Swaddle Your Heart

Where do I go when I float?

Away from the frayed tentacles

Of memories and ligaments,

Strained from twisting, turning,

Child, they said, this hurts me

More than it hurts you. No.

I go back to moments and sit,

Quiet inside the hopelessness it’s

Good to remember this; to never forget

Lest I leave behind the reasons why

I fight until my brows ache.

You got lucky if you didn’t get raped.

It takes the soul away; flight, it

Wanders in dark nights and mires,

Like quicksand, it is the hand of

Every time we were violated

Again and again and again.

Rock with the sadness, my loves.

Hold it bravely in your tender arms,

Like a baby you can re-love the child;

The defiled despair living there

In the core that is shattered and torn.

Fly with the visions, sweet thrivers,

Take back your mind. Release the ghosts.

You are not that anymore; not the

Forgotten child in the chains

Of monsters and madness. No.

You face yourself in the mirror;

Command the past and swaddle

It into the depth of your soft heart.

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.

A Different Kind Of Damaged

You are a different kind

Of damaged, chaotic mind

Confused you use words

As projection swords and

I see the hurt behind the eyes

The reflection as your soul dies

Lie by lie by lie; the ones you

Tell yourself are true so you

Have a good enough excuse

To dart the arrows with no regard

Of the blood flown from hearts

Torn apart by your anger and

My mind says danger. Danger.

There is pain too deep to touch,

A hole that one could fall through

To end up in a deep abyss

Of your untethered loneliness.

Such a sunflower shouldn’t die

Drowning inside an inability to cry,

You sip illusion, a savory wine;

Your mirror, a self-made design.

Everything that makes you wince

Tells you what needs love’s attention

As you ignore. Ignore. Ignore;

The parts of you so bruised and sore.

I can only sit and observe,

The winding streets of your hurt

Hovering above the purity

Stolen from your childhood

An inability to develop so you

Scrambled and scratched your

Way through life; numb the wounds

With bottles of booze, laugh away

The moments draining your happy,

Regret and listing what you’re lacking.

I feel slightly stoic and disinterested,

An odd reaction, to not feel sorry

For the churning of your own hurting.

When light floats inside your air

You call the darkness; safer there?

No more minutes can pass me by.

I’m swiftly running out of time; must

Focus forward; head held high

Silently take the podium and speak.

Empowered woman. Empowered me.

©️ VennieKocsis

A Different Kind Of Narcissist

I didn’t know they could exist. I had seen signs of what I thought might be a mixture of two states of being which are on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. So it was that I began to observe what I call the Narcissistic Empath to see if I could find a pattern in this type of human.

As I have observed over the years, a pattern which emerged for me was something new and undefinable. It wavered between Narcissism and Empathy. Yet, it was not completely either of the two.

Being an Empath (highly sensitive person) my intuition is finely tuned. I can go into the multiple ways in which I “see and feel” human beings. The reason I share this part of me is to give you a glimpse of how I see others.

I am a behavior watcher. I listen to words, and then I sit back and deeply observe the individual’s behavior. This behavioral pattern which was emerging in this type of person felt like something slightly different.

After having an association with a couple of them for a few years, I now see a definition for this type of human, the Narcissistic Empath.

How can this be? I asked myself this question. How can one be both a Narcissist AND an Empath?

According to psychology, narcissists cannot feel at all. Albeit, I am no scientist with a PhD after my name. I am a self-educated person who has spent hours and years studying psychological subjects out of sheer curiosity and need to understand the workings of the human mind. I began this study to understand my own childhood and journey in life.

When the realization sunk into me that this is what I was observing, I set out to specifically find personality types that fit these exact criteria. Three main patterns emerged in my observation.

1. Narcissistic Empaths are very loving and protective with those they care deeply for. They are softer with the way they communicate with those people. They are less apt to be cruel. They are more sensitive to their loved ones’ needs. It is genuine sensitivity. They are patient and aware of their words.

2. They don’t give a damn about people they do not know or have an interest in only sexually and will often make these types their targets. They target strangers. With strangers there is no emotional connection for them.

3. They are palpable. They change. I watched one associate spend a long period of time in a very positive mindset. They were very dedicated to their creative craft. Their interactions were loving and kind. Then an event happened in their life which hurt them deeply. Enter their Narcissistic state of being, in which they are currently sunk. The projector behavior has been the most disparaging to observe. They teeter from positivity to downright meanness, depending on which way their current state of being has leaned.

