January 30, 2008


The Naked Trees Still Know To Live

I dug out another old poem of mine that I'd like to share.

Hope’s Song

I love to watch the birds
They fly and flit with constant chatter
It helps me clear these words
In my mind, fear’s negative clatter

It gives me hope to hear
Strong-held faith in nature’s song
Wipe away my painful tears
I see life it carries on

With the gently falling snow
The naked trees still know to live
It reminds me that I grow
Only when I can forgive.

Copyright 2003 Marj McCabe ~ All Rights Reserved

As you might ascertain from my previous post on shame, I'm still working on forgiving myself. That's one of my biggest healing goals.

I think we all need to forgive ourselves, at one time or another, for being human. The good news is that, as humans, there is always a place for us in this world.

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January 28, 2008


My Legacy of Shame--Thanks, Mom!

I've just finished reading The Trauma Spectrum by Robert Scaer. This book is pretty clinical--not easy to read--as it talks about how trauma changes the brain. I was especially interested in the chapter on preverbal trauma, as I am just working with a part who is almost entirely preverbal herself.

I've really been struggling with my mother's involvement in my childhood abuse. This struggle has been major for me during the last couple of years. Even though my father sexually abused me and my twin in just about every way one could imagine--even though he almost killed me, because he was a psycho, raging maniac--I'm almost tempted to say that his behavior damaged me less than my mother's did.

I've had this prickly, gnawing, suspicious feeling about this for these two years now. Sometimes I can't get my brain around it at all, other times it just seems downright crazy. Then, I started reading about maternal bonding, attachment and attunement. I believe that none of these states were ever achieved between my mother and my infant self. I am absolutely convinced of this. Then, Scaer talks in his book about "the influence of maternal behavior and bonding on the ability of the developing infant to achieve optimal states of self-regulation in the face of arousal in later life."

I was set up! Almost from the moment of my birth, I was groomed to be traumatized and dissociate in the face of my abuse.

One particular book passage really hit me hard. Have you ever heard of the concept of "conservation-withdrawal?" In a healthy family, this is a normal developmental process in which a baby can safely explore, then find a safe place where it can regroup and then go out and explore and gain new experiences again.

Scaer says, "If bonding has been successful, this limit-setting behavior and the infant's withdrawal response will continue to foster the development of the reflex regulatory skills that control the infant's ability to handle arousal and stress in an appropriate, healthy fashion."

Then, there's the classic line, "on the other hand..." There it was on page 121. I had to read it a couple of times. *blink*

When speaking of this concept of conservation-withdrawal, Scaer describes, "During this state, the infant averts its face, hangs its head, and becomes relatively immobile."

Whoa. As I read this, I'm thinking, "I do this now! I always do this!"

Am I an infant? Why do I still do this?

I highlighted this next part, and put a big asterisk next to it. "If maternal/infant misattunement is present, especially in the case of the mother's excessive use of shame-inducing limitations, the infant will begin to retreat more frequently into the state of conservation-withdrawal and may develop lifelong behavioral patterns that mimic this state when stressed."

Oh, I see.

Scaer goes so far as to say, "Conservation-withdrawal is the earliest manifestation of dissociation, which if perpetuated becomes a lifelong tendency in the face of threat or stress." (The emphasis here is mine.) He continues, "In the day-to-day life of the child, repeated retreat into states of shame presents as repetitive dissociative symptoms..."

Yeah. And I would add, in the day-to-day life of the adult abuse survivor, too!

I noticed this happening just the other day. It was over some slight--some slightly disrespectful remark that left me feeling rejected. I immediately looked away, hung my head and slumped away. I don't often allow myself to do this in front of others, but I always, eventually become immobile. I'll go into my bedroom and sit or lie down and then just stare off in a stupor.

