Lies and Confabulations

I wrote this post in June of 2015 when Rachel Dolezal was in the news.

Rachel Dolezal is the White woman who claims that she is African-American.

When I read Rachel Dolezal’s story I wondered if she dissociates.

What if Rachel Dolezal she believes that she is African-American, and if  she does, she’s not lying.

When is a lie not a lie?

When it is a confabulation.

Confabulation is defined as the spontaneous production of false memories: either memories for events that never occurred, or memories of real events that are displaced in space or time. These memories may be elaborate and detailed. Some may be obviously bizarre, as a memory of a ride in an alien spaceship; others are quite mundane, as a memory of having eggs for breakfast, so that only a close family member can confirm that the memory is in fact false.

 

Confabulation is not lying and people who confabulate are not deliberately trying to mislead other people. In fact, patients are generally quite unaware that their memories are inaccurate, and they may argue strenuously that they are telling the truth. Neither should confabulation be confused with false memory syndrome, the phenomenon whereby otherwise normal people suddenly “remember” supposedly repressed incidents of childhood abuse or other trauma. Confabulation is a clinical syndrome resulting from injury to the brain.  Memory Loss Online

The primary function of the brain is the survival of the organism.

To that end, the brain will use all of its resources.

I did a Google search for Rachel Dolezal and got pages of outraged commentary along with video of her recent interview with Matt Lauer.

This was the second hit: The Nightly Show Goes in on “Crazypants White Lady” Rachel Dolezal.

Crazypants is a descriptive word that means weird or insane, not insane in the sense that it means cool as in crazy cool or that’s totally insane! Crazypants means insane as in a mental illness.  The Urban Dictionary

Crazypants is an N-Word for people with mental illness

This was the third hit: Rachel Dolezal’s parents: We taught our kids ‘always be honest’

Dolezal’s parents on TODAY denied charges they were abusive parents, calling the claims a “dramatic change” to what they knew of Rachel growing up, who always wanted to introduce them to her friends.

“We still hold out hope that we’ll be able to be reconciled someday,” Lawrence Dolezal said.

His wife added, “And we hope that Rachel will get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues. Of course we love her, and we hope that she will come to a place where she knows and believes and speaks the truth.”

They say they were not abusive and they hope that she gets help with her identity.

How curious.

I decided to experiment and Googled Rachel Dolezal Abuse.

The first hit: Rachel Dolezal’s brother, author Joshua Dolezal, faces trial for alleged sexual abuse of a black child

Within that story is this nugget: Hours after their daughter told NBC’s “Today” show that she identifies as black, Rachel Dolezal’s white parents went on Fox News to dispute several elements of her interview. For starters, Ruthanne Dolezal told the cable news channel that her 37-year-old daughter’s claim that she self-identified as black starting at a very young age is a “fabrication.”

Rachel Dolezal told “Today’s” Matt Lauer that as a young child, she “was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon and the black curly hair. That was how I was portraying myself.”

The 37-year-old said she began to identify with the black experience at age five.

Her parents went on Fox News to accuse their daughter of fabricating the way she remembers her childhood drawings.

Did you show everything you drew as a child to your parents?

image of a child with a caption that reads there was no one to tell and no place to hide
There is no safety for children with abusive parents-Image found on Pinterest

This is where the story becomes painfully familiar:

According to reports, Rachel Dolezal’s biological brother raped an adopted sibling:

“In 2013, Joshua was charged with four felony counts of sex abuse of a minor. The incidents, according to an affidavit obtained by the Post, happened at his parents’ home in Colorado “in 2001 or 2002.” The victim “was 6 or 7 years old,” and Joshua Dolezal was “19 years older.” Dolezal allegedly made the victim perform oral sex on him twice and he performed oral sex on the victim “7 or 8” times, allegedly telling the victim “Don’t tell anyone or I’ll hurt you.” The affidavit also lists another allegation of abuse in 1991 of another victim that had a racial element.”

According to a police report obtained by People, the alleged victim told Ruthanne that Josh was abusing her, but Ruthanne “did not believe her and told her to stop telling lies.”

