From Dissociation To Association

“Elite Hide and Seek” digital art by Vennie Kocsis

You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” Brene’ Brown

I spent a very large part of my life dissociated as I grew up in extreme trauma. My days were carried out in dissected sections of memory and darkness which were always merging and weaving together in confused images, memories, words and off putting smells. Depending on the circumstances happening in my life, my stress levels, whether I was in memory immersion and writing, or going about my everyday activities, my brain was constantly moving around chaotically from section to section as it navigated itself.

I was on a multi-layered auto-pilot, flying through life in a fog that morphed through endless dimensional spaces without any organization. Dissociation disorders may ensue when dissociation is used as a way of surviving complex and sustained trauma during childhood, the period of human progression when the brain and personality are still developing.

I share my own story of living with dissociation disorder from my personal perspective.  I am not self-diagnosed.  I have been through extensive testing for psychological diagnoses which have allowed me to understand myself and why I see and experience this planet and its society as I do. Please don’t diagnose yourself or Google your symptoms. There are a vast array of dissociation disorders and not all of them include identity struggle.  It’s so very important to me that I did not talk about living with this without having an actual valid, psychological diagnosis in my hands.

It is not an easy diagnosis to discuss since people have pre-conceived notions of what it’s like living with this impairment. First, many people find it difficult to wrap their head around and ask my questions such as, “Is it like being on LSD?” Not even close. It’s much more humanly complex.

I have never experienced dissociation disorder such as it is portrayed in movies like “Sybil“, “Split” or shows like”The United States of Tara.”  When I read the book, “When Rabbit Howls”, I felt angry inside. I felt the psychiatrist who treated her and wrote the book grossly exploited Truddi Chase instead of helping her. She died young. She died miserable. She died still living with dissociation. It’s certainly not like “Fight Club” or “American Psycho.”

I do not believe in the ideal that different people live inside my brain. Instead I view my brain like a super computer with differing drives created during that childhood trauma. These drives or canisters, inside of my brain are precious to me. After all, these sections of my brain stayed active and kept me alive in times when I fought death.  They deserve, in the least, to be held with a bit of humility and reverence. In essence, I have deep respect for my own brain.

Through most of my life, from the time I was taken into Sam Fife’s Move of God cult at three years old, I lived continually drifting in and out of my brain’s canisters as both my long term and short term memory stayed dissected.  I never felt that I was becoming different people. I simply lost time and memory.

What Happens When We Dissociate?

I had memory gaps. I said and did things I couldn’t recall. I was confused. I checked out when there was too much stimuli around me. Had you looked at me in those days, I would have seemed present. I actually was.  I was both “there” and “over there” because living with dissociation involves being in multiple spaces at one time.  Living with dissociation means that your conscious mind might not remember these stressful moments. I wrote about my childhood near death dissociation experiences in detail in my memoir, “Cult Child.”

When I say my brain works like a computer, I describe it this way because it was designed through childhood trauma to have many different sections I identify as hard drives. It created this special computer system in order to keep me alive as a child. There were parts of me which needed to stay and parts of me which needed to go away in order for me to survive.

For most of my life, I was operating back and forth, moving my brain between these different drives, opening and closing browser windows in my life without much of a conscious awareness about the way I was living. 

Amnesia and transitional states of being have been the main way that dissociation disorder has manifested itself in my life. I have lost gaps of memories which at times, can be daunting and haunting. Such as when one of my children remembers something fun from their childhood, something we did together, and I wrack my brain to bring the details into view. Such as when someone reminds you of a whole afternoon I spent with them, but I don’t remember any of it. 

Science has made incredible advancements in the study of mind sciences and understanding what happens to the human brain when it is held in traumatic dissociation. 

One such study states:

Machine-learning and neuroimaging techniques have been used to accurately distinguish between individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and healthy individuals, on the basis of their brain structure, in new research part funded by the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Could Multiple Personality Disorder explain life, the Universe and everything? A new scientific paper argues the condition now known as “dissociative identity disorder” might help us understand the fundamental nature of reality. In 2015, doctors in Germany reported the extraordinary case of a woman who suffered from what has traditionally been called “multiple personality disorder” and today is known as “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). The woman exhibited a variety of dissociated personalities (“alters”), some of which claimed to be blind. Using EEGs, the doctors were able to ascertain that the brain activity normally associated with sight wasn’t present while a blind alter was in control of the woman’s body, even though her eyes were open. Remarkably, when a sighted alter assumed control, the usual brain activity returned.” Scientific American

A 2006 study, Dissociative Amnesia and DSM-IV-TR Cluster C Personality Traits stated, “Dissociative amnesia is a disorder characterized by retrospectively reported memory gaps. These gaps involve an inability to recall personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature. Dissociative amnesia most commonly occurs in the presence of other psychiatric conditions, particularly personality disorders.

