Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Retrieving The Pieces Of One's Soul

I've written quite a bit about the concept of disassociation and how many abuse victims will be trapped by this process. I've sometimes described the results as leaving a "hole in the soul". Other spiritual writers have called clerical sexual abuse "soul murder". In Shamanic traditions, practitioners refer to the process of healing as "retrieving pieces of the soul". Conventional psychology talks about healing as the 'reintegration' of the dominant ego.

Rarely have I come across writing from a victim of abuse which so vividly describes the experience of disassociation from the victim's perspective. The following is a written reflection from a male abuse victim and comes directly after a session with his therapist.

In my session today I was explaining yet another incident which happened to me at school between me and another boy - one of the tough and popular ones - it was an extremely humiliating experience for me and embarrassing - I always felt the runt of the litter being one year younger than everyone always. But I decided to mention this event because I was fascinated by something else - my mum often reminded me of that day or about what I looked like when I came home - she always said how I was white as a ghost and something obviously very upsetting had happened to me. But can I remember the emotions? I have since relegated the event to 'normal' and that my reaction was more a reflection of my patheticness.

I mentioned this in the context of the two sexual assaults I experienced as a teenager - for both I can remember clearly just before (leading up to them) and then after the event but nothing in between though there was never any doubt as to what had occurred was sexual and unwanted. He (again) explained about dissociation and then mentioned another client who had worked through his abuse and said that when he first regained contact with the emotions and pain of his abuse it was as if his soul re-entered his body - he felt it almost as exactly that.

I think I am starting to understand what that means.

For all my life I have constructed what I believe to be 'normal' only to now start realising how ab/non-normal things, my behaviours, thoughts are. There is swimming around me a disembodied collections of emotions and memories from many events - but they are not yet IN me.

I spent yesterday working in my garden, cleaning up my chook pen and my junk (man) shed and pottering with plant cutting in my hot house - all the while I was listening to music with my headphones on and really getting into it and basically enjoying myself. But then a wave of emotion would come over me and I would want to sit down in the middle of the lawn and rage against God and life , and then cry - but I can't: All a part of the disembodied emotions, I guess.

But, you see, I have seen being like this, acting like this, thinking like this as 'normal' - life. I have grown up thinking that children being molested by adults, family friends, priests is somehow normal, that a peer thrusting his hands down my pants and telling everyone in the class watching that I had no hair and mocking me while at that very same time in my life I was being molested by an adult family friend. How else can I have worked this out - it had to be normal because it was happening and when I looked around me at the faces and saw that they could see nothing wrong with this then I suppose I saw that I was the weird one and that all this was normal life. (There was no other way to work it out because his experiential rolodex didn't have enough cards, and so his 'brain' literally threw out experiences that couldn't be catalogued. That doesn't mean they go away. They literally hang around needing to be acknowledged and integrated.)

But it hurt so crushingly and was so confusing given what the church constantly told us about sexual purity, and it just didn't feel right - so what does a child do? Dissociate, block out the painful confusing, frightening memories/emotions, but they stay somewhere, outside like buzzing flies, or like shadows that you think should be yours (and they are) but they seem to be someone or something else's, or, inside like illness, body pains and depression, the origins of which lie hidden underneath them.

So, I want to learn what is normal, what is/was acceptable in my childhood, school-life, upbringing, teens because I don't think I really got to learn this: It's why I am almost shocked when Brian, for example, expressed so much abhorrence and anger in his first posts on this thread - I didn't know how to react, I was almost embarrassed but I could also feel it triggered some deep anger and hurt of my own - I think that's why I appreciated it so much - here was another man saying what had happened to me and so many others wasn't right or normal, but disgusting and very, very wrong and it felt so good to hear someone saying this and so strongly. Things I have seen as normal for decades especially in regards to what it means to be me, to be a man, a human being in society - I thought I knew, I am learning otherwise - and my long and much loved church and religion is all very much part of that.


I have participated in a Native ritual called the "Washing of the Hands" which is a three day ceremony whose object is to help victims of abuse or PTSD put the pieces of their souls back in their bodies. It is one of the most powerful healing ceremonies I have ever been associated with, even though the results do not appear to human eyes to be as spectacular as some other healing ceremonies in which MRI's and CAT scans prove spontaneous healing of a physical disease.