Joshua is an English professor at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

The same article describes the family from Joshua Dolezal’s autobiography, Down from the Mountaintop: from Belief to Belonging:

“Joshua Dolezal watches his mother praying while listening to his father read an entire chapter of the Bible before dinner, “as is customary.”

“Down from the Mountaintop chronicles a quest for belonging. Raised in northwestern Montana by Pentecostal homesteaders whose twenty-year experiment in subsistence living was closely tied to their faith, Joshua Dolezal experienced a childhood marked equally by his parents’ quest for spiritual transcendence and the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape.” WorldCat

When I read Joshua Dolezal’s author comments, I felt that something terrible must have happened to him as well:

“From my earliest school days, when I wore handmade clothes to kindergarten and carried a fringed leather lunch satchel, I knew that my childhood experience in the mountains of Montana was different from everyone else’s. I write essays as experiments in explanation, efforts to make what was and is foreign in my life comprehensible, maybe even familiar, to a reader. In Down from the Mountaintop, like many memoirists, I try to make sense of my past.” Iowa Center for the Book

“What was and is foreign in my life.”

That’s an odd choice of words.

In an interview, Rachel Dolezal’s Mother states that the sibling that Joshua Dolezal is accused of abusing suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder:

“… A condition in which a child can’t bond with a parent or caregiver, and “seeks to cause trouble in the family.”

She goes on to say she never left the child alone with her son.

“The aligning with Rachel on this is a very bad combination,” she says. “Our son wasn’t even home a lot of the time it was alleged it was happening,” she says, “and I was a stay-at-home mother and very attentive to the kids because of her disorder. I never left her at home with our son or anything like that.” People.

Why would Ruthanne Dolezal be that specific?

Why insinuate that the child is “disordered” and “out to make trouble”?

She says she was a stay at home Mom and attentive to all the kids because of this one child’s “disorder.”

She never left the child at home with her Son.  Why?

Why does she describe the child as aligning with Rachel?

It all sounds so damned familiar because these were the kind of lies told
in my family.

The strategies survivors use to survive seem normal to us; even the act of becoming a different race is normal and possible for an abused child of five with an active imagination.

“Alters within the same patient may be of different ages, genders, races, and even species, including lobsters, ducks, and gorillas. There have even been reported alters of unicorns, Mr. Spock of Star Trek, God, the bride of Satan, and Madonna. Moreover, some practitioner’s claim that alters can be identified by distinct characteristics, including distinct handwriting, voice patterns, eyeglass prescriptions, and allergies. Proponents of the idea of multiple personalities have also performed controlled studies of biological differences among alters, revealing that they may differ in respiration rate, brain-wave patterns and skin conductance, the last being an accepted measure of arousal.” The Scientific American

If I told you my name is Mateo and I am a Black, would you call me a lying crazypants?

Probably.

It sounds to me as if Rachel and Josh Dolezal are trying to make sense of a past that they can’t fully remember, understand, or escape.

And even if they weren’t abused as children and enjoy perfect mental health the thought of it is sad.

RG 2015-2017

 

 

 

Save

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Know Thyself

Several patterns now play themselves out in my life.

Each one is a link to some aspect of my childhood that either scars me or is a source of salvation.

I’ve described my life-long parade of narcissistic Mother replacements.

I’ve never seen the pattern more clearly nor fully come to terms with the fact that in each case, I trusted these women with my life only to have that trust betrayed.

If insanity is repeating the same mistake with the hope of a different outcome, than I have been completely insane since childhood.

But this pattern of seeking out and hooking up with narcissistic women isn’t the only one.

There are other patterns based on the community in which I was raised: the racism, the antisemitism, the homophobia and the static class system as it exists for those at the very bottom.

These patterns of repetition became especially pronounced when I stopped working and entered therapy.

Psychotherapy means dredging up memories that I want buried under a mountain of distraction and denial.

I often go to therapy in a state of emotional distress, walking through panic attacks and other flight or fight reactions.

I want to fill my life with the ‘new normal’; a life with all of the luxuries deemed essential for happiness by unregulated capitalism: An executive title for which I am overpaid, a tax free income, fame or notoriety, an illusion of eternal youth; and the promise that I won’t outlive my ample savings.

