Comment: Dear Brent and Amy,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. People need to protect children and be aware of the suffering that not doing so creates. Brent, please don’t think of yourself as a predator. As our level of consciousness rises, so will the way we treat people who have been harmed and then harmed others. We can also reprogram our subconscious minds in many ways to heal past trauma. Teal Swan is a good example of this (check her out on YouTube). My hope is that in your lifetime you get time to experience nature, care for an animal (dogs are my favorite), and experience some kind of real connection and love. We all need that above all else – connection and love.
Category Archives: The story
Reader comment: please don’t think of yourself as a predator
Comment: Dear Brent and Amy,
Reader response: there is nothing between us as human beings. Nothing in the way.
Thank you for taking the time to write a letter to me. To say I was moved and touched seems trite, so I hope the following will explain the scale of which your words have made a difference:
Of your entire letter, these 10 words were by far the most powerful: “I am a human. Not an animal or a predator.” It took some time to compose myself and continue reading, following the sudden realisation of this transformation (and any part that I may have played in it). What struck me was the simplicity of the sentence and the magnitude of what it must have taken to arrive there, the scale of courage… I may not agree with everything she says but Marianne Williamson, (currently running for President, I hear) once succinctly defined a miracle as: “a perceptual mindset shift from fear to love”. That’s what occurred to me after reading that sentence.
When I finished reading, something else remarkable occurred to me: that despite the geographical distance between you sat at your desk or on your bed/bunk (I imagine) and me sat here on this wooden chair in my kitchen, there is nothing between us as human beings. Nothing in the way. We have different stories, we made different choices, judgements, took different action.. etc.. but fundamentally we have the same narrative: to request to be simply seen for who we are.
When politicians use language such as “vermin” or “swarm” or “cockroach” in reference to refugees they’re effectively de-humanising people and that is what you were doing to yourself. (I imagine the outcry: I dare to compare refugees to the Brent Brents?! Yes I dare. Both found themselves lost and far from home. Deal with it.) And yet, when I read the word “predator”, my brain for some reason linked it to the word “pursuit” which I recognised immediately in myself.. my pursuit of happiness, approval, perfection, intimacy etc… In my own ravenous hunger for these things, I have subsequently put myself at risk of abuse and dishonoured myself. This is not blame. I do not blame myself for experiences of my past. Victim blaming is not the game and neither is pointing the finger of judgement in the other direction. I’m looking with curiosity not judgement. I simply ask: how have I acted following my experience of abuse? Have I passed it on.. absorbed and turned it in on myself.. or accepted that it happened, taken the lessons and stepped out of the shame and constraint? Forgiving others for abusing me is one thing, forgiving myself for how I responded is another mountain to scale. And the view at the top is worth it.
Which is how I approach my thoughts as well now. I spent many years trying to stop intrusive, vulgar, violent and otherwise uncomfortable thoughts.. However hard I tried through meditation, mindfulness, distraction… still they came these mind monsters. The effort to stop them left me exhausted, depressed and hating myself. Recently though, the penny dropped: if to think is human, maybe the meaning that I attach to the thoughts is what matters? Where once I had a thought of rage, I tended to act on it or tell myself I was a terrible person for having the thought. I get that this is how I dealt with thoughts, my very survival depended on it, so I thought. And I was wrong. Now I look all thoughts as a fleeting friend – it pops up, I notice it, tip my hat to it, and on it goes on its way. I feel no obligation whatsoever to act on it. And this is how my thoughts tend to flow through me now. I get to choose which ones I respond to, not the other way around. (and yes, I still get caught up in my thoughts sometimes, I’m human!)
Thank you for your acknowledgement, it means a lot to me. I’d like to acknowledge you for your part in my experiencing freedom from my past. As an example, I recently got to enjoy one of my favourite pastimes: skiing in the mountains. I went with a friend (male) and a friend of his (whom I didn’t know). Before reading the blog and corresponding with you I am certain this would not have happened. Indeed, I’ve refused similar offers before. I would not have allowed myself to stay with two men in this way. As it was, I had the confidence to trust, to be vulnerable and as such they were perfect gentlemen, I had an amazing time, that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I’m still in the gym training with huge tattooed men, surrounded by banter and I’m progressing… a fortnight ago I deadlifted 100kg and squatted 70kg while listening to Pantera’s Nothing Else Matters. My hard assed coach who was watching, raised his eyebrows and chuckled to himself. I knew I’d arrived…
Now I’m left further inspired by the conciseness of your writing. I find it refreshing because I struggle with that. It appears that you have time to consider, reflect and engage in the creative process of editing your words with great care, to leave powerful, clear words that I aspire to. I get easily distracted to engage myself fully in that process and find myself rambling… So, for now, I’ll shut the **** up and leave you in peace.
