Negative Beliefs and Revictimization

Smiling Man

When I was a little girl, my dad used to always tell me that men are perverted creeps not to be trusted. He would say “I used to be a guy that age – I know what disgusting things he’s thinking!” That mixed with the fact that my dad was sexually abusive to me led to beliefs that men only want one thing from me, and that I should expect to be victimized if I trust a man. I still hold those beliefs today even though they aren’t serving me anymore. As a child the mistrust was an adaptive protective stance; now it just leads to revictimization.

It’s been said by many metaphysical teachers that each one of us creates our reality with our thoughts and beliefs, and it seems that in this new living situation I created a reality that reflected right back to me my negative beliefs about men. I wanted to believe that my new male roommate is just a creep and that the situation had nothing to do with me, but to think that would just be playing victim, something I don’t choose to do. If those metaphysical teachers are right, there was something about my thoughts that attracted me to this situation.

I experienced this roommate as creepy and vengeful. He made clear attempts to manipulate me by lying, and was irate when I refused to allow these manipulations. He also insisted on doing “nice” things for me, like offering to drive me places, or buy groceries for me, all of which I declined, and he was also irate about this. He’s a textbook “nice guy” – someone who does “nice” things with the expectation that they’ll get something in return, and is therefore, not a nice person at all.

His actions were a perfect fit with my negative belief that men are manipulative and are not to be trusted. I found myself saying “AH HA!!! I knew it!” when my negative beliefs were confirmed, and yet when men I know do not act in this way, there’s no “ah ha, I was wrong.” I was clearly paying attention only to those actions and behaviours that matched my beliefs, and this new roommate was the epitome of my mind’s caricature of the average man; a creepy, manipulative, and whiny sore loser.

There was actually a very satisfying feeling that I got from “being right” in this situation as well. There’s no mistaking that he said some very inappropriate things to me – everyone I’ve mentioned it to has cringed a bit when I tell the story – but the silver lining was that I got to feel like I am superior to him because I “get it” and he doesn’t. I would even go as far to say that he is, in fact, stupid, for not understanding why what he did was creepy. I’ve got to let go of my need to feel this superiority too. It only fed my rage and anger, and it probably just stems from a fear of being inferior – another negative belief, but this time one about myself in comparison with men. If I’m “right” then I’m “safe,” or at least I’m aware of my surroundings enough to respond and protect myself, but the whole scene is just a tired replay of many other similar, though less dramatic scenes I’ve experienced in my life with men.

I am making a commitment to myself to change my negative beliefs about men. If believing that men aren’t to be trusted and that they only want one thing is going to lead me back to this sort of situation again and again then I am in for a lot more trouble. I guess this is a bit of an experiment of sorts. If I make a concerted effort to catch myself every time I have a negative belief about a man, even if it’s true, I’m not going to believe that all men are like this, and I am going to practice gratitude for all of the wonderful men in this world that conduct themselves with decency and respect around others. By changing my thoughts about men, I hope I’ll see a difference in the type of men I see around me. Wish me luck! Oh, and I’m moving out of this creep’s apartment on December 1st, because… fuck this.


A Victim Mentality Destroys Your Power

Choose Your Path

To be a victim is disempowering in the absolute sense – there is no opportunity for healing there. I have been raped but I will not refer to myself as a victim. In my search for healing I’ve concluded that there can be no such a thing as a victim, for if there is, healing would be impossible; it would depend on what others do, and that is something I have no control over. The best I could do is attempt to influence, and hope for the best, and this is emotionally draining and frustrating at best.

The victim mentally is a pervasive and disabling part of our culture. It is woven into the way we speak to each other, into our language, when we say “you make me so…” or “he makes me feel…” or “she made me…” Whether the feeling is positive or negative is irrelevant, when we believe others have the magical ability to make us feel something, we believe ourselves to be a victim. But how can I say that in the awful scenario or rape, for instance, that the person raped is not a victim?

