Tag Archives: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Filth

Ancient Jewish bath for ritual immersion (“mikveh”), Author Arie Darzi to memorialize the Jewish communities in Spain, Source http://yavan.org.il/pws/gallery!82 (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things…” (1 Cor. 4: 13).

Filth pours out of the wall.  It may look like water, cool clear water, but it is filth.

In fact, the entire bathroom is contaminated.  God knows when it was last cleaned.  The room reeks of the sweat of prior occupants, is covered in a fine white powder from the predator’s own ablutions.

The door cannot be locked; the predator has seen to that.

You take your clothes off preparing to shower, but cannot find a place to lay down the cotton pajamas into which you plan to change.  Perhaps the toilet seat will suffice, if the clothes do not touch the floor, do not touch the wall, do not touch the tank.

You stand naked on the throw rug, an old shag which is, also, filthy, and prepare to step into the tub.  You grit your teeth, avoid looking at yourself in the small mirror that hangs over the sink.  The tub, too, is contaminated.  You know this must be done, so you step over the edge, cringing, toes curled under.

In the shower, you scrub your skin till it is raw.

You dread having to use the only towels available, stiff and worn, rough and faded towels.  You pull one down onto the floor, in order to be able to step out of the tub.  You carefully avoid touching the walls, touching the toilet tank.

You dry yourself awkwardly, as if drying off a stranger, avoid making eye contact with your image in the mirror.  Then you dress, step into slippers, gather your clothes and the used towels in a bundle for the hamper, and step over the threshold, out of the room.

You can never really get clean.  The bathroom may be contaminated by the predator.  But the dirt, the sin, is inside you.

No Escape

“…and though the…young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her” (Deut. 22: 27).

This is how a victim of sexual abuse feels.  We despise ourselves, loathe our bodies, would shed them if we could [1].  This flesh is what he wants.  His hands have been all over it, taking possession of what is no longer ours.

Desperation alternates with hopelessness.  But there is no sign of rescue and no escape. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Paralysis – Frozen by Fear, Part 1

Tiny mouse frozen in fear, Author Madhur D’silva (PD)

Abuse victims can experience anxiety so severe we are literally paralyzed with fear.  Berating ourselves for lack of nerve, for cowardice, for weakness and – worse yet – a lack of faith does little or no good.

That the situations which cause us such extreme anxiety do not always, on their surface, appear threatening only makes matters worse.  We can add to our list of faults childishness and irrationality.

None of this criticism is justified.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Most of us are familiar with the “fight or flight” response.

The body responds to perceived danger by preparing either to fight or flee.  The nervous system releases adrenaline and norepinephrine, increasing brain activity, blood sugar level, heart output, and blood flow to the muscles.  This response is automatic.  It is not under our volition.

Science has learned that freezing behavior is an aspect of the fight or flight response [1].  It is not uncommon for defenseless prey animals to freeze in place, when a predator is nearby.  Some may feign death, in a last-ditch effort to stop an attack.

Specific areas in the brain (the amygdala and hyppocampus) control freezing behavior.  Freezing is characterized by immobility, and measurable changes in blood pressure and heart rate.  It may, also, involve shortness of breath, perspiration, and/or a sensation of choking.

Trauma and the Freeze Response

I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear” (Ps. 143: 4 NLT).

Human beings rely on freezing when the threat facing them is overwhelming, but it is clear they cannot escape.  This assessment is, for all practical purposes, unconscious; arrived at in a matter of milliseconds.  Freezing behavior is the result.

A form of dissociation, freezing acts to numb us against the horrors about to be inflicted on us.

Children are, by nature, vulnerable.  They have few, if any, defenses.  Freezing behavior may well be their only recourse.

For the freeze response to “thaw”, the perceived danger must pass.  However, in situations of chronic abuse, the danger is real and unrelenting.  The child is not afforded an opportunity to decompress, to let his/her guard down.

And the victim who freezes as a child is more likely to freeze as an adult.

“…such ‘paralyzing’ psychological phenomena as phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and various anxiety states can frequently be understood as symptoms of a freeze response that never had the chance to ‘let go’ or ‘thaw out’ once the original experience was over.  And many features of post-traumatic stress disorder directly relate to this kind of unrectified trauma.”

-Leon Seltzer, PhD

[1]  Psychology Today, “Trauma and the Freeze Response:  Good, Bad, or Both?” by Leon Seltzer, PhD, 7/8/15, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201507/trauma-and-the-freeze-response-good-bad-or-both.

Strategies for coping with anxiety and the freeze response will be addressed next week in Part 2

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Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Faking Normal

A plank in the 2012 platform of the Republican Party called for illegal immigrants to leave the United States of their own accord. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate that year, took quite a bit of flack for supporting the approach (grandly titled “self-deportation”) [1].

But this is not really a post about illegal immigrants.

What abuse victims have in common with illegal immigrants is that we both self-monitor. We are, in other words, inclined to observe ourselves closely in the effort to project an acceptable image, an appearance of “normalcy” and control, whatever the turmoil within.

“Travel Caution,” Author Jasonctillman (CC BY-SA-3.0 Unported)

By itself, self-monitoring is not a bad trait. Even people who have never been abused worry, from time to time, whether their feelings and responses are normal. We are taught from childhood to play nicely with others, and not run with scissors. Those unwilling to adjust their behavior to society’s norms are likely to be aggressive and uncompromising.

For abuse victims, however, self-monitoring involves more. For us, it provides camouflage, and is the tool which allows us to fake normal.

Self-monitoring is a natural response on the part of victims long berated for their thoughts and actions, for their very existence. Victims cling to it, rather than trusting themselves to behave in an appropriate manner. That is understandable. Like illegal immigrants, we would prefer to go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, ongoing assessment of our own performance distances us from the present moment, depriving us of real enjoyment and the zest of living. Every thought, every word, every action must be guarded, as we continuously analyze and re-analyze ourselves in the attempt to “fit in”.

While constant self-monitoring deprives us of spontaneity, it does facilitate acceptance by others, at least on a superficial level. Self-scrutiny to such an extreme can, however, become an obsession. We may inadvertently craft a new form of bondage for ourselves, censoring every breath [2]. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Politics, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women