Just as antibiotics are contraindicated for treating a virus, cognitive approaches alone don’t work for Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Psychotherapy is essential for successfully resolving a complex trauma reaction.

***

 

Based on a 1922 photograph of Freud in the Public Domain

 

The patients’ job during intensive psychotherapy is to ask why.

Why do I seek out women who are devoid of the capacity for love?

Why do I veer from an extreme identification with the middle class to an extreme identification with the poor?

Why do I force myself to fail economically just as I get closest to winning?

Accepting the option to ‘know thyself’ means living in a perpetual state of brutal self-questioning.

Why do I sometimes behave as if I hate myself?

I first grappled with the problem of internalized stigma during the early days of the AIDS epidemic when I wondered if the epidemic was God’s judgment.

None of the intellectual and political constructions that served me as an activist could defeat the internalized homophobia that AIDS unleashed.

I watched men die from grief, self-hatred and fear.

I was nearly one of them.

This was when I realized the true function of any ‘ism’ is to convince the target to self destruct.

This was why any novel written about gays before Stonewall usually ended with the suicide or the impoverished death of the main character.

AIDS was the greatest tragic ending, fraught with the dissonant myth of a loving, yet angry and vengeful God.

***
Internalized homophobia was the least of my problems.

AIDS was trauma on trauma.

I did not know that I had a dissociative disorder.

I did not know that I was living in the worst possible place at the worst possible time for someone with DID.

The political climate in San Francisco coupled with the fear brought on by the epidemic fueled a political backlash against the gay community.

Increased fag bashing was a trigger.

Friends who were healthy one week and dead the next were triggers.

Any spot on my arm sent me into panic, so much so that I became a frequent flyer at the local clinics, which eventually gave me a prescription for Xanax.

Xanax
                                 Xanax

I did not know that Xanax was addictive; I only knew that it made the fear go away.

The straight psychiatrists I saw who were completely removed from the Gay Community and the AIDS epidemic did not understand why the panicked patient whose community was dying was so distressed and unstable.

The pharmaceutical industry reported that Xanax had an anti-depressant effect.

By 1986 I was on a prescribed dose of eight milligrams of Xanax a day.

***

Everything that happens during the course of Psychotherapy is a representation of the trauma, its affect your life, and the meaning of your symptoms.

For adult survivors of abuse a common theme in therapy is mistrust and the fear of forming an attachment.

DID allows a part of me to make friends and to form an attachment while protecting the parts of me that are fragile and afraid.

My task in my treatment is to intentionally make all of myself vulnerable to another person; in my case, a woman, since most of the damage was done by my Mother.

This process of building trust with a woman who wants what’s best for me and who acts in my interests is the path to becoming whole.

***

In the Hell of my childhood nothing about me was acceptable.

I was a show-off, too sensitive, too feminine, too much of everything that people in my ‘class’ had no right to be.

In the world of my childhood, God rewarded the Godly with a good Christian family, white skin; and money.

A lowly birth meant that your place in God’s plan was bondage.

The idea that all Americans have a right to a stake in the wealth of our nation was deemed an absurd fiction, a delusion foisted on good people by damned Yankees.


 

John C. Calhoun Homes
                                                      John C. Calhoun Homes

One of the more recent patterns to emerge as my therapy progresses is that I am increasingly drawn to online communities that have a large black presence and leadership.

My earliest memories of the blacks in Charleston were that they were the only people who were fair to me.

Black kids were not ashamed of friendship with me.

Their parents took an interest in me and protected me.

The only time I was free of bullies was when the housing project in which I lived went black.

Within a year of desegregation mine was the only white family left.

Thus, I have always felt more at home with African-Americans.

I have always identified with their struggle.

If culture were a blood line than I would have black blood.

When does a shared cultural history trump race as a factor in identity?

The story of Rachel Dolezal vanished from the news just as we were beginning to learn about her child abuse.

I decided to look her up and discovered that she appeared on ‘The Real” a few days ago.

The article referred to Rachel Dolezal, as the white woman who passed as black.

But she didn’t ‘pass’ as black. She believes that she is black. That’s different.

