The Nature of Dissociation, Part 3

In the first part of this discussion, I shared an analogy that I hoped would demystify the coping strategy that the mind/body system takes for all unaddressed trauma and pain. Then in part 2, I laid out a simple explanation of how I’ve come to understand dissociation and the cascading effects it has upon a person the longer it becomes entrenched. Now in this last section, I’d like to give some examples from my wife’s system which I hope will clarify things and show the practical relevance that comes from a better understanding of the process.

As stated in part one of this series, dissociation is simply the mind/body’s over-arching coping strategy for any overwhelming pain or fear caused by trauma. It only becomes entrenched and systemic if the trauma is ignored for a prolonged period of time. In my wife’s case, when her trauma began as a toddler, the first dissociation began by the formation of the 3 littlest girls in the system: Sophia, Tina and Jenny. My wife was so young that I believe, she simply couldn’t hold the trauma in one place. And so Sophia held the feelings of being dirty from the trauma. Tina held the specific memories and threats from her abuser. And Jenny, I’m honestly not sure what place she holds. Sometimes I think she holds the basic fear response, but that’s only a guess. Because my inlaws were emotionally dysfunctional from their own childhood trauma, they were never able to comfort and assuage their daughter in her trauma. And thus the original trauma, though only short-lived, was ignored and became entrenched.

Even though we are unaware of any further extreme trauma happening in her childhood, the entrenched dissociation weakened her entire system and so it became easier for future trauma to entrench as well. Amy was formed because of her desperation to have her parents’ affection, affirmation, and protection which she never got. As a result Alley was tasked with the herculean duty to protect everyone in the absence of parental protection, and KA and Shelly were ‘support’ for the overwhelmed other girls. KA was the inside mother to Amy who cared for Sophia. And Shelly heaped adulation upon her big sister, Alley, for the thankless job she did. And with each new instance of dissociation as my wife’s mind/body tried to cope, the host, Karen, was left with less and less ability to function and enjoy life outside of a black and white, flat-Sam-ish experience.

Thus, in our experience, only Jenny, Sophia, Tina, Amy and Alley had original trauma to deal with in the healing process. KA and Shelly were support, and the host, Karen, was spared the trauma in the mind/body system’s attempt to carry on ‘normal life’ despite the trauma and entrenched dissociation that had touched everyone in the system. But that doesn’t mean KA, Shelly and Karen sat things out on this healing journey. For though they were largely untouched by the trauma, the dissociation and its effects reached every single girl in various ways.

In this blog, I’ve touched on so many aspects of the dissociation and the various ways it affected the girls within the group. Since the blog was written chronologically, I didn’t always understand what was occurring at the time, and so, many of the earliest entries were simply descriptive and not theoretical. But as time progressed, and I began to reflect on our experience, I tried to figure out the why and how things happened in our journey.

Because most sites which discuss this topic fight the dissociation instead of embracing it, breathing it, and living it, like we have for 11 years, those sites don’t understand that dissociation is the super category of coping strategies that so many other things fall under. Here are the six, main aspects I see resulting from entrenched dissociation. 1) Dissociation means that each person within the system only has partial access to the personality traits and mental abilities of the overall system. 2) Entrenched dissociation means the various people may become ‘deactivated’: this is where the arrested development occurs. 3) As the dissociation prolongs, neural atrophy further ‘calcifies’ the separation of each person in the system. 4) After decades of dissociation, learning to work together is not naturally embraced. 5) Many of the extreme and discomforting experiences of the sufferers and to those around are a result of the dissociation. And 6) the internal working model is the key concept from attachment theory that helped us begin to eradicate the dissociation between the girls.

1) Partial access to personality traits and mental abilities.

To me this is the most basic understanding of dissociation. This is the place that everyone loves to talk about how the ‘alters’ are different. This is one of the flashy neon lights that people point to when describing ‘alters.’ But to me, it’s also a very superficial understanding of dissociation.

