Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Desensitizing

Growing up, I was not encouraged to read. My parents weren't mean about it, they just never read books. It was their culture to believe that someone who wasted time reading was a lazy oaf and to be disrespected. My dad, my hero, only had a 10th grade education, yet he was featured in a magazine for the invention he failed to copyright and is now used on many farms. My mother graduated from high school but didn't read either. They really never had the time - farms are like that.

The first book I read was when I was in 9th grade. A company came to my school and gave everyone a form with many names of books that we could put a check mark by meaning we intended to buy the book. They were mostly paperbacks and I was given permission to buy one. It took me days to decide which one because I didn't know what I liked to read - romance, mystery, cooking, fiction...  The possibilities were endless and it caused a great deal of misery for me so I finally chose a book about a black stallion. I had a horse who was my best friend so I thot I would enjoy that story. Not. I never read the book. I just couldn't get into it.

That summer, after school, my cousin from a town not far away came to spend the summer with us. Everyone said he was brilliant. He was 3 years older than me and fun to be around but like most older boys, he and my brother picked on me most of the time. Toward the end of the summer, he began to realize how awful it was for me to be so alienated in my own family and how his behavior had made it worse. He tried making it up to me by showing me card tricks (which convinced me he was brilliant!) He also gave me a book to read that he had brought along to our house with him.

The name of the book was "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie. I read it was her first and most popular book. You can watch the movie version here. I didn't want to read it but his description of the plot interested me a great deal. I was captivated. I was sold. I loved it completely. I also found I could read it only in the daylight to avoid terror so profound I couldn't sleep at night.

What does this all have to do with DID? I have found that reading books (and watching movies) that are fast paced and have a mystery plot actually helps me slow my own internal panic meter. Sort of like having to swim with the tide to be able to move toward the shore. I watch movies that are plain scary - not bloody, those are out - but scary. My T says I'm flooding. He thinks it's my way of numbing (somewhat) the panic I felt during a particular part of my abuse. It's called desensitizing. It's my way of swimming with the tide so I can survive. It's my way of reliving a terrifying experience and finding that I've survived that gives me grounding and helps littles know they will survive, too. It's very odd to write about this. I know it sounds crazy to scare the BJ out of someone so they realize they are surviving...

10 comments:

castorgirl said...

I do exactly the same thing Ivory and always wondered why... I read all sorts of scary books but never have nightmares about them, they just help to calm the internal chaos.

Thank you so much for helping me to understand why I do this...

Kerro said...

Ivory, in a way I'm pleased that you have something that helps slow down the spinning, even if it is blood and guts and heart pumping action. ;)

My father also instilled in me that reading is lazy, but somehow I still grew up to love it and often used books (of any kind) to escape into.

Take care.

Kate said...

Hi Ivory,

I used to do this with horror films. And I love mysteries, especially ones with justice. However I don't beleive that they are flooding. At least that is not at all what they do for and to me. Still if they bring you some centering and peace within the system, that sounds good.

Good and healing thoughts to you.

Ivory said...

Castorgirl,

Yeah, my T suggested to me for years that I stop watching scary movies and reading suspense books. I just couldn't stop. He did some research and I guess discovered that many abuse survivors do this, or things like it.

Kerro,

I wish I would have found books sooner. Even after that first one my cousin got me to read, I didn't pick it up until I got married. I decided I wanted to be a Therapist and the college wouldn't let me in because (I'm dating myself) women should stay home and raise her children. That was 1985 - too soon for a college to be so stupid. Anyway, I went to the library and there I got my first library card. I read every book they had on Psychology - every one of them and there were shelves of them. Books became my way out, now, I write them.

Kate,

Why do you do it? Is it self harm? I hope not, but yes, for me it is a form of flooding. When I'm panicked and stressed the most is when I want to watch a movie that scares me. Toward the end, the movie slows down and so do I. It's sort of matching my speed and then I match it when it slows down. Usually works. And, there's usually a good ending.

Thanks all for your insight!

Just Be Real said...

I was never a reader, but I have always had a weakness for gory scary movies, especially when I was younger. Older now, the movie business has changed and the movies are even more gross, that even I cannot handle them anymore, I get really upset, so I do not even attempt to watch them.

Great post Ivory! Blessings....

fromthesamesky said...

Wow Ivory, this makes total sense. I'm glad you wrote about this, it helps me understand.

I love the new layout/colours by the way! Beautiful!

Ivory said...

JBR,
Gory I can't do. Even if I think the movie will be good otherwise, I don't watch it at the first sign of blood. Blood is a trigger for me. Scary is what I usually tune into. Thank you very much for the blessings. I've found that my blogger friends are a great blessing, too!

Thesamesky,
Thank you for the compliment on the new layout. I stayed much too long with the other one - I don't stay in the same place too long any more!

Sometimes, I watch a movie that scares me so badly, I have to call T. He gets so frustrated because watching those movies/reading those books doesn't make sense. It is what it is.

Hillary_C said...

1) Love your new colors, so lovely. Hope it is a reflection of how you feel these days.
2) This is an interesting topic! I have barely watched any TV in 2009, but find that I could only tolerate very funny (30 rock) or violent (Terminator the sara connor chronicles). Terminator - things are pretty black and white, no room to question your belief in the bad guys.
3) the scary movies are a fear situation over which you have control! you can turn it off and it goes away. If you can use it as a method to learn how to purposefully calm yourself when activated, it could be a useful tool. good luck

Ivory said...

Hillary,

Thank you, I do feel better and I just couldn't stand the dark look any longer. I love pink, Pink is my favorite color!

Yes, you are right about me having control with the scary movies/books. I often put a book down and stare at it as if it might come to life. I've actually put in on the floor and walked an arc around it as I stared every time I walked past. It's almost as if I am exercising my power to avoid it - like I've been granted the power to run away, if I choose.

I have to admit, it has backfired on me a few times but I never watch/read with the conscience thot that I'm going to engage in some home therapy, or flooding. There have been times it was too much and it became a trigger instead of therapeutic.

Kate said...

Hi Ivory,

I'm sorry that you were abused like that about schooling. That is just so wrong. I think you would make a wonderful therapist.

When I was pre-flashbacks I think that I did watch gory horror films for flooding. That was just a narrow window, just a few years before the flashbacks started coming. After that I had seen way too much in flashbacks and nightmares to be able to watch anything that realistic. So most of the horror films get unwatched. Though I do see vampire films still. I just love those, and often they are very gory and upsetting.

I agree that there is an element of taking back control and being in charge of what happens, when you watch it, and how you can just shut it off and walk out of the room. Plus you can watch it at home now, with all the lights on.

I think that what I am looking for is validation. Validation that the things that are bad, abusive, horrific are what I think that they are.

As a survivor of ritual abuse I often get told by society that it is unreal, that it is not happening, that there is no justice for me, for survivors like me, and for survivors of ritual abuse. Justice films and tv shows helps me to see society cares, validates, and wants to change the bad things, believes in the bad things, and cares about there being bad things.

Good and healing thoughts to you.

Kate