From the beginning of their healing journey, most survivors of ritual abuse or other forms of complex trauma will encounter a reaction that occurs at times almost immediately after a memory that was formerly dissociated is recovered: denial.
The survivor will question: Is my memory true? Am I making this all up? It feels like I’m “faking” or “seeking attention”.
Whether or not the memory is physically true usually cannot be determined right at the moment, until further healing occurs. The memory may first come forward in bits and pieces, in a fragmented manner; it may not be easy to understand the context and what happened at the beginning (since the survivor may be tempted to “fill in the gaps” with what they think the first parts of the memory mean), until various parts come forward and the whole memory is recovered.
Also, a survivor may have memories that are absolutely “real” and yet not “historically true”, such as the survivor remembering talking to the leaders of ancient Atlantis, or to a human-sized rabbit, or playing with angels who encourage the child to obey cult orders. These are real memories of what parts of the survivor have been through, but storylines themselves are deceptive set-ups that were staged with actors on a set, or through virtual reality and other technologies. Typically, when the entire sequence has been processed with the all different parts involved, the survivor is able to remember entering the studio where the set-up was staged, or entering the VR studio, or putting on a VR helmet. Or, the survivor may get in touch with older parts who know the technicalities of how such events were made to seem real to the survivor, as these parts had to be involved in the programming of other cult members.
I have heard individuals state “You can never know if the memories are true, or not” and this is NOT true. Over time, with healing and internal communication and sharing of information, the process of sorting out what physically happened, what was done in a programming setup in a facility, and what was virtual reality will occur.
Survivors, as they heal, can truly know what happened to them, and quite accurately.
There are plenty of articles, books and foundations online that claim that ritual abuse and mind control are ‘false memories” or a form of “mass hysteria.”
There are too many survivors who have remembered planned, sequential governmental and cult programming and mind control, and documentations of the realities, for this viewpoint (a good example is Daniel Ryder’s book “Breaking the Circle of Satanic Ritual Abuse” which documents verified cases that went to court, and it was proven that ritual abuse occurred).
I also personally remember after about 5 years of working on my own healing, wishing I had some external validation. I even prayed for validation, saying, “LORD, will I EVER know if my memories are true?” About a year later, I was emailed by an individual who asked me if I was (my legal name), and formerly a nurse. I told him yes, and he then shared with me that his wife had recently died, and while going through her closets, he found some boxes of records with my name on them. Many had been censored with black lines, and he asked if I wanted the records.
I said yes, and asked him to fax some right away. He did, and I was stunned to see a picture of me at age two and a half, inside of a wire enclosure with a woman I had never consciously met; and records with my name, and also a code name, with medical procedures indicated; and also some emails from the West Cost to the East Coast discussing my leaving the group “AWOL” and what to do about it, etc. I remember shaking as I had physical proof of mind control, and took the records to my therapist.
The next day, I got a terrified email from the same man, asking “Who the HELL ARE you???” He then shared that his home had been broken into, papers scattered around, and all the boxes with my records which he was going to send had disappeared. He asked me to never contact him again (I didn’t).
Several years later, another member of the group I was raised in chose to get free. She shared with me information about who I was that I had never disclosed openly with anyone other than my therapist. She validated that I really was who I had remembered, which was a gift.
In the end, though, the real issue is not whether the memories retrieved are completely accurate, or complete, in the beginning, but with how the individual’s system will react to memory retrieval: denial.
Various groups will program in denial in various ways, depending upon the setting and the reason. Most mind control systems will have at least one, and usually several, parts that have been given the specific job of denying memories if the individual begins remembering.
If the amnesia programming starts to fail, and there is “bleedthrough” (e.g., memories of the mind control trauma begin surfacing), these denial parts will immediately begin denying the truth of the memories. A survivor may wake up in the morning with bruises over their body, bits of bark in their hair, with no conscious memory of going outdoors, and will simply think “Huh, I wonder how those got there? I must have….(the denial part will then insert a cover memory to explain).
Denial parts will often be replicated in every system in a survivor of mind control, because this role is so important. They often sit next to distractors (whose job is to distract and prevent the presentation in the survivor of being aware of what is going on that they aren’t supposed to see according to the programmers) and with unbelief parts.
From the presentation, all the way to the initial core splits, denial will be found as an active part that comes in, and does his or her job: denying the memories. A common scenario will look like this: the survivor will abreact with high emotion an extremely painful memory, with various parts switching in and out as the memory is shared. With tears streaming down her face, the survivor may turn to the therapist, and ask “Do you think this really happened?” “I’m just sick” or “I must be making this up.”