Yes, each ‘alter’ will be uniquely different from the others. I could go thru the list of girls in my wife’s system and catalogue their unique abilities and traits. Shelly, though the smallest in scope, was the first girl to show any mechanical aptitude (now Jenny has done so , as well). Amy and Karen control the vast majority of the abilities, especially the ones that allow them to test on the genius level. Amy loves adventures. KA loves romance and is the fashionista of the group. Alley is the social warrior. Tina organized 15,000 .svg files when the mere thought of doing so, put all the other girls in tears.

But, so what? The problem is most people never get past this basic understanding of dissociation and how it presents in the various ‘alters.’ But this part of dissociation has major, major implications when you get past the circus-show perspective from which so many view d.i.d.

The most important part of this aspect of dissociation is that this is where so many of what the DSM calls ‘disorders’ occur, and here’s the reason. Because each person only has partial access to the mind’s overall abilities, that means that each person has strengths, yes, but more importantly, each person has built-in weaknesses. Karen has pretty severe ‘body dysmorphia’ which pushes her close to having eating ‘disorders’ as well. At age 53 she is 126 pounds, and yet just last night she was telling me about all her body flaws and how she can’t stand how heavy she has become. Yet, KA loves her body and once told me, “I look damn good for 50!” And the little girls love to eat and have no desire to constantly be on a diet. KA and the other girls are quite happy with how they look for their age. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s ‘damn good’ compared to most of our friends. And so, the trick to addressing my wife’s ‘body dysmorphia’ is simply tearing down the dissociation enough so that KA and the others can counterbalance Karen’s unbalanced view of herself. We’ve come a long way, but Karen is still, partially, internally separated from the other girls even though they can ‘talk’ and so their influence upon her is mitigated somewhat.

Here’s another simple example. When Tina first joined us, she was terrified from the abuse. When we first met, she more than once tried to jump out of our car moving at 70mph because she was scared of me. Once I helped her thru that, then she attached to me more securely than any other girl. And yet she was still terrified. She begged me to not get out of bed in the mornings until she was awake. And for an entire year we didn’t go anywhere except to do our errands once a week. No church. Nothing outside the house, but the bare minimum. If an ‘expert’ would have diagnosed my wife, s/he would have errantly said she had extreme agoraphobia. But that wasn’t the case. She simply was scared and alone internally from the dissociation. Once we were able to dissolve the dissociation between her and Sophia, Tina’s ‘agoraphobia’ melted away, and we were no longer housebound nor was Tina terrified.

The last example I will give concerns self-injury. When the trauma was over, and the dissociation had taken shape, my wife’s host, Karen, had been stripped of so many traits and abilities that she needed to function in a healthy manner. One of those abilities she lost was experiencing and processing emotions and feelings. She lived on a flat plane without the highs or lows that many of us experience as we walk thru life.

Well once we began to address the trauma, and ‘tear off the bandage’ so to speak, Karen was assaulted by all kinds of traumatic feelings that she had no ability to process. It overwhelmed her, and to mitigate the feelings, she would viciously bite her hands to redirect her attention to the pain in her hands rather than the pain in her mind. But as the other girls healed, matured and connected with her, she now regularly expresses her ability to feel joy, anger and more. And though I’m not sure she understands it, each time she expresses these and other feelings, I silently rejoice at the healing that took place to undo the dissociation and allow her to experience those emotions.

I could give more examples, but what is important to understand is that many of the so-called DSM ‘disorders’ aren’t disorders at all. They are simply evidence that the person has been internally split up and the mind’s wonderful, balancing abilities are no longer accessible to the various people within the fractured system. And it is only with healing and tearing down the dissociative walls that the imbalances come back to balance.

