Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a traumatic experience. The effects of this trauma get amplified by the severity of the trauma experienced, closeness to the abuser, duration of the abuse and more importantly, how people they shared this information with reacted to it.
The dynamics of CSA are unique and often very different from that of adult sexual abuse. Perpetrators are typically known to the child and therefore rarely use physical force or violence. Instead, they manipulate the child’s trust in them and encourage (or threaten) them to hide the abuse. Helplessness to protect themselves or even understand what is happening to them and why sometimes makes them feel as if they’re being punished for being ‘bad.’ Depending on the frequency of access, repeated abuse becomes invasive over time and sometimes, perpetrators gradually ‘groom’ them, i.e., sexualise their relationship.
CSA disclosures are usually a challenging process rather than a single event. Fearful of threats by the perpetrator makes them feel trapped. Self-blame, guilt and the fear that no one will believe them and will dismiss their claims leads them to accommodate the abuser. It can also lead to further sexual abuse by others strengthening the belief in their young minds that they’re responsible for bringing it on to themselves. Family dynamics play a huge role here and sometimes even if the child discloses the family and caregivers might fail to protect and support them thereby increasing their distress. Consent and confidentiality make disclosure problematic as the best interests of the child conflict with the family’s concerns about giving consent. Reporting abuse is difficult for fear that the child will be victimised again. Thus, the incident of CSA goes unreported and becomes a family secret. Ironically, the onus of the secrecy also rests on the survivor and it’s painful because now they constantly feel judged and ashamed. The inability to come out of this shame spiral in adulthood leads to attempts to self-harm, impulsive and risky behaviour.
CSA significantly affects adult well-being. If one had a close relationship to the abuser, then it impairs the ability to feel safe and trust others. Often, survivors blame themselves for the abuse, even though it wasn’t their fault. This makes it difficult for them to feel good about themselves. They experience anger and struggle to deal with everyday stresses.
The struggle to cope with such overwhelming and conflicting feelings impacts the way they live their lives, what they expect from others and how they behave in relationships and their understanding of trust, control and boundaries. Other effects include a higher risk of depression, anxiety disorders and in extreme cases personality disorders. In an attempt to protect themselves, sometimes they find it difficult to remember what happened. It’s a way to dissociate the experience from themselves to lessen the pain and fear. Low self-esteem, body image issues, loss of social competence can lead to increased or inappropriate sexual behaviour. As CSA is a traumatic experience sometimes adults can exhibit symptoms (avoidance, numbing, hyperarousal, etc) that are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Along with these psychological problems, physical health problems like eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic abdominal or pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, menstrual irregularities can be elicited. Substance abuse can also become unsuitable coping behaviour.
The notion that talking about CSA is taboo is still prevalent. Survivors fear being cut off support from family and friends when they talk about their experiences. Feelings of abandonment and isolation make it even harder so they continue to struggle alone. But survivors must seek help and support to heal from this trauma. Yes, revisiting memories and suppressed feelings are scary and can make them feel vulnerable. The same helplessness and vulnerability they felt as children are felt as is in adulthood too. Inability to breakthrough keeps them bound by using the same coping strategies that helped them in childhood. It’s almost like their lives are stuck at that moment with no way out.
Thus, sharing their experience with another is powerful and can help dispel the shame of remaining a victim, let go of the intense feeling of being dirty, understand that it wasn’t their fault and place the blame of the abuse on the perpetrators. There might be moments when they doubt their own perceptions but coming to terms with the fact that the abuse happened and it hurt them is critical to the healing process. It allows them to reach out to the child within, console them and grieve for their loss and pain. They’re permitted to feel anger at the abuser and take the decision to express it either symbolically or by confronting.
Healing is a gradual process. It allows survivors to take back control of their lives, create newer coping strategies, feel compassion for themselves and slowly learn to trust themselves again.
The writer is a mental health counsellor.
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HOW TO BRING LIGHT INTO YOUR LIFE
Wherever there is light, there can be no darkness. Whenever we feel we are in a dark spell of our life, we need only to tap into the light of our soul.
C hallenges are a part of life. Sometimes we let them get the better of us, and find ourselves succumbing to them. However, there is always hope to bring light into the dark spells that come our way. We just have to know where to look for it.
