Other participation-induced trauma/trauma & ethics

internal

Sponsor
i've been wanting to do this for a while but i'm nervous, haha. ha. okay. and i also don't exactly how now to phrase what i'm going to be talking about. so please bear with me. there is unfortunetely no way to just "google" this stuff because it doesn't have a lot of concrete language.

and instead of like, having a f*cking mental breakdown today, i thought i might try opening up a discussion instead.

so there is something called perpetrator trauma or moral injury which is essentially what happens when you are forced to commit actions that are against your ethical believe systems or which are not, but later on your ethical systems develop and then you relize what you did was wrong.

a lot of the examples of this are soldiers and law enforcement who kill people and medical professionals who are involved in life and death decisions that they feel were morally incorrect via the institutional system. so in terms of what i am talking about those are both valid things but i am also interested in a broader perspective.

i'm not really looking for people to get into the details of their trauma because i expect that will be very painful (and is also not something i am consistently capable of doing my self). how ever if you wish to go into any details you absolutely can. but i am wondering if maybe generating discussion around this topic itself on a more metaphysical level may prove beneficial in some capacity.

so this has obviously a lot of room. i'm going to keep it very vague so that other people can participate in this because if i narrow it down or provide examples that will make it harder for people to respond. but i am not talking about what you feel. or how you relate to your abuser.

i am talking about things that you have physically done. such as hitting people, shooting them, raping them, killing animals, what have you. i actually i don't know what exactly the f*ck i'm looking for here. maybe just because there is a profound sense of being isolated with this stuff. and in particular, more narrowly, being forced to do something that you other wise do not or would not want to do.

it's really hard to talk about it. it's really hard to understand how common it is. and you end up in this prison of silence because you are ashamed of it. and i also apologize that this language is a little loaded and i'm making it more broad than what it typically is used for but again, there is not a whole lot of language to describe this stuff.

or if you have any resources or anything that you've come across that has helped you, please feel free to put it here. i think one of the most difficult parts of this in general is the intrusiveness of it-it impacts you on a level that is difficult to really express. committing violence is something that is that i think anyway, what we know about it, isn't quite there.

sorry, this is vague and i don't even have a good-handle on any of this or any of the language for it, so it's all f*cking messed up. my apolegies. 😶 but if any one has any thing they would like to contribute in any capaceity i would strongly welcome it. being isolated is one of the most challenging aspects of my trauma. and today has been particularly f*cking hard.
 

Sideways

Moderator
or if you have any resources or anything that you've come across that has helped you
Grounding.

I don't tend to look at the situation I was in as "perpetrator" stuff. That's pretty loaded language. We were both kids, and frankly, both victims in our own way. Two people that wouldn't have been doing what we were doing if it hadn't been for the monster in the room pulling all the strings.

I keep it in a box. I pull it out of its box on rare occasions during therapy. And I survive it day to day by keeping myself grounded in the moment. As far from that nightmare scenario as I can possibly be.

The two big differences in my situation and yours: 1) from a psychological perspective, is I have stockholm syndrome, so I see the puppet master in my situation as a hero and a saviour and have a really hard time being angry at him; and 2) psychiatrically, I have DID, which probably changes the way the issue presents itself for me, and so how I deal with it.

That said...I did schema therapy with this fantastic psychologist once who trained in Japan and so had a different way of coming at things to the other psychologists I've seen along the way. She was really really big on having things in boxes. We'd start the session by taking the box off the shelf, and consciously opening it up (which was her method, rather than a schema therapy thing), and then at the end of the session; putting it all back in the box, and putting the box back on the shelf.

At first, that was all pretty meh, box, shelf, whatever. But over time, as I practiced mentally going through that process (start of therapy session, box, open, close, shelf, back into the world), it became something that I really was doing in my mind, as opposed to some weird exercise that I was just going through the motions of.

Many years later? As is the case with so much of the therapy I've done along the way, I've realised that practicing that with her every week? Made it something that I now do quite automatically, and very effectively, most of the time.

I have not spent any time at all in therapy wondering about the nature of my perpetrator-ness. Maybe I will in the future, idk. But to focus on that? Is so far down the track. Because that only happened because of all the abuse going on around it. Which is more than enough for me to deal with.

That's probably not helpful. Toss it aside if it's not. But my position? Spending too much time on the potentially bad things I did, and pulling apart were they bad, which one of us was in the wrong, how wrong was it, etc?

All of that^^^ would be me avoiding dealing with the abuse I wad enduring.
 