2) Arrested development of personality traits and mental abilities

A second aspect of dissociation is the deactivation of some of the people in the group. When my wife experienced trauma during her childhood, over the course of time, her personality was split into 8 semi-autonomous girls. But one of the aspects of dissociation is that it seemed to freeze the various girls to the time when the trauma each one held occurred. Looking back, I only see clear evidence of 3 of the girls in the first 20 years of our marriage: Karen, Alley and KA. But I’ve shared in the past how my wife seemed ‘stuck’ in the past, unable to grow or change. She used to brag about how unchanging her views were about certain things. But it was even more than that: the other girls that were completely deactivated from my wife’s presentation were almost cryogenically frozen. Their abilities were linked to the ages they fronted as which meant Jenny, Sophia and Tina had the abilities of a toddler. Shelly was about 4. And Amy about 6, and yet each of these controlled traits and abilities that any healthy adult would need to be a well-rounded person.

Once we unstuck the various girls, we gave them as much outside time as possible. And over the last 11 years, the traits and abilities that each girl controls have begun to mature. KA, as the group fashionista, has done an overhaul of my wife’s wardrobe and makeup, pulling in various aspects of the other girls. Alley has become a mature and eloquent social justice warrior as she leans on Karen and Amy for the logical aspects of her passions. Some of the girls began to explore their sexuality with me as they matured. Amy unleashed her desire to be a business woman. And the littlest girls added emotive personality traits and attachment aspects to my wife and our relationship that have made these so much richer and healthier. I truly am amazed and proud of how beautiful my wife has become as each girl has healed and matured and now lends her unique traits and abilities to my wife’s overall personae.

3) Neural atrophy.

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The Nature of Dissociation, Part 2

I read an article a while ago. The author, who is a young therapist, was at a conference for ‘experts’ and one of the panelists asked, “What is dissociation” and no one really had an answer. Sadly, when I tried to engage the author in what I had learned walking with my wife, the author wasn’t interested, sigh. So here is what I’ve learned over the last 11 years as my wife and I have traveled thru her dissociative identity disorder.

Having used an analogy in my first entry here to describe dissociation as a coping strategy that the mind/body system takes to sequester any trauma that is causing overwhelming pain or fear, I’d now like to give a basic definition to bolster our understanding of this concept. Trauma and dissociation are two distinct things, though the effects they have on a person often dovetail and interweave, complicating the healing process. Trauma activates the mind/body system to use dissociation as a coping mechanism with wide flung ramifications.

So, what is the trauma? To me, that is anything that occurred at the time of the abuse. It could be the lies the abuser told the victim to keep power over him/her. It could be physical pain. It could be the feeling of loss of agency. It could be the feelings of isolation and being unheard by the primary attachment figure who didn’t protect the child in his/her care. It could be the overwhelming sense of fear from not knowing whether one’s life will end or when the next instance of abuse might happen if it is ongoing. These and so many other things, I relegate to the sphere of the original trauma.

When the child experiences all these traumatic actions and feelings, the body/ mind system begins to sequester those experiences in the absence of the primary attachment figure doing her/his responsibilities and protecting the child and assuaging the trauma already experienced. And thus begins a complicated process of sequestering that becomes more and more systemic the longer the traumatic events are unaddressed so that the pain can abate and the system return to normal.

As the sequestering/dissociation of the trauma continues, there is a cascade of results that begin to take shape within the person. The traumatic memories are sequestered, but this can’t happen in a vacuum. For whatever reason, personality traits and mental abilities become associated, and thus dissociated, with the memories. As personality traits and mental abilities are lost to the sufferer, the system begins to stress other areas in an attempt to maintain ‘as-normal-as-possible’ functioning: this is where so many of the DSM ‘disorders’ begin to take shape as the mind loses the ability to fight off additional trauma as more and more traits and abilities are lost to the various isolation areas within the system. And finally, as the dissociation becomes entrenched, neural atrophy begins to take place, making it ever more difficult to access the trauma and the associated traits and abilities that were swept up in the desperate attempt to mitigate the suffering.

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The Nature of Dissociation, Part 1

Wikipedia: Dissociation is any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experiences. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.

My wife and I have been on our healing journey for 11 years now. At the beginning of our journey, we made a critically important decision, but we were unaware of its importance. We decided to welcome each and every girl fully into our family and marriage. And so we unknowingly embraced her dissociation and took a path that few do in the dissociative identity disorder world. And as Robert Frost acknowledged in The Road Not Taken, that sparsely-traveled path has made all the difference in the world for our experience.

