Tag Archives: shame

Reader response: there is nothing between us as human beings. Nothing in the way.

Dear Brent,

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.

E

Leave a comment

Filed under reader comments

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
3. rape
4. abortion
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:
http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

-Emily

7-2-2018

Leave a comment

Filed under reader comments

I ask when does a victimizer get to feel ok about them self again

I just have to remember that people are going to hate me and what i’ve done. And some just hate me period. Thats life, not to take it foolishly, or be conceited about it. I’m allowed to have happiness in my life, but some people think not.

Just like Emily asked when can a victim feel clean. I ask when does a victimizer get to feel ok about them self again. Well my answer to the first is this. Be strong all of U. Whether you’re being violated at the moment, or U are a survivor of past abuse. You’re not dirty. Your attackers are the ones who are filthy individuals. You’re clean when you choose to be clean.

Fight w/ all of your hearts the shame and guilt, they dont belong to U. They belong to me and the other assholes who R or were your abusers.

As for when do i get to feel clean? I hope i always feel the shame and guilt of my sickness. No one deserves what i did. And in my mind if i forget that i’ll not be worthy of this blog, my efforts to help U out there will be for not. Its a harsh way to look @ it. But i am a sick deviant individual. Who should never be allowed to forget what i am.

Too many people like me get away w/ thier bs. And continue thier reign of terror. And innocent people suffer for it. My fathers father got away w/ his abuse. My father got away w/ his. And thankfully i got caught. Too late mind U, but caught none the less. So hopefully the cycle will stop w/ me. And my victims wont become, or continue being abusers. Or victims of people like me.

-Brent Brents 4-2-2018

Leave a comment

Filed under Brents' writings

Replying to a reader: Describe your father in 1 word. Describe your mother in 1 word.

Michelle,

First of all thank U for sharing that experience w/ all of us. This must be the week where people challenge my thinking. Which i take seriously. I wish i could have found it in my heart to forgive my dad his wrongs on his death bed. Although i was not there, i know full well i had too much hate and bitterness toward him to do so.

I have struggled w/ that issue for years. Finaly being able to find some understanding and insight into him as i learn about myself and why i chose to be this way. We were both sick, scarred, and programed violently @ the hands of our parents. We both chose to be predatory instead of vulnerable.

I don’t know about him but i had chances to make the changes necessary to become a productive and compassionate individual. I chose hate and predation as my armor. I enjoyed hurting people. I was a coward just as he was. I could say it was my parents fault. Yet that would be total bullshit.

The truth is i (chose) this way of life. Although i have gained the ability to feel compassion and empathy for people. I still suffer the addiction to sexual violence. It is a shame i deal w/ daily.

So in one word how would i describe my father… ( Incapable ). Because he was controlling and manipulative right up to his death in 2004. And was incapable of change. I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t care to or that he had behaved violently and hurtfully for so long he just didn’t know how.

My mother…This one is easy. ( sick ). She was molested by her father, uncles, brothers. She was literaly used by the men in her family as a sexual apperatus. From a very young age. Then she marries my father. Horrible choice.

The woman only knew to equate love and sex as the same thing. The incest w/ me was her way of loving me. I dont really hate her for it. Although it was clearly a crime against myself. I not only enjoyed it, but i also equated this sexual behavior as love.

It was a sickness we shared. A way to love one another in his little private kingdom. I have forgiven her as well. My anger was not at what she did to me. Rather at her not working w/ me to hash it out.

To find a place of understanding between us. Where we could finaly put it all behind us and heal together and seperately. To exercise our own demons. And love one another as a mother and child should have from the beginning…

But the reality is shit happens. I made shitty choices that had absolutely nothing to do w/ the abuse i endured as a child. Broken system or not. I chose to be what i was. I am addicted to sexual violence. My brain is and has been fucked up for years.

That however is no excuse for how i chose to live my life. In a nut shell, the one word i would use to describe myself now: ( Learning ). How would i have described myself 14 years ago. ( Evil )!!!

So Michelle i hope i have provided some insight into myself, and how i see things. As for the abuse i went thru as a child. It honestly was not what made me who i was. Though it is easy to say my parents created an animal. Its simply not the case.

They are probably responsible for my sexually violent addiction. However i made the choice at around the age of 10 to be predatory. Because it gained me what they took from me. And that was my ability to control my own emotional safety and security. As well as my physical and sexual well being. I created me, i truly believe this.

