Fourth Indicator Of Narcissistic Abuse: The Flying Monkey Troupe


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Who else thinks ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is one of the greatest screen classics of all time? Don’t you just love all those larger than life characters? Dorothy, Toto and that ragtag band of lovable misfits? Of course, the Wicked Witch of the West is beyond the pale when it comes to wickedness, and we didn’t really care, did we, when she started to melt? But is there anything truly more loathsome than her wretched flying monkeys?

Illustration by me

They mindlessly, seemingly without the power of thought (even the level of thought attributed to the lowliest of the higher primates), did the witch’s bidding. And they did it gleefully, brutally and without a shred of mercy or remorse. Nothing beats the malice of a flying monkey.

Undoubtedly, they were weak-willed and lacking in character and moral judgement. And, so it is with the troupes of ‘flying monkeys’ that encircle, and do the bidding of your run-of-the-mill, narcissistic, emotional and psychological abuser.

Fuelled by the (dubious and insincere) esteem of their master or mistress, they leap into the fray in ignorant defence of someone who very likely views them as inferior, expedient and easily manipulated. We can forgive them for being ignorant (I suppose) but not for being malicious. They have something to gain from their willingness to attack the real victims of abuse, as flimsy as those gains are in a rational and moral light. They gain strokes to their fragile egos; pats on their backs; ingratiating thanks and sickly compliments about how wonderful and faithful they are. They have already set your abuser up as a demi-god who can do no wrong and it’s far easier for them to believe it. There’s no need to think for themselves if they can simply place their trust in someone else – someone who has the confidence to present themselves as incredibly special and knowledgeable.

Truly, they walk among us, these flying monkeys, and they look just like you or me. Sometimes – more often than I care to remember – they are our friends and family. That’s why their attacks hurt so much. It’s also one reason they are ‘chosen’ by our abuser.

So, what is their role, these misguided and weak-willed beings, so lacking in insight?

As with every other strategy used by a controlling narcissist, their purpose is to undermine you; destroy your belief in yourself and your own reality; convince you that you are not the victim of abuse but the perpetrator; confuse you about what happened and what didn’t’; remove your sources of support by spreading the word of your ‘craziness’ amongst your social and family groups; and hit you relentlessly with cruel accusations. It’s one thing to take a ‘barb’ from one source. En masse it is soul destroying and very much a part of the ‘crazy-making’ agenda.

By this stage you’ve probably already been isolated from your entire support system. The narcissist and their flying monkeys may well be all you know. You’re alone and under attack.

I found myself in that position a decade ago. It destroyed my mental and emotional health and added a whole new dimension to my ever-present debilitating physical condition. I wish I could outline the details here, as real-life examples are so instructive, but I believe it would set me up for defamation charges, so I must hold off. Abusive people are perpetually indignant and ready to bring in the law when exposed for what they are. Truth is no defence.

The flying monkeys you encounter may not always be overtly abusive but beware of their covert attacks. They have an endless repertoire of reproachful looks, dramatic facial expressions of hurt, disbelief and disapproval, barely concealed whispers ‘behind your back’ (yet designed for you to be aware of), and are often gifted with spiteful innuendo. They’ll emulate their master’s/mistress’s penchant for protracted periods of the silent treatment. A concerted attack by a whole group will bring you to your knees. And they’ll kick you while you’re down.

Because they do such a large portion of the abuser’s dirty work (while the abuser slips under the public radar), they help to fuel the illusion that the abuser is actually squeaky clean. Innocent. It’s a neat trick. Deflection. Diffusion of responsibility.

It’s particularly insidious when an abusive individual enlists children to the role. Perhaps they are your stepchildren or even your own children who are being poisoned by an estranged spouse. These kids don’t yet have fully formed personalities, characters, morals or world views. They’re a piece of cake to manipulate, making them an attractive choice for your unscrupulous tormentor. They’re innocent pawns in a sick game.

Adults, however, are a different prospect. They are chosen for their inherent weaknesses. They need to be easily swayed, which means they’re intellectually lazy. They also need to obtain a measure of reward from hurting the victim (just as the perpetrator does). They undoubtedly love the drama of heightened emotions and the esteem derived from a pat on the back for a job well done by their puppet master. They lack moral fibre.

So, don’t listen to them. Don’t let them take up space in your head. On some deep level, possibly long buried, you still know who you are, what you believe in and what you stand for. Hold fast to that, and believe that one day, you’ll reclaim your authentic self.

Flying monkeys are cowards at heart. Stand strong but don’t try to fight them with rational words. They’re no more rational than instigator of the abuse. Turn your back. Laugh at them. Tell them they’re talking rubbish…and mostly, give them no sign that you are affected by their words and actions, even if you are affected at this moment. Fake it till you make it. It will reduce their power over you.

I’d like to say that they’ll eventually disappear from your life and leave your primary abuser to ‘gaslight’ you all by himself, but that’s unlikely to happen. I’ll tackle gaslighting in my next post. It’s the most devious, dangerous and cruel strategy of all. You need to be armed against it.

The Third Indicator of Narcissistic Abuse


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Narcissists know everything. They know something about everything and everything about something. And there’s simply nothing they know nothing about. They are never wrong and you’d better not forget it.

Once again, the unbridled ego of the true narcissist shines through in all its questionable glory. Most of us are truly baffled when we first encounter this persistent narcissistic trait. The statements that issue from the mouths (and pens) of narcissists are uttered with such complete confidence that we automatically question our own knowledge-base and experience. We doubt our own intellect. The average person is usually willing to consider new points of view and to modify their own attitudes in the face of new information.  So, we give people the benefit of the doubt and wait patiently for an intelligent discussion about the topic at hand.

When a narcissist presents this new ‘information’, however, they present it without a shred of evidence, but rather, with sweeping statements about their own expertise in the area. They just ‘know’. Yes, they’re quite ‘certain about it’. No, we needn’t worry about this possibility or that nuance because the narcissist has got it covered. He’s thought it all through already and we needn’t worry our pretty little heads about such things. He worked in the industry for years and is quite simply, an expert. We don’t know his background, of course. We’re simply expected to take his word, just as we were expected to take his word on other topics, like environmental concerns, tree-felling, child-rearing, Asian culture, Buddhism, photography, running of corporations, how to fix just about everything, engineering, medical procedures, the cosmos, origins of the universe, true spirituality and the God particle.

