A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

I just hate feeling like I am back at square one when some of these triggers come

[June 17, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

A survivor friend wrote to me recently:

Today I got a card from one of my ex’s relatives and she wrote inside it, “Jesus died on the cross for ___ and He loves him too!!” It really triggered me. She left a voice mail on my machine two days ago that said, “I am sorry I have been such a bother to you. Just tell me what to do and I will change my mail.” That felt like manipulation. I don’t know why her card triggered me that way, but I am going to send it back to her. She also enclosed a check made out to me, but I am returning it as well.

I just hate feeling like I am back at square one when some of these triggers come.

I wrote back to my friend:

Dear ____,
It might encourage you to know that when my second husband assaulted me in 2012 (ending the marriage) and I applied for and was granted a protection order against him, I was so triggered for days that I could hardly believe who I was! I was hypervigilant. Being out in public, going shopping in the main street of my town….it was like all my antennae were sensing danger everywhere. Every person in the street, even people a long way away from where I happened to be standing, seemed potentially extremely dangerous to me. It was as if every nerve in my body had been set on edge and spun out into hyperspace by a different squeaky nail down a different blackboard. If they had all be set on edge by the same nail on the same blackboard, it would have been easier, but it felt like they had each pinged off into different dimensions of hyperspace. I was so jumpy….  I was acting and speaking so oddly that I’m sure people who saw me in the street thought I was mentally ill.

I could barely recognize myself. I was shocked how intensely and rapidly I had reverted to old behaviors and feelings — things I hadn’t experienced since 2001 when my first husband did a horrible thing.

It was like part of me was watching me, noting my responses and explaining them intellectually to myself as trauma responses, and the other part of me was so emotionally “ga ga” that I felt like all I was was nervous fear and panic.

So I suggest you don’t worry too much about how quickly you were regressed to that panic state. I guess it’s normal for people like us. I guess it’s fairly common for people who have been reiteratively abused in their lives to severely regress when triggered….and find themselves in a state of internal tumult, that spinning cacophony of panic.

But we can come out of it a lot more quickly than we used to! Praise the Lord.

[June 17, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to June 17, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to June 17, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 17, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 17, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


  1. Becky

    I think this person was just trying to be helpful and godly, but there’s something that people aren’t getting. There is a difference between unconditional love and unconditional relationship and they like to intertwine the two, like this friend is. Jesus died on the cross for everyone, but does He love everyone or does He love those that follow Him and His word?

    Christ calls us to love our enemies, but He doesn’t call us to have an unconditional relationship with everyone.

    You can more selective in who will remain as your friends. You are in a healing process right now, people like this aren’t helpful.

    God bless.

    • joepote01

      Becky –

      Yes, I’ve been thinking about this word ‘unconditional’ lately…along the same lines you’ve discussed here.

      It may be possible to have unconditional love, but it is not possible to have unconditional relationship.

      Jesus told us to love our enemies, and Romans 5:6-11 makes it clear that while we were enemies against God, Christ died to rescue us. So yes, God’s love is unconditional and He calls us to also love unconditionally.

      However, there is a huge difference between love and intimate relationship. I can love my enemies, but I cannot have relationship with them while they are still working against me. Similarly James 4:1-10 makes it clear that friendship with the world makes us enemies of God.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

        I love the thought of unconditional love verses unconditional relationship. That is so clarifying!!

  2. Catherine

    I agree, after trauma we become hypervigilant and see danger even when there isn’t any. But in your friend’s case, I believe there was danger that the relative was trying to manipulate her emotions in a harmful way. The relative sent a note that seemed to be asking her to forgive her ex — and then sent a note that seemed to accuse her of being oversensitive. Yes, I may be reading more into those notes than is really there, but I also know how emotional abusers talk. Your friend’s ex’s relative fits the pattern. If I were in her shoes, I also would have been triggered by those notes.

  3. Isaiah40:31

    I also found the relative’s comments to be manipulative, and I think she did well in sending the check back.

    Triggers are odd little creatures. I didn’t trigger much in the first couple of months, maybe because I was so focused on things like making sure we were safe, and trying to create a ‘new normal’ for the kids. But after about 3 months I started triggering over everything – big things, little things – everything was a trigger and it was fairly overwhelming. That hyper-trigger phase lasted a month or two before calming down.