The truth seems to be that results in both psychological and physical healing come from the same source--the reintegration and restoration of the totality of what Catholics call the 'human soul' or secular sources sometimes call the totality of human consciousness.

In Shamanic healing, there is a defined technique from a theory of human consciousness in which the kinds of conversions and miraculous cures associated with Catholic healing sites are expected as a result of the technique of soul retrieval. As an aside observation, I've never worked with any native practitioner who felt one of the constants in the paradigm was a particular spiritual or religious belief system. Shamanic healing can work results no matter if one is Catholic or Native or Shinto, just as scientific theory crosses cultural lines and works even if a person doesn't believe in it. But just as with scientific theory, shamanic technique can be used to harm as well as heal. The principles can be used to dis-integrate a soul as well as re integrate a soul and the process doesn't have to be intentional. At this point humanity is much better at the disintegration part than it is the healing part.

The CIA's Project Bluebird, a part of the MKULTRA program of sixties and seventies, intentionally disintegrated the personality/soul complex of young children in an effort to create a kind of Manchurian Candidate or super psi soldier. They were successful in the disintegration part, but not all that successful in the end objectives. The psychiatric community has been dealing with the victims for the last forty years. The story of Project Bluebird is a perfect illustration of how fear of communism and the cash associated with it, co opted the professional ethics of many of that eras most lauded psychiatric professionals. Unlike the results of sexual abuse in Catholicism, the soul destruction promulgated in Project Bluebird was intentional and an outgrowth of techniques used in Nazi Germany. It was done with the co operation of scientists from the US, Britian, Canada, and of course, Germany and Argentina. It was evil.

I bring all this up to illustrate the point that we don't know much about how the energy of human consciousness interacts with human biology and neurological perception. We certainly know enough to force disintegration of the holistic link between the three, but our healing sciences are floundering when it comes to re assembling the three, preferring the Newtonian/Cartesian approaches of modern medicine with it's reliance on bio mechanical and chemical approaches. Our western spiritual approaches rely on a poorly conceived theology of sin and leave healing up to a kind of Godly random selection.

Drugging away the symptoms of a soldier with PTSD does not deal with the cause of the symptoms. It is not truly healing. It is symptom reduction. It is a life long maintenance program and it is expensive. As a counter to this approach, I have seen healing for victims of abuse and atrocities in war healed permanently when they underwent the process of soul reintegration through the Washing of the Hands ceremony--and it didn't work just for Native American soldiers or abuse victims. I have seen the same thing happen through Shamanic healing journeys. I have participated in such journeys and ceremonies. I have seen 'rational' psychiatrists completely befuddled by the changes in their clients and oncologists just as confused by the sudden remissions in stage four cancer. I don't believe for one second any of these changes are the result of spiritual magic, pagan woo woo, or God's random healing roulette wheel.

There is something real and verifiable going on that points far more to what we don't know about human consciousness and how it interacts with creation, than what we think we know. The real contribution from sexual abuse victims may not only be in reforming Catholicism's power structures, but may also lie in reforming our understanding of our individually unique human consciousness, how it is both harmed and healed and how mankind really works with and in creation.

Catholicism will lag behind in the study of human consciousness unless it modifies it's sacramental/ritual power structures and begins to take the literal power of love on the deeper levels of human consciousness very seriously. The TRUTH is Jesus tried to teach us about these facts of our earthly existence, but over time Western Christianity opted for sacrificing Jesus's truth about the power of love for the more tangible love of power. How many more abuse victims must Catholicism create before it returns to Jesus's command to create through love and not control through abuse?


  1. That Project Bluebird took place is awfully disgusting. How was the CIA that secretly promoted this evil any different than any nazi doctor? This brings me to another thought in this very heavy subject of the mind and how it can be manipulated by evil, even straight-jacketed, preventing development and creativity.

    Many of us are old enough to remember the Macarthy era, the communist witch hunts. That was pounded into the consciousness of the American people for so long that all one needed to do was to mention the word "communist" or "communism" and people wanted to kill you, and if there weren't laws against doing that in a democracy, they would have destroyed many more lives.