The stats suggest that only 6% of people with d.i.d. have a ‘florid’ case, meaning that the ‘alters’ come fully outside like Hollywood loves to characterize in the USOT and elsewhere. Instead, when I read most firsthand accounts, people hate dissociation. They hate the thought of losing time. They hate the loss of control. They hate everything about it, and do whatever it takes to minimize it, often taking harmful psychotic drugs in a desperate attempt to keep themselves from dissociating.

Unlike so many, we have lived in the dissociation for the last 11 years, embracing it in all of its variety. Most of my private life is spent with the girls other than my wife’s host, Karen. But I also made a pointed effort, and still do, to connect to every single girl, every single day. As a result, the dissociation became an annoyance, but not something we feared or fought against. We learned how to control it, and then we learned how to master it as we came to understand it in a deeply, foundational way. And we learned how to distinguish it from other parts of my wife’s experiences.

As I try to explain how I’ve come to see dissociation, let me first begin with a prolonged analogy that I hope will help to demystify what is occurring. When I’m done, I hope that my readers will see how truly common place dissociation is. After that, I will attempt to define it in my next post, and then finally, I will give examples that may help further clarify this incredibly important, but widely misunderstood, subject. So here we go!

All trauma, for that matter all experiences, start in the physical realm. Whether one is sexually, verbally, physically or otherwise assaulted, it starts in the physical world. Then it is converted through our senses into mental images and feelings. And when those are negative especially painful or fearful ones, the mind tends to sequester them just like the body does. If a limb is broken, and the trauma is not addressed and corrected so it can heal, then slowly the mind together with the body begins to develop coping strategies to live without the full use of that limb. If, for example, that leg is broken and not doctor is available, the person may use a splint and staff to continue walking. He/she may also begin to limp, trying to limit the weight that is put on the broken bone. Other muscles will have to work harder to compensate for the loss of the leg. And joints will become stressed from the additional weight they must bear. The break will begin to affect one’s posture.

Additionally, the longer the limb is left traumatized, the muscles will begin to atrophy. The break will begin to calcify over instead of reconnecting to its broken mate as the body tries to staunch the open wound. The tendons and ligaments would be stressed and stretched from the displacement of the broken bone. And even the mind would begin to incorporate the loss of that limb as nearly a normal part of life. Plus, stress and anxiety may become associated with that break if it was an especially violent event that caused the trauma. In time the break will begin to stress and affect the entire system, mind and body.

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Helping a Short-term Memory “Alter” like Jenny

A little more than 4 years ago, Jenny entered our lives. She threw the first 7 girls and me for a loop that we are still struggling to deal with. It’s not that I don’t love Jenny: I do just like I do all my other girls. But we all thought we saw the finish line. We had all 7 of the other girls connected to various degrees, and Tina was on the verge of moving to a much more direct contact with Amy and Shellie. And our anemic sexlife was finally, for the first time in 28 years, starting to get a little better, as the two girlfriends, Alley and K.A., matured and wanted to explore that area with me.

And then it was all swept away on many levels. Jenny has been a conundrum for us in a way that none of the other girls have been. I believe I’ve mentioned in the past, that Jenny for the most part only has access to short-term memories. I’ve read of at least one other lady on the internet with d.i.d with the same problem. Maybe it’s a common issue for at least one ‘alter’ of a system to exhibit this issue, but she was the first for us. And she knocked the wind out of all our sails so badly that I’ve struggled to help her like I did the first 7 girls, sigh.

Having a girl with mostly short-term memories is like starting every couple of days over. She’s told me she doesn’t really remember our past, and only, kinda feels as if she knows who I am. It’s clear that she recognizes me, and yet I didn’t realize how fundamentally her short-term memory-only issues affected the level of trust between the two of us because she couldn’t draw upon the 4 years we’ve had together and all the things we’ve done together and all the ways I’ve cared for her. To her most of those memories were like a mist or a fog, that she just couldn’t quite access.