My art, my face when listening to a narcissistic know it all

My face in the company of a narcissistic know-it-all. Original artwork by me.

‘I’ve built roads before. I know all about their construction and the materials used. So, let me take charge of the project and elect me as chairman of the committee and I’ll get things done!’

And that’s the crux of it. They want you to hand over your power and self-efficacy – to them. They feed off it. And so, they manipulate your trust, goad you with smiles and promises, and dazzle you with their (generally fictitious and at least, highly exaggerated) ‘expert’ backgrounds.

(At this point the flying monkeys will be nodding their heads seriously and expressing their extreme gratitude for the aptitude and competence of the speaker, relieved to leave everything in his or her hands. It’s truly a wonder to behold – and we’ll take an in-depth look at the ‘Flying Monkey Phenomenon’ in my next post.)

Confidence is an attractive trait and it’s not surprising people are drawn to more confident people. As with all traits, a narcissist takes this one too far, however. It’s not a characteristic they truly embody but is part of their mask, their persona. They put it on like a superhero’s cape and when they flourish it, some of us tend to swoon. We’re caught in the web of deceit by a mere confidence trick.

It’s important to keep a rational head in the face of this particular dilemma. It’s tempting just to go along with the schemes presented and take the speaker at his word. It saves us doing some thinking and investigating for ourselves and it also saves us from the uncomfortable proposition of having to confront the speaker with his or her ‘error’. Hell hath no fury like a narcissist outed!

It’s not easy – and I would argue, often impossible – to hold on to your intellectual rigour when you’re closely involved with a covert narcissist, one who specializes in psychological and emotional abuse. You will already be suffering the psychological and emotional consequences of their relentless gaslighting. If you’re deep in a relationship with such a person and are currently reading these words, I don’t advise you to start confronting them with the truth – that they are wrong; they are mistaken; they are misinformed; and will cause problems if allowed to hold sway and forge ahead with their plans.

I suggest it would be safer for you to note my words and begin to regain control of your own inner truth. It will give you strength and allow you to begin believing in yourself and your own reality once more. Now is not the time to make quick decisions but perhaps to begin formulating the best way forward for yourself. Control of your own mind is one of the most important steps you can take at this time.

Don’t be persuaded by superficial or emotional argument. If he says the road-base supplied by the contractor contains deadly silica dust and can cause silicosis (which is a modern version of asbestosis), look it up! Is he correct? In the instance I’m recalling, he most definitely was not. Despite that, he managed to insult the contractor, abuse (using filthy language) the good-hearted person who’d hired the contractor, cause chaos and hysteria among the people who believed in his expertise and whom he’d worked up to a frenzy – and then, he sat back to thoroughly enjoy the circus. He actually laughed at others’ distress in the face of his abuse and manipulation.

In this example, I was not close to the perpetrator. It was relatively easy for me to take an objective stance, check the facts and call him out on it. I still suffered the inevitable consequences of social rejection and ostracization by himself and his flying monkeys, and the character assassination that ensued behind my back, but his opinion of me was of no consequence. In times past, I’ve not had that privilege.

I’ve been married to a similar personality. I was never allowed to challenge his ‘expertise’, his ‘superior’ opinions and his self-proclaimed competence in virtually every area of life. What I did note, however, was his jealousy – his covetousness. He couldn’t bear for me to know things he didn’t know or for me to handle certain situations better than he did. He took my strengths and undermined them so that he could convince me they were weaknesses and prove to himself, and others, how much better than me he was. That is not the action of one who loves. It is the action of one who seeks to destroy. It is hateful and poisonous. One of the most effective methods he used was to boldly claim his superiority, his rightness…about everything…and to do so publicly and loudly. It was humiliating. It was meant to be humiliating.

It is in some ways very difficult to break the indicators of narcissistic abuse into neat categories because they are all intricately linked. It’s not possible to grasp the full psychological and emotional impact of each indicator without considering the impact of all the others. They work together to undermine the psyche, to destroy self-esteem, self-worth, self-belief and cruelly, to destroy your very sanity.

Yet, there is still something to be gained from spelling out each diabolical trait. If there is someone close to you who is always right and will not brook argument; who always knows what needs to be done and will not be thwarted without retaliating with severe verbal, emotional and psychological abuse; who consistently places himself in the position of ‘expert’; who sweeps aside your questions and concerns; who will not listen to your alternative views…beware! This is an extremely serious indicator that you may be in the clutches of a narcissistic abuser.

If his ‘flying monkeys’ join the fray and attack you en masse with their vicious backlash, it’s time to exit with dignity.

My next post will address those foolish, blinded, flying monkeys. They’re chosen for a reason and are always to be found in the entourage of narcissistic abusers.

The Second Indicator of Narcissistic Abuse


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Arrogant businessman

Image courtesy of

They are the best, most popular, most interesting ‘everything’ and they have the best, most popular, most interesting ‘everything’. Everyone and everything else is inferior.

I confess this aspect of narcissists is particularly galling in that they actually have the gall to believe what they’re telling us, and they display a total lack of humility in the telling. I emotionally and physically recoil from the bold, unfounded claims of such unbridled egos. They raise my hackles. Perhaps someone in your life raises your hackles for similar reasons. We all like to feel good about ourselves but there’s a line most of us won’t cross; a line of decency and rational thinking. We are all flawed beings…unless we are narcissists.

I’ve heard such astounding claims as:

‘We were the most popular family in the whole school. We were always treated as though we’re special. People gave us things no-one else got.’ The earnest facial expression that accompanied this statement almost elicited an eyeroll from me, which would, of course had resulted in days of retribution from father (who aided and abetted the outrageous claims) and son alike, had I not checked myself.

‘I have the best music. The best!’ How I hated listening to that guy’s unique blend of Thai country music and heavy metal and, of course, he played it loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear, convinced we enjoyed it as much as he did. This fellow was also always ‘right’ about everything and he knew everything about something and something about everything. We’ll tackle that in my next post (Indicator number 3), as it’s a universal trait of narcissists.

‘I own expensive antiques.’ They were in such a state of filthy disrepair, they were, in fact, worth nothing.

‘I’m the well-calibrated one.’ (Naturally, I was the crazy one. There’s no way a narcissist will share his pedestal.)