Just as i am now recreating myself. Molding a compassionate and caring human being. And its not easy. But necessary.

-Brent Brents

1-24-18

————————————————————————————————

I read your book and still follow the blog, and find the story of Brent compelling, and so incredibly sad.

I have my own history of abuse at the hands of a parent, and luckily for me, my healing was healthy and empowering. I began to realize it was him who was damaged and sick. I look in the mirror every morning and I like who I am. I don’t know what he sees when he looks in his mirror … a couple of years ago, I was at his death bed, holding his hand as he approached mortality and I asked, “How would you describe your father in 1 word?” His response, “… distant … ” Ok, interesting… “How would you describe your mother, in 1 word?” “… Vain” and my eyes began to well up. He was raised by parents who were distant and vain. Jesus Christ, what had THEY done to HIM? and the empathy and compassion I felt for him, my abuser, was overwhelming … it literally washed over me that, he was not who he was supposed to be. Someone did something to change him. I don’t relieve him of his responsibility for those things done to me and others … but I had a window into the “why”…and the timeline of cause and effect.

I forgave the man. I will never forgive the acts. I loved him but I was afraid to be near him most of my life. I second guessed every comment, every intention…and I hated that, but it wasn’t of my choosing. I am so grateful that although it took until the end, I gained even more perspective and true forgiveness.

I look at Brent and I think, he was born a beautiful perfect little being … what the hell did they think they were doing, and creating out of him???? I don’t forgive his acts, they are his to own. But it sickens me that he was changed. He was forever altered through no fault of his own. I wonder how he would answer the questions:

Describe your father in 1 word.
Describe your mother in 1 word.

-Michelle

January 19, 2018

Leave a comment

Filed under Brents' writings

Reader: I’m starting with this woman and moving forwards

Hi Amy,

I hope this email reaches you well. I’ve been checking into the blog and reading some great responses, as Brent advised; I’m so pleased that your message and efforts are gaining momentum…
I was moved by Brent’s last response and remain inspired by his self examination, exploration and willingness to change his position/perception. It is his response that gives me the (albeit uneducated) belief that he is not all ‘pathological predator’ and has access to his own capacity of mind or freedom of choice and will. I’m sure psychiatric opinion and even Brent himself would disagree with that belief.
My last response to Brent via the blog was delayed and my explanation to him was intentionally somewhat vague. I’m particularly mindful of a boundary between sharing my experience and ’emotional dumping’ on either you or Brent. The latter I’m not up for in the slightest. I have no expectation of either of you to facilitate, enable or otherwise be responsible for my healing: I’m inspired regardless.
Recently, the outcome of a high profile rape case was published, you may have heard of it. The Belfast Rape Case is currently doing the rounds in the UK media, where 2 rugby players were found not guilty of raping a young woman. Since then, there has been a public social media focus on the “bragging and mysogynistic” texts between these 2 individuals and others after the event. Details of these conversations were shared in court to the extent that certain slang terms such as “spit roasting” had to be explained to the judge and jury. It was these details that particularly sicken me. The outcome of case & verdict serve to assure me I was right to keep quiet 20 years ago and save myself and my family from public shame..
For this case relates so closely to my experience of being raped at both ends while at University by two visiting ‘hockey heros’ who found their own particular way to top their winning night and become ‘legends of the locker room’, by engaging in sex with someone so inebriated as to have been incapable of providing consent, were it to have been sought.
I’ve sporadically dipped into the progress of this case with mixed feelings of injustice, morbid curiosity, disbelief and anger that this behaviour still goes unacknowledged. I’m convinced this is the tip of the iceberg. I kept quiet about it 20 years and from the outcome of this case, it seems I was wise to do so. How many other vulnerable women (and men) will be encouraged to do the same?
I recall that you covered and wrote extensively about this very rotten issue across Universities and in the Military, particularly. It saddens and angers me that this practice is so widespread: 20 years on from my experience, young women remain vulnerable and unheard. Men meanwhile, remain left with the message that this is standard behaviour to be ignored at best and or rewarded by these locker room louts masquerading as “sporting legends” at worst.
To prevent this happening to just one woman, man or child to lift the burden of their shame and self enduced life sentence would be incredible… this is my intention. I’m starting with this woman and moving forwards from there…
The last couple of months have been pretty dark, and I haven’t felt partucularly courageous or hopeful following the outcome of that case. Hence, I havent been in touch, while I deal with this emotional trigger and move forwards.
I just wanted to reassure you that I remain passionate and willing about supporting you and Brent in any way I can: for your message that so inspired me, to grow and contribute to tipping the balance.
With gratitude and best wishes,
Emily
April 13, 2018

Leave a comment

Filed under reader comments

Reader: Is rape an inevitability?