And I was in my own fog of discouragement from the ‘setback’ that Jenny seemed to bring to our forward progress. It’s been a fog that has largely caused me to stop writing here as I feel like we’ve been treading water for 4 years despite some of the advances I’ve mentioned in the few posts I’ve made since her entry to our relationship.

But we have still been making progress, no matter how slowly it’s been. One huge hurdle we overcame was Jenny’s ‘no-touching’ rule with me. For the first 2 ½ years, she would look at me and say, “No touching” if I even got close to her. Then one day the other girls were taking a self-defense course, and the instructor went from participant to participant imitating an assailant who has his hands around one’s throat so that the students could learn to break that hold. But apparently the look of horror on my wife’s face was such that it unnerved the instructor and he asked her afterwards if she was ok…and then the lightbulb went on for me.

For all the stress our marriage has been under these 32 years, I’ve only once laid a hand upon my wife: and sadly Jenny held that memory of me with my hands around her throat as I, a little too roughly, removed her from the front doorway in an attempt for me to walk out and calm down. Even though I made no attempt to choke her, but simply removed her from my pathway, that event freaked me out as well: I’m not that kind of man, and I never, ever touched her again, no matter how much I was upset.

It’s no wonder Jenny always had trust issues with me when she only could remember one, very unhappy memory about us in the past. And so when I realized the connection, I immediately began to seek Jenny’s forgiveness for that incident but also help her to heal it in the wake of the 2 ½ years when I had gently cared for her. It wasn’t an instantaneous healing: it never is, but over the course of a few weeks, things began to get better, and now, nearly a year and a half later, Jenny will allow me to hug her briefly, sit shoulder-to-shoulder with her on the couch, hold her hand when we are walking, and she even let me kiss her briefly on the lips as she and our son left for a vacation to Florida last week.

So with the no-touching rule mostly vanquished, we still had Jenny’s memory issues to deal with when I realized how deeply her lack of memories made it nearly impossible for her to feel safe with me because she couldn’t build a storehouse of happy and safe memories with me. And so we began to work on a picture book of all the things we’ve done together for the last 4 years. We also had one of those pictures developed and framed to help her remember us having fun together. And we placed the same picture into her inside place.

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Learning to Control the Switching Process in Dissociative Identity Disorder

Well, my wife and I are in year 10 of our healing journey from her dissociative identity disorder. She and I have both come a long way in so many ways. And as I look back, I feel we were so fortunate in so many ways that we didn’t understand at first.

Today I’d like to discuss ‘switching.’ For anyone in the d.i.d. world we know ‘switching’ simply means when one ‘alter’ takes over executive control for another. It’s the big, flashing, neon sign that everyone knows is the hallmark sign of d.i.d. I’ve been on many, many d.i.d. websites over the years and have seen the fear and angst this phenomenon causes so many d.i.d. sufferers. I noted how it was portrayed on USOT in an earlier blog entry. And I wrote a brief article about switching here a long time ago. But today I want to explain how I trained my wife’s mind to easily switch from girl to girl so that the process was removed from the realm of the uncontrollable and thus none of them view it with the fear or angst I sometimes see in others with d.i.d.

The foundation of what my wife and I have done has always been attachment principles even before we understood what they were. Read here if you are unfamiliar with the basic concepts and how they apply to healing d.i.d. As such I am the primary attachment figure for all the girls. There are no ‘unwanted alters’ in my wife’s system. I love them each and have sought a relationship with each and they each love me as a result. The same goes for our 27-year old son, though he does not fill the same role that I do. But as such, being with me or our son was something every girl wanted. Time with me or him was ‘prized’ time, and so I used that desire of theirs to teach them how to switch ‘at will.’

Again, it’s not that I am so brilliant, but my wife and I just kind of ‘fell into’ some of these techniques that later proved so invaluable to her healing.