‘I know I’m pretty.’ (Actually, that claim was debatable and was a surprise coming from a teenage girl, a group who are almost universally afflicted with a terrible self-consciousness and lack of faith in their own attributes.)

‘My children never lie.’ Translated to, ‘My children are perfect.’ They were also never rude, or unreasonable, or too loud or too sulky, or anything other than absolutely perfect. He wore their ‘perfection’ as a badge of his own superiority. (Poor kids, what chance did they have?)

ordinary house graphic‘My house is worth a million dollars.’ It wasn’t, and ended up selling for a lot less.

‘I did nothing wrong in my first marriage.’ Again, I’m perfect! The first wife, who suicided, might beg to differ, were she still around to tell her story.

‘I’m the teacher’s favourite.’ Cue in another almost-eyeroll. In case I sound as though I have no understanding or compassion for children, this young fellow was simply following in his father’s well-warn narcissistic footsteps and I was powerless to stop it. I waited for his words to be tempered by some wisdom from his father. It never came…because his father agreed with him, his son being perfect, after all. This is one way in which future narcissists are formed. (Are they born or are they bred? That’s a topic for a whole new post.)

‘I’m the best artist and I should have got the academic award for art, not him!’ This claim was fully supported by the speaker’s father who might have taken the opportunity to give a lesson in humility, or perhaps fairness and work ethic. Truth was, she was definitely a talented artist but she didn’t put in the work, and was simply trumped by someone who did.

‘Look around you, darling. We’re millionaires.’ A self-satisfied, smug, arrogant expression settled on his face when he made this claim, which was often over the years. You’ll probably notice a pattern developing by now and guess that we weren’t millionaires at all. You’d be right. Almost everything we owned was caught up in property; plus, neither of us was working (me, due to ill health, him, because he didn’t want to), so our funds were dwindling rapidly while he held onto his fantasy.

‘I haven’t lost my boyish good looks.’ I know people say such things in humour but this statement was made in complete seriousness. Another debatable claim.

‘I wasn’t appreciated at work. I worked harder than anyone else and I was good at it.’

‘Look at her. (His daughters, his nieces, his sisters). She’s so beautiful. She’s gorgeous! Perfect in every way. Look at her dress! Stunning!’ He would say this over and over and over, especially after a few too many drinks. There was something emotionally incestuous about it that made my skin crawl. Looking back, it was most likely due to his overwhelming need to ‘own’ perfect things; the best things, even if those ‘things’ were people.

Mercifully, my experiences have become a distant memory and now raise only a rye smile and a shake of my head. If you’re caught up with a narcissist, however, you’ll have your own unique story of your narcissist’s ‘perfection’ to tell. If you’ve ever deigned to disagree with their bold claims of superiority, you’ll remember their retaliation acutely. So acutely, I’m willing to guess, that you’ve dared not disagree again. Trying to hold a rational conversation with your tormentor about the reality of their situation, and of their dysfunctional ‘self-concept’ is always going to end in battle. And you will lose.

An out-sized ego will interpret any attempt to encourage self-reflection as a direct assault. They will feel attacked, and when they feel attacked, you already know how that ends for you.

We all have our blind spots and our little vanities but, if you’re living with someone who repeatedly claims the limelight and has no trouble articulating how magnificent they are, in every aspect of life, often enough to make you feel uncomfortable…trust those uncomfortable feelings.

Spend some time thinking about the ways in which your abuser claims bragging rights. Is it normal or over the top?

Are they the best at practically everything? Is their family perfect, even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary? Are they inordinately proud of their income, their home, their achievements, their children, their amazing contribution to every aspect of life? I would love to hear some of your stories.

Stay posted for Indicator Number 3: Narcissists know everything. They know something about everything and everything about something.



The First Indicator of Narcissistic Abuse

mahir-uysal-asHiWQGUPhU-unsplashI’d intended to write a succinct post about the ‘ten indicators you’re in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser’. After some reflection, however, I’ve decided that’s far too trite a way to treat the subject and that each indicator, whether it be number ten, twelve or forty-three, needs to be broken down and discussed in detail. There are enough short, snappy ‘bites’ out there on the internet to whet anyone’s appetite on the subject. When you’re deep in the labyrinth of narcissistic, psychological and emotional abuse, however… you need so much more.

Abuse is not trite. It is not a flippant or easily understood phenomenon. If you’re in its grips, you need detail, time to absorb that detail, and some guideposts out of the darkness. You need to feel ‘heard’ and ‘understood’. You need to know you’re not alone. You need…more than a list.

So, let’s begin slowly and I’ll do my best to walk you through the details and help you find a way forward.

Does someone in your life fly off the handle at the slightest criticism? And is it invariably your fault?

caricaature of angry man

Image courtesy of


This is a big warning sign you may be in the clutches of an abusive, controlling personality, one that may have, at its core, a huge sense of entitlement. A balanced personality understands we’re not perfect, we all make mistakes and sometimes it’s appropriate for others to point out these faults and request change. We may not like it and sometimes we might bristle and feel hurt, but we won’t lash out with a tirade of abuse or with days of passive aggressive silent treatment, at least not often.

An abusive person with an overabundance of narcissism however, will lash out regularly and brutally, so much so you’ll find yourself constantly walking on eggshells, waiting with a sick, sinking feeling in your gut for the next cruel verbal, or even physical outburst. You are, in fact, hypervigilant. This may be so much a part of your life you believe it’s normal. It’s not. It’s a highly dysfunctional, unhealthy way to live and the stress will likely lead to both physical and psychological/emotional illness, if it hasn’t already. Don’t let this continue to be your normal, as hard as it must be to wrap your head around how things could ever be different. Perhaps it’s been this way for so long, you don’t know any other way to live. I feel your pain acutely. This was once my normal, too.

One of the most baffling aspects of that time in my life is that the majority of the ‘criticism’ for which my abuser rounded on me, were imagined slights. I never knew when a word, a joke, a question or observation, or a mere ‘look on my face’ would trigger an attack out of nowhere. The harder I tried to monitor my every word and movement, the more sudden and frequent the attacks became. He was simply screwing the vice tighter and tighter, not wanting me to wriggle free of its grip. It was as if he truly hated me instead of loving me as much as he avowed he did. It didn’t feel like love. I knew that but assumed it was my fault. If he was so certain everything was my fault, and confidently, loudly told me so time and again, then surely it must be my fault.