In July, she told Vanity Fair: ‘I don’t know spiritually and metaphysically how this goes, but I do know that from my earliest memories I have awareness and connection with the black experience, and that’s never left me. ‘It’s not something that I can put on and take off anymore.’

The Daily Mail

I know how that feels.

According to ‘Essence’ one of the questions asked of Rachel Dolezal is ““Are you ashamed of being white?”

My first thought on reading that question was, is there a reason not to be?

I can name black tyrants and elitists; I have no illusions about human nature.

Anyone who wants an example of a classist and politically cynical African-American leader need only look to Clarence Thomas.

The value of an ethnic or cultural identity is equal to the need to identify with it as a means of transcending it.

The only whites who have to transcend whiteness to ‘succeed’ economically are the poorest of the poor whites who are so confused that they can’t see that they are the source of their misery.

Their belief in shades of meaningless skin privilege keep them in their class.

Class oppression permeates every aspect of our politics in the U.S.

The use of African-American History and Culture as a way to understand one’s experience of abuse and class oppression does not mean that one is ashamed of the race and culture into which one is born.

If anything, it may be a sign that one was cast out of that culture by forces over which one had no control.

***

Children instinctively want to please their parents; it’s an evolutionary adaptation that enhances survival.

The double bind for an abused child is that the only behavior that pleases the parent is an abdication of the self.

Why wouldn’t I identify with the only other people in my world who were subject to ridicule and random beatings?

As I enter my sixth year of intensive psychotherapy the questions I must answer become more confounding and painful.

But at least I know what they are, and now I have the recovery I need to ask them.

RG 2015

 

Rock N’ Roll N-Word

Blog for Mental Health 2015

Just as the story of the abuse in Rachel Dolezal’s family is finally getting the news coverage it deserves the story seems to be winding down.

Rachel Dolezal Scandal Exposes Fractured Family From NBC News

I found a site called Homeschooling Anonymous whose contributors seem to be children who were raised by right wing fundamentalists.

I know little about the homeschooling movement.

I support any form of education that induces an active, inquisitive, and disciplined mind.

I also support abuse survivors who work to end the silence that surrounds child abuse.

Members of the site published articles that specifically focused on the abuse in the Dolezal family, but  removed them because they were convinced that publishing evidence that supports the idea that Dolezal and her siblings were abused by her parents is the same as acting as apologists.

Boy does that sound familiar:

“On June 16 and 17, we published two articles highlighting the alleged history of abuse and control within Rachel Dolezal’s family. Since Rachel was a home school alumna raised in a conservative Christian home similar to many individuals in HA’s regular audience, we intended these articles to draw attention to elements of the Dolezal story that the mainstream media had missed — in particular, that Rachel’s parents, Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal, should not be paraded around as innocent whistleblowers.

When we published these articles, we did not see that doing so acted as apologies and/or excuses for Rachel’s behavior. Our decision to publish them has thus resulted in excusing and diminishing her behavior as well as detracting from the fact that Rachel has deeply hurt many members of the black community. We apologize for this and we are grateful to the people who have contacted us to point out this blind spot.”

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Here’s how I read that statement: We’ve been bullied into silence because the truth might cause people to look at the real story.

If I’m wrong I apologize in advance.

I was able to find some of the removed information from here: Let’s Talk About Rachel’s Parents:

“We have also heard testimonies from numerous home school alumni who grew up knowing the Dolezal family that frequent and significant child abuse occurred in the family. The parents allegedly forced both Rachel and her older, biological brother Joshua to beat their younger, adopted siblings with plumbing supply line and two foot long glue sticks, a practice inspired by Michael and Debi Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child. (Forced sibling-to-sibling corporal punishment is sadly not uncommon in some homeschooling circles.) Such a practice conjures up troubling images of Larry and Carri Williams, another homeschooling family that abused to death their adopted child, Hana. According to our sources, infant spanking (in public in their church parking lot, even) and blanket training were also common in the Dolezal family. Additionally, Rachel’s adopted brother Izaiah Dolezal has himself raised public allegations against his parents involving physical punishment, forced labor, and isolation in out-of-state group homes

Homeschooling Anonymous links to Joshua’s description of their fundamentalist upbringing.

