Supernatural: Damaged Goods (AKA: Dean and PTSD)

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              The Archangel Michael possessing Dean’s body                                  Source: Entertainment Weekly

INTRO

Sadly, this will Supernatural’s second to last season. The series will end next year. So while I have material to go off from the show, I will continue with episode eleven, “Damaged Goods” . “Damaged goods” continued from end of season 14 with the possession of Dean’s body by the archangel Michael. So Castiel and Sam found away to enter Dean’s mind in order to release Dean from Michael’s hold and to do with away from Michael.

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Dean’s Trauma

To find Dean in his mind, they have to comb through all his bad memories first. When I mean, “bad memories” especially in Dean’s case, it’s “scars”. Not all scars have to be physical, but they can be mental and emotional as well. When someone is living with or overcoming emotional  and mentally pains, it usually means they’ve undergone traumatic events. It may sound obvious, but you may be surprised how this simple fact can be grossly overlooked. Trauma can usually consist of dangerous, frightening, or extremely stressful situation or events. And as you read in the slide below, Dean has many of them…the death of his mother, the death of his brother (but came back to life), his own death, being sent to hell and back from it, the death of his father, the death of his mentor and friend, Bobby Singer and other companions and of course, his near final transformations into a vampire and a demon. Yeah… I’d say he’s undergone a LOT of trauma.

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Physical Pain vs Emotional Pain

So how does trauma affect a person’s mind more than physical pain (Dean and Sam has had a LOT of surreal pain)? In the online Psychology Today article, “5 Ways Emotional Pain Is Worse Physical Pain”, it provides, well…5 reason why it’s so:

  1. Memories Trigger Emotional Pain But Not Physical Pain
  2. We Use Physical Pain as Distraction from Emotional Pain Not Vice Versa (could explain why Dean hunts a lot than facing his fears)
  3. Physical Pain Garners Far More Empathy from Others Than Emotional Pain
  4. Emotional Pain Echoes in Ways Physical Pain Does Not–You can look at scar on your knee, compared thinking about the time you got rejected by your high school crush
  5. Emotional Pain but Not Physical Pain Can Damage Our Self-Esteem and Long-Term Mental Health

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Gaslighting

One of the ways, abusers like Michael, chooses his victims is by choosing victims who are strong, confident and successful (Dodgson, 2017). One of the ways abusers overcome their victims is called, “Coercive Control”. Coercive control is used to instill fear and compliance in a partner (Kennedy, n.d). These are a few way abusers can use coercive control:

  • Obsessive monitoring
  • Low level violence (e.g. shoving & hair grabbing)
  • Sexual Assault
  • Gaslighting

I want to say that what Michael was doing to Dean was a form of gaslighting. I mean  if you think about, gaslighting is where abusers “undermine the abused person’s sense of sanity by insisting their lies are true, or by playing mind games.” And Michael was trying to keep Dean in the dark by giving him the life he never had in his own mind, even though in reality, he was really imprisoning Dean.

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PTSD and C-PTSD

Thriving on trauma…hmm…you know what this reminds me of? PTSD. As a reminder PTSD, according to the American Psychological Association, is “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” The symptoms they go through are (APA, 2017):

  1. Intrusive thoughts–These include repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks my may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.
  2. Avoiding reminders–Traumatic events may have a person for example, avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that bring on distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.
  3. Negative thoughts and feelings—These may include ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; or feeling detached or estranged from others.
  4. Arousal and reactive thoughts—This may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving  recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being easily started; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.

But you know something else? I think Dean may have C-PTSD because of the trauma he has gone through his whole life. Also he has shown some examples of how he could have C-PTSD. Usually what survivors with C-PTSD may have difficulty with is (VA, n.d.).

  • Avoiding thinking and talking about trauma-related topics because the feelings connected with the trauma are often overwhelming. I mean, I’ve never heard of Dean never talk about his past encounters with supernatural beings and never really talks about how those encounters with supernatural beings impacted him. Or how he’s nearly lost Sam or his own life. Or the loss of their dad.
  • The excess use of alcohol or other substances in order to avoid and numb feelings and thoughts related to the trauma. Dean well….drinks like a fish to avoid his.112d5e70dd6ecde54fee65ce2322ca7d
  • Not harming themselves and finding other ways to hurt themselves. Do you know how many times Dean has sent has sacrificed himself? One too many times…one too many times.
  • Being mistaken for having a “weak character” or are unjustly blamed for the symptoms they experience as a result of victimization. Luckily, Sam reminds Dean how strong he is everyday.

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Michael definitely, found Dean’s Achilles’s heel and it was to be happy. Why? It keeps Michael in control. As mention earlier, gaslighting  is used to keep their victims in line and from seeing things for what they really are. especially when their guard is down. It explains why survivors like myself and even Dean don’t want to put our guard down, because once it’s down, it will feels like our mind will be a gateway for former or future abusers to get the best of us.