    • Isaiah40:31, I think your experience there may be fairly common. When we first leave the essentials of safety, housing, and other basic necessities take such a big place in the foreground. Then, when some of those things get a little sorted, we start to come down from the adrenaline and start to un-numb. Ooohhhh! that means we start to feel! Yikes!

      All the emotions that we didn’t have space or time to feel before because it was just too unsafe so they were sequestered in the other part of our brain with their iconic memories, start to come to the surface, especially when something happens in the here and now which is similar to something that we suffered under the coercive control of the abuser. This is part of healing. It often feels like things are getting worse, but they usually aren’t. It’s just that we are becoming less numb and can start to emotionally work through (process) the trauma. It does get better, gradually, and if we have good trauma counseling that can help.

      Judith Lewis Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery talks about this. We strongly recommend that book. Here is our Amazon Affiliate link to it: Trauma and Recovery [*Affiliate link]

      *Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
    • and Isaiah40:31 sorry if my comment above sounded ‘teachy’. I guess you probably know all that I wrote there, so please forgive me if it came across as patronizing. I guess I was writing it for readers who may not have traversed the un-numbing place yet.

      • Isaiah40:31

        Barbara, not patronizing at all! I appreciate all the help. I actually recently purchased “Trauma and Recovery.” It’s next on my list (just finished Crippens book, and ‘Sociopath Next Door’), then your book is next!

  4. Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

    I was so excited that I was “getting better” . I had even been able to go to a movie at a movie theatre and enjoy it. I had not been able to enter a movie theatre ( or even watch them on TV) for almost 7 years. I was excited and feeling victorious and then the ex-idiot lost his job, neglected to tell me, the child support that I had fought for in court for two years that had just re-started was suddenly cut off and I am again floundering to borrow, beg, cut things out to make ends meet. Major trigger and I can’t even watch TV shows that I had been waiting to come out on DVD. Angry at him, angry at myself and want to give up.

    • StillScared / Cindy ((((((hugs))))

    • NotHeard

      Still scared/Cindy: I feel your pain! Two steps forward, one step back is still progress. Please don’t be hard on yourself, it is part of the journey. Please find a way to redirect some of the anger energy so that you don’t store it all in your body. Behead some weeds, or a power walk in a place that you can see God speaking to you in his creation. Anger is a difficult emotion to sit with, but it’s not a bad emotion, it’s a God given emotion that is sending our body a message to be on guard, and be cautious. Listen to it, don’t try to block it, and definitely don’t give up: that would give the abuser power. Praying for you.

  5. Lighting a Candle

    Is it a trigger to be really angered by that comment? Because I am too! It is profoundly insensitive, scolding, self-righteous, and plain old obnoxious. I hate the mindset that when there is conflict in a marriage, it is the result of one party’s lack of forgiveness. Not only does she have no empathy for what you have experienced, she is subtly blaming you. False comfort with a few barbs thrown in is no comfort at all.

    Your feelings of anger and the perception of danger were right on.

    This is the same type of person that will slander you to everyone because you sent back the check. She is able to slip in those comments – oh so subtly- no ones sees it but you. It IS emotional manipulation- the covert type.

    Maybe we are triggered often because manipulation and emotional abuse is disturbingly common. And we have no desire to fall into it again!

    For me the challenge is discerning garden variety manipulation and indirectness that is more common and the other type, that I lived, based on evil intent. (Complete control of my life and power). I am also hyper-vigilant. It’s exhausting!

  6. Marah

    Oh, do I have a love / hate relationship with triggers. I hate the fear that swallows me. I hate the helpless rage they unbottle. I hate the spinning head, the inability to think clearly or form cogent thoughts. I hate the trauma they unleash!

    But I appreciate the strength I gain when I do allow myself to be angry, replacing righteous anger for feelings of helpless victimization. I appreciate the reminders that he really is as bad as I’ve realized; the triggers remind me that he isn’t safe, that I must reject the sweet and loving overtures. I appreciate how the triggers send me sprinting to my support system for help, strengthening the community I’ve begun to build for myself and my kids.

    I wish the valley of the shadow of death were safe, but at least the Great Lion who walks with me and guards me is Good.

  7. healingInHim

    “back at square one” 😦 … all family feels ‘we love both of you; don’t want to pick sides’, etc … trigger, trigger

    • ‘We don’t want to pick sides’ actually means “we will give you no justice.”

      • Lost

        That was manipulative. You’re radar is right on. This post and these comments are so helpful. These things are happening in my life right now!