Let’s be clear, a person who is raped has had a horrible thing done to them, but no one can control how they will react to and feel about the rape. In the climate of a victim mentality culture, however, most people who have been raped expect that others should do or say something to make healing possible for them. Feeling retraumatized and revictimized by the reactions of others is common. Many people who have been raped report that the reaction of the community, that often protects or apologizes for the rapist, was just as, if not more traumatic then the actual rape itself. I can attest to this since this has been my experience. I was expecting my friends, family, and community to rally around me, and instead I was met skepticism, silence, and even anger. In order to heal, it has become blatantly apparent to me that I cannot rely on others, and I cannot wait for them to “come around” to my point of view. I have allowed myself to be “revictimized” because I felt powerless, because I felt like a victim, because I believed that others have the power to give me my health and happiness or take it away.

A victim is by definition powerless. A victim has no control, and is at the mercy of others. I am convinced that even if a person forces another to submit to them physically, power – true power – has nothing to do with a physical offence. Only the perpetrator’s fear, self-hatred, and feelings of powerlessness can inspire such acts in an effort to regain the lost sense of power. Again, it is magical thinking at work when the perpetrator believes that power can really be taken or exchanged between individuals. If your friend felt powerless could you offer to give him some of your power by choice if he insisted he was hopeless? Could you choose for him? No.

Understand that the definition of power I am referring to has nothing to do with money, or politics, or hierarchy. That has to do with material control. I’m talking about another person’s ability or inability to control your internal state of being, of feeling, of thinking. It cannot be done! Only YOU have the power to control your inner state and that is the only true power that anyone can ever have. All other “power” is an illusion, but the illusion undoubtedly looks very real simply because so many of us buy into the belief that we can be made to feel like a victim by someone else.

I know all this and yet the victim mentality is still the default explanation my mind resorts to whenever I feel imposed upon by others or by situations. It is like a software program that runs in my brain, and healing is going to require my full attention and a commitment to changing the false belief that others can “make” me feel anything at all. Even in the positive instance, for example, when I feel swept off my feet by a lover, I must recognize that the feeling comes from me, and not from them. Another might not feel such lust or love toward that person as I do, therefore my feelings comes from me and only me, and have nothing to do with the inherent qualities of that person.

To heal I must change my fundamental beliefs I have about the world and myself, I must see things through new eyes. What it really comes down to is destroying my belief in a lack of free will, my belief in thought control, for when I acknowledge my real power I see that no one can control my thoughts. In fact, to believe such a thing is in the interest of those who wish to “take power” away from me. It is to their benefit that I believe I have no control over my emotional reactions to them, that I fear them and fear how they can “make” me feel.

Once again I must be aware of the flip side of the coin here. If I allow myself to have the belief that others can take my power away, then I must also believe that they can give it back to me in a gesture of “helping.” The only real help others can give is to show me how to help myself, to inspire me to be the change I want to see. But the belief that another can simply give me power, that I can simply buy my healing from a therapist or a pharmacy, is nothing but a illusion, and indeed it is “giving away” my power to another. This is dangerous, for it even allows for self-interested corruption to function under the guise of helping. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist, as long as I am not expecting them to “heal me,” but instead expecting them to partner with me and show me the work I must do for myself. In terms of taking pharmaceutical drugs, I can’t see any potential for healing, only numbing.

The expectation that others need to do something differently or change in order for me to heal or be happy will forever be unfruitful. No one is going to give me anything, even if they wanted to they cannot. Even the truly benevolent do not have any power to help me, just as the truly evil do not have any power to hurt me. It is a choice, and I must defend against my false belief in either sense and take my healing into my own hands. I must work with others who inspire me to find that truth again and again, others who know this and practice it in their own lives. When I take stock, it’s true that the only time I’ve ever experienced any real healing is when I took responsibility for my own health and happiness. Others can point toward the path, but I must walk it myself.

~ “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan


Thirteen Percent of Young Men Have Raped

This isn’t a recent post, but a great one nonetheless that discusses some preliminary studies on what proportion of the young male population has engaged in rape. Two studies are discussed where men were surveyed about past sexual activities that involved the use of threat, force, or intoxication to gain compliance of their victims without consent. The word rape is not used in the survey, and that is likely why the men felt comfortable self-reporting these activities, though it’s unclear if any men declined to report truthfully. The conclusions of these two studies were that roughly 13% of the male population have raped, and between 4% and 8% are serial rapists. These numbers could potentially be even higher if some men declined to answer truthfully. Of those admitting to rape, only about 30% reported using force, while the remainder went for intoxicated victims in what are likely to be socially sanctioned acts of rape, since the guy can easily claim confusion about her consent since she was not in her right mind. That means a large proportion of guys opportunistically take advantage of intoxicated women because they know their friends won’t question them about it. Anyway, have a read, this is a great post.

