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Getting Through : Dealing

Does anyone really ever forget?

from ForgetIt,ItsMine - Thursday, January 15, 2004
accessed 1743 times

I'm only 16, about to be 17. I have a semi-normal life, because my parents left the family when I was around 13 or 14. My parents are in denial about the fact that anything was wrong with us being in family. My mother refuses to believe anything we tell her about bad things that happened. I have twelve siblings and I am the middle child. Most of my younger siblings don't remember anything about the family, lucky them. I try to forget about it, but sometimes I wonder if anyone ever really forgets? Is it ever completely erased, or is there always that haunting thought.....'I was raised in a cult'? Does it go away, or will it last there like a scrawled permanent marker drawing, faded slightly but still there? I haven't forgotten. I hope I will, but does anyone ever really forget?

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Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 10:46

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
I was talking in another forum with a woman who had been severely abused, and then abandoned as a child, by her mother. She was blaming herself because she was having difficulty forgiving and forgetting. She believed that it was her Christian duty to just "put it all behind her" and "restore a relationship" with her mother. That if she could only do that, she would somehow be relieved of all her pain, and go on to live a "victorious" life.

I have several problems with that.

First, there is the obvious impossibility of forgiving when there is no repentance. (A forced apology doesn't count.)

Then, there is the insane notion that once she "forgives", she must "forget" to the extent that she puts herself in a position to be hurt again. This is the same thing that is happening in the Amish community referenced in the link. The abusers confess, are penalized (two weeks of shunning) and life goes on as before. No attempt is made to protect the victims from the perps; that's over and done with; they're "sorry".

Compounding the error, the victim now becomes the offender. Because she is unable to forget what has happened, because she can't force herself to trust (she has "trust issues"), because she still has nightmares (I've been told I'm harbouring bitterness because of this), then she isn't following the Biblical command to "forgive as God has forgiven". She is guilty, and God will not forgive her as long as she holds that "grudge".

(Never mind that this is not the Biblical notion of forgiveness. God does not forgive those who do not repent. And even repentance does not cancel the consequences of our actions.)

Nor will the church forgive her. As long as she is talking about her "issues", she is not "going on with God", she is "hurting the cause of Christ". In the Amish community, she is excommunicated until she repents. In the missionary community, she is "counselled" and "admonished". And maybe even threatened.

The last thing that irks me about all this is the notion that somehow all the pain, all the loss and grief can be just forgotten, never more to influence us. That there is an ideal that we must reach; confident, always happy, cheerful, out-going, untroubled, clear-eyed. Healthy and whole and in control.

But that is not who I am. I am the sum of all that I have been and all that I have done and all that I have experienced. Even the pain and loss. Even the anger. That is part of who I am. To reject that doesn't make me whole; it makes me a shadow of myself.

Just as there are physical pains that I will suffer for the rest of my life, "residuals" that shape how I act, what I can do, what I attempt, there are also inner scars that will ache at odd moments, that will temper how I react to situations. For the rest of my life. That's who I am.

Who I am, though, is also what I dream of being, what I experience today, what I plan on doing tomorrow. It is the people that I love, the places I feel at home, the work that I enjoy doing. It is the bird feeder I made and fill faithfully, the toys I stash for when my granddaughter comes over, the books I read over and over, the silly stories I tell.

All of it together, the happy and the sad. And I refuse to blame myself any more for the sadness.

Mom was a wonderful, brave, wise woman. But she gave me some very bad advice, advice that had disastrous effects in my life, and that of my children.

Sure, she gave good advice, too. She taught me how to iron a shirt correctly, how to make hospital corners on a bed, how to organize a kitchen efficiently.

In fact, here is the text of a list I made for her one Mother's Day a few years ago:


* A broken dish is one less to wash.
* Aspirin is really acetylsalicilic acid and caffeine.
* Eat your peas.
* Once you've scrubbed for surgery, don't touch anything.
* If it bleeds: Good, that 'll clean out the wound.
* If it doesn't bleed: Good, it's not deep.
* If you feed the cat less, she'll catch more mice.
* Stack the sheets with the fold out.
* If you hate it, delegate.
* Eat what's set before you.
* Iron the front of the shirt last.
* It takes 21 tsps. of instant coffee to drive to Toronto.
* It's never too late to try something new.
* It's only a nightgown if you sleep in it.
* My neighbour/doctor/teller/... is the nicest person.
* So it's a car part: who says it can't hold pencils?
* Step back, take a good look at yourself, and laugh.
* The accepted wisdom is usually wrong.
* The long way 'round is more interesting.
* Try again.
* Wash the glasses first.
* Make a list.

However, she also gave me some extremely, superlatively wrong advice. It all can be summed up in one dictum: "Don't pay attention to your feelings."
Life; it never behaves as it should.
What was I saying? That Mom, wise, brave, smart Mom, gave me bad advice, namely: Don't pay attention to your feelings.

She meant it; she lived by that rule herself. It formed the basis for most of the rules we lived by.

