Is The Abuse Cup Half-Empty or Half-Full?

Abusive/healthy is not the dichotomy we have been taught to think that it is. Rather, the same people who are extremely nice in the morning, and respectful of others' boundaries and rights, can "shift gears" quickly -- and then switch back.

In sociological terms, abuse is normal, and not the deviant experience we would prefer to make it out to be.

Let me stop right here and include myself in that equation. I can be a raving, horrible bitch; I can be withdrawn; and I can be the nicest person in the world. (I'll leave it to you to figure out how you fit into that equation, if you can deal with it.)

The point is, when we talk about ending abuse on this planet, we generally focus on extreme and horrendous situations that are very clearly bucketed into "good" versus "evil." But we don't talk about ourselves, about the way we act that is clearly disrespectful of others, and sometimes even sadistic.

Consider road rage.

Consider anonymous online behavior.

Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life should be required reading for those of us who want to better understand how the formation of a "public" (acceptable) self operates versus the private (less acceptable, but real) one in abuse situations.

The book is basically about how organizations are divided into a sphere that is meant for public consumption, versus one that is the reality of the situation, far less "palatable" from a good-manners point of view. (Think Dirty Dancing.)

Usually when the abuse spills out, it is in the context of a family where the bad stuff has become public. For example, we were in Miami International Airport and I saw a father screaming at his kid. It wasn't the usual frustration; I wanted to run over there; my husband restrained me.

We nevertheless watched, frozen.

Another time I saw a mother on the train, screaming and yelling at her toddler, as the child perched uncomfortably in her cheap portable stroller. If yelling is ever acceptable, it wasn't okay at that decibel level, and this child was close to infancy. It was horrible to watch.

My point is, when we think about stopping abuse, it's too convenient to exclude ourselves from the equation because we don't like to see ourselves as abusive, ever, or because we don't like to think that others have treated us that way.

Abuse is simply a dynamic. It is one we need to recognize, and stop in its tracks because that dynamic is cancerous.

One of the central insights I am gaining, as I have dabbled in self-hypnosis, is that the painful experiences of my life have never really "healed." And unfortunately, the less I am able to access and confront that pain directly, the more I displace it onto other people, trying to gain control over things that are long since done and over with.

One more thing: Physical abuse is traumatizing, but so is emotional abuse, and all the more so in its subtle, passive-aggressive form. I have over the years experienced my share of it, probably because it's the most socially acceptable kind of abuse, so to speak, and the pain of it has never left me.

This isn't a female thing, only, although I do think women are singled out for a special kind of attack that leaves us hobbled with low self-esteem, perpetual insecurity. I have seen it directed at others, and the dynamics are always the same although the context changes.

The bottom line is this: My particular kind of pain has left me wanting to save the rest of the world, probably to get back the power I perceive that I have lost along the way. Many of my quirky behaviors can be directly understood as an attempt to take it back, and the language of my own particular pain is not intelligible to others.

It also doesn't work -- to go back and undo the past, whatever happened that hurt, just isn't possible.

Though this makes me uncomfortable, because frankly I would rather not introspect, I must be more conscious about the cognitive process that drives me, and how it affects what I do.

In the process (which sucks, I'll be honest), I am learning two things: First, guided self-hypnosis is a massively powerful tool. Second, abuse is a very complex topic indeed, and I haven't met a single person yet who's untouched by it.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. Photo by the author.

Reading the Body Language of Long-Term Ritual Abuse Victims: Bombard's Body Language

Bombard's Body Language is a video series by a woman who goes by Bombard (no first name that I can locate). Her videos are stunningly engaging; she herself claims to be a victim of abuse.

In this particular video, she analyzes two interviews of self-proclaimed survivors of long-term ritual abuse, whom she clearly believes, although she does not take every claim they make literally.

Bombard categorizes the outcomes for such victims as follows:
  • Abuse others - to take their power back
  • "Stay away from it"
  • "Fight those that are perpetrating it" -- "those are the people that I think are saveable (sic)...their empathy side of the brain was not destroyed. They feel for the other people. They know what it's like and do not want to put others in that position."
"There's no rehab for someone" who gets high on abusing others.