Friday

Moderator
Not gonna dive deep with this one, at the moment, although it’s 1-2 of the 3 pillars my PTSD is built on (below!)…

What I Did
What I Didn’t Do
What Was Done To Me

… I just don’t have the headspace today. Unless my avoidance spooks & throws it’s head up, 😉 I’ll undoubtedly be back.
 

internal

Sponsor
I don't tend to look at the situation I was in as "perpetrator" stuff. That's pretty loaded language.
i'm glad that you don't view it in that way! i would agree with you that with regards of what was happening around you that it was an understandable response to what was going on.

What I Did
What I Didn’t Do
What Was Done To Me
for me it looks exactly like this. honestly having things just be done to me is almost incidentel. that isn't really true because of the nature of having ptsd-i think what i mean is that having things which have just happened to me through no fault of my own-is easier to deal with.

if i didn't have the experience of being made to do things that i knew were wrong and also did not want to be doing-i had to be physically forced to do it, if i didn't have that, then it would be the rest of it. all the shit that happened to me would be the worst of it, but this is like-i don't know, there's something else.

and things happening to you is not great. and i don't want to be in pain. i don't volunteer for pain and i prefer not to be experiencing it. not always i used to f*cking be awful and hurt myself all the time but now i'm normal mostly. and i get triggered over it because i have ptsd. and what ever. but it's not what causes the most anguish.

it's all this other f*cking garbage.

i've noticed that there seems to be a strange kind of processing that happens where there is a desparity between the things that happened and then how i react in that situation-i do some times wonder if other people have similar responses or if i am just bizarre.

and what i prioretize, versus how i respond after it is over and how i judge what happened.

i think i wrote something out like this in my diary but it was a little weirdly structured. basically this is the, f*cking, mind game, bullshit. you know, the thought experiment trolley experiment shit that everyone is like "oh what would you do." well i know what i'd do because i did it.

and people don't talk about what it's like for the person who pulls the lever.

anyway where when you're in a situation like that the first thing i prioritzed was survival. everyone else then me, then being permenently injured, then being mildly injured, then pain, and on and on in lesser and lesser degrees until the situation wasn't happening. this was not conscious, it just happened like that.

when i first started therepy this was one of the first lists we actually wrote out. which was the priorities list. like "what do you prioritize" in specific situational circumstances. and what do you prioritize least. what is the first thing you throw away.

the first thing that i f*cking threw away was my morality. it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, what matters is that we live. there is no dignity, there are no morals, there is no code, or principles. there is just living. that is it. but now i'm an adult and that isn't happening any more.

and i have to f*cking remember it and it's like-now all i do is look at the fact that it was wrong. and not only that it was wrong but that even if it was ethical the fact that i was physically able to do it, is inherently wrong. (which is not right, i think that might be a cognetive distortion but i'm afraid to admit that because what if i'm revealing to everyone that i'm actually evil, ha ha.)

that's all i can seem to focus on. i don't need to worry about survival because i already survived, so now i have to just, live with everything. who the f*ck knows. 🤷‍♂️
 

Freida

Sponsor
the first thing that i f*cking threw away was my morality.
If this were true then you wouldn't be here, on this site, agonizing about what happened to you and them

But really
If you had no morals none of this would have bothered you then
That's why it's called a moral injury
Being forced to do something that goes against everything you believe to be true about yourself

That's why you have ptsd.
It's why many of us do
Because what happened wasn't right
and we knew that - even when we couldn't stop it
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
This is a very good interesting thread. I’m a bit worried that what I have to say is triggering or insignificant. I really don’t know.

As a kid once I threatened another kid really badly. I have no idea why I did that. I had no reason at all. I just scared the shit out of that kid and felt gross and evil because I could sense the power that came with that threat—of pure physical superiority. Which was wrong and stupid and really random as well, so even in the moment I couldn’t get it. I was watching myself doing the thing and wondering why. Never told that story to anyone.

Later on in adult life I did use violence a few times while in crisis, and I’m very fortunate my ex at the moment (not D) did respond by setting himself free. It did hurt but I realized what the f*ck I was doing. So I stopped.

What shames me the most here is the idea that if I wasn’t stopped, I could have continued. If it worked, I could have continued. I could have been a perpetrator. So in my case it really isn’t with dealing with having been one by force, but by knowing it could have been if not met with resistance. Sometimes I feel, and that might be illogical but it might not, that if I were a man I could have been a very awful one. Because my checks and balances have been of being a girl.

And in my case, no force was used. In cases I did respond to violence, I don’t feel guilt.

But I fear the thing that made me make that threat. That made me jump at someone’s throat. That was happy to jump two grids and destroy stuff like a beast. Worse than a beast. I don’t know what the f*ck that is, it’s just scary and so far I’m now creating situations where this cannot exist. And having some superstructure that prevents the use of coercion. I just didn’t know any better when I was a kid. I think I saw a film and tested it out. I was feeling distant and spaced out. Thankfully it stopped there.