        Red flags?- Take note and Run! My mother is like this and will sneak comments in and I always fight it or hang up if necessary. Her first question was “what did you do?” As in “what did you do to make him do that?” Yeah. And there’s always such an excuse if you expose her. It all comes back to how I took it or heard it and of course she thinks she’s off the hook. Or how about from the pastor “if he was so bad then why did you go back to him?”

        I’ve noticed very many people are like this. They’re NOT well meaning. They serve themselves and i can sometimes hear it fairly soon. Their lips betray them! Spits and spurts, even so, but I can hear now! They give out of guilt to feel better about themselves. Leave a manipulative comment and confuse her with a gift. Hey Phonies- we’re sending it all back. Literally or figuratively.

        What about the lady who helped me until I asked her for a favor to which she said “yes” then cancelled last minute. she then lied and tried to confuse me and lie more then add some “it’s about what you need, not me” phony concern. All this crap instead of just saying “no.” Guess what? yes or no- I CAN deal with it! She hasn’t contacted me since. Real friend, huh?

        I’m finding if people don’t respect you just one time and REFUSE to admit it and make things better- they’ll do it again and again and again. I shall stay AWAY! I think it’s totally a snowball effect – it grows by disrespecting more and more and thus getting bigger bit by bit and then it’s rolled you right over and they’re smiling because you are stuck to the pavement and they can freely step on you without guilt. They’re so happy they have that power over you.

        Thank you.

      • Lost, if you haven’t yet seen it, I think you might also like this article of mine:
        Unhelpful Comments by Well-Meaning People

    • AJ

      😁 don’t want to pick sides!!! Oh that one gets me every time. And then when you decide you are not emotionally capable of maintaining friendships with people who are supportive of him you are labeled.

      I know we have talked about EMDR on this blog before but I have found it very helpful with the PTSD triggers. Anyone else?


      • healingInHim

        “And then when you decide you are not emotionally capable of maintaining friendships with people who are supportive of him you are labeled.”
        “Labeled” and being made to ‘feel very guilty’ for ‘cutting myself off from family’ … So, what is a family??? AND as for friendships; now I wonder if ‘the friends’ were ever ‘my friends’ ??

      • NotHeard

        Can you explain EMDR?

      • twbtc

        Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.

        Here is a link to a post we have that further explains it: EMDR — a therapy for the trigger reactions of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

        Hope this helps.

      • Valerie

        AJ, I used to feel it was my weakness that did not allow me to spend time or talk with those who weren’t supportive when I spoke out against the abuse. But I learned it wasn’t me being emotionally incapable that led me to not speak with them, but actually it was my emotional STRENGTH that knew I didn’t need or desire to spend time with people who were so insensitive. If you’re going to be “labeled” the true label IMO is that you are STRONG when you do this, not weak.

        Healing from abuse is an opportune time to do some spring cleaning in all our relationships. Many survivors have recounted that once their eyes were opened to the abuse, they began to become aware of all the other unhealthy relationships they’ve hung on to that the abuse had made them immune to their destructiveness. I read another survivor’s words of wisdom that have stuck with me. She stated the truth that you know you’re stronger when instead of asking yourself, “Do they like me?” you begin to ask yourself, “Do I like THEM?”

      • You know you’re stronger when instead of asking yourself, “Do they like me?” you begin to ask yourself, “Do I like THEM?”

        Valerie, thanks for the great sound bite! I’m putting it on our FB page. 🙂

    • Valerie

      To not take sides is to take the side of the abuser. To want to remain neutral in abuse is not neutral. Abuse is not a neutral experience any more than other traumatic life events such a death of someone close or being involved in another kind of violent crime. To not take the side of the one who’s been targeted is to say the abuse is not bad enough for them to take a stand. It is a cowardly cop-out for those who who are too indifferent enough to be educated about abuse or too emotionally and spiritually cold to suffering.

      To say you don’t want to take sides is to be worse than the priest or the Levite- it is to walk up to the man bleeding on the road, stare at his wounds and then look at his wounded eyes and tell him you hope someone comes to help him then proceed to step over him and continue walking.

      • NotHeard

        Very well put, and exactly true!

      • Amen! Preach it, sister!