With love and respect.
More from the deputy who knew Brents in jail: “the malice and instability that resided within him was so think it was nearly tangible”
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Reader: Even as meek as he tried to make himself appear, your skin would still crawl.
I remember Brent Brents. Vividly. No, I’m not one of his victims but I am one of the deputies, now former, who worked in a jail where he was held… I bought your book, a first edition, shortly after it’s release. I was profoundly impacted by Brent during the time he was in custody. He was not a large man but had a very unique presence and one that would raise the hairs on your neck. I would say I’m fairly adept at recognizing danger and comfortable defending myself, if necessary. I also had several inches on him as I stand about 5’10” and I believe he was about 5’7”, if I remember correctly. He was housed in a maximum security unit and was allowed out one hour each day to shower, exercise, or watch tv, by himself.
Even as meek as he tried to make himself appear, your skin would still crawl. There was something fundamentally broken inside of him and that intuition we all have that makes you recognize a dangerous situation would fire off regularly, even when he was locked behind a 2 inch thick metal door. Even other inmates, in maximum security, were bothered by him.
Incidentally, he was right about one thing, the other inmates did want to kill him. We had a few really bad guys in that unit during that time. There is a hierarchy in jail, as I am sure you are aware. Child molesters are on the bottom of that with rapists being one step above. Since Brents was both, and notorious, you could say his reception was not exactly warm.
-Name withheld by request
November 14, 2018
Reader: i just watched your ted talk Have you ever met a Monster. I am a survivor of sexual assault
Comment: I do not know if you would read this but i just watched your ted talk Have you ever meet a Monster. I am a survivor of sexual assault (a word I have just been able to say).I became a survivor of course while dorming at college 5 years ago and then person who assaulted me was not a bad person at all. If anything i always blamed myself and felt bad for him even though i shouldn’t.
This has and still causes me many problems due to a sense of guilt and pity. I wanted to message you because that ted talk was so important. It was important to me to hear and important to everyone to hear. Thank you so much for sharing not only Margot story but also Brent.
October 23, 2018
Reader: I wish I could have saved Brent Brents when he was a little boy
Comment: Dear Amy,
I just watched the Ted Talks video about Brent Brents. I’m in tears for that little boy. My heart is broken for him. I’m sitting here, feeling like I want to do something, but I’m not sure what. If there is anything I can do, anywhere I can volunteer, any way to let Brent Brents know that people care about him, please let me know. If I could save ALL children from any and all abuse, I would. I wish I could have saved Brent Brents when he was a little boy. It just breaks my heart. Thank you, Amy, for shedding light on this, and for your work. But, really, if there’s away to not forget Brent, and to let him know he is cared about, please let me know.
Time: September 10, 2018 at 8:57 am
Contact Form URL: https://diaryofapredator.com/contact/
Reader: I have met a predator…I lived with him
Comment: I haven’t read your book but I have met a predator…I lived with him. Your video struck me deeply. I know that stare and that feeling and I know how it feels to shake with fear and pull out something from deep inside yourself and still talk with compassion. It’s changed me on levels I haven’t been able to explain to anyone I know. It’s changed every friend dynamic I’ve ever had and now even in basic conversation I see new layers of communication. Thanks for sharing your story.
Time: September 6, 2018 at 12:42 pm
Contact Form URL: https://diaryofapredator.com/contact/
Reader: You asked me previously to write about EMDR and here it is. It’s taken a while, but I wanted to get it right.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) was developed by American psychologist, Francine Shapiro after she made a chance observation one day while walking in the woods, that moving her eyes from side to side appeared to reduce the discomfort of disturbing thoughts and memories. She worked to research and develops the techniques over the 1990s and it is now a recognized psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing and traumatic life experiences.
The theory is, that our brains process memories we experience during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. When a person experiences a traumatic event or situation, the memory of it can sometimes fail to get processed by our brains effectively, causing them to experience the memory as if they are actually happening, instead of relating to it as a past experience. Such a response to trauma can often be identified by a particularly vivid or detailed memory of a situation such as the precise pattern of a carpet, a smell, a taste, an image etc. These can easily and repeatedly trigger thoughts of the experience as if it was really happening to the extent that the person’s life and identify becomes defined by that memory or group of memories…
EMDR now has a strong international evidence base. One particularly remarkable study found that 100% of people who’d encountered a single traumatic experience where no longer diagnosed of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following 6×50 minute sessions of EMDR and 77% of people who encountered multiple traumatic events were PTSD free in 12 sessions. EMDR is recognised by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organisation and the Department of Defense as an effective treatment of trauma related mental health conditions.