Perhaps I’m just saying shit, and I apologize not bringing anything interesting. But it’s an incident that really made me doubtful of myself.
 

Sideways

Moderator
That's why it's called a moral injury
Being forced to do something that goes against everything you believe to be true about yourself
I decided not to tag you when I posted but I thought you might have some insight on this topic, not because of the perpetrator language, but because of this moral injury stuff.

You, me and @grief all have completely different trauma scenarios. But one commonality is the twisted lengths that our perps went to, to get us to do things that we would never ordinarily do, and was, in fact, completely contrary to our sense of self and our moral compass.

That's been really difficult for me to process. How completely messed up that all is. Not the things that were done to me, but the things that I did, in the circumstances.

One thing I think we all seem capable of is (very easily) reflecting on each other's situations and reflecting back, "No way was that your fault, no way have you compromised yourself or your morality by doing what you had to do to survive." I suspect @Friday is getting at much the same thing.

Applying that to ourselves? Completely different story. Self compassion instead of an overwhelming sense of shame? Is probably the biggest chunk of healing that I have ahead of me. And what has driven my SI for most of my life.

Shame and self compassion. Yeah. Ick. People do heal. But damn it takes a long time.

The culpability, though, rests on the shoulders of the abuser. The person at the top making all this happen. The person playing with the puppet strings.

Ground, Sideways! Ground!
 

Freida

Sponsor
One thing I think we all seem capable of is (very easily) reflecting on each other's situations and reflecting back, "No way was that your fault, no way have you compromised yourself or your morality by doing what you had to do to survive." I suspect @Friday is getting at much the same thing
I know right??!!! I sometimes feel like a total hypocrite ☺️
Applying that to ourselves? Completely different story. Self compassion instead of an overwhelming sense of shame? Is probably the biggest chunk of healing that I have ahead of me. And what has driven my SI for most of my life.
Ya ---- I still can't get there. Hopefully getting past the guilt will lead towards less shame? But I"m kind of afraid it's a totally different thing
The culpability, though, rests on the shoulders of the abuser. The person at the top making all this happen. The person playing with the puppet strings
This.
Yep -- we all need to remember this
We were puppets in the hands of monsters.
Ground, Sideways! Ground!
have a baby ellie!
 

internal

Sponsor
Perhaps I’m just saying shit, and I apologize not bringing anything interesting. But it’s an incident that really made me doubtful of myself.
i don't believe that this is insignifecent. i have incidence like this in my history as well. i am very fortunate that i am not a naturelly violent person. once i learned that i could engage in the world without violence i have never looked back. and there is a lot of fear and a lot of shame in knowing that you have these tendencies voluntarily as well.

Thankfully it stopped there.
i am thankful it stopped there for you as well corax. that sounds really difficult and it is very hard to put experences like that in order especially because we are taught over the course of our lives, you know-this is wrong, that makes you bad. there's very little room for redemption which i am not convinced is correct.

and this obviously f*cking goes into a whole other thing-because it ignores a really large percentege of the human population: humans who do commit violence. and who are not suddenly not human beings any more because of it. because they are.

If this were true then you wouldn't be here, on this site, agonizing about what happened to you and them
😝 i suppose that is true. i picked it up again somewhere! on the other hand it almost does make me under stand how people go down this path because i think, if i had been unapologetically like, "well now i'm going to just be a rapist and be evil and kill people" like-i would suffer a lot less than i'm currently suffering!

if i was like my dad, i'd be happier. that is a garantee. i'd be happier because i wouldn't give a shit! i'd just be hurting people and loving life.

in some cases i actually do think that these people that do these actions like-they are broken. in a bad way. the violence and aggression and things-i've always been interested in this, it's what led me to do the kind of work i do. because i knew i couldn't deal with being involved in the prison system. or being a police officer. or what have you.

but i can do what i currently do. but it also incidentelly exposes me to all of this other stuff. and this really is such an under studied area because of my own experences because of listening to people talk of their experences. that i just dont think that this is being described in accurate ways-mostly because this is the stuff that is written off in society.

by the time you go to prison you're already a piece of shit. worthless. useless. my current t worked in prisons before she got her own private practice and she used fornet (i recommend giving this article a read, it's fascinating.) hoecker's contributions here are really interesting, vivo is doing some excellent work here.

which was developed in the dr for aggressive kids who what was happening was they were seeing a reduction of the ptsd symptoms but they weren't seeing a reduction of the aggression.