  8. downtheroad

    Hi Barbara, i would say also to your friend that it may be instinct too and, she may have unconciously thought that the relative may have been used by the Ex to manipulate her,well done to her for returning the card and check, she is making it clear she will tolerate no contact, and cutting off a potential” loose end “the Abuser could use,Excellent advice as always Barbara, bless you and your wonderful ministry,and for the wonderful help you are to so many People.

  9. Katy2

    Why are there such “double standards” allowed in the life of the abuser, where the abuser does the very things he does not allow his wife to do? I am growing number and number as I witness my “faithful church going, Bible reading” husband do all of the things he has verbally attacked me for wanting to do all of these years.

    So like the “submissive wife” does just to maintain some order of peace, I have backed down because of the yelling, put-downs, and guilt crazy- making behavior to just stay home and “do as he says” all the while he allows himself to participate in public activities.

    I feel so hurt and so alone within these prison walls….and so tired and used in doing the labor of a man all of these years. If I did not know Jesus Christ as my personal LORD and Savior, these double standards I see in so called Christians, would be even more difficult to endure. I do not see Jesus in my abuser, nor any of his “church going family (my-inlaws)” for that matter. Funny, how people can go to church every Sunday, yet exhibit such hatred towards one another.

    Just plain tired of living in this numb state. Please pray for me and all those who are living like this for there are many.

    • Dear Katy2, I do pray for you and those like you, often. We know there are many abuse victims quietly following this blog, just reading and taking it in as they are able, while still living under the close coercive control of the abuser. I say ‘close’ to distinguish them from the ones who have left their abusers but are still under coercive control (post-separation abuse) though it’s not so close.
      Thank you for expressing where you are at; I’m sure that it voices the thoughts and feelings of many.

    • NotHeard

      Praying for you Katy2. Keep reading when you can to grow your knowledge of how abuse works.

  10. jennibear

    It is the thought of a post separation abuse rom both my husband and his mother, as well as custody issues etc., why I have stayed this long. My husband is an abusive alcoholic, and his mother is an abusive narcissist that practices domestic abuse by proxy to my children, and my husband allows it. I hope I can survive, physically as well as mentally, for the next seven years.

    • mendingthroughchrist

      I have often thought of my husband and his mother as a “set.” She and I are both guilty, tho, of being major enablers of my husband. She took it the hardest out of all his family when I finally said I want a divorce. She blamed me for not going to couple’s counseling and not giving him more of a chance, esp. when he suddenly seemed to “repent,” but I think it is just buy back. I do hope he changes, but it doesn’t matter after over a quarter of a century of abuse. I’m finally seeing it as that, and I have to fight the guilt every day and stick to my decision.

      This is my 3rd separation, and when I went back the other two times nothing got better. I have no reason to believe it will again. I get triggered by his harshness and condescension, and quickly go into the scared puppy state, emotionally feeling crouched in the corner. It’s amazing that as an intelligent, professional person, I can suddenly feel like a naive child. He thinks because he is very sorry that he has changed, but I finally see the cycle of abuse, and that it takes years of counseling for an abusive personality to change, and I am exhausted from it. I’m done, but the road ahead is going to be hard as the divorce occurs over the next few months.

  11. StandsWithAFist

    I think in regards to the triggers that sometimes come by way of what I call “bystanders” or “accomplices”, there is a certain kind of empowerment that comes with recognizing it for what it is & refusing the bait. Bait usually comes with a hook, designed to reel you back into some kind of relationship with those who either do not understand/recognize abuse, or the “moralizers” who equate forgiveness with reconciliation. Bait demands a response…but it is unprepared for “no contact”. If cards, gifts and checks are returned, that is a response–and you are still playing by their rules. Gifts (especially money) are often a tool to manipulate, so it is empowering to utterly ignore them–do not return them, trash them. Do not return checks, shred them. You did not ask for them, you do not want them, so you are not obligated to accept them, return them or even recognize them. Unwanted & unsolicited phone calls & messages can be blocked so you no longer have to hear them or deal with them. You can block email, phone numbers, social networking, etc., and you can usually have “private” access only. Those people who coddle abusers & condemn the abused are themselves not worthy of a response. They don’t get it, will never get it & don’t want to get it. Anna Valerious once said on her blog, “I do not desire the esteem of evil people or their accomplices”. Once you realize who the bystanders are, then THAT is the real gift, because now you know who to avoid. So, triggers can be the impetus for empowerment & taking back your life. It is liberating.