This story is of special interest to me because I have an alternate who thinks he’s black.

He calls himself Mateo.

In Second Life, he uses a Black skin.

Mateo November, 2010
Mateo, November, 2010

 

He does not “identify” as white.

Saying “I identify as Black” is different from saying I was born Black.

It is specific to the “identity” as opposed to genetic heritage.

We may be calling Caitlyn Jenner “she” but her DNA will always say “he.”

Which is more real?

The world of the mind or a physical reality that becomes more malleable every day?

Does the fact that Caitlyn Jenner won fame as a male athlete named “Bruce” make “Caitlyn” less real?

Am I alone in thinking that I don’t have the right to make that judgement?

What about all the successful post-op trans women who choose to hide their gender of birth?

Are they liars or just sick of living with discrimination and ridicule?

Passing
Passing

 

Trans people give a striking example of how incidental the body can be to the mind.

My body is certainly incidental to the trauma from which Mateo is formed.

He sees the white skin in the mirror but ascribes it to someone else.

As a child he identified with the only other people he saw whose experience of the world mirrored his.

These other “others” were also treated with contempt and lived in fear for their lives.

They were also subject to random beatings and rapes.

These other “others” had black skin.

He, like they, was denied full access to the power of education through the use of terror and beatings at Ben Tillman Elementary School during the first years of desegregation.

Mateo adopted the way of the kids that he met and became one of them because his Black friends saw and understood that they and he had a common bond; A shared of sense bewildered alienation in a culture that treated the idea of human rights with contempt.

In fact, in the early 70’s the “Black experience” in the United States was linked to class and openly discussed as a class issue.

We understood that racism was an effective way to promote class divisions and that the Republican Party openly used racist rhetoric to appeal to angry Southern Dixiecrats bore this out.

This is why Martin Luther King called what we call the March on Washington the “Poor People’s March on Washington.”

Who does it serve to leave the class dimension of King’s Civil Rights Campaign out how we remember that March?

Martin Luther King was a Black man who was a leader for Whites and Latinos who also suffered under the constraints of a static, economically rigged class system that allows wealthy elites of all colors to exploit and discard the poor in their communities. To use them as cheap labor.

It is deeply racist to deny that King’s vision of economic and social justice was so powerful that it crossed color lines.

Poor People's March at Lafayette Park
Poor People’s March at Lafayette Park

It was this public discussion of the connection between race and class that led to the feminist and gay liberation movements.

San Francisco’s homeless youth use the N-Word to describe each other regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.

I don’t know if this is true of homeless youth in other cities, but for the homeless youth I’ve worked with in San Francisco the N-Word denotes the shared experience of being beaten down by and crushed by an intolerant elite who have rigged the economic system to reward predation.

It denotes Class.

I decided to Google Rachel Dolezal this morning to see what the latest is and this is what I found:

Google search results
Google search results for Rachel Dolezal June 26, 2015

As someone with an illness that was brought on in part by the violent racism of my childhood, I can attest to the fact that you don’t have to be Black to identify with being Black in the United States.

A young African-American Senator said it brilliantly in response to the release of a song by John Lennon in 1972.

 

We were so much Smarter Then We're Dumber Than That Now
We were so much Smarter Then We’re Dumber Than That Now

 

I find it interesting that we publicly discussed the connection between race and class in the United States in the early 1970’s without diminishing the problem of racism.

Perhaps we will find the answer to what it means to be white or black in the United States if we look beyond race and allow ourselves to see the repressive nature of social and economic systems based on class and built by cheap labor.

To see racism in a broader context is not to deny the harm that it does; if anything it helps us to see how racism functions as a tool and why it remains pervasive.

Perhaps if we return to a discussion of what we have in common instead of focusing on our differences, poor people will reunite and complete the work for which King gave his life.

Ron Dellums regarding Race and Class in Jet Magazine
Ron Dellums regarding Race and Class in Jet Magazine 1972

 

Patti Smith–Rock ‘N’ Roll N-Word (with Babelogue intro)

 

RG