Sound familiar? Are you nodding your head and silently saying, ‘Yeah, me too’?

There were many times I literally couldn’t figure out the reason for his sudden rages. He would be happy and joking one minute, wild-eyed and furious the next. What had I done? I’d spend hours, sometimes days wracking my brains to unearth a sane explanation for his latest ambush. The shock tactics were all part of the strategy. If the ‘enemy’ attacks you from behind, you expect it. You don’t expect it from someone you believe loves you. And so it goes, round and round, for months and years and sometimes decades.

If this is happening to you, please stop trying to unravel a rational explanation for your abuser’s actions. The truth is, controlling and abusive people don’t think rationally the way stable people do. Their mindset and world-view are simply not rational. Trying to see the logic in their thinking is a ticket straight to a psych ward where your stay may be protracted. It will literally drive you mad because that’s exactly what it’s intended to do. Your abuser wants you to look like the crazy one because that affirms his/her place as the well-calibrated, long-suffering martyr. It helps preserve their thin veneer of superiority.

I’ll leave you to digest my words for today and tackle the next ‘red flag’ over the coming days. If you are struggling with this issue and would like further information and support, please contact me via the contact form on this website.

The Warrior Muse is Back

It’s been a while…far too long…since I’ve posted anything significant in ‘Killing Me Softly.’ At some point, I’ve gradually entered a comfort zone. A safe zone. At which point, my soul and spirit have felt free and unfettered. And then…another turning point…which didn’t take place in an instant, but over months. Months of reflection and confusion. Life has changed, as it is bound to do, for better or for worse. Mine changed for the better in recent years, as I have cast off the shackles of narcissistic abuse and control…and I basque in this peace, consolation and freedom. Who’d have thought, way back then? Who’d have thought that I might have freed myself from a narcissistic and abusive relationship…only to find that beyond that milestone, lay others, equally complex, yet I confess, far less painful?

I have reached a point where I can unequivocally say…all changes are beneficial, if we delve deep enough to find the nuggets of truth. In the words of Viktor Frankl, philosopher, psychiatrist and World War II concentration camp survivor, ‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.‘ Even if the only choice left to us is how we choose to die. Do we do so with grace and dignity? Or not?

As I recall, from my reading of Viktor Frankl’s publication, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, he encountered people at all points on the spectrum during the time he spent shuffled between four different concentration camps in Nazi Germany. He encountered those who fought over, and killed for, the last scrap of food, and those who gave their last scrap of food away, only to die of starvation. In the end, it is always a choice.

And so it is for narcissists. They are no more exempt from conscious choice than the rest of us. They would just have us believe it is so…that they are victims of circumstances so ‘special’, and of intelligence and value so unique, that they are exempt from moral responsibility. Don’t buy the lie. These are lazy, self-centered, cruel and vicious human beings (if they are indeed, fully human), utterly devoid of empathy and social responsibility. Their world exists only to serve them. They make gods of themselves, and sadly we find them at the helm of far too many religious organizations; far too many families and far too many political parties. Narcissism has risen tenfold in as many years.

They are yesterday’s despots, yesterday’s tyrants. They are today’s mainstream leaders in all walks of life. Don’t buy the lie.

The Hoover Manoeuvre – Getting Sucked Back In

sharks hoovering

So you’ve tried to leave your abusive ex, have finally made your narrow escape and regained some threads of your sanity. Whew!


You find yourself inundated with emails and text messages telling you how much they miss you and will always love you. And then they’ll begin to reminisce about the good times and about all the wonderful things you’ve achieved together. They paint such a nostalgic picture of the perfect family unit, the beautiful home, your amazing children, the plans you talked about for your shared future and everything you both stand to lose if you stay separated.

Ouch! The pangs of nostalgia can be excruciating…and inviting. Your tormentor wasn’t abusive in the beginning, after all. It may have been many years before her true colours began to show…perhaps under the usual stresses and strains of marriage and childbirth; perhaps when the financial pressures began to mount up. But don’t forget that the monster inside her did finally emerge and once she was ensconced, she (or he, of course) is there for the term of your natural life. Mr Hyde, once released from inside Dr Jekyll, was forever fused with whatever good had previously existed inside him. Hyde soon overpowered Jekyll until the good doctor no longer existed. That’s the way it works.

Hopefully, you manage to withstand the lure of such sweet descriptions of the idyllic aspects of your shared past. And believe me, it is a lure, bright and shining, dangling enticingly before your eyes. Once you allow yourself to be drawn in closer though, the bait will be ready and waiting for you.

She knows you’re hungry…emotionally…because by this stage she’s skillfully isolated you from so many things in life that are essential to your well-being. She has spent years stripping you bare of everything, other than herself (and her sphere of influence), that sustains you. She controls your friends, your extended family and most of all, your children; perhaps even your grandchildren. She still has a tight rein on your finances and assets. Controlling people are sure to set things up in such a way as to make it near impossible for you to leave. Well…you may be able to leave…but when you do, you may not be able to survive. That’s all part of their master-plan.

bait-catch-coho-salmon-1058295She knows that, at some point, if she’s persistent enough (and controlling people are persistent to the point of madness), you’ll find yourself so frenzied that you’ll gulp that bait right down. Once that hook is embedded in your soul, you’ll be reeled in, hook, line and sinker. The more you thrash, the more it hurts; and the only option is for you to return to her loving embrace so she can remove that hook and ease your pain.

Clever, isn’t it? In a sick, carnal, primitive and conniving way, that is.

What you don’t know, at this point, is that the ocean in which you’d begun to swim freely, as scary as it was (your first taste of freedom always is) is nowhere near as terrifying as the shark tank into which she’s about to toss you.

You’ll find yourself once again belting at the four walls that metaphorically enclose you. No one but she can hear you. It’s just you in that tank…you and the sharks. And now…they are hungry for you. Recognize those sharks? You should. They are her ‘flying monkeys’…trained to do her bidding. Read more about flying monkeys here.

baby monkey on mothers back

Is it possible to resist the bait, no matter how hungry you think you are? First, you have to recognize what that bait is and understand that it’s pure poison. That’s the hard part. Why? Because the bait will look good and smell good. It will be incredibly tempting…a little like your favourite drink laced with arsenic.

You need to know your own triggers…your weak points…your vulnerabilities. We all have them and they’re not, in and of themselves, a negative thing. Unless we allow them to be used against us.