One thing that helped is I insisted on telling each and every girl goodbye when I left for my 2nd-shift job each day. If I had a girl who resisted and didn’t want to ‘share’ me, I would gently say, “Honey, how would you like it, if the other girls locked you inside and didn’t let you see me?” I never forced them inside, but this reasoning was always enough for the first 7 girls so that every day when I left for work, I would tell each of the 7 girls goodbye.

Eleven hours later when I got home, they were waiting for me, and I would go thru the same process and tell each of the 7 girls goodnight and kiss them how each one desired. Sophia wanted butterfly kisses. Amy, Tina and Karen wanted regular kisses. Alley and her little sister Shelley wanted to rub cheeks. And KA wanted ‘French kisses’ as she playfully called them: one on each cheek, and I playfully would suggest I’d give her a ‘real’ French kiss to which she exclaimed her horror, lol.

But I also sent every single girl a brief email each and every day that I was at work. These emails are ‘prized’ among the girls, and so once again it taught them to switch so that each girl could have her turn to read the note from me that was specific to each girl’s tastes. The 5 older girls always reply to these notes. The 3 littlest girls rarely reply, but I understand how important this is to each and to her healing and so I faithfully send them each day.

Another thing that I did that taught them to switch at will was have dates with each girl each week. For a couple of years, I would assign a day of each week to a specific girl and she and I would do something special together. The other girls were always welcome to be part of it, but the girl whose day it was got to choose whatever activity we did for our ‘date.’ I had to be careful though because some girls like Shelly were especially timid and the other girls would try to force her to do their bidding. So I had to protect her from their extreme influence. Yet I also realize that her role in the system was such that she didn’t always have her ‘own’ preferences because she was literally ‘wired’ to please her older sister, Alley.

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Who Am I? Deciding My Core Beliefs, Part 3

Who am I? What are my core beliefs? Why does it matter for this healing journey as I help my wife heal from her dissociative identity disorder?

This is the last entry in a series of 3 in which I try to explain the importance of that answer as I made the healing journey with my wife, my girls. Honestly, I’ve struggled how to finish this series in a way that makes sense and is helpful to the few SO’s who might be reading this.

As I’ve visited various d.i.d. and ptsd websites across the internet, I see a lot of SO’s and their mates in pain. I understand that pain. It still gnaws at me every single day. And yet, I feel like shouting ‘eureka’ when it comes to my wife’s healing, Attachment theory and some of the other concepts I’ve shared on this blog have made our experience so very, very different than the kind that was portrayed on The United States of Tara. The chaos that consumes so many relationships touched by d.i.d. is but a distant memory for us. Additionally, we simply never had any ‘alters’ who ran around like loose cannons doing their own thing…ever. And yet I’ve been wholesale rejected and blacklisted by the sites and groups desiring to help trauma victims and their families. It’s been very discouraging to say the least.

I do understand that much of the reaction is because we took the road less traveled* instead of the prevailing model espoused by ISSTD and the biomedical model of mental health in general. But, maybe it’s more than that. Maybe the reaction to what my wife and I have found to be so helpful is also because I tried to put the cart before the horse so to speak. Maybe I’m telling others the ‘cure’ without explaining the necessary changes I had to undergo before the cure was even available for my wife… because in a very real way, we, the SO’s, will be a significant part of the cure.

I never forgot past ISSTD president, Peter Barach’s words that d.i.d. at its foundation is an attachment disorder*. In many ways his words have proven true in our experience. I learned to undo my wife’s attachment issues by securely attaching each and every person in her system to myself. And yet securely attaching all the traumatized and disparate girls in my wife’s system required me to become that completely-safe companion that I compared to the oversized pet dog previously. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect; however. Just recently I had to seek the forgiveness of some of the girls when I blew up at them: I let the pain of our temporary celibacy cause me to vent on them for an unrelated issue, sigh. But when I do screw up, I quickly apologize. And I don’t make it a habit.

But being a ‘completely safe person’ means more than I don’t hit my wife and rarely yell at her. It’s how I interact with each and every one of the girls. It’s how I validate them and treat them respectfully. It’s the time that I give them every night at home. It’s why I allowed each of them to impact me and my life because I valued who they were. I valued their opinions. I valued their presence in my life.