What I particularly liked about it and responded well to, was that there was very little talking involved (unlike cognitive, talking based therapies). I didn’t need to describe past experiences in detail, I didn’t need to worry about saying the right thing, or the wrong thing or missing something important out. There was nothing to work out. To someone with an excessively busy and ruminating mind, this was so refreshingly uncomplicated. I left the first session even, wondering whether anything had really happened at all. I wasn’t really accustomed to “gentle” therapy as being effective and was about to right it off when the “real work” began after the session and my brain kicked into action.
The treatment came in phases:
Phase 1 is a brief history taking. What’s currently not working and a very succinct account of memories that we wanted to concentrate on. There were four particular ones for me and we explored when and how they get triggered, and how it would be if these memories did not have such an impact on my life – I hadn’t thought that could even be possible. Those memories were not hard at all to identify; they regularly appeared in my mind and popped up immediately with minimal exploration, as real as if they were happening. In brief they were:
1. being overpowered and briefly suffocated as a child
2. a nun telling me I was disgusting and should be ashamed of myself & locking me in a cupboard
The common theme with these memories appeared to be entrapment and shame. I was surprised to discover that although I came to no physical harm at the hands of the nun; the encounter with her was the most impactful, being related to my identity. This throws the old saying that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” completely out of the water.
Phase 2 related to finding ways to cope when things got shakey. And they did get shakey. The job of R, the therapist was to produce rapid change in my brain and my job was to ensure my brain could cope with that rapid change, and commit to asking for help if I needed it. Fortunately, I had the support of R and several other people who knew I was undergoing this therapy, who I could call upon when I didn’t know which way was up. I was also taught grounding and de-escalation techniques and advised not to meditate or indulge in overthinking as this may make the experience too overwhelming. Instead I exercised, I wrote and had acupuncture as an added method of releasing tension and stress (the latter was helpful but not necessary).
Phases 3 -6 targeted on the specific memories. Starting from the earliest, I was invited to get present to the experience through a chosen visual image relating to the memory. The pattern on a pair of trousers, the carpet I was on, the contorted face of the nun etc.. Again this was not hard for my brain to imagine, these memories being so close to the surface of my thinking experience.
Once my mind was occupied with the memory… I was asked what showed up, just to notice what happened, whatever it was. Sometimes it would be a smell, sometimes a visual image, sometimes a word popped into my head, a texture, a feeling… often, a well of emotion would accompany what I recalled. Tears would flow down my cheeks. Sometimes, I panicked and R would bring me “back into the room” by asking me to feel my feet or the chair I was sitting on. She ensured I knew I was safe, despite not feeling it at times… She was wonderful.
Once I’d described what I noticed, often in one short phrase or a sentence… R would move her upright index finger towards the right and left in front of my face, a bit like a pendulum, it felt slightly hypnotic. My eyes would accompany her finger rapidly looking to the right and left for around 2-3 minutes. She sometimes used another technique, which was a small buzzer in each of my hands which would alternate buzzing from my right to left hand. My eyes would often follow suit. This was the gentler of the two techniques by far and was used to “open out” and explore the memory more, when it got too emotionally intense. I was often amazed at what showed up.
During the therapy sessions, I was also asked to describe the experience through my identity or belief about my identity. R would often ask “and what are you telling yourself” and I’d answer such things as: “I’m powerless” and “I should be ashamed of myself (but why?)” and “I’m disgusting, she must be right, she’s an adult” and “I can’t get clean, I want to be clean”. Throughout the course of the therapy, over several weeks, these beliefs gradually changed. I found myself saying instead “I chose to submit to stay safe”, “I have nothing to be ashamed of” and “I am clean” and “I don’t have to agree with the opinion of others”.
Although many of the sessions themselves were powerful, the real work happened outside of the sessions. I’d return home, completely shattered and wanting to sleep, remaining disorientated for a few days afterwards. Often, I didn’t have a clue what was going on and leaving the house to meet others was out of the question. At one point my anxiety escalated but I remembered that I’d taken on the responsibility to ask for help when I needed it. It also took trusting myself in what I needed. I committed to taking care of myself through the process.
