For 36 years, I ignored signs and synchronicity. To this day, I still miss them sometimes. Ya know, those things called life, kids, work, school, grocery shopping, and 9th grade math homework that I don't understand get in the way.
But tonight—tonight was different. I sent a message to a dear friend of mine I've known for many, many years. We were catching up on life on text while we were both helping our kiddos. A little while before reaching out to her, I was looking through the Little Light Project website blog looking for a post Scott had written a long time ago about what it's like to have a "psychic" wife. I couldn't find it, but I did find a recap of an event we went to in Sedona in 2013. Alongside spritual thought leaders like Jean Houston, a doctor by the name of Dr. Rajiv Parti shared his near death experience (NDE) on the Sedona World Wisdom Days stage. It was extremely powerful, to say the least. I hadn't laid my eyes on this blog in five years, and frankly, I'd forgotten about the doctor and his incredibly journey. I actually didn't pay much attention to the blog other than to look at some photos and remember that I had my picure taken with Jean. I didn't even see Dr. Parti's portion of the blog.
Now, let's go back to my friend and our text chat. I sometimes forget that she, too, survived a near death experience. All of the sudden, as we're chatting, I start paying attention to chills and signs as she's sharing thoughts she's never expressed before. As you can imagine, it's quite an adjustment after you die and come back. I share what I'm feeling for her and getting intutiively, as I do when this happens. Out of nowhere, I remember that I was looking for that blog post and I check the tab at the top of my screen. Staring straight at me is the blog post about Jean Huston and wouldn't you know it, Dr. Parti's story. His section was literally looking me in the eye. I started reading it and then I sent it to my friend who read it and said she could relate to much of what he said. She also said, "Wow!" at the synchronicity of the events. We don't talk about the NDE much. We haven't in awhile but tonight, we did. And tonight of all nights, before talking with her, I "accidentally" found the blog that addressed an NDE story I'd totally forgotten about. One that, if you believe in synchronicity, you would say she was meant to read.
I'm beyond grateful to feel like a kid, again—after living mostly in survival mode (through abuse) from 2014-2017—looking at life through a magical, multidimensional lens in wonder and awe. Turns out, when things calm down and you get your center back, the whole world opens up. And the whole world conspires WITH you. As C.G. Jung said, "Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see."
May we never close our eyes. Ever.
P.S. If you've experienced a near death experience and are trying to come to grips with it, check the book, 37 Seconds, written by Stephanie Arnold. She's the real deal, a beautiful human being, and a fantastic writer. Thank you for sharing your journey, Steph. <3
Even after all I've been through since 2009, I will forever be amazed by the way this Earth School thing works. I felt compelled this morning to repost my blog from July on my belief that there are no coincidences. Shortly after, I was remembering a couple conversations I had this weekend with women who are struggling to come to grips with emotional and verbal abuse in their romantic relationships. Narcissistic abuse, to be exact. Both women have been in therapy for years dealing with childhood abuse and it made me remember the post I wrote about "wounded attachment." It's something that really made me think about how my childhood abuse unknowingly influenced the ease at which I bonded with my ex.
I went to that post and re-read it. I typically don't do that. Then I looked at the comments. OMG. There's a comment from August that I somehow missed!!! How did I not see it? I hadn't read the incredibly sad comment left by yet another past love interest of R's until today:
"Hello. I found you because of a friend who knows "Richard" (Note from Kiers: I called him Richard at first but it's pretty obvious who it is because were were so public, i.e. all over the internet.)
I knew him as Bob. I am happy for you and I wish I could be happy but I cant. he has destroyed me inside and out. I hope he wasn't physically abusive to you as well. He made me feel like a piece of trash and then tell me how much he loved me. I was so confused I didn't know what to do. I moved out of the country but its not far enough. Your story eases me that's why I am writing. I see you in me but much more stronger. He put me through hell. I could go on but I wont. I replay our time together from the poems and songs to the soulmate and I cant believe how stupid I was to fall for this abuser. I don't want to but I know in my heart I have to tell you. I contracted a sexual disease from him. I know it was him because I never fooled around our time together. I know because I took a blood test and the doctor told me. he looked at my past tests because of an issue I had and it showed me as clean. I asked him how I could get this disease and he said only from sexual contact. I confronted him at the end and he called me a whore and said he was clean. I didn't believe him and now I must watch myself. I'm so ashamed I haven't had sex since because I'm so embarrassed I hope he will feel the wrath of my savior our Lord. He teaches me to turn the other cheek but its so hard. I thank you for your writings it gives me some solace. I pray I can be like you someday and heal my heart.