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Who Am I? Deciding My Core Beliefs, Part 2

In part one of this discussion, I tried to share some of the questions I began to grapple with as I helped my wife heal from dissociative identity disorder. The stress from this healing journey has caused me to examine core issues that often go to the foundation of my self-identity. Maybe as I show you how I was willing to change and adapt and grow as I struggled to be a good healing companion to all my girls, it will help you where you are struggling.

In part one I said I was “white, middle-class, conservative evangelical Christian, midwestern, conservative politically, male, and American.”. Here are a few ways that I have changed.

“White.” Well, I can’t change that, and yet as Alley has healed and matured, she’s become a social justice warrior. She’s passionately liberal on many issues, and because I love and respect her, I allowed her to open my eyes to the perspectives of my fellow Americans of color. I live in a little, midwestern town where we have few minorities. It’s easy for me to be insulated from the larger cultural issues in our country. But it was one shift of many for me.

“Middle Class.” This is another area in which Alley and the other girls have stretched and moved me toward the center of the spectrum as they shared various social justice concerns with me. My love and respect for her and the other girls meant I was willing to give due consideration to things outside the narrow upbringing I had had. I learned that there were valid reasons why so many people now need government assistance as the 1% has taken a larger and larger share of the economic pie here and elsewhere in the world. I still believe in the values of the Protestant work ethic but I now also understand how the playing field can be tilted unfairly toward certain groups and against others. And I can also appreciate those who are unable to work because of emotional/mental disabilities.

“Conservative evangelical Christian.” Perhaps nowhere have I changed more than in this area. As always Alley was partially responsible for some of the changes as she showed me inconsistencies and blatant hypocrisies within the Christian Right. But it was far more than that. I had struggled with many doubts for decades. Why won’t God heal my wife? Where are all the miracles the Bible promises? What do I do when my wife simply can’t have sex with me for a loooooooooong time? Does the Bible have anything helpful to say about my distressed marriage? And so much more.

Little by little I began to replace a theology and worldview that simply didn’t line up with anything I had experienced my entire life nor saw in any of the people surrounding me. Slowly I moved to one that significantly helped me be a better healing companion for my wife. I stopped looking for the miracles from without which never came, as I became the miracle my wife needed to heal. I had spent decades crying out for a miracle from a God who claimed to be a compassionate father, and I finally realized, I was on my own like when Aslan takes leave of Narnia at times. And yet I believe I was equipped to handle whatever needs my wife has in her healing journey (Genesis 1:28), and so I’ve walked in that belief as I’ve seen her heal in ways the experts claim is impossible.

I released myself from the unrelenting guilt that assaulted me from all the do’s and don’ts when my wife simply never has cared for sex. I wish I were better, but I just wasn’t ever good enough to figure out how to not need sex, and the Church’s stance on sex and sexuality does nothing to help those of us in an untenable situation. If there’s one area that will cause the end of my life, it is the pain and heartache of a nearly non-existent sexlife when I saved myself for my wife and got nothing for it. And so I struggled to find a morality and ethics on sex that would help me cope with our dysfunctional marriage and yet do the least possible damage to it until my wife, hopefully, is in a better place to take care of me, sigh…

It’s impossible to overstate the shift that I experienced in my perspective as a Christian, and how extremely difficult it was to deal with so many areas of the ‘faith’ that I was taught my entire life. So many things simply didn’t line up with reality no matter how desperately hard I had tried to be the best and most consistent Christian I could possibly be. On top of that are all the warnings and threats one finds in the Bible and the Church should anyone ‘fall away.’ And yet when I was done, in many ways, I feel I am more consistently following its deepest truth to live the Golden Rule as I love and help my wife heal than I ever did when I was following a long list of do’s and don’ts. And unlike so many who question their faith and then come to passionately hate it, I have no such animosity for Christianity. I simply try to embrace the best in it and ignore the rest.

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