In life, we are faced with numerous challenges. We may have illnesses, financial or relationship problems or loss of our reputation. We may experience some dark patches. But we do not have to be blinded by the darkness. The following anecdote has an instructive message to help us through the dark spells.
There was once a cave that lived underground, as most caves do. Since it spent its entire life in darkness, it had never seen any light. One day, a voice talked to the cave, and said, “Come up i nt o t h e l i ght . C o m e and enjoy the sunlight.” The cave replied, “I do not know what you mean by light. All I have ever known is darkness.” “Come and see for yourself,” said the voice.
The cave mustered up enough courage and climbed slowly up from the depths of the earth. Suddenly, it reached the top of the earth and was surrounded by magnificent light, the likes of which the cave had never seen in its life.
“This is beautiful,” said the cave.
After enjoying the light for a while, the cave said to the sunlight, “Now it is your turn to come with me and see the darkness.”
“What is darkness?” asked the sunlight.
The cave answered, “Come and see for yourself.”
The sunlight decided to visit the cave’s home. As the sunlight entered the cave, it said, “Now show me your darkness.” But with the sunlight there, there was no darkness to be found.
What this anecdote illustrates is the power of light. Wherever there is light, there can be no darkness. Whenever we feel we are in a dark spell of our life, we need to only tap into the light of our soul. We are light. Our soul is light. Our true nature is light. If we would only identify with our true nature, we would find there is no darkness. If we would also bring our own innate goodness and light into our daily life, we would never be overcome by the darkness of life again.
Each one of us has the light of the soul within us. But we are not aware of it because we identify ourselves with the outer world of darkness and illusion. If we would invert our attention within through meditation, we would discover this illuminating light. Whenever the dark spells of life threaten to bring us down, we could invert, find the light within, and bring it forth into the darkness to dispel it.
Whenever we find we are faced with sickness, financial problems, ignominy, or loss, we can remember that these are but passing clouds in the brilliant sunlit sky. Our true reality is light and love. When we associate with the temporary illusions of this world, we feel pain. But when we realise that the outer events are but a dream existence, a passing show that is but temporary, we can rise above the pain and disappointment. When we find sadness in life, let us maintain our inner harmony. When we find misfortune, let us count the numerous times we have experienced good fortune. When we fail, take that as an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and try again. When we find ourselves in darkness, let us close our eyes and focus within until we see the light. That light will bring with it peace, joy, and love. It will comfort us and give us the strength to carry on. If we bring that light into our life, then we too, like the cave, will find that there is no more darkness. If we sit in meditation, we can experience the light waiting for us within. Let us not be distracted by the darkness of thought, but instead, sit in stillness and wait lovingly for the light within to shine upon us.
The author is the head of the Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission.
THE ARTIFICIALITY OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE: HOW TO LEARN ALGORITHM OF YOUR LIFE
Do we have to learn to live life or do we have to live to learn life? Do we have to learn to live and to die? How do we learn? Doctors say when a person is in a vegetative state, his brain cannot order motor functions, but the mind may think. Thoughts go back and forth in the mind but the brain doesn’t control the body. The physical body of the mind is called the brain. The brain is an information processor that is evolved to process information to pass it on to the body. To live everyday life, information is generated that is needed to be stored, retrieved and acted upon for survival that’s how the brain evolved.
If the brain could learn and collect information and not evolve its memory and processing capacity, it would crash. Like a computer that cannot handle memory processing more than memory storage it has.
Learning happens with intelligence because understanding beholds intelligence and the beholder follows understanding. Is intelligence is the goal of existence? Has the existence made humans more intelligent to make kind of progress humans have made on this earth? Whether one-celled amoeba had any intelligence? In fact, one-celled amoeba from the beginning is equally intelligent as man. It has one body. If it has a body, its sense of being would be embedded in it. To live it has to learn the sense that detects food. Like humans have a sense of vision, smell and taste. One-celled has the body. One-celled would simply sit over food to consume it. One-celled would split into two to make two daughter cells. Intelligence to detect food and to make copies is the basic intelligence. One-celled amoeba has that intelligence to evolve in circumstances.
Darwin proposed the theory of ‘evolution by natural selection’. What Darwin calls ‘natural selection’ is the principle on which the faculty of biology is founded. Darwin has said that humans are from apes, and birds derive their wings from fish fins and so on. That’s what Darwin calls ‘natural selection’ does not take us far because biological science invariably tries to give all answers within the ambit of this overarching definition.