I was explaining all this to my T. I remembered a line from a poem I wrote. There was something in there about "my empty, blank stare." I found the poem. Here it is:

Safe in My Pillow

I’m diving into my pillow
It’s the only safe harbor I know
Hidden away in my pillow
The terror and anguish don’t show

I’m becoming a part of my pillow
Like a turtle pulling into its shell
Scratching and clawing for my pillow
You can’t drag me into your hell

And if you take me away from my pillow
You won’t know that I’m really not there
I just send my mind to my pillow
It’s behind my empty, blank stare

I know I can trust in my pillow
How my pillow’s safe comfort warms
Like a soft, warm body, my pillow
I pretend it’s a mother’s loving arms

You’ll never really reach me in my pillow
Though my body you’ll batter and harm
This little girl’s all nestled in her pillow
While outside rages the storm

I’ll just stay here, thank you, in my pillow
You can all just call me insane
It’s my own little world, my pillow
While out in your world a nightmare reigns

Years fly by while I fly in my pillow
It starts to feel lonely and cold
I peek out from under my pillow
How did I get to be so old?

You say I must venture from my pillow
I’ve got to come out and face a new world
How can I let go of my pillow?
Can’t you see I’m still a scared little girl?

Copyright 2003 Marj McCabe ~ All Rights Reserved

The funny thing is, my stare isn't blank or empty at all. It's full of shame.

I have a legacy of shame. It seems, no matter how much therapy I do, it is always with me. It's the shame of believing to my core that I am not worth existing, not worth being alive. Logic tells me this is not right. But, I don't believe it.

One of the first self-help books I ever read--back before I even knew I was an incest survivor--was John Bradshaw's Healing The Shame That Binds You. Wow. That book was published back in 1988. Maybe I need to go back and read it again.

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January 22, 2008


Life Happens!

I had another post stared yesterday that involved shame--something I'm working on in T lately. It was hard to get much done, as my son was home with the MLK birthday holiday yesterday.

I've gotten tagged with a couple more memes (that's what I get, huh?) and I also wanted to continue to update the "linky love" on bloggers who are playing the Survivor Needs Meme.

But, guess what? My husband's car got broken into last night and I've been dealing with that all morning. The police aren't even sending anyone out because there aren't any suspects. This type of thing doesn't help much in the constant struggle to convince my little parts that they are now safe. Grrrrrrrr!

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January 16, 2008


Survivor Community aka Linky Love

I've got so much going on in therapy right now I can hardly keep it straight. I've got one of those parts "flowcharts" thingies and it needs to be updated big time. Lately I've worked with a tiny little part who can barely talk. An older part translated for her and we found out about very early trauma involving potty training. Very recently, I worked with an older, rebellious part who used to really scare me. She was actually very patient in showing me why she thought she could protect me through a tough, lack-of-caring persona.

That's about all I can say about T right now without my brain exploding, so I'll go on to something a bit lighter...but also important to our survivor community, me thinks, folks!
So far, I think about 40 blogging survivors have been tagged with the Survivor Needs & Wants Meme that I started. There have even been a few bloggers that got tagged more than once. Of the people I originally tagged, most survivor-bloggers thanked me for including them and seemed to find the exercise enjoyable, or at least helpful for their healing. (I'm not going to lie to you; this is a tough assignment!)

The Memory Artist at
Why Can't The Past Just Die? commented, "Thank you for including me. I'm not so good about memes, but I like this one." As promised, this blogger gave the meme some thought and played along. Karma, at Jew Exploring Buddhism, also played and said, "Thanks Marj! It was helpful to write that." She included over a dozen wants on her list. You go, girl!

Even before Patricia Singleton (of
Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker) played, the meme got her focused on her own self-care. She said, "I decided that one of the things I need tonight is to spend some loving time with my husband instead of making a cake that no one is expecting me to make. My cooking is over for this holiday. " Good job, Patricia! We can unlearn that childhood programming! When Patricia introduced her meme blog post, she went on to say, "Survivors are notorious for taking care of everybody but themselves. Didn't you know we are dispensable. At least our needs are. That is what I was taught as a child."