What might those vulnerabilities be? Your responsibilities to your children? Your parents approval? Your co-workers esteem or your fears for your financial future? Perhaps they’re less tangible…your need for affection, recognition, or kudos for doing the ‘right’ thing? Your need to see your marriage as a success and not a failure? The need to make your father proud? The possibilities are as numerous as the personalities of abuse victims themselves. You can guarantee though, that guilt trips will be used left, right and crooked, until you feel like you’re the abuser when the truth is the polar opposite.

When your self-esteem is so low that you believe everything she says about you, internalizing it until you feel utterly worthless without her approval, you’re in deep trouble…and she knows it. She knows it’s not going to be too difficult to hook you back into her web of control.

Even if you don’t recognize your vulnerabilities yourself, you can be certain your abuser does. And she uses those vulnerabilities as bait, disguising her weapon, that agonizing hook, with whatever is bound to tempt you most. Once you take the bait, you’re in for another tortuous round. The abuse cycle begins again. Come in Spinner.

You’ve been sucked back in to the vortex. In the words of popular treatises on abuse, you’ve been ‘hoovered.’ A la the emotional vacuum cleaner.

Some of the sharks who will be circling you in that claustrophobic tank I referred to, waiting for the kill, will be the very people your abuser has deliberately enlisted to her cause and has turned against you. They will be people you care about very much – your children, your family of origin, your friends and co-workers. The temptation to let them do her bidding will be overwhelming, given the fragility of your identity and self-esteem, which she has skillfully and relentlessly eroded over time.

I hope and pray the time will come when you can say ‘enough is enough’. A time when you can recognize that you are worthy of so much more. A time when you also realize that the people who have been poisoned against you, need you to help them back to emotional health.

You can best achieve this by employing the tough love principle and not allowing yourself to be bullied, brow-beaten and emotionally blackmailed into submission. Show the world, especially your loved ones, who you really are. Put up the boundaries that will ensure you are respected, not used. Claim your destiny, which is never meant to include subjugation and control, and watch your loved ones…eventually…over time…claim theirs. If you can’t think of yourself at this time…please understand there are others who need you to show your strength – for the benefit of their soul’s growth.

This post is intensely personal, as I’m standing by helplessly, watching someone I love very much, being sucked back into a horrendously abusive situation. I see all the traps, all the manipulation, all the guilt trips and cruelty…and I stand by, and can do nothing. I can only hope and pray that he will soon understand his true worth; that he deserves the highest kind of love, not the abased version he currently submits to.

Never forget what your abuser does to you. Forgive…by all means. But never forget. Watch for my next post…’The Art of Not Forgetting.’

Love and light.






Using Religion to Justify Domestic Abuse



I’ve had the privilege of being a personal assistant to a gifted psychologist who is also a dedicated and genuine Christian. During that time I was privy to hundreds of patient files containing their narratives, their issues, their hopes, their dreams and mostly, their pain. Due to confidentiality requirements, I’m not going to share any of their stories here.

I can, however, share the insights I gained, not only from access to personal information but also from my own conversations with clients I formed relationships with as they sat in my small office, which doubled as a waiting room. Hardly able to contain their emotions while waiting to be called into my boss’s office, many opened up and spilled aspects of their stories while I did my best to make them feel welcome and safe. I’ll ever be grateful for their trust and for what they’ve taught me about life, love and learning.

In itself, faith in God is not to blame.  Narcissists however, use their religious beliefs to manipulate, control and dominate you through fear. To them, religion is a golden tower behind which they hide their dark, shadowy side; standing firmly behind that golden tower while they whip you with out of context scriptures and archane, patriarchal (usually but not always) tactics designed to keep you downtrodden. They tend to have impossible standards of spiritual and moral perfection you have no hope of attaining, leaving you feeling insecure and inadequate. As soon as they perceive that vulnerability, which they’ve carefully cultivated in you, they’ll hone in on it and use it against you at every turn.

Let’s look at that much-quoted and misrepresented biblical admonition for wives to ‘submit’ to their husbands. This is, of course, a misogynistic favourite. It’s all too easy to wield it over the heads of women who desire, with all their hearts, to live according to God’s word. ‘Submit!’ shouts the priest from the pulpit, shaking his fist at a sea of bowed feminine heads. ‘Submit!’ bellows the controlling husband, waving the holy book in front of his wife’s tearful face. ‘Submit!’ order the religious texts written by those ignorant of the nuances of language and translation.

Submit. This one six-letter word has been used to strike fear into the hearts of millions of women for thousands of years…but what does it really mean?

Its original meaning is simple and beautiful. To ‘submit’ means to ‘lift up’. We are to lift up our menfolk to encourage them, and to give them comfort and support. We are, of course, to lift them up in prayer. But there’s another aspect to consider, one that is rarely spoken about. It’s this. We are to lift up our husbands by helping them to stay on that narrow path God calls us to follow; and that means we are to correct them, albeit respectfully, when they stray from that path, and help guide them back to the light, if you will. That means saying ‘no’ sometimes; disagreeing; insisting on respectful and loving treatment and objecting when they become too steeped in worldly things. Ah yes, that’s something narcissists don’t want to hear.

And let’s not forget it works both ways. That is, we are to submit one to another. Yes, husbands must uplift their wives also. It’s worth noting too, that the instruction to submit is specifically meant for husbands and wives. It does not imply that all women are meant to submit to all men; or vice versa.

Sadly, I have witnessed many pious women, their shoulders hunched and eyes cast down, enter through the therapist’s door. After years of ‘submitting’ (in the wrong sense of the word) to controlling husbands, waiting for God to intervene and mend their marriages and their hearts, they come to a Christian counsellor for instruction. Those who walked through my employer’s door were lucky indeed. They’d found a psychologist with an educated understanding of scripture and a rich, deep faith. Without a doubt, she is also one of the strongest, most assertive women I’ve ever met. Those downtrodden women invariably left her office with their heads held a little higher. It was a pleasure to watch them blossom as she taught them how to become the women God intended them to be. Sometimes, that meant the end of their marriages, a possibility they believed God would never condone.

But trust me, God does not condone abuse.

But the bible says God hates divorce, doesn’t it? Well, yes, it does…sort of.