As defined by Tulving, humans have three major types of memory.

1. Episodic memory is remembering events as one would recall a movie.

2. Semantic memory is knowledge about the world and memory of words, dates, and facts.

3. Procedural memory is the ability to remember motor routines, such as combing one’s hair.

Loss of any of these types of memory can arise from organic damage to the neocortex, as in the case of a traumatic brain injury, a cerebral vascular accident (CVA), a space-occupying lesion, or a toxic exposure. Alternatively, memory deficits can result from extreme psychological stress, as seen in dissociative disorders.” National Center for Biotechnology Information

All humans have a propensity to dissociate if the circumstances are right. I’m referring to non-drug induced [LSD, Shrooms, Ayahusca, etc.] dissociation. Examples of non-drug induced dissociation triggers would be incidences such as a rape or a car accident, soldiers battling in war conditions and extreme fear and little children in unknown and physically, mentally and sexually violent environments. As this applies to my experiences, I lived in full blown dissociation as a child. In a complete state of escape and survival, my brain dissected and turned its many wheels rapidly, shifting in and out of differing states of being, which left my brain in a constant spin.

Living in dissociation was a confusing and frustrating existence. I morphed through states of being without warning. It manifested mostly in memory gaps. I didn’t understand my body signals. I didn’t know dissociation existed. It was important for me to put a name to these canisters so that I could easily identify these sections of my brain. To others I sometimes presented as having it together and sometimes to others I’m sure I appeared very borderline in my behaviors and personality, or a forgetful and flighty person.

The forgetfulness which accompanies living with dissociative disorder is very daunting. It creates a platform for deep victim blaming. I was called selfish, flaky, inattentive and other things. It is difficult to explain this disorder to others. Often, we are accused of using mental impairments as excuses. This is very presumptive since so many of us with mental impairments would gladly get a new brain if that was possible.

I used to say that I’d trade my dissociation, childhood trauma, TBI and NDE rocked brain for a normal one if I could. I don’t know what it’s like to live with an unimpaired brain. Yet, the ways my brain is able to function after integrating dissociation has opened up amazing channels of discovery for me. Now, I wouldn’t trade my brain for anyone’s.

The journey of integrating, organizing and accessing all of my brain’s compartments has taken time and is a continued work in progress. The years and every day moments that dissociation stole from my life, and that of my children, can never be retrieved. It can be re-formed, though, re-molded and sculpted into something new.

Writing was the main way I could put a tangible perspective on what had been done to my brain. I had random information missions my brain enacted, one significant part of my journey I share in this post, The Dolls. These events were part of what kick started one of the most fascinating journeys I’ve taken into myself thus far. Since then, I have opened more compartments of my brain, dissecting and categorizing as I search through their many libraries for more truth. I light up the rooms and access what my brain has recorded. 

The more I have allowed myself to access and scribe the information I stored as a child, the less I find myself in flight and flight response.  While I find isolation a necessary part of my life and maintaining my mental health, I am no longer afraid of my own brain. I have embraced my mind and every bit of information it holds inside. 

Taking the step into acceptance began a movement from dissociation to association.  Instead of checking out, I began to check in. Instead of running, I stood in the moment and held hands with my emotions. I stopped fighting my grief and my tears. I faced it, gazing eye to eye with memories so terrible they will always leave my mind blown.

If you organically remember it, it’s your truth.” Hillary Whitaker Clark, PsyD   

I want to briefly share my understanding of DID as learned through therapy and the lengthy testing I’ve taken over the years which has allowed me to chart my organization process. Unbeknownst to me when I met my psychologist, I would come to understand how much writing “Cult Child” had allowed me to naturally enact organizational processes.

I could not write my trauma until I created a timeline of the memories which are stored in the many canisters in my brain.

I worked to build coping strategies for the side effects of exploring my own childhood torture.  I released all outside stressors. I keep my mental environment as clean as possible. I stepped away from toxic people and situations. Doing this work requires staying inward focused on the process of staying in association with myself instead of dissociating.