About eating: "You don't eat because you are hungry, you eat because it's time to eat." "Eat what's set before you, asking no questions," she quoted, taking Paul's admonition out of context. "It doesn't matter whether you like it or not; eat some of everything."

About love and marriage: "Don't take it seriously. It's probably just an infatuation." "Don't look for a husband; God will provide the right one at the right time." "You should love who you marry, not marry who you love."

About favourite treasures and family pets: "We are to love people, not things." "Don't hold on to things." "It's only temporary." As my brother misquoted it, to fit in with what he had learned, "The Lord is Thy Shepherd, Thou shalt not want." "Beautiful things are a waste of time."

About personal opinions: "If the Bible doesn't say anything about it, it's not important." "Don't make an issue of it."

About privacy, rights, and comfort: Nothing was said. These were irrelevant concepts.

About other people: "Don't judge them. If they say they are Christians, they are." "If they are Christians, they can be trusted. If they are not, they can't." Simple. Black and white.

About true religion: "Ignore your emotions. God wants obedience, not words." "Never put feelings before the truth of the Bible." "You do it (pray, serve, sing) because God wants you to, not because you want to."

Forget your gut feelings; they can be swayed by irrelevant details. They can depend on what you had for lunch, or the time of day. Or on some stray bit of memory. Ignore them.

In many little ways, these maxims shaped our lives. We ate what we were given, when it was time. We went without, and didn't complain. We held ourselves to rigid rules. I even made a list of pros and cons to see if I should marry. As my mother had before me.

And we learned to ignore all the little clues that normally tell us whether or not to trust someone.

My wise, smart, brave, conscientious Mom gave me a very bad piece of advice. She taught me never to pay attention to my feelings. They were not to be trusted, nor were they to weigh in on our decisions. We had a duty to God; personal matters were not to interfere. We were to keep our “flesh in subjection”. Mom not only taught this in word, but she acted it out in every aspect of our lives.

I would like to look at a couple of the ways in which this influenced my life, and the lives of my children. One is a little thing, but it shows how the wind blew. The other may – or may not; who can tell what might have been? – have set the stage for the next 40 years.

The first.- This happened when I was 15. It was a Sunday, and we had brought home a soldier who had showed up in church that morning. Nobody we knew; it was our habit to bring home people who needed “to know Christ”.

Dinner was ready, and Dad had gone to call the boys. Mom was not going to be able to eat with us, again today; she was recovering from surgery, and would have a tray in the bedroom. I was alone in the kitchen with our visitor.

As soon as Dad was around the corner, the man came over to me, put one arm around my back, the other on my breast. He bent to kiss me and I pushed back and twisted out of his grasp. I still remember the sweaty smell of him, the scratchy face. He reached for me again.

So, what did I do? Shout for help? Run out of the room? At least tell Dad, when he came back with the boys? Would Dad have put him out of the house, like the jerk he was? I don’t know. Maybe not. This soldier was a “soul to be won.”

No; I said nothing, made no protest. I went around the far side of the stove and picked up a pot of steaming vegetables, started to ladle them into the serving dish. When Dad and the boys came in and they all sat at the table, I served our visitor first. With a smile.

After all, he wasn’t a Christian. He needed the Gospel. How would it be if today was his last chance on earth, and I had ruined it with my selfish hysterics, my squeamishness? What would God say to me when I stood at the Judgement Seat?

A few years later, the man who was to be my husband had proposed marriage. I didn’t know what to say. It didn’t occur to me to wonder whether or not I loved him, whether that loving was enough to marry on. No. I sat down and made a list: the pros, the cons. I added them up. I debated the eternal value of each positive attribute, and crossed out the purely subjective ideas. He had nice eyes, good muscles? Irrelevant. He was fun to be with? Less than irrelevant. Fun was froth and bubbles, ephemeral feelings. What counted was his usefulness to God and God’s plans for us, together or apart.

The list made, I left it in God’s hands. I stopped thinking about it. It shouldn’t be my decision, anyhow; I might end up going by my emotions, and ruining everything God had planned.

In the morning, I knew. And that was that.

Did I love him? I never once asked myself that question. Did I want to marry him? Not that one, either. My feelings in the matter were not relevant. I didn’t even allow myself to be aware of them.

If I had asked those questions, what would have happened? I have no idea. What-if’s don’t exist.
(reply to this comment)
from cheeks
Monday, January 19, 2004 - 11:44

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
I don't think you ever forget.Before I came to this website I suppressed most of my memories and all of my emotions on the subject.I simply did not have energy to waste reliving the past.Now things come back in startling clarity. I can't hate TF as it simply is not worth the effort. But now I can put it behind me and make peace with what was.I am so glad to meet all of you even if I don't agree with some of your convoluted theories.To realize how many of us there were and how we were affected in so many ways helps me remember I was not alone.I hope we stand strong as individuals and together as a group.
(reply to this comment)
from Holon
Monday, January 19, 2004 - 09:48


I left the group with my family when I was 15 years old, I am now almost 29.I remember everything from my childhood ( if one could call it that)But it's not something I think about much anymore. I have been out for so long now so I dont need to explain about my past much ever because my life is about other things now. Plus all my friends know all about it. So it's just not talked about or thought about much any more.Even with my friends who have left the group I dont think about how I know them anymore, just about the people who they are now.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it just becomes less important as time goes on.I have sisters who were about the same age you were when you left 13 or 14 and they have what I call selective memory. They only remember pleasant thoughts.Than again, Nothing that traumatic happened to them.for example they were not sexually harassed or molested and were never beaten or starved ect...