so they developed fornet specifically to target aggression. and it is essentially participation induced trauma processing. and it deals with both the negative and positive aspects of aggression. it's not "it's all horrible and bad and you're evil and inhuman" because i mean we already have that and it obviously doesn't work.

it's more focused of rehabilitation, reintegration, all of that. and that was what happened with me as well. i had to be reintegrated and before i was integrated i was violent. a lot. badly. to my self, to others, to my environment. i was just destructive and insane.

i would scream at people if they talked to me. i remember we did this exercize inpatient where the lady was cooking us a meal and she put it in front of me and kicked over the table and yelled at her and there was no reason why i did it. i just didn't know what was going on. there was no rationality.

and i enjoyed the fact that she was obviously afraid of me, because i was not accustomed to having any power at all. and that was a way that i had power, i could frighten people and bully people into being nice to me. but then i'd go away and i'd think about it and be like well that's how i felt, i don't like this. i don't think this is right.

i didn't like being violent and i felt guilt over being violent but i think i was really headed in that direction of just being this f*cking screw up that ended up in prison. and somehow something tweaked and i realized that i didn't need to keep doing this. i didn't want to keep doing it.

and i was like oh, i can just, like, not do that. lol i can just not hit people. i can just, like, talk to them like a f*cking person. 🤪 sorry i'm just f*cking rambling. again. haaa.

You, me and @grief all have completely different trauma scenarios. But one commonality is the twisted lengths that our perps went to, to get us to do things that we would never ordinarily do, and was, in fact, completely contrary to our sense of self and our moral compass.
this is the thing that is the hardest for me to process. because i can understand the like, etymology of being an offender on a general level. because i know the things that i felt and did and also i can see it in terms of people who commit violence the factors for aggression and what not but this stuff is just completely irrational.

in my dad's case i suspect a lot of it was because of meth, so i am never going to get a real "this is why he did this" because the answer is that he had brain damage, from meth. most probably he wasn't born that bad it just exacerbated those qualeties on top of the physical iselation we had that permitted him to continue behaving as he did.

he had peers that behaved that way. and on and on. but it's still so f*cking challenging to put this into any kind of perspective because it's so f*cking rare. that this happen. but then i think to my self well he had all his friends that did things like that too.

so maybe it actually isn't that rare, it's just rare to encouner a circumstance in our society where we have permission to behave this way. but if we did it might be more common.
 

LittleBigFoot

Confident
I don’t know if I fully consider myself a perpetrator in the same sense that I think of other perps. Which is probably good? Just, I hate it about myself but I also forgive myself because I was still a kid at the time. I’ve physically assaulted others, threatened their lives (written in a note when I was in third grade so logically I wasn’t capable of follow through but still). I’ve also sexually assaulted another child and chosen not to act when I was pretty certain other children were being sexually assaulted by an adult. I wasn’t forced to do any of that but still chose to.

I hate hate hate all of that and wish I could redo so many things. But what I have to remember is at the time all that happened? I was ranging in age from 8 to like 10? ish. And I was extremely angry and reacting to my surroundings and what was happening to me. But ya, I still feel like a perpetrator who hurt other children. And I am so so sorry for that.

Sorry that was more of a ramble than anything helpful. But there’s definitely people out here who have done things that hurt others we definitely regret.
 

internal

Sponsor
this send me into a rabbit hole, ha. i love elephants so much. and octopus! (obviously.) 🐙

But ya, I still feel like a perpetrator who hurt other children. And I am so so sorry for that.
i think what you have gone through above is a really good way to frame it. that behavior is not the desirable outcome but you recognized what you were doing and rectified that and that is the most importent thing.

it doesn't make you evil. and i would argue it does not make you a perpetrator either. but i understand what you're saying. i frame the things that happened to me in the same way. a lot of kids act out their abuse. it is not a very comfortable place to be in. but it happens.

and you were very young. kids just don't know the same amount of information as an adult. which is why kids doing things like this is different than adults doing them. when we learn how to better engage with the world we do. and that is what you ended up doing.

and that is what is the most importent thing. i am glad you were able to forgive your self. 🫂
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
This is actually a big one for me and part of why the incident that preceded my ptsd was the ‘straw that broke the camels back’.

I have a thread in cognitive distortions called something like I am a rapist - which explains this sort of line of thought. It’s dulling . I still know what I did was wrong ,but I was deceived (and subsequently gaslit ) to the point it was not possible for me to make that judgment. The evidence I was given was incomplete but lead to the conclusion it was ‘ok’ when it wasn’t. I’m starting to spiral a little so stopping that here - it’s something that I cannot dwell on still . The black and white nature of trauma lens makes acceptance of grey rather tricky .
 
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