Where disassociation was a seemingly constant attempt to avoid my life, association is a process of embracing my life and standing within it. This doesn’t mean every day I skip through roses. For me, this means I remain mindful of staying rooted in my currently reality.

Sometimes our current reality feels so damn crappy.  So what do we do? 

Humanity has been in “fix it” mode with each other for a very long time. I am a deep supporter of solutions as they apply to inner healing. What if healing involves the simple act of accepting our current emotion?

I tried this perspective, and actually found comfort in it. I can use a hypothetical situation where maybe you are feeling deeply hurt, sad and attacked by someone you felt you have given as much support to as you possibly could. 

Here I can show you the difference between reacting from a place of triggered dissociation and standing inside of awareness and association of the emotion.

Dissociation goes on the defense in situations where we felt attacked. We would open that brain canister and unleashed an arsenal. Dissociation releases an army and doesn’t ended until it has finished the war.

Association instead takes to focusing on self-care. We understand that situations will be as they are. We process the anger so that we can sit with the pain and monitor how our emotions were doing. We rest. We write a lot. We focus ourselves on processing the emotions. There is no processing in dissociating; only shut down.  Emotions can only be processed through association.

I take baths. Water soothes my skin, quiets my mind and allows me to drift around in meditative REM states of mind.  I make collage art. I sketching and release situations from my cells.

All of my post-cult life, I’ve dissociated from my pain, letting my brain remain scattered, satiating the emotions in unhealthy ways, and I ran a muck in life, displaying self-deprecating behaviors. 

Associating with my emotions, feeling them instead of numbing myself, let me become a friend of my sadness, a sister to my hurt, a scribe for my memories and a mother to my inner child. 

My creativity has blossomed since I made nice with myself. I have held the hands of my guilt and read her palms. I have sat beside my failures and listened to our laments. I drained the river of my denial and embraced the power to change my behaviors. I have grieved the lost years and the erased existence of who I was. I became a carpenter of my own environment, building boundaries and erecting my own mending fence.

When we live in association with our senses so much about how we see the world changes.  Many people live their lives trying to change everything about who they are in order to fit the world. I have changed my world to fit the reality of my life. I am who I am, and releasing all toxic behaviors, I embrace my needs.

Acceptance has made me my closest associate.  I can be my harshest critic. I have to depend on myself to refocus into mindfulness of the why, where, when and how. I awaken to see the day as it is, standing still in this place which allows me to exist.

Remember who you were meant to be before they formed you into who they wanted you to be. That is who you truly are. It’s waiting for you to release it.

“My Inner Child” photo by Vennie Kocsis, 2014

“There are two people who experience complex-PTSD. Soldiers and abused children. Children should never knew the horrors of war.” Vennie Kocsis

Vennie Kocsis’s is soon to release her second and final edition of her memoir, “Cult Child.” Grab a first edition before they’ disappear!

The Eye Of the Mother

This past decade has been filled with many turns in the bumpy road I have traveled. I have pushed through deep depressions and sad realizations about this human existence. I have absorbed and grown my mindfulness and ability to receive and give love.

I have waded through dissociative disorder peaks, organizing the many compartments of my mind and doing the work to continue the integration of my brain. I have had situations which left me riddled with deep hurt. I spent time grieving, as twice I lost individuals who are extremely dear to me.

My heart has ached. I trudged through the self-accountability of learning how to re-parent adult children. I accepted and owned my own parental failures as lessons, not losses. I faced myself and my own behaviors, including how they affected those around me. I held all of my shame in my palms. I cried the guilt out of my soul, letting it release and evaporate into the soft air of Puget Sound.

My. Rainier, WA

I lamented lost loves. I clawed my way out of self-abusive behaviors and self-deprecating lifestyles. I ejected people from my life in order to preserve my own mental health and balance. I purged the pain of these difficult decisions. I endured the aftermath of their rage and blame. I stayed rooted within myself.

The decade came to an end with a bang. I realized how much I have risen, as I remained valiantly standing quietly in my truth. My defenses don’t matter anymore, only my boundaries. I have congratulated myself for making this much progress thus far.

There are many roads still left for me to travel. I am writing out the dusted shelves holding more memories behind closed doors in my brain. I am stepping through each door as they open, scribing out the facts and conversations holding answers to my existence and childhood experiences.

This life has been surreal. Being a cult child has been an experience which has let me feeling like I lived a life separate from my current existence. I am my own investigative journalist diving into my DNA as I retrieve the memories my trauma has hidden from me until I was ready to receive them. Unfolding into myself requires a specifically calm environment. I have learned to demand this space.