    • Jeff Crippen

      StandsWithAFist – good stuff. Thank you. I did that check shredding thing some years back and it really was the best thing to do. I thought about marking the envelope “return to sender” but as you say, that gives them a response from me. So I looked at my shredder and thought “hey, there’s the answer.”

  12. brenda

    2 Timothy 3:1-5
    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

    Have Nothing To Do With Such People

    Forgiveness is necessary, but reconciliation demands repentance.

    • healingInHim

      …”Have Nothing To Do With Such People” Forgiveness is necessary, but reconciliation demands repentance.
      Bb Davis – 2 Tim 3:1-5 has become a reality check. Thank you for confirming that I am not the only one who sees this in Scripture. So many keep claiming that I can be such a good witness for Christ by allowing family to be abusive while I “turn the other cheek”. It’s almost like they enjoy the ‘drama’?

    • mendingthroughchrist

      I have forgiven, but now that he knows I am leaving, he says he has repented and will never do it again. He has made some tangible changes, and I credit him for that, but it’s at the 11th hour.

      I’m sure it wasn’t meant like this, but “reconciliation demands repentance” puts guilt on me that if he repents, I have to reconcile. After many, many years of abuse, even if he repents, and praise the Lord if he does, I do not want to reconcile the relationship. I cannot place myself under his authority and leadership again because trust has been breached. Is that wrong of me? I don’t want to reward him with my heart that has been stomped on by him all these years. There are consequences to his choices.

      He reminds me of the vows I made, and promises me all kinds of wonderful years ahead. He broke the vows, and now he expects me to be the bigger person. I was for many years, but I can’t do it again.

      Then when people ask me to give him another chance, it discourages me. The scary thing is I may never find love again, and will be alone for the rest of my life. But I’d rather be alone than in an abusive relationship. I am kind to myself and there is peace and love in my apartment. No more house, fewer finances, but peace.

      • Hi mendingthroughchrist, 🙂
        I understand how the phrase “reconciliation demands repentance” was triggering for you.

        I am pretty sure Brenda meant that if an abuser wants reconciliation with his victim, he MUST repent…AND keep on maintaining a repentant heart…AND show many fruits of repentance.

        But I am confident Brenda didn’t mean that if an abuser does all of that, the victim is required to reconcile with him.

        You are quite right. And you are not alone! I wondered the same kind of thing when my first marriage broke down for the final time. “What if he actually does really and truly repent? Does that mean I’d have to reconcile with him? Yikes! I don’t think I would ever ever want him back as my husband, not after all he has done to me…even if he changed into a truly non-abusive man, the damage he did to me is so great, he broke my trust so badly, he shredded me for so long, that I never ever want him back. And if people put pressure on me to have him back, I don’t think I could stand it!”

        Let me assure you that a victim is under no obligation to reconcile (wife to husband) with her abuser even if he has reformed. She can move on with her life, grateful that he is reforming, glad he is not likely to hurt any other women, glad that she can extend forgiveness to him from a distance, but never having to feel that her forgiveness must be accompanied by relational reconciliation in the form of marriage.

        You might like to read the posts we have on this page: What about reconciliation?

        And these posts will probably be helpful too:
        Sin Destroys Relationships – And Sometimes the Destruction is Total

        Thursday Thought — Does repentance ever come too late?

        The Abuser’s Ploy of “Confessing” His Past Abuse

      • mendingthroughchrist

        Thank you for affirming me in that. I have been most terrified at this thought. I’m so glad you understand! When my husband found out I couldn’t go back to him, he was so sorry and talking so sweet to me and told me EVERYTHING I wanted to hear for 27 yrs of marriage. He went to counseling and told our counselor this, and I was sure my Christian counselor would say, “Well, we have to see how this plays out. I wouldn’t advise you to leave (divorce; I’m separated) just yet.” But no, he instead said, “This doesn’t change anything. This is at the 11th hour and he has shown no signs of love toward you or repentance or even acknowledgement that this was abuse in these months of counseling. God gave you peace, follow that peace.” I was crying so bitterly thinking he was going to “make me go back” and he didn’t! I couldn’t believe it!
        He said he doesn’t hold that kind of power to make me or not make me go back, but that has been my biggest fear since separating 11 months ago, was that someone was going to make me go back. GUILT would make me go back. ME – I’m my worst enemy. I can still feel the relief in my heart when my counselor and my closest friends who know the situation better than anyone said this doesn’t change anything. I am eternally grateful for that freedom!