The Narcissistic Empath seems to be one who teeter totters from one side to the other depending on who they are dealing with and what their personal situation is. It is natural for all humans to have a change in behavior if things in their life get rough.

However, a Narcissistic Empath will take it to the extreme, projecting in vicious and often very convoluted ideals. Yet, what is the difference between a Narcissist and a Narcissistic Empath? The Narcissistic Empath will still be kind to those they love and actually feel it deeply. This is different from the Narcissist who feels nothing and will, without care, abuse those they love. The full on Narcissist fakes their empathy. A Narcissistic Empath fakes nothing. Their Narcissism is real and so is their empathy.

There are many quotes available from “gurus”, urging humans to rid themselves of ego. Yet, the definition of ego is simply a self-identity. So, in fact, it is necessary to have an ego/self-identify. The inflation of the self-identity into an unrealistic self-view is what creates the definition for being egoistic. There should be balance in the human ego. It is the center of who we are. When there is unbalance in our authentic self-identity, it is akin to a rocking boat on a choppy sea.

My questions regarding the Narcissistic Empath kept me on a path of investigative observation.

Could the Empathic side heal the narcissistic side of these humans? If so, what would it take? Was it possible to have both a cold and unfeeling part and a deeply loving part; to switch back and forth between the two? Oh yes. Humans do it every day. Yet it’s not Bipolar or even Borderline Personality Disorder in what I have observed. Still, these people are different, from bipolar and BPD people.

The Empath sees life deeper and in a completely different way, based often out of cosmology minded DNA. The Empath feels things the that non-Empaths are feeling. The Empath absorbs. They see into others; their pains and passions, and I wondered if part of the Narcissistic Empath was also a shutting down to feeling because of the heaviness it can sometimes carry, to be a highly sensitive person. I know of Empaths who do drugs or drink to numb the influx of emotion, using synthetics as a blocker, unable to create their own sense of balance by getting to know themselves deeply.

I believe that the Narcissistic Empath can heal by making deep positive choices toward self-love and having willingness to do concentrated work on themselves.

If they clean their social environment and the self-deprecating thoughts that they use to both degrade themselves and justify the times they lash out, I am of the belief that eventually, with daily routine, the Narcissistic Empath will heal the “dead” part of themselves and be able to become an Embodied Empath, fully in their power and sight, knowing how to balance it and throw away the un-needed junk.

I am observing a few such individuals to continue studying this state of being. I want to see which paths they each decide to take over the next few years. I want to know which part of them will “win” based on which path they choose.

How do you tell the difference? That is a loaded question since Narcissists are adept at faking empathy. However, one thing I’ve noticed about the Narcissist. If one knows what to look for, they’re not that good at faking empathy at all. The sign of their narcissism will always show its face.

With a Narcissistic Empath, there is a turning which happens. The empathy is consistent, present, and genuine. There seems to always be a major event that swings them to the side of shutting down all emotion. They make it through small bumps, but the larger ones make their empathy disappear. Then the Narcissistic phase will remain until they heal the pain. Once the pain is healed, they move back into their genuine Empath selves.

It’s like a mold which needs to be removed and the only one who can remove it is the homeowner.

This is where the work comes in. This is where humans tend to falter, and understandably so. It hurts to heal.

We must face all the torn parts of ourselves that are triggered when we are hurt. Yet, our self-identity can be that of a torn shirt. We grab our needle and thread and stitch the hole. Sometimes we have to re-stitch it, but we stitch it all the same.

So then, we can also stitch the patterns of our pain into beautiful patch works, covering ourselves with the finished blanket of self induced empathy. This, dear ones, is a path to self-healing.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and the hostess of Survivor Voices Show. She is an advocate, poet and artist.

Plasma and Jasmine

Babies are born to mothers
Who smother their faces
With kisses so in later years
They can reminisce about
The times they were loved,
Smile at pictures and haircuts
Remember what is; what was.

This distant, unknown feeling,
A Daughter to a host,
I cannot connect my soul,
Never recall the soft
Loving arms of her; she is
Fog wisps blowing distant
Narcissistic and wounded.

Not everything on this terrain
Is born and grown the same.
We were children being hurt,
Seen and not heard,
Dissociated to white clouds,
Horses and song birds but
We never heard the words.