I. Survivor #1 (I do not have the name), survivor of long-term ritual abuse, which allegedly began at age 2. This survivor says that they referred to Satan as "Lucifer."
  1. They seem calm, not agitated, because they've lived through the worst and this interview is not it.
  2. They have "small tells" and "they're very good at keeping a stress-free face."
  3. They are good liars, because they've learned to lie to survive. That's why many people don't trust them, which essentially means that they're victimized twice--once in the abuse, and again for surviving.
  4. Victims normally hold something back. They don't want to tell you the whole thing. 
  5. The more they tell, the more they are likely to tell.
  6. Victims feel guilt that they did not do more or handle the situation better such that they could save somebody else.
  7. Victims look all over the place because they anticipate an attack. 
  8. If you surprise a victim, "you may get a violent response." If they aren't prepared to defend themselves, they freeze.
  9. Watch for the victim sitting in an open fetal position.
  10. Victims of long-term abuse grow up believing the abuse (including killings and watching bodies be disposed of) is normal, and if they run away it's to get a break, not because they really believe they can leave. (Their tormenters are seen as "upstanding citizens" - others ignore the signs and symptoms.) Non-victims have trouble understanding what victims went through is real, and therefore why they didn't go to the police.
II. Survivor #2 - Cathy O'Brien - whose daughter was "taken under the guise of national security" in Tennessee.
  1. Again, "small tells" -- "long-term victims keep body language at a minimum so they're not broadcasting."
  2. Talks about the abuse from her mother and "struggles to get through just a sentence of how horrific it was, struggles to get through that mental minefield....really was abused by her father, and she was abused by her mother."
  3. "She has made some claims about being a Clinton sex toy....obviously she's struggling through that mental minefield of trauma, and hiding about what she's done."
  4. "And I don't say that in a way that she's done something so horrific, but there's something in it that gives her pause. Shame, she does not want to disclose whatever she's done with Hillary Clinton has given her shame. And we can surmise, given that this was in 1996 of this videotaping, that the gayness of it was the shame."
  5. For long-term abuse victims, "killing no longer phases you," so that it would have to be an extreme version of killing for it to throw you out of joint.
  6. Talks about mind-control programming and being compartmentalized to carry out tasks for political purposes - talks about Sen. Byrd. "I'm telling you, from her ability to look at the audience...look down, look up...her body is in between this minefield of memories, to -- she has done a lot of research with (her husband), the minefield of the research she did, to explain everything. Because there are some people that have to have an explanation, it can't just be that they're evil. She gets me at...needs an justify the hell with MK-ULTRA and CIA. I'm not disputing MK-ULTRA and CIA with her....but she did not actually witness anything with Sen. Byrd actually saying 'I want her brain--bla bla bla,' 'I want compartments,' bla bla bla."
  7. "She's not wanting to look up" as she discusses "occult rituals" -- "killings, torture" because "she's involved, she's no longer just a bystander or just a victim to it" -- "shame, those secrets that they'll never tell anyone, not even God."
  8. "Extreme malice towards her father, and if you get that anger inside you, towards an abuser, it becomes very comfortable to talk about the abuse....perceives Ford (like) her father." 
  9. "She always stumbles on the whole mind control is your brain making excuses for what you've done....she's using that as an excuse for what you've done."
  10. "It's another coping mechanism to make fun of the abuser."
Bombard ends by adding some commentary about Satanic ritual abuse: 
"Satanic rituals and the Satanic cult, it is a religion....Churches have congregations, and they all have pecking orders. So do Satanic churches. It is an idea, and it is an ideal. You cannot kill it by cutting off the high priest or high priestess."
I recall, as Bombard states in the video, when ritual abuse was more or less accepted as a fact, and somehow, abruptly, it became "impossible to believe."

This phenomenon should not be accepted uncritically, but for those who want to look for a source of data, individual and comparative studies of body language (as in this video) are a useful place to start.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Creative Commons CC0 photo via Pixabay.

Seizing The Momentum Of Long-Term Change

For about 60 years, the Pew Research Center has asked Americans the same question: "Do you trust the government in Washington to do what is right 'just about always' or 'most of the time'?"

During President Obama's tenure, the moving average ranged from 17 to 25%. As of December 4, 2017, nearly a year into President Trump's Administration, the figure remained low, at 18%.

There are of course many theories about why public opinion swings the way it does. One can go back to the twentieth century and do a forensic analysis, matching polls to policies, and surely there will be patterns.

But from where I sit, the single most obvious reason for public anger has to do with a process issue: While a democracy is supposed to be accountable to the people, increasingly the people do not know what's going on.

Worse, when they want to find out what's going on, or seek redress, the simplest request turns out to be utterly complicated: One needs a virtual outcry in order to make oneself heard.

Of course, there are many legitimate reasons why the public cannot know things. But reasons turn easily to excuses. And it is all too easy for the government to adopt a passive-aggressive posture, shielding information that the public wants and needs.

A perfect example of this posture is very humorously portrayed in the movie Snatched (2017), with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. In the film, the pair are kidnapped from Ecuador, and a State Department official gets the call. It takes their hilariously panicked brother to descend upon the government, and doggedly persist until they're picked up from abroad.