In fact, the word divorce turns up in the scriptures a number of times, in both the old and new testaments and in different contexts. These contexts are important, as are the nuances of language and the difficulties of translation. Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic (the language Yeshua spoke) cannot easily be directly translated into English. Translating first into Greek, as most of the scriptures were, adds another layer of complexity. There can be several degrees of separation between the original meanings and contexts of words and phrases, and their current meanings and contexts.

The word divorce is a perfect example. In Matthew 19, for instance, it is made clear that a man is not to ‘put away’ one wife and marry another. In modern texts, this ‘putting away’ is translated as ‘divorce’. Seems clear enough at first reading, doesn’t it? But let’s look further.

What does to ‘put away’ really mean? Wisdom dictates that it means much more than to separate physically from a woman, or to instigate legal proceedings for divorce. A man can put a woman away from him by a thousand emotional and psychological cuts. (Please note that in the author’s opinion, a woman can do exactly the same thing but they are not as easily excused in religious circles.) Words have the power of life and death over the human spirit; they can be wielded like a sword. In a spiritual sense, words can be used to murder. If a man and a woman become one – a unity in spirit – and yet one of them severs that unity with a spiritual weapon, is this not putting that person away from them in the most brutal manner?

This then, is what God truly hates. In His eyes, divorce has already taken place at the severing of the spiritual and emotional bond between a man and a woman; a bond that is meant to be both tender and strong; a bond that is meant to fulfill a higher purpose.

Abuse (not only physical and sexual abuse but psychological/emotional abuse, too) severs that bond. From a spiritual perspective, there is no difference. Yet the Church frequently teaches us the contrary. And so domestic violence in all its forms is aided and abetted by religion, despite God Himself prohibiting it in no uncertain terms.
Read more at Narcissistic Religious Abuse Tactics.

I’ve not attempted to delve into institutional abuse in this post. That hotly debated topic could take years to unravel and is, I believe, not within my area of expertise. If you have been abused at the hands of anyone within a religious setting, the damage will go deep. You need love, acceptance and understanding. I urge you to seek outside help…and to keep searching until you find a caring, supportive therapist you feel comfortable with. It will undoubtedly be extremely difficult for you to trust someone in authority, and with good reason. Don’t give up. You were meant to fulfil a unique purpose in your life, not to suffer endlessly because of the heinous actions of other human beings.

One of the most disturbing phenomena occurring within church circles, and which receives no press, is the tendency to alienate women who’ve made the decision to leave abusive husbands, after years of cruelty.  Far too often, I’ve witnessed these women being ousted from their spiritual families. Cut off! Deprived of spiritual and emotional support. Quite literally, they’ve been told they’re no longer welcome in the church ‘family’. Their spouses, however…men…remain safely cloistered within patriarchal circles. Their spiritual lives don’t miss a beat. Their friends and mentors don’t drop away. For women…hurting, abused and used women…the story is so different. They find themselves alone and friendless, carrying all the guilt and shame the church ‘fathers’ have foisted upon them.

It’s time to shine light upon the darkness.

I have no doubt that abuse is actively or passively promoted by certain factions within virtually every religion, be it Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Scientology or Callithumpian! I’ve spoken exclusively from my own experience within the Christian community from both sides of the therapist’s door.

Love and light.


Australia still says ‘Yes’!


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Image of a face; male on one side, female on the other

Artwork by Melinda Jensen

Read…and weep. 

Especially those of you who consider yourselves decent human beings;  compassionate and reasonable human beings who would never tolerate the presence, here in Australia, of an underclass…and yet you voted, ‘No’. I am calling on you to have a good, long look inside yourself.

There are celebrations here in Australia; among those who believe in equality. All of us who believe in love. All of us who believe we’re not gods at the centre of the universe, casting judgment upon the masses…nor making decisions that impinge on the basic human rights of others. We’re celebrating…but with a dark and heartbreaking undercurrent.

But right now…before I launch into my story…my daughters’ story…my granddaughter’s story…


Tomorrow at 9am (Qld time), the verdict of the marriage equality survey will be announced. Ever since it was agreed that the nation would vote, I’ve felt progressively more quietly downtrodden – while the support has been truly beautiful, hearing of friends and family silently voting no has made me feel sick, and the ones doing it loudly even more so. The sheer number of people I thought – by association and friendship – were supportive of me as a person who think I’m lesser, not worthy, or abhorrent is terrifying. That’s what a no vote says to me – that I am not okay, not worthy, don’t deserve happiness or love. I don’t understand and I can’t comprehend it.

Being in a relationship with a man, a woman, a non binary person or anyone else makes me no less pansexual. Marriage equality being passed in Australia makes me no less pansexual. The hate I’ve witnessed, read about and been subject to makes me no less pansexual. In the end, regardless of the result, that is what this survey means to me – disenchantment, mistrust and alienation. The fact that a nation was willing to put so many people through this heartbreak just to prove a point – to vote on an established human right – is inconceivable.

Hug your family tomorrow. We need it.

Substitute the word ‘black’ for ‘pansexual’. You’re not racist, of course! Mixed race marriages have been legal for six or seven decades. Think about that for a moment. There are people living today who still bear the scars of that humiliation  and whose descendants will continue to struggle with their identities for hundreds of years to come. All because the dominant classes acted from fear instead of love.

Hark back 200 years and witness my ancestors who fled their mother country in fear for their lives – fled to the harsh colonies in Australia; that barren and frightening land. Why? Because they were convicts? No.

Because they were adventurous? Seeking a new life in the land of the free? Not exactly.

It was because they committed the worst of sins…

An ‘Orange’ married a ‘Green’.

Taboo. And so they risked their lives and their livelihoods in the name of love. We look back on those days and shake our heads at the collective ignorance, the bigotry and harsh injustices. Society was so misguided back then, we think, feeling a little smug because we’re so much more enlightened these days.

Aren’t we?

In traditional Judaism, girls are permitted to marry as young as twelve years of age, and boys at thirteen. Do we then refuse to allow all Jews to marry in this country…because sexual relationships with children are surely an abomination? For that matter, do we refuse to allow followers of other religions, like Islam, to marry because they too, allow child marriage, along with polygamy? No?

That brings me to the point made by advocates of the ‘No’ vote that I find most loathsome – that the normalization of paedosex will naturally progress from the legalization of same-sex marriage. There is no rationale behind this train of thought. Any deductive argument in its defense crumbles to rubble before the end of the first paragraph.