-- Broken Woman"
Turns out, according to the IP address associated with the comment, she did move out of the country. My heart aches for her on all fronts. I simply want to wipe her pain away and erase all memory and physical damage left by him. I wish I could. I did my best to comfort her and apologized for just now seeing her comment but I know there's little I can do except share what I'm learning through this journey.
Again, I'm being hit over the head with the thought: why did I JUST NOW see her comment? I can't quite wrap my brain around this. I normally get notifications when comments are left. If I truly believe nothing is a coincidence, then why now? This comment. Her pain. Her courage. All of it cut through me like a knife.
Turns out, I just might have an answer to the question, "why now?"
Yesterday, I was cleaning up my computer. Read: four million icons on my desktop. While doing so, I came across the letter that R sent to me on the day he met me. I read it and it reminded me about a poem he said he wrote about me.
I thought about my conversations with women this weekend. How I shared that the "abuser" typically uses the same lines, songs, pet names, poems, language, and even tactics. It's all too eerily similar and for most women, it's what helps them come to grips with the fact that the relationship is not what it seems. Saturday, I found myself advising one of the women to please reach out to her boyfriend's ex. I bet money on the fact that he's likely used the same language and tactics.
Below is the letter I received after he first met me—the one I found yesterday on my computer. And the poem that he mentioned in his letter. Also, I wrote about some of the other things (lines, songs, etc) that multiple women in his past have confirmed they, too, experienced in this old post: https://www.kierstenparsons.com/blog/truth-5. Maybe, just maybe, something in this post or in the link above will help one of the women who has already come forward, like "broken woman," or one who hasn't come forward and never will.
Without the notes and screenshots from other women who were with R, and the testimony of women who were in relationships with men who could be clones, I would have had a hard time healing and believing what I now know is true—that it's as if there's a script/handbook being shared across the world and uncovering the "sameness" from one relationship to another makes the healing process so much faster and easier. It's no coincidence I found myself sharing this very truth this weekend. And then I saw the comment today that was written in August. I get it, Universe. I need to share for other's healing, specifically words/tactics/songs/pet names and the letter I found yesterday. Maybe it's just what's needed to help speed the healing process for one beautiful woman who is still struggling with everything she endured. It's a message that needs to be driven home with a hammer. Looks like I'm just the woman to do it. :)
Letter I received after he met me at High Point Market:
So, I need to bare my soul. Something very profound happened to me the very first second I saw you online. And, I mean the very first second. It was a feeling so strong and so beyond words, I literally sat in my chair and felt completely paralyzed. And later on 3/31, I wrote the first piece of poetry I’ve ever written in my life. You can read it on my FB Profile Page. It's actually the caption to my Profile Banner Photo.
What nobody knows, nor will ever know, I wrote this about my feelings for you. Please don't worry!! I will never bring this up again. In fact, I will take an aspirin or something and get over it as quickly as possible. But, I want you to know, it’s truly shaken me to my core. I have literally been sick to my stomach ever since then. Please know that I have no delusions, and I know very well the reality. I also feel certain you suspected, or even completely knew this already. It’s why I’m writing to you now. I know I would not be able to keep from saying something to you, so I figured writing it will spare you that uncomfortable moment in person. What’s most important to me is that I don’t lose you as a friend because I have these feelings. I’m sure the aspirin, or maybe some magic kale smoothie drink will eventually cure this. I’ll find the way. Seriously though, if this makes you uncomfortable for me to be at dinner tomorrow, please tell me! I will find a good excuse to miss it.
I didn’t have to meet you today to confirm it either. This came from your spirit through universe that transcends your physical presence. But I still felt was so nervous today. I needed to run away basically. I pray to the universe that this doesn’t put me in the same pile of guys who most certainly and constantly throw themselves at your feet. Especially after writing this to you at Market, where you’ve already experienced the wolves! No matter that you think of me now, I know I will be adoring you, watching proudly, respecting, and loving you from afar. You are such a precious precious person. And I know deep in my soul, you will achieve your goals.