The final phase of the therapy, after around 10 weeks, was to revisit the earlier memories to see how I now responded to the memories, and if there was anything else to explore.
Since the therapy, I’ve learned:
• That I needed psychological help. I’m grateful that I had access to that help. No amount of transformation workshops, brooding or journaling or meditation was going to process those traumatic memories. My brain, in response to emotionally painful memories, took on a strategy to keep myself safe: it told me to submit, pretend to be weak, stay quiet, ignore my needs, that to experience love & intimacy I must endure physical pain, not to disagree or say no or rock the boat and it kept repeating those strategies, often to my detriment.
• That I’m emotionally strong. It took nearly everything I had to get through it. The process during the sessions was straightforward, complex and gentle. The processing at home most certainly wasn’t. In order to get through it I had to surrender control of my beliefs, expectations and world view; that’s that hard part. The belief that I’m strong has gradually grown as I’ve taken on running again and am training to 10k and half marathon level. I’m not fast yet, by I keep going and I do not stop. I’m also working with a trainer so that I can do chin ups, something I’ve never been able to do. Last week I amazed myself by walking my hands across parallel bars. My mentor is a 10 year old boy called George who of course, launches himself at the monkey bars with ease and laughs while he does chin ups. I love the cheeky little shit.
• That I don’t have to know how something works in order for it to be effective.
• That I get to choose which story I believe. If it doesn’t involve self-compassion, it doesn’t work. Another mentor is Maya Angelou (“Still I rise”).
The circumstances of my life were not my fault.
The experience of my life however, is certainly my responsibility.
Further information can be found about EMDR here:
Reader letter: “I see you, I’m with you, you’re safe.”
Hey Brent, I haven’t written in a while, I apologise, it was my intention to write again sooner. There are no excuses (other than dealing with life) although I’m now noticing trends in my learning, which I’d like to share with you. There are discoveries to me made, I become unblind to them, capture them, write them down and congratulate myself for the growth… Then begins the process where life shows me what these lessons really mean. I’ll give you an example. In the last letter to you, I wrote about letting go of judgement over my thoughts. I described a zen like, floaty quality of watching all fleeting thoughts flowing past me without getting attached to them. I think I’ve also said about learning about being strong… Well the universe was watching as I wrote those words, Brent, then threw its head back laughing and had some fun.
To be frank, after reading your letter… things turned a tad Disney for a bit this end. A couple of days later, I was watching Aladdin and heard the song “A Whole New World” and you popped into my mind… wouldn’t it be great for us to take a magic carpet ride and explore the world. We could touch down for Dal bhat in Nepal, take a seat in front of the Taj Mahal, fly low over Australia’s Ayers Rock, dive head first down Niagara Falls, a snow ball fight in Canada, maybe even a 2-mile vertical ascent into space to top it off. I had it all worked out in seconds: we’d escape for the ride before heading back, safe and sound, before anyone even thought to mention the words “lock down”. It was a fleeting thought that had me smile as I went to fetch more popcorn.
Then the rug got pulled out from under me. An unexpected wave of grief mixed with vulnerability had me batten down the hatches and that’s when the attacks came. A car smash (none hurt other than my insurance premium), the sudden onset of excruciating pain of kidney stones (so grateful I don’t have free access to Oramorph, that stuff is amazing!), Sister Vianney (the most formidable nun who taught English at school) died – going to her funeral brought a whole host of mixed memories to the surface, followed by a freak flood in my home (picture me standing in my water logged kitchen looking up at a great dripping hole in the ceiling, mouth agape thinking “what the actual *%#*??!!”). That was on top of all the usual nonsense to navigate, like: “am I in the right job?”, “will I ever meet my mother’s (aka my own) expectations?”, “why do men (OK, OK… women and the gender neutral too) need to be assholes?”, “am I messing up my daughter’s life?”
It’s had me writing, running and raging a lot: proper tantrum, snotty faced stuff (turns out this doesn’t go down well in the gym). I’ve engaged the support of a therapist, I’ve even turned to Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them”. I’ve been comforted to realise that I’m not the first and won’t be the last to wonder whether it’s all worth it.
I’m kind of reluctant to share what I’ve learned from the experience, in case life decides to show me the real lesson again. But right now, I feel humbled. Life’s purpose, if ever there was one, appears to be open with others; to speak with them from the perspective of: “I see you, I’m with you, you’re safe.” Things seem to fall into place when I do this, even with people I sometimes struggle being with, like myself.
Is it really that simple?
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