Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Me? A Controller?

I doubt that anyone thought of me as a controller—at least no one ever used that term to my face. But I was and had learned ways of controlling without appearing to do so.

The first time I became aware of that reality was when I met with a group of professionals in the publishing business. We met in a restaurant, where we sat at tables and got to know each other. Within minutes, I realized the other seven people at my table were hesitant to speak up, so I took charge by introducing myself and then asked each one to do the same. After that I threw out questions and kept the discussion moving.

At one point, two of them referred to personal problems connected with their jobs. After a pause, both times I made a humorous comment and moved on to asking why they came to the meeting.

Afterward, I realized I had taken charge of the group. Not that it was wrong; someone needed to do it. But I also admitted that I had manipulated the conversation to keep it on safe subjects—in that case, away from personal problems, especially my problems.

Over the next few weeks I was able to acknowledge that at times I manipulated others and dominated the decision-making process. It was still a long time before I had the insight into my motivation.

Eventually, I faced the reality: I needed to be in control—not that I used that word. I would have said, "I had to speak up." Or "I wanted to keep things on a safe topic." As a child, I had been helpless and powerless and I had that deep, unconscious need not to be dominated by others.

I still struggle with wanting to manipulate the outcome. The more secure I am inside, the less I need to dominate. And the more I can trust in a sovereign, loving God.

God, as you make me feel more loved and secure,
you teach me to manipulate others less. Thank you.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What I Missed the Most

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I saw an ad on the MSN home page about Chuck Connors, the guy who starred for five years as The Rifleman back in the fifties. The show still airs on MeTV in our area from time to time.

​I was instantly curious to read about the backstories on the series, and especially his little co-star Johnny Crawford, who played his son. It was an unusual story line for back in those days—a single dad raising a son whose mother had died. Most shows had the usual formula for families: dad, mom, and kids.

​I was intrigued because my dad loved this series and never missed it. I loved it too, but not to the extent he did. As I pondered and read about the personalities, I understood why he was a dedicated fan. It was the idea of the healthy father-son interaction. The two characters portrayed great love and affection, and I wonder if my dad was missing that as much as I.

​I wished my dad was like Connor's character, who wasn’t afraid to hug and talk and listen to his son. They were both fiercely loyal to each other and had many sweet, tender moments throughout the series.

​Knowing what I know now helps me look back and identify things I never noticed at the time. I was the same age as the character Johnny played when I became aware I was being nocturnally molested. I will probably never get over missing the relationship that should have been between my dad and me but never was.

​I can't go back, but I can stop the cycle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Past Tense of Abuse

A few weeks ago, I compared the rape of 15-year-old Maya, to that of male assault. She’s a major figure in the novel, Beartown. Today I finished reading the sequel, Us Against You.

It’s now months after her rape and the author shows us her heart—and her pain.
When people talk about rape, they always do so in the past tense. She “was.” She “suffered.” She “went through.”

But she didn’t go through it, she’s still going through it. She wasn’t raped, she’s still being raped. For Kevin it lasted a matter of minutes, but for her it never ends. It feels as though she’s going to dream about that running track every night of her life. And she kills [Kevin] there, every time. And wakes up her nails dug into her hands and scream in her mouth.

Anxiety. It’s an invisible ruler.[1]
Obviously, I made a comparison and realized the relevance. For us men, our assault remains present tense for a long, long time.

Once my memories of childhood rape came back to me, I relived them for months. I’m glad no one said to me, “that was the past. Just move on.” I couldn’t have moved on any faster.

Until we start healing inside, there is no moving on and no past tense. We feel it, and like Maya, we live and re-live it.

For me, it took more than a year before the worst flashbacks and memories stopped tugging at me. But gradually the healing showed. I can now say that my abuse has become past tense. Still back there, but no longer controlling my emotions.

Perhaps I’m not fully healed, but I keep getting a little closer to that goal. I rarely feel the pain—at least not the way I did “back then.”

I still hear from survivors who may not use the present tense, but it’s obvious, it’s still part of them. I want every survivor to live in the past tense. Even better, to live in the past perfect tense—an action fully completed in the past.

For a long time I lived in the present tense of pain. 
Now I’m experiencing it as a past event 
and getting closer to it being a past-perfect tense. 

[1] Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (Atria Books, 2017), page 255.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Contemplating My Father (Part 2 of 2)

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I swore to myself repeatedly that I wouldn't allow myself to become my father. I've managed fairly well, but sadly, there are exceptions, and that brings me many regrets.

I've imitated my father's work ethic, his charm and charisma, his wit, and his intelligence. Still, I also have the imparted weaknesses. Is it generational? Have the sins of the father actually been passed down to me by decree or by nurture? IDK.

What I do know is that, like him, I’m manipulative, competitive, secretive, lustful, angry, and by my own actions, a loner and lonely. I've done all the things he did with few exceptions and many more he probably wished he had done. And yet, I have no STDs, I'm in good health for my age and look and act at least ten years younger than I am.

I've been wishing my life was over and I could rest. But that's not to be. I must still be needed here for something, and I'm happy to stay a while longer.

If my father’s actually in heaven, as I suspect he is, I don't look forward to seeing him. I think it's because I understand him a lot more now than I ever did. A lot more than I ever wanted to.