The Internal Oppressor

The Internal Oppressor

Last weekend, I experienced a sensation that only lasted about 60 seconds.  It was the feeling of complete psychological, emotional and physical freedom.  It was a beautiful feeling.  Everything around me looked different.  The scenery looked more vibrant.  I felt more alive, more energetic.  I felt that I could do almost anything.  After the feeling went away, I did not feel euphoric or otherwise grateful for having had the experience.  Instead, I felt confused.  Wasn’t I already free?  I thought I was already free.  How can I not be free?  I have spent so many years in recovery.  I have done so much hard work.  How is it possible that I am not free? I have heard about the concept of the “internal oppressor” before.  I have taken psychology classes and studied human behavior theories and self-development texts, so I intellectually understand that it exists.  I have even been aware of my internal oppressor in the past.  In the past six years, I have had a very tumultuous relationship with the oppressor.  Most of my recent decisions have not been approved by this ever-shrinking part of me.  It can be difficult to make decisions (especially large impactful decisions) when there is an internal conflict rendering my intuition inaccessible.  However, there was something larger than myself driving my decisions, so the oppressor kept losing out. My oppressor did not approve of my choice to free myself from my abusive relationships and assume the role of single mother.  My oppressor was certainly not a fan of my choice to confront my family about the abuse or my choice to remove my...
A Culture of Trafficking

A Culture of Trafficking

I struggle on days like these sometimes.  Every survivor has their triggers, and mine is the military.  I don’t have a problem with the military men and women who have died for our country.  I think they are amazing.  I think their choices were selfless.  I have nothing but respect for them.  I struggle with the culture in the military, the behaviors they promote and the behaviors they ignore. I know what PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) feels like.  I have it.  I know how it can turn a life upside down.  I know how hard it is to step out from under the paralyzing pain of the flashbacks and the paranoia.  It is almost impossible to live in the present moment when there are so many unresolved emotions on the inside.  It is like living with the trauma every day when the traumatic event is gone. In my opinion, the military is not doing enough to address the effects of PTSD on those who serve.  It also doesn’t help that our culture encourages men to “be tough”, so it is more difficult for them to admit they are haunted by traumatic memories.  Unfortunately, I think that some turn to other methods of stress relief, unhealthy methods.  And these unhealthy methods are not discouraged within the military culture.  Purchasing sex is seen as an acceptable way to relieve the stresses of war.  The prominent sex tourism destinations in Asia started by serving the military personnel who were stationed in those areas.  Still today, there are brothels with trafficking victims near most American military bases inside and outside the United States. This...
The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman

I’ve been celebrating lately.  There are many reasons for celebration.  I have graduated with a master’s degree and quit my job to begin work in the trauma recovery field.  Everyone is letting me know how proud they are.  Everyone is congratulating me for the positive changes I am making in my life.  At the same time, it’s a difficult time for me.  Celebrating who I am and what I have accomplished goes directly against my instincts as an abuse and trafficking survivor. When I was being abused and sold, I had a survival plan.  My plan was to keep a low profile.  I kept my “energetic footprint” as small as possible.  I never made eye contact.  I tried to get through the day with as little attention as possible.  Attention was bad, very bad.  I learned that early.  This survival plan was encouraged by my perpetrators.  They didn’t want me to be noticed either.  They  certainly didn’t want me to be noticed by the police or anyone else that may have helped me.  I think this is why trafficking victims are often referred to as “invisible” victims.  Trafficking is happening everywhere, but nobody sees it. As an adult, this “skill” of mine has produced some interesting manifestations.  People have literally run in to me as they are walking down an open sidewalk.  I have had an unusually high number of cars nearly run me off the road because they didn’t see me.  People have worked with me for years and not known my name or my role.  I was the invisible woman. After several years of recovery, I noticed...
Slaves Come in Many Forms

Slaves Come in Many Forms

I have been a slave.  As a survivor of human trafficking, that doesn’t come as a surprise.  Human trafficking has been dubbed “modern-day slavery” by the media, governmental agencies and non-profit organizations.  Many organizations use symbols like chains and ropes to depict human trafficking.  These symbols can also be dangerous when educating the public about human trafficking.  It leads people to believe that slavery can only be defined by physical restraint.  This perception has caused people to ask why trafficking victims don’t run away when they are not restrained. Survivors know the truth.  Slavery can be even more powerful when it is of the mind.  Threats of physical harm can be even more powerful than physical harm itself.  Physical wounds heal.  Brainwashing of trafficking victims is extremely powerful.  If a victim believes they will die if they go to the police, they won’t go.  If a victim believes they are worthless, and the only person who will take care of them is their pimp, they will stay.  It can be even more powerful when the victim is a child. The idea that slavery is mostly of the mind has led me to examine some of the societal norms that seem to be running our culture.  I have been wondering what happens when we don’t question the norms that we have been taught.  I have been wondering who created those norms.  I have been wondering why we seem so intent on believing them. Recently, The Double Parent wrote a great piece about society’s view that a single-parent household is “broken”.  This struck me.  As a single mother, I obviously do not...
Two Different Worlds

Two Different Worlds

Recently, my twins and I went on a family vacation to Disney World.  There is nothing like a family vacation to remind me of the differing perspectives between children and adults.  My children are present in the moment.  They are optimistic.  They trust everyone.  They are full of unconditional love.  I am none of those things (although I try to be).  On several occasions, I felt as though we were living in two different worlds. I think that every parent grapples with relating to their children on some level.  I think they wonder how their innocent and loving children should be introduced to the darkness in the world.  It becomes especially challenging when tragedies create a flurry of bad news all over the television and radio.  It’s hard to find the balance between embracing their beautiful innocent spirits and preparing them for a world that will undoubtedly deal them some blows. I think this struggle is particularly challenging for trauma survivors.  Now that I have broken the cycle of abuse, I have come to the realization that my children’s lives will be completely different from my own.  I am grateful for that.  However, I wonder what it means to live a “normal” life with a “normal” childhood.  How does that shape a person?  Maybe they will struggle less and feel less pain.  Maybe they will live an “easy” life.  Maybe they will feel more fulfilled.  Maybe they won’t have the same passion to change the world.  Maybe they will have more passion to make a difference in this world because they are not consumed with trauma. I can’t help...