    But this was like a mass brain-washing of propaganda in the 50's that persists to this day.

    People are being conditioned or brainwashed in the Church to be against "progressives" which they equate with "hippies." These are false characterizations of people, not real. Code words for the right wing are "liberal" "gays" "feminist" - and as long as the Church allows this brainwashing and evil to go on in the Church, they can not bring the Gospels of Jesus into the world.

    People can be conditioned to see only what the manipulator wants them to see, from their own blindness. It has taken me almost a lifetime to climb out of the "patheticness" of an imposition of identity upon me that was false.

    The conditioning took place at home, which was a reflection of the behavior and teaching of the RCC and treating adults like children, not with any maturity or grace either. This conditioning includes placing people in particular roles: first born are the priest or the nun in the family. I believe that trend ended of the first born entering the priesthood or convent in the latter 1960's when the consciousness of the youth exceeded or transcended the consciousness of the "adults." The children were saying NO, hell no, we won't go, make love, not war.

    These are just a few thoughts that I have for now.

    Many people are hurting very deeply without a way that will truly emancipate man from the slavery of limited consciousness and healing.

    Paul in Corinthians, and I am trying to relocate it, and provide an exact quote, and will later. But, for now the thoughts I recall from Paul in Corinthians in my reading yesterday are that Paul spoke about the Body of Christ and that we were all a part of the Body. Some were the eyes, some the hearing, some the tongues, some administrators, some with wisdom, some with healing. The Church has disintegrated in consciousness to a comformity with the world and its knowledge, but without the wisdom, as it cuts it, amputates it from the Body of Christ, such as liberation theologians, or communist, or socialist, etc. Name tags are all they are that create more division and no understanding, no healing for sure.

    A return back to the VI traditions may be helpful for a child's understanding, but even Paul recognized that "when I was a child I spoke as a child, etc." The Church needs to recognize that there are different levels of spirituality and to open its heart and end the amputation of things they do not understand.

    The St Francis prayer would help them immensely.

  2. I hope that I have not strayed from the the central message here Colleen. I can relate to the sexually abused person, for I was abused in another way, of being told constantly that I was stupid. The sexually abused were abused in a physical way and it created a hole in the soul. Mental abuse can cause the same type of hole in the soul. It can cause a rejection of Faith and turn it into hatred, or it can cause fear which is another type of hole in the soul.

    Paul also mentions that he recognized there were different factions among the converts. He said that factions existed to allow for the leaders of those factions to be known and recognized. He never condemned the fact there were other factions.

  3. Colleen, a wonderful and healing post. By whatever grace, I did not have the dissociation of loss of faith that I've seen so many of my fellow travelers go through. I did experience the loss of trust in myself, the horrid ennui, the questioning of my own sexual identity. When I went for help in the late seventies, all of the adults were deer in the headlights, just as I was during the abuse. These are people I know now as deeply spiritual and holy, but unable at the time to see the answers we see now. That's one of the reasons I give the bishops somewhat a pass until 1985.

    In 1985, under John Paul II, our bishops asked for and received the information they needed. Since then, their response has been fearful, protective of clergy, dismissive and abusive of children, dismissive and abusive of laity. I live in hope that the empire is crumbling, that the powerful faith remains unharmed and even grown from surviving this crisis.

    What did I learn? Mostly, I learned how easily one can lie to oneself. It is a tremendous instrument, this brain we've been given. I was able to tell myself that all was okay, even when the continuing abuse from this man against others was obvious. I was able to convince myself that all was darkness, in spite of great love showered on me from heaven and earth. I was able to use the word forgiveness when I was merely avoiding the issues.

    I've also learned that it is unfair to completely upend some people with revelations they can't handle. I consider it a burden I can now bear for them. However, I'm also learning that I must not be ashamed of the teaching given to me. This blog is helping me open that door, and thanks for that.

    Ghandi says that all sin comes back to being separate. I must say that's how abuse feels, as a tremendous cordoning off from normal happy folk. And that's how the church feels now, with physical and mental walls around the hierarchy so that the purity is untouchable, a cellophane shrink wrap that suffocates faith rather than preserving it. But I remember how easy it is to lie to oneself, and then I remember to forgive. I end up at the quote on the top of your blog, trying to draw circles to bring the other in.