At this point, it is important to realize that the survivor is not really asking for validation (although they will probably want it at some point in their healing). Instead, the survivor is using a defense that was programmed in since earliest infancy or even prenatally, to protect themselves from feeling overwhelmed: the denial part is stepping forward and telling the survivor internally messages such as “This didn’t really happen”, “This is unbelievable, no one really does this to a young child,” “you must be making this up”, “no one will believe you” or even, “if you believe this, you will go insane,” etc.
The denial part is looking to the external person to see the nonverbal “cues” for what to believe, since they have been trained throughout their life to look for such cues from trainers; or they are working very hard to keep the memory contained inside, and unbelieved by the survivor. After all, this is the job of denial.
Denial parts will come forward to block therapy, and say things such as “I’m just making this all up,” “I have a really sick imagination,” “I am just seeking attention,” and other statements that negate the memories being worked on.
Denial parts are put in with intense trauma, with a demonic spirit of delusion attached. This part will go through frequent rituals and reprogramming, since they hold such an important place in the system. Survivors have reported denial being one of satan’s or other demonic entities’ “favorite part”, and they are held, hugged and praised heavily for doing their job well (keeping the survivor unaware of activities going on), and are punished severely if they “fail” and the survivor remembers their abuse or current activity.
Some of the reasons denial parts keep doing their jobs, in spite of extensive memory work, can include:
- They believe they are protecting the systems from flooding and overwhelm, and resulting “insanity”
- They are invested in protecting the lives of loved ones they were heavily bonded to (including their trainers and other group members)
- The core denial part believes they are protecting the core from destruction
What should be done if denial appears – quite strongly perhaps – and blocks any further processing?
It is important to understand why the denial part is out. Is the survivor overwhelmed with emotion, and is this a cue to slow down trauma processing a bit? Is this defense being activated because “high security” memories are coming forward internally? Is denial trying to protect a loved one?
It is important to appreciate and develop a relationship with the denial parts. Often, survivors and others see these parts as “difficult”, or “getting in the way” but they serve an important function within the survivor. It is best not to simply try to “go past” a defense such as this, because it will keep coming back and blocking.
Find out WHY the person is denying. What do they fear will happen if they recover their memories? What does the denial part (or parts) need in order to feel safe? Once the reason for the denial is addressed, the memory the denial part has been defending against may be processed more completely.
What if parts really do lie?
There are times when a survivor shares a memory, and then their parts disclose they were lying, and upon working with the parts, it is discovered they really were making up a story. If this happens, don’t assume that every memory is false, and don’t berate the part.
Instead, try to find out why the part felt it was necessary to lie. What purpose did this serve for them? What are they hoping to gain, or to prevent, by lying?
Some possible reasons for this behavior can be:
- Parts may “make up stories” to sabotage therapy, by appearing to be completely unreliable or unbelievable to a therapist or supporter.
- Parts may lie to prevent the survivor from getting to the real (emotionally painful) story.
- The part may have been programmed to lie in therapy for the above reasons, with trauma to prevent their remembering why they make up stories.
- The survivor may be desperate for help, but the younger parts in the system feel unable to disclose what is really going on.
- The survivor was accessed, tortured, and forced to recant an earlier accurate disclosure (the lie is that the memory was a lie – it is in fact true but now the parts are claiming it was a lie).
- The survivor was surrounded by adult role models who lied, and this is part of their presentation protection (e.g., never let people know the truth, and they can’t hurt you).
The important thing, especially earlier in healing, is that when doing memory recovery, the real question is not “Did this really happen?” but “How can I help parts who feel this is true for them? What do they need to feel safe as memories come forward? What does this memory mean about the survivor – and how can they process the information and make it part of their history?” “What makes it difficult to believe the memory?”
By helping denial parts, hearing their stories and issues, and helping parts to communicate with one another inside, the details of memories often become clearer over time. Anyone working with survivors should not judge or invalidate memories, but instead, look at what is occurring for the individual as a whole, and the context for the survivor recovering the memory. The survivor will need support and caring.
If a survivor shares a memory and asks, “Do you think this really happened?” it is tempting to want to answer them reassuringly, or immediately validate them (or not, depending upon your viewpoint of the memory). But this takes the locus of control away from the survivor, e.g., making the perception of the therapist more important than the survivor’s own perceptions, which recreates the powerless feeling the survivor had when others told them what to believe.
Instead, it is better to respond, “I can’t answer this for you; I will be here for you as you work on the memory and over time, you and your parts will know.” Or even, “I know of other survivors who have recovered similar memories as this, but it is important for you to discover what happened to YOU. You and your parts know deep down whether the memory is true, and I work with you on helping parts to share their history, which is your history as well.”