How do organisms shape up? How does the brain evolve?
How does the brain perceive thoughts? Science has one answer—‘natural selection’. Therefore, ‘natural selection’ has to be defined into that one order of intelligence that is rooted in existence. Existence endows intelligence to every living being. Existence endows absolute freedom to living beings. That is the algorithm that existence endows us with. One-celled is endowed with that algorithm too. One-celled sensed food and consumed it too, it did not need a vision but one-celled had the vision needed for survival. Are humans any different from one-celled amoeba which is evolved to produce stable copies of descendants? Humans have 90 trillion cells and each cell knows how to get food and make copies.
One has absolute freedom to select one’s destiny. We find all living shaped up to have distinct identities and traits. Our eyes are the sense of vision that is evolved as a backlash to light. Colours evolved as a backlash of absorption of types of light particles. The Sense of hearing is evolved as a backlash to the sound.
Every cell of our body has cause and effect. A bird flying thousands of miles in a season and returning next season following celestial pole and constellations, in fact, is guided by the algorithm that bird learns for months by looking up at the night sky. Bees have an intrinsic learning algorithm by which they learn the location of flowers. Ants reach the spot of origin every day after navigating for miles and hours. Spiders use spinning algorithms to create marvellous webs. Bats use the Doppler sonar algorithm for hunting. Hunting lent species special skills and instincts that shaped up bodies and intelligence. Humans also learnt survival skills from hunting.
But the language was a big game-changer for complex intelligence. The basic language is stored into symbols to attach meanings to things and events around us. That’s what ‘Artificial Intelligence’ does to computers today. Because we use words in the form of computer symbols defined in codes. Words are invented to denote symbols that we further employ to communicate their meanings in action. Complex languages represent words that denote symbols in our brain when their assigned meanings are decoded.
A typical Artificial Intelligence coding program is no different from the language that one learns to speak. Artificial Intelligence Coding is the same—it guides perception and action. A computation machine like a computer may learn many languages and translate them without having to understand meanings. We think that someone who has translated would know the language for sure. In the same way, all intelligence is a way to denote certain things. In that parlance, human intelligence and Artificial Intelligence both are the same. Both write codes and symbols to denote something that it means to convey or do when decoded.
Every living being is absolutely free to shape up what it wants it to be shaped into. Everything has evolved from everything else. It means we all are born out of one same thing. Our brains are trained to make algorithms. Man learns to write algorithms all life and walks past them to write new ones. That’s the code of life.
A race between computational thinking and neurological evolution is sharpening human intelligence and shaping neurological networks to new levels. It is going to create special brain areas in the human brain. Man is creating destiny for himself. Man is in deep dialogue. Man thinks. Man thinks that he is alive because he is thinking. If he stops thinking he will be dead. Man is free to think and create heaven or wildfire of hell on this earth. Existence can create and destroy anything or everything in a matter of split seconds. Existence has endowed beautiful earth to man. But man is hypnotised by the artificiality of his intelligence. Man has passed over all such worries that man had during hunter-gatherer ‘fight or flight’ times. But the man keeps on multiplying worries by thinking.
Thinking is not life; thinking is worrying about the future. Thinking is not being here. Thinking makes you artificially intelligent. Life is beating every moment. So stop thinking about life. Begin feeling, begin sensing life. Become the beat of life. Begin to taste the sweetness of life. Begin to revel in the coldness of life. Begin to be lulled by the warmth of life. Begin to soar into the vastness of life. Begin to fathom the depth of life. Begin to dance like a honeybee and to sing the song of your life.
Don’t think about God. You don’t have to go anywhere to get the grace of God showered on you. God has already held you. God has already surrounded you. Thinking creates the gap between you and God. You don’t have to learn to live or try to become who you are not. But you have to be what you are. That’s the real intelligence. You don’t have to learn to write your algorithm by thinking or by intelligence. You have to learn to be one with the algorithm of your life. Being Buddha means being the awakened one, awakened from the artificiality of human intelligence.
The author is a spiritual teacher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thinking creates the gap between you and God. You don’t have to learn to live or try to become who you are not. But you have to be what you are. That’s the real intelligence.