Conclusion

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Whether trauma is in the past or on going, it’s never easy to live through. On one hand you wish for that “normalcy”, but on the other hand you have to fend yourself from those who would do harm to you. So not only are you juggling past and/or present pain, you are juggling the possibility of harm that can be done. Reliving trauma and being on guard from new trauma IS your normal. But as long as you have a Sam and Castiel in your corner, it allows trauma to be easier to live with.

References:

American Psychological Association. (2017). What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

Dodgson, L. (2017). Psychological Abusers Don’t Go For The Weak–They Choose Strong People Because They “Like a Challenge.” Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.com/strong-confident-people-end-up-in-abusive-relationships-2017-8

Kennedy, L. (n.d.) What Is Coercive Control in a Relationship? Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/women/features/what-is-coercive-control#1

Winch, G. (2014). 5 Ways Emotional Pain Is Worse Than Physical Pain. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201407/5-ways-emotional-pain-is-worse-physical-pain

Veteran Affairs. (n.d.) Complex PTSD. Retrieved from: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/complex_ptsd.asp

Women’s Health. (2018). Abuse, Trauma, and Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/abuse-trauma-and-mental-health

 

More Reading

Tracy, N. (2016). Gaslighting Definition, Techniques and Being Gaslighted. Retrieved from: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/gaslighting-definition-techniques-and-being-gaslighted

Supernatural: Gods and Monsters (Part 2)

Ever lost something that made you, you? It could be your mental wellbeing or your physical health and because of that you don’t feel like 100 percent…you? Let me give you an example through Supernatural’s Jack Kline the Nephilim offspring of Kelly Kline and Lucifer. Yes I said it, Lucifer. While yes he is half human and angel, his father being an archangel (and he is in the Bible), he was a powerful being. “Was” you make ask. Yeah. See in the early season of Season 13, Michael (the archangel) from another demention stole Lucifer’s grace in order to get into and conquer our demension and because of that Lucifer was powerless throughout the season…until he stole Jack’s grace. And so far this season, he is running on his life (via magic) to keep him alive. And now that the end of the end of the world is nearing (Michael created super vampires and werewolves to do his bidding by killing off humans, because they weren’t “worth saving”) for the umpteen time, Jack feels useless.

As Castiel states, it’s better to focus on what you don’t have than what you do have. Why? Because doing so keeps you from one feeling sorry for yourself and two to keep you to noticing the things you can do or do have. For example, when I was living in my car for awhile, I was pissed. Pissed that things didn’t  go as planned for me. I always had something to help me, but this time…nothing. I was always use to using my wits or having some sort of financial backup. I applied for jobs but no luck. The relationship with my family at the time was kind of a mess.

 Then on a hot day, I realized as I saw the homeless men either riding their bike or walking, they didn’t have something that I DID have: a car. A car where I could travel anywhere with, a car where I could travel anywhere to…a car with an air condition. I also had family (later on) and friends to help me. Some homeless people who had family who lived in another state (and unfortunately had little to no funds to have them travel there) or they had family that didn’t want them. I then realized how blessed even STILL in the moment I was in.

It’s easy to think we can look at someone and think they may not understand where we are coming from, but you may be surprised what you’ll discover about a person. I get that a lot from people, because how bubbly or serious I look. However when I open my mouth, they are shocked by what they hear. I remember not too long ago when I was subbing in a 3rd grade class, I was sharing to a young boy a book series I use to read when I was his age. He asked me what happened to the books and I told him that I lost them during the time of my parents divorce. I could feel his astonishment because he didn’t think that happened to me. The fact I looked free from any sort of troubles at home, I think surprised him. He ended up revealing that his parents were divorced too. He told me how the divorce has impacted him at home and at school. From how he described his troubles at school, I assumed that it stemmed from the heartbreak at home. From that moment forward, he followed me around like a little chick, wanting to help me out anyway I can. Sometimes, we need that assurance that in the midst of hardship we’re going to be okay in the end. I think that’s what Jack needed and I think that that little boy needed that too.

Sometimes it’s easy to get rapped up in the things we have that we can attach our identity to them. This in makes it hard so when we do lose everything, we can feel defeated. I know I did when I was on the street: no job, no home….I always saw myself whenever and where ever I came from return home. This time I dreaded finishing the day, because it meant I had to spend the rest of the day in my car. It was then I had to realize I had friends who cares about me and wanted to help me. Also that I had the skills of being resourceful. I had to remember to look within myself to survive living on the street.

When we look at others, we can tend to think they are flawless, free from the upsets of all the screwups that we make in our day to day life, that it can make us lose our sense of self. We may end up losing interest in pursuing whatever skill we want to achieve. Heck, we may still lose confidence in ourselves. But it is important to remember this: Rome was not built in a day. It takes a lot of hard work, sweat and tears (they’ll definitely be a lot of those) and as Cas says, patience to perfect whatever skill we want to possess. But again like below patience and persistence are skills too.

For the past 4 years since I was living on my own, I had to find myself. After spending 28 years with my family, I had a hard time knowing who I was, because my identity was attached to my family, including my self-esteem. It took me a long time, to know who I was…to know who Ezi was, without having to tie myself to my hard past. And I struggled a lot! While I wanted my independence, I had separation anxiety being a way from them. While I wanted to hear my own voice, I still needed to hear their’s…their reassurance mostly. There was fear as well if my past was going to hinder my future. That was what was bugging me the whole time. But here I was in my new life, not being able to enjoy the here and now and the other good prospects that would follow.