With my warmest heartfelt feelings,
It washed over me with unimaginable power, consuming all of me from the very first second. Now fully and profoundly inhabiting the deepest reaches of my soul, there's no way to touch it. My hand would only destroy it. A part of my being I cannot hold, yet its grip is unbreakable and wondrous. Now frozen, I can only stand and try to see. - R
The other night, I received a message from a childhood friend. We don’t connect much at all but she took the time to tell me she is leaving her abusive husband. I had no idea she was in this type of a relationship. She said she felt so blind for so long, which is not the first time I’ve been told this by women I know. Nor is it foreign to me—I felt blind in my relationship. She thanked me for being a voice and said she reads everything that I write. I felt happy to be there for her in some small way, but I also felt the weight of her words when I read them, and I felt intuitively what so many of us feel—we beat ourselves up for staying so long.
Last night, Scott and I watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on the topic of shame. It got me thinking about how I felt truly blind to reality of what I had gotten myself into on many levels because he was such a good manipulator, but then when I finally started to acknowledge the levels of abuse I was allowing/enduring, I felt so much shame. Adding insult to injury, I felt MORE shame because I had a tough time staying out of the relationship for good. In fact, I packed up his things twice and eventually shipped them the second time. What happened the first time? Well, I let him back in. I didn’t believe I deserved the treatment I was getting so when people would suggest maybe I was lacking self-confidence, it wouldn’t sit right with me. I'd get kinda mad, actually. It wasn't about self-esteem. I knew who I was and most importantly, I liked who I had become AND I knew what real love was supposed to feel like. More than anything, I believed he was still the guy he presented himself to be in the beginning and I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard for him to just be that guy, again. I believed in him. When he went to see my therapist, I believed he really wanted to get to the bottom of his anger and pain for himself, and for me. I simply believed.
One thing I never considered was what was happening to me chemically, inside my mind and body. I had no idea that a big part of the reason I kept going back to him was because I was literally conditioned and addicted. I just thought I wasn’t “strong enough” and that led to, you guessed it, more shame.
Shahida Arabi shares in her article, YOUR BRAIN ON LOVE, SEX AND THE NARCISSIST: THE ADDICTION TO BONDING WITH OUR ABUSERS, that “recovering from an abusive relationship can be similar to withdrawal from drug addiction due to the biochemical bonds we may develop with our toxic ex-partners.”
She goes on to explain the biochemical bonds that make it extremely difficult to leave these types of relationships. In Shahida’s words, here’s what may be keeping you addicted, or was keeping you addicted to a relationship dripping in narcisssistic abuse:
1) Oxytocin. This hormone, known famously as the “cuddle” or “love hormone,” is released during touching, orgasm and sexual intercourse; it promotes attachment and trust. It is the same hormone released by the hypothalamus that enables bonding between mother and child. During “lovebombing” and mirroring in the idealization phases with our abusive partners, it’s likely that our bond to them is quite strong as a result of this hormone. Intermittent reinforcement of positive behaviors dispersed throughout the abuse cycle (e.g. gifts, flowers, compliments, sex) ensures that we still release oxytocin even after experiencing incidents of abuse.
I’ve heard from many survivors who reminisce about the great sexual relationship they had with the narcissist, containing an electrifying sexual chemistry they feel unable to achieve with future partners. This is because charming emotional predators such as narcissists are able to mirror our deepest sexual and emotional desires, which leads to a strong sexual bond, which then, of course, releases oxytocin, and promotes even more trust and attachment. Meanwhile, the narcissist, who is usually devoid of empathy and does not form these types of close attachments, is able to move onto his or her next source of supply without much thought or remorse.
The addictive nature of oxytocin is also gendered according to Susan Kuchinskas, author of the book, The Chemistry of Connection: How the Oxytocin Response Can Help You Find Trust, Intimacy and Love. The unfortunate fact is that estrogen promotes the effects of oxytocin bonding whereas testosterone discourages it. This makes it more difficult for females in any typeof relationship to detach from the bond as quickly as men.
2) Dopamine. The same neurotransmitter that is responsible for cocaine addiction is the same one responsible for addiction to dangerous romantic partners. According to Harvard Health, both drugs and intense, pleasurable memories trigger dopamine and create reward circuits in the brain, essentially telling the brain to “do it again.”
Do you remember recalling the pleasurable, beautiful first moments with your narcissistic partner? The romantic dates, the sweet compliments and praise, the incredible sex – long after you two had broken up? Yeah – it’s releasing the dopamine in your brain that’s telling you to “do it again.”
The salience theory of dopamine suggests that our brain releases dopamine not just for pleasurable events but to important ones that are linked to survival. As Samantha Smithstein, Psy.d,puts it, “Dopamine is not just a messenger that dictates what feels good; it is also tells the brain what is important and what to pay attention to in order to survive. And the more powerful the experience is, the stronger the message is to the brain to repeat the activity for survival.”
