I have been neglecting this blog, which I think on reflection is a bit of a mistake. I have spent the summer of 2014 reading, writing, recording and taking photos, which is a luxury not offered to many. Not all of my writing is appropriate for the readers of this blog. But the books and some of the adventures may appeal, so with your understanding and possible patience, I will share a few books and tell a few stories and try to make some connections.
It is raining heavily, so what better day to start writing a blog post. Just before it clouded over and someone’s god sanctioned the clouds to spread a grey gloom, a rainbow landed just down the hill. I resisted the temptation to search for a pot of something and instead took a photo and snatched a book from the bookshelf – a small book by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes called “The Gift Of Story.” It is a blue, hardback, with the subtitle “A wise tale about what is enough”. Dr Estes is a psychoanalyst, but also a Cantadora a keeper of the old stories in the Hispanic tradition.
I purchased The Gift Of Story after reading “Women who run with the wolves” also written by Dr Estes. My recollection is that I read the “Women” book, over 20 years ago during a time when I was taking all the chances offered to feel better, even love better and understand my many parts.
The “Women” book is made up of stories with a Jungian slant – an interpretation is given to traditional folk stories passed down, often by word of mouth by generations of storytellers.
It became a best seller.
A Jungian psychoanalytical lens explores the depths of the psyche, life, death and some of the major turning points associated with loss and recovery – through stories.
I read it during a holistic holiday on the Greek island of Skyros. An adventure in and of itself, because about fifty – 30,40 and 50 “somethings“, were all locked together in a two week living drama, of exploration of the inner self, through art, music, yoga and expression. The experience was significant.
Now, as I look on Amazon to see what people say about the “Women” book, all I can remember is one story “Skeleton Woman.” The sense of the book has stayed with me, as a kind of connection both to Skyros, people I met, their stories and my recovery – from a cult mindset.
People who follow me on Facebook may know I was raised in a particular kind of cult, where reading beyond cult literature was not encouraged. The group in question are – Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just like the Family of God and David Koresh’s followers at Waco, Texas, Witnesses are restricted by millennial thinking. An exploration of life is stopped by fear and recrimination. The cult requires duty and that duty is to preach about the last days. Education and time for self is denied.
I have this upbringing to thank for creating the space later in life, for daydreaming and storytelling.
The blurb for “Women who run with the Wolves” has this to say:
“Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. In WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES, Dr. Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, and stories, many from her own family, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine.”
This whole idea of the role and significance of story came alive recently while reading Scott Terry’s book Cowboys, Armageddon and the Truth: How a Gay Child was saved from religion.
I realized we shared more than a few childhood experiences, including but not limited to, feelings of uncertainty and panic, memories of being removed from a bed at night because of parental fear and not being sure where I would be the next night and if I would have a bed or food, moved from place to place, relative to relative, alienation from a parent, (in my case hidden from my non-JW father), disruptive school attendance and a huge desire to survive and find contentment.
Scott was also raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and like me and many other kids whose parents OBEYED, spent his childhood praying for Armageddon to come.
I did not have the experience of Scott’s double whammy of also praying to a judgmental and cruel god, “to heal myself” from “homosexual thoughts.” Gays within our mutual cult are required to deny themselves, every second of the day.
My mother, did her best. I know it was not easy to be alone and responsible for the lives of others. So she managed her fear through living a cult existence and taught her children and grandchildren to do the same.
In challenging this existence, I lost much and gained much.
What is refreshing about Scott’s book is that he does not try to candy coat a terrible childhood. In doing so, I think his words allowed me to say YES! It was crap!
Being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness surrounded by Jehovah’s Witnesses and being isolated in a mono-culture – is crap! His book is essential reading.
Which bizarrely brings me back to the Skeleton woman story in Women who run with the wolves. I now realize why that story is so powerful – for me. It delves into all of us, but especially the cult raised child. I remember listening to Dr Estes deconstructing the meaning of the story – of a woman who gathers flesh upon her skeleton – her bones. At the same time, her hair is restored in color and hue.
Dr Estes says in archetypal psychology the bones represent something similar to the Inuit traditional concept of an indestructible force – she says “you really cannot kill them.” There is the potential to flesh out the bare bones of a person and for the hair to be restored through learning and ideas. The restoration of self can take place through literature and stories.
This is one restorative tool for the cult survivor, hiding in books, feeling the story and what you were not allowed to feel, creating dreams, connecting and revealing the experience to others.
She talks about captivity, taking a risk and daring, challenging traditional family values and proscribed norms and during this often tumultuous journey of finding self – she advises setting boundaries.
She talks about becoming rich as you become older in contrast to times when we are so hurt and oppressed we become numb.
Letting emotions show and thriving is exploring the wild woman – or the real self – the witch – in the archetypal world.
In the cult world the self is held back, as all you are, is offered up to the cult.
In the archetypal world, the broken winged person, has been doing it all wrong, until people realize she has been doing it right.
So the connections I made through these three books is this – that the gift of story is complex – as long as one person exists that stands up and is willing to tell their story – the cult loses. By recounting a tale and connecting with the storyteller the greater forces of love, mercy, generosity and strength are continuously called into being.
By telling stories, nightmares are released. By telling stories, we flesh out our bones and the cult again – loses.
Here are a few more books to explore – stories of cult survivors.
I may well review some in future blog posts.
I have read these books and I highly recommend them.
Journey to God’s House by Brock Talon
Growing Up in Mama’s Club – Richard E. Kelly
Ghosts from Mama’s Club – Richard E. Kelly
Watch how we walk by Jennifer Lovegrove (currently reading)
Huffington Post Update The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday, October 10, 2014 to Pakistani Malala Yousafzai and Indian Kailash Satyarthi for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Interestingly, it is not just deprived societies that have this problem. Even in modern western societies, children are denied the opportunity of higher education by Jehovah’s Witness teachings.