FINDING THE COURAGE TO BE
One thing that the pandemic has engendered for many people is a shift in focus from what I have or own, that is material things, to what I value in terms of relationships. They were put in the spotlight because everyone was cocooned with those relationships. For a smaller number perhaps, what came into even sharper focus was the primary relationship with the self. We discovered what resources we had to deal with a completely unprecedented set of circumstances. For some it heightened levels of stress, for others it highlighted abilities that had not been called on before. But for most, it required varying degrees of courage.
Courage is a quality of spirit and not a skill. It is easy to be courageous when I have wealth at my disposal, or a strong team of people around me, thinking in the same way. Real courage is the ability to face the self, deeply understand the self, which is the only way to be able to relate well with others. Without this knowledge of the self, we have expectations, demands, and a wish to control situations or other people, which is very violent energy. We need the courage to look at our attitude and see that the blame game is only a reflection of the pain we are feeling. We have to let go of the stories we tell ourselves to try and out-think and intellec-tualise what hurts us. The stories make us feel better for a time, but ultimately the stories will break down one day and we will have to face the uncertainty and instability at the root. Those stories are not who I am.
The first act of real courage is to open the door to the awareness of who I really am. To understand who I am at the core of my being. I am the extremely subtle, fluid life force, the soul. This is the energy that supports the functioning of the body. The more I meditate and experience the stream of this life force the more I experience the extremely subtle effect on my thinking. Thoughts are a component of the life force. The mind is only a function of the deeper life force of who I am. Real courage is to arrive at this quiet sense of consciousness. Such a soul is happier in their being, more relaxed and can conduct the affairs of their lives with no edge to their behaviour, no pushiness and with a quiet internal trust that makes things work out. It is like coming back home inside. Home in the sense of knowing the self, where there is clean stability, clear determination. Determination brings a sense of conviction to what I do, and that brings with it a successful conclusion. The more we meditate regularly, the simpler the journey becomes, until it is not a journey anymore. I am in that space, operat-ing from that space and then my life fundamentally changes — I am living from the inside out.
Gopi Patel is a Rajyoga teacher based at the Brahma Kumaris National Coordinating Office, London.
TAKING A SPIRITUAL STEP TOWARDS HARMONY
The world is inhabited by more than seven billion people who belong to over 5,000 ethnic groups, follow about 4,200 religions, and speak more than 6,900 languages.
Differences of nationality, race, language and religion have given rise to conflicts over the ages. People of the same country quarrel over language; those who speak the same tongue fight over religion; those professing the same religion kill each other over sectarian differences; and those of the same race are riven by class or ideological conflicts.
People involved in such strife identify themselves by their nationality, religion, race or sect, forgetting who they really are.
We all have more than just physiology in common. Ancient Indian scriptures speak of the world being one family. The holy books are expressing a spiritual truth. It is the spirit or soul that animates a human being. Consciousness resides in the soul. Without the soul, the body is a corpse. The soul is an infinitesimally small sentient point of light. Souls take birth in different places and circumstances. Accordingly, they acquire labels of nationality, race, religion, and gender, and come to be identified as Arab, Chinese, or Indian; Christian, Hindu, or Muslim; white or black; rich or poor; male or female.
The soul is beyond these classifications, which apply to the body. Once we identify ourselves with such labels, we begin to think accordingly. Thus, if we see ourselves as citizens of a particular country, we tend to look at those from elsewhere as ‘others’ and focus on how they have a different attitude, culture, or physical appearance.
The same happens when we identify with any of the other labels we get from our physical circumstances — a mental divide is created between ‘us’ and ‘others’.
When we dwell too much on the differences between us and others, feelings of superiority, inferiority, like or dislike arise, often leading to hatred for those who are different from us. The negative feelings fuel religious, racial, and international conflicts.
The root cause of this is forgetting the fact that we are all souls, children of the same Father, who we call the Supreme Soul. All souls are innately peaceful, loving, and pure. That is why we all like these qualities. We naturally express these virtues — as babies and small children do, bringing joy to themselves and others. But once we start identifying with our physical circumstances, we begin to suppress these virtues.
Physical differences provide variety in this world. We can appreciate and enjoy the variety only if we see ourselves and others as souls and are aware that as children of God, we are part of one spiritual family. This awareness fosters love and respect for our fellow humans, which encourages cooperation and sharing. This is the first step towards global harmony.