So there views on things are a bit different than mine.Now I was never beaten or starved either but I did see allot of it.If your not in school already please go. It is so important to get a good education.I am not only saying this because I am a mother, but because I didnt go to high school when I left, because my parents didnt want me to, and I was so far behind my pers to push them much about it. Looking back I wish so much I had.You think learning stuff is hard for you now . Let me tell you it is much harder when you are nearing 30!!! LOL! Not to mention 4 kids a husband and a house to tend to.

Anyhow, my suggestion is to fill your young wonderful self with as many things as you can, and you'll wake up one day and notice that you havent thought about your childhood that week , that month ect....It will happen I promise you.
(reply to this comment)

From Holon
Monday, January 19, 2004, 10:01

P.S. I dont know what your real name is but one more thing I should add is if you have bazare name such as mine (Holon Abiah) or Victory , Shlome, Jubulant , Candle ect.. you should introduse yourself with a nick name.It's too late for me to start doing that now. But my name has always been a big problem for me.A constant reminder , if you will.I am SICK SICK SICK of explaining my name to people I meet.Where did your parents get that name, or what does that mean, or how do you spell/ say that???ect.. I hate introdusing my self! but if you like your name than dont worry about it!(reply to this comment
from EyesWideShut
Friday, January 16, 2004 - 10:38

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

No, you never forget. But after a while, you feel better about remembering.

Partly, you're able to stand away from it, like an observer, and watch what happened without too many of the feelings, as though you're recalling a dream you once had.

Partly, you realize that you are the sum of your parts, and that culture is what makes you who you are, and you have no choice. You accept it. You take your excentricities from that, you learn about who you are, you allow yourself to be unique. You appreciate it when new friends recognize how unusual you are and you use that to your advantage.

Partly, the longer you're away from it all, the more of a past you have built that is apart from all that. When you tell a story, it doesn't begin with, "When I was in the Family" anymore, but with, "the other day at work".

I would say that remembering is a way of protecting ourselves from being used in such a way again, but I'd be lying. You will get used again, many times. But you will wake up one day and recognize that Used is in bed next to you. It may have a different face an a charming vocabulary so you let it buy you a drink and, unfortunately, you took it home with you. But because you remember, you will not make him breakfast and 5 awful years down the road you will not have his babies. What is it that you suddenly recall? What will you know about Used that tips you off? That awful stench. It masked the smell with cologne the night before, and you may have been too desperate to notice, but it wakes us with that stench every day. You will not be shocked because you know life and you realize that it's humanly impossible to escape Used's initial advances. You almost always have to wake up in bed together to be sure. And it is at that point that you know what has to be done. There is no question.

It is clear and you are able to be brutally swift about it because...

You remember.
(reply to this comment)

From ameliaus
Friday, April 22, 2005, 15:54

that is a perfect description(reply to this comment
From xhrisl
Saturday, January 17, 2004, 07:05

Wonderfully and concisely stated!(reply to this comment
From EyesWideShut
Saturday, January 17, 2004, 11:30

Thankful:)(reply to this comment
From Sonderval
Friday, January 16, 2004, 12:30


wow, you really have a problem with casual sex don't you?

Agreed with the rest of it though.

(reply to this comment

From EyesWideShut
Friday, January 16, 2004, 22:29


You must realize that I was speaking metaphorically. Coincidentally, I do have a problem with casual sex: I want it and can't have it. Hehe. Just kidding.(reply to this comment

from Sonderval
Friday, January 16, 2004 - 03:05


Well not forget no, but if you deal with your issues head on and face up to your past (takes a long time) these things can cease to matter, I now have a good career, a wife and child I adore and a strong circle of friends, do I think it matters that until I was 15 I was in a cult, not at all.

I haven't forgotten anything about my past really, it's all still there if I want it, but it holds no terrors for me any more, I'm comfortable with it, I've also put it into long term storage, it's not something that I obsess about.

So yes and no really, yes to the bit about will it stop mattering, no to the bit about forgetting, I don't think anyone ever really forgets anything, they just put it in a place that they can't reach without trying harder than they want to.
(reply to this comment)

from krystine
Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 20:14

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
My parents have selective amnesia when it relates to certain incidents about the past. I don't know whether it's denial or if they just really don't remember since they were all wrapped up in their own shit but many times I mentioned things to my mom and she refuses to acknowledge that those things happen. Sometimes I even doubt my own memories until I back up my experiences with other peoples stories. That's why this web site has been so helpful because it proves that I'm not totally delusional and bonkers because others have experienced similar stories.
(reply to this comment)

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