  4. I love that quote because that's how it works, circles of love drawing others in, and when that circle is strong enough and people feel safe enough, unbelievable healing will occur.

  5. In April of 1976 I was a student. A friend of mine died unexpectedly. At the time his parents, prominent professionals in our community, announced that a rare heart condition had claimed his life. We wouldn't know the truth for another 30 years.

    Another friend of mine from that era published a book describing his college years and how he came to understand and later to accept his homosexuality. The most important story in the book described his relationship with our mutual friend, the one who died unexpectedly of a heart condition. He committed suicide because he couldn't accept his love affair with another man. In a way his parents had been truthful, although I think his fear of their reaction was an enormous factor in the outcome.

    When I read the book I realized I didn't know much about my friends at all, certainly not their secret relationship.

    Bless you Colleen for doing the work you do, helping heal broken lives. If only someone like you had been available all those years ago. Who knows what that fine young man might have become?


  6. Powerful, Colleen. I can't thank you enough for posting this piece.

    May it find many readers. It does a very valuable service to those seeking to reconnect the pieces of our souls, as well as to the church in general (to help us understand those who have been abused, if we will only listen). Thank you.

  7. mjc, I've been thinking about "the deer in the headlights" quote concerning sexual and abuse issues in the seventies. That sure described me. When I had to face this issue in an semi official capacity me and everyone else were exactly like deer caught in head lights.

    Now I would say we were all caught in a collective case of extreme cognitive dissonance. We did however, manage to come up with a rationale that resulted in the offenders removal from the priesthood on mental health issues. Which in this case actually turned out to be the truth, as the individual had a complete psychotic break shortly after his removal (in mid semester) from the college I was attending.

    I happened to taking a class in demonology from him at the time, and often wondered if he wasn't sending some sort of message by teaching that particular class. I have no doubt however, that teaching it was part of what took him over the edge.

    He also taught a really brilliant class on women in the church. In some respects he was a prophet for today's state of Catholicism--a combination of progressive thinking in some areas and terrified piety in others. When I look back now, he embodied in his own pathology the crisis in the Church today--not just in his acts, but in his thinking.

  8. Colleen, I have to add that it feels good to hear what is "normal" on your blog. I can recall consciously recognizing that the idea of "normal" is skewed from abusers who teach that abnormal is normal.

    I've re-read this blog today and there is so much that I can relate to in the thoughts of the abused. Last night some images broke through of my father beating up my brother for not getting good grades. To my father, this was "normal" behavior, to correct bad grades or failure to achieve the grades. Perhaps my brother was also taught that he was stupid in the RCC school that we went to. Perhaps there was more mental abuse in the school than I would like to admit.

    I remember a lay teacher from the Phillippines in second grade saying in front of the entire class to a girl who had recently lost her mother upon her returning to the classroom late after a break - "What did you do.... drip dry?"

    Some in my family attribute my brother's schizophrenia to the physical abuse of my father when he was young. Some attribute it to the drugs my brother took. I tend to think it was a combination of the abuse and then the drugs. Men have been taught to be bullies, to go to war, and taught in such a way that men think it's "normal" for physical abuse. I never wanted to blame my father for being a bully, nor did I grow to hate him, but I always felt there were a lot of things that went on which were abusive and unloving towards children.

    Some of my siblings do not understand my forgiveness of my father or how I could still love him. They mistake it for love of the abuse or vindication of his acts. Because I chose ot to hate him I was then able to see how my father matured. He learned a lot of painful lessons in his life. Forgiveness has nothing to do with being an apologist for abusers of any kind. It has to do with seeing the entire person, not just the acts of physical abuse. I have more disdain for the leadership in the Church for never addressing issues of abuse by men towards children because their "authority" should contain love and understanding that is from Christ. They have strayed from the central message of Christ's teachings for way too long and many a family suffers due to it.

    word verification is tomen

  9. I realize that I used a sentence that includes "but".....
    in reference to my saying I did not hate my father. Maybe I was not honest about the fact there was a time when I did and I tried to bury it. Good Catholics are not supposed to hate anybody.