Paedophilia is almost the sole domain of the heterosexual male. Before you shout me down, please note I said ‘almost’. Yes, there are women – vile, sick women. Yes, there are gay and lesbian paedophiles. We’re all familiar with the stories of little boys being lured into men’s toilets, and while that’s a cliche, it’s one with a basis in truth. Sometimes, it happens. (I haven’t personally read or heard of a lesbian paedophile but it stands to reason that some would exist in this world.)

BUT: The majority of sexual assaults on children take place at the hands of heterosexual men, many of whom are married or have female partners. And sometimes, their heterosexual female partners are complicit, or worse, active participants. Incest is hardly a thing of the past.

According to the hypothesis that underlies the position that paedosex naturally follows from the legalization of same-sex marriage, it would be more logical then, to refuse to allow heterosexual couples to marry.

I have gender-fluid friends and members of my family – all of whom I’d trust implicitly with my children – well, grandchildren then; my daughters have long-since left their childhoods behind them. There are however, a number of heterosexual people I’d hesitate to entrust with something so precious as a human life. Call it intuition, if you will. I call it spiritual discernment.

My last point is one I approach with some trepidation – the Christian viewpoint. And yet, it is, in some ways, the most salient point – largely because it is the Christian contingent in this country who have voiced their objections so venomously. I won’t attempt to broach this subject from a doctrinal perspective. Nor will I pretend to be knowledgeable enough to quote scripture with any certainty of a perfect understanding of its original meaning. What is needed from those who believe in God, is the humility to admit that, not only do we struggle to comprehend scripture as it’s translated today (it’s complicated!), but the vast majority of us are abysmally ignorant of the nuances of the language in which it was first written. I’ll also go out on a limb and say I believe we don’t have the full scriptures to hand. How could we? Thousands of years of translations at the hands of mere humanity; lost manuscripts; the politically motivated church leaders in charge of deciding which books and verses to include and which to destroy or hide under lock and key – all of it points to the fact we need to listen with our hearts.

And my heart says that the harsh and judgmental voices of so many ‘No’ voters have shredded the souls of so many vulnerable human beings. They have been invalidated, belittled and made to feel ‘less than’; they have, as made clear in the quote above, been hurt to the very core. They are humiliated and shamed. There was a significant rise in the number of suicides among the ‘non-heterosexual’ community in the lead-up to this sham of a postal survey. They felt as monsters on display awaiting a verdict. Guilty of the sin of being who they are. Offered up to the masses for scrutiny; for trial and sentencing.

In the memorable words of the ‘elephant man’, ‘I am not a monster!’

As a mother, it utterly breaks my heart.

The author of the heartfelt plea I’ve quoted here is my youngest daughter, Kim Kahler. Both my daughters are ‘other’. I am incredibly proud of them. They are so much more than I ever was or will ever be.

I have witnessed their acts of compassion and sacrifice, their contributions to society, their commitment to the environment, their admirable work ethic and unquenchable thirst for knowledge and wisdom, their responsible parenting and their quests for justice. And I have seen them brought low by those who resort to small-mindedness, ignorance, bigotry and pure hate. They have not responded in kind.

So to all of you who voted ‘No’ – I know you have your reasons. But please…please…realize and take responsibility for the depth of pain you’ve inflicted on vulnerable human beings who need, more than anything else, your love.

Search your hearts and recognize the darkness there.





The Question on Everyone’s Lips: Why do victims stay so long?


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sinking woman, koratmember

Image courtesy of koratmember at


To those who’ve been in psychological and emotional captivity to an abusive partner, spouse or parent, the answer is abundantly clear. It’s complicated but obvious; yet far from obvious to outside observers.

Even those who know us well and have watched us struggle, find our actions inexplicable. We try to explain, we really do. But even to ourselves, the words sound hollow and illogical.

And so we clam up, feeling judged and misunderstood. And lonely…desperately lonely. In the short term, that’s probably all we can do. It takes time – a long time – for us to understand ourselves, and our situations, sufficiently to articulate the truth. In the meantime, until we find the strength to leave the abuser once and for all, friends and family often drop off like lemmings from a cliff, leaving us without much-needed support and encouragement. And that’s all part of our abuser’s grand plan.

I was lucky. I have two epic daughters and a strong mother. They didn’t quite understand but they were accepting and unswervingly supportive.

angry man

Image courtesy of saphatthachat at

But by and large, I was isolated for over three years from every one of my former friends, and from most of my wider family. There were even attempts to alienate me from my eldest daughter and two grandchildren. Not only was my abuser angry, loud and frightening when my grandchildren came to stay with me, as they’d done since they were tiny, but his own children carried out their own sniper attacks while I was sleeping. (Read my post about flying monkeys here.)


My grandchildren would invariably leave, after a weekend spent with me, (once peaceful and serene), so distressed that my daughter no longer allowed them to visit. So I made the 45 minute drive into town to spend time with them whenever time and energy allowed – which wasn’t nearly often enough. I was kept far too busy jumping through hoops to avoid the backlash of my abuser’s anger. As you can see, the ways an abuser isolates his victims from their support network is, by no means, always obvious. More frequently, it’s a covert operation.

And I was sick; so desperately sick with a chronic illness I’d battled for nearly two decades. And let’s not forget that abusers target the ill; the vulnerable. (Note: All of us who are, by nature, compassionate and caring, are hence, vulnerable.)

So that’s reason number 1: We no longer have family and friends to turn to. No one knows what’s going on. No-one believes us when we tell them.

Let me tell you, it’s quite possible to be driven, quite literally, mad. I know, because that’s the state in which I found myself one September. Utterly bereft. Utterly confused. Utterly without any knowledge of or belief in my own reality.

You started out as quite normal. It’s normal to enter relationships with a healthy outlook that assumes shared power; shared responsibility; shared decision-making; shared affection. Everything is mutual and equal. THAT is normal.

THAT’S what you expected, as we all should. But that’s not what happens in abusive relationships.

Instead, you’re manipulated from the outset…subtly at first, and then, when you’re broken in (and broken), the abuse becomes blatant. But by then, you don’t trust yourself. Your reality is skewed. You no longer remember who you truly are. Before long, you can’t answer simple questions about yourself, like, ‘What’s your favourite colour?’