B.K. Atam Prakash is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
SERVING BY EXAMPLE BRINGS MANY REWARDS
When we move on the path of self-improvement, several challenges come along the way. Most of them stem from our ego, desires, fears, and ignorance. One way to protect the self and overcome the challenges is to engage in service.
Service, when done with the pure intention of bringing benefit to others, elevates our consciousness. We can serve by sharing inspiring ideas and thoughts that help others uplift the quality of their thinking and live a more meaningful life. Another way to serve is to be a living example of what we tell others; to inspire by our conduct, words and way of thinking. If our life helps others recognise that there is a better way to think, speak, behave, and live, that is perhaps the best way to serve.
Giving advice and expounding noble principles may give us some satisfaction, and the feeling of having done something good, but often this is just pleasing oneself. We can be truly of benefit to others when our life reflects what we say. Advice is best when it flows from benevolence and empathy arising out of a pure and powerful mind, and not from mere theoretical knowledge.
A clever mind and impressive oratory will earn us praise, but the satisfaction that brings is short-lived. When we serve by being an example for others, we often do so without being aware of it, as others take inspiration just by watching us, from our conduct and vibrations. “They are so good. I wish to be like them”, they think. Such thoughts, and the goodwill they carry, are like blessings for those who serve. The positive energy we receive from others in this way empowers us, making us fulfilled and content.
There is another aspect to service. Some people think that engaging with many different people in service is challenging due to differences of opinion, temperament, and habit. Such challenges disturb them. However, true service does not disturb anyone; rather it is a means for becoming free from disturbance. If any kind of service causes us to become upset, we can check if we are serving selflessly, with clean intentions.
When we rise above the desires, prejudices and fears that limit our way of thinking, we can serve everyone equally, with love and care. The return of that is a constant joy and a life of contentment. Success always follows such souls; they do not have to chase after it.
B.K. Sheilu is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Raja-sthan.
Wellness: Healthy soul, healthy body
The real blessing of being healthy is to get the blessings of being ever healthy. What is health? For physical health, we go to the doctor for a check-up and for help. But can the doctors real-ly diagnose the disease? Do the doctors diagnose the disease or do the machines do it? Whenever you go to the doctor, even if it is for a blood test, the doctors give diagnoses according to the results on the machines. So, the machine is diagnosing ‘the machine’ (the physical body). The machine does not diagnose the sickness of the person; the machine diagnoses matter.
We recognise that the cause of sickness is the weakness of the soul. Just like any effect of matter, when we do not follow the laws of nature, immediately the body gets affected. If we are in cold weather and are not following the laws of nature, our bodies will be affected. If we are careful and respect the laws of nature, we are protected. So, in the same way, when we are respecting the laws of spirituality, the soul remains healthy. According to the WHO, there is an increasing number of psychosomatic diseases. The symptoms come from the soul; they come from the mind. Psychology tries to provide the right awareness for this in order for patients to regain health.
The cure of the mind is possible with three medications to be taken daily:
1. Take the physical medicine — whichever type of medication suits the body. This could be via traditional medicine, or Ayurveda, homoeopathy or naturopathy. The body is a gift made up of the five elements, so harmony is needed between the five elements that make up the physical body.
2. The second medicine is having pure thoughts and good wishes, for the self and the healing of the self, and especially to create harmony in all our relationships. These good wishes and pure feelings create trust, self-respect and loving and honest respect for others, including the food and drink we consume throughout the day.
3. The most powerful medication is meditation. Meditation empowers the mind through having a sweet conversation with the self and the Supreme Being, the Supreme Soul. This conversation is at the heart of Rajyoga. Yoga power enables souls to regain their awareness of peace, love, and inner spiritual joy which stabilises the mind and brings inner and outer harmony.
Remember, in essence, I am a soul, the child of God. I am the child of the Almighty Authority. I am the child of the Purifier. The truth is, the soul is sick, and not the body. But because the soul becomes sick, the body also becomes sick. This is why it is important to heal the soul and the body, and not that because the soul is sick, I only take care of the soul. No. The body is also affected. So, both, the driver, the soul, and the car, the body, have to be looked after carefully.
B.K. Sudesh is the Director of the Brahma Kumaris’ services in Europe.
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