FREEDOM from TRIGGERS
As I am writing this post, it is Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar. This post on freedom from triggers may be triggering for some individuals, especially spiritual abuse and extreme abuse survivors. Please take care of yourself and use your discretion.
The path to freedom for domestic violence survivors as well as other trauma survivors may begin with the actual physical freedom one experiences when the victim no longer is in the environment with the abuser/perpetrator. Leaving the abusive situation means no longer having physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual abuse and/or torture perpetrated upon them. Freedom from triggers make take more healing and more time.
Many survivors suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This may include flashbacks or other emotional distress due to triggers. Triggers may include persons, places, things, smells, touch … anything that brings memories of the abuse to mind and causes angst. Some triggers may only cause mild anxiety. Others are seemingly more powerful. Anyone, not only abuse survivors, can incur PTSD due to a trauma.
In the 1970’s, Jesus Christ Superstar (the play and the album) debuted. I owned the album and enjoyed listening to the music. Fast forward almost three decades later …. My life entails being a victim of my husband’s abuse, torture and control. This psychological captivity also includes suicidal brainwashing (mind control)). Tom M., my former husband and the main perpetrator, was brainwashing me to commit suicide in a specific, ritualistic way using a knife or blade.
During the ritual abuse, he often used religious (Catholic) holy days and holidays as a back drop to the abuse and torture. The Triduum (beginning with Holy Thursday services and ending with Easter Sunday evening prayer) is one of the holiest segments in the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ Superstar portrays parts of those holy days. As these days began, Tom M. would use the Jesus Christ Superstar music in the background as he enacted the suffering, torture and crucifixion upon me. No more details are needed.
For this and other reasons, the Triduum (Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday) were the most dangerous days of the year for me even after I left Tom M. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was strong for years. The mind control (suicidal brainwashing) was very potent. It is a wonder that I am alive.
Triggers such as box cutters (which I used at work in the bookstore) were something I had to deal with in the early time of my healing journey when I still lived in Germany. Although I did not have any knives or blades at home during this time period, I was able to use the box cutters at work without damage. The thoughts of the abuse surfaced often. (Now, I can use knives or box cutters without hardly ever thinking of the past abuse. I am able to have knives at home.) The triggers of knives and blades have lost their power.
A couple of years ago, the play Jesus Christ Superstar was offered at a local university. The thought to go see it crossed my mind; but, I sensed I was not ready.
Lately, I found Jesus Christ Superstar music playing in my head. Instead of being a trigger for memories of the terrible abuse and torture Tom M. perpetrated against me, it was Jesus Christ Superstar music that I could once again enjoy! Amazing! Recently when I typed, I listened to the Jesus Christ Superstar music on YouTube. It is beautiful music. I still remember many of the words to the songs. Not surprisingly, during “Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes)” song, I winced once – but I let it go without much thought. The past is past!
Freedom from triggers … a process …
Tom M. (the perpetrator) tried to take away so much; and, he succeeded in doing much damage. Yet, step by step, I have regained much of what I lost or received something better. Oh, I have not yet regained materially or financially what I lost. Those losses are secondary to the personal losses on an emotional, intellectual and spiritual level. I am a stronger person now with a deep sense of self. I know myself and trust myself more than I ever have. Surviving my past and healing have strengthened and deepened my spirituality. The challenges to my faith actually brought clarity. The abuse and the healing process made me decide on a head and a heart level what I believe, experience, and sense. This faith … this spirituality … evolved but did not fade away to nothingness.
Many people, whether Catholic Christians or not, are familiar with the story of Job in the Bible. God restored to Job the losses in Job’s life. Some things such as time and individuals cannot really be restored or replaced; but, life can be good again. People, loved ones, we lose may remain with us on a spiritual level. Job’s faith, his spirituality, deepened as he went through his suffering and it remained strong to the end. The questions, especially why, mattered less and less.
The decades of abuse, human trafficking, torture, and mind control did not destroy me. Tom M. and the other perpetrators did not succeed in permanently taking away my dignity and humanness. Tom M. and the courts could not and did not destroy the deep connection of love Megan, my daughter, and I share. That love will always exists – especially spiritually. My daughter has her own healing journey to travel. Our relationship will grow stronger and more authentic as she heals. Eventually truth and LOVE triumph!
Today as I sat in an early Easter Sunday Mass, a deep sense of peace and moments of intense joy came into my being. Yes, tears also came to my eyes. I sat toward the front of the church in the middle of a long pew. There was no concern in my mind that I would be triggered and need an escape route – such as sitting in the back of the church at the end of a pew. (See: http://roadtofreedomandpeace.com/surviving-spiritual-abuse-and-thriving-spiritually-now/)
I felt safe. As I participated in the Mass presided by a priest I know and respect, I appreciated and experienced in a different way than usual the rituals that are only used a few times of the year in most Catholic churches. The incense smoke floating upwards … the holy water sprinkled on the entire congregation … the extra special music …
It was as though I witnessed it all through the lens of freedom and improved mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. This four day period, this Triduum, shined a light on how far I have travelled on this healing path. A few lessons I learned on this journey include the following.
Freedom from triggers may come in increments.
Triggers can lessen.
Triggers can diminish in power.
Triggers can become a passing thought that you let go.
Triggers may disappear.
Each level of healing brings more inner freedom.
I sometimes label myself as an evolving Catholic with Sufi leanings. Labels are not important to me. My heart is open to all that is Divine. I remain open to experiencing spiritual connection through various paths. Each of us – religious or not, spiritual or not – are worthy of LOVE.
May each and every one of you be blessed with love, peace, and joy today and always!