A huge proportion of the women I know enough to talk with about it have survived an attempted or completed rape. None of them was raped by a stranger who attacked them from behind a bush, hid in the back of her car or any of the other scenarios that fit the social script of stranger rape. Anyone reading this post, in fact, is likely to know that six out of seven rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. It has been clear for a long time, at least since Robin Warshaw’s groundbreaking “I Never Called It Rape,” which used Mary Koss’s reseach, that the stranger rape script did not describe rape as most women experienced it. It’s easy to picture the stranger rapist: a violent criminal, not much different from the violent criminals who commit other violent crimes. This guy was in prison before, and he’ll be back…

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I Fear I’ve Killed My Father

"I Fear I've Killed My Father"

Have I got anything left to say to you, father? I’ve had so much to say during my life and yet I only spoke most of it aloud to myself in those long nights of sobbing alone and wondering if it was possible to cry out all the tears I have for you. I’ve cried so many tears, and yet tonight there are just as many as there has been before. So what is it I haven’t said?

That I love you.

It’s why it hurts me so much, you see. Because you’re my father and I’ve wanted to believe this whole time that you actually gave a shit about me. I made myself the bad one so you could be good in my eyes. I made myself the reason you were so sick and unhappy. I thought I could influence your life and save you from yourself. And now I fear I could influence your death too. If my mother leaves you, I fear you’ll surely die. And who then will pick up your corpse and honour it? What will become of you?

It took me so many years to finally face this pain you inflicted on me because I thought you were too weak and fragile – and if you die it will show me I was right. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy and love yourself. I can see that was unrealistic. But my heart is breaking for you, for us, for what we could have had if you were capable of making better decisions.

But those years are gone and I’m no longer that child who trusted you. I’m now a weary-eyed woman trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered illusions. You used me like a toy doll for your own amusement. You eyed me up and down and made comments about my body and my breasts and told me I look just like my mother. You never protected me from your creepy friends, but instead you joined in when they harassed me. You took advantage of my trust in you and made my existence a dead plastic servant of your whims. And I still loved you because you were my dad.

Maybe my pain is not for you, but is for a broken dream that there still exists some salvation for us. That somehow I might still learn how much you really love me. But I see now you don’t understand love. Maybe you were never loved in your whole life except by your innocent children who you took advantage of, who you abused in every way possible.

But my heart still breaks for this sad demise of our family. No matter how fucked up things got you are still my family, but you put me in a position where I either have to choose my family or myself, because it seems I can’t have both. I’ve wanted nothing more than for my mother to choose me over you, but if she does, I fear you’ll die. Who will honour your small decrepit corpse if she leaves you? It’s like your tricky revenge on me for “ruining your life” as you put it. You would have rather I suffered until the end of my days too so that you could go on living in denial. I never wanted to ruin anyone’s life, I just wanted what anyone wants, to be loved and be happy.

I wanted you to love me, and if you die, so dies my dream for that love. It’s always just been an illusion anyway. I know that. And I accept that you did the best you could, as horrible as it was. I’m so sorry you spent your whole life running from yourself. I miss those moments as a small child when I had no concept yet that you were capable of such awful things. My daddy, just my wonderful daddy who loves me.


Dear Men, I Honor My Femaleness

"I Honor My Womanness"

Dear Men,

The last thing I want is for you to think I am weak, because in our culture weakness is punished and belittled. But I am a woman, and we’ve been taught that femininity is weak, so if I want respect I am backed into this damned corner every time I see you. I can see from your words and your actions that you don’t really believe women are worthy of respect either. The problem is that I believed you were right.

If I believe I am weak there’s no telling what you’ll do to me, how you’ll underestimate me, how you’ll take advantage of me, how you’ll use your strength against me, how you’ll take from me. I’ve been living my life afraid of all this since I was a little girl, who watched her father rage and yell and belittle women. I thought the only way he could love me is if I abandoned myself, abandoned my femaleness, because I could see how he despised it, how he mocked it, how he used it and threw it away.