In the end I found, I can’t allow what I did or do have or what I didn’t have interfere with having a better future. That includes my past too. This new time I’m in–in spite of the struggles I’m engaged in–is a chance to find who I really am and what I’m made of without all the comforts of life. Also we’re not alone in the struggles we are in. Keep in mind the family and friends who may understand and/or be able to help you. You can learn how to be gracious in life by the people you encounter in life and may have something to teach you. However, as long as you are alive, there is much room from growth, self-discovery, self-love and of course, success.

Supernatural: Gods and Monsters (Part 2)

Resuming from my part 1 post, “Supernatural: Gods and Monsters“, Nick is still catching up with everything since his unexpected release from Lucifer. First, grappling with the fact Lucifer used his body and caused immense damage in it. Then finding out that his wife and newborn are dead and for some reason there is not a word about their death on the newspaper or how they died or who killed them.

Although Nick has returned to being Nick, everyone (Sam, Dean, Castiel, Jack, Sam, Bobby, Rowena) still see Nick as Lucifer. But to be honest…I don’t think Nick sees himself as himself anymore either. Remember Nick in a sense was Lucifer for a long time….since like season 1 or 2. Lucifer was power. He could instill fear into the hearts of me , demons, and angels…gods as well. As Lucifer or as Nick, he was able to influence anyone or anything to do his bidding…decimate anyone with the *snap* of his finger. Nick couldn’t influence anyone to answer to what happened to his family.

As being someone who was sexual assaulted, there’s nothing worse than when you feel powerless to do anything about a situation. Even though Nick wasn’t sexually assaulted, something more powerful than him took over his body. That’s how I kind of felt dealing with my situation and I’m upset wishing how come I wasn’t smart enough to see what happened? How did I let someone play me and use my body like that? He must have known that the only I knew about sex was vaginal sex and then tried to get me to the those other acts of sex. Hell…I didn’t know anal sex was a thing, because well…why would anyone want to have sex in the same hole you poop from? I mean what if you get E coli or other disease from that person? So here I was months after the event researching sexual assault, understanding what sex is…. You might say “How do you not know what sex is?” Well to be honest, I didn’t. I didn’t because I was never engaged in it until that point and to be honest, I don’t even think a lot of people know what sex is even though people “say” they do. We know a lot about the far negatives and far exuberant yesssses! (no puns intended) about sex, but a part from those two extreme views  about sex, nothing much. Because if people did, then people would able to know what sexual assault is (especially to say consent is at 16 or 17 years of age. That’s gross. I think it’s to protect the pervy men who are on top out of trouble), but then again most people don’t understand what harassment is in general either.

There is nothing worse than feeling you have to find yourself all over again after you have been assaulted. Think about it… You’ve spend your whole life trying to find yourself…and then some jackass ruins it, so now you gotta find what feels like bits and pieces of you  in the wind. Whether  the abuse lasted for a minute or for years, abuse is abuse. I mean your struggling to know who you are…again. Didn’t we struggle already to find who we were during puberty already? I mean Nick forget who he was. While Castiel knows Nick isn’t Lucifer (while knowing Lucifer’s true form as well)  how hard is for him? Yeesh…I remember when about two season ago Castiel was tricked by Lucifer (using Nick’s body) to possess him.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), sexual assault can affect a person physically, psychologically, socially and can engage that person to take part in risky health behavior. I’ll stick to the the two we can kind of identify in Nick.

Psychological:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  •  Anxiety
  • Withdrawal
  • Shame or guilt
  • Nervousness or Distrust
  • Symptoms of PTSD

-Emotional Detachment

-Sleep Disturbances

-Flashbacks

-Mental Replay of Assault

Chronic psychological consequences include:

  • Depression
  • Generalized Anxiety
  • Attempted or Completed Suicide
  • PTSD
  • Diminished Interest/Avoidance of Sex
  • Low Self-Esteem/Self-Blame

Social 

  • Strained Relationships with family, friends, and intimate partners
  • Less emotional support from friends and family
  • Less frequent contact with friends and relatives
  • Lower likelihood of marriage
  • Isolation or ostracism from family or community

Health Risk Behaviors

  • Engaging in high-risk sexual behavior
  • Using harmful substances
  • Unhealthy Diet-Related Behaviors
  • Delinquency and Criminal Behavior
  • Failure to Engage in Healthy Behaviors

Cas finds out that Nick has been affected by Lucifer than expected

My sexual assault affected me I know socially and psychologically. As for Nick assault by Lucifer, it has affected him (according to just those three bullet points I named) socially, psychologically, and eventually into him engaging into committing risky behaviors. Although, if you watch in the next one or two episodes of this season, the term “risky behaviors” is an understatement. Regardless, you understand how his possession by Lucifer affected him and lost his sense of self.

References

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/consequences.html

 

Further Readings

Rape’s Long Shadow: Dealing With The Personal Costs of Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault and Mental Health