Enola played and tagged five. So far, Austin at The People Behind My Eyes and Beauty at Beautiful Dreamer have both played along. I think they both got tagged by more than one bloggy buddy--you popular peeps! I think Austin even had a commenter who thought the list was so good, they wanted to print it out. But, hey guys--you haven't tagged anyone yet. It's not too late to spread the linky love! I know JIP at Life Spacings said she would play while she's on holiday. I hope she joins us.

You know, it's really not about spreading the links (although, I love to do that for bloggers--as I'm doing here), it's about spreading awareness. "And they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends." I think the slogan on that old shampoo commercial was something like that. The survivor community, advocacy and awareness thing really does grow exponentially. And we can do it with just a little something like this meme. Actually, if we all tag people, it will go: "And they'll tell five friends, and they'll tell five friends."

I think the survivor blogger who played this meme and really got the ball rolling like this the fastest was The Memory Artist. And she was the one who said she was late: "Better late than never I guess." Let me pause for a second to make a very strong point: I meant for this meme to be something for us to think about in the New Year. It's still January, guys; it's not too late to play. And it's never to late to raise awareness!

But, anyway, the way The Memory Artist got the ball rolling is so cool, because I'm getting to know some new bloggers! One of MA's bloggy buddies, Mother Wintermoon at
Romancing the Crone jumped on our bandwagon and said, "Wow. I very rarely do memes, but this one went straight to my heart and touched my core. This is an exceptional meme as a healing and releasing exercise for survivors, for a vitally important cause. I'm going to work on mine and link back to you. I will post it in a few days. Thank you for creating this meme."

Another one of the Memory Artist's friends, Denise, commented, "This is the best meme ever!" Wow, thanks, Denise. I notice that she mentions she needs privacy, so, while I thank her, I don't know if she played the meme herself and I'm not going to link to her.

This reminds me of another point I want to pause to make/remind everybody of: You don't have to wait to be tagged to play this meme! Just hop on this train and take a ride with us!

Mother Wintermoon changed her list of survivor needs to a list of
"I am" affirmations, which I thought was brilliant! Go to the comments section of her post and check out the lively, loving, affirming dialogue there. At the end of Mother Wintermoon's meme post, she says something I really appreciate: "PS I’ve never said this before about any post I’ve written or seen, but if you see or know an abuse survivor doing this meme (it’s not easy to do), don’t just silently go on your way, blogging about love, peace, human-kindness, world healing, and higher consciousness. Be what you blog, walk the talk, practice what you preach. Let him or her know you’re there and you care."

Hooray for May at Sitting in the South! She didn't wait to get tagged, but jumped in off of Mother Wintermoon's post. I love the awareness May shows in her needs list, recognizing the great paradox of being human. Look what she says on her list: "To be taken seriously" and "To be taken with a grain of salt!" I love it! Thanks for joining us, May!

Okay, back to MA--The Memory Artist. She also tagged Roses on the Moon who has a wonderful, insightful list that oscillates between "we need" and "I need" to accommodate her unique system. MA also tagged Against Medical Advice, who wrote an amazing list that reads quite like a poem about friendship needs. Check it out!

MA also tagged KatM at
Finding the Light in the Darkness who has a great, insightful list. I think the process had a great impact on her and she promises to write, in turn, about that. KatM tagged Natasha, who did an incredible, aware and insightful list. Great job for her first meme! Come to think of it, I think this is the first meme several people mentioned that they had ever played. How cool is that?

KatM also tagged
JigsawAnalogy who has a really wonderful and unique list that's organized under categories such as "Courage," "Time," and "Support System." KatM was one of the folks who tagged Austin and Beauty--bloggers I know. She also tagged a blogging friend of mine, Keepers. (See, I knew you guys would get tagged by others, so I left that open!)

