Posted by: Marie | October 19, 2009

(167) Keeping it all under control

Post #167
[Book study – Sunday, June 28, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Part One: Taking Stock
Coping: Honoring What You Did to Survive

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.



Extreme organization: When survivors grow up in a chaotic environment they often go to great lengths to keep their lives in order. Such control can be positive. Good organization is an asset if you’re a manager, a mother, or a worker. The negative side can be a lack of flexibility, and difficulty in negotiating or compromising.

Yes, this fits . . . see a previous post for more info: May 24

Creating chaos: Survivors sometimes maintain control by creating chaos. If your behavior is out of control, you force the people around you to drop what they’re doing to respond to your latest problems. Like children of alcoholics, survivors are often good at both resolving and generating crises.

No, doesn’t apply – I tend to tell no one when I’m in crisis, I suffer in silence.

Solving chaos: While the capacity to handle crises can made you a good emergency-room worker or ambulance driver, it can also be a way you keep yourself from feeling. If you are addicted to intensity and drama, you might make a dynamic, charismatic performer, but you may also be running from yourself.

Yes, this applies.

The Mountain View by Martin Chen

The Mountain View by Martin Chen

Spacing out: Survivors have an uncanny capacity to space out and not be present. The problem with this kind of distancing is that you cut yourself off, not only from pain but from the richness of life and human feeling. You avoid the pain but miss everything else as well.

No, I don’t see this happening.

Being super-alert: As a child, tuning into every nuance of your environment may have saved you from being abused. You may always be aware of where you are in a room. You may sit where you can watch the entrance, making sure no one can come up behind you. You might also be hyper-aware of the people around you, always anticipating their needs and moods.

Hyper-awareness can be an asset. Survivors have become excellent therapists, sensitive doctors, ground-breaking reporters, perceptive parents, compassionate friends. Other survivors have developed psychic abilities from their sensitivity. Yet this state of constant alertness can be wearing. We all need to relax sometimes.

Big-time yes – I am a master reader of body language and I have developed psychic abilities – and I don’t relax, not even when I go to bed.

Humor: A tough sense of humor, a bitter wit or sense of cynicism, can get you through hard times. As long as you keep people laughing, you maintain a certain protective distance. And as long as you keep laughing, you don’t have to cry. Humor can be an asset. People enjoy you. You may keep yourself from being depressed . . The goal is to use humor effectively, without hiding behind it.

Humor is only one way of dealing with tragedy. Other people destroy themselves or others, or they start fires or drink themselves to death. Of all the possible ways there are to deal with deep pain, humor is one that is fairly harmless and that affirms life with laughter. Not a bad choice. Not a bad choice at all.

I think I do use humor effectively and I don’t hide behind it – this is one of my better qualities.

Busyness: Staying busy can be a way to avoid being in the present moment, to avoid feelings. Many survivors live their whole lives according to the lists they write first thing in the morning.

This used to be the case for me until I lost my corporate job and was forced to simplify my life. Now, my life is simple and I am very focused on what is important to me – and I have lots of unscheduled time, which I really enjoy.

Quotes 079_1


  1. My daughter often tells me I’m the only person she knows who can leave a room full of people, all in chaos, after having entered 10 minutes before. I don’t tell anyone when I’m having problems, tho, I tend to withdraw and push people away.

    I space out, I’m hyper vigilant and I have a great deal of humor, but I am not a busy person – can’t be when I’m so busy withdrawing.

    This book is very revealing.

    • Wow, Ivory –

      It sounds like you do have the full enchilada there when it comes to symptoms! At least you keep it interesting, LOL!

      Thanks for sharing how this applies to you!

      – Marie

  2. Again…..Love the quote! Surprise, surprise :) You are totally spot on with controlling/solving chaos–describes me to a “t”

    • Hi, imaginenamaste –

      That is so cool that you notice the quotes, LOL!

      I wish I could take credit for being so “spot on” . . . however, those are quotes from the book . . . it’s great book!

      – Marie

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