I’ve been hit and raped and spat on, shoved and screamed at, peeped on, and creeped on and I’m just waiting for you to challenge me any time I feel afraid, daring you even with a piercing stare because I have so much anger about all this that it doesn’t matter anymore what you do to me: The fear makes me want to fight, makes me want to hurt you back as badly as I can. And I’m ready whenever you make your move. I’ve seen enough of your tricks to know what to do. And you are most hurt when equated with a woman, when people think you’re a sissy pussy bitch and so I feel my fear is justified. You hate your own femaleness too.

I’ve been hurt by men so much that I’m scared I could be hurt by you, even though I don’t know you. I am afraid of you. I get crafty and wear a mask. I take on masculine traits like aggression, dominance, and muted emotion, and I wear them like a costume whenever I’m in your presence. It’s so automatic I don’t even have to think about it, it just pours forth from the anger I feel, that I can’t just exist, can’t just be myself, can’t just be a woman, without fearing the risk of harm from you. So I stand guard, but I don’t even know you. But you are a man, and so I fear you.

If you could see me when I’m alone, you’d see that I am soft and yielding and loving. I smile and laugh and feel at ease with myself. I take off my costume. But the still fear remains in the back of my mind, and the fear is the only thing separating us from the truth. It’s not you I need to annihilate, it’s the fear. When I live in constant fear of you, I forget who I am completely, and I justify and agree with your misogynistic words, thoughts, and deeds, because I too have become misogynistic by dishonoring myself. I have become my enemy to try and protect myself from enemies, but I see now that you can’t honor me until I honor myself. It’s not your decision to say what I am worth, and it never was. We were both just so confused. Thanks for listening.

Love Courtenay


Dear Men, I Was Probably Just Being Nice

"Nice Woman"

Dear Men,

When a woman is being nice to you, it does not always mean she likes you. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you either, but please don’t let that awkward moment where you prematurely start fiddling with her shirt strap be the moment where you find out she isn’t actually into you. It’s just gets weird at that point, probably for you as well, and it’s sooo unnecessary. Same goes for those awkward one-armed side-hugs.

I’ve actually had boyfriends in the past who criticized me for being nice to other men because “he’s gonna think you’re into him.” And lo and behold many of them did. And they were wrong.

You know what’s also weird? Not being nice to people because I’m afraid that if I’m nice they’re going to misread it and start acting inappropriately. But if I’m not nice it’s all, “she’s a bitch, blah” when I would actually prefer to be nice to you! So, I hope we can come to an agreement on this, that if I’m being nice there’s nothing more to read into with that. If you want to read into more, there’s always body language and other cues you can use. I think many people have written many books on the subject of other cues. Thanks for listening.

Love,

Courtenay


I Didn’t Know I Was A Piece of Plastic

"Mannequin"

I’ve realized that I have just been paid lip service all my life. I’ve been told how “equal” I am so many times that I just never questioned it, even when contrary information was staring me in the face. When Snoop Dogg said “We don’t love them hos,” I was pretty sure he wasn’t talking about me. After all, my grade four teacher told me that men and women were equal, and that the women’s rights movement had prevailed and that I could be and do whatever it is I wanted when I grew up. I believed it, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Snoop was obviously referring to those girls over there, not me.

It took being raped – treated like a commoditized object – for me to really see that, in our supposedly enlightened culture, to some men, most certainly to this man who premeditatively raped me, that I am just a piece of plastic. What right did I have as a woman to trust that this guy wouldn’t choose to knock me unconscious and rape me? Apparently none. Perhaps to him I am the evil temptress upon whom he can place all the blame for his actions, so he might be free to flail around in life, hurting people “uncontrollably,” and always being able to say “she made me.

He was taught that he has a right to my body, which he could easily possess with a little social manipulation and rohypnol, to bend it and break it like a plastic Barbie doll, to use it and abuse it and then throw it away when he’s done. He may have even hi-fived his friends the next day and talked about how “good he hit it,” how good it was for him to have sex with a limp, unconscious body. I’ll bet it made him feel powerful. I feel sorry for him. I doubt I was the first woman he’s raped.

And well meaning people still ask me what I was wearing when it happened.

~ “He did not care upon what terms he satisfied his passion. He had even a mad, melodramatic idea to drug her.” – W. Somerset Maugham