anti-cult world, I knew that this society, made up mainly of ex-cult members and religious minded individuals selling their own brand of faith, was not where I would find the people doing active work, as I originally believed. I swiftly changed my direction, and I found where the action is happening, a society of individuals who were abused kids just like me, yet in different scenarios.  I have met more ex-cult children in this arena than anywhere. I was surprised to find that the majority of adult cult kids are also in an arena more focused on sharing their experiences and healing.

I met an amazing cult family at one of my local shelters where I went to donate some copies of Cult Child, and I was able to get on their list as an emergency contact for cult families specifically. It means I will drop what I’m doing if possible and come to support and listen to their experience with understanding, should a cult family arrive at the shelter and need support. I deeply connect with the children, because I understand how scary the world is after growing up or being taken into a cult. They needed to talk to someone who is like them. I can speak their language. This is where we adult cult kids have so much to offer in this arena.  I urge cult survivor children to make contact, if at all possible, as shelters are always looking for volunteer support people.  Those of us having cult experience as children are the best suited to connect and support these children.

There is a small army of us who refuse to be compliant with the old guard, anti-cult society’s need for control and the dictating of what the truth of child cult survival is like. We stand on the side observing, waiting, watching to see if action follows their attempts to momentarily sensationalize various stories. We wait, because after they are done, after networks have made their money off of the sales of commercial slots, giving little back to those individuals who shared their heartache openly, who have families to support, trying to send children to school, pay bills each month and live the every day semantics of life and have to return to their regular lives and keep moving on and surviving in this world, we will still be here, strong, to step in where we should have been asked to step in right from the beginning.

It is these observations which keep me proudly independent and unafraid to criticize or be criticized.

I also encourage you to find your local CASA chapter and join to be a child advocate specifically for cult children. This is a need in many communities across America.  It can also be a very cathartic process when our hearts are open and understanding with these children.  Change starts with action. Let’s end religious human trafficking.

Remember that there are many generations of cult children who exist.  The cult of Christianity helped found America.  So the trauma of cult life is centuries old.  There is no title to fit that.  I know an adult who is a fifth generation child born into a cult.  Every cult survivor is different.  There is no one model to fit us.  There may be a model to fit individuals who start and help start cults, but there is absolutely no one system which will ever apply in regard to the coping mechanisms and healing for the victims they left behind.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and other publications. She is a also a poet and hostess of the podcast Survivor Voices Show.

Why Writing and Living My Cause Is One Of the Most Important Things I Do

When I was a small girl and well into puberty, I lived an abused, contained life through which I was disallowed any individual choice or voice.  As I grew into my early preteen and teenage years, I found secret ways to write small poems and release emotions I needed to purge.  In the Alaskan tundra, down off of Richardson Highway, on a cult compound, deep inside forests of evergreen trees, are the remnants of thirty five-year-old paper journals I hid there as a child.

After leaving Sam Fife’s Move of God cult, I spent my life writing, not as a forced concentration, but as a part of who I am and was. I have always written in journals, on remnants of paper, glued or tucked inside of those journals, and jokingly laugh that when I die, my sons and grandchildren will have a field day going through my writing.  I sometimes envision my granddaughters as older women, laughing as they read my thoughts and the most secret parts of my heart.

When I decided to open up my online store, Designs by Vennie, I passionately wanted to have products which are unique to the inspiration of writing out our trauma and documenting our triumphs.  I also wanted to wear my cause, Survivor Voices.

Last year was a year of creating digital art and taking photographs.  I was releasing so many of my memories through the layers and collages I created.  I chose the ones which impact me the most as covers for my journals.

deprogrammed_journal

Deprogram Journal: a place to dump the layers of the thoughts that are not your authentic ones.

buy-now

I created t-shirts and matching caps to support wearing this cause of us survivors being able to own our voice.  We have the right to speak our truth.  We have the right to be believed.  We have the right for justice and respect.  We are not mentally ill.  Our abusers are.  I want this apparel to be a simple statement which can start a strong conversation.

survivor_voices_women39s_vneck_tshirt

Wear your cause as a strong survivor voice!

buy-now

I loved this watch because it has multiple colorful bands to choose from and brings color into my wardrobe.  It’s also sporty and inspires me to go take walks, since it is sweat proof and sporty.  We survivors deserve to love ourselves.  We should go outside and get into nature to remind ourselves that life is worth living. Wearing a watch is also good for the writing process.  If you have a memory or thought to write in your journal, you will be able to immediately note the time, which is an important part of documenting our journey.

mind_drip_watch

Time will tell.

buy-now

I hope you will peruse the products I have created for Designs by Vennie and support your own journey in writing while also supporting a fellow child abuse survivor.

May your life be filled with color.  May your pages be filled with the truth of you.  May you proudly wear your voice, start a conversation and without shame, tell your story.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and other publications. She is a also a poet and hostess of the podcast Survivor Voices Show.

Nature and Love Are Crucial To My Mental Health

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I am heady from the smell of ocean. I walk slowly to the vast, rolling surges of white foam.  My son, the cinematographer, snaps photos of my bliss, following silently as I dance and skip. Life becomes different when I am with the sea. It is humbling for me. It is reminding me that I am small within the realm of infinite reality.

I am surrounded by my family. Babies toddle about, smashing sand into hollow, plastic turtles, their faces giggling.  This joy that has emerged from the depths of my ancestral traumas and struggle, has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the small nuances of life.  You see, this journey has been a scattered learning curve filled with crashes and burns. I have been into the depths of its darkness and risen into the brilliance of its light. I will not fall again.

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I press my toes into the sand, aware of the soft scrub of the grains against my feet. I enjoy the firmness of this beach, impacted, forcing me to dig into and be present with the awareness of this feeling. Grounded inside the sensation, I let the earth infuse with my skin, sending her energy into my spirit.  She is soft and firm.  I am safe above her.  There is no rumbling of engines or honking of horns.  I am here in this moment completely alone.

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The wind lifts my dress. I am in surround sound with the soft roar of the waves. They are a symphony rising and falling, reminding me that in an instance, swells can turn. She reassures me, that even if pulled into here tidal arms, sleep will be cool and peaceful. I feel every cell filling each drop of her endless depths move inside my skin. We resonate together, as even the seagulls crying out to the fish become a faded echo.  On this shore, I see dimensions I’ve never traveled before.  I see possibility.  I see me in the sea.

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I wonder what happens inside of the mind and spirit when a human just walks into the sea? Eventually the body becomes numb from the dropped temperature. I imagine there is scramble and a struggle against the pulling of the waves as the limbs lose the ability to fight.  An acceptance washes over when the mind realizes it will never return to shore. The eyes close and gulping in the salt, the waves become one with the spirit here. Inside this liquid world, beings exist, the same as me; different environment; Otherkin.  It is not a walk I desire.  It is a wonder, a curiosity, a movement of my mind.

I am grateful for my life. It is big within this smallness. It is filled with surviving and thriving. It sings the songs of promise. It tells me to hold on, keep fighting and stay strong.

I stand inside this diminutive yet immense piece of planet; one so beautiful, yet filled with abominations beyond the imagination. I must return to the reality of my mission; my dedication, to make a difference. But just for today, I escape, just me and the waves.  I am infused by the sea and my family.  This is where I am balanced; when all is calm; where there is no storm; when we drift gently and in harmony with the tides.

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Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and other publications.  She is a also a poet and hostess of the podcast Survivor Voices Show.