  10. Collen -

    We have both touched on this before - the link of all of this to the Opus Dei. There are very coherent & proveable links between the Opus and:

    1) Operation Paperclip/Vatican Ratlines.
    2) Project Bluebird
    3) MK-Ultra
    4) The CIA itself (and other Intel entities).
    5) The 'Red Scare" of the post war era; & rabid Anti-communism in general as the bogeyman principle.

    The Devil wants to keep souls from the peace of God; from union with Him, which is the core of Salvation. Which is what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about, which begins now, in Time, as we try to live the Gospel. As we try to live with Christ.

    So the Devil will use anything to keep us from this. Interal to us and/or external. He understands the complex human mechanism & knows how to misuse it.

    As you know, psychology when correctly used can be very beneficial to humans. Intentionally misapplied, it can do great damage - as you indicate.

    This misuse of the human mind & psyche is demoniacally inspired. Throwing up mental & emotional roadblocks to God. Fracturing the person so that he/she cannot hear the voice of God -or is induced to hate God. The victim of these is not evil; what was done to him is. Ditto for those who did it.

    This is why Catholic Clerical Sex Abuse is, literally, Satanic in nature. By this I refer to its inspiration & the mechanism it triggers.

    In the movie '2001: A Space Odyssy", the HAL9000 computer reacts to a type of 'splitting' just as a human would: he malfunctions. Given completely conflicting directives & parameters of operation - he goes haywire. Were he human, his actions might even be considered psychotic. He was not capable of correctly forming the alter personas, so he did most logical thing: he had a meltdown.

    Anon Y.Mouse

  11. The abuse crisis is such a stain on the Church. I think in some instance the physical abuse of children is almost as bad as the sexual abuse. I was lucky because I was never abused. In one grade I had a teacher that physically abused some of the kids. Because I was shy and studious I never got touched. I think this teacher had respect for me. Others were not so lucky. In a way I feel that I was wounded by what I witnessed. In a way I feel sorry for the sister because she was overworked and didn't know how to deal with her agression. It is sad because I think she actually did love the kids but was too agressive with them. The year after I had this teacher we lost 15 students in our class and then she never touched any of us again as she was warned. Most of the nuns that taught me were excellent teachers so I don't really hold grudges against what happened.

  12. About a year and a half ago I found out that a man who was several years behind me in school was sexually abused by the priest that taught me religion for 3 years in high school. This was a terrible shock to me. I was so hard for me to believe. It is painful for me to think about what this man went through and hard to understand. I don't know how many kids this priest abused. It is so odd thought because this priest had a disdain for me and didn't really have much of anything to do with me when I was in school. At the time I felt bad about it but know I realize how truly lucky I am. But learning about what that guy did has surely affected how I feel about certain things. I was very innocent when I was young and I thought that 95% of priests were faithful to their vows of celibacy and lived lives of chaste purity. When I found out about this guy it pretty much shattered whatever illusions I may have had left.

  13. The sexual abuse crisis can also be seen as a lesson and a wake up call. We need to quit taking the easy path and start walking the hard road. It's too easy to listen to Catholicisms self perpetuating myths and turn our brains over to our religious 'captors'. In reality I've known more generous and compassionate priests than I have the other kind. That still does not justify failure to do my own work about my own life and my own soul. Mentoring is one thing, demands for blind obedience are quite another thing.

    I learned a tough lesson back thirty some years ago. No matter how badly I didn't want to believe something, I could not turn my back on the people who got hurt just because my ill tested immature faith proved deficient.

    I did not like it at all that behind the clerical curtain were just human beings like me. It forced my to find my own brain, my own heart, and my own courage. Then I had to deal with the realization that all that work did was give me a start on finding my way home. There were no ruby slippers and not much of yellow brick road to follow. I also found out I wasn't on that ill defined road alone. There were a whole lot of other munchkins and an occasional Glenda. In the end it's all good, but it ain't easy.

  14. Coleen, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  15. Oh my, Colleen, The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie as a child. I watched it every year on TV. Yes, we all need a heart, a brain and courage.