No encouragement, you see
We were the scourge of earth,
Sinners and whores and
The bearer of scars from
Battles and wars with
The worst of humanity.
When you have seen
With the eyes the way
A spirit can die slowly
You never view this place
The same; in a way
The Loved observe.

Soft, the colors speak
In languages, singing,
And suddenly the layers fade
Nothing matters, not the
Tatters of Aftermath or
The worn out Disasters;
Life is lived floating
Inside the hoping like
Plasma and Jasmine
Swaying in the winds.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and the hostess of Survivor Voices Show. She is an advocate, poet and artist.

You Watch

Do you watch quietly, from distances? Do you wonder if I believe myself to be what you believe me to be? Do you mystify me? A pedestal, you see, is a long way to fall when it’s kicked from beneath. Don’t recreate me. Let me Be. I am windstorms changing with the ebbing flow of the grid. Observe this. It is you. You just haven’t realized it.

Vennie Kocsis is the author of Cult Child and hostess of Survivor Voices Show

Child Abuse Injuries


These are the days when my childhood haunts me; when my hips ache like they’ve been beaten with a mallet; when my neck goes tight all the way down to my lower back, and the irritation sits deep in my throat. These are the days I hold private, away from the possibilities of careless minds. These are the days I ask why they did that to me as a child, leaving me with sporadic days where my sacrum cries out in pain from the shatters, and I struggle to move myself around, when all I want to do is keep my legs propped up to relieve the pressure from my hips. When physical pain is a result of childhood beatings, and there is no cure, a rage fills you, because you didnt consent to be broken. So I go quiet, and I cry through it, and then I rise the fuck back up.

“Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” by Zack Bonnie

 “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Lily Tomlin

Let Me Be

art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Accented with unique and relevant art by Jonathan Weiner of San Francisco, CA,”Dead Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir“, by Zack Bonnie, reveals with precision the mind bending abuse enacted inside of the youth reform industry. “The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry”, by Mother Jones, explains the birth of this industry and provides the following graph.  CEDU had roots in Synanon and began in 1967.

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It was indeed an industry of profit as parents were indoctrinated with the belief that any slightly “off” behavior by their teenager was a sign of serious problems, resulting in parents not only giving away their children with the belief they were helping them, but additionally being swindled out of millions of dollars.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” opens with Bonnie taking a ski trip with his father. Subsequent events find a fourteen-year-old Bonnie checked into a youth reform facility in Idaho. He is tricked, and left there against his will. Thus begins the enactment of Bonnie’s mental shattering. Overnight, he joins the ranks of the large number of throwaway youth in the eighties, who eventually were labeled “Generation X“.

With every phone call monitored and Bonnie’s parents receiving false reports of his progress, he becomes trapped in an intricately woven scheme of abuse.  He has no means of escape.  He is unable to relay his alarming conditions to anyone.  Forced through bizarre, psychological techniques to become emotionally naked, Bonnie is often left confused about what is real in his mind.  The children are left unsure of what a right answer to staff questions should be.  They are love bombed, then verbally abused, with severely psychotic mind control rituals. The CEDU facilitators often use the children’s personal family dynamics to manipulate them.

“To not share would be to betray them and the confidences that they shared.  I said the most innermost things that made my voice tremble to admit, bringing an ancient anger and self-hatred to the surface.  It wasn’t just the situation; it was where it was taking me, inside myself.

I’m useless.”

Who used to say that to you?” Keith’s soft voice back at me.

My father.”

Your father called you useless?”

Yeah.

Had he really? Yes, he had.

Say it again. ‘My father said I’m useless.’ Good. It hurt you? Yeah. You can say that again, that’s riiiigth.”

Tess and Keith repeated what we said a lot. Just about every time a kid in my group said something, Jasper, Tess, or Keith was there to repeat it. This is how we always seemed to get roped into going deeper within ourselves.

Rituals involve teenagers verbally confronting themselves and each other.  Every detail of their life is invited to be shared as their overseeing handlers note them to use against the children later.  Rounded into groups, they are put through almost daily, mind bending sessions of unimaginable attacks as staff strategically controls the children into turning on one another.

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art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Zack describes session after session, as every part of the children’s emotions are controlled and manipulated.