Abuse survivors are unfortunately hijacked by dopamine. Abusive tactics like intermittent reinforcement works well with our dopamine system, because studies show that dopamine flows more readily when the rewards are given out on unpredictable schedule rather than predictably after conditioned cues.
So the random sweet nothings whispered to us after an incident of emotional abuse, the apologies, the pity ploys, the rare displays of tenderness during the devaluation phase, right before another incident of abuse – actually help cement this type of reward circuit rather than deter it. Combine this with powerful experiences of abuse which alert our brain to “pay attention” as well as pleasurable memories we recollect over and over again – and we’ve got ourselves a biochemical bond from hell.
3) Cortisol, Adrenaline and Norepinephrine. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and boy, does it get released during the traumatic highs and lows of an abusive relationship. It is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism. Since we are unlikely to have a physical outlet of release when cortisol is triggered during cycles of emotional abuse, this often traps the stress within our bodies instead. As we ruminate over incidents of abuse, increased levels of cortisol lead to more and more health problems. Christopher Bergland suggests numerous ways to counteract the effects of this hormone, which include physical activity, mindfulness, meditation, laughter, music and social connectivity.
Adrenaline and norepinephrine also prepare our body for the flight or fight response, and are also culprits in biochemical reactions to our abusers. Adrenaline promotes an antidepressant effect, triggering fear and anxiety which then releases dopamine – this can cause us to become “adrenaline junkies,” addicted to the rush of vacillating between bonding and betrayal. During No Contact, withdrawal from that “rush” can be incredibly painful.
4) Trauma bonding. All of these jolts of fear and anxiety in the face of danger can reenact past traumas and create trauma bonding. Trauma bonding occurs after intense, emotional experiences with our abusers and tethers us to them, creating subconscious patterns of attachment that are very difficult to detach from. It is part of the phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome, in which victims of hostage become attached to their perpetrators and even defend their captors.
Although survivors of narcissistic abuse come from many different backgrounds and anyone can be a victim of narcissistic abuse, trauma bonding is even more significant for those who grow up in violent or emotionally abusive homes, and/or have had a narcissistic parent in addition to their most recent experiences with trauma and abuse. Survivors of multiple incidents of abuse by various narcissistic individuals can further reinforce subconscious wounds they experienced in childhood in the trauma bond with their current abusers. If there has been victimization in the past, such as the experience of having to survive in an abusive household, this can lead to trauma repetition or reenactment, the root of which Gary Reece, Ph.D in his article, “The Trauma Bond,” calls “relational trauma”:
“The key to understanding behavior found in abusive relationships is to look at the very early years of childhood. Relational trauma is at the root….There are several features these kinds of relationships have in common. The first is, they are deeply ambivalent, reflective of the Trauma Bond: fear, dependency, need, fear of abandonment, despair, the realization of helplessness, and rage. This is an amalgam of very powerful emotions which drive and make the relationship so unstable…The second feature of this kind of relationship is that it is a compulsive reenactment. Allan Schore, an attachment expert put it this way. “A further complication of unresolved trauma is narrative reenactment of the trauma wherein the victim unconsciously recreates the original traumatic event over and over.” (Handbook for Treatment of Attachment Trauma, pg. 35)
For more information on trauma bonding, please see The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitative Relationships by Patrick Carnes.
It is important to understand the various types of biochemical and psychological bonds that often create attachments between abusers and their victims. Better understanding these bonds enables us to move past victim-blaming and move forward into greater understanding, compassion and support for survivors who struggle with leaving abusive relationships. We must not judge but continue to empower ourselves and others with this newfound knowledge.
Sally Dail and I didn't know each other until one day, she happened upon one of my blog posts. Here's the thing: we survived similar abuse, which made us instant sisters, in a way. I'm so grateful that she is #standingthefuckup for all of us who have been through similar emotional and verbal abuse.
Sally penned a very moving blog post on her site www.galsaljo.com. I encourage you to check it out. (Click the button below or the photo above for the article.)
Thank you for loving me; really loving me. As you have discovered over the years, I have many "real" parts.....and you've loved all of them, through every stage and phase. Even through separation. On this Valentine's Day, I'm beyond grateful for our life and our love.
Becoming real together is the one of the greatest gifts of my life.
I love you,