Suffering in healing: a reflection

I learnt in AA that “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” This quote is an old Buddhist saying popularised by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Here, suffering is seen as a choice, rather than as part of the process, of healing and recovery. In the context of ritual abuse survivors, to deny or negate suffering minimises the tragedy of what is done to innocent children. Ritually abused children are tortured, gang raped, trafficked, filmed, spat on, pissed on, shitted on, sworn at, defiled, yelled at, electro shocked, drowned, covered in blood, tied up, buried, suffocated, terrorised, forced to have babies, kill babies, put in cages and boxes, prodded and abandoned and threatened and terrorised until their mind splits and they dissociate. Not once, but multiple times. Sometimes fully formed, sometimes only fragments. Sometimes with purpose, other times discarded or results of experiments gone wrong. How can one not expect the child to suffer?

The split parts remain buried and amnesic and are tortured and terrorised into silence. Life happens in one form or another and the absence of memory muddles the survivors perceptions and feelings. For me, it is often like walking around in a body and mind that is not connected to itself at any given time. As though, my body seems to be in one place but I cannot seem to reach it to connect. There is rarely congruence. It is an existential emptiness. An intangible suffering that seems like it may be optional. Feelings of despair may be present for months. I may sit in self loathing and depression for weeks or years or only days.

Without a connection to self, the suffering the survivor feels is not a choice. It is a reality.
Likely, the survivor works hard to create a connection to its selves to address the suffering, yet that is where things get difficult. To sit with even a shred of the pain and memory is so excruciating, the mind dissociates. It’s a tormenting cycle – a push pull of pursuing recovery, connection and healing and burying one’s head in the sand. Today, at the RA and Mind Control event, “poems of suffering and healing”, I was reminded of those who have walked before me and those who continue alongside. The survivors who have self published their books, set up groups, conferences, published academic articles to build legitimacy, written blogs, newsletters, produced wiki pages, podcasts and more. I was reminded of the ritual abuse survivors who have lost children, family and friends, careers, hopes and dreams. Those who have suffered a reduction in physical and mental capabilities and who live in despair.

I was also reminded that there are so many of us who have had their self esteem stripped away but yet have chosen not to hurt, but to serve and love others. Suffering is not an option for ritual abuse and mind control survivors, it’s part of their experience. To deny that denies them. The torture that was done to RA MC survivors persists into each day/ it is sometimes numb, sometimes throbbing with intensity. Yet, there is an incredible spirit and resilience and compassion amongst survivors. A fierce determination that inspires me. I always wonder; how did they survive? If they are still standing does that mean I can stand to? My survivor sister says to me; “we are waking up now because we are strong enough to integrate it.” When we see suffering as part of a process of healing, like as offered in Romans 5:4, we can also then rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

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