It’s all part of the plan. THEIR plan.

I’ve written in other posts about ‘crazy-making behaviour‘. Let me recap on one of an abuser’s major weapons – Gaslighting.

The movie, ‘Gaslight’ is a golden oldie, starring Ingrid Bergman (as the victim) and Charles Boyer (as the perpetrator). (As a bonus, a young Angela Lansbury makes her debut appearance!) Despite seeming a bit cheesy due to the era, it’s well worth a watch. If you’ve been abused, it will make your hairs stand on end.

To explain briefly, to gaslight someone is to set up certain conditions, and then deny they ever happened. All the while, the ‘gaslighter’ is coupling his or her denials with declarations of love, concern and undying affection, which creates a powerful emotional conditioning. Let me draw a parallel from my own experience.

My neurological condition is known for its cognitive difficulties. During times of stress and illness exacerbation, I rely on written lists; and when I really need to remember something important, I make an extra effort to commit it to long-term memory. I’ve been doing this for around 20 years now and although I still have momentary lapses, by and large, I’ve trained my memory to work fairly well.

Unfortunately, like all abusers, my tormentor seized on this vulnerability and used it against me. Relentlessly. We’d make joint decisions, during which he would seem perfectly agreeable and then I’d wake up the next morning to be told the conversations had never taken place. But also, of course, that he ‘understood’ because ‘poor me’, I have such cognitive difficulties…and he loved me anyway, despite how difficult I was. His performance was worthy of an Oscar and I fell for it over and over, with each episode becoming more and more cruel.

He started to drop the I love you‘s and began to look at me sidelong, like a snake, as if I were filth beneath his martyred feet. By that time, I doubted my own sanity and he openly told me I was psycho; the crazy one etc. When I stood my ground and opposed him, he became cold, callous and calculating; interspersed with every aggressive and passive-aggressive tactic he could pull out of his bag of psychopathic tricks.

Coupled with all the other modes of abuse and control, I found myself doubting my own sense of reality. It tipped me over the edge. By that time, I felt crazy. And then, of course, he used that against me. The spiral into the abyss of madness was swift and terrifying.

And that’s reason number 2: We reach a point where we no longer trust ourselves or our own reality. If we believe we’re crazy, we also believe we can’t cope on our own; and so we stay with the person who has driven us out of our minds.

And if you fall into this trap? (How can we not?) If you believe you’re not quite sane? What do you do? You cling desperately to the abuser who has deliberately…callously…manipulated your reality to fit his own ends. He wants you to believe HIM (or HER); and so give up on yourself. Who are you then? What do you know? Who and what do you trust?

Remember, family and friends have already disappeared one by one.

And so the trauma bond becomes complete. You have no choice (because your judgment and sanity have been taken from you) but to put all your trust in the only person left to look after you – your abuser.

You may have heard of Stockholm Syndrome. If not, here’s the lowdown:

It’s a psychological phenomenon that is frequently displayed by:

  • Abused Children
  • Battered/Abused Women
  • Prisoners of War
  • Cult Members
  • Incest Victims
  • Criminal Hostage Situations
  • Concentration Camp Prisoners
  • Controlling/Intimidating Relationships

It’s characterized by an intense emotional bond that forms between those who hold all the power in a situation and their victims, who hold no power whatsoever. It’s a survival strategy that makes no sense to an outside observer but perfect sense from a psychological perspective. It actually enhances the chances of survival for victims. Unfortunately, it also diminishes the likelihood a victim will leave an abusive situation because:

  • Victims have been powerfully conditioned to show feelings of love, cooperation, appeasement and admiration for their abusers. If they don’t, they will be punished severely, either physically, emotionally, psychologically, sexually, financially…or all of the above.
  • If victims depend solely on the abuser for sustenance (from food, shelter and clothing to human contact, affection, social interaction and validation), a ‘sick’ loop forms wherein victims are inordinately grateful for the tidbits tossed from the masters table.
  • This gratitude and ‘good behaviour’ result from time to time, but not always (just to keep us on our toes), in magnanimous gestures from our captors – maybe a whole day of relaxed conversation, free from verbal and psychological attacks; maybe some tender caresses and dove-eyed smiles instead of the habitual silent treatment and snake-eyed glares; perhaps even a leave-pass to see a friend. And so we walk on eggshells, trained like a terrified dog who, beaten brutally by his master, still wags his tail and follows that master faithfully wherever he goes.

Sad dog

Image courtesy of Patrisyu at

To learn more about the origins of the term Stockholm Syndrome, visit this link:

Stockholm Syndrome: Counseling Resources

In a nutshell though, the trauma bond – often referred to as Stockholm Syndrome is the third and probably most powerful reason victims of abuse just CAN’T escape their bondage.


There are other reasons victims stay with their abusers for far too long that are a little easier to comprehend.

We’re plain scared! Having been punished beyond all proportion for our imagined misdeeds, we know full well the extent of the backlash we’ll receive if we do leave. Some of us have been threatened physically; others have had children threatened; for others it’s been the threat of a smear campaign that promises to destroy our futures.

So, reason number 4 is that we’re just plain terrified!

And because our abuser has almost certainly held the financial reins and likely either destroyed our careers by covert means or ‘persuaded’ us not to work for any number of selfish reasons … we’re broke! We have no money and nowhere to go. We’re likely sick and debilitated; left without the capacity or skills to regroup, find work and establish ourselves financially..

So, that’s another reason we stay. We’re broke! We have no capacity for work and nowhere safe to go. That’s reason number 5 in a nutshell.

This list is far from definitive but I hope it gives an insider glimpse into that baffling question – Why on earth would you stay with such a monster?

From the perspective of an abuse victim, the decision to stay seems like a logical one.







“12 Life Impacting Symptoms Complex PTSD Survivors Endure”

Light is only just now being shed on the phenomenon of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)- something experienced by many, if not most, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence and ongoing emotional and psychological abuse. In fact, the biggest predictor of developing CPTSD is the emotional/psychological aspect of abuse; greater even than that of sexual abuse.

I can relate particularly well to the deep fear of trust, difficulties with emotional regulation, emotional flashbacks (big-time!), deeply wounded inner child and the ever-present, utterly relentless toxic shame.

Thanks to A Broken Blue Sky for sharing such important information and personal insights. We’re all on a journey … and sometimes it feels as though it will never end.