        And finding this site has been an answer to prayer as I try to process what has happened to me all these years and am finally finding the courage to stop this crazy cycle and find freedom from oppression and a dead marriage.

      • mendingthroughchrist

        Oh, and thanks for the links. I’ll definitely check them out!

  13. brenda

    I have prayed for many years for wisdom to deal with abusive family members and I agree that scripture can be twisted to enable abusers –

  14. Katy2

    Thank-you for the prayers, the encouraging words of wisdom, and the support I find on this blog by people who genuinely care. The Body of Christ knows no boundaries when it comes down to ministering to others. I praise our LORD for all of you and for the opportunity of using the internet for the good of those who truly love Him.

    In prayer for all of those who are in need of love and healing through Christ. Love to all of you.

  15. mendingthroughchrist

    Katy2, I feel the same way! I don’t wish to be bitter or angry but I need help processing all of this. This site is a Godsend because we all love the Lord and want to understand this, as it is going on in our Christian homes. And we are so misunderstood. We have believed we have been in bondage for so many years based on teachings in Scripture. Barbara’s book “Not Under Bondage” is so good, so detailed, as if she knows my own story. It has helped me understand what has been happening to me all these years. I’ve been in church most of my life and never understood this. We need to change that. We are all in a place of being able to hopefully disciple others as we see the signs. This is an education.

  16. Finding Answers

    Spent the day offline processing fear that nearly buckled my knees. So many things at once….

    Harder, too, because I am in new territory – the old methods of coping are being replaced by new ones, and I don’t know where God is leading me.

    Sometimes I get so tired.

    Debilitating fear drains my capacity to process coherently.

    I research. I read. I pray.

    The trigger manifests a little differently each time, the resolution is equally varied, they haven’t diminished with time.

    Post Title:

    I just hate feeling like I am back at square one when some of these triggers come.

  17. Kind of Anonymous

    I was just thinking about triggers. One thing that really bothers me is discovering that I can go into a triggered state without even knowing it. Sometimes it’s obvious something has triggered me by my reaction to things but not always. When it’s obvious it feels like “instant reversion” back to a childhood state where violence, abuse and control was going on and I was being treated as if I had no worth at all. At other times it’s as if my soul / spirit just disappears, goes AWOL.

    It can mean being in a chronic state of trauma much of the time and it’s very very frustrating. I have experienced it being as if there are two of me, a sane rational one and a very reactive hyper-vigilant child that goes fleeing away at the slightest hint of things that hurt. When that happens it’s as if I have disappeared. In this state, it is almost impossible to respond to God because I don’t trust Him and I can’t access my own true heart or sense of self. It’s as if abuse has created a false self and almost nothing gets done spiritually or emotionally if I am trying to respond out of the false self with its set of abuse-based beliefs about life, God, self and reality. My true heart just seems to have disappeared. Having my being in pieces also makes it very hard to tell when I am getting a realistic read on things because it’s as if things I can’t see are influencing my take on reality, and also as if there are files missing or pieces of the puzzle missing.

    An example of this would be a while back when I had to text my friend about something. I created the text, and then thought carefully about what I’d said, trying to make sure my response was clear, honest, reality-based and appropriate. Good. It seemed that I had made a straightforward clear clean communication. I sent it feeling I’d communicated honestly and properly. About five hours later it suddenly dawned on me that I had communicated something in the text that I was not supposed to say because of her volatile boyfriend and that if he happened to see her phone before she did, it could create a bad situation for her. I was VERY upset; how could I have been so stupid and forgotten this vital piece of information which I was quite aware of and sensitive to? Beside myself, I tried to get a hold of my friend to make sure she was okay. And very frustrated, I was kicking myself; how did this happen that this vital file was “missing” even when I checked and rechecked what I had sent? Thankfully she was fine and he never saw the message which she deleted.

    I’ve wondered a few times if I have something demonic going on. There certainly is enemy stuff involved as far as spiritual warfare goes. Telling what is actually spiritual and what is actually me in terms of dissociativeness for instance, is very difficult to do. I have also wondered what’s what in terms of what is flesh and what is spirit. Are triggers part of the fleshly nature? It wouldn’t seem to make sense to me for instance, to say that a war veteran’s triggered reaction to a car backfiring is sin, or is the flesh needing to be crucified even if what happens is that he flips out thinking he is in a fire fight in Vietnam. I remember reading a story about a war vet who every year around the same time would stage a holdup with a simulated gun, hoping to provoke police fire.