When you don't work for the government, it's easy to perceive nefarious intent behind this kind of attitude. But when you've been inside for awhile, and you've seen the kind of battles that erupt over seemingly very minor things, it quickly becomes clear that "conforming to the law while avoiding trouble" is the easy way out for some.

But what many people don't see, amid all this negativity, is the movement inside the government to improve the quality and reliability of communications with the public--for everything from outreach to secure identity documents.

What follows below are some selective highlights from my perch as a interagency volunteer in some of the efforts named below:

Of course, no matter what the government does, it will always be fun to poke fun at civil servants. Equally true, there will always be bad apples in the bunch, who do their best to hold on to information-as-power, swatting away the good people who seek only improvement.

But the world is an imperfect place, and we cannot wait for perfection in order to act. For Federal communicators are always "acting," working in some transitional space between one Administration and the next, one leadership team and the next, past policies and scandals and the ones no doubt to come. 

We cannot wait to get credit for the good things we have done, either.

As General Martin Dempsey once said, about his tenure as acting commander of the United States Central Command: 

"You get twice the work, you get none of the credit, and you get all of the blame if something goes wrong in between."

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo by myrfa via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Misusing The Torah To Enable Child Predators

Incredibly, Jewish Community Watch, a wonderful organization that protects children from child sex predators within the community, is being taken to a religious court (Beis Din) for warning people about the presence of a pedophile. Prior to this, a well known child safety advocate, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, was also sued by a predator for doing the same thing.

Imagine a religious system that not only knowingly shelters and shields pedophiles over an extended period of time, going out of its way to protect adults about whom legitimate concern has been expressed, attacking victim advocates like the heroic Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, and even attacking the victims and their families to the point where they even have to move out of town!

It is well-documented that pedophiles are serial abusers, because they cannot control their impulses, and are therefore never able to work around children (here's a list of characteristics to watch for). Rehabilitating them into the community should never involve jeopardizing anyone, especially the most vulnerable among us.

In the United States, sex offenders are required to sign up for a registry so that people can find out if they are living nearby. Additionally, identity protection services routinely offer the service of warning their subscribers of the presence of such individuals.

Israel already has a reputation as a haven for sex predators like Malka Leifer, who flee to seek the protection of ultra-Orthodox communities. Yet it is the Holy Land; such a reality should not be allowed to exist by religious leaders.

As Jews, we must call on our religious leaders to do the right thing and stop harboring religious predators under the false pretense that such people are somehow "rehabilitated." As Vivien Resofsky, an Australian social worker (and one of my freelance clients, so I know her work well) has pointed out, this is pseudoscientific nonsense, and poses an immediate threat in particular to children.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain.

Government "Good News" Stories Should Come Directly From The Citizen

She worked as a babysitter for a doctor who works at the NIH.

All her life had been about money, the money, the money.

Her diagnosis was: brain cancer, three months to live, there was nothing they could do about it. The disease had spread to the brain.

She did not speak English well, and a relative who had been educated in the United States and was familiar with the NIH somehow got the word to them. Maybe it was a note in a campus bulletin; how this happened is unclear.
“A woman has brain cancer and her case is terminal. Does anybody need help with a clinical trial?”
Miraculously, one doctor contacted the person who told me this story.
"Where is the patient?"
They did all the tests.
“This will not save your life. But it will add time. No less than two years.”
The drug cost $20,000. The NIH would not pay for it.

But by the grace of God, the health insurance did, and the patient got the medicine and went into hospice.

Every six months they evaluated her: 
“She isn’t even close to the end.”
It was nothing short of amazing.
“You have two years to do what you always wanted.”
And finally, this woman who had known nothing but struggle her whole life crossed every single item off her bucket list.

Until one day, finally, she went back to the temples of her homeland for a short visit.

And this woman, a woman whose entire life was consumed with a quest for the material, finally met up with God.

Because of the NIH — or more specifically, because of a doctor talented enough, driven enough, caring enough, and supported enough by the U.S. government to do research into brain cancer — this patient had the time to think about what matters.

I had begun to cry. I was moved because I, too, have gotten lost many times, focusing on money and forgetting faith.

Seeing my tears, the woman who told the story broke out in tears herself, and said:
“Thank God for the NIH. The NIH saved her life.”
Miraculously, in the end, the cancer patient diagnosed with just three months to live actually got four years to find peace.

I’ll admit that as a government worker myself, and as a worker with a family member who works at the NIH, I am biased toward wanting to hear this kind of "good news story."

But in a world where we hear so much bad news every day, it’s refreshing to hear about the important work our government does, straight from the heart of a grateful citizen.

From a government public affairs perspective, this is where the focus should be.

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal (CC0 Creative Commons, dedicated to the public domain). All opinions are the author’s own and this content is not intended to promote or represent the views of any other individual or organization. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH)/Flickr (Creative Commons).

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