Keepers has a really wonderful list that mentions some needs I wish I had thought of. She also has a list that includes her system as a whole. I haven't seen that anyone Keepers tagged has played the meme yet, but three said they would: Wolfbaby, Silverylizard and Rising Rainbow. RR always has well-written, insightful posts, so I sure hope she plays. I'll also look forward to seeing what Wolf and Silverylizard have to say...and getting to know them better. Silverylizard commented, "hey keepers! ive been catching up on your posts, and saw i was tagged, so im going to start working on this mweme. i like memes, even though i get stuck trying to think of stuff sometimes. still, im excited to do this one."

Okay, so back to new bloggers I'm meeting--back to
Jigsaw Analogy, who did the five tags. So far, I've just seen one blogger who's posted the meme so far off of this tag. But, this leads me back to yet another bloggy buddy, Fallen Angels at A Safe Place Dissociative Dialogue. I don't know what I think is cooler: meeting all these new, courageous and wonderful blogger survivors; or this "six degrees of separation" thing bringing me back to old friends! She's got another great list, and I really like how she "goes for it" on her wants list.

Which leads me, full circle, back to my original list of tagees. Some folks said they needed to give some thought to their personal survivor needs list, and I respect that. Did I mention that it's not too late to play (or to add your "tagged" list to your post if you haven't done that yet)? I'm very much looking forward to reading the personal, insightful interpretations of these fellow survivor bloggers who tell me they are going to play: Megan at Imaginif; Marcella at Abyss2Hope; and Annaleigh at As Waters Passing By/Blessed Fearscapes.

And they'll tell five friends, and they'll tell five friends...I love it! Thanks to all for joining us! We are strong, aware, advocating survivor-thrivers!

P.S. I almost forgot: I'm sure I'm forgetting somebody here--or there are people who have played that I have not yet discovered. If you have played this meme (or you know of a blogger who has) please comment here with a heads-up for me and I'll add them/you to my linky list! Thanks!

Update 1/17/08:

Yay! I got an e-mail from Annaleigh and a comment on my original meme post from Marcella. They have both given a lot of thought to their lists and have now posted them at their blogs. Go check out: Marcella's Needs & Wants list at Abyss2Hope and Annaleigh's list at As Waters Passing By/Blessed Fearscapes. Thanks, courageous bloggers! I admire and respect you so much...and appreciate you as well. :)

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January 13, 2008


Take Your First Spin of 2008 at the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse

Hey everybody! We've got our first edition of 2008 up for our BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. Annaleigh, a past host, has done an excellent job again at As Waters Passing By/Blessed Fearscapes. As we seem to be blessed each month, we have some new participant bloggers joining us. This is also an edition with a strong emphasis on Healing & Therapy . We survivors are all healing indeed, aren't we? :) This is a nice thing to focus on when starting out this new year. Please use the link and go take a spin on some of the rides...I mean posts over there. Make sure to leave comments showing your support for these brave bloggers participating in our carnival--especially the newbies. Thanks to all, in advance, for your advocacy, awareness and support! We rock as a community, yeah!

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January 08, 2008


New Parts/New Year!

Sorry I've been a little MIA lately. I know one blogger buddy said they were worried. I did make it through Christmas, New Year's and my son's birthday (he was born on New Year's day).

I've discovered two new parts just recently. I had kinda an emergency/last-minute appointment with my T and then my husband whisked me away for a few days. I've run away in dissociative fugues around New Year's in the past, and I think he was afraid I might do it again.

Now that we're back in town, I'm attempting to work with a very young part who is not very verbal. We're going to see how it works to have another, older part "translate" for her. I have a feeling I'm heading into a whole other territory of new, early-childhood abuse memories. I'm more than a little scared.

But, my son's back in school after a 16-day holiday hiatus and I'm trying to get caught up on some things.

First things first: The deadline for the January--first of the New Year 2008--Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse is Wednesday, 1/9 (that's tomorrow folks--hurry!) for the Friday 1/11 post. An excellent, returning host, Annaleigh at As Waters Passing By/Blessed Fearscapes, is doing us the honors again for this month's edition. Please get your submissions in! You can use this submission form here.

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