    He had lit a cigarette while deployed at night and a Viet Cong sniper saw the match flare and shot his buddy. This was his way of dealing with the trauma of getting his friend killed; he was attempting to cause himself to die the same way. His behaviour was apparently involuntary and not thought out; he had no idea why he was doing it until the connection was made between his friend’s inadvertent death and his thoughtlessly allowing a match to flare uncovered. The Christian counsellor writing about it referred to the sin involved as far as endangering others, public mischief, reckless endangerment of himself, the expense of having to involve law enforcement personnel.

    It left me wondering how much responsibility God would see us as having for such triggered reactions and how much control we are able to have over such things. Some Christians see things like PTSD triggers and dissociation as out of control flesh that excuses sin. I don’t know if that is true or not. But I do know that having stuff like this go on that totally clouds reality and affects how my mind and brain function is VERY frustrating and upsetting, esp. when it could have caused someone I am close to, to get hurt. It’s very disempowering to say the least. And of course there was a tie-in to a past trauma where my sharing of information DID cause someone to get hurt badly. That trauma and the damage it did to my relationship with my mother later made it almost impossible for me to mother my own daughter. I kept hitting a wall of pain and resistance when I tried to love her and show interest in her.

    I felt so selfish and guilty because my main focus in my life was desperately trying to find some help for the pain and I wound up always pushing her away and holding her off, being disinterested. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me but I sure felt like a selfish, sinful guilty schmuck for in effect saying, “because I have been so traumatized, I am sorry but it feels just too awful to provide a proper family environment for you.” How could this be right? How could it not be wrong? And yet how could it be my fault? Some said openly that this was sinful disobedience on my part. I had never had a proper family environment; our home was full of fear and violence and supper times were usually tense affairs at the best of times for me.

    I was in a coerced marriage to a guy who flipped out and implied suicide when I had tried to end our dating relationship and that didn’t exactly make me want to create a happy home either. His fit of rage and suicide threat caused me to have perhaps the most intense triggered reaction and reality shifted badly and became skewed. I was in a state of intense anxiety that entire marriage though I protested and attempted to get him to respond to my feelings in various way, some quite dramatic. So figuring out what God would have truly said to me in that situation and where I was responsible and not responsible was way over my head and the surface judgements of others did not help either. Trying to parse things like where your husband did something that was yes, sinful and manipulative and where my reaction was to the present and where it was a triggered reaction from the past was impossible for me at the time. It still is very hard to do.

    • Finding Answers

      Kind of Anonymous,

      I read through your comment of 21ST MAY 2020 – 8:54 AM.

      In the almost two-and-a-half years of reading the ACFJ blog, I have read MANY of your comments (although I did not start commenting on / replying to your comments until more recently 🙂 ).

      From your comments, I gain(ed) insights into how the Christian / “Christian” community (re)traumatizes victims / survivors of abuse.

      From your comments, I gain(ed) insights into how pastors / “pastors” (re)traumatize victims / survivors of abuse.

      There is SO much about PTSD, trauma, triggers, and abuse that MUCH of the Christian / “Christian” community remains (sometimes intentionally, sometimes blissfully, sometimes wantonly) ignorant about.

      In my reply to you, I am suggesting a book you MIGHT find helpful. Barb and Reaching Out will be OK with my suggestion IF I include a necessary caveat.

      In all your comments (or replies made to your comments), I cannot remember if anyone ever suggested The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I found MANY helpful tid-bits in his book, although he DOES include some things like yoga that Christians / “Christians” frequently recommended against.

      Maybe you, too, might find some helpful tid-bits in The Body Keeps the Score. 🙂

    • James

      Hi, Kind of Anonymous,
      I was very moved by your comment.

      I have known abuse survivors who, having studied the evil in their abusers, start to wonder if they themselves might be evil. We can all reflect on reactions in the past that we might see as hurtful. But as quite a few people have observed, if you are worried you might be evil or a psychopath, be assured that you are not. Evil people, psychopaths, are not worried about being evil. So if you are worried about being evil, you cannot, by definition, be evil.

      I think something similar can be said about worrying about being responsible for harm that may have been caused as a child or later in life while dissociative or triggered.

      To be responsible for choices one has to be able to choose freely. And to be able to choose freely, one has to have awareness of one’s situation and one’s responsibility in that situation. They must then be aware that they can choose their response or behaviour.