I had a plan to do an intentional painting on New Year’s Day. I wanted to move into this new decade setting more intentions of my body, mind and spirit continuing to heal.

Yet, when a baby is on its way in a family, they have a mind of their own when it comes to arrival. Hence, my fifth grandchild decided to enter the world on January 31st. I placed the painting plans aside to be with my family as new life arrived.

Zephyr; a gentle breeze

She is a peaceful, quiet little one. I am thankful that our forward generation grows and builds itself with love. Growing up without any family, I cherish these children, and the many ways they bring me moments of smiles and love, reminding me that good childhoods exist.

When mom arrived back home and settled in to rest, I returned to my original intention of creating my new decade painting.

I set up my camera on high speed mode to record the process so I could both share it and look back on what emerged. I also like to view through my phone as I’m creating art, as it gives me a different perspective and can inspire new ideas.

I sat down with a blank canvas, gathering old paints which were soon to expire, wanting to utilize them efficiently. I had no plan in my mind of what I would create. I closed my eyes, connected to my spirit, breathed deeply and began.

I first began to release a figure representing past pain, dark and brooding, filled with thick mire and a shrinking, red heart. Then I paused again and with another exhale I let my tools begin to cover the darkness, birthing new layers through space, dimension and color.

I built up the color, seeing the eye of my spiritual mother, hearing the soft whispering of her gentle words from within my own cells, leading me to the infinite parts of my existence and exploding above the path which is my way forward.

The Process Of Creating;

click to watch

Eye Of the Mother

It is unknown, what is to come. With a heart of hope, I stand inside my authenticity. I am formed from the gravel my spirit has pushed its way up through. I have swam inside of the depths of this human abyss with only my nose barely above death, to breathe and stand here in silence.

I have no resolutions going forward. My intention is softly rooted within my heart, my bones, my skin and my brain. May we all look toward ourselves with a love and patience blooming with self acceptance.

While the road is unclear in the distance, I move forward with persistence. I am protected by the gradients of my own inter-dimensional existence. This journey on earth, while often brutal, is filled with the wonder of infinite possibilities. I will not be broken.

Let go of that which no longer serves you. Accept the new without fear.

2.0.1.9 Outro

This year has been a slow churning process of self-examination. I have dissected new sections of pain which remain in the hidden spaces of my brain. I am making firmer promises to myself. My boundaries grow thicker, planted with prickly vines, should the uninvited attempt to sneak inside.

I will not stoop to low behaviors or project my pain on others. I own my actions and turn my back on ones who don’t own theirs. I stay rooted in understanding the intricate layers I am seeing. I continue gluing together the pieces.

My love is not to be taken for granted. I defend myself with mature valiance. I speak truth and gather proof. I face myself in the mirror and work on being better.

I am not who I used to be. I am not ashamed of the woman who was once self-abusive, running in circles with those who never cared for their own beings, just like me. That girl grew up and realized that facing herself was far more productive than hiding. Standing still was easier than running.

I walk forward slowly. I will not sink. I will not dance drama tangos with non-healing humans accepting lives of ruin as they reek havoc as a habit.

I let myself trace the footsteps of my past. There are seemingly endless tunnels to travel through. I have walked through fire, storms and attacks with no shields on my back.

Yet, here I stand.

So when you come to me, accept and see that I’m not at all who you assume me to be. I am inside of my own moving cells; listening to the stories they tell. Go forth into your next phase with grace, and be a soft wind, friends.

𝒱𝑒𝓃𝓃𝒾𝑒 𝒦𝑜𝒸𝓈𝒾𝓈

Gathering Pieces

Don’t let anyone make you cruel. No matter how badly you want to give the world a taste of its own bitter medicine, it is never worth losing yourself.

Skeletons Remain

Skeletons remain in the spaces beneath the pain. My brain becomes a seismograph of moving timelines and opportunities to rewind.

I enter the dark caverns armed. This is no place for charm or niceties. This is a war to be fought by a single army. I am one with what was formed.

I go quiet into the dormant caverns. I chart the patterns. I connect dots and string, creating a weave of evidence and acceptance.

There is no vengeance in this excavation. Only explanations and lain out bones, examined fractures and a puzzle creating a visual of the whole.

I am in the solitary state of self reflection. I have entered the stargate, reading the files stored when I was a child, my own familiar, my brain an elemental releasing brand new truths to process through written language in scrolls that hold secrets.

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.

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