Bianca, what do you remember about your mom? She used to have a name for you, too, didn’t she?”

I guess so.” Bianca Taylor picked up her cue from Tess.

Yeah. What was her favorite nickname for that beautiful little tyke? Can you remember for me?

She used to call me Rainbow...” Bianca started crying. I wanted to start crying from watching Bianca, who I’d never really even talked to. Seeing raw sadness like that felt like a punch to the solar plexus.

Toughen up.

The berating of kids is a carefully crafted tool.  Broken down into nothing, with their self-image lost and lacking any emotional worth, the children become easier for the staff to manipulate.  Using every piece of their fragile lives, the staff takes as many opportunities as possible to verbally abuse the children.

I can’t hear you, Bianca. A spoiled little bitch? Spoiled little bitch. LITTLE BITCH! Why did he call you that? That’s right, let me hear you.”

Go for it, Wally…GET IT OUT, PEOPLE. That’s RIGHT!”

A SLUT! Who said that to little Daphne? You really let that little girl down, didn’t you?

Yeah? When? After the abortion? Say that again, Narissa – you’ve got to stop being that girl with the reputation? Look at her!

Here’s some tissues, Bianca. Let it go.”

Catch terms such as “bans“, when children are forbidden to speak to one another, and “bad rapping“, children saying bad things about each other, are among a plethora of rituals used to manipulate the minds of vulnerable teenagers.  Meanwhile, the children are allowed to smoke cigarettes and other self-harming behaviors, geared to feed into their anxiety, which grows, the longer they are forced to remain inside of the program.

Bonnie’s writing style allows his reader to easily flow between what he is forced to witness happening to other children and the silent thoughts he is disallowed to ever let leave his lips lest there be intense punishment.  The children are trained to adhere to a system filled with mistrust and expected betrayal of one another.  They are strip searched upon admittance to the program.  They are heavily worked.  They are humiliated in front of one another.

Yet, even trapped inside such a sordid system of complicated tier goals, systematic punishments, humiliation and anger, Bonnie’s resilience becomes his counter weight as he journals.

“Guess what I went through my truth prophet August 9 & 10 and I found out that I basically I was a dick at home. I have been mulling it over in my mind and I know the point of raps and prophets.  Just to make you cry a lot so naturally being the way I am I didn’t cry. – Author journal entry, 11 August 1988 (one month at RMA)”

Through this writing, Bonnie brilliantly flows between descriptive enactment of the program and his attempt to retain a critical thinking mind.  Bonnie takes his reader’s hand and pulls them directly into the center of his deeply intense experiences.

Bonnie navigates the CEDU system until he can no longer withstand the thin line between the reality in his mind and the constant psychological belittlement he daily endures.  One day Bonnie decides to go on the run.  Will he make it out?

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” reveals the sadistic truth of the youth reform’s use of mental and physical abuse to control children.  Never has a book had an impact on my own teenage memories since I was a young person reading “Run, Baby, Run” by Nicky Cruz. The detail through which Bonnie brings his story to life is exceptionally mapped out.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” is guaranteed to make you intensely feel. You will be outraged. You will ask why and how a human being can do such things to children. You will laugh, and you will cry. You will cheer for the incredible strength and courage Zack journeys into as he brings his teenage memories to life on the pages of this exceptional book.

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Zack Bonnie

Zack Bonnie is in the process of re-launching his website, complete with an audio-book of  DEAD, INSANE OR IN JAIL: A CEDU MEMOIR, which is available in paperback and e-book. Additionally, he is beginning the publishing submission process for the sequel, entitled: DIJ: OVERWRITTEN.   All of Zack’s work can be explored at his WEBSITE.

To subscribe and stay informed as Zack continues developing his literature, please sign up for his NEWSLETTER.  You may also follow Zack on Facebook and Twitter.

Personal Note: Sometimes a book is so well written, it sinks into the skin of a trauma survivor like me, who found incredible familiarity in the words I read.  This author touched my heart deeply when I met him. The ache in his eyes was familiar. The strength was admirable. The energy was filled with the passion for advocacy. So, dear Zack, please forgive my delay in this long overdue review of your book. I truly wanted to give you the honor you so rightly deserve. Love, Vennie Kocsis 

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and the hostess of Survivor Voices Show and her live Sunday broadcast Off the Cuff. She is an advocate, poet and artist