      PTSD and Dissociation, by their nature, severely inhibit awareness of the true nature of a situation. Without true awareness, one does not have free choice and therefore they cannot be be truly responsible.

      So I think it is safe to say that if you are wondering and worried about being responsible for past situations, you’re not! If you were responsible, you would know it without question (assuming this ‘knowledge’ is not the product of programming).

      Jesus extends healing towards us through love and understanding rather than blame. I try to remember to do the same towards myself and others.
      Take care, KoA.

      • Kind of Anonymous

        Thank you, James, for your thoughtful comment. I really wish the Bible talked a lot more specifically about things like PTSD or described dissociation. But it is true at least from my experience that being dissociative or triggered does shut down a lot of the ability to reason correctly as you have said.

      • Hi, KoA, one day I may have the time to write a post about passages in the Bible which describe or metaphorically refer to PTSD and dissociation. But for the present, all I can do is give you some links to things we have already published.

        A testimony of healing from trauma. When I wrote that post I was attending a Lutheran church. I no longer attend that church because I realised that most of the people attending there had only Story Faith and they assumed they were born again because they had been baptised in Lutheran churches when they were babies.

        Emotional Coma, or Vegetative Depression

        Fighting the Lies

        Why Don’t Victims of Abuse “Just Get Over it?”

        All our posts tagged PTSD.

      • Thank you, James, for replying empathically and with such wisdom to Kind of Anonymous.

      • James

        Thank you, Kind of Anonymous and Barb.

      • I’ve been thinking a lot about KoA‘s comment on how triggers and dissociation interface with personal responsibility.

        James wrote:

        Jesus extends healing towards us through love and understanding rather than blame.

        Would this be another way of saying the same thing? —

        God is lovingly patient and compassionate with our weaknesses and peculiarities. He knows each of us personally — what has been shaped by nature; what has been mis-shapen by trauma, coercion and programming; and what has been shaped by our own choices exercised in freedom.

      • James

        Would this be another way of saying the same thing?

        Yes, Barb. That is a better and fuller way of describing what I was getting at.

        There is a lot of preaching that portrays God as being angry with us – as if we can control God’s emotions through our behaviour. We can’t – and it is hubris to think we can.

        How many of us would do the things we do if we knew the full extent of the harm we were causing ourselves through our behaviour?

        Well, Jesus knows the full extent of that harm and He wants us to stop harming ourselves and to stop blaming ourselves for things that are outside of our control. He wants us to stop for our own sakes and is ever ready to assist.

        So with the Serenity Prayer [Internet Archive link]1 in mind, we could extend love and compassion to ourselves as Jesus does.

        He who does not love, does not know God. For God is love. (1 John 4:8)

        1[August 3, 2022: We added the link to Wikipedia’s page about the Serenity Prayer. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]

  18. Kind of Anonymous

    Hi, Finding Answers, if I can get a copy of that I will read it. I came across a mention of that book just today, in fact from a blogger I get emails from regularly and she mentioned having worked with that author. I don’t recall anyone mentioning it before, but it would sure be nice to know what I am experiencing and what category it belongs in! Perhaps it might be helpful. Our libraries are shut down right now, so I can’t order yet through them but perhaps I can find one somewhere. Thanks very much for this suggestion.

    • Finding Answers

      Kind Of Anonymous,

      You commented (21ST MAY 2020 – 1:52 PM):

      ….I came across a mention of that book just today….


      ….Our libraries are shut down right now….

      Perhaps, given your current closed-library situation, you MIGHT consider other options?

      There MIGHT be other book options available to you, depending on your preferences: Physical books, audio books, or ebooks.

      In the (relatively long ago) past, I ordered MANY physical books – sometimes new, sometimes used, sometimes hardcover, sometimes paperback.

      With used physical books, I have USUALLY had success with ordering them online, but it CAN be a) risky if you are unfamiliar with the bookseller, b) risky if the ratings for a bookseller’s used books are questionable (for any number of reasons), and / or c) an expensive option if the postage becomes cost prohibitive.

      Though not my own (personal) preference, I have been reading Kindle books on my desktop computer. I THINK you might be able to download ebooks designed for other electronic devices, including smartphones, iPhones, etc..

      There IS an audio version of the book, but I have yet to listen to ANY audio books, although I know of others who listened to audio books while driving their car and they enjoyed the “company” of the book.

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