One response to “As a result of your latest post i have made the decision to not say that rape is worse than murder

There’s been a delay in my reply to you, I apologise, Brent.. particularly given your powerful response, thank you. My experience since last writing seems to be (as Brene Brown, a researcher òf shame and vulnerability would call) a ‘vulnerability hangover’! Almost from the moment I reached out and shared my experience and thoughts, I felt the shame.. who the hell was I to write something like that? What difference did I think it would make? So I hid away, closed myself off.. just like I’d squidge myself and my duvet under my bed as a child: it was safe under there. What a fraud eh? 🙂

What also prickled, was my first public acknowledgement of self blame. That I’d been so willing to accept the invitation of others to pick up the shame of what happened and convince myself that I deserved it. After struggling with this for a while, seeking help, receiving therapy (EMDR rocks), I’ve emerged with renewed curiosity. So, I’ve been reading the posts of others on the blog, as you recommend and the thought has occurred to me: ‘what else can I do to enable movement/growth of the intention of the book & blog?’ .. other questions: Is rape an inevitability? Will the abuse of children always be present in humanity? (As it has been for thousands of years?) Can it be reliably predicted? How can the perpetrator of rape be forgiven? How does the person who was raped ‘become clean’? I believe this blog is a catalyst for these open questions and I’m grateful to be part of it. With love and gratitude, E

Leave a comment

Filed under reader comments

Reader: I have come to the place, that while painful, my rape still provides me with possibility.

Hello again, I hope that today is a good day for you, with new possibilities for the coming year. Your book, that I read several months ago still resonates powerfully with me and was instrumental in finding peace and empowerment. On reflection of your words, it occurred to me to say that from my experience, the full impact of the rape/abuses I experienced are not the sole responsibility of the abusers/rapist(s).

The acts themselves were painful, yes. The ones that happened repeatedly, I got used to and developed a way of removing mind from the place I was in. But the physical injuries healed within a week. The real impact by far, what really stuck, was the shame I felt for many years. I was to blame. I should never have found myself in that position. Why couldn’t I have prevented it? While I didn’t provide consent for being raped (being blind drunk), neither did I fight for all I was worth while I was violently violated by two men I’d just met. I spent years ruminating on the moments like when the taller one said “Where do you think you’re going?” before I found myself on the bed. Why hadn’t I shouted or kicked him in the balls then?…

I took on the blame and shame from other people’s reactions (notably women, I observed) and while they were never identified or convicted, I imposed my own life sentence on myself. Letting yourself off the hook, or denying your part is one thing Brent, and I acknowledge your courage in taking on the responsibility for your role and suggest that you may be taking on more than is yours.

I read with interest, your view that “rape is worse than murder.” I have come to the place, that while painful, my rape still provides me with possibility. The story I tell about my experience is mine to tell, and I no longer feel that it ruined my life. It’s brought a new level of relatedness to others, to women, to men, to children, to you. If I were to meet those men again, I have realised just this second, as I’m writing these words, that I would thank them. If they’d murdered me, I wouldn’t be able to do that would I? If I’d succeeded in murdering myself , as I had considered and prepared for, I wouldn’t be in this place now. Today, I’m grateful, awake to being alive and I believe in that possibility for everyone, without exception.

I ‘ve recently watched a film called “The Work” which documents an extraordinary programme which takes place at Folsom State Prison. Run by the Inside Circle Foundation. The men who participated having experienced traumatic, chaotic, abusive pasts come to tell of their experiences and with great courage and vulnerability proceed to breakthrough.

I was deeply moved and my mind came to you, as I was watching. I asked myself, what would it be like if this was available for you. You may already be aware of this programme and foundation. If not, you may want to take a look…

With love and respect to you (both), Emily

January 11, 2018

Leave a comment

Filed under reader comments