Starting with Descartes, philosophy has taken on the view that we are dualistic, that is, we are a body and a mind and that they are somehow separate parts of us. That then raises questions of how the two communicate with each other, which is not the point of my discussion today. We have not always thought of ourselves as being dualistic however. In the past other great thinkers thought of us as one integrated being, and some cultures today, the !Kung among them, still see us as one whole being. This has a profound effect on how we view abuse.
Now, a slight digression to add a framework to my next point.
I went to the recent ICSA conference in Silver Spring, MD. It was a fantastic experience. Overwhelming in some ways, with a ton of information and new experiences. A couple of the sessions were about the legal side of this whole issue, and how the American courts do not acknowledge mental or emotional abuse in the same way that they do physical abuse. If you have proof or witnesses of physical abuse, you have a case. If you spent years in agony, doubt, confusion, stress, you have no legal case to bring the perpetrators to justice. Ah, such is life, no one promised it would be fair, and we move on in our lives, but (and this is a big but in my view) I think we need to validate ourselves and each other that the emotional and mental abuse was just as agonizing and real as any physical abuse. Although we may be denied the social/legal satisfaction of justice, I cannot be thankful enough for those in this field who acknowledge what we have been through.
This is not just a matter of semantics. This is vitally important in how we view ourselves, our experiences and our recovery. Part of the trap of the cult was the accusation and indoctrination that all of our problems/stresses were of our own making, just in our minds, due to a rebellious spirit, you put in the words of your group. If I cut myself, it is physical, obvious, not to be denied. If I have a wound in my mind or emotions or spirit, who can I prove it to? The egotistical leaders can deny it and laugh at it and denigrate us for it. I can be told that the wound is my own fault. How can I prove that it was done to me? The legal system works only with the physical. We have lived a whole other dimension, and we know how real it is.
I’m in an in-between time, where I do not know whether I want to pursue justice or not. Right now I’m so busy with studies and work that I just go with the flow of each day as far as getting things done. But my mind is ever active, and thinking about it all.
In finding others at the ICSA conference who relate and validate and understand wasn’t 100% new to me. I have found this with my therapist and with the support group. But it did add another dimension. It opened up a whole new vista. It broadened my view. It enriched my life. It gave substance and new possibilities to my dreams. It helped and